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The Globe and Mail

Atheists and agnostics know more about religion than the faithful

Can it gossip?

"A hair-washing robot designed to wash and dry hair using 16 robotic fingers and two motorized arms is to be unveiled in Japan," The Daily Telegraph reports. The robot, created by scientists at Panasonic Corp., was designed to replicate the hands of a human hair stylist. Two robotic arms scan the head three-dimensionally as they move, measuring and recording the shape to determine how much pressure to apply. The robot is intended to be used in hospitals and health-care facilities to help with the care of the country's "silver generation."

Starter fluid

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"Almost a third of Americans say they need a cup of coffee to get through their workday, a survey shows. The survey found the workers most dependent on their daily jolt of caffeine are nurses, followed by doctors and hotel workers, CBS News reported."

Source: United Press International

Time to light up?

"Time to light the first fire in the fireplace? If so, turn to citrus peels instead of kindling," advises. "Although you'll probably need a little supplemental help from another source, orange peels are perfect fire starters. The oil in the skin fuels the fires and … they release less creosote than traditional paper. It will keep your chimneys cleaner in the process and leave your home smelling like roasted oranges. … Simply dry the peels on a sheet pan or cookie cooling rack, uncovered on your counter. Toss them in a brown paper bag with a stray silica packet to keep them fresh."

Time off to light up

Council workers in Norfolk could be forced to punch out when they go for a cigarette, BBC News reports. "Breckland Council said the move aimed to make it fairer for individuals who did not smoke. Staff will not be paid in future for the time they take to have a cigarette if the proposals are given the go-ahead at a meeting [today]"

Blind faith?

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"If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist," says the Los Angeles Times. "Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term 'blind faith.'"

Depression-era fun

"The DeMoulin Lung Tester was a plain, serious-looking box with a nickel-plated mouthpiece and a calibrated dial on its face," reports "Its ostensible purpose was to measure a man's lung capacity, the bulky antecedent to today's spirometers. Its real purpose was to measure a man's ability to maintain his composure after being made the butt of a joke. When an unsuspecting mark blew into it, a .32 calibre blank cartridge exploded and a blast of flour hit him squarely in the face. Along with hundreds of similar devices, the Lung Tester appears in Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes. Originally published in 1930 by DeMoulin Bros. & Co., this strange volume has been newly reprinted by Fantagraphics Books. Like the more iconic Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue, it illuminates its moment in American history as deftly and instructively as any novelist has ever done."

Drinks from on high

"With its late hours, cranky customers and poor tips, bartending is one of the more challenging nightlife professions," says The Wall Street Journal. "To make it even harder, Cirque USA, an Orlando, Fla., company, founded 'aerial bartending' in 2004. They train aerial performers - trapeze, bungee and ring artists -to prepare cocktails high above the ground, and send them to clubs, casinos and private parties around the nation."

Talking newspapers

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"Police in India are asking residents not to be afraid of talking Volkswagen ads appearing in two of the country's largest newspapers," United Press International. "The Volkswagen Vento ad, which appeared Tuesday in The Times of India and The Hindu, prompted numerous calls to police in New Delhi when a voice began reading the print ad aloud in a style similar to a radio commercial, ABC News reported Monday. … Police said some people reported hearing ghosts and some set off bomb scares due to the ads playing in trash cans. … The advertisement [used]a small device [with]a chip, a speaker and batteries with enough power to read the ad aloud for 140 minutes, the Economic Times reported."

Daily media time

According to an Ipsos OTX study of 7,000 online consumers ages 13 to 74, thanks to smart phones and laptops, people are spending half their waking hours using media, and have increased their consumption by an hour a day over the past two years. That's more than they spend working or sleeping, says

Thought du jour

"People must not do things for fun. We are not here for fun. There is no reference to fun in any Act of Parliament."

- A.P. Herbert

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