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(MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)
(MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

SOCIAL STUDIES

Nerds with nimble fingers … and toes Add to ...

When nerds get competitive

Last weekend, Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts met for the U.S. National Championship. The New York Times reports: “There were speed solvers and blindfolded solvers and those who solve with their feet, though purists consider foot-solving an unbecoming gimmick (tellingly, they were cordoned off in a far corner of the ballroom).”

At the U.S. National Texting Competition this week, there was $50,000 for the winner, says The Christian Science Monitor. “There are three rounds to the competition: texting while blind-folded, texting with hands behind their backs and Text Blitz, where phrases are shown to contestants for a length of time and they have to copy them as fast as they can.”

Uncertainty in the big decade

“Our 20s are the defining decade of adulthood,” clinical psychologist Dr. Meg Jay tells Bigthink.com. “Eighty per cent of life’s most defining moments take place by about age 35. Two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first 10 years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our 20s than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. … There are 50 million twentysomethings in the United States, most of whom are living with a staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Many have no idea what they will be doing, where they will be living, or who they will be with in two or 10 years. They don’t know when they’ll be happy or when they will be able to pay their bills. … Most simply, they don’t know whether their lives will work and they don’t know what to do.”

Final step? Find a groom

“She has the dress, the venue and the date for her wedding,” says The Huffington Post. “Now all Australian astrologer Anita Chakra Burtty needs is a groom.” She told the national broadcaster Channel Nine “that she’s convinced she’ll meet her man in October or November – just in time for her already bought-and-paid-for nuptials. She said her astrological readings indicated those months are ripe for love. ‘Hopefully once he meets me he’ll realize I’m a very fun, a very generous and I’m a very kind loving person and he won’t mind that I’m only a tiny bit insane.’ ”

A robot’s gender counts

“How strongly do we cling to our ideas about the proper roles of men and women? We even apply them to robots,” says Pacific Standard magazine. “That’s the clear conclusion of newly published research from Germany, which finds one needn’t have any actual sex organs to be the target of gender stereotypes.” In the University of Bielefeld experiment, 60 students – 30 men and 30 women – were asked to evaluate “modern technologies of the future.” They looked at the heads of two human-like machines which were identical except for two details. The “feminine” one had longer hair and a slight curvature of the lips; the “masculine” one had shorter hair and straight lips. “Participants were more likely to view the short-haired robot in masculine terms, and suggest it was more suitable for such take-action tasks as ‘repairing technical devices’ and ‘guarding a house.’ Conversely, the long-haired robot was perceived as more appropriate for such stereotypically feminine tasks as household chores and caring for children and the elderly.”

Glory to the moppers

“Perhaps the most high-profile volunteer job at the Olympics belongs to the moppers, responsible for keeping courts dry in sweaty sports such as badminton, volleyball, team handball and basketball,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Other volunteer custodians share the limelight as they keep courts in order … [but] the moppers are particular stars among the 70,000 so-called Games Makers working these Olympics. During badminton matches, some eager Chinese spectators yell ‘court mopper, jia you!’ or, ‘court moppers, go for it!’ At indoor volleyball, moppers get introduced just like the players. ‘We run through the cheerleaders, who shake their pompoms above our heads, make us feel like royalty,’ says mopper Josh Kirk, 18.”

The underpaid Samaritan?

“A Swedish man filed a complaint with officials because he wasn’t satisfied with the size of the reward he received for recovering a lost bike,” says United Press International. “The Skane, Sweden, man filed a report with the Parliamentary Ombudsman saying he found a bicycle Saturday and took it to the police station, where it was claimed by its owner, The Local.se reported Tuesday. The man said he received a notice from police that he could collect a finder’s fee of about $6. The complaint argues finder’s fees should amount to about 10 per cent of the value of the lost or stolen object. ‘To underestimate the value of people’s time in this manner is risking decreasing the rate of solving cases …’ the man said in his complaint.”

Thought du jour

“Peace on Earth would be mean the end of civilization as we know it.”

Joseph Heller (1923-99), American author

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