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The menace of fungus

"An unprecedented number of diseases caused by fungi have been causing some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species and jeopardizing crops to boot, scientists now report," writes Wynne Parry for Live Science. "Fungi are wiping out amphibians on several continents, decimating bats in eastern North America, contributing to the disappearance of bees dubbed colony collapse disorder, and killing corals and sea turtles. They are evening threatening humans, if indirectly, by attacking crops. Fungi and fungi-like organisms called oomycetes can cause significant losses to rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and soybeans, according to the researchers who write that the problems 'vary regionally but pose a current and growing threat to food security.' "

How to cope with adversity

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"George Bonanno, a psychologist at Columbia University, has spent his career studying how people respond to adversity, particularly how they grieve over the death of a spouse or other loved one," reports The Huffington Post. "'There's a lot to be learned from how well we cope with adversities,' he says. 'Human beings can cope pretty well with really bad things.' Prof. Bonanno says a couple of strong research trends are emerging that speak to why some people fare better than others. One of them is that it's not only okay to be happy when you're sad; it's therapeutic. Positive emotion, even the momentary experience of feeling joy or happiness, can be part of the coping and recovery process for people reeling from a traumatic event. … A second concept Prof. Bonanno and others have researched is the notion that there is no single 'best' way to respond to adversity. Those with great resilience adjust their responses, often unknowingly, to their specific situation. They exhibit great situational flexibility."

The friendly valet

"A New York man marked his 102nd birthday surrounded by friends in the neighbourhood where he has worked as a valet for 25 years," says United Press International. "Joe Binder, valet at Mario's Restaurant on Arthur Avenue, said his long life might be a result of being 'very nice to people' – and not having any children may be 'one of the reasons I've stayed stress-free,' the New York Post reported Monday. 'I still drive locally and I just renewed my licence so I'm good until I turn 110 years old,' [he]said. Mr. Binder, whose birthday was celebrated by his Arthur Avenue neighbours Sunday with a huge banner stretched across the street, said he was lucky to have made so many friends during his years working for Mario's."

A Coke for a hug

This week, notes Singapore's The New Paper: "Students at the National University of Singapore were queuing up at [a vending]machine which dispenses Coca-Cola when it is hugged. It was installed at the school of arts and social sciences as part of the company's 125th celebrations."

The rhythm in your nose

"Why does your nose get stuffy one nostril at a time?" writes Matt Soniak for "Because your nostrils split their workload. Throughout the day, they each take breaks in a process of alternating congestion and decongestion called the nasal cycle. At a given moment, if you're breathing through your nose, the lion's share of the air is going in and out of one nostril, with a much smaller amount passing through the other. Every few hours, your autonomic nervous system … switches things up and your other nostril does all the heavy lifting for a little while. The opening and closing of the two passages is done by swelling and deflating erectile tissue – the same stuff that's at work when your reproductive organs are aroused – up in your nose."

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Thought du jour

"One can organize to apply a discovery already made, but not to make one. Only a free individual can make a discovery. … Can you imagine an organization of scientists making the discoveries of Charles Darwin?" – Albert Einstein (1879-1955) theoretical physicist

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