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Middle-aged people run the world Add to ...

Evolution’s pinnacle?

“People in their 40s and 50s might mourn their changing figure or the passing of childbearing age, but these changes are key to the success of the human species, [Cambridge University academic]Dr. David Bainbridge said,” The Telegraph reports. “Far from being over the hill, middle-aged people are arguably the ‘pinnacle of evolution’ because they are primed to play a vital role in society which could not be filled by younger adults, he added. While certain physical attributes such as skin suppleness and short-range eyesight deteriorate noticeably in the fifth and sixth decades of life, more important aspects such as brain power remain virtually undiminished. … Dr. Bainbridge said: ‘Each of us depends on culture to survive, and the main route by which culture is transmitted is by middle-aged people telling children and young adults what to do. Middle-aged people can do more, earn more and, in short, they run the world.’ ”

Mugged by a fox

“Burly Seb Baker told [last week]how he was mugged by a fox,” London’s The Sun reports. “The [210-pound]civil servant was cornered after going [for groceries] Terrified Seb, 29, tried to fight off the beast by swinging his shopping bag. But the fox was unfazed. … Seb tried to escape, but the fox kept going for the goodies. He added: ‘Eventually, I opened the bag and gave it the garlic loaf. He grabbed it and ran off.’ ” Wildlife expert John Bryant said the incident, in Orpington, Kent, was rare and foxes are concentrated on food. “If a fox is jumping at your shopping bag you need to shout at it and chase it off, not just give it the food. The best thing to use is a water pistol.”

Chinese building blitz

A 30-storey hotel in Changsha, China, went up in two weeks, reports the Los Angeles Times. “In early December, Liu Zhangning was tending her cabbage patch when she saw a tall yellow construction crane in the distance. At night, the work lights made it seem like day. Fifteen days later, a 30-storey hotel towered over her village on the outskirts of the city like a glass and steel obelisk. ‘I couldn’t really believe it,’ Liu said. ‘They built that thing in under a month.’ A time-lapse video of the project in Changsha, which shows the prefabricated building being assembled on site, has racked up more than five million views on YouTube and left Western architects speechless. … The warp-speed construction is a startling illustration of the building boom in China, where an exodus from the countryside to the cities has swelled the urban population by almost 400 million since 1990.”

Antarctica? A tinderbox

“Two people have been killed in a fire at a Brazilian research station in Antarctica,” says the New Scientist. “The Commandante Ferraz Brazilian Antarctic Base was gutted after an explosion on Feb. 25. The fire started in the base’s generator room and quickly spread, destroying 70 per cent of the station. Fire is a major risk in Antarctica because the air is very dry, says Ian Dunn of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, U.K. As a result, most Antarctic bases have widely separated structures, built from non-flammable materials.”

Inefficiencies of the road

Sebastian Thrun, who works at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, is “a native of the western German city of Solingen who has been a professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University for the last eight years,” reports Der Spiegel. “Thrun is working on a vision of the automobile of the future, one in which people will eventually no longer have to own their own cars. Thrun cites some enlightening figures. The average car, he says, actually spends only 3 per cent of its life in motion, while it stands around doing nothing for the remaining 97 per cent of the time. The average street, Thrun says, is only used at 4 per cent of its capacity, and yet new roads are constantly being built.”

Driving under the influence

“While drunk driving has been on the decline [in California]” says The Huffington Post, “drug-impaired driving has increased over at least the past four years, according to figures released … by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Three out of every 10 people killed on California roads in 2010 tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs. … Drivers high on prescription drugs, marijuana or other drugs often go under-reported because drug testing is expensive and there is no established legal limit.”

Thought du jour

“[Middle age]When we hover between fool and sage.”

Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet

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