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People brave the brisk weather as a cold snap grips Ottawa on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
People brave the brisk weather as a cold snap grips Ottawa on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Social studies

Cold today, no mosquitoes come summer Add to ...

Bitter cold? Not all bad

There’s at least one potential upside to the cold snap in the U.S. northeast, says NBCNews.com: fewer mosquitoes come summer, according to an entomologist riding out the cold in upstate New York. “Most arthropods have the ability to super-cool themselves in order to survive extreme cold winters in the ranges they’ve become adapted to. However, if unusually cold temperatures strike, it could be below their threshold of tolerance,” Cornell University’s Laura Harrington explained. Despite the cold, the drop in temperature is consistent with the type of extreme weather expected with global climate change, according to NASA scientists. As a result, it’s possible these cold snaps might become even more frequent in the future.

Lightning may cause headaches

On days when lightning bolts appeared, cases of headaches and migraines increased by 24 per cent and 23 per cent respectively among healthy people who lived within a 40-kilometre radius, according to a study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati. “Electromagnetic waves could be responsible for triggering headaches, they suggested, while lightning also increases air pollutants like ozone and can cause release of fungal spores, which may result in migraines,” says The Daily Telegraph. “Various meteorological conditions involved in stormy weather, such as barometric pressure and humidity, have been shown to influence the likelihood of headaches. But even after taking these into account the study found lightning itself had a significant effect.”

Cat’s bite can be deadly

“A bite from a small cat can be a big problem,” writes Marie Joyce of The Washington Post. Noting that up to 50 per cent of cat bites become infected, Princy Kumar, head of the infectious-diseases division at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said people underestimate the danger. Seek help if the cat has really sunk its teeth in – “if you see a puncture wound and blood coming out of it.” Unlike dogs, which tend to deliver superficial bites that don’t penetrate far into tissue, cats inflict puncture wounds with their long teeth, which inject bacteria from the cat’s mouth deep into tissue.

Dung beetles see the stars

“They may be down in the dirt but it seems dung beetles also have their eyes on the stars,” says BBC News. “Scientists have shown how the insects use the Milky Way to orient themselves as they roll their balls of muck along the ground.” The study by Marie Dacke of Sweden’s Lund University, appears in Current Biology. “The dung beetles are not necessarily rolling with the Milky Way or 90 degrees to it, they can go at any angle to this band of light in the sky. They use it as a reference,” the researcher said. She had previously shown that the beetles were able to take cues from the sun and the moon, but it was their capacity to maintain course even on moonless nights that intrigued her.

Living in tiny quarters

“A French housing charity said it was ‘scandalous’ that a man lived for 15 years in a 1.55-square-metre Paris apartment,” says United Press International. “Samuel Mouchard of the housing charity Fondation Abbe Pierre said the man, identified only as Dominique, 50, paid $440 per month to stay in the tiny apartment, The Local.fr reported. … ‘Landlords are profiting from the housing crisis in Paris,’ Mouchard said. ‘Many people don’t have a choice but to accept to live in these tiny apartments because they fear being out on the street.’” Landlords, he added, are flouting laws requiring apartments to have at least nine square metres of livable space.

Thought du jour

“We do not really ‘come into’ the world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ ”

Alan Watts, British-born writer and philosopher (1915-73)

 

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