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facts & arguments


Once upon a time

"And they lived happily ever after. That fairy-tale-inspired narrative of wedded bliss appears to hold true for a surprisingly large number of Americans, according to a newly published study," reports. "In a random survey, 47.8 per cent of married Americans (49 per cent of men and 46.3 per cent of women) reported being 'very intensely in love' with their spouse, according to a research team led by Stony Brook University psychologist K. Daniel O'Leary. Another 13.4 per cent said they were 'intensely in love,' while 26.2 per cent chose the term 'very in love.' Not surprisingly, those figures were lower for couples in the second decade of marriage compared with those in the first 10 years. But they bounced back in the third decade. For those married over 30 years, 40 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men reported being 'very intensely in love.' "

Spermless mosquitoes

"Scientists have created spermless mosquitoes in an effort to curb the spread of malaria," BBC News reports. "Experts say that this is an important first step toward releasing sterile males into the wild to reduce the size of mosquito populations. Malaria kills around one million people worldwide every year and, in Africa alone, accounts for 20 per cent of all childhood deaths." Scientists have tried sterilizing mosquitoes with radiation but this "has tended to leave male mosquitoes frail, and unable to compete in the frenzied mating acrobatics that Anopheles gambiae – the world's most efficient malaria vector – enjoys. … The researchers created around 100 spermless mosquitoes, and showed that females were just as willing to mate with these males as with fertile ones." Female mosquitoes mate only once in their lives and if they can be tricked into thinking that they have successfully mated, they will continue to lay their eggs without knowing that they have not been fertilized. The study is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hawaiian shirts' bad rep

"As part of the power-saving campaigns following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant … the comfortable Hawaiian shirt seems to be a natural fit for Japan's 'super cool biz' campaign," Kotaro Kondo writes for "However, outside of the Ministry of the Environment, which is allowing employees to wear aloha shirts, along with polo shirts, there remains a deep-rooted aversion to government employees dressed in Hawaiian shirts, commonly referred to as 'aloha shirts' in Japan." In postwar Japan, wearing one was seen as embodying the war conqueror's nation. A 1956 film, The Season of the Sun, spread the image of young male delinquents in aloha shirts. In the second half of the 1970s, aloha shirts became popular among motorcycle gangs. "Dressing light is dangerous for motorcycle riders because of what would happen if they crashed," explained sociologist Koji Nanba, "but they were probably showing off the frenzy in which they were spinning around."

The power of ninety-nine

"It may seem silly to price items one cent short of a solid dollar – especially when taxes will make the overall cost more than a dollar anyway – but the pricing tactic has been around for at least a century, according to Lee E. Hibbett, an associate professor of marketing at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn.," Remy Melina writes for "Historians can't pinpoint who established the trick, but consumer behaviour experts can definitely explain why it helps move more goods. Ending a price in '.99' is based on the theory that, because we read from left to right, the first digit of the price resonates with us the most, Prof. Hibbett explained. That's why shoppers are more likely to buy a product for $4.99 than an identical one for $5 – the item that starts with a four just seems like a better deal than the one that starts with five."

No fingerprints

"Fingerprints are used as identity markers," The New York Times says. "No two are alike. But there are people with a rare condition called adermatoglyphia who have no fingerprints at all. Now, Dr. Eli Sprecher, a geneticist and dermatologist at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, and his colleagues have identified the gene mutation that causes the disease. … Dr. Sprecher's team studied a Swiss family, half of whose members have adermatoglyphia. All those affected members have been without fingerprints since birth. The palms, fingers, toes and soles of an affected person are smooth, devoid of the subtle ridges that others have. When a fingerprint is taken, 'instead of having a nice, regular pattern of concentric circles you see a smear,' Dr. Sprecher said. Those affected also have fewer sweat glands on their hands and feet. The researchers found that the affected members of the family all had a mutation in the gene called Smarcad1."

Thought du jour

"With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson. Without them, I'm fat and 60." – Jack Nicholson, U.S. actor, who is actually 74

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