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Thank algae for the oxygen you breathe Add to ...

Algae helps us breathe

“If you fill a jar with seawater and peer at it, you probably won’t see much,” says the New Scientist. “Filter some through a very fine net and take a look with a microscope, though, and a whole world of plants and animals appears. This invisible world is absolutely vital to life on Earth. Most of the oxygen you are breathing was made by minuscule algae and bacteria. These plants, known as phytoplankton, provide half of the food on which all the animals on this planet depend. From the puniest shrimp to the mightiest whale, almost every creature living in the oceans ultimately relies on phytoplankton, as do many land-dwellers – including us. … Phytoplankton, in short, helps make the world go round.”

Worry, intelligence linked?

“A new study suggests worrying is a beneficial trait that evolved in association with intelligence,” writes Rick Nauert of Psych Central. “Jeremy Coplan, MD, and colleagues came to this conclusion by matching brain activity with depletion of the nutrient choline in the subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans. ‘While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be,’ said Dr. Coplan. ‘In essence, worry may make people ‘take no chances,’ and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species.’” The study was published in a recent edition of Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

Entryways of the rich

“Fuelled by homeowners’ increasing demands for privacy and security, a new generation of elaborate security gates are being installed around the country,” says The Wall Street Journal. “A far cry from the lavishly decorated, overtly showy spectacles of the past, these barriers are designed to be unobtrusive and easily overlooked. Packed within and around them, however, is a plethora of state-of-the-art technology – facial-recognition devices, Internet-connected digital cameras, remote iPad control and other features – that can drive up the cost of an entry to $1-million (U.S.) or more. … The last three to five years saw the emergence in more homes of cables running underground that can sense vibrations, allowing a homeowner to detect that someone is digging under or climbing over a fence on a large estate.”

Stolen-art work

“Fragments stolen from priceless major modern art works in a two-year crime spree are to go on display in a new London show,” reports The Daily Telegraph. “The work from Brooklyn-based artists Eva and Franco Mattes … consists of stolen chips of significant works. The exhibit, entitled Stolen Pieces, will display fragments of masterpieces discreetly stolen by the artists over a two-year period from museums all over the world. They include a label peeled from the Jeff Koons’ equilibrium tank, a length of shoelace from a Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture, a blob of lead from an installation by Joseph Beuys and a tiny chip of porcelain from Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain.” The fragments were ‘appropriated’ between 1995 and 1997; the statute of limitations has run out on the thefts.

A fool-your-eyes diet?

“A team of researchers has developed a new approach to dieting – controlling your appetite by viewing an enlarged image of a food item you are about to eat,” says The Yomiuri Shimbun. “The team, led by University of Tokyo Prof. Michitaka Hirose, has developed an image-processing system that changes the apparent size of a food item when one picks it up to eat it. The size of the user’s hand appears unchanged. The system involves a pair of eyeglasses equipped with video cameras connected to a computer that processes the images.” In an experiment, subjects showed cookies 50 per cent larger than actual size at 9.3 per cent less on average compared to the amounts they ate while viewing the cookies with their naked eyes.

The global cul-de-sac?

“We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible,” writes Stephen Marche in The Atlantic. “In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: The more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead, we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.”

Thought du jour

“The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think.”

– H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), U.S. journalist

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