Wii Sports

“What strikes you immediately playing Wii Sports — and particularly Tennis — is this feeling of fluidity, the feeling that subtle, organic shifts in your body’s motion will lead to different results onscreen. My wife has a crosscourt slam she hits at the net that for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out; I have a topspin return of soft serves that I’ve half-perfected that’s unhittable. We both got to those techniques through our own athletic experimentation with various gestures, and I’m not sure I could even fully explain what I’m doing with my killer topspin shot. In a traditional game, I’d know exactly what I was doing: hitting the B button, say, while holding down the right trigger. Instead, my expertise with the shot has evolved through the physical trial-and-error of swinging the controller, experimenting with different gestures and timings. And that’s ultimately what’s so amazing about the device.” Steven Johnson

Direction

“Then something strange happened… In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising.” Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker

The nut you can’t buy in a shell

“Anyway, while we eating them, we were asked if we knew why you can’t get cashews in the shell. We had no idea. Actually, we’d never thought about it. But, come to think of it, you can get almonds, walnuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, pecans, and even macadamia nuts in a shell, but not cashews. Why? It turns out that the cashew shell is toxic.Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Cashews

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Fake smiles

“Although fake smiles often look very similar to genuine smiles, they are actually slightly different, because they are brought about by different muscles, which are controlled by different parts of the brain. Fake smiles can be performed at will, because the brain signals that create them come from the conscious part of the brain and prompt the zygomaticus major muscles in the cheeks to contract… Genuine smiles, on the other hand, are generated by the unconscious brain, so are automatic. When people feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of the brain that processes emotion. As well as making the mouth muscles move, the muscles that raise the cheeks – the orbicularis oculi and the pars orbitalis – also contract, making the eyes crease up, and the eyebrows dip slightly. Lines around the eyes do sometimes appear in intense fake smiles, and the cheeks may bunch up, making it look as if the eyes are contracting and the smile is genuine. But there are a few key signs that distinguish these smiles from real ones. For example, when a smile is genuine, the eye cover fold - the fleshy part of the eye between the eyebrow and the eyelid - moves downwards and the end of the eyebrows dip slightly.” BBC, Spot The Fake Smile

Dark side of the other white meat

“Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year. That’s a number worth considering. A slaughter-weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person. The logistical challenge of processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and Tucson.” Jeff Tietz, Rolling Stone

So fresh and so clean

“In fact, what little clinical evidence there is suggests that dirty soap isn’t so bad. A study from 1965 and another from 1988 used similar methodologies: Researchers coated bars of soap in the lab with E. coli and other nasty bacteria, and then gave them to test subjects for a vigorous hand-wash. Both teams found no transfer of contamination from the dirty soap. However, both studies were tainted by potential conflicts of interest: The first was conducted by Procter & Gamble, and the second came from the Dial Corp. Still, there’s no good evidence to contradict these studies, and it’s likely that the bacteria on a dirty bar would just wash off when you rinsed your hands. In other words, you’d be cleaning the soap as you cleaned your hands.” Daniel Engber, Slate Magazine

Sharp clarity

“The grain structure of film allows a softness that HD video tends not to have, posing more challenges, especially when it comes to capturing female faces. We seem not to care about seeing men in a rougher, more edgier way, whereas females, were used to seeing them in a softer, more appealing way. So there’s a little more filtration needed, and you have to approach it from a different standpoint.” Stephen McNutt, director of photography for Battlestar Galactica

Sacculina carcini

“Packed full of parasite, the crab will forgo its own needs to serve those of its master. It won’t molt, grow reproductive organs, or attempt to reproduce. It won’t even regrow appendages, as healthy crabs can. Rather than waste the nutrients on itself, a host crab will hobble along and continue to look for food with which to feed its parasite master.” Chris Connolly, on the jelly-like parasite known as Sacculina carcini

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Gut-wrenching

“How many cows will be killed to keep Roger Federer, the world’s best tennis player, in fresh racquets this year? Do the math: The Swiss master is said to go through an estimated 900 sets of strings a year. Since strings lose tension as they’re played — and since Federer is acutely attuned to his ever-changing equipment — he will use five to seven freshly strung Wilsons per match at this week’s Rogers Cup, which is fewer than the 10 to 12 he’ll use at a Grand Slam event… For the record, it takes three cows to make a full set of natural gut strings. That means Federer, who uses a half-set per racquet, is indebted to some 1,350 cattle per annum.” Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star

Don’t over do it

“Eight glasses is way too much. We, as a society, are suffering from water abuse. In fact, there are many cases of people who have developed water intoxication, leading to confusion, coma and even death… The body needs on average two liters of water daily. This was misinterpreted to mean eight glasses a day. We get water from many sources, however, include the food we eat. Food provides half and sometimes more of our requirements, leaving only one litre to be made up in liquids.” Suzanne Carere, George Brown College Professor of Nutrition