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Too much seasonal cheer turns shoppers into Grinches

Awakening the inner Grinch

"Shops seen to be revelling too much in the festive season risk damaging sales figures by driving away stressed-out customers, experts have warned," The Daily Telegraph reports. "A study has discovered that overly jolly staff, bright decorations and Yuletide hits like Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody are a turn-off for shoppers. With stress levels running high amid the pressures of getting everything prepared for Christmas, cheerfully run stores make people less inclined to spend money, the University of Oxford research found. Faced with exuberant sales assistants or shops holding Christmas celebrations, many customers may even flee empty-handed, the report warns."

Staying still at the North Pole

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"Standing at the North Pole is an unnerving experience," says Frozen Planet: A World Beyond Imagination. "The ground beneath you looks like any piece of snow-covered frozen land. It's not. It's sea ice, and just a few metres of it separate you from the freezing Arctic Ocean – more than 4 kilometres deep at this point. The ice is also constantly on the move. Driven by wind and ocean currents, it can drift up to 40 kilometres in a day. … The planet rotates around the axis that connects the North Pole and the South Pole, and so in one sense, if you stand at 90 degrees north – actually at the North Pole – you are more truly stationary there than anywhere else on the planet (except, of course, the South Pole)."

A handy wallet

"When students in Pinellas County schools fill up their lunch trays in the cafeteria and walk over to the cash registers, they just wave their hands and move on to have lunch with their friends," Scientific American reports. "Schools in this Florida county have installed square-inch sensors at the registers that identify each student by the pattern of veins in his or her palm. Buying lunch involves no cards or cash. Their hands are the only wallets they need. The Fujitsu PalmSecure system they are using allows these young people to get through the line quickly – wait times have been cut in half since the program started – an important consideration in a school where lunch is only 30 minutes long."

The crime of the century?

"Metal theft," reports The Futurist, "may become one of the biggest criminal activities of the 21st century, warns University of Indianapolis criminologist Kevin Whiteacre. Targets may include construction sites, vehicle parts, plumbing and electrical equipment, and public infrastructure, where thieves see value not just in the manufactured goods themselves but also in their component metals."

Getting tough on burps

"A 13-year-old was handcuffed and hauled off to a juvenile detention for burping in class, according to a lawsuit filed against an Albuquerque, N.M., school principal, a teacher and city police officer," reports Associated Press. "The boy was transported without his parents being notified in May after he 'burped audibly' in PE class and his teacher called a school resource officer to complain he was disrupting her class. … The suit was one of two filed Wednesday by civil rights attorney Shannon Kennedy, who says she has been fighting the district and police for years over the use of force with problem children."

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The chewing-gum edge

"Good news for students and worrying parents as researchers discover a quick and easy method to boost final exam scores," says Psych Central. "In a new study, researchers determined [that]chewing gum for five minutes before taking a test improves test scores. However, students should use the initial boost judiciously as the benefits extend for only the first 15 to 20 minutes of the testing. St. Lawrence University psychologist Dr. Serge Onyper conducted a study that showed that students who chewed gum for five minutes before taking a test did better on the test than non-gum-chewing students. 'Mastication-induced arousal' is credited for the boost, which lasted for about the first 20 minutes or so of testing. Results of the study were published in the journal Appetite."

All the apples in China

Thirty-six million tons of apples were grown in China in 2010, or roughly half the apples on Earth, says Smithsonian magazine.

Thought du jour

"I have two doctors, my left leg and my right."

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- G.M. Trevelyan (1876-1962), British historian

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