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Babies are at their cutest at eight months

Maximum cuteness

Psychologist David Perrett, author of In Your Face: The New Science of Human Attraction, tells the Los Angeles Times: "By eight months of age, human babies have a massive forehead and a really diminutive chin - and that's the point at which most people find babies most attractive. After eight months, the face grows relatively quickly. That gives rise to a less and less cute configuration."

Poker thumb

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The Australian government is considering mandatory digital fingerprint recognition for gamblers, The Age reports. Two technologies are being considered to tackle problem gambling: smart cards and biometric keys with a fingerprint reader. The USB keys would be available at stores or post offices, where they would be programmed with the gambler's fingerprint and pre-determined spending limit. Once inserted into a poker machine, the key would only allow gambling to continue up to that limit. After that, the machine would stop. "Academics have long said that people gambling on poker machines can't make rational buying decisions," said Phillip Ryan, director of the USB key's maker, Responsible Gaming Networks. "The only way people will make rational buying decisions is to let players make a buying decision away from the poker machine."

Bar codes on embryos?

"Researchers from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain have just finished testing a method for imprinting microscopic bar codes on mouse embryos - a procedure they plan to test soon on humans," reports. "The venture is meant to avoid mismatches during in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures. But privacy experts and children's rights advocates were instantly concerned by the concept of 'direct labelling' of embryos, calling for transparency in the process. … The researchers insist that their technique is perfectly safe, claiming that the bar codes simply evaporate as the embryo develops into a fetus. Dr. Arthur Caplan, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said that as long as development is not affected, any improvement on embryo transfer would be extremely beneficial - since mistakes can be heartbreaking."

Plug in the Christmas eels

"An aquarium in Finland has found an environmentally friendly way of powering its Christmas lights - by electric eel," reports. "Electric eels can produce 650 volts of electricity, enough to light a tree and a few extra [bulbs]- or kill a fully grown man. Markus Dernjatin, from the Helsinki Sea Life Centre in Finland, explained: 'We wanted to conserve energy so we looked around for ways to be more green. Then it struck us that we have a free source of natural electricity right here in our tanks.' "

A Festivus revolt

"A Festivus for the rest of us? A convicted drug dealer in California thinks so. He cited his adherence to the holiday celebrated on a famous episode of Seinfeld to get better meals at the Orange County jail," Associated Press reports. "The Orange County Register reported Monday that Malcolm Alarmo King disliked the salami meals served at the jail, so he used his devotion to Festivus as a reason to get kosher meals reserved for inmates with religious needs. Keeping kosher is not one of the tenets of Festivus, which was depicted on Seinfeld as celebrated with the airing of grievances and the display of an aluminum pole."

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Think you can waggle?

"Just like tired and stressed humans, busy bees that get too little rest start to make mistakes, scientists have found," Britain's Press Association reports. "Worker bees have the important job of letting their hive mates know where to find food. They pass on the information by performing a 'waggle dance' containing coded directions to nectar-rich flowers. But when the insects were deprived of sleep their ability to communicate clearly began to suffer. Their dances became sloppier and less precise than those of rested bees."

The butler was framed

"The concept of 'the butler did it' is commonly attributed to Mary Roberts Rinehart," Nate Pedersen writes for The Guardian's Books Blog. "Her otherwise forgettable 1930 novel, The Door, is notable for (spoiler alert) the ending, in which the butler actually is the villain. … The Door struck such a resonating chord with readers because Rinehart was Sue Grafton-level famous during the golden age of mystery writing, which flourished between the two world wars. … Rinehart, generally a clever and careful plotter, wrote The Door quickly while recovering from an illness in a hospital. Her two sons had just launched a new publishing house, Farrar and Rinehart, and were hoping for an early commercial success. … Just one year earlier, S.S. Van Dine, noted art critic and mystery writer, published a series of rules for would-be crime authors in a much-quoted essay. No. 11 reads, in part: 'A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit.' … So by the time The Door hit the shelves, murdering butlers were already considered out-of-bounds, despite only one - one! - previously published book in which the butler actually pulled the trigger."

Thought du jour

"If a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away [ever]so little, he must begin again."

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English author and statesman

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