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Yellow cedars victims of lack of snow Add to ...

Lack of snow hurts trees

“Yellow cedars, a culturally and economically valuable tree in Alaska and British Columbia, have been dying off because of shifting climate, researchers say,” United Press International reports. “The die-offs have affected about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of trees in forests covering 600,000 acres in the region, researchers say, and it’s all down to snow – or, more accurately, the lack of it. ‘The cause of tree death, called yellow-cedar decline, is now known to be a form of root freezing that occurs during cold weather in late winter and early spring, but only when snow is not present on the ground,’ U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Paul Hennon said.”

Philosophy and voting

In Brazil, a 2008 law mandates philosophy in all high schools, the Boston Review reports. “Nine million teenagers now take philosophy classes for three years. … Voting in Brazil is obligatory, but many think it’s useless. In 2010, the largest number of votes for any member of congress went to Tiririca, a popular TV clown, who ran on the slogan, ‘I don’t know what a congressman does, but vote me in and I’ll tell you.’ … The official rationale for the 2008 law is that philosophy ‘is necessary for the exercise of citizenship.’ The law – the world’s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere – thus represents an experiment in democracy.”

A curious motorist

“A 55-year-old Montana man who says he ‘always wanted’ to be part of a police chase can check that off his bucket list,” The Associated Press says. “The Montana Standard reports [the man]followed a patrol car for seven blocks early Thursday before pulling his SUV around and taking off at speeds of up to 113 kilometres an hour. Officers say the Butte man was driving faster than 160 kilometres an hour on an interstate toward Rocker, Mont. Officers in that city laid out a spiked strip to flatten the tires on the SUV. A police report says [the man]told officers he ‘just always wanted’ to see what it would be like to be in a police chase. Officers said [he]had not been drinking.”

An unfit thief

A British theft victim has donated money to a youth fitness scheme after easily outrunning the young culprit, The Sunday Times of London reports. “Peter Stevens was sitting in his car when the thief snatched a computer from the rear seat and dashed off. But the 34-year-old Stevens caught up with him after just 225 metres. ‘I was appalled by how unfit this guy was,’ said Mr. Stevens, from Cambridge. ‘If you are getting into the snatch-and-run business, at least try to get fit.’ The thief dropped the laptop and carried on running.”

What’s under the bed

– “The composition of household dust will vary from place to place,” says BBC Science Focus, “but it mostly consists of organic matter that naturally comes off people, pets, plants and anything else that lives in our homes. … The dust under your mattress is lighter than that on your carpet because it contains more human skin flakes.” – Next month, after 50 years, the fifth and final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English is to be published, reports The Guardian. “The dictionary shows how different regions of the U.S. refer to the same item in various ways: fluff under the bed is described as dust kitties in the Northeast, dust bunnies in the Midwest, house moss in the South and woollies in Pennsylvania.”

The price of migration

“Not all monarchs migrate, but those that do lack a key enzyme that produces the juvenile hormone, which stimulates the reproductive organs,” says Scientific American. “Lacking this keeps the butterflies underdeveloped and [uninterested]in sex so they can focus on their flight.”

Self-guided bullets

“A bullet that directs itself like a tiny guided missile and can hit a target more than a mile away has the potential to change the battlefield for soldiers without costing too much, engineers at Sandia National Laboratories said Wednesday,” The Associated Press reports. “The bullet can twist and turn to guide itself toward a laser-directed point, all while making up to 30 corrections per second. It’s packed with electronics that control electromagnetic actuators that steer the bullet’s tiny fins. Sandia technical staff member Red Jones said the .50-calibre bullets are being designed to work with military machine guns, so soldiers could hit their mark faster and with precision.”

Thought du jour

“History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought.”

- Étienne Gilson (1884-1978), French philosopher

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