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1. The Cult of Cats

Cats first decided to live among humans over 9,000 years ago. A burial site in Cyprus dating from 7,500BC provides the earliest evidence, with the corpse of an eight-month-old cat carefully laid out in its own tiny plot less than two feet away from its companion human. This gives human-feline cohabitation a more recent pedigree than human-canine, with dogs having lived alongside humans for well over 10,000 years, but puts cats comfortably ahead of such lesser beasts as chickens, ducks, horses, silkworms and ferrets. And among all domestic animals cats boast a unique distinction: to the best of our knowledge, it was them who chose us.

Or rather, cats chose what humans represented: the plentiful supply of tasty vermin that lived among the stock and refuse of early civilisation. In this, the central dynamic of human-feline relations has altered little over ten millennia: food and shelter are welcome, and the bipeds who come packaged with these lie somewhere between a nuisance and a bonus.


2. Poetry Fact of the Week: Poets who eventually commit suicide use I-words [I, me, my] more than non-suicidal poets.


3. Tapping the Knowledge of Germany’s Water Sommelier

Rainwater is being served, rainwater that has traveled 16,000 kilometers (9,950 miles) from Tasmania to be sipped by a dozen guests sitting in club chairs in a timber-framed house in a Hamburg suburb. In front of the guests stands a man who is on the short side, wearing a suit and glasses. Jerk Martin Riese, 34, is the maître d’ at the Michelin-starred First Floor restaurant in Berlin. There, he created a water menu with 40 different selections — something for the bored diner to peruse if their partner is monopolizing the wine list.

Riese, who has the unusual job of water sommelier, will soon be moving to Los Angeles. But before he goes, he is attempting to leave behind a little bit of his expertise in the Hamburg cocktail bar Redroom.


4. City vs. Country: Who Is Healthier?


5. Dogs Can Smell Lung Cancer

A new study by German researchers apparently shows that “sniffer dogs” can reliably smell lung cancer on the breath of patients. The finding could significantly improve early detection methods of the disease, which is the deadliest form of cancer worldwide. The research was published in European Respiratory Journal.


6. Nice guys earn less, study finds

Leo Durocher was right: Nice guys finish last.

Or at least they earn less, according to a new study.

“‘Niceness’ — in the form of agreeableness — does not appear to pay,” the authors conclude starkly.

There are upsides to being nice in the office, such as being better liked by co-workers, the authors say, pointing to a raft of earlier studies.

But the bottom line, according to four studies they conducted, is that “agreeableness is negatively related to income and earnings.”


7. Weird News of the Week: British student has tongue lengthened to speak Korean

Rhiannon Brooksbank–Jones, 19, plans to take Korean Studies at university and dreams of living in the country, even though she has never visited it. While taking language lessons, she struggled to pronounce certain sounds in Korean.

It was blamed on Rhiannon, of Beeston, Notts, having a slightly shorter than average tongue, caused by an unusually thick lingual frenulum – the flap of skin that joins the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Her parents agreed to her having a lingual frenectomy, a 15–minute operation under local anaesthetic that involved an incision in the flap of skin. Rhiannon admitted that it was “agony at first” but her tongue is now about 1cm longer and she can say words that were impossible before.


8. 9 habits that may do more harm than good


9. Virtuosos Becoming a Dime a Dozen

The latest young pianist from China to excite classical music audiences and earn raves from critics is the 24-year-old Yuja Wang, a distinctive artist with a comprehensive technique. That Ms. Wang is already a musician of consequence was made clear this year when Deutsche Grammophon released her first recording with an orchestra: performances of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Second Piano Concerto with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The conductor is Claudio Abbado, no less, a towering maestro who is extremely discriminating in his choice of collaborators.

Ms. Wang’s virtuosity is stunning. But is that so unusual these days? Not really. That a young pianist has come along who can seemingly play anything, and easily, is not the big deal it would have been a short time ago.


10. Batman Villains Psychoanalyzed By Mental Health Experts


11. Lottery Winners Do Not Avoid Bankruptcy

The rags to riches to rags story of a poor, unemployed fellow who wins the lottery, blows the cash, and ends up just as poor and unemployed as he began is a common trope. (Here is a classic in the genre). In a paper just published in the Review of Economics and Statistics (gated, free version here), Hankins, Hoekstra and Skiba argue that the rags to riches to rags story has a systematic component.

The authors link records of lottery winners to bankruptcy records. The use of the lottery is a great randomization device, although obviously it restricts the sample to people who play the lottery.

The central finding is this: people who win large amounts are just as likely to end up bankrupt as people who win small amounts. People who win a large amount, $50,000 to $150,000, have a lower bankruptcy rate immediately after winning but a higher bankruptcy rate a few years later so the 5-year bankruptcy rate for the big winners is no lower than for the small winners. Amazingly, by the time the big winners do go bankrupt their assets and debts are not significantly different from those of the small winners. The big winners who ended up bankrupt could have paid off all of their debts but chose not to.


