Climb Everest while you can
"If you've got 'summit Everest' on your bucket list, better get started now," says Grist.org. "Apa Sherpa (a.k.a. 'Super Sherpa'), who's summited Mount Everest 21 times, tells Agence France-Presse that the trip up the mountain is getting increasingly dangerous as climate change sets in. As Himalayan glaciers melt, bare rock – slippery, treacherous, more prone to rockfalls – has replaced snow and ice. Apa Sherpa told AFP: 'Climbing is becoming more difficult because when you are on a mountain you can wear crampons but it's very dangerous and very slippery to walk on bare rock with crampons.' "
No progress? Think again
"It's easy to focus on the idiocies of the present and forget those of the past," psychologist Steven Pinker writes for The New York Times. "But a century ago our greatest writers extolled the beauty and holiness of war. Heroes like Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson avowed racist beliefs that today would make people's flesh crawl. Women were barred from juries in rape trials because supposedly they would be embarrassed by the testimony. Homosexuality was a felony. At various times, contraception, anesthesia, vaccination, life insurance and blood transfusion were considered immoral. Ideals that today's educated people take for granted – equal rights, free speech, and the primacy of human life over tradition, tribal loyalty and intuitions about purity – are radical breaks with the sensibilities of the past."
Like violence? Maybe not
"Violence is an integral part of American entertainment," says The Boston Globe. "You might [assume]this is the case because it's what consumers want and enjoy. However, a recent study by researchers at Indiana University suggests that wanting and enjoying violent entertainment are not the same thing. Students read descriptions of episodes from four violent TV shows. … The descriptions either emphasized violence or didn't. The students chose one of the shows to watch and were then shown either an unedited version or a version with the violence edited out. A majority of the students – both male and female – chose shows with violent descriptions. Ironically, though, students enjoyed the violent shows significantly less than the nonviolent shows, regardless of whether they had chosen a show with a violent description."
"A [British]airline is employing a 'whispering coach' to teach cabin crew how to speak quietly on flights," the Daily Mail reports. "They will be taught to speak at no more than 20 to 30 decibels to ensure they don't wake sleeping passengers and because a voice at this level has a 'calming effect.' It is less than half the volume adults use in normal conversation, which scientists measure at 60 to 70 decibels. The whispering training is part of a day-long course to make sure cabin crew use the appropriate 'tone, volume and sentiment.' The training will teach staff serving Virgin Atlantic's premium customers 'how to read passengers, be tactile and wake people comfortably.' "
What are the odds?
"A British mother has spoken of her disbelief after a cruise ship her daughter is working on was cast adrift weeks after her son survived the capsizing of its sister ship, the Costa Concordia," reports The Guardian. "Jayne Thomas said Rebecca, 23, a dancer, is one of more than 1,000 people aboard the Costa Allegra, now being towed to safety after breaking down in the Indian Ocean following a fire on board. She added that her son, James Thomas, 19, also a dancer, was still recovering from the trauma of the Concordia running aground off the Italian coast in January, with the loss of 32 lives."
Toasted skin syndrome
"Heated seats in your car may be a godsend in the dead of winter, but two new studies show that they could also pose a risk to your skin if you use them too much," says The Huffington Post. "In two studies in the journal Archives of Dermatology, the study authors found that a skin-discoloration condition called ' erythema ab igne,' or 'toasted skin syndrome,' is linked with skin exposure to the car seat warmers. … Being exposed to the heat – even if it's not scalding hot – can lead to skin discoloration in the form of brown patches and red lines on the skin, Reuters reported. Repeated exposure was a big part of it, since the two women described in the studies drove (and used the seat warmers) for 45 minutes or more each day, for days at a time, according to Reuters. According to MSNBC, prolonged use of heating pads and hot water bottles – and hot laptops, when you rest them on the skin – could also lead to toasted skin syndrome."
Thought du jour
"Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it."
Marshall McLuhan (1911-80)
Canadian philosopher and scholar