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(Stock photo | Getty Images/Stock photo | Getty Images)

Is this child lying to you? Add to ...

Smart little liars

“Children show a wide array of deception by ages 2 and 3, and the earliest clear signs appear at about six months,” writes Robert Trivers in The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. “Fake crying and pretend laughing are among the earliest. Fake crying can be discerned because infants often stop to see whether anyone is listening before resuming. This shows that they are capable of moderating the deception according to the victim’s behaviour. By eight months, infants are capable of concealing forbidden activities and distracting parental attention. By age 2, a child can bluff a threat of punishment, for example, by saying ‘I don’t care’ about a proposed punishment when he or she clearly cares. … Lies to protect the feelings of others – so-called white lies – appear only by age 5. … As children mature, they become increasingly intelligent and increasingly deceptive.”

Migration on the move

“Geese, ducks and swans that spend their winters in wetlands of northern Europe are changing their migration patterns because of global warming, researchers say,” United Press International reports. “Some waterfowl have delayed their annual migrations by as much as a month compared with 30 years ago, Finnish researchers said. In Britain, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust says numbers of some very familiar species are decreasing because many birds do not fly as far as they previously did.” Geoff Hilton of the WWT said: “Our sense of the changing seasons is moving underneath our feet. Nature’s moving away from us.”

The plate says slow down

“A so-called ‘talking plate’ that orders people not to bolt their food is to be used in a [National Health Service]study to help obese families lose weight,” says London’s Sunday Times. “The Swedish-made Mandometer, which costs about £1,500 [$2,400]to the NHS, monitors the amount of food leaving the plate. If food is consumed too rapidly, the plate instructs the diner, ‘Please eat more slowly.’ Obesity experts, who have tested the scheme in a pilot study, believe teaching the chronically overweight to reduce the speed at which they eat helps them to recognize feelings of fullness, leading to weight loss. … The Mandometer has a scale that sits beneath the plate and a screen showing graphics of the food on the plate. The diner can see the food disappearing onscreen as he or she eats.”

A new low in theft

“Sky-high metal prices combined with the weak U.S. economy in recent years have led brazen thieves to strip copper wire out of vacant homes, swipe stainless-steel beer kegs from bars and even make off with manhole covers, street lights and parts of fire hydrants,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Just this month, Illinois officials reported that someone had stolen a three-foot copper sword from Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield. But the theft of thousands of vases at cemeteries across the country has brought the thievery to new depths. … The vases, about 10 inches high and three inches in diameter, are made of bronze, an alloy rich in copper. They typically screw into a plate on the grave marker and are secured with a small chain. Although the price of copper has dropped about 20 per cent this year, most major metals prices are still near historic highs.”

How you clear your head

“Earwax is a mixture of shed skin cells, long-chain fatty acids and other oily compounds that are secreted from specialized sweat glands,” Science Focus magazine says. “The slow, continuous production of ear wax, along with the motion of your jaw, creates a sort of conveyor belt that helps to remove dust, dirt and dead bugs.”

Foreigners and contagion

“It’s a classic xenophobic metaphor: Societies react to outsiders just like the body’s immune system reacts to foreign antigens,” The Boston Globe reports. “But it turns out the metaphor may have more power than we realize. At the height of the swine-flu epidemic in 2009, people who read a passage about the epidemic were more anti-immigrant if they hadn’t been vaccinated. Likewise, for germ-averse people, reading that the seasonal flu vaccine injects the virus into the patient induced people to hold more anti-outsider attitudes than reading that the vaccine simply protects people from the virus.”

Thought du jour

“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.”

Margaret Mead (1901-78)

U.S. cultural anthropologist

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