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Other Earths next door?

"The nearest potentially habitable, Earth-like planet may be a scant 13 light-years away – close enough that any hypothetical, tech-savvy inhabitants there could start enjoying the second season of The Sopranos right about now," says The Christian Science Monitor. "Indeed, there should be at least three Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zones of stars within 33 light-years of Earth, according to a new analysis of data from NASA's Kepler mission. That would put detailed studies of such planets – and the hunt for signatures of life on them – well within the reach of a new generation of space telescopes, including the James Webb Space Telescope, currently slated for launch in October, 2018."

A drinker's defence

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"A Swedish court cited a 61-year-old man's high tolerance for alcohol in tossing out drunken driving charges," says United Press International. "The Ystad man was pulled over in November on his way to his night shift job and his blood-alcohol content was found to be five times the legal limit for driving, The reported. … The man admitted to drinking heavily before driving, but contended he did not feel under the influence because his heavy drinking habits had given him a high tolerance." The man was charged with aggravated drunken driving due to his high blood-alcohol level, but the court tossed out the charges.

The power of birthdays

"When people feel they are working with others as a team to reach a goal, they are more motivated to achieve the goal," writes Susan Weinschenk, PhD, in Psychology Today. "But how do you make people feel connected? It might be easier than you think. Gregory Walton from Stanford found that when college students believed they shared a birthday with another student, they were more motivated to complete a task with that student and performed better on the task. He found the same effect with four- and five-year-olds. In another study, Walton had people who were part of the experiment jog in place, raising their heart rate. Participants in the study who felt they were socially connected to this person (for example, were told they had the same birthday) had an increased heart rate, too."

How the body is renewed

"The idea that we replace every cell in our bodies every few years is a popular one – but incorrect nonetheless," writes Luis Villazon in BBC Focus magazine. "Fat cells are replaced at about 10 per cent per year, but heart muscle cells turn over at just one per cent per year at age 25, declining to 0.5 per cent by age 70. Even if you live to be 100, you'll still have more than half of the heart muscle cells you were born with. The neurons of the cerebral cortex and the cells in the lens of your eye are never normally replaced. … The water in your body turns over at about three litres per day. An adult has around 40 litres of body water, so that's 7.5 per cent per day. After two years, it's statistically unlikely that you have any of the same water molecules. But the calcium in your teeth is locked up forever."

Look what hibernates

"Even fish can hibernate," says Discover magazine. "Notothenia coriiceps, informally known as Antarctic cod, cuts its metabolism by two-thirds and burrows under the seabed for days at a time during dark Antarctic winters."

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Thought du jour

The best way to persuade people is with your ears – by listening to them.

Dean Rusk, U.S. secretary of state (1903-94)

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