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European Mole (Talpa europaea)


Smelling in stereo

"Humans and many other mammals see and hear in stereo," says The New York Times. "But what about smell? 'People have wondered for a long time whether smell has this component as well,' said Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University. Now he and colleagues report in the journal Nature Communications that common moles, which are blind, have the ability and use it to swiftly locate prey. … Previous research indicates that rats can smell in stereo, and there are suggestions that sharks and ants can, too."

Why the stuntwoman jumps

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"[Heidi] Pascoe, a veteran of nearly two decades of stunt work, is a rarity in Hollywood," writes Richard Verrier of the Los Angeles Times. "She's one of the few women willing to jump from heights of 100 feet or more." She reports that: "Every time I look down, I say to myself, 'What the hell am I doing this for?' " The money is decent: She earns $1,000 to $4,000 a jump. But the real appeal is the joy she gets. "There are times I feel like I'm floating. There is absolutely a sense of exhilaration when I jump," she said. "I'm happy when I'm in the air and when I'm flying through it. I have no other explanation for it."

How long is forever?

"I doubt anyone reading this will claim never to have thought, regarding some experience, 'I wish this would last forever.' But most of us don't take that wish very seriously," writes Michael Clune in The Chronicle of Higher Education. "We seem instinctively to know that it is the kind of desire that collapses under a moment's thought. Imagine you're sitting in the sun, holding your partner's hand, thinking I wish this would last forever. Now imagine that a genie grants your wish. Wonderful! No clouds dim the sun, you sigh happily, the pleasant feeling lasts. Then you begin to feel an uncomfortable pressure in your bladder. Your neck starts to ache. You get bored. Your partner's hand grows sweaty. Soon you're desperately wishing you could get up, get away from this hell."

Robot created to bully rats

"Lab rats don't have the easiest of lives, but now Japanese scientists have added to their burden by putting a robotic bully in their midst," reports The Daily Mail. "The mechanical menace was designed to harass the rodents by chasing them around a cage before rearing up. However, this seemingly pointless study does have a serious purpose. Mice and rats are often used as models to test treatments for human conditions, including drugs for mental disorders. But that left scientists with the perplexing question: How do you depress a rat? … [S]cientists from Wakeda University in Japan came up with the novel approach of creating a machine that could induce social stress, which is a common trigger for depression."

How do you smell now?

"Just as eyesight and hearing fade with age, so too does the sense of smell," reports The Wall Street Journal. "By age 60, about half of people will experience a reduction in their ability to smell, and by age 80 about three-quarters will," says Dr. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment & Research Foundation in Chicago. Hirsch suggests these tests: Close your eyes and taste a little vanilla and chocolate ice cream. "If you can't taste the difference, you may have a problem," he says. Or hold a pad soaked in rubbing alcohol just beyond your chin. If you can smell it, your sense of smell is probably fine.

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Thought du jour

Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable. But when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose, it is a stink and strikes you down.

Alexander Pope, English poet (1688-1744)

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