Greens in love
Noting that the average diamond in an engagement ring requires the removal of 200 million to 400 million times its volume in rock, Nina Shen Rastogi writes for Slate.com: "If you really want to start your marriage with a clean slate [environmentally] consider an old ring - antique jewellery is the greenest, safest option. If you don't have a grandma with an heirloom gem, there are plenty of places where you can find high-quality, new-to-you rings. … You should also consider synthetic gemstones. These days, it's possible to grow rocks that have the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics as their natural counterparts - even trained gemologists often can't tell the difference. (Their makers like to call them 'grown' or 'cultured' stones, to capture some of that alluring sense of terroir.)"
A pearl in Cleopatra
Cleopatra may indeed have drunk a pearl cocktail in a single gulp, Discovery News reports. Legend has it that, to win a bet with Marc Antony - that she could spend a huge amount on a single meal - she put a large pearl earring in vinegar and drank the concoction when the pearl dissolved. Modern scholars have dismissed the story as fiction. However, classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair State University in New Jersey recently experimented with vinegar and a five-carat pearl. She found that a 5-per-cent solution of acetic acid, a concentration identical to that of white vinegar sold in supermarkets, takes 24 to 36 hours to dissolve a pearl weighing approximately one gram. "The calcium carbonate in the pearl neutralizes some of the acid, so the resulting drink is not as acidic as vinegar," Prof. Jones said.
Old people still feel
"As people grow older, sad films seem sadder," Laura Sanders writes for ScienceNews.org. "In a recent study, people in their 60s felt sadder than people in their 20s did after viewing an emotionally distressing scene from a movie. This heightened emotional response to sorrow may reflect a greater compassion for other people and may strengthen social bonds, researchers propose. The finding is an important contribution to emotion studies because it adds to a growing body of work showing that emotions don't deteriorate, says Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen, who was not involved in the research. 'One of the important findings of this is that the emotion system is in no way broken in old age,' she says."
Your sister is useful
"Though siblings can sometimes be a pain, having a sister might be good for kids' emotional health, according to a new study," LiveScience.com reports. "The results show young adolescents who had sisters - either younger or older - were less likely to experience negative feelings, such as loneliness and guilt. 'Even after you account for parents' influence, siblings do matter in unique ways,' said study researcher Laura Padilla-Walker, of Brigham Young University in Utah. 'They give kids something that parents don't. … Brothers matter as well, though their positive influence manifests in different ways. Having a loving sibling of either gender promoted good deeds, such as helping a neighbour or watching out for other kids at school. In fact, loving siblings fostered charitable attitudes more than loving parents did."
"Sun worshippers seeking the ultimate all-over tan should admit defeat, say scientists, who have proof that it is a physical impossibility," BBC News reports. "The University of Edinburgh team found different parts of the body are much harder to brown in the sun. Buttocks are the least easy to tan compared to backs, they told the journal Experimental Dermatology. Hard-to-tan areas will need more sun protection against cancer, they warn the public."
Amazing human brain? Not
"Uncomfortable as it is to contemplate, it is looking increasingly likely that our brains are not something to write home about after all," Alison Motluk writes for the New Scientist. "One group of researchers has scrutinized the primate archeological record and concluded that the human brain has evolved just as would be expected for a primate of our size. Meanwhile, a biologist who has compared the number of neurons in the brains of all sorts of animals says there is nothing special about the human brain compared with other primates. … These findings undermine a fundamental and long-standing belief about our place in the kingdom of life: that Homo sapiens is the greatest species ever to grace the Earth and that we have become the greatest because our brains are the best ever to have evolved."
Orange fingers and more
"Morrie R. Yohai, the creator of the crunchy, finger-staining orange Cheez Doodles snack, has died. He was 90," Associated Press reports. His son Robbie said Mr. Yohai was always amused that people thought the cheddar-cheese snack he produced at his Bronx factory was the highlight of his life. His father's interests were wide-ranging and included Jewish mysticism and poetry. The snack was only one of the many things he did.
Thought du jour
"Sunburn is very becoming - but only when it is even - one must be careful not to look like a mixed grill."
- Noel Coward