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facts & arguments

Hard problem? Sleep on it

The famous saying "sleep on it" recently got a boost from researchers at Lancaster University in Britain, reports The Huffington Post. "They tested whether sleep or time spent awake helped people solve problems and found that sleeping works as a problem solver – but for difficult problems only." The results of the research are published in the journal Memory & Cognition.

Stoical in Singapore

"The most emotionless society is Singapore's despite its reputation for being among the world's richest, a new survey has revealed," reports "Gallup looked at about 150 countries where about 1,000 residents were asked whether they experienced five positive and five negative emotions a lot during the course of a day. … Questions included whether people felt well-rested, or enjoyment, [whether they] smiled and laughed or felt worry, sadness, stress or anger. The 36 per cent in Singapore who reported feeling anything is the lowest in the world. … The Philippines, meanwhile, registered as the most emotional nation with 60 per cent of those interviewed responding 'yes' to experiencing a lot of feelings daily. Also scoring high were Latin American nations, with 10 of its nations sharing top spots with Bahrain, Oman, Canada and the United States."

Godly in Ghana

"A recent survey by polling firm WIN-Gallup International said that 96 per cent of Ghanaians are religious, the highest percentage of the 57 countries polled," reports The Christian Science Monitor. "Nigeria came in second, with 93 per cent of people claiming religion."

Variable parking rates

"The hunt for street parking in busy cities is enough to drive motorists around the bend," says National Geographic magazine. "Non-stop circling isn't just a drag for drivers – it's a drag on cities. Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor hailed as the 'prophet of parking,' estimates that one-third of traffic on congested downtown streets involves drivers seeking spots. San Francisco is taking aim with a pilot program that prices parking based on demand. Sensors in 7,000 of the city's parking spaces provide data for mobile apps that alert drivers when spaces are open. Meanwhile, prices around local hotspots go up at peak times to encourage parking on sleepier streets, where prices go down."

Words of the Great War

If you're feeling washed out, fed up or downright lousy, the First World War is to blame, says The Daily Telegraph. New research by military historian Peter Doyle and etymologist Julian Walker has shown how the conflict meant that hundreds of words and phrases came into common parlance thanks to the trenches. Among the list are: cushy, snapshot, bloke, wash out, conk out, blind spot and binge drink.

Many euphemisms arose to describe death and fear. Comrades who were killed were said to be "pushing up daisies," or to have "gone west," "snuffed it" or "become a landowner."

Several phrases from the criminal underworld also entered wider use, among them "chum" – slang for an accomplice.

Other words arrived with troops from the United States – such as "cooler," for prison – and Canada – including "swipe" for acquiring something by means not necessarily above board.

A hazard of espionage?

A former British spy is suing the London police for failing to "protect" him from falling in love with one of the environmental activists whose movement he infiltrated, The Guardian reports. "Mark Kennedy, who was known as Mark Stone until the activists discovered his identity in late 2010, filed a writ last month claiming damages of between £50,000 and £100,000 for personal injury and consequential loss and damage due to police 'negligence.'"

Thought du jour

"One of the most adventurous things left is to go to bed, for no one can lay a hand on our dreams."

E.V. Lucas, English writer (1868-1938)