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Pairs and packs, grimy attractions and bikinis return

Need a new brain?

"A detailed functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years, a leading scientist has claimed," BBC News reports. "Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, has already built elements of a rat brain. He told the TED [technology, entertainment, design]global conference in Oxford that a synthetic human brain would be of particular use finding treatments for mental illnesses. Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said. 'It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years,' he said. 'And if we do succeed, we will send a hologram to TED to talk.'"

Lies, lies, lies

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"Studies in which people keep lie diaries suggest we deliberately mislead others in one in four non-fleeting interactions," Nicola Shepheard writes in The New Zealand Herald. "And, that we're lied to about 200 times a day. Text and e-mail seems to make truth-bending easier. What's more, mostly we're fooled. Despite the urban myths about telltale signs - sorry, but failure to meet a person's eye isn't a reliable clue - we're generally no better at detecting lies than leaving it up to chance."

Pairs and packs

"A study based on the brain scans of youngsters sizing one another up has shown why girls prefer a best friend while boys gravitate toward packs," The Sunday Times of London reports. "The research found girls are hardwired to understand individual relationships, while boys' brains are more attuned to the complex dynamics and internal competition within a gang. The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States … used magnetic scanners to monitor the brains of 34 young people, aged nine to 17, as they were shown pictures of new people they could choose to meet. The tests showed that the circuitry in the brain responsible for sizing people up became more active in girls as their age increased, but not in boys. Daniel Pine, a child psychiatrist who led the study, said the social differences between girls and boys intensify around adolescence."

Grimy attractions

The editors at have compiled a list of the world's "germiest" tourist spots, reports. They include:

The Blarney Stone. Last year, about 400,000 people kissed the stone. "Chuck Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, visited the Blarney Stone in Ireland last year but refused to kiss the same spot where millions of tourists had put their lips. 'My wife did it,' he added. 'And I wiped her lips before I kissed her.'"

The Wall of Gum in Seattle. "There is a distinct fruity aroma that welcomes visitors when they pass the giant wall of gum housing millions of chewed pieces in Seattle. The gum - pink, blue, yellow and green - is piled several inches thick, spanning an area about 15 feet [4.5 metres]high and 50 feet [15 metres]wide."

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Oscar Wilde's tomb in Paris. "It's an unusual site in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Author and playwright Oscar Wilde's body rests in a tomb speckled with lipstick marks from visitor from all over the world showing their literary appreciation. … The kisses display a rainbow of colours - so much so that travel experts say Oscar Wilde's name on the tomb can be hard to discern."

Bikinis return

"For decades, France has prided itself on being the world capital of seaside semi-nudity," Angelique Chrisafis writes in The Guardian. "Now the nation is facing a bikini-top backlash. A younger generation of women are covering up, citing new feminist priorities, skin cancer fears and a rebellion against the cult of the fetished body beautiful. … French media insist that it tends to be the over-60s - women involved in the initial women's lib struggle - who dispense with tops. One swimsuit saleswoman said that going topless is no longer seen as a feminist act, as young women see equal pay and work-family balance as more pressing battlegrounds."

Thought du jour

"Nobody really cares if you're miserable so you might as well be happy."

- Cynthia Nelms

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