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Socrates cleared of charges in retrial … centuries later

Portrait of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates


Socrates beats the rap

"Socrates has been sensationally cleared of all charges at a retrial held in Athens on May 25, 2012, at the Onassis Cultural Centre," reports Philosophy Now magazine. "According to a court official: 'Socrates was acquitted in a historical trial, which was not a reenactment, but a modern perspective based on current legal frameworks supplemented with ancient Greek elements and comical theatrics.' In his original trial in Athens in 399 BC, the father of Western philosophy was found guilty of 'inventing new gods and corrupting the youth' by a majority vote of the jury of 500 Athenian citizens and was sentenced to death. In this

rerun, Socrates was tried … before a panel of 10 jurists including senior judges from Greece, [the U.S.], Britain and Switzerland. … At the end of the trial the court divided equally 5-5 over whether to acquit Socrates and he was accordingly declared not guilty."

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Single dads more appealing

"Single fatherhood isn't easy, but for one type of arachnid it comes with a few benefits," says The New York Times. "Among them is that females find single fathers more attractive than gallivanting bachelors. Among harvestmen, also known as daddy longlegs, males guard the eggs laid by their mates. Males can continue to copulate while guarding eggs, and a new study reports that these males are more attractive to females. 'A male with eggs displays a signal that he is willing and able to care for more eggs,' said Gustavo S. Requena, who recently completed his doctoral studies at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. 'The other males walking around the vegetation, maybe, maybe not.'"

How to spot a spy

In his memoir Ever the Diplomat, British envoy Sherard Cowper-Coles writes that, when he was posted to Cairo in 1980: "In the embassies of almost all major powers, other members of staff were in fact spies in disguise. In those days, insiders could tell a real diplomat from a fake one. One giveaway was that intelligence officers knew how to type (in order to operate their communications equipment on their own), whereas few 'straight' diplomats could."

The unwritten rules

"Why do adults throw tantrums over seemingly trivial provocations?" writes Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal. "Sure, the decline of common courtesy is appalling, and some people aren't as nice as others. But times are stressful enough for us all. Shouldn't we have learned by now that indulging in a fit of yelling, whether at a customer-service rep or a spouse, never helps? Researchers at Duke University, in a yet-to-be-published study, looked for explanations of why people melt down over small things. Their findings suggest we are reacting to a perceived violation of an unwritten yet fundamental rule. It's the old, childhood wail: 'It's not fair!' Researchers call these unwritten laws of behaviour 'social exchange rules.' We're not supposed to be rude or inconsiderate; we are supposed to be polite, fair, honest and caring. Don't cut in line. Drive safely. Clean up after yourself. 'We can't have successful interactions in relationships, mutually beneficial to both people involved, if one person violates these rules,' says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke and lead author of the study."

Yes, we'll have no bananas?

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"Give monkeys a choice between two bananas or one, they'll choose two," writes Luis Villazon in BBC Science Focus magazine. "But between five bananas and 10 they don't care. Tomorrow they'll be hungry again, but this future doesn't seem to exist in their minds."

Thought du jour

"The essence of a genuine professional man is that he cannot be bought."

H.L. Mencken, American journalist (1880-1956)

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