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facts & arguments

When worker bees rebel

"Worker bees rebel when faced with the prospect of raising their nephews and nieces, research has found," reports BBC News. "Scientists in Poland have studied post-swarm bee colonies to understand how workers react to a change in queen. They discovered that when a daughter replaces her mother as head of the colony, some worker bees reproduce instead of caring for their monarch's offspring. … Swarming is a natural occurrence in which the queen and part of her colony leave en masse to find a new nest site. Before she leaves, the queen bee lays a number of eggs, one of which will develop into a new fertile queen supported by the remaining workers. In this case [Prof. Michal Woyciechowski of Jagiellonian University]explained, rather than rearing their brothers and sisters, 'workers are obligated to rear nieces and nephews. The drop in relatedness causes the old queen's workers to lay their own eggs.' … But the observed rebellion was brief: Once the new queen's own workers hatched they were able to suppress the reproducing rebels."

When dumber is better

Bomb-sniffing dogs trained to fight terrorism are being used to locate Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades National Park, says Reuters. Other so-called EcoDogs "are rooting out a tree fungus damaging forests in the state, and locating various skunk, bear and other animal populations based on their scat, or droppings. 'Pretty much a dog can be trained to find anything,' said [Christina Romagosa, a biologist at Auburn University in Alabama] Three years of working with the dogs disproved a common misconception that a smart dog is best, added [conservation biologist Chad]Steury. 'The worst dog is a really smart but kinda lazy dog. Because that dog is always trying to figure out how he can cheat. Once you reward him for cheating, he's done. He'll never work again. The best dogs are the ones that are kind of dumb but just work really hard. We can train those dogs to work all day long and they're the best detection dogs,' Mr. Steury said."

The slacker's brain identified

"Scientists have identified neural pathways that appear to influence an individual's willingness to work to earn money," The Daily Telegraph reports. "Scans show differences between 'go-getters' and 'slackers' in three specific areas of the brain. People prepared to work hard had more of the nerve-signalling chemical dopamine in two brain regions called the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Both are known to play an important role in behaviour-changing reward sensations and motivation. But 'slackers,' who were less willing to work hard for reward, had higher dopamine levels in the anterior insula. This is a brain region involved in emotion and risk perception." The findings are reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurosciences.

Digital spending

"All those songs, games, apps, mobile connections and movie downloads are taking a toll of Americans' wallets … according to a survey conducted for the American Institute of CPAs by Harris Interactive," says the Business Wire. "The national phone poll of 1,005 U.S. adults found that Americans who subscribe to digital services spend an average of $166 [$164 Cdn.]each month for cable TV, home Internet access, mobile phone service and digital subscriptions, like satellite radio and streaming video – the equivalent of 17 per cent of their monthly rent or mortgage payment."

How loud is too loud?

"The American Speech-Language Hearing Association offers these guidelines," says The Dallas Morning News. "It's too loud if you must raise your voice to be heard; if you have difficulty understanding someone who's an arm's length away; if you have pain, ringing or buzzing in your ears after exposure to loud sounds; or if speech seems muffled or dull after noise exposure."

Revenge of the dentist

A dentist in Poland "pulled out all her ex-boyfriend's teeth after he dumped her for another woman – who has now left him because he's toothless," The Daily Mail reports. "Anna Mackowiak, 34, is facing jail after taking her revenge on 45-year-old Marek Olszewski when he turned up at her surgery with toothache just days after breaking up with her. She gave him a heavy dose of anesthetic and plucked his teeth out. She then wrapped his head and jaw in a bandage to stop him opening his mouth and said there had been complications and he would need to see a specialist. The dentist, who works in Wroclaw, Poland, said: 'I tried to be professional and detach myself from my emotions. But when I saw him lying there I just thought, 'What a b------.'"


"We are dismayed when we find that even disaster cannot cure us of our faults." – Marquis de Vauvenargues (1717-47), French writer