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The humble lend a hand

"Humble people," says Psych Central, "are more likely to offer a helping hand to someone in need than arrogant people, according to new findings by researchers. 'The findings are surprising because in nearly 30 years of research on helping behaviour, very few studies have shown any effect of personality variables on helping,' said lead author Jordan LaBouff, PhD, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Maine. 'The only other personality trait that has shown any effect is agreeableness, but we found that humility predicted helping over and above that.'" The research was published online in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Do lectures need music?

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"As every teacher knows, it is one thing to impart information; it's quite another for students to absorb it, process it, and be able to regurgitate it," says "New research suggests educators can help this to occur by turning to some old friends: Beethoven, Bach and Tchaikovsky. In the journal Learning and Individual Differences, a research team led by Fabrice Dosseville of the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie describes an experiment featuring 249 university students … For one group [of students] the lecture was accompanied by a series of familiar classical pieces, including Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and Bach's Third Brandenburg Concerto. The other group heard the lecture with no background music. Within 15 minutes of hearing the lecture, all the students took a multiple choice quiz featuring questions based on the lecture material. The results: the students who heard the music-enhanced lecture scored significantly higher … The reasons for this aren't entirely clear. Recent research suggests emotion plays an important role in learning. Perhaps, like the soundtrack to a movie, the background music put the students in a heightened emotional state, making them more receptive to the information being presented."

The small-plate movement

"Move over, cupcakes, there's another bite-size treat sweetening up a bakery near you," reports The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee. "Call them hand pies, 'cutie pies' or personalized pies – they're bites of home-style dessert that fit in your palm. … Mini versions of foods make up a kind of culinary movement across the [United States] The National Restaurant Association ranked 'bite-size/mini desserts' as the second most popular dessert trend on its 'What's Hot in 2011' rankings. Small-plate foods have overall become so prominent during the past few years that they've become a staple of contemporary dining."

Blow-dry bars

"Taming your tresses with a salon-style wash and blow dry just got a lot easier," writes Ina Paiva Cordle of The Miami Herald. "Blo Midtown and Blo Brickell, two new blow-dry bars, have opened in recent weeks, bringing the latest luxury grooming craze to Miami. … Working professionals come in early in the morning before heading to meetings or presentations. At lunchtime, mothers with strollers arrive for pampering. 'And toward the end of the day, it's the happy-hour crowd, the 'I just finished yoga and I'm sweaty' crowd, the 'going out for drinks' or 'I have a first date' crowd,' said Fatima Lalani, 29, who owns Blo Brickell."

Self-service police work?

"Dallas police officers will typically no longer respond when a retailer catches a suspected shoplifter who took less than $50 in merchandise, according to a policy that takes effect Jan. 5," reports The Dallas Morning News. "… The retailer would provide the police with the suspect's identification information on the phone so the suspected shoplifter can be checked for outstanding warrants. If the person is wanted, a police officer would respond to take the person into custody. But unlike in the past, the officer won't issue a shoplifting citation or make a theft report. Now, whether the police respond or not, the retailer will be required to complete the paperwork themselves and mail it directly to prosecutors."

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By the light of a cellphone

"Christopher Tkacik, lost in the dark in a state park on Catoctin Mountain, had his dog, iPhone and a slowly draining battery," reports The Baltimore Sun. "He could talk to the police trying to find him, but neither they nor the GPS on his smartphone could guide him out. So the 43-year-old attorney from Mount Airy turned on the device's flashlight and held it in the air. A trooper in a Maryland State Police helicopter, using night-vision equipment, saw the 'faint glow' from the phone Saturday night and found the man and his dog. A grateful Mr. Tkacik, after spending more than seven hours in the 1,337-acre Gambrill State Park in western Maryland, made it out safely and in time to take his wife to a New Year's party."

See a falling star?

"Pieces of space junk, whether derelict spacecraft, rocket bodies or other mission by-products, fall from orbit more or less daily," says Scientific American.

Thought du jour

"Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it."

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– David Starr Jordan (1851-1931), U.S. educator

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