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One step at a time

"Not taking the elevator is a good way to sneak in a little extra exercise every day," says Scientific American. "And if you do get some of your exercise avoiding elevators, here's a burning question: Do you burn more calories climbing stairs one at a time or bounding up them two at a time? To find out, researchers had subjects climb stairs reaching 14 metres high. Based on the subjects' heart rates, the researchers estimated calories burned. They found that volunteers who took the stairs two at a time had a higher rate of energy expenditure over the 86 steps they climbed – but those who climbed one at a time burned more energy in total over the entire staircase. The study is in the journal PLoS One."

Voting for yourself

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A week before the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Jeremy Bailenson, a research psychologist at Stanford University, "asked a bunch of prospective voters to look at photographs of George W. Bush and John Kerry and then give their opinions of the candidates," says Pacific Standard magazine. "What the voters didn't know was that the photographs had been doctored: each voter's own visage had been subtly morphed together with that of one of the candidates. In this and two follow-up experiments, Bailenson found [that] voters were significantly more likely to support the candidate who had been made to look like them. What's more, not a single voter detected that it was, in part, his or her own face staring back."

Our fast-changing world

"Our great-great-great-grandparents would be far more at home in the world of Christopher Columbus and Nicolaus Copernicus than our world of today," writes Owen Gingerich, professor emeritus of astronomy at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, in The American Scholar. "One hundred and twenty-five years ago, no one knew about X-rays or radioactivity or the inner structure of atoms. Automobiles, communications by radio and airplanes still lay in the future. Sixty years ago, when I was a graduate student, biochemists and anatomists did not yet know precisely how many chromosomes were found in human cells. Mobile phones were something for comic strips and science fiction. Lasers were unknown. Today I have a dozen in my house."

Vultures' taste for cars

"Park rangers in the Florida Everglades are offering visitors loaner bungee cords and tarps to protect their cars from marauding vultures," says United Press International. "The big black birds apparently have a taste for automotive rubber, including window seals and wiper blades, and have been known to strip a parked car clean in a matter of hours. 'Exactly why they do it or when they do it or why they choose one vehicle over another, any reasons for that are pretty much unknown,' Skip Snow, a park biologist, told The Miami Herald. Black vultures fly into the Everglades every winter, but their penchant for parked cars makes them atypical snow birds."

Recycling can backfire

"It's better for the environment to recycle than to throw recyclable goods in the trash," writes Kevin Lewis in The Boston Globe. "However, this proposition looks less green when you factor in the law of unintended consequences. In one experiment, when asked to try out a pair of scissors, people cut up more paper if a recycling bin was available than if just a trash cash was available, regardless of their environmental attitudes. In another experiment in a men's restroom, more paper towels were used per person if a recycling bin was available than if just the normal trash receptacles were available."

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Thought du jour

We can pay our debt to the past by putting the future in debt to ourselves.

John Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuir), Governor-general of Canada (1875-1940)

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