When chimps outdo humans
“The test seems simple enough: recall the numbers one to nine, in the right order, after they appear randomly on a computer screen,” writes Liz Bonnin in BBC sciencefocus.com. “Each number only flashes for up to 60 milliseconds – faster than the blink of an eye, and too fast for me to remember. The challenge is taking place at Kyoto University in Japan, where I’m up against 11-year-old Ayumu. I score zero out of 10, he gets top marks. Ayumu is a chimpanzee. … Tetsuro Matsuzawa, professor of language and intelligence at Kyoto University, believes that there may be an evolutionary basis to Ayumu’s amazing memory skills: chimpanzees commit their environment to memory much faster than humans because, to survive, they must assess a situation extremely quickly. When our ancestors acquired language skills, this ability had to make way for the more cognitively demanding task of representing memory linguistically – how we retell our experience to others.”
Winning that promotion
“People who get on with their boss have better promotion prospects even if they lack intelligence or are not suited for the role, an international survey of businesses has found,” says The Daily Telegraph. “Researchers concluded that a poor relationship with superiors was the number one hindrance on a person’s career. The survey, of more than 1,500 firms across five continents, appears to support the age-old adage that it is not what you know if you want to get on in your job. … Having poor intellect was not a major factor for any lack of promotion, it found.” The survey was commissioned by Futurestep, an international recruitment company.
Selling of the president
“Gone are the days when politicians were content to promote themselves with baseball caps, bumper stickers and badges,” says The Sunday Times of London. “[U.S.]President Barack Obama’s [re-election]campaign has taken merchandising to a new level with an online store of more than 200 items from kitchenware to designer clothes. The committed Obama supporter can cook dinner wearing an Obama apron, using an Obama spatula and perhaps sipping a martini from an Obama cocktail glass. They can then serve wine in Obama glasses, unless they prefer beer in an O’bama pint glass or a can wrapped in a Joe Biden holder.”
Down with lunch breaks
“Nothing in American office culture is more overrated than the lunch hour – the idea that it’s best to take an hour, get out of the office, and forget all that stress waiting for you back at your desk,” writes Rachael Larimore for Slate.com. “I eat lunch at my desk almost every day. In fact, I love eating lunch at my desk so much that when I was refurbishing my home office recently, I bought a desk with a special pull-out section where I could lay a placemat and coaster – voila, a built-in dining area. … I love my job, and I love my coworkers. I really do. But I spend more time with them from Monday through Friday than I do with my husband or children. And even though I’m interacting with my colleagues by phone and via e-mail – I work from my home in Ohio – my workday is intense and all-encompassing. I really don’t see the benefit of extending it by an hour just so I can break for lunch.”
How to be more rational
“Would you like to think more rationally, especially where your finances are concerned?” asks psmag.com (formerly MillerMcCune.com). “Did you learn a second language in school – say, Spanish? If so, University of Chicago researchers have a suggestion for you: Use Espanol. A research led by psychologist Boaz Keysar reports using one’s second language reduces or eliminates certain biases that otherwise infiltrate our decision-making. Specifically, our aversion to potential losses – a bias that can lead us to pass up promising opportunities for potential gains – diminishes as we ponder options in a language learned later in life. ‘People who routinely make decisions in a foreign language rather than their native tongue might be less biased in their savings, investment and retirement decisions,’ the researchers write in the journal Psychological Science.”
Health of the oceans
– “Research on how much plastic litters the oceans may vastly underestimate the true amount because it only looks at the surface, a U.S. researcher says,” reports United Press International. “University of Washington oceanographer Giora Proskurowski said he was on a research cruise in the Pacific Ocean and noticed the water surface was littered with tiny bits of plastic – until the wind suddenly picked up and the plastic ‘disappeared.’ Taking water samples from [five metres]he discovered the wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface. The findings suggests data collected from just the surface of the water commonly underestimates the total amount of plastic in the water by an average factor of 2.5.”
– “Antarctica’s massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study finds. That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting,” says Associated Press.
Thought du jour
“But the idea of the nest in the bird’s mind, where does it come from?”
Joseph Joubert (1754-1824), French essayist