The Cute Factor

//graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/01/02/science/03cute.1841.jpg' cannot be displayed]“Scientists who study the evolution of visual signaling have identified a wide and still expanding assortment of features and behaviors that make something look cute: bright forward-facing eyes set low on a big round face, a pair of big round ears, floppy limbs and a side-to-side, teeter-totter gait, among many others.

Cute cues are those that indicate extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness and need, scientists say, and attending to them closely makes good Darwinian sense. As a species whose youngest members are so pathetically helpless they can’t lift their heads to suckle without adult supervision, human beings must be wired to respond quickly and gamely to any and all signs of infantile desire.

The human cuteness detector is set at such a low bar, researchers said, that it sweeps in and deems cute practically anything remotely resembling a human baby or a part thereof, and so ends up including the young of virtually every mammalian species, fuzzy-headed birds like Japanese cranes, woolly bear caterpillars, a bobbing balloon, a big round rock stacked on a smaller rock, a colon, a hyphen and a close parenthesis typed in succession.

The greater the number of cute cues that an animal or object happens to possess, or the more exaggerated the signals may be, the louder and more italicized are the squeals provoked.” (New York Times )


"It’s not a perverted thing. I do love this dolphin. He’s the love of my life…"

Woman marries dolphin: “Sharon Tendler met Cindy 15 years ago. She said it was love at first sight. This week she finally took the plunge and proposed. The lucky “guy” plunged right back.

In a modest ceremony at Dolphin Reef in the southern Israeli port of Eilat, Tendler, a 41-year-old British citizen, apparently became the world’s first person to “marry” a dolphin.&rdquo (age.com.au )


Europeans Find Extra Options for Staying Slim

“…[A]s Europeans rave about their bands and their balloons, many American doctors have remained suspicious, regarding the techniques as not terribly effective and even dangerous.

Bands, used for more than a decade in Europe, are just catching on in the United States; balloons are not in the pipeline for approval from the Food and Drug Administration yet.

“There are really profound differences in how we think about weight-loss surgery,” said Dr. Sayeed Ikramuddin, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the chief of bariatric surgery at the University of Minnesota.

Eighty percent of weight-loss surgery in the United States involves a far more arduous and technically demanding bypass operation in which the stomach is cut and made smaller with staples, then reconnected far down in the intestine.

While the initial weight loss is often more rapid, complications are more common and many patients are loath to undergo the larger procedure.” (New York Times )


Cleaning Up the Mess of Medicine in the Pages of Posterity…

…otherwise known as “buffing the chart”: “Medicine has two faces: the iodine-stained, glass-splintered messy reality we all work in, and the clean, quiet, dignified prose we use to record it for posterity. No absence of order penetrates our documents of record. The journals’ glossy pages – or, now, neat online screens – are serene and pristine, rational and assured. Every study has a conclusion. Every case has a diagnosis. Every necessary test is performed, without fuss or muss.

If there has been any drama finding a vein, or cajoling a claustrophobic patient into the M.R.I. scanner, or debating a practicing pagan who is refusing his blood tests because the moon is waxing gibbous, you certainly aren’t going to read about it in the literature. Yet, it all happens, all of that and more.” (New York Times)


Uncle stories

Whatever happened to Uncle? “The British are not noted for their warmth towards children. Britain is the country that invented the boarding school for seven-year-olds and the maxim that “children should be seen and not heard”. How odd then, that it should also have been the source of so many of the classics of children’s literature. From Winnie the Pooh to Alice in Wonderland and from J.R.Tolkien to J.K.Rowling, British authors and storytellers have stuffed the children’s sections of the western world’s bookstores and provided Hollywood with a stream of material.

Yet not all the gems of Britain’s children’s literature have enjoyed endless reprints and the Hollywood treatment. The “Uncle” stories of J.P. Martin, which focus on the doings of the eponymous hero, an elephant and benevolent dictator, were first published in the 1960s, and still enjoy a cult following. But they are now out of print. Indeed much of the “Uncle” canon is virtually unobtainable. Second-hand copies are snapped up by fanatical devotees and first editions go for hundreds of pounds.&rdquo (The Economist )


"Hey, if they thought the mine was unsafe, they could have closed it…"

Coal mine reports spate of citations: “A coal mine where 13 miners were trapped after an explosion Monday was cited 208 times for alleged safety violations in 2005, up from just 68 citations the year before.

Federal regulators’ allegations against the Sago Mine included failure to dilute coal dust, which can lead to explosions, and failure to properly operate and maintain machinery, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Ninety-six of the citations were considered ‘significant and substantial’ by inspectors.

An official with the International Coal Group, which has owned the mine since March, said the Labor Department could have closed the mine if it were deemed unsafe.” (Boston Globe)


Anti-Imperialists Beware…

…Bush Is Reading Again: “The Reader-in-Chief is at it again, and anti-imperialists around the world have reason to be concerned.

According to the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush has taken two books with him to Texas for his holiday reading, which he will presumably indulge between his favourite ranch pursuits – clearing brush and biking.

The first is about his most admired role model, Theodore Roosevelt, the other on the wonders being achieved by U.S. soldiers around the world.

The choices are not unimportant. Indeed, Bush is known to read so little – both for official business and for diversion – and to be so impressed by the few books he does read that it is imperative for people who are paid to know what’s happening in Washington to find out what’s on the president’s nightstand when he turns out the light.” (ZNet )