During the summer of 2003, there was a torrid heatwave in Europe. Record temperatures were set, and tens of thousands of deaths were attributed to the stifling heat. But the impact was not equally shared. In Paris, the number killed was put at 4,867; in London, where the temperatures were not much lower, about 600 died. Why the difference? Researchers at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center may have come up with the answer after studying the "heat island effect", whereby temperatures are often a few degrees higher in cities than in surrounding rural areas. It appears that fewer Londoners died because our capital is a greener city than Paris. The more densely populated the city, the bigger the heat island effect, and vegetation can help cut temperatures considerably.
Two other things emerge from the research. The first – not surprising, if you think about it for a second – is that air-conditioning adds to the ambient outdoor temperature, because cooling systems release heat into the air. As one of the team explained: "It's a vicious circle. Increased temperatures due to air-conditioning will lead to an increasing demand for air-cooling." What is less obvious is that high night-time temperatures during a heatwave are the real killers. One of the researchers, Benedicte Dousset, told a news conference: "Exposure to high temperature during several nights, especially consecutive nights, can double the risk of death for the most vulnerable – people over 65 years of age or young infants, and also people with chronic health problems."
* Now for some really depressing news, courtesy of a study of 85 million profiles on LinkedIn, the network for careerists and self-promoters. The 10 most frequently used words and phrases chosen by people to describe themselves and their array of talents are: "extensive experience", "innovative", "motivated", "results-orientated", "dynamic", "proven track-record", "team player", "fast-paced", "problem-solver" and "entrepreneurial". Karen Emanuelson has taken this and compiled the following all-purpose pitch: "Problem Solver with Extensive Experience as a Results-Oriented, Innovative, Motivated Team Player. Proven Track Record in a Dynamic, Fast-Paced Entrepreneurial Environment." All in all, it's evidence for Randall's First Law of Staff Hiring: never employ someone whose CV includes a personal self-assessment, however free of clichés it is.
* The battle for Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest of the Second World War, claiming a total of 28,391 lives, 21,570 of them Japanese. To the Americans, who took the Pacific island, 700 miles south of Tokyo, after five weeks of fighting, it is a by-word for courage, with a third of all the Medals of Honour won by US Marines in the entire war going to the attackers. To the defeated Japanese, it was for long a taboo subject, but now a series of excavations is being carried out to find remains of the estimated 12,000 Japanese soldiers still missing. Hundreds have already been found, but the task is very hard. Many defenders, dug deep into caves, were blown to pieces, and few Japanese troops wore dog tags. And the island for which so much blood was spilt? Save for a few hundred at a military outpost, no one lives there.
* Finally, from the delicious irony department, comes news of a shindig next May to be hosted by the US State Department, those wonderful people who want WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, arrested, waterboarded, put on the rack, tried, convicted, refused an appeal, and boiled in oil. The event? World Press Freedom Day. As is the way with these awful things, it comes complete with a ceremony at which the Unesco Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize will be awarded. Is it too late to nominate an Australian former hacker?