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The stress of e-mails

"Reading and sending e-mails," reports The Daily Telegraph, "prompts telltale signs of stress including elevated blood pressure, heart rate and levels of the hormone cortisol, a study found. Researchers who followed a group of 30 government employees found that 83 per cent became more stressed while using e-mail, rising to 92 per cent when speaking on the phone and using e-mail at the same time. … Stress levels, analyzed by saliva samples as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitors over a 24-hour period, peaked at points in the day when people's inboxes were fullest, the study found. E-mails which were irrelevant, which interrupted work or demanded an immediate response were particularly taxing, while those which arrived in response to completed work had a calming effect."

Looking for a quick exit?

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An experiment with ants could help architects design buildings that can be evacuated quickly in emergencies, reports the New Scientist. Escape times from office buildings, railway or bus stations and sports arenas can be affected by the position of exits and obstructions such as support columns, but there is little data on the best layouts because it would be unethical to fake an emergency to panic people for tests, scientists at Australia's Monash University said. A researcher has gotten around the problem by using ants made to flee from structures by an insect repellant. He discovered that the ants exited most swiftly from layouts with exits in corners rather than in the middle of hallways.

Skin that will report?

"Seamlessly integrating powerful, 3-D computer circuits into soft materials such as rubber has been an elusive goal for engineering," says Scientific American. "Now researchers say they have developed a type of circuit that is soft and porous – more like a net than a chip. Manufacturers could weave these circuits into an extraordinary range of materials to create 'smart matter' that scans and reacts to its surroundings, or even 'cyborg tissues' – human skin and organs that could report on their own health."

How we eat today

"Our eating habits have changed radically in recent decades, in at least two distinct ways," says Pacific Standard magazine. "We increasingly multitask as we consume our meals, munching as we work at our desks or watch television. And, to the dismay of nutritionists, our food has higher concentrations of sugar and salt. New research from the Netherlands suggests the two phenomena may be directly related. A study just published in the journal Psychological Science finds people eating or drinking while mentally distracted require greater concentrations of sweetness, sourness or saltiness to feel satisfied. A slightly sweeter dish may be delicious when you're concentrating on each bite, but it tastes bland if you're eating while your attention is divided."

News briefs for dogs

A new study shows that playing with dogs can lift the mood of teenagers while they receive residential drug and alcohol treatment, reports Psych Central. Lindsay Ellsworth, a doctoral candidate at Washington State University, discovered that using shelter dogs to interact with adolescents could be a cost-effective alternative to conventional care. "We found one of the most robust effects … was increased joviality," she said.

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A man in Brighton, England, fears his five-year-old feline pet is a bit of a scaredy cat after spotting it being bullied out of its breakfast – by a mouse, says Orange Co. U.K. Chris Brown, 35, says he came downstairs to find Mango nervously eyeing the mouse, which was wolfing down his cat food. "I was surprised to see a mouse sitting in the bowl and calmly helping itself to some food. Mango didn't seem to know quite what to do and appeared a lot more afraid of the mouse than it did of Mango!"

Thought du jour

One of these days is none of these days.

English saying

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