Beard Trend Is ‘Guided By Evolution’

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Beard Trend Is ‘Guided By Evolution’

The ebb and flow of men’s beard fashions may be guided by Darwinian selection, according to a new study.

The more beards there are, the less attractive they become – giving clean-shaven men a competitive advantage, say scientists in Sydney, Australia.

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This might be why we’ve hit ‘peak beard’”

Prof Rob BrooksUniversity of New South Wales

When “peak beard” frequency is reached, the pendulum swings back toward lesser-bristled chins – a trend we may be witnessing now, the scientists say.

Their study has been published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

In the experiment, women and men were asked to rate different faces with “four standard levels of beardedness”.

Both beards and clean-shaven faces became more appealing when they were rare.

The pattern mirrors an evolutionary phenomenon – “negative frequency-dependent sexual selection”, or to put it more simply “an advantage to rare traits”.

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Asian Air Pollution Strengthens Pacific Storms

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Asian Air Pollution Strengthens Pacific Storms

Air pollution in China and other Asian countries is having far-reaching impacts on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that pollutants are strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean, which feeds into weather systems in other parts of the world.

The effect was most pronounced during the winter.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Lead author Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said: “The effects are quite dramatic. The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation.”

Toxic atmosphere

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The impacts of Asian pollution on the storm track tend to affect the weather patterns of other parts of the world”

Yuan WangJet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech

Parts of Asia have some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world.

In China’s capital, Beijing, pollutants frequently reach hazardous levels, while emissions in the Indian capital, Delhi, also regularly soar above those recommended by the World Health Organization.

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Germany’s Green Dreams Meet Harsh Reality

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Germany’s Green Dreams Meet Harsh Reality

For a country that prides itself on showing green leadership, and hosting the IPCC meeting, the reliance on coal illustrates the sheer difficulty of turning visions into reality.

Germany is in the bizarre position of being the world’s largest producer of solar power – and of lignite.

The dark cliffs of brown coal stretch for miles, exposed to the air for the first time since they formed from a swampy forest that lay along the shores of the North Sea 17 million years ago.

Ancient twists of branches, compacted and dusty, lie inside the coal, a reminder of a process that once sucked huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air, only for it now to be released back into the atmosphere.

The mine is one of several operated by the Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall and its managers are bullish about the