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Teaching kids to count? Use bigger numbers

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What comes after three?

"Using larger numbers matters when teaching preschool children the concept of counting, research by the University of Chicago indicates," says United Press International. "Researchers found preschool children seem to grasp the true concept of counting only if they're taught to understand the number value of groups of objects greater than three, the school said Tuesday in a release. 'We think that seeing that there are three objects doesn't have to involve counting. It's only when children go beyond three that counting is necessary to determine how many objects there are,' said psychology graduate student Elizabeth Gunderson."

When do undergrads come to?

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"College students whose classes start later in the day tend to sleep more, but also consume more alcohol and have lower grade point averages, according to study findings," says The Chronicle of Higher Education. "… The study, led by two psychologists at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y., surveyed 253 students about their sleep and class schedules, substance use and mood, among other data. It found that 'night owls' were more likely to get more sleep than 'morning types,' but were also more likely to binge drink, and that their grades were moderately lower."

Outlook? Widespread weirding

"Tornadoes, wildfires, droughts and floods were once seen as freak conditions," says The Guardian. "But the environmental disasters now striking the world are shocking signs of 'global weirding.' … Sober government scientists … are openly using words like 'remarkable,' 'unprecedented' and 'shocking' to describe the recent physical state of Britain this year, but the extremes we are experiencing in 2011 are nothing to the scale of what has been taking place elsewhere recently. Last year, more than two million square kilometres of eastern Europe and Russia scorched. … This year, it's Western Europe's turn for a mega-heatwave, with 16 countries, including France, Switzerland and Germany (and Britain on the periphery) experiencing extreme dryness. … In Queensland, Australia, an area the size of Germany and France was flooded in December and January. … In China, a 'once-in-a-100-years' drought in southern and central regions has this year dried up hundreds of reservoirs, rivers and water courses, evaporating drinking supplies and stirring up political tensions. … Meanwhile, North America's most deadly and destructive tornado season ever saw 600 twisters in April alone."

Damp, with chance of plague

"A new study, conducted by Chinese and Norwegian scientists, seems to suggest a connection between wetter climates and larger outbreaks of plague, according to LiveScience. As a result, as climates become wetter, the more likely it is that plague can spread," The Huffington Post says. "Luckily, the bacteria that cause plague can be treated with antibiotics."

A butt-out letter

"A Battle Creek [Mich.]woman is asking authorities to file assault charges against her husband's ex-wife for sending him a letter smeared with peanut butter," the Battle Creek Enquirer in Michigan reports. "The woman told police she is highly allergic to peanuts and that she believed putting peanut butter on a bill sent to her husband was an attempt to harm her. … The woman said she came home during her lunch break Friday and found an envelope in the mailbox addressed to her husband with oil soaking through to the outside. On the outside of the envelope was writing indicating that it contained peanut butter. … When interviewed by police Saturday, the ex-wife said she did not intend to cause any harm and that the peanut butter was meant to keep her ex-husband's wife from reading mail that did not involve her."

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Young do-it-yourselfers

"The way 22-year-old Fidan explains it, in Azerbaijan there is a way these things are done," The Christian Science Monitor says. "She meets a boy, and maybe they hit it off. If so, he'll send his mom over to her house for some tea. If his mom likes her family, the boy's father will come over to her house for more tea. If all goes well, they could be engaged before the year is out. But Fidan, a teacher who asked to be identified only by her first name, has long since tired of waiting around for potential suitors. 'I was always just waiting,' she says. That's where Rashad Aliyev comes in. His website,, is one of the most visited wireless application protocol sites in Azerbaijan. WAP sites are designed to be navigated using cellphones. … [H]s clients are overwhelmingly drawn to [the site's]central feature - dating profiles for thousands of Azerbaijani men and women. Fidan logs on two to three times a week. 'I'm just wondering who is posting,' she says." In Azerbaijan "people can have two phones, but no computers," Mr. Aliyev says. "WAP sites on simple mobile phones can be used without getting the attention of parents."

Thought du jour

"Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world."

Voltaire (1694-1778)

French writer and philosopher

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