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Neurons (Thinkstock)
Neurons (Thinkstock)

Social Studies

The evolutionary price of big brains Add to ...

Price of a bigger brain

“Scientists have long suspected that big brains come with an evolutionary price – but now they’ve published the first experimental evidence to support that suspicion, based on their efforts to breed big-brained fish,” reports NBCNews.com. “A Swedish team found it relatively easy to select and interbreed common guppies to produce bigger (or smaller) brains – as much as 9.3 per cent bigger, to be precise. But the bigger-brained fish also tended to have smaller guts and produce fewer babies. This finding is consistent with what’s known as the ‘expensive-tissue hypothesis’ – the idea that there’s a trade-off between the demands of the brain and the demands of other organs.”

Working away from work

In 2012, says Slate.com, a poll from Ipsos/Reuters found that about one in five workers around the globe telecommutes frequently – a practice especially common in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

Internet abuse, Part 1

“Two Placer County, Calif., teenage girls were arrested for allegedly using drugged milkshakes to knock out the parents of one of the girls so they could log on to the Internet, Rocklin police said,” reports The Sacramento Bee. “Internet access at the Rocklin home was routinely shut off at 10 p.m., said Lt. Lon Milka, a department spokesman. Milka said that on Friday evening, a 15-year-old girl – who had a 16-year-old friend from Roseville visiting – offered to pick up milkshakes from a local fast-food restaurant for her parents. The parents drank about a quarter of the milkshakes but didn’t finish them, saying they tasted funny and were grainy, Milka said. But the shakes – loaded with prescription sleep aids allegedly provided by the friend – were effective, and the parents quickly fell asleep. … In the morning, with the headache and grogginess still present, they went to the Rocklin police station to pick up a drug test kit.” When the parents tested positive, they alerted the police, and the girls were taken to juvenile hall.

Internet abuse, Part 2

“Frustrated by his adult son’s incessant gaming habit, a man in China reportedly hired a number of in-game master ‘hitmen’ to annihilate his son’s avatar over and over again in an attempt to deter him from playing,” says The Huffington Post. “Quoting China’s Sanqin Daily, Kotaku reports that the fed-up father, identified only as ‘Mr. Feng,’ decided to embark on this cyber murder plot as his son seemed incapable of pulling himself away from the computer long enough to find a job. The man’s 23-year-old son … Xiao Feng, who had been confident of his game-playing ability, told the Guangzhou Daily that he was initially shocked and disgruntled that his character kept getting killed after he would log on, but soon he began to suspect something was amiss.” After questioning a number of players, the son learned of his father’s plot.

Colours for better taste

“European scientists say they have found further evidence that how you serve food and drink matters hugely in the perception of taste,” reports Agence France-Presse. “Researchers at Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Oxford recruited 57 volunteers and asked them to taste hot chocolate served in plastic cups with four different colours – white, cream, red and orange with white on the inside. The chocolate was the same in all the samples, but the volunteers found the flavour was better when the drink was served in the orange or cream-coloured cups.”

Thought du jour

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”

Bertrand Russell, British philosopher (1872-1970)

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