12. Image of the Week: Clouds Over Rio de Janeiro

(Via: The Presurfer )


13. 11 Sneaky Reasons Your Hair Is Falling Out


14. Marco Polo ‘never went to China and picked up tales of the Orient from other travellers’

Marco Polo, one of history’s greatest explorers, may in fact have been a conman, it was claimed yesterday.

Far from being a trader who spent years in China and the Far East, he probably never went further east than the Black Sea, according to a team of archaeologists.

They suspect the Venetian adventurer picked up stories about the mysterious lands of the Orient from fellow traders around the Black Sea who related tales of China, Japan and the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.


15. 10 Classic Books We Read Despite Knowing How They End


16. Study: Parrot Parents Name Their Babies

Parrots, with their amazing abilities to mimic speech and talk to humans in addition to each other, are by far impressive communicators. But research shows that parrot conversations are even more complex. Each parrot has its own signature call that others use to address it, which is the parrot equivalent of having a name. But where do these “names” come from? New research has shown that just like with human babies, parrot parents name their offspring, even before the babies can communicate themselves.


17. Infographic of the Week: How our laws are made


18. Pistols Firing Underwater in Slow Motion

(Via: Neatorama )


19. Everybody’s PIN (Personal Identification Number) Revealed!


20. The Lions of Lagos, the Rotarians of Rawalpindi

When I first heard that the Toastmasters had a presence in Abu Dhabi, I pictured a small roomful of ill-adjusted American expatriates draining their water glasses, trading a few speeches, and then adjourning to a bar. Suffice it to say, my imagination had failed me. At the conference, I found only one fellow American in the crowd. In fact, I found only one other native speaker of English in the crowd. Instead, the group drew from a pretty representative sample of Abu Dhabi’s usually rather fragmented society: there was a strong majority from the Indian subcontinent, small contingents of Filipinos and Arabs from abroad,and a few actual citizens of the UAE—all guffawing warmly at speeches delivered in broken English about following dreams, learning lessons from failure, seeing through appearances, and other themes of uplift worthy of a motivational poster.


21. The Squarest Rock Acts of All Time


22. HistoricalLOL of the Week


23. A Closer Look at the Placebo Effect

Placebos are “dummy pills” often used in research trials to test new drug therapies and the “placebo effect” is the benefit patients receive from a treatment that has no active ingredients. Many claim that the placebo effect is a critical component of clinical practice.

But whether or not placebos can actually influence objective measures of disease has been unclear. Now a study of asthma patients examining the impact of two different placebo treatments versus standard medical treatment with an albuterol bronchodilator has reached two important conclusions: while placebos had no effect on lung function (one of the key objective measures that physicians depend on in treating asthma patients) when it came to patient-reported outcomes, placebos were equally as effective as albuterol in helping to relieve patients’ discomfort and their self-described asthma symptoms.


24. What it actually costs to run a university science lab


25. University Offers Scholarship Based On Application Tweets Instead of Essays

The University of Iowa, in a wild attempt to stay hip and relevant, has announced that they will offer a full-ride scholarship, thats $37,000 dollars folks, to the applicant with the best essay . . . that’s 140 characters or less. This isn’t the first time twitter has been involved in scholarly pursuits or had its character limits used as a creative constraint. This probably is the first time the stakes have been this high though, roughly $265 per character.


26. 10 Origins of Common Internet Terms


27. Better Book Titles of the Week - J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings


28. How-To of the Week: Find More Time in Your Day by Putting Your Chores on Auto-Pilot


29. Scientists Develop Bulletproof Skin Using Goat Milk Spider Silk

We know this sounds insane, but Dutch researchers working with the Forensic Genomics Consortium in the Netherlands claim to have just created bulletproof skin from goat milk. The researchers report that they genetically modified a goat to produce milk rich in the same protein that makes silk spiders’ fibers so strong. Apparently, the researchers’ plan is to eventually introduce this protein into the human genome so that we can all be bulletproof.


30. 10 Science Fiction Books That Changed the Course of History


31. Good Taste in Times Square? It’s Illegal

Times Square officially entered the Pop-Tarts World era this week, as the breakfast pastry theme store debuted under the sort of towering, garish billboard that has long been an area staple.

But it made us wonder: Let’s say you wanted to truly stand out in the colorful corporate orgy of Times Square. Could you choose an understated, unadorned façade?

The answer is no. The city, it turns out, has a law against tasteful restraint in Times Square.

The area is part of the “Special Midtown District” that has its own distinct zoning code. Part of the mission of these regulations is to preserve and protect the “unique combination of building scale, large illuminated signs and entertainment and entertainment-related uses” that are central to Times Square’s history.


32. The art of learning a language


33. How Books Are Made

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