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The big pruning, taxi-driving execs, unanswerable questions

The big pruning

"More than 600,000 plant species have been deleted from the dictionary of life after the most comprehensive assessment carried out by scientists," The Guardian reports. "For centuries, botanists from different parts of the world have been collecting and naming 'new' plants without realizing that many were in fact the same. The humble tomato boasts 790 different names, for example, while there are 600 different monikers for the oak tree and its varieties. The result was a list of more than one million flowering plant species. Although experts have long known that it included many duplicates, no one was sure how many. Later this year, the study team, led by [British]and [American]scientists, will announce that the real number of flowering plant species around the world is closer to 400,000."

Pets and humans

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"[H]man beings are a distinctly pet-loving bunch," Drake Bennett writes for The Boston Globe. "In no other species do adults regularly and knowingly rear the young of other species and support them into old age; in our species it is commonplace. In almost every human culture, people own pets. … What explains this yen to have animals in our lives? An anthropologist named Pat Shipman believes she's found the answer: Animals make us human. … [T]e unique ability to observe and control the behaviour of other animals is what allowed one particular set of Pleistocene-era primates to evolve into modern man."

Dress sense

Two strategies for clothing retailers:

- Though it's not widely done yet, expect to see people modelling clothes in stores, says Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. Consumers who see clothes that look great on a person are more likely to buy them than when they see the same clothes on a mannequin.

- For a long time, salespeople have used flattery as a sales technique, but consumers have become desensitized to that, says Juliano Laran, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami. Today, salespeople use "sincere flattery." The difference? "That dress looks great on you" is old school. Better now is "I had to tell another woman that dress didn't look good on her, but it looks great on you."

Source: Chicago Tribune

Taxi-driving execs

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"In cities like New York and Los Angeles, yellow cabs are a stepping stone for immigrants," Nacha Cattan writes for The Christian Science Monitor. "In Mexico City, taxis can be a last grasp at economic life for experienced professionals who have fallen victim to rampant age discrimination and recent economic crises. At the city-run taxi training centre, the average age of new recruits keeps rising, and close to one-third of the students are now 50 or older, says Emilio Bravo, director of the centre. Gerardo Garfias, a physician who was laid off after two decades in his field, clutches a briefcase with a medical-school logo stuffed with taxi documentation for his training course. 'I'm embarrassed,' the 53-year-old says. 'How can a doctor be a taxista?' "

Collars for cats?

"Less than 2 per cent of cats in animal shelters make it back to their owners, whereas about 15 to 19 per cent of dogs are returned, and one reason is that more dogs wear collars," The New York Times reports. "… There is fear that a collar could strangle a cat, or that cats will rip them off, said Linda Lord, a veterinary scientist at the Ohio State University. … To test these perceptions, Dr. Lord and her colleagues studied 538 collared cats for six months. At the end of the six months, 75 per cent of the cats were still wearing their collars. Only a few had injured themselves, but none severely."

Unanswerable questions

The website Ask Jeeves, The Daily Telegraph reports, has compiled what it calls the top 10 "unanswerables" - the questions where there is no simple answer - based on more than a billion questions it has been asked in the past decade:

1. What is the meaning of life?

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2. Is there a god?

3. Do blondes have more fun?

4. What is the best way to lose weight?

5. Is there anybody out there?

6. Who is the most famous person in the world?

7. What is love?

8. What is the secret to happiness?

9. Did Tony Soprano die?

10. How long will I live?

We're No. 1

"Residents of a Stirlingshire town have collected the Carbuncle Award for the most dismal place in Scotland - after asking organizers for the trophy," BBC News reports. "Denny residents approached the award's organizers after learning no one wanted to pick up the award on behalf of this year's winners, John O'Groats. Denny had been named as a runner-up in design magazine Urban Realm's list of the country's most awful towns. Residents hope the award will speed up regeneration plans for the town."

Thought du jour

"A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes: The flowers fading like our hopes, the leaves falling like our years, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives - all bear secret relations to our destinies."

- Chateaubriand (1768-1848)

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