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Social Studies

Cats do impressions, beauty's drawback, help for hurt feelings Add to ...

Cats do impressions

"The cat-and-monkey encounter unfolded in Brazil's Reserva Florestal Adolpho Ducke in October, 2005, while [Fabio Rohe, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society]and his colleagues were remotely monitoring eight squirrel-sized pied tamarins feeding in a ficus tree," Alan Boyle writes for MSNBC.com's Cosmic Log. "The sounds of tamarin babies in distress rang out from behind a clump of tangled vines. An adult male monkey climbed up and down the tree, trying to identify the source of the sound. In the meantime, the researchers saw where it was coming from: a margay cat, making its way toward the monkeys. The sentinel monkey dropped to the ground, keeping watch. Within minutes, four more monkeys followed. But as the cat closed in, the sentinel suddenly realized what was going on and emitted a high-pitched warning scream. The whole group of monkeys scattered, and the cat went away empty-pawed. … Other cats are said to imitate types of rodents known as agoutis and tinamou birds."

Time to retire

"An elderly gangster who struggled to stay awake while his turncoat son testified against him at his racketeering trial was convicted [last]Wednesday of charges that he shook down New York strip clubs and a pizzeria," Associated Press reports. "A jury in Brooklyn federal court found 93-year-old John (Sonny) Franzese - the reputed underboss of the Colombo organized-crime family and one-time acquaintance of Frank Sinatra - and three co-defendants guilty." Mr. Franzese had briefly dozed off on the first of his son's three days on the witness stand, prompting the Daily News to dub him the "Nod Father." He faces up to 20 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

Beauty's drawback

"An attractive person appears to be at a disadvantage in certain academic or workplace situations: specifically, if he or she is being evaluated by a member of the same sex," Tom Jacobs reports for Miller-McCune magazine. " 'Although physical attractiveness should have little to do with the way people evaluate scholarship applicants and job candidates, we found that both were affected by their level of physical attractiveness,' writes psychologist Maria Agthe of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen. In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, she contends this bias is 'rooted partly in the social threats and opportunities afforded by attractive people.' In other words, while our conscious minds are considering an applicant's skills and background, our unconscious minds are sizing him or her up as a romantic competitor."

Puberty marches on

"The last 200 years have seen a big drop in the age of puberty in the West," Fiona Neill reports in Intelligent Life magazine. "In the Leipzig choir directed by J.S. Bach in the 1700s, the average age of voice break, a late marker of male puberty, was around 18. Between the mid-19th and mid-20th century, the average age for girls having their first period in America and northern Europe dropped from 17 to under 14."

We're watching you

"One evening, a British friend of mine, a journalist, came home to her apartment to find a gun lying on the floor outside her door, carefully aimed at her apartment," Julia Ioffe, a journalist living in Moscow, writes for The Daily Beast. "Terrified and not wanting to add her own fingerprints, she left it untouched in the hallway. When she left for work the following morning, the gun was gone. When another British journalist, who had just arrived in Moscow, began publishing stories on subjects unpopular with the government, such as how much money Putin had stashed away, things started to get a little weird. His children's toys were rearranged, their windows opened. Alarm clocks went off at ungodly hours. He wondered if he was just being paranoid. But when the British ambassador got involved and lodged an official complaint, the antics suddenly stopped. … Why rearrange furniture? Why leave windows open and ostentatiously read e-mail? It seems that the point is to make you paranoid, upset your balance and, most importantly, remind you that you are a guest of the Russian state."

Help for hurt feelings

"[P]ysical pain isn't the only kind of pain. Our feelings can also be hurt," Kevin Lewis writes in The Boston Globe. "So researchers wondered whether acetaminophen, which acts on the central nervous system, could blunt social pain, too. In one experiment, healthy college students were randomly assigned to take acetaminophen or a placebo twice a day for three weeks. Those who took acetaminophen reported experiencing significantly fewer hurt feelings." The study will appear in the journal Psychological Science.


The July 8 Thought du jour ("Sometimes I think we're alone …") is incorrectly attributed to Buckminster Fuller, write Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. They add: "The quote is actually by Sir Arthur Clarke, which we directly confirmed when we used it in the script for our miniseries Race to Mars."

Thought du jour

"The real existence of an enemy upon whom one can foist off everything evil is an enormous relief to one's conscience. You can then at least say, without hesitation, who the devil is; you are quite certain that the cause of your misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude."

- Carl Jung

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