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Are the nukes still good?, keep your password, the new atheists Add to ...

This explains a lot

"Aliens are living on Earth disguised as humans, according to one-fifth of adults in a new global survey," The Daily Telegraph reports. "The poll questioned 23,000 adults in 22 countries and found that more than 40 per cent of people from India and China believe that alien life exists with a human façade on this planet. European respondents in the survey were more skeptical with only 8 per cent of people from Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands convinced that life from outer space exists on Earth. … Although most of those who do believe in aliens were under 35, they came from all incomes and classes."

What UFOs are doing

- A driver in London tried unsuccessfully to avoid a traffic fine for swerving into the bus lane by saying he had done so to avoid a spaceship that was "hurtling toward him" in Southwark, the Daily Mail reports. His plea was rejected because the traffic camera that recorded the misdemeanour didn't also show the UFO.

- In Australia, manager Ray Aylett of Muckaty Station has spotted UFOs several times, both before and after the federal government picked Muckaty Station as its nuclear waste dump. "They always come around at this time of the year," he told the Northern Territory News, "but the bastards won't come near me and have a steak or a beer."

You're not a tea kettle

"When [Tiger Woods]has hit a shot he doesn't like, he has tossed the club or slammed it against the turf," Matthew Futterman writes for The Wall Street Journal, reminiscing about the pre-reformation golfer. "He has screamed expletives and ignored eight-year-old autograph seekers … Mr. Woods's anger has often been seen as evidence of his unmatched competitive drive, his singular focus and his demand for perfection from himself." However, "In almost every case, expressing anger tends to be bad," said John Forsyth, a professor of psychology at the University at Albany and a specialist in the field. "Typically, the idea is based on the pressure cooker, that we need to blow off steam. But as it turns out, people are not tea kettles."

Are the nukes still good?

"Physicist Bruce Goodwin compares [U.S.]nuclear weapons to vintage cars: 20 to 40 years old and subject to corrosion," Faye Flam reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer. "They weren't designed to last forever. At some point, they may no longer work. Scientists can't assess the stockpile by exploding a few warheads; nuclear testing would violate U.S. policy in place since 1992. Solving this conundrum falls to the national weapons labs, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where Goodwin heads up weapons research. Livermore's approach involves a combination of supercomputer simulations and experiments, the most ambitious of which will use a $5-billion (U.S.) laser apparatus in an attempt to create a controlled version of an exploding hydrogen bomb."

Keep your password

"You will need a computer password today," Mark Pothier writes for The Boston Globe, "maybe a half dozen or more - those secret sign-ins that serve as sentries for everything from Amazon shopping carts to work files to online bank accounts. Just when you have them all sorted out, along comes another 'urgent' directive from the bank or IT department - time to reset those codes, for safety's sake. And the latest lineup of logins you've concocted won't last for long, either. Some might temporarily stay in your head, others are jotted on scraps of paper and stuffed in a wallet. A few might be taped to your computer monitor in plain view. … Now, a study has concluded what lots of us have long suspected: Many of these irritating security measures are a waste of time. The study, by a top researcher at Microsoft, found that instructions intended to spare us from costly computer attacks often exact a much steeper price in the form of user effort and time expended. 'Most security advice simply offers a poor cost-benefit trade-off to users,' wrote its author, Cormac Herley, a principal researcher for Microsoft Research."

The new atheists

"Twenty per cent of young Americans are atheists, agnostics or have 'no religion,' up from 11 per cent in 1988, according to a Pew Research Center survey," Nara Schoenberg reports for the Chicago Tribune. "And it's not just society that's changing; it's the atheists themselves. Traditionally, the nation's non-believers have been a contentious lot, sticking it to the [religious]in the style of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, widely known as 'the most hated woman in America.' … The new atheists are inviting outsiders to their meetings and partnering with Evangelicals for service projects. They're engaging in lively but respectful dialogue with religious groups. They're launching blogs such as [the]aptly named 'Friendly Atheist.' "

Thought du jour

"As humans, climate change is uniquely difficult for us, partly because we're not used to thinking of long timescales, partly because it's not in our nature to perform favours for people that aren't born yet and partly because we have this double edge to our nature - ferociously clever and ingenious, which is what's got us into this mess, but also very tribal."

- Ian McEwan, British novelist

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