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Singer Justin Bieber performs on NBC's "Today" in the TODAY Plaza on November 23, 2011 in New York City. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images/Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images)
Singer Justin Bieber performs on NBC's "Today" in the TODAY Plaza on November 23, 2011 in New York City. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images/Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images)

Justin Bieber as musical torture? Add to ...

Fundraising torture

“Two suburban Chicago high-school students raised money for a non-profit coffee shop by repeatedly playing a Justin Bieber song over the school’s loudspeaker,” United Press International reports. “Evanston Township High School seniors Charlotte Runzel and Jesse Chatz said they received permission from administrators to blast Bieber’s hit song Baby at the end of each class period and told classmates the musical torture would end when they reached their fundraising goal of $1,000, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday. The teenagers said they raised the cash in just three days for the non-profit Boocoo coffee shop and cultural centre, which also has a performance space and provides music, dance and other lessons.”

A chilly Christmas?

“The icicle strings dangle from the eaves and brightly coloured bulbs festoon the hedges. Yet to many, something feels chilly about the holiday decorations on homes this year,” The Wall Street Journal says. “It’s the light-emitting-diode, or LED, decorations, they say. ‘I walked by a home that had LED lights the other day and they had all the coziness of an operating room,’ says Mary O’Neill, 49 years old, the manager of a software company in Grand Rapids, Mich. She tried LED Christmas decor three years ago but her family revolted, so she switched back to regular lights. … Lighting manufacturers say such criticism stems from old or cheap decorations that radiate a purplish hue. Engineers at Osram Sylvania, part of Siemens AG, say newer varieties can twinkle, faithfully reproduce soft white light and come in sizes similar to the big, ‘C9’ incandescent bulb lights many consumers grew up with.”

Left-leaning estimations

“If something has gone down in your estimation, check your stance,” says the New Scientist. “Leaning to the left encourages people to underestimate everything from the height of buildings to the number of Michael Jackson chart-toppers. To find out whether body positions influence value estimation, Anita Eerland and her colleagues at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands asked 33 people to guess the numerical answer to questions while [standing]on a Wii-console balance board. … When Eerland’s team compared the answers given by participants they found that, on average, people made smaller estimates when they were tilted to the left.” The study appears in Psychological Science.

When did fish first walk?

“A study of the African lungfish suggests that our evolutionary ancestors first started walking before they migrated onto land,” says The Christian Science Monitor. “Air-breathing fish that can hop and walk across the floor on their fins hint that walking may have evolved underwater before such animals began migrating onto land, scientists find. The distant ancestors of humans and all mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and other four-limbed animals, or tetrapods, are fish that eventually developed the ability to breathe on land. One of the few living fish related to these ancient land-dwellers are air-breathers known as lungfish, which are found today in Africa, South America and Australia. Now scientists find that an African lungfish ( Protopterus annectens) can lift its body clear off the floor and propel itself forward using scrawny ‘limbs,’ abilities previously thought to have originated in early tetrapods.”

Obedience? For cats?

An Australian veterinarian is offering one-on-one obedience classes for cats, reports Orange Co. U.K. “Nicole Hoskin claims she can train kittens to sit, stay and fetch. … Originally, Dr. Hoskin offered a service similar to puppy obedience classes but the project failed. ‘If you get more than one cat in a room, the claws come out,’ she said. She says dogs learn just to please their owners, but cats will only pay attention for food rewards.”

Suffocating shields

“As they are right now, riot shields do the job of protecting police quite well, but they offer little in the way of offence,” says Scitechdaily.com. “Riot shields that could project a wall of sound would be a whole different story. They could offer a way to defuse situations before police get close enough to be in danger. According to a patent filed by defence firm Raytheon, the device looks just like standard riot shields, but it has a built-in acoustic horn that generates a pressure pulse. The shields would produce a low-frequency sound that attacks the respiratory tract, making it hard for those targeted to breathe. It can be adjusted from minor discomfort all the way up to the point where targets become ‘temporarily incapacitated.’ ”

Thought du jour

“Don’t fool yourself that important things can be put off till tomorrow; they can be put off forever, or not at all.” - Mignon McLaughlin (1913-83), U.S. journalist

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