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Aliens may not be so interested in enslaving us after all

Good news about aliens

"Despite what the movies tell us, any aliens that visit Earth probably won't want to enslave or vaporize us, veteran E.T. hunter Jill Tarter says," reports "Hostile aliens abound at the multiplex these days, terrorizing our planet in films such as Battleship and Men in Black 3. But science fiction is probably far from reality in its depiction of Earth-contacting extraterrestrials, said Dr. Tarter, who announced ... (May 22) that she's retiring after spending 35 years scanning the heavens for signals from intelligent life beyond Earth [as director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)] 'If aliens were able to visit Earth, that would mean they would have technological capabilities sophisticated enough not to need slaves, food or other planets.'"

Does music at work help?

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Ear buds playing music and noise-cancelling headphones are "increasingly becoming de rigueur ear-wear in offices throughout the country," writes Sue Shellenbarger in The Wall Street Journal. "Many people argue that headphones are good at blocking distractions. And while a few employers ban their use, most tolerate it as a way for employees to regain some privacy in an open-plan office. Research offers little support for the idea that listening to music improves concentration, says Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. In one of several small Taiwanese studies, listening to music with lyrics was linked to lower scores on tests of concentration … In separate research, listening to hip-hop music was linked to a significant reduction in reading-test scores."

Three top career-limiters

"According to a report from, those sporting visible tattoos are struggling to get hired in the face of stricter corporate dress codes," reports The Huffington Post. "In short, clean-cut candidates with a traditional corporate appearance are more appealing to employers than those with visible body artwork. A survey conducted by showed similar results … After taking the pulse of HR managers, the job search site found that piercings, cited by 37 per cent of hiring managers, are the top physical attribute that can limit a candidate's career potential. Bad breath came in next, at 34 per cent, with visible tattoos trailing not too far behind at 31 per cent."

Learning from chickens

"Chickens were, and still are, a sacred animal in some cultures," says Smithsonian magazine. "For the Romans, the chicken's killer app was fortunetelling, especially during wartime. Chickens accompanied Roman armies, and their behaviour was carefully observed before battle; a good appetite meant victory was likely. According to the writings of Cicero, when one contingent of birds refused to eat before a sea battle in 249 BC, an angry consul threw them overboard. History records that he was defeated. … Artistic depictions of rooster combatants are scattered throughout the ancient world, such as in a first century AD mosaic adorning a house in Pompeii. The ancient Greek city of Pergamum established a cockfighting amphitheatre to teach valour to future generations of soldiers."

Your computer will see you now?

"In what sounds like science fiction, MIT researchers have determined that computers can distinguish if a person is smiling from delight, or smiling because they are frustrated," reports Psych Central. "Moreover, researchers say that computers programmed with the latest information from this research do a better job of differentiating smiles of delight and frustration than human observers do. Researchers believe the findings could pave the way for computers to better assess the emotional states of their users and respond accordingly. Software could be developed to help train those who have difficulty interpreting expressions, such as people with autism, to more accurate gauge the expressions they see."

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Look ahead, class of 2012

"A lot can happen in 45 years," writes a researcher for Britain's Higher Education Career Services Unit in a New Scientist blog. "For example, 45 years ago, the Internet was an idea from science fiction, Microsoft and Apple had yet to be founded, and don't even mention Google. The UK had yet to enter the European Common Market ... nobody had walked on the moon and most incredible of all, England were the current football World Cup holders. Why am I harking back 45 years? … [I]'s because a 21-year-old graduating from a UK university this summer has at least a 45-year working life ahead of them. Yes, it's true. By the time the Class of 2012 retire, England will not have won the World Cup for 90 years. … Give it a few years and the young employees of today will also be feeling the inexorable march of progress. Before too long, many of them will be doing jobs we don't have names for yet, for companies that don't yet exist, using technology that hasn't yet been invented. It'll happen in the next five years for some."

Thought du jour

"The primary indication … of a well-ordered mind is a man's ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company."

– Seneca the Younger (circa 4 BC-AD 65), Roman Stoic philosopher

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