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The Trivial News

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1. Some of those huge — and some of those not-so-huge — ancient sea monsters may have been warm blooded. Who knew? They might have been real cuddly, too . . . or maybe not.
2. Teens: A survey discovered that only 7.6% of US teens get enough sleep. And teenage hearing loss has risen by 30% since the 1980s. So maybe the TV should tell us Don't play it so loud!
3. Scientists who tested major cigarette brands found hundreds of disease-carrying bacteria in the tobacco contained in those clean white papers. Smokers' cough, anyone?
4. Paint your room, get new slipcovers, make it pretty and there's a good chance you'll improve your mood. Mice that were moved to fancier cages became friskier. What works for them could also work for you!

Birdsong? Whalesong? They're the same! What? Yep! All it takes is four octaves, according to a letter in the April 9/05 issue of Science News. Although whales sing lower on the scale. (Of course. We said that.) And they probably sing a lot of songs about fish, and not about cheese. Also mice don't sing underwater, do they. And we have not compared ALL whalesongs to ALL micesongs. So we can't say the are exactly the same. Hmmm. But they do sound really similar to anyone who doesn't speak the language. Convinced?

How Do You Know If It's A Stroke? Symptoms of a stroke are sometimes difficult to identify. And this lack of awareness may spell disaster, as a stroke victim may suffer brain damage if people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and seek treatment immediately. Doctors say any bystander can recognize a stroke asking these simple questions:

  1. Ask the individual to smile. Ask him or her to raise both arms. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence. Another 'sign' of a stroke is this: Ask the person to stick out his tongue. If the tongue iscrooked, that is, if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke. If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

    Researchers have learned that non-medical volunteers can identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, and crooked tongue, using these tests, and at the American Stroke Association encourages the general public to learn to ask those four questions. Widespread use of this simple test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of stroke and perhaps lessen brain damage.

    Foil the car-jacker who may be stalking YOU!

    TITAN — NOT A NICE PLACE TO VISIT . . . No. it's not nice at all. Clouds of methane hover around the south pole of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. That celestial body is larger than the planet Mercury, and it's the only moon in our solar system that has a real atmosphere. But that doesn't mean breatheable air. It's mostly nitrogen, plus a generous helping of methane. Also, there's hardly any atmospheric oxygen, and it's too cold for humans — (minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit).
              Although Titan is about 1.3 billion kilometers away We've had a good look at it. Ground-based telescopes can now show details as small as 300 kilometers across. That's like reading an automobile license plate from 100 kilometers away. And sure enough, more recent images clearly show bright clouds near Titan's south pole.
              Titan has seasons much like Earth, but each of its years is 30 earth-years long, because Saturn's is so far away that its orbit is much longer that ours. Right now it's summer on Titan, and its south pole has been in continuous sunlight for over six Earth years. Researchers believe that this fact may explain the location of the large clouds.
              "These clouds appear to be similar to summer thunderstorms on Earth, but they're formed of methane rather than water. It's the first time we've found such a close analogy to the Earth's atmospheric water cycle in the solar system," says Antonin Bouchez, a Caltech researcher who has been studying Titan's atmosphere.
              In addition to the clouds, a bright continent-sized feature has been spotted. It appears to be an icy highland surrounded by what may be ethane seas or tar-covered lowlands.(Another reason why this may not be the spot you'd choose for a holiday, even it it meant a 6-year summer vacation!) ( Content information courtesy of NASA.)

