The reason people find overheard mobile phone conversations so annoying has been solved by scientists, writes Andrew Hough of The Daily Telegraph: "Researchers have discovered that it takes more effort for the brain to understand only half a conversation, or a 'halfalogue,' compared with a full dialogue between two people. Scientists at Cornell University in New York found that people could not predict what the person talking into the mobile would say next - because they had not heard the last words from the person on the other end of the phone. The brain has to work twice as hard to understand the conversation and fill in the blanks, requiring more attention and making it harder to shut out. Lauren Emberson, co-author of the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, says: 'It's unbelievably irritating to overhear someone on a cellphone. It's harder to tune out, you can't pull your attention away from it and you're more distracted by it.'"
The big spill
"Here's another way to think of how much oil has gushed out [of the Gulf of Mexico spill]since April 20," Associated Press reported on Friday: "At worst, it's enough to fill 102 school gymnasiums to the ceiling with oil."
You can't make a pencil
"[T]e sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination," Matt Ridley writes for The Wall Street Journal. "It is a collective enterprise. Nobody - literally nobody - knows how to make the pencil on my desk (as the economist Leonard Read once pointed out), let alone the computer on which I am writing. The knowledge of how to design, mine, fell, extract, synthesize, combine, manufacture and market these things is fragmented among thousands, sometimes millions, of heads. Once human progress started, it was no longer limited by the size of human brains. Intelligence became collective and cumulative."
"For the last 40 years, people have been taught that dressing for success is the way to climb to the top of the corporate ladder," David Moye reports for AOL News. "Is it possible that the consultants had it backward and that undressing is the way to increase workplace productivity? That's the premise of The Naked Office, a new British reality series that debuted May 18 on the Virgin 1 network. Each episode of the six-part series follows Seven Suphi, a behavioural change specialist and leadership guru, as she goes to various businesses and helps them work on issues plaguing the companies. Her work includes convincing employees and executives that working naked will increase positivity, productivity and equalize office relations. Each episode takes place over a weeklong period and follows the workers personally and professionally until the big day, 'Naked Friday,' where they all let it hang out - literally. … It sounds like the makings of a big prank, but Virgin 1 spokeswoman Jakki Lewis insists it's all on the up-and-up. 'This show is not a prank at all,' she insisted. 'It is a social experiment Virgin 1 underwent to try and promote good business practice to struggling firms who had various managerial and staff issues.' "
Green this, pal
"Liberals as wishy-washy greens and conservatives as gas guzzlers? A study of more than 80,000 Californian households suggests there may be some truth to the stereotypes," New Scientist magazine reports. "We know that heavy users of electricity cut back if they're told they use more than their neighbours. When a study showed this in 2007, it was hailed as a breakthrough in the fight to cut carbon emissions. But there's a little problem: Such feedback only seems to work with liberals. Conservatives tend to ignore it - some even respond by using more energy. … Wesley Schultz of California State University in San Marcos, one of the researchers behind the 2007 finding, is not surprised by the result. He says that some Republicans have a negative view of the environmental movement and so might want to distance themselves from a green-themed campaign. Using more electricity could be an act of defiance."
Monarchy has tenure
"Although the House of Windsor dominates global media coverage of monarchy, in reality 12 European countries still have monarchs," Joshua Kurlantzick writes for The Boston Globe, "as do Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Bhutan and other nations. Despite occasional republican movements that attempt to end the monarchy, polls show strong support for the crown in nearly every nation that has one. In the Netherlands, 70 per cent of respondents in one poll wanted to retain the monarchy; in Spain, 65 per cent of respondents supported it; in Japan, the number was 82 per cent. In many of these countries, poll respondents have more respect for the monarchy than any other public institution."
What about egg costumes?
Voters and activists in Nevada's upcoming primary election have been told wearing chicken suits to the polling places will not be allowed, officials told United Press International. If someone does show up in a chicken costume and it's all they have on, they added, they would be allowed to vote but would then have to leave the polling place and stay at least 30 metres away.
Thought du jour
"It's not work if you love what you're doing."
- Steve Sears (1941-96)