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We all have flaws

Everyone has on average of 400 flaws in their DNA, according to a U.K. study, BBC News reports. "Most are 'silent' mutations and do not affect health, though they can cause problems when passed to future generations. Others are linked to conditions such as cancer or heart disease, which appear later in life, say geneticists. The evidence comes from the 1,000 Genomes project, which is mapping normal human genetic differences, from tiny changes in DNA to major mutations."

Smoking on bullet trains

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"Bullet trains on a high-speed railway line in Northeast China have been forced to slow down seven times over the past three days because of smoking passengers," reports China Daily. "It is not uncommon for smokers to cause trouble on bullet trains. On Jan. 11, a bullet train travelling from Shenzhen to Changsha was forced to brake after a smoker activated the emergency braking system. The halt delayed more than 20 trains. … On Aug. 7, 2011, several railway police officers and conductors had to apologize to passengers after they were caught smoking in the sightseeing car on a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing."

Why we are so bright?

"Being mesmerized by fire might have sparked the evolution of the human mind," writes Thomas Wynn in Smithsonian magazine. "Archeological evidence suggests that the controlled use of fire began with Homo erectus, who emerged nearly two million years ago. For those early hominids, a fire at night served as a light source and a way to deter predators. John Gowlett, a University of Liverpool archeologist, argues that this innovation led to a profound change in how our brains regulate time. After the sun goes down, our ape cousins spend the entire evening asleep or inactive in nests. But the creation of artificial daylight enabled the hominid brain to adapt and evolve to the point where humans now remain alert and active for over 16 hours a day."

Catfish among the pigeons

Catfish are hunting pigeons as prey, says The Huffington Post. Researchers from the University of Toulouse, France, examined the predator-prey relationship between European catfish and pigeons along the Tarn river in the southwest region of the country. European catfish originated east of the Rhine but were introduced to the Tarn in 1983. "They have adapted their natural behaviour to feed on the novel prey in the area, grabbing pigeons on the shore and dragging them into the water. … The behaviour of the catfish is compared to that of bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina, who drive fish onto the beaches, as well as with Argentine killer whales, who go onto beaches to catch sea lions, Discovery reported. It has earned the catfish the nickname 'freshwater killer whales.' "

Not-so-novel approach?

A new U.S. school curriculum that will affect 46 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready students for the workplace, reports The Daily Telegraph. "Books such as J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye … will be replaced by 'informational texts' approved by the Common Core State Standards. Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory , by California's Invasive Plant Council."

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The trees have ears

"A new study indicates that Eurasian jays are aware that others may be watching them while they hide away nuts and seeds for the winter, but they might also be aware when others are surreptitiously listening," says "In response, the birds change their behaviours, like stashing nuts in quieter places. The findings indicate that the jays may be able to understand another's point of view, which is an ability that is rarely seen in animals." The jays are often robbed by jackdaws and crows, as well as their own mates.

Thought du jour

"Imagination is a poor substitute for experience."

Havelock Ellis, British psychologist and writer (1859-1939)

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