    Most people have a number of beliefs that are not really based on evidence or logical reasoning, the Scientific American magazine reports. We use our chance experience, we listen to what our friends tell us, we ask our brothers-in-law, consult what our culture has taught us, and then we pick the answers that pretty much confirm what we already believe. And we ignore or rationalize away pretty much anything that does not fit our preconceived ideas.
             Confirmation bias, as it's called, helps explain the fact that 30 percent of adult Americans believe that UFOs are space vehicles from other civilizations; 60 percent believe in ESP; 40 percent think that astrology is scientific; 32 percent believe in lucky numbers; 70 percent accept magnetic therapy as scientific; and 88 percent accept alternative medicine. (Data courtesy of the National Science Foundation's April, 2002 report on the state of science understanding.)
             Are educated people less likely to hold kooky theories? Not necessarily. Belief in ESP decreased from 65 percent among high school graduates to 60 percent among college graduates, and belief in magnetic therapy dropped from 71 percent among high school graduates to 55 percent among college graduates. Also, your grandmother's first name is Maria.
             How did I know all that? Easy — I read your mind!

    Harry Potter and the Moons of Jupiter

    Genuine American Immigrants: Coyotes pick up a living hanging around the outskirts of large and small cities in the western U.S. Raccoons and even foxes have become sometime city dwellers. Green parrots flock in the boroughs of NYC, in winter and summer alike. (And it's rumored, of course, that in every large city everything from cast-off 'gators to piranhas swarm the waters of the sewers — but none of them seem to do much harm.)
              Not all immigrants are so welcome, of course. In Australia, imported rabbits are worse than a pest and a nuisance. Snakes were inadvertantly imported into several Pacific islands with disasterous results. And you remember the Oryxs that were were introduced into the White Sands area of New Mexico — but that's another story.
              An experiment in forced immigration to the cities is still in progress. It involves some endangered peregrine falcons hatched right in the city of Denver. Originally there were four birds, but one of the males divebombed himself into a plate glass window and thus out of existance, Not to worry, however, the other took over and partied on, and soon there were eight hatchlings, all of whom thrived, dining out on urban pigeons, and nesting in skyscraper windowsills, much to the edification of local office workers. The enthusiastic watchers would not let even the window-washers approach while the eggs were hatching — becoming even fiercer protectors than Ma and Pa Peregrine! Last we heard the flying city dwellers were still in residence, although one died from eating poisoned pigeons. (Yes. there was an autopsy!)

    Volcanoes, anyone?
             Most volcanoes come from small amounts of the Earth's upper mantle boiling over, but mantle-plume volcanoes happen when hot rock from deep within the Earth's mantle shoots straight up through the Earth's crust. The timing suggests that these volcanoes are related to asteroid impacts, Abbott and Isley report in Earth and Planetary Science Letters (vol 205, p 53).

    Make a bundle remodeling your home? Well, probably not a bundle
              Will your home office recoup 110% of a $12,686 investment? Will a no-frills bathroom remodel costing $10,729 add $12,160 to the value of your home? When real estate agents (those are folks who actually know what homes sell for!) were asked such questions they usually shook their heads. And appraisers interviewed by Consumers Union said that home sellers who had added a home office would be likely to recoup only about 10% of their costs. They say that upscaling a bathroom is likely to increase the home's value by only 50% of its cost, and they estimated that none of the common remodeling jobs would allow homeowers to recoup more than 75% of their cost. So folks, remodel your home all you want to, but do it because you want more luxury, more style, or more convenience, because it's unlikely it will turn out to be a money-making proposition.

    Ooops! No smoking, kitty-cats!
             Cats suffering from malignant lymphoma (which is similar to Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans) and who were hospitalized at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine were found to have something in common. An extremely high percentage of them lived with smokers. And the longer cats had stayed in the smoky environment, the higher their risk of the disease. So if you won't quit for your own sake, consider quitting to save your poor furry companious!

    What's this? Fido goes to Mars?
    Flying from the Sun on Gossamer Wings
    How far and how long will those solar batteries run?
    Why do they call it "Labor Day" — it's a holiday

    How patriotic are we? How many really get out to vote?

