It's Monday? Sigh
"Scientists studying breathing patterns think they have found the reason we sigh: To reset breathing patterns that are getting out of whack and keep our respiratory system flexible," Larry O'Hanlon reports for Discovery News. "… 'Our results show that the respiratory dynamics are different before and after a sigh,' writes Elke Vlemincx and her co-authors [at the University of Leuven in Belgium]in the latest issue of the journal Biological Psychology. 'We hypothesize that a sigh acts as a general resetter of the respiratory system.' … So in times of stress, when breathing is less variable, a sigh can reset the respiratory system and loosen the lung's air sacs, or alveoli, which may be accompanied by a sensation of relief, Vlemincx said."
No familiar voices
"A 62-year-old woman is providing new insights into how the human brain works after becoming the first person to be diagnosed with a condition that leaves her unable to recognize voices," Richard Gray reports for The Sunday Telegraph. "The successful British businesswoman, who is normal in every other way, is the first known case of someone being born with developmental phonagnosia, which leaves her unable to recognize even the voices of her own family. Her condition is so profound that she often avoids using the telephone and struggles to identify people speaking on the radio. … Researchers are finding that her condition goes beyond a simple inability to remember voices, as she even has difficulty discriminating between two voices played back to back."
Books for laughing
Some books are so universally derided that they endear themselves, Laura Miller writes for Salon.com. "In the early 20th century, dinner party guests would entertain each other by reciting passages from the alliteration-heavy works of one Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), regarded by experts as the greatest bad novelist of all time. In Oxford, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and their friends competed to see who could read aloud from Ros's books the longest before cracking up."
"Italians' use of English words and expressions has increased by nearly eight times over the past decade, according to Federlingue, an umbrella group of translators, interpreters and language schools in Italy," writes Nick Squires, a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. He cites some contorted usages:
- Baby parking: a kindergarten or child-care centre.
- Baby gang: teenage delinquents.
- Footing: jogging.
"A spider that only eats ants is choosy about what body parts of its prey it devours based on their nutritional value," Adam Hadhazy reports for LiveScience. "… When chowing down on ants, the spiders consistently began with the protein-packed front parts before getting to the fattier hind segment, called a gaster or abdomen. The picky eating seemed to pay off: Spiders reared on just front-end ant pieces grew faster, bigger and lived longer than those served only gasters or even whole ants." The study, by researchers from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, appeared in the journal Animal Behaviour.
- "A man in Washington state who branded his own children like cattle has been acquitted of second-degree assault charges," Associated Press reports. "A jury in Port Angeles deadlocked … on two lesser charges of fourth-degree assault, and a judge declared a mistrial on those counts. The two teenage sons of 39-year-old Mark J. Seamands testified that they had wanted to be branded. The Sequim man was branded himself. He testified he wanted to bring the family closer together while he was going through a divorce. … Seamands' 18-year-old daughter also was branded, but the dad wasn't charged with assaulting her because she was old enough to give consent. The children were branded with the letters 'SK,' which stands for 'Seamands' kids.' "
- "A former Marine who neighbours say obsessed over his University Park lawn is being held on $3-million [U.S.]bail," the Chicago Tribune reports, "accused of gunning down a neighbour whose puppy urinated on the man's well-manicured grass. Charles J. Clements, 69, had won the south suburb's beautification and lawn upkeep award but also was known for threatening people who dared to set foot in his yard, neighbours said."
Thought du jour
"The lower sort of men must be indulged the consolation of finding fault with those above them; without that, they would be so melancholy that it would be dangerous, considering their numbers."
- Marquis of Halifax (1633-95)