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New trees for Berlin, a hungrier world, refresher on walking Add to ...

New trees for Berlin

"Palm trees in Berlin?" Jessica Donath writes for Der Spiegel. "Not quite. But the German capital is testing trees from the south as native species show signs of struggling with increasingly warm temperatures. Instead of limes and oaks, the city could soon be filled with Judas trees and Daimyo oaks. Berlin is so proud of its trees that it named its most elegant boulevard after them - Unter den Linden (Under the Lime Trees). But a succession of dry, hot summers followed by cold winters has taken its toll on the indigenous limes and chestnut trees, many of which now have disturbingly brown leaves. Local politicians and scientists attribute the problem to global warming and have responded with a pilot project to bring new species to the German capital - species which are normally at home in far hotter climates in southern Europe and Asia."

A hungrier world?

"Global warming is cutting rice yields in many parts of Asia, according to research, with more declines to come," Richard Black reports for BBC News. "Yields have fallen by 10 to 20 per cent over the last 25 years in some locations. The group of mainly U.S.-based scientists studied records from 227 farms in six important rice-producing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, India and China. This is the latest in a line of studies to suggest that climate change will make it harder to feed the world's growing population by cutting yields."

Refresher on walking

Some pedestrian notes from Britain's Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists:

- Stand tall with a slightly lifted chest and a straight back.

- Point chin down and pull in slightly to place neck in a neutral position. This supports the head and prevents neck pain.

- Check that hips are level and knees pointing forward. Keep pelvis tucked under torso.

- Check that steps are of equal length.

- Bend arms 90 degrees at the elbow and swing in time with the opposite leg. This balances the body.

Source: The Sunday Telegraph

What happened to E?

"The earliest record of a letter-grade system comes from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1897. (There is a passing reference in the Harvard archives to a student receiving a B grade in 1883, but no evidence of a complete A-through-F system.)," Brian Palmer writes for Slate.com. "The lowest grade at Mount Holyoke was an E, which represented failure. … It's hard to put a date on the end of the E, but it was gone from most colleges by 1930. Apparently, some professors worried that students would think the grade stood for 'excellent,' since F stood for 'failure.' "

A choir of whales?

In 2001, researchers from San Francisco State University collected more than 4,300 recordings of blue whales singing off Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. The scientists discovered that the whales' singing is coalescing into a single frequency of 16 hertz, "like a choir singing together where they all mutually tune in to the same frequency," said Roger Bland, a professor of physics and astronomy. Whatever conclusions the researchers draw are speculative, he added, but "the fact that they're all tuning to the same frequency is pretty remarkable." The study is published in the latest edition of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

Emergency water

"Authorities … recommend keeping emergency water supplies on hand in case of a disaster: a gallon [3.8 litres]a day per household member, enough for at least three days," C. Claiborne Ray writes for The New York Times. "It should be either commercially bottled water or chlorinated tap water put into clean, food-grade, soft-drink-type plastic containers, not cardboard juice or milk containers. The authorities also recommend renewing the supply every six months and keeping it away from heat and sunlight, which encourage the growth of any microbes that may be present. Boiled water can be aerated to make it more palatable by pouring water back and forth between two clean containers."

A lovely pallor

"I returned from my holidays yesterday as one should after two weeks of doing very little under the Italian sun: rested, full of vim and vigour and sporting a healthy tan," Peter Ford blogs from Beijing for The Christian Science Monitor. "My Chinese cleaning lady was horrified. 'How dark you are,' she squawked when she saw me this morning. … Bronzed skin, to the Chinese eye, is associated with low-class field work, with peasants bent over their rice paddies under the searing sun. Pale skin evokes an indoor life of comfort and the elevated social status that allows intellectual pursuits, or mere indolence." It is not unusual, he adds, "to see women here shielding their faces from the sun with umbrellas, wearing elbow-length gloves, or donning wraparound face-shades that resemble welders' masks."

Thought du jour

"Ideas that we do not know we have, have us."

- William Appleman Williams

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