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A universal malady, mammoths' legacy, the boss gets two of you Add to ...

A universal malady

"Brain scan studies have shown that early romantic love generates a unique pattern of brain activity," Tara Parker-Pope writes for The New York Times. "Regions of the brain related to addiction and even mental illness light up on the scan when a person sees a photo of his or her beloved. But most of the research has been conducted in Western cultures like Britain and the United States. So researchers at Stony Brook University in Long Island, wanted to know if the chaos of romantic love translates across cultures. For instance, does a Chinese brain look the same as an American brain when it's in love? … [T]e team arranged to study the brains of Chinese citizens who reported being newly in love. The findings are reported online in the journal Human Brain Mapping. They discovered that cultural differences in how love is expressed don't change the brain's neurological reaction to romantic love. The scans showed that love lights up the brain in the same manner, regardless of ethnic background."

Have a biscuit, puss

"[I] it ethical to impose a vegetarian diet on your pet? And for a start, is it healthy?" blogs Dan Welch, co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine, for The Guardian. "The health issue is simpler for dogs than cats, as dogs in the wild are omnivores whereas cats are obligate 'true' carnivores, getting all of their nutrition from meat. But cats require specific nutrients, not specific foodstuffs. A 2006 study, carried out somewhat bizarrely by Nestlé, found that 34 vegetarian cats it examined were healthy. One of the biggest concerns for cats is the risk of taurine deficiency, which can lead to blindness and death if not treated. Most meaty cat food has taurine added back, because the processing of meat removes it. Another essential for cats is arachidonic acid. Both these substances are available as supplements." The jury is still out on the health implications of feeding cats a veggie diet, he adds. "A sensible compromise might be to feed your cat half vegetarian biscuits and half organic wet meaty food."

Mammoths' legacy

Mammoths helped to fill the atmosphere with methane and keep the Earth warm more than 13,000 years ago, scientists believe, The Daily Telegraph reports. "Together with other large plant-eating mammals that are now extinct, they released around 9.6 million tonnes of the gas each year, experts estimated. When the 'megafauna' disappeared there was a dramatic fall in atmospheric methane which may have altered the climate. Analysis of gases trapped in ice cores suggests that the loss of animal emissions accounted for a large amount of the decline. 'The changes in methane concentration at this time seem to be unique,' said the researchers, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience. … Around 13,400 years ago the Americas were heavily populated by large-bodied herbivores such as mammoths, camelids and ground sloths and had a richer array of animals than present-day Africa. But by 11,500 years ago, around 80 per cent of these big mammals had vanished forever."

The boss gets two of you

"Office workers will soon be capable of being in two places at once - thanks to their very own robot," Orange UK News reports. "Californian company Anybots has developed the five-foot (1.5 metre-tall) robot called QB which can act as your stand-in if you're working from home, away on business or stuck in a meeting. Controllable by Internet from anywhere in the world, you simply log-in online and activate your QB which you park at your usual desk. QB can even trundle around the office joining conversations with colleagues in real time." The robot's eyes glow so your colleagues know you're "there." The robot can be shared, said a company spokesman, but a person who works from home "will probably prefer to have their own private robot, which they might customize to represent themselves."

Books, books, books

"Want smart kids? … Buy a lot of books," The Chronicle of Higher Education advises. "That seems kind of obvious, right? But what's surprising, according to a new study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, is just how strong the correlation is between a child's academic achievement and the number of books his or her parents own. It's even more important than whether the parents went to college or hold white-collar jobs. … The study was conducted over 20 years, in 27 countries, and surveyed more than 70,000 people. Researchers found that children who grew up in a home with more than 500 books spent three years longer in school than children whose parents had only a few books. … Even a relatively small number of books can make a difference. A child whose family has 25 books will, on average, complete two more years of school than a child whose family is sadly bookless."

Thought du jour

"The man who gives me employment, which I must have or suffer, that man is my master, let me call him what I will."

- Henry George (1839-97)

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