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facts & arguments

Virtual exercise for seniors

"Pensioners should play Wii Fit rather than going for walks because virtual-reality exercise slows mental as well as physical decline, a New York university study finds," says The Telegraph. "Researchers from New York's Union College claim that 'exergames,' such as Wii Fit, that combine exercise with virtual-reality environments and interactive video-game features provide more cognitive benefits for the older user than exercise alone. … Lead investigator Dr. Cay Anderson-Hanley said: 'We found that for older adults, virtual-reality enhanced interactive exercise, or 'cybercycling,' two to three times per week for three months yielded greater cognitive benefit, and perhaps added protection against mild cognitive impairment, than a similar dose of traditional exercise.' "

Just a donor

"A 36-year-old California man who boasts he's an 'organic' sperm donor and has fathered 14 children through his free donations has never had sex, he has revealed," reports The Huffington Post. "Silicon Valley computer security specialist Trent Arsenault says he's a 'donorsexual' who has committed '100 per cent of my sexual energy for producing sperm for childless couples to have babies. So I don't have other activity outside of that.' Arsenault adds: 'I will probably be the 40-year-old virgin – except I'll have 15-plus kids.' "

Some donors refused

"Obese people face rejection throughout their lives. Now they're facing it in death, too," says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Some research hospitals and medical schools – including the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine – have been turning down donor bodies because they're too fat. … Of more than 100 bodies offered in 2011, she adds, the Clinic said 'no, thanks' to two because of size. And they were carrying more than a few extra pounds. … Case Western Reserve University's Charles Maier, who teaches anatomy to graduate and first- and second-year medical students, won't say how many bodies that school has refused. But he and others who work with donated bodies say they have good reasons for passing on plus-size cadavers. One is that medical students can't learn about the inside of the human body if they have to cut through a thick layer of what doctors often call adipose tissue."

Seeing countries from space

"Contrary to conventional wisdom," United Press International reports, "some international borders on Earth are, in fact, visible from space, a veteran U.S. astronaut says. Former NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld … told an astronomical gathering in Austin, Tex., that political demarcations between countries are sometimes visible in orbit in the form of environmental and infrastructure differences. 'Wealthy countries are lined in green and then you see the country next door that has no water,' Mr. Grunsfeld said last week. … Differences in the amount of electric lighting visible at night and variation in forestation patterns can also outline national boundaries, he said."

Horse skiing postponed

"Organizers have postponed a popular horse skiing event in Minturn [Colo.] because of a lack of snow," Associated Press reports. "The Rocky Mountain ski joring event will now be held in late February. During the event, skiers hold a rope with one hand and a wand in the other. As the horse careers up the street through the snow the skier is pulled along. Skiers use the wand to grab rings for points."

Olympic sheep shearing? Unlikely

"A New Zealand farm lobby group says sheep shearing has the potential to become an Olympic demonstration sport," says Associated Press. "… The 'time has come to elevate shearing's sporting status to the ultimate world stage,' the New Zealand Federated Farmers said in a statement Monday, adding that the world's top shearers were 'athletes who take it to another level.' While shearing is indeed a real sport, its chances of becoming an Olympic event – even a demonstration one – are probably next to nil. The Olympics sports program is decided a minimum of six years in advance of a scheduled games through a long and complicated process that includes strict criteria including global participation by male and female athletes."

Thought du jour

"Shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture."

- Salman Rushdie (1947-), British Indian novelist