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It's true: You are more likely to be hit by lightning than win the lottery

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Lotteries and lightning

"A Kansas man was struck by lightning hours after buying three Mega Millions lottery tickets. … Bill Isles, 48, bought three tickets in the record $656-million (U.S.) lottery Thursday [March 29]at a Wichita, Kan., grocery store," says Reuters. "On the way to his car, Mr. Isles said he commented to a friend: 'I've got a better chance of being struck by lightning' than of winning the lottery. Later at about 9:30 p.m., Mr. Isles was standing in the backyard of his Wichita duplex, when he saw a flash and heard a boom – lightning. 'It threw me to the ground quivering,' [he]said. … Mr. Isles, a volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service, had his portable ham radio with him … [He]had been talking to other spotters on the radio and called in about the lightning strike. One of the spotters, a local television station intern, called 911."

Tornado? Take action

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"[T]ree out of every four times the U.S. National Weather Service issues a formal tornado warning, there isn't one," says Associated Press. "The result is a 'cry wolf' phenomenon that's dulled the effectiveness of tornado warnings, and one the weather service hopes to solve with what amounts to a scare tactic. In a test that [started]Monday, five weather-service offices in Kansas and Missouri will use words such as 'mass devastation,' 'unsurvivable' and 'catastrophic' in a new kind of warning that's based on the severity of the storm's expected impact. The goal is to more effectively communicate the dangers of an approaching storm so people understand the risks they're about to face. … The system being tested will create two tiers of warnings for thunderstorms and three tiers for tornados, each based on severity."

The secret of college?

"[A] a professional social scientist," writes Dalton Conley in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "I am privy to the dirty little secret of higher education: All available evidence suggests that it makes not one whit of difference where we attend college – at least, on outcomes like future earnings that are fairly easy to measure. All that matters is being smart, savvy, or lucky enough to get into top institutions, regardless of where you end up enrolling."

Women astronauts picked

"China has selected two female astronauts among seven candidates for its next manned space mission that will be launched between June and August," reports China Daily. "… The two female astronauts, whose identity will be released before the launch, were selected from 15 women who must be married and have given birth naturally, Space International magazine under the China Academy of Space Technology said Saturday [March 31] They also must have no scars nor body odour. Pang Zhihao, deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine, said: 'They even must not have decayed teeth because any small flaw might cause great trouble or a disaster in space.'"

Why we fear dragons

"Some folklorists," writes Alan Boyle for MSNBC, "trace the dragon myth back to a variety of sources in ancient China, Rome, Greece and India, and speculate that it had its genesis in the discovery of fossil bones from the strange creatures we now know as dinosaurs. … Anthropologist David Jones went even further in his book An Instinct for Dragons, published in 2000. He proposed that the fables about winged, poison-spewing, fanged and clawed creatures combined three of the top threats to ancient pre-human primates: raptors like the one that may have preyed on a now-fossilized ape-boy known as the Taung child nearly two million years ago; poisonous snakes like the ones that may have driven the evolution of big brains and improved vision in primates millions of years ago; and big cats like the ones our pre-human ancestors had to watch out for in Africa. … The way he sees it, our brain came to be hardwired with an instinctive fear of dragons."

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Thought du jour

"Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak."

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer

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