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facts & arguments

Chew on this

"Scientific evidence has been produced to confirm a long-derided advertising slogan which claimed that chewing gum speeds up thinking and alertness," says The Independent. "Newly published research shows that reaction times are up to 10 per cent faster while chewing gum, and as many as eight different areas of the brain are affected. One theory is that chewing increases arousal and leads to temporary improvements in blood flow to the brain." The study by Japanese researchers, published in the journal Brain and Cognition, says volunteers carried out tests while chewing or not chewing gum. The gum was flavourless to avoid distractions.

Hangover-free booze?

"What is non-alcoholic and non-toxic but gives you the buzz of a beer?" asks "Synthetic alcohol, according to David Nutt of the brain sciences division at Imperial College London. Nutt, formerly the government's senior drugs adviser, has identified a substance that is alcohol-free but acts as a substitute. It has a chemical structure similar to benzodiazepine. … The as-yet-unnamed drug can produce alcohol's desirable effects such as sociability and relaxation, but without negative effects such as nausea." Nutt is testing the compounds on human subjects. The substance may be on sale in two years, he says.

Need proof of holiness?

"New technologies have begun catching up with India's holiest shrines," writes Narayan Bareth of BBC News. "The biggest have developed sophisticated websites and you can even book darshan (a blessing) online. Some offer e-darshans, where people can download the blessing. But there is one remote and unique temple – a virtually undiscovered spiritual centre in the striking border wilderness between the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – where you can get a written certificate for holiness. Gautameshwar is a pilgrim centre where you can submerge yourself in holy waters, wash away your sins and get a certificate to prove you are cleansed."

A gibbon drops in

"While they may be considered an odd couple, an orangutan and a gibbon ape at the Brookfield Zoo have become best pals," reports the Chicago Tribune. "Zookeepers say a three-year-old male white-cheeked gibbon named Thani recently found a way to jump from his exhibit area to a separate orangutan area where he plays with his new friend, Kekasih, a four-year-old female Bornean orangutan. 'They have become playmates,' said Jay Petersen, curator for carnivores and primates at the zoo. 'We've been watching them closely, but so far their interactions are positive, so we will let things be.' Petersen has also observed Kekasih's 32-year-old mother, Sophia, taking a liking to the young gibbon ape. On Wednesday, zookeepers observed Thani jump on Sophia's back, and the mother smiled and put on her play face."

When conservatives feel bad

"Liberals are supposed to be the tenderhearted ones," writes Kevin Lewis of The Boston Globe. "But new research suggests that conservatives may actually be more easily heartbroken, both in their expectations and in reality. When people were asked to imagine how they would feel after getting a good or bad reaction from a romantic partner, conservatives imagined they'd feel worse than liberals after a bad reaction. … Likewise, students who were more conservative expected to feel worse after getting a lower grade on a test than expected – and they actually did. feel worse if they got a lower grade than expected. … This phenomenon may explain why 'conservatives, when imagining the pros and cons of deviating from the tried and true, see the potential drawbacks as more emotionally damaging than they see the potential benefits as delightful.'"

Thought du jour

"There are many religions, but there is only one morality."

John Ruskin, English art critic (1819-1900)

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