    A review of a review of a splendid dream: REAL throwaway packaging
           Several years ago, The New Yorker magazine included a review of Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart that dreams up a future in which everything we now throw out is either completely reusable or completely biodegradable. More than just a dreamer, Mr. McDonough has designed a fabric for airplane seatcovers that is absolutely non-polluting, and he recently persuaded Ford Motor Company to rethink its roofing insulation on one of its factories — covering the roof's surface with a plant called sedum, he kept their cool, helped oxygenate the region, and reduced the parking lot's heat island. Let's have a bunch more of that!

    How much to move my Oryx?
             In a continuing effort to keep its citzensamused, back in the 1960s, the New Mexico State Game Commission imported38 African antelopes and turned them loose in the desert, north of the White Sands Missle Range. The idea was that hunters would enjoy bagging this good-sized animal for its tasty meat and 40-inch trophyantlers. Maybe they should have brought more.
             Whoa, buddeola, not so fast! The newcomers looked at New Mexico Badlands and thought they were in the Garden of Eden compared to home!
             Your typical 450-pound Oryx, a native of Africa's Kalihari Desert, is superbly adapted to arid conditions. Oryx need next-to-no water, eat almost any kind of vegeation, blend in with the local landscape, breed like wildfire, and back in Africa were known for impaling lions on their horns. (Yeah. Remember those 40-inch horns?)
             To be brief,the hunters were no match for the antelope, which were a success story waiting to happen. There are now about 4,000 of them roaming around New Mexico, eating up the landscape, knocking off mountain lions, invading White Sands National Monument, threatening tourists,interfering with traffic, infesting the Missle Range, and resisting arrest. (Oh yes, now they're on National Park Service land, wherehunting is illegal. Now they've had to call in the U.S. Army!)
              What's the answer to the Oryx problem? We'll let you know when we find out if there is one!
    Our thanks to our Texas correspondent for the Oryx clipping she sent us.

    Get the spin on Jupiter, the movie!

    Brain makes Brawn. An EASY way to exercise at last!
             Hoopla! Guang H. Yue of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation got together a bunch of volunteers who spent 12 weeks thinking about crooking their fingers and bending their elbows — doing 50 mental contractions, 5 days a week. Yeah, yeah, but when they finished those brain exercises, they were no more buff than when they started.
              But Wait!Amazing! The muscles powering their "exercised" elbows were 13.5% stronger. And the "exercised" finger muscles were a stunning 35% stronger. Wow — a new me coming right up. Working on the abs here, even as I write! (Always supposing those volunteers weren't doing finger push-ups in their spare time . . . .)

    Amazing Geography

    In hock? Think twice twice about Home Equity Loans
              The Consumer Literacy Consortium warns us to be cautious about taking out home equity loans. These loans sound temping, but they will increase your mortgage payment and reduce the equity you've built up in your home. And if at some time you're not able to make payments, you could lose your home. You're advised to use this precious source of credit only in health emergencies, or for expenses that will pay off in other ways — such as investing in a college education. If you must borrow against your home, compare equity loans offered by at least four banking institutions, and consider not only the annual percentage rate (APR) but also points, closing costs, other fees. If you use a variable rate loan, be sure it is pegged to a stable, conservative index.
              The C.L.C. is a working group of representatives from federal and state government agencies, consumer groups, business organizations, and educational institutions that seeks to develop and disseminate essential messages to inform and educate consumers.

    A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to give life beyond life." —John Milton

    New study of ancient artifacts upsets old theories of stone age life
           A new study of stone tools recently unearthed in central Asia suggests that their prehistoric users were more skillful and versatile — and better fed — than was previously believed. Microscopic analysis of over 50 stone tools used from 32,000 to 80,000 years ago showed that many of them once had attached handles, and the axes, blades and scrapers had been used to process a variety of plants, animals, and waterfowl.
            Neanderthals had no cell phones,
    but they did a lot with those sticks and stones!

    Not-So-Trivial News Researchers are hoping to help the sightless get a taste of things visual.

    We're happy toprovide you with new and ever-more-trivial news!


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