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Chimps can recognize video-game characters

In a scene from Grandma's Boy, Alex (Allen Covert) and Monkey (Harry the Chimp) play video games while Dante (Peter Dante) watches.

Chimps are video gamers

"Chimps playing a video game can apparently recognize which characters they control, a feature of self-awareness that could shed light on the evolution of the self in humans, researchers said," reports LiveScience.

Want a robot's smooch?

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"Scientists in Japan are working on a kissing machine that will effectively transmit the feeling of a kiss, but kissing experts aren't yet convinced that the device can measure up to the real thing," reports "The research is being done at Kajimoto Laboratory at the University of Electro-Communications with the ultimate goal of seeing if the tongue-tied test subjects can experience a kiss via machine. The prototype pucker machine looks like a larger version of a kid's juice box with a straw-like apparatus sticking out of the side." Since the position values of a mouth can also be recorded, researcher Nobuhiro Takahashi said, the "kiss information" for different individuals can be freely replayed. However, he admits there is still a lot of work to be done. "The elements of a kiss include the sense of taste, the manner of breathing and the moistness of the tongue," Mr. Takahashi said. "If we can recreate all of those I think it will be a really powerful device."

World o' millionaires

"Public and private investments controlled by the richest families," says Reuters, "are expected to more than double in value to $202-trillion [U.S.] by 2020, from $92-trillion this year, according to a survey of millionaires in 25 countries by Deloitte LLP. Meanwhile, the ranks of families with more than a million dollars will also increase by two-thirds to 55.5 million in the developed world. They will more than double to 10 million in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil."

That's his story, anyway

"A 24-year-old man who was looking for a shortcut to a nearby park became trapped in a women's prison in central Germany on Monday," The Guardian reports. "The unnamed man found himself shut inside the walls of the Hildesheim jail near Hannover after entering a metal door on the outside of the prison, only for it to close behind him. He was eventually rescued after a passing motorist heard his cries for help. … 'The doors had recently been repaired and one of the bolts was wobbly. These things sometimes happen,' said Georg Wessling, spokesman for the ministry of justice in Lower Saxony. … The prison wasn't too embarrassed about the security breach, he insisted. 'We see this more as something to laugh about than get angry over.'"

The drummer's curse

"Neuroscientist David Eagleman tested people's ability to keep a steady beat," blogs Andrew Sullivan for The Daily Beast. "He found the control section, or the average person, 'wavered by an average of 35 milliseconds; the best drummer was off by less than 10.' Burkhard Bilger [of The New Yorker] considers the brain's sense of time: 'What would it be like to have a drummer's timing? I wondered. Would you hear the hidden rhythms of everyday life, the syncopations of the street? When I asked the players at [Brian] Eno's studio this, they seemed to find their ability as much an annoyance as a gift. Like perfect pitch, which dooms the possessor to hear every false note and flat car horn, perfect timing may just make a drummer more sensitive to the world's arrhythmias and repeated patterns.'"

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Handbag of the giants

"The idea of the oversized purse has grown to new proportions at Whatcom Museum in the Washington State city of Bellingham," Associated Press reports. "Edison-based industrial artist Ries Niemi has installed his 14-foot-tall [4.3-metre]'World's Largest Walk Thru Handbag' sculpture in the Lightcatcher building courtyard. The open metalwork of the stainless steel handbag is decorated with images of consumerism and wealth: metal dollar signs, diamonds and $100 bills. It includes openings on each side to walk through and is accessible to the public without paying for entry to the museum. … Part of the inspiration came from the gigantic drive-through tree stumps of the Northwest, as well as the ever-expanding size of women's purses."

Thought du jour

"A good plan isn't where someone wins, it's where nobody thinks they've lost."

- Terry Pratchett (1948-), English novelist

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