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Talking points: Sex ed in China, an ‘intergalactic snowball’ and pandas with purpose

A farmer checks peppers laid out on a road for a week-long drying process in Turkey’s Kilis province.



Slowly but surely, Chinese women are learning more about sex. According to Reuters, a course teaching the rudiments of sexual behaviour is attracting a steady stream of female students in Shanghai. Taught by certified sex instructor Ma Li, the two-day tutorials cost 2,500 yuan (about $400 Canadian), more than half the average monthly wage in China's largest city. "I had absolutely no sex education at all," admitted participant Sophia Hu, a 30-year-old lawyer and virgin. "I thought adult male bodies looked the same as baby boys." In lieu of courtship advice, Li's course focuses bluntly on anatomy, psychology and, ahem, techniques of intimacy. China's conservative attitudes toward sex have been in place since the Communist Party took power in 1949. In 2011, a married couple in Wuhan made international news when it was revealed they believed lying side-by-side in the same bed would result in pregnancy.


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Get ready for the light show of the century. Well, maybe. As reported in The Baltimore Sun, a comet looping behind the sun could emerge this fall as a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. Comet ISON is estimated to be nearly five kilometres wide and literally of inestimable length. "That tail can get tens of millions of miles long, so it's huge," said Jim O'Leary of the Maryland Science Centre. NASA is currently tracking the "intergalactic snowball," which should provide a spectacular light show by late December – unless it veers too close to the sun. "It's only passing through one diameter away from the sun, 700,000 miles, through the hot corona," said O'Leary. "That might be enough to blast it apart."


We have seen the future and it is panda poop. National Geographic reports that panda feces could fuel the green vehicles of tomorrow because of their unique chemical composition. A recent University of Mississippi study revealed that panda leavings yield microbes capable of converting plant waste into biofuel. Items like corn cobs and vegetable stalks have long been eyed as an energy source, but converting them to fuel hasn't been economically feasible. Panda feces could make conversion efficient, and in the process underscore the argument for panda preservation, said biochemist Ashii Brown: "It's amazing that here we have an endangered species that's almost gone from the planet, yet there's still so much we have to learn from it."


"What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me; nowadays they are content with burning my books."

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis (1856-1939)

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