Whoa, that's unexpected
"Probably everyone has been blindsided by an incident that in hindsight we cannot believe we failed to recognize," Psych Central News reports. "Can our perceptions of such events be improved if we narrow our focus to identify the exceptions? A new study finds that those who know that an unexpected event is likely to occur are no better at noticing other unexpected events - and may be even worse - than those who aren't expecting the unexpected. The study, from Daniel Simons, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, appears this month as the inaugural paper in the new open access journal i-Perception."
The call of the loon
"A daring singer has performed his latest number under the sea - to a man-eating shark," Orange U.K. News reports. "Environmentalist Andy Brandy Casagrande penned the song to raise awareness of great white shark conservation, reports The Sun. He decided the best way to promote it would be to sing it directly to one of the sharks, without using a cage, off the Mexico coast. … The lyrics begin with the line: 'If I was a great white I wouldn't bite you, but I'd swim right next to you.' " He accompanied himself with an acoustic guitar.
Don't swallow water
"A budget-conscious council in Austria has requested that swimmers stop swallowing water in a bid to save money," The Daily Telegraph reports. "According to a survey carried out by managers at Vienna's 18 public swimming pools, bathers are drinking 5,000 litres of chlorinated pool water a day. Official Martin Kotinsky said: 'A lot of water gets taken out in the material every time a swimmer uses the pool, and it has to be replaced.' … The council is also targeting people who wear Bermuda shorts to go bathing. Tests revealed that the average wearer takes 2.5 litres of water with them trapped in their swimwear every time they get out of the pool."
Don't use soap
Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Man, has lived without cash for 18 months. He writes for The Guardian, "There are a number of ways you can stay naturally fresh without spending a penny. My main tip: do absolutely nothing. Stop washing so damn often and definitely don't use soap. I appreciate that this contradicts everything you've ever been told to believe, but you'd be surprised." He adds: "I gave up soap three years ago, and my skin has never been healthier. … I don't actually smell. And I'm not a hippie." Mr. Boyle adds that people who want to go soap-free should eat a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, grain and nuts. "The rise in our need for all manner of toiletries stems from the fact we eat terribly. Cleanliness really does start from the inside out."
Don't sit on Fatso
"A man ejected from a pub in Australia broke into a zoo and climbed onto the back of a crocodile named Fatso, which bit him on the leg but then let him go," Associated Press reports. The man, a tourist from eastern Australia, suffered "very nasty lacerations" said Broome Police Sergeant Roger Haynes. "Saltwater crocodiles … once they get hold of you, are not renowned for letting you go," he said. "He's lucky to have escaped with his life."
A particle of difference?
"Physicists might have to rethink what they know about, well, everything," Thomas Maugh II reports for the Los Angeles Times. "European researchers dropped a potential bombshell on their colleagues around the world [last week]by reporting that sophisticated new measurements indicate the radius of the proton is 4 per cent smaller than previously believed. In a world where measurements out to a dozen or more decimal places are routine, a 4 per cent difference in this subatomic particle - found in every atom's nucleus - is phenomenally large, and the finding has left theoreticians scratching their heads in wonderment and confusion. If the startling results are confirmed, a possibility that at least some physicists think is unlikely because the calculations involved are so difficult, they could have major ramifications for the so-called standard model on which most modern physics is based." If the model turns out to be wrong, "it would be quite revolutionary. It would mean that we know a lot less than we thought we knew," said physicist Peter Mohr of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, who was not involved in the research.
Facts versus arguments
"Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information," Joe Keohane writes for The Boston Globe. "It's this: Facts don't necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger."
Thought du jour
"Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness - I wouldn't know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness."
- Aaron Copland