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The Globe and Mail

Monkey celebrities, gorillas play tag, plants are thinking


"In the age of electric motoring, the personalized [licence plate]is set to be overtaken by a new status symbol," The Sunday Times of London reports. "Brace your ears for the throbbing, screaming and whooshing of the bespoke engine tone, an artificial noise installed by manufacturers in electric cars so they will be audible to pedestrians. The safety advantages of enhancing the quiet, washing-machine whirr of the electric motor could be outweighed, however, by the stress and irritation caused by the cacophony of new sounds. Manufacturers are designing different noises to make each model of car distinctive. In addition, some brands are planning to offer customers the choice of sound they like best for their own car. The new noise of the road will hit Britain next March when Nissan launches the Leaf electric car … with a noise fitted as standard that has been likened to a whooshing starship or a jet engine before take-off."

Monkey celebrities

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In his review of How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom, Morten Kringelbach writes that current brain research "shows fundamental pleasure networks across mammalian brains to be remarkably similar. Other species also have curious pleasure behaviours, with cannibalism, for example, found throughout the animal kingdom. And while monkeys may not have celebrities as such, they have been shown to be willing to pay good money (or fruit juice) to watch images of dominant males."

Source: New Scientist

Gorillas play tag

Gorillas apparently can play tag much like humans do, Charles Choi reports for "To study play-fighting among gorillas, scientists analyzed videos of 21 of the apes from six colonies in five European zoos collected over the course of three years. In their games, 'not only did the gorillas in our study hit their playmates and then run away chased by their playmates, but they also switched their roles when hit so the chaser became the chased and vice versa,' said researcher Marina Davila Ross, a behavioural biologist at the University of Portsmouth in England. 'There are a lot of similarities with the children's game of tag.' "

Elephant's pet

"An Indian elephant has stunned wildlife experts by catching a live lizard and carrying it around for days like a toy," The Daily Telegraph reports. "A photographer spotted Madhuri the elephant's bizarre behaviour during a trip to India's Corbett National Park. Jagdeep Rajput, 49, has been taking photographs for 20 years.… 'The park has a good population of lizards and Madhuri is known as an expert in catching them - she has a particular fancy for monitor lizards. She caught the lizard alive and carried it all the time for a few days - tossing it up and even dropping it.' … How the lizard felt after its ordeal is not known."

Plants are thinking

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"Plants are able to 'remember,' and 'react' to information contained in light, according to researchers," Victoria Gill writes for BBC News. "Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems. These 'electro-chemical signals' are carried by cells that act as 'nerves' of the plants. In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond. And the response, which took the form of light-induced chemical reactions in the leaves, continued in the dark. This showed, they said, that the plant 'remembered' the information encoded in light." The research was led by Prof. Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland.

Kept that typewriter?

"Wistful lovers of the clickety-clack of typewriters, take heart," reports. "Now there's the USBTypewriter, 'a new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence: Lovers of the look, feel and quality of old-fashioned manual typewriters can now use them as keyboards for any USB-capable computer, such as a PC, Mac or even iPad! The modification is easy to install, it involves no messy wiring, and does not change the outward appearance of the typewriter (except for the USB adapter itself, which is mounted in the rear of the machine). So the end result is a retro-style USB keyboard that not only looks great, but feels great to use.' "

Thought du jour

"A man who does not possess himself enough to hear disagreeable things, without visible marks of anger and change of countenance, or agreeable ones, without sudden bursts of joy and expansion of countenance, is at the mercy of every artful knave or pert coxcomb."

- Lord Chesterfield

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