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Want to be happy? Expect less

"Contrary to popular beliefs about grumpy old men and women, people grow happier as they get older, research shows," The Telegraph reports. "Although physical quality of life goes down after middle age, mental satisfaction increases." The study of more than 10,000 people in Britain and the United States was conducted by the University of Warwick. Dr. Saverio Stranges, co-leader of the research, said: "It is obvious that people's physical quality of life deteriorates as they age, but what is interesting is that their mental well-being doesn't also deteriorate – in fact, it increases. We suggest that this could be due to better coping abilities. … It could also be due to a lowering of expectations from life, with older people less likely to put pressure on themselves in the personal and professional spheres."

Failure is an option

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"Children may perform better in school if they are told that failure is a normal part of learning, rather than being pressured to succeed at all costs, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association," Psych Central reports. " 'We focused on a widespread cultural belief that equates academic success with a high level of competence and failure with intellectual inferiority,' said Frederique Autin, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Poitiers in France. 'By being obsessed with success, students are afraid to fail, so that they are reluctant to take difficult steps to master new material. Acknowledging that difficulty is a crucial part of learning could stop a vicious circle in which difficulty creates feelings of incompetence that in turn disrupts learning.' "

Failing grades punished

"A Florida middle school student who brought home three failing grades said he is spending his spring break holding a sign on a street corner," says United Press International. "Michael Bell Jr., a Kendall seventh grader, said his parents decided to have him hold a sign at a busy intersection after he brought home three failing grades on his report card, WSVN-TV [in]Miami reported Monday. 'Hey, I want to be a class clown. Is it wrong?' the front of the sign reads. The back of the sign reads: 'I'm in the seventh grade and I got three F's. Blow your horn if there's something wrong with that.' The boy's parents said they are hoping the punishment will inspire Michael to get better grades. … [Michael Bell Sr.]said he and his wife are making sure Michael is safe and that he has plenty of food and water."

Kiribati's country retreat

"Leaders of the Pacific nation of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan in case climate change wipes out their entire archipelago: They may move everyone to Fiji," Associated Press reports. Last week, Kiribati President Anote Tong and his cabinet "endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. [Tong]says the fertile land could provide an insurance policy for Kiribati's entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave."

Humans need to be hacked?

"S. Matthew Liao, a philosopher and bioethicist, has some incredible ideas about how to deal with climate change," says "Instead of resorting to geoengineering, he suggests, why not consider engineering humans to cause less damage to the planet?" Some of his ideas:

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  • Use a pill or a patch to induce aversion to meat.
  • Give people drugs to increase their empathy and altruism, feelings associated with environmental concern.
  • Make people smarter so they have fewer children.
  • Change people’s eyes into cat eyes so they can see in the dark and need less light.

My mother the robot

"When Richard Garriott de Cayeux threw a costume party the night before his wedding in Paris, his 82-year-old mother dressed up as an Indian princess and attended as a robot," says The Wall Street Journal. "Helen Mary Garriott wasn't strong enough to make the long trip from her home in Las Vegas. So Mr. Garriott de Cayeux went looking for alternatives. The one he hit upon was a portable robot about the size of a canister vacuum cleaner with a telescoping neck, binocular-shaped eyes and a screen for a forehead. The staff at his Austin, Tex., computer games company Portalarium Inc. tested it out, then shipped it off to the wedding. And, voila!, his mother was in Paris – virtually. To pull off the costume party, Ms. Garriott had a photograph of herself in her outfit – leather chaps, headband and feather – mounted on a five-foot piece of cardboard that was attached to the robot. She then logged on from home, appearing on the screen to chat with guests."

Thought du jour

"Try to be better than yourself."

- William Faulkner (1897-1962), U.S. writer and Nobel laureate

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