Skip to main content
facts & arguments

Camels on the catwalk

"Chariot, a 1,500-pound, single-humped camel with spittle hanging from his lips and pompoms in his tail, just won the first-ever beauty contest at Turkey's annual camel-fighting competition," The Wall Street Journal reports. "…To the uninitiated, what makes a camel beautiful isn't exactly obvious. But organizers of the Selcuk championship hope the addition of a pageant will draw new enthusiasts to the sport of camel fighting, which is struggling to stay relevant in an increasingly modern and urbanized Turkey. And while Turkish fighting camels may be even bigger and hairier than their Arab cousins, to their fans, they are beauty incarnate. 'Camels are very sophisticated and realize people are watching them, so they're trying to pose,' explained Necidet Durmaz, one of the judges in Selcuk and a jeweller by trade. 'Some camels will stop, open their back legs and wave their tail, or cock their head back and moan - this is the kind of posing we are looking for.' "

That's not what I meant

"Psychologists believe that when two people know each other too well, they assume too much shared knowledge and their language becomes dangerously ambiguous," The Daily Telegraph reports. "This 'closeness communication bias' can lead to long-term misunderstandings, rows and even relationship problems, they believe. The research by the University of Chicago and Williams College in Massachusetts found that often couples and good friends communicate with each other no better than they do with strangers. Sometimes they are clearer with strangers because they assume no common knowledge." Prof. Boaz Keysar, co-author of the study, which is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, said he did the research to show his wife that some things she thinks are clear are not always clear.

Snail exploitation?

"Apparently, humans have found another debatably cruel use for snails beyond escargot," reports. "A Russian waterworks company is using six Giant African snails to monitor pollution released from a sewage incinerator. The incinerator is located on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg; it is one of the biggest sewage treatment facilities in the country. The snails have been fitted with heart monitors, and the plan is for the snails to breathe in the plant's smoke, and then have their readings compared to a control group. This particular type of snail was chosen because, according to the Vodokanal state utilities company, 'they have lungs and breathe air like humans.' "

A sap in the family tree

"Next time you need a boost, think about the story of your ancestors," The Boston Globe says. "In a new study, researchers found that thinking about one's ancestors motivates people and can even improve performance on intelligence tests. It didn't matter whether people thought about long-dead ancestors or living grandparents, or whether they considered positive or negative aspects of their ancestors. Thinking about friends or oneself didn't generate the same effect, suggesting that ancestors have a special association with success and perseverance."

Looking glass, indeed

"Just when you thought it was safe to wash your hands and check for things between your teeth in peace, an offshoot of Clear Channel Communications Inc. has found a way to serve up advertising in the bathroom mirror," the Chicago Tribune reports. "The mirrors in your home are still off-limits (for now, anyway), but a unit of Clear Channel Outdoor said [last week]that it has teamed with a North Carolina company called Mirrus to turn select bathroom mirrors at O'Hare International Airport into interactive billboards. … The mirror technology displays video or still ads across the whole mirror when no one is standing in front of the sink. But as soon as someone approaches to wash their hands or fix their hair, the ad shrinks into the corner, out of the way - sort of. The ads' placements are 'by definition gender-specific,' said Mirrus founder Brian Reid, and tied into a network so they can be switched automatically within seconds across as many venues as Mirrus can install. And the mirrors allow the advertiser to keep watch. A sensor counts 'impressions,' or how many people stood in front of the sink for how long looking at the ad."

Testing and learning

"Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques," The New York Times reports. "The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 per cent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods. One of those methods - repeatedly studying the material - is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other - having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning - is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts. These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do."

Thought du jour

"Men are boring to women, because there are only about 12 types of us, and they know all the keys. I only know this because I'm the type they talk to."

Jack Nicholson (1937-), Actor

Interact with The Globe