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A test for stress? Whew

"Scientists believe they might be able to diagnose stress by analyzing a person's breath," reports The Sunday Telegraph. "A study has identified six markers in breath which could be tested for signs of stress, paving the way for a simple and non-invasive way of measuring the condition. In experiments at Britain's Loughborough University and Imperial College London, breath samples were taken from 22 young adults, in both relaxed and stressful conditions. Two compounds in the breath – 2-methyl pentadecane and indole – increased following the stress exercise. A further four compounds were shown to decrease with stress, which could be due to changes in breathing patterns. The team, writing in the Journal of Breath Research, say further and larger studies are needed to confirm the results."

Those frowning winners

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"Want to know who's going to win a mixed-martial-arts contest?" writes Daniel Akst in The Wall Street Journal. "Chances are, it's the fighter smiling less before the match. That's the finding of a pair of psychologists who examined prefight photos of 152 such combatants and data on their performance in 2008 and 2009. … The fighters smiling less were 'more likely to end the fight by knockout or submission, more likely to land a higher percentage of significant strikes and more likely to wrestle their opponent to the ground during the fight,' the authors said. The findings are consistent with research showing that smiling can be a sign of submission."

Make a more reasonable offer

"Next time you find yourself in a negotiation, don't just throw out a round number," says The Boston Globe. "In a series of experiments, researchers from Columbia University found that offering a precise number – e.g., $4,925 compared to $5,000 – resulted in a significantly more deferential counteroffer, due to the perception that a precise opening offer was more reasoned and informed."

One amorous octopus

"Pity the male octopus," writes Jennifer Kingson of The New York Times. "When he mates with a female, he is likely to be eaten. Not so with the super-rare Larger Pacific Striped Octopus, which went on public display [this month] at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Males and females 'can live peacefully together in an aquarium, at times sharing a den,' the California Academy said in a news release. 'They mate in an intimate beak-to-beak, or sucker-to-sucker, position.'"

The thirst for oil

"Kenya's Great Rift Valley, a 700-kilometre volcanic trench ripped open by shifting tectonic plates, is known as the cradle of mankind for the million-year-old remains of human forebears discovered there," says "Oil drillers say the area also holds a string of fields that could make East Africa's largest economy a major energy producer." Britain's Tullow Oil PLC estimates the valley could yield 10 billion barrels, "enough to supply Kenya for three centuries or the U.S. for about 18 months."

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Autumn comes to Tasmania

"For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is on its way out," says The Huffington Post. "But as we look forward to the spring flowers, bunnies, puppies and all that, our friends south of the equator are wading into autumn. Still, fall is not without its attractions, and chief among them is the opportunity to head out on leaf peeping trips and watch the landscape turn Technicolor. The absolute best destination anywhere south of the Mediterranean? Tasmania, Australia's Hawaii. … [It] is coated in thick forests and vineyards that blush as cold air trickles up from Antarctica. The island is also home to the Fagus tree. Tasmanians refer to the 'Turning of the Fagus,' when the small, spiky leaves on this tree turn riotous shades of orange and red."

Thought du jour

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.

William Makepeace Thackeray, English novelist (1811-63)

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