“The average person makes more than 200 decisions about food every day, and most of the time isn’t even aware of it,” writes Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times magazine. “We may take a stand each morning when it comes to ordering a tall, non-fat, no-foam latte, but for the most part, we tend to consume what’s put in front of us. When we eat out, everything from a restaurant’s lighting to the menu design to the size of the plate or cup influences how much we eat and drink.”
Should you mop your brow?
“Should you wipe away your sweat, or does that just keep you from cooling off?” asks Slate.com. “Don’t wipe unless you’re drenched. Sweat releases heat by evaporative cooling. As each gram of sweat transitions from liquid to gas phase, it absorbs 2,427 joules of energy from the body and dissipates the heat into the environment. But if you wipe away the perspiration before it evaporates, that process will get cut short, and you’ll need to sweat more just to achieve the same degree of cooling. On the other hand, any sweat that drips to the ground before it can evaporate won’t do you any good, so if you’re really soaked you may as well reach for the towel.”
Seeking the most gullible
“You open your inbox,” blogs Brad Plumer of The Washington Post, “and a familiar message pops up: ‘Dear Sir, I am Prince Kufour Otumfuo, the elder son of the late King Otumfuo Opoku ware II …’ Since you are not (presumably!) a total idiot, you immediately recognize this for what it is – an Internet scam. … It’s the most crudely obvious Internet hustle in the history of Internet hustles. So why don’t Internet scammers try to change up their tactics? Everyone knows about the Nigerian prince. It’s tired and clichéd.” Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley, Mr. Plumer adds, tries to answer this question in a new paper. The scam is so obvious, says the researcher, not because scammers are stupid; most of them are actually quite clever. Rather, they’re explicitly trying to weed out everyone but the most gullible respondents: “Since his attack has a low density of victims, the Nigerian scammer has an overriding need to reduce false positives.”
Slow but deadly
“Researchers have measured the swimming speed of the ocean’s slowest shark,” BBC News reports. “Data-logging tags revealed that the Greenland sharks ‘cruise’ at 0.34 m per second [1.22 km/h]. The study showed that even when the languid fish embarks on a burst of speed in order to hunt, it is far too slow to catch a swimming seal. Since the species is known to eat seals, the scientists think it probably ‘sneaks up on them’ as they sleep under the water.” The BBC adds it had been thought that Greenland sharks simply fed on the carcasses of dead seals on the seafloor, but the team recently discovered evidence that they were taking live seals.
Watching a whole stadium
The University of California, San Diego, reports the Union-Tribune newspaper, “has helped create the lens for a large experimental camera that researcher Joseph Ford says could ‘take a snapshot of a football stadium that’s clear enough to let you recognize every single person in the stadium.’ The lens is part of AWARE-2, a wide-field camera system that’s about the size of a night table. … The camera is designed to instantaneously take a one-gigapixel image that could be used for such things as surveillance, the monitoring of wildlife, or enriching the coverage of sporting events. The image would be produced with a single shot, rather than through stitching together many images from one or more cameras. Plans call for creating images up to 50 gigapixels. … ‘If you had a single camera at the centre of an arena, it could watch every person in the stands and do things like real-time face and object recognition. You’d know right away if someone dangerous walked in [and] pulled out a gun.’”
Fun with baldness
“Among basic human requirements appear to be the need for food, water, sleep, shelter and a full head of hair,” says the New Scientist. “As early as 5,000 years ago, wigs became popular among Assyrians, Sumerians, Persians and Greeks. The ancient Egyptians recorded one of the oldest known treatments on the Ebers Papyrus, 3,500 years ago. … Since then, anti-baldness advice has spanned the full range of embarrassing possibilities. Sleep on a tilted bed. Don’t masturbate. Grow your hair long. Don’t grow it long. Rub your head with red pepper, kerosene and carbolic acid. … Have hot wax injected under your scalp. Pour cold tea on your pate. Rub your head with lemon juice and dance under a full moon. Pray.”
Thought du jour
An old adage has it that gambling is a tax for people who can’t do math.