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Our puny ancestors

" The Changing Body, to be published next month by Cambridge University Press, concludes that there is a clear link between height and earnings," The Independent reports. "Increases in both, over the past 300 years, are greater than over the three preceding millennia, demonstrating that the changes are too rapid to be evolutionary. … Some 200 years ago, differences in height between working-class and upper-class people were 'really substantial,' said Sir Roderick Floud, a leading economic historian and one of the leaders of the team behind the book. In the late 18th and early 19th century, a comparison between boys from the slums of London and boys at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy … showed that between 90 to 95 per cent of working-class boys were shorter than upper-class children. … In the 1780s, the average height of a 14-year-old working-class child was 1.3 metres, while an upper-class child was 'significantly taller' at 1.55 metres."

Their fat descendants

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"The latest grim news in our battle with our waistlines is that the problem is going global," The Christian Science Monitor says. "A new report in the medical journal The Lancet has found that the rate of obesity worldwide has doubled since 1980. Some 500 million people now qualify, and three times that number are 'merely' overweight."

Bad tipper

"A man known as a notoriously bad tipper," the Chicago Tribune reports, "has been charged with fatally shooting a Humboldt Park car-wash attendant last summer because the attendant refused to dry the patron's car, prosecutors said." The 40-year-old was arrested Friday and jailed. Prosecutors said the accused man had a reputation for not tipping and car-wash employees decided to take a stand. After attendants refused to dry his car by hand, the man and his passenger became angry and got into a physical altercation with them. Half an hour after leaving, he came back with a gun, shot one of the attendants and fled.

Scratch, scratch

"Itching can be 'caught' just by watching someone else having a good scratch, scientists have confirmed," The Daily Telegraph reports. "It is a phenomenon that can leave entire rooms full of people scratching at the merest mention of fleas or lice. Now scientists have proven for the first time that itching really can be contagious. In what is being called itch transmission, the researchers have shown that the sensation of an itch can be caught visually in the same way as yawning. … Dermatologists at Wake Forest University school of medicine in North Carolina believe itching becomes contagious because the brain becomes hypersensitive when someone nearby scratches and so misinterprets any kind of physical sensation on our skin as an itch."

A better alarm clock

"Hate that nagging beeping sound that screams out from your alarm clock, especially on Monday morning?" online magazine Design Milk asks. "So did designer Johan Brengesjo. He decided to develop an alarm clock that wakes you up without sound. Instead, you wear a wireless rubber ring with an integrated vibration device that generates a tactile alarm. To snooze, simply shake your hand. However, there's a catch - each time you shake your hand to snooze, more movement is required to stop the vibration, so eventually you are awake enough to get up."

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Nicknames gone wild

"On my first day in Manila," Kate McGeown writes for BBC News, "I walked down to the local café and was served by a smiling young girl who wore a name badge entitled BumBum. … Since then I've met a Bambi, three Bogies, several Girlies, a Peanut, a Barbie and a middle-aged man called Babe. These names are found in all sectors of society. Sometimes they are nicknames, sometimes genuine first names - but they are always what people are referred to on a day-to-day basis. Even the president is not spared. His real name is Benigno Aquino, but almost everyone here calls him Noynoy. Two of his sisters are called Pinky and Ballsy. No one seems to see the need to ask why."

Colour me crafty

"There was nothing innocent about colouring-book pages with the words 'To Daddy' scribbled on top and mailed to a New Jersey jail, authorities said," Associated Press reports. "Five people are facing charges after the prescription drug Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction, was turned into a paste and the paste was drawn on the pages, Cape May County Sheriff Gary Schaffer said. … A source tipped off a corrections officer about the scheme and the mailroom found colouring-book pages with an orangey substance in February, the sheriff said. Three pages, including two depicting Snow White and Cinderella, were sent to the county prosecutor's office drug lab for testing. Three inmates were charged with conspiracy and attempt to commit a crime."

Thought du jour

"Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame."

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- Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)

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