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facts & arguments

Darya Petrenko

Gen Y reads the most?

"So much for Gen Y stereotypes," writes Husna Haq of The Christian Science Monitor. "Turns out they aren't sun-deprived geeks sitting alone in the basement with only a controller, joystick or keyboard and the final level of Skyrim to keep them company. There's a pile of books next to the game console, too. Believe it or not, Generation Y might just be the most bibliophilic generation alive, according to a new consumer study. Gen Y – those born between 1979 and 1989 – spent the most money on books in 2011, knocking the long-time book-buying leaders, baby boomers, from the top spot, according to the 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review."

Dictators will be delighted

"We know that ever-more-sophisticated digital surveillance tools allow oppressive governments to keep an eye on what dissidents are saying, tweeting or typing," says Pacific Standard magazine. "But authoritarian regimes from China to Iran will soon have a new and even more dangerous weapon: the ability to store everything that everyone within their borders does online. In a new paper for the Brookings Institution, UCLA electrical engineering professor John Villasenor calculates that if the cost of digital storage continues to drop at its current rate … in the very near future, 'it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.'"

There's still time on our hands

"Wristwatches are ticking back to life," writes Shan Li in the Los Angeles Times. "For years, doomsayers predicted the death of the watch as clock-equipped cellphones exploded in popularity. Some said watches would eventually go the way of VCRs and the Sony Walkman. Not so fast. After a drop during the recession, watches are experiencing a renaissance. Bulky ones have shown up on red carpets and runway shows. Retro styles have popped up on TV shows such as Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. And watch companies are rushing out with bright colours, new designs and high-tech varieties to suit every taste."

Brothers meet again

"He may have felt some trepidation at meeting his [490-pound] big brother after three years apart," The Daily Telegraph reports. "But any fears for Alf the gorilla were dispelled when the much larger Kesho met him with an even larger hug. In remarkable scenes at Longleat Safari park in Wiltshire, the pair, who were brought up together but then sent to separate zoos, welcomed each other with outstretched arms. The siblings hugged, slapped each other's back and even shook hands as they were reunited in a new £3-million enclosure. In the three years the siblings have been apart, Kesho, 13, has grown almost beyond recognition, becoming a silverback and leader of the pack. Meanwhile Alf, four years his junior, has yet to mature and remains about a third of his weight. Born at Dublin Zoo, they were separated when Kesho was sent to London Zoo to take part in a breeding program."

Athletes double as apes

"In what could be praised as one small swing for man, one giant leap for primate science, researchers have used urban street performers to shed light on orangutan behaviour," reports LiveScience. "To measure the energy efficiency of large, tree-dwelling orangutans, Lewis Halsey of the University of Roehampton, England, turned to parkour athletes, who navigate the urban environment by leaping, swinging and bouncing their way from place to place." How these heavy primates live in treetops while consuming only sparse and low-calorie fruits has long puzzled researchers. Attempts have been made to attach devices to track orangutans' motion and expended energy. "But, said Dr. Halsey, 'Orangutans aren't very amenable to wearing equipment. They tend to take it off and rip it up.' Parkour athletes, on the other hand, were happy to navigate Dr. Halsey's obstacle course, and were similar in mass to the target species. Using [an] obstacle course as a proxy for orangutan environments, Dr. Halsey and his team learned how these heavy primates save energy in the treetops."

Expensive practical joke

"It is selling for up to 10 times the price of gold, yet nobody, presumably, would want it near them," The Independent reports. "The world's rarest itching powder has fetched prices of up to [$115 Canadian] for a tenth of a gram on eBay as connoisseurs of the practical joke battle to outbid each other, in a contest that is proving lucrative for the owner of Dinsdale's Famous Joke and Trick Shop in Hull, England. George Dinsdale bought up the world's supply of E Series Itching Powder, made from jungle plant extracts, in Africa in the 1930s. … The formula for E Series powder has been lost in time but an analysis suggested the main ingredient was a poisonous creeper, Mucuna pruriens, found in tropical regions."

Thought du jour

When man wanted to make a machine that would walk he created the wheel, which does not resemble a leg.

– Guillaume Apollinaire, French author (1880-1918)