Battles, balloons, vitamin B and Pierre Berton

Nearly 60 per cent of Americans 18 to 24 live with their parents – a higher proportion of adult children are living with their parents now than at any time since the 1930s.

June 17, 2012 | | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment | Summer 2012

Accordion Families

“Young adults are living in their parents’ homes for much longer or are moving back in with them at alarming rates, the result of economic globalization that has squelched opportunities and wages for young people in the West… Unemployment figures for young adults have exploded around the world since the 1980s. Nearly 60 per cent of Americans 18 to 24 live with their parents – a higher proportion of adult children are living with their parents now than at any time since the 1930s.” From “Accordion Families” by Michael Anft, in Johns Hopkins Magazine, Spring/12.

Peak Phosphorus

“Forget peak oil. The real global crisis looming may be a shortage of phosphorus. This essential mineral – a key ingredient in synthetic fertilizers – comes mainly from phosphate rock… While estimates vary, the latest US Geological Survey data put total global phosphate reserves at 65 billion tonnes. With current rates of consumption, the point where production can no longer keep up with demand could be just decades away.” From Small Farm Canada, Jan-Feb/12.

Helium Bust

“Research facilities probing the structure of matter, medical scanners and other advanced devices that use the gas may soon have to reduce operations or close because we are frittering away the world’s limited supplies of helium on party balloons.” Robin McKie in The Guardian Weekly, Mar 30/12.

Blame Canada

“Canada is responsible for America’s war machine. As preposterous as that may sound, it’s convincingly and engrossingly argued by Eliot Cohen in his Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War (Free Press, 2011). Cohen, professor of strategic studies at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, illustrates how conflicts among Americans, British, French, and native populations from 1690 to 1815 shaped what became the American military’s ideas and practices. Cohen recounts skirmishes and battles, and in doing so tells the stories of some lesser-known historical figures such as Robert Rogers, the colonial badass whose militia, Rogers’ Rangers, anecdotally inspired the present U.S. Army Rangers.” From Johns Hopkins Magazine, Spring/12.

Value Added

“When instant cake mixes hit US shelves in the late 1940s, sales were disappointing. Pioneering consumer psychologist Ernest Dichter went into the nation’s kitchens to investigate. His interviews with housewives led him to a startling conclusion. The mixes made baking too easy; cooks felt undervalued. On Dichter’s recommendation the next generation of mixes required the addition of a fresh egg. They sold like hot cakes.” From “Labours of Love” by Laura Spinney, From New Scientist, Dec 24-31/11.


“The late historian Pierre Berton once wrote that the War of 1812 ‘gave Canadians their first sense of community.’ The bicentennial of this war has given rise to a new examination of the conflict that pitted American soldiers against British armed forces and ultimately laid a foundation for Canada’s nationhood. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in partnership with the Historica-Dominion Institute and Parks Canada, is contributing to the dialogue with a comprehensive website ( featuring an interactive map and a timeline of the war.” From Canadian Geographic, Jan-Feb/12.

Conservation House

“The home of the future was built a third of a century ago in Regina. It was called the Saskatchewan Conservation House and used less than one-fifth of the energy consumed by ordinary homes. More than 30,000 people came to see it. But Canadian homebuilders ignored the ideas it offered, and the Canadian public has largely forgotten about it.

“Built in 1977 by the Saskatchewan Research Council, the Conservation House had everything most houses of its day had, except a furnace. Instead, the northwest Regina home relied on a nearly airtight envelope, with R-40 wall insulation and R-60 roof insulation. The house was cube-shaped to minimize exterior surface, and sided in dark-brown cedar to absorb heat from the sun. Deciduous trees south of the house provided shade in summer and let solar heat reach windows in the winter. A small hot water system provided all the extra heat the house needed, even through the long prairie winter.” From Alternatives, Mar-Apr/12.

B for Brain

“Large doses of B-vitamins could slow the cognitive decline in older people that is the precursor to dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, a study has found.

“Celeste de Jager, a neuropsychologist at Oxford University, says that taking vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid in medicinal quantities reduced the overall shrinkage of a person’s brain by 30 per cent over the course of the two-year study.” From CCPA Monitor, Feb/12.

Eye Popping?

“Did you know that if you find yourself in space without suitable attire, your head won’t explode in the way that Hollywood would have you think? You would get an unpleasant drying of the eyes as the water within them boils away, but the pressure of your skin and circulatory system would prevent your blood from doing the same. In fact, you are most likely to suffocate from lack of oxygen.” From Helen Thomson’s review of The Universe Inside You by Brian Clegg (Icon Books/Totem Books, 2012) in New Scientist, Apr 7/12.


“A family is a unit composed not only of children, but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.”

Ogden Nash

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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