What's your dog thinking?
"Fido's expressive face, including those longing puppy-dog eyes, may lead owners to wonder what exactly is going on in that doggy's head," writes Jeanna Bryner for LiveScience. "Scientists decided to find out, using brain scans to explore the minds of our canine friends. The researchers, who detailed their findings in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, were interested in understanding the human-dog relationship from the four-legged perspective. 'When we first saw those (brain) images, it was unlike anything else,' said lead researcher Gregory Berns in a video interview posted online. 'Nobody, as far as I know, had ever captured images of a dog's brain that wasn't sedated. This was (a) fully awake, unrestrained dog, here we have a picture for the first time ever of her brain,' added Berns, who is director of the Emory University Center for Neuropolicy. He added: 'Now we can really understand what dogs are thinking.'"
Blonds of the South Pacific
"A new study of the people from the Solomon Islands in Melanesia, a group of islands northeast of Australia, has shown that blond hair evolved differently, genetically speaking, than in Europeans," says SciTechDaily.com. "About 5 to 10 per cent of the people in Melanesia have naturally blond hair, which is the highest prevalence outside of Europe." Carlos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and his team, published their findings in the journal Science. He thinks that this mutation might have arisen between 5,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Gyms for lazy adults?
"Glossy exercise machines are cropping up in [British]parks, near the brightly coloured swings and slides for children," reports BBC News. "It's the latest bit of government 'nudge theory' … Outdoor gyms – or adult playgrounds – have been growing in popularity in recent years. The Great Outdoor Gym Co. was one of the earliest companies to specialize in providing the equipment in the UK. Launching in 2007, they drew inspiration from the Chinese government, which was installing outdoor gym equipment in parks. … Adult playgrounds are a classic example of the 'nudge' thinking that has infiltrated government on both sides of the Atlantic. The main idea behind nudge theory is that humans are innately lazy and are more inclined to take the default choice. The 'nudge' is something that is intended to gently guide us into the right direction – whether that's for our own good or to improve society."
"Recent research," says Psychology Today, "finds that you can bust your creative funk if you … are sleepy. If you're usually a morning person, try writing your novel at night. While alertness is crucial to cracking straightforward problems like math equations, creative tasks require big and non-specific thinking. When your tired brain wanders, it can make random connections that might jump-start your next idea, reports a recent study in Thinking and Reasoning."
The pipers' lament
"Scotland's bagpipe experts are sounding the lament over the loss of a traditional skill which means material for a vital part of the instrument is being mass-produced thousands of miles away in China," reports The Scotsman. "They claim the situation is nearing 'crisis point' because the sheepskins for the bespoke bag under the piper's armpit are often not of the right quality. Pipers say there is the danger of the sound of the pipes being affected. If the bags are not airtight and able to absorb moisture from the piper's breath, it can settle on the instrument's reeds, affecting the tuning. … There are approximately 10,000 pipers in Scotland needing to replace the bags annually or every couple of years depending on how often the pipes are played. … Roddy MacLeod, principal of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, said the sound of the pipes, especially at competition level, depended on having the right bag. 'From the end user's point of view, we traditionally use sheepskin bags. While lots of synthetic bags are used now, the sound is quite different. Nine times out of ten you can tell from the instrument's tone that it's a synthetic bag. The concern now is how are we going to produce the quality of tone if we can't get the bags?'"
Going on a cruise?
"Vacations should be relaxing," says Popular Mechanics, "but there are some simple ways to stay safe in case of a maritime emergency." They include:
Locate your life vest in your cabin as soon as you arrive; practise putting it on.
Don't wait for the required safety drill to memorize the location of your assigned lifeboat.
Pack a couple of flashlights in case there's a power outage.
Recognize the evacuation signal. The standard alert is seven short horn blasts followed by one long one.
Thought du jour
"Most men that do thrive in the world do forget to take pleasure during the time that they are getting their estate, but reserve that till they have got one and then it is too late for them to enjoy it."
"Most men that do thrive in the world do forget to take pleasure during the time that they are getting their estate, but reserve that till they have got one, and then it is too late for them to enjoy it."
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)
English politician and diarist