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Leftovers forever?

"Not sure if you can face eating that train sandwich?" asks The Sunday Times of London. "Soon you might be able to drop it in your briefcase and keep it for a year or two. Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring agent capable of destroying the bacteria that cause meat, fish, eggs and dairy produce to rot. They believe it could extend the life of perishables such as milk, sandwiches and sausages. Opened wine, ready meals and products such as fresh salad dressing could also last much longer at home, in some cases for years. And they might not even need refrigeration. [This month]researchers at the University of Minnesota reported the discovery of bisin, a naturally occurring compound produced by some types of bacteria. They found that it reduces the growth of lethal bacteria including E. coli, salmonella and listeria."

Magic turns aristocratic

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The website reports an observation made by novelist David Liss: "In the past, people generally believed they could acquire magic in two ways: through learning the craft, either from another practitioner or from books; or through obtaining magic from a powerful being. … The important point is that in theory, the gates of magic were open to everyone … Magic has gone from being an open system to a closed one. Their massive popularity make the Harry Potter novels and films the most glaring example, but it's everywhere and has been for decades now. … More often than not, magical practitioners are born, not made. Magic is an exclusive club. You can watch and be envious, but you can't join."

Poaching rhinos

In South Africa, says The Guardian, "[s]me 265 rhinos have been poached so far this year, according to government figures, an average of more than one per day. … Why? There is no mystery about it. Experts agree the carnage results from a false belief, widespread in the Far East, that rhino horn can cure cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. There is now soaring demand from the newly moneyed consumers of China and Vietnam. Poaching gangs here are increasingly sophisticated, using helicopters, silent tranquillizers, body armour, night-vision equipment and mercenaries experienced in rhino tracking. Once a rhino's horn has been hacked off, they leave the animal to bleed to death."

Um, it helps kids learn

"Do you pepper your speech with 'um' and 'uh'?" Parenting asks. "While the habit won't do you any good in a job interview, it's a real advantage for teaching your toddler new words. University of Rochester researchers found that when children hear their parents' stumbles and hesitations (scientific name: disfluencies), it sends a signal that they should pay attention because they're about to learn something new. 'A toddler hears a lot of new words when listening to adults, and if his or her brain doesn't start processing until after the new word is spoken, learning becomes a much more difficult task,' says Richard Aslin … one of the study's authors."

Old people decide better

"For years, researchers have been puzzled by study findings that showed younger adults to be better decision-makers than older individuals," says Psych Central. "Experts suspected the findings resulted from experimental designs that tested the ability to make decisions one at a time without regard to the past or future, thus negating the influence of experience and judgment. In a new study, psychologists designed a model requiring participants to evaluate each result in order to strategize the next choice, more like decision-making in the real world. Using this methodology, older decision-makers clearly made better choices. The findings will be discussed in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science."

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From the police blotter

– "In Manama, Bahrain, police said they issued the first citation ever to a motorist who was allegedly guilty of having bad breath. The Gulf News reported the story in which the motorist admitted to having less than pleasant-smelling breath," says United Press International.

– A Florida defence lawyer allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend in a nude sword fight. The lawyer, Terry Lee Locy, of Titusville, Fla., "was arrested on aggravated assault charges for an episode that included him stepping out of a shower, tossing his girlfriend a sword and challenging her to a fight – while holding, as it happened, a larger sword than the one he had given her, Florida Today reported," United Press International says.

Why Aug. 20 is magical

"Hurricane watchers circle Aug. 20 on their calendars every year," says Our Amazing Planet. "This is the 'magic' date when hurricane season seems to kick into high gear. Like clockwork, Hurricane Irene – the Atlantic's first hurricane of 2011 – was born on Aug. 22, later strengthening to a Category 2 hurricane. … Aug. 20 seems to be special because around this time, the air and ocean are in just the right state to foster and feed the monster storms. In climate-speak, this time of year is when vertical shear (a change in wind directions with height) in the atmosphere is low enough and sea surface temperatures are warm enough to create big storms."

Thought du jour

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"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to sharpen."

Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960), English writer

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