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(Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)
(Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

Social Studies

Chocolate-flavoured stamps coming to Belgium Add to ...

Chocolate-flavoured stamps

“With technological advances what they are, traditional postal mail may soon be a thing of the past … but the Belgian post office is hoping to stay the trend with a new set of stamps that smell and taste like chocolate,” reports The Huffington Post. “More than 500,000 stamps are being printed on a special paper with a cocoa-scented varnish and glue that tastes like chocolate.” About 40 per cent of the varnish is made with a cocoa product. The stamps come in five limited editions, showcasing images of chocolate in various forms: sprinkles, chocolate, Nutella, rough pieces and bars. The stamps are expected to go on sale March 25.

Was your package dropped?

A device to spill the beans on dodgy delivery firms has been invented by Cambridge Consultants, a British invention company. “Called DropTag, the gadget combines a battery, a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter, an accelerometer and a memory chip,” says the New Scientist. “Stuck on a parcel as it leaves an e-commerce warehouse, it logs any G-forces above a set risky shock level that it experiences. The idea is that when the courier puts it in your hands, you turn on Bluetooth on a smartphone running a DropTag app and scan it before you sign for it. A readout then shows what’s happened to the parcel in transit, with the option of a graph that shows you if the box has been mistreated – and when. If it has clearly been beaten up, you don’t sign and refuse delivery.”

Superman spillover effect

“Could pretending to be a superhero make you more of a hero in real life?” writes Kevin Lewis in The Boston Globe. “Apparently so, according to researchers from Stanford. Students donned virtual reality equipment and flew – as if they were [either] in a helicopter or could fly like a superhero – through a virtual city. After this experience, while the experimenter was putting away the virtual reality equipment, the experimenter knocked over a cup full of pens, ostensibly by accident. Students who had flown like a superhero were quicker to offer help and picked up more pens than students who had flown as if in a helicopter.”

Do-it-yourself dialysis

“Three times a week, Hu Songwen sits on a small toilet in his home in a rural east China town and fires up his homemade dialysis machine,” says The Daily Mail. “Hu, who suffers from kidney disease, made it from kitchen utensils and old medical instruments after he could no longer afford hospital fees. He was a college student when he was diagnosed in 1993. … He underwent dialysis treatment in hospital but ran out of savings after six years. His solution was to create his own machine to slash costs. The cost for each home treatment is only 60 yuan ($9.65), which is 12 per cent of the hospital charge for dialysis, Hu said. He said he was not deterred despite the fact two of his friends had died after building and using similar machines.”

Pills in the wrong paws

Cases of accidental pet poisoning are on the rise, according to a U.S. study, and some common medicines for humans can prove lethal, says The Wall Street Journal. “There is some evidence … that medications have gotten more tempting in recent years. Supplements for joints are often made of beef cartilage or shellfish, and more manufacturers are using gelatin-based soft gels or capsules, says Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com. … A dog’s sweet tooth makes sweetened or flavoured human meds attractive. ‘Our pets have such good noses that even though the bottle is closed, they can smell the stuff,’ says Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian.” Dogs are more susceptible than cats to accidental poisoning. “Dogs experience the whole world by tasting it,” says Kevin Fitzgerald, a Denver veterinarian. “Cats are a little more picky.”

Thought du jour

“The lazy are always wanting to do something.”

Marquis de Vauvenargues

French writer (1715-47)

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