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(Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail/Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail)
(Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail/Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail)

Social Studies

Vegabond living, let your dog move, we were snacks? Add to ...

We were snacks?

"In days gone by, many paleontologists thought the reason the dinosaurs became extinct was that the big, lumbering reptiles were out-competed by small, nippy mammals who ate their eggs and generally ran rings around them," says The Economist. But now it's thought the dinosaurs reigned supreme until an extinction accident. "Just how supreme is suggested by work carried out by Edward Simpson of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and his colleagues. Dr. Simpson's analysis indicates that the relationship between dinosaurs and mammals was actually that of a diner to his lunch." Two fossilized burrows in Utah have scrapings near their entrances that suggest a predatory dinosaur, related to the well-known velociraptor, was digging after snacks - "hard as that thought may be for those snacks' human descendants to digest."

Short gazette

News for the compact person, nature's masterpiece:

- Tall men and large women are prime targets for midges, according to researchers who surveyed people at Loch Ness, in the Scottish Highlands. Scientists, writes Ian Sample in The Guardian, questioned 325 participants and spectators at a 120-kilometre duathlon on the shores of the loch in September, 2008. Each was asked if they had been bitten and, if so, how many times. "Tall men and overweight women were statistically more likely to get bitten, the research showed. Midges tend to fly well above head height so, when they descend on groups of people, they are more likely to land on tall men first."

- A British man - a construction supervisor who is 4-feet-11 - has been spared jail time for an unprovoked attack after a court heard he would be bullied because of his stature, The Daily Telegraph reports. His lawyer said: "It is not the normal fear one sees from defendants. He is a man who … suffers bullying in the best of environments, let alone in a custodial setting."

Co-op crab living

"Hermit crabs that have outgrown their snail shells synchronize their search for new housing," Smithsonian magazine says. "Researchers in Belize report when one crab finds an empty shell, it waits until a crowd forms, then the crabs 'piggyback' or climb onto one another's shells, in a line from largest to smallest. Once one crab shimmies into the free shell, the others follow, like dominoes."

Vagabond scholars

For many U.S. college students and their families, rising tuition costs and a tough economy are presenting new challenges as college bills come in, National Public Radio reports. "This has led to a little-known but growing population of financially stressed students, who are facing hunger and sometimes even homelessness. … There's a definite increase in the number of homeless students nationwide, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. But nobody has firm numbers. 'What we're hearing from the college presidents and leadership [is]that more and more students are struggling,' says Michelle Asha-Cooper, of the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C."

Let your dog move

"Half of all dogs in Britain could soon be dying prematurely because they are overfed and spoilt, an animal charity has warned," reports The Daily Express. "Canine waistlines are expanding at a faster rate than those of humans, with a third of all dogs now classed as officially obese." A similar study by University of Glasgow researchers found that the risk of a dog being obese falls by 4 per cent for each extra hour of exercise a dog gets per week.

Other source: Scottish Daily Record

Computers no help?

"Ofer Malamud would tell you that while growing up in a middle-class neighbourhood in Hong Kong, he spent long hours playing rudimentary games on his 1980s Apple computer," Dawn Turner Trice writes in the Chicago Tribune. "Yet Malamud, 35, now an assistant professor at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy, also would tell you that prior to a recent study he co-wrote, he believed that poor kids used their computer time far more fruitfully - say, for educational pursuits. … Malamud's research examines how low-income children fared academically after their families received vouchers to buy computers. Turns out the students don't fare well at all. Poor students apparently squander their computer time playing games as much as kids of means. 'I have to say I was quite surprised,' said Malamud, who co-wrote the study with Cristian Pop-Eleches, an associate professor of economics at Columbia University. 'Our main finding was that the introduction of home computers actually lowered academic achievement. In fact, there were no positive effects on academics at all.' "

Great expectations

"Once kids hit age 13, parents think they can't make much of a difference - but, in fact, parents make some of their most vital contributions when kids are teenagers," says William Jeynes, a psychologist and professor at California State University, Long Beach. Prof. Jeynes analyzed 52 studies of parents' involvement with their eighth- to 12th-graders to see what benefits teens most. Surprise: Checking up on their friends or setting household rule didn't top the chart, reports Miller-McCune magazine. The single most important factor affecting teenagers' academic achievement, he discovered, is their parents' expectations.

Thought du jour

"Experts believe the iPad will revolutionize the way people procrastinate." - David Letterman

 

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