What are adults reading?
A new study has “just served to confirm something that many of us already knew: Many of the readers buying books aimed at the teen market are no longer teenagers,” says The Christian ScienceMonitor. “But the numbers are more dramatic than we may have guessed. According to the Bowker [Market Research] study, 55 per cent of customers who buy young adult books are 18 or older. In fact, the largest group of readers purchasing titles labelled ‘young adult’ are actually 30 to 44 years old – hardly the target demographic for the books.”
Why elephants get fat
“Authorities in India are being presented with a massive task – managing the weight of obese elephants kept in temples,” reports BBC News. Individual animals can be hundreds of kilograms overweight. “But veterinary surgeons point out that obesity and captivity go hand in hand. Elephants eat up to 200 different varieties of food in the jungle, including fruits, flowers, roots and branches, but in captivity their diets often lack variety. … In the wilderness [they] are never exposed to foods such as rice, millets, salt and jaggery (an unrefined sugar set into blocks). … Wild elephants wander, trek uphill, cross streams and walk on a variety of terrain.” Superstitions add to the discomfort of the captive elephants. For example, astrologers suggest feeding elephants will ward off evil.
Talking robotic dogs
“U.S. military scientists have developed robotic dogs of war that can follow troops over the roughest terrain,” says Orange Co. U.K. “Called Legged Squad Support Systems, the mechanical hounds can carry [180 kilograms] for [30 kilometres] without refuelling. The robots were a hit when tested by [the U.S.] Marine Corps. Now there are plans to make them talk. Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Hitt, of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, said: ‘We want a radio operator to be able to tell it to ‘sit, stay.’ Likewise, the robot could tell them, ‘I’m stuck, wait.’ The robo dogs were developed by Boston Dynamics.”
“Jackie Bell doesn’t like sex,” reports The New Zealand Herald. “But she does enjoy a good snuggle. The 43-year-old attends monthly ‘cuddling’ sessions in Wellington, where up to 20 clothed people consent to hug and touch. Sexual contact is forbidden. ‘It’s like being at a sexless orgy,’ Bell says. … A book out this month argues that a growing number of asexual men and women should be classed as a ‘fourth sexual orientation’ after heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals. Professor Anthony Bogaert, from California, thinks asexual people feel excluded and the subject is under-researched. He believes his Understanding Asexuality book could persuade more asexuals to ‘come out.’”
Feeble robotic teacher
“The best way to learn is to teach,” says the New Scientist. “That old maxim has been put to the test by a classroom robot that helps Japanese children learn English.” Researchers from the University of Tsukuba observed 19 children age 4 to 8 interacting with a humanoid robot. “From a room next to the classroom, the researchers operated a French-built Nao robot so that it appeared weak and feeble, and encouraged the children to take on the role of carers. The robot also either behaved as an instructor … or made mistakes and acted as if it didn’t know the answer. When the robot got a shape wrong, the child could ‘teach’ the robot how to draw it by guiding its hand. The robot then either ‘learned’ the English word for that shape or continued to make errors.” The researchers found that the children did best when the robot appeared to learn from them.
Thought du jour
If you believe everything you read, better not read.