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The Globe and Mail

Mild temperatures likely a lifesaver for alligator

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Winter's warm snap?

"Experts [in Pennsylvania]said an alligator expected to die during the winter may have been spared by the unusually mild temperatures," United Press International reports. "Henry Kacprzyk, curator of reptiles at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, said the alligator spotted during the fall at the Beaver Run Reservoir in Westmoreland County may not have died during the winter, as officials in the county were expecting, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Monday. … Gina Cerilli, spokeswoman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, said there have not yet been any sightings of the creature – dead or alive."

Interview head-scratchers

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According to, an online jobs and career community, these strange questions were asked by companies in job interviews:

  • “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday?” (Google)
  • “Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?” (Deloitte)
  • “Does life fascinate you?” (Ernst & Young)
  • “Please spell diverticulitis.” (EMSI Engineering)
  • “Pepsi or Coke?” (United Health Group)

Exam unmentionables

"Companies that want to come up with tests used to measure New York City students' progress are being advised to stay away from topics including aliens and vermin," Associated Press reports. "A Department of Education list of subjects to avoid also includes: junk food, birthdays, abuse, terrorism, holidays and Halloween. The department included the list in a recently issued request for proposals to create the tests used to measure student progress in math, science, literacy and social studies. It says the listed topics could 'evoke unpleasant emotions' or 'appear biased.' "

When small people crash

"Starting with 2011 models, the [U.S.]federal government replaced an average-size male [car crash]dummy with a smaller female dummy for some tests," The Washington Post reports. "... Consumer advocates say the female dummy's subpar performance in some top-selling vehicles reveals a need to better study women and small people in collisions. … In general, experts say, the smaller the person, the fewer crash forces the body can tolerate. When cars wrap around trees or utility poles, for example, smaller drivers and passengers suffer more head, abdominal and pelvic injuries but fewer chest injuries than average-size people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Women's less-muscular necks also make them more susceptible to whiplash, researchers say."

Will gallows draw tourists?

"The mayor of Medora, a small tourist town in North Dakota, is planning to erect a gallows on his property in a bid to boost visitor numbers," The Telegraph reports. "Doug Ellison, 49, has asked the town's planning and zoning commission for permission to build the attraction, and intends to stage a mock hanging – with his own neck in the noose. 'The matter was not on the agenda and they were a little taken aback,' Mr. Ellison is reported to have said. 'There was about five seconds of stunned silence and at first I think they thought I was joking.' … 'My vision is to stage a shooting where I'd gun down someone in the street, have a trial and a hanging, all within 20 or so minutes,' he said. 'Anything longer than that and the tourists would lose interest.' "

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Tacos by helicopter

"The Internet is going wild for Tacocopter – perhaps the next great startup out of Silicon Valley – which boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness," says The Huffington Post. "Indeed, the concept behind Tacocopter is very simple and very American: You order tacos on your smartphone and also beam in your GPS location information. Your order – and your location – are transmitted to an unmanned drone helicopter (grounded, near the kitchen where the tacos are made), and the tacocopter is then sent out with your food to find you and deliver your tacos to wherever you're standing. … [H]re comes some bad news. The launch of Tacocopter – which is totally real, by the way, despite some doubters, and has been around since July, 2011 – is being blocked by the U.S. government."

Ultimate accurate clock?

"Researchers have proposed building a nuclear clock that would lose only one-tenth of a second over 14 billion years, the current age of the universe," Wired magazine reports. "The design would be 100 times more accurate than current atomic clocks and might be used in applications such as higher-precision GPS satellites and experiments that probe fundamental physics. Atomic clocks measure time using the oscillations of a single atom and are accurate to 17 decimal places. … But errant magnetism, electrical fields and microscopic jostling would make atomic clocks drift about four seconds over the lifetime of the universe. The proposed clock would instead measure time based on the oscillations of a neutron, a particle that is found tightly packed inside an atomic nucleus and isn't susceptible to vibrations or electromagnetic forces."

Thought du jour

"I rather like materialism. The poor need it."

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-V.S. Naipaul (1932-), Indo-Trinidadian-British writer

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