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Milk for boys, girls

"Mother's milk may be the first food, but it is not created equal," says Scientific American. "In humans and other mammals, researchers have found that milk composition changes depending on the infant's gender and on whether conditions are good or bad. … Researchers at Michigan State University and other institutions found that among 72 mothers in rural Kenya, women with sons generally gave richer milk (2.8 per cent fat compared with 0.6 per cent for daughters). Poor women, however, favoured daughters with creamier milk (2.6 versus 2.3 per cent). … The new study also follows findings that affluent, well-nourished moms in Massachusetts produced more energy-dense milk for male infants."

Where English flourishes

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English is India's only lingua franca, writes Zareer Masani for BBC News. "India now claims to be the world's second-largest English-speaking country. The most reliable estimate is around 10 per cent of its population, or 125 million people, second only to the United States, and expected to quadruple in the next decade. The most vocal demands for English teaching now come from India's most disadvantaged communities."

Saw it but didn't notice it

"Psychology researchers in California say tests show people often do not recall things, even important items, they've seen or walked by hundreds of times," reports United Press International. "For the study at the University of California, Los Angeles, 54 people who work in a building were asked if they knew the location of the fire extinguisher nearest their office. Although many of the participants had worked in their offices in the building for years and had passed a number of the bright red extinguishers several times a day, 24 per cent knew their locations." UCLA psychology professor Alan Castel said not noticing things isn't necessarily bad, particularly when those things are not important in your daily life. "It might be a good thing not to burden your memory with information that is not relevant to you," he said.

She doesn't look guilty

"Criminal suspects may have the right to be tried 'by an impartial jury,' but that doesn't mean that jurors are magically rid of human psychology," says The Boston Globe. "In a new study, researchers presented mock jurors with transcripts or videos of trials for violent crimes but varied the strength of the evidence and whether the defendant was male or female. The strength of the evidence mattered much less in determining judgments of guilt for female defendants; the jurors also spent more time looking at female defendants than male defendants during the video presentation. The authors of the study conclude that defendants who defy stereotypes – in this case, females accused of violent crime – act as novelties, so that jurors pay more attention to who they are and less attention to what they did."

Is 21 an unlucky number?

"The world will come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012," writes Jonathon Keats in Discover magazine. "That is how New Agers, anticipating a rebirth of consciousness, interpret the Mayan calendar. In reality, Dec. 21 is the date on which the Mayans' 1,872,000-day 'long count' calendar is set to roll over, like the Gregorian year 1000. Remember how the world ended then? Exactly. Baptist preacher William Miller, seeing through the Bible darkly, convinced 50,000 New Englanders that the rapture would happen by March 21, 1844. Happily for Harold Camping, a nonagenarian broadcaster, Miller was mistaken, allowing Camping to announce that the Bible predicted the end of the world on May 21, 2011."

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Thought du jour

"He who gladly does without the praise of the crowd will not miss the opportunity of becoming his own fan."

Karl Kraus

Austrian writer (1874-1936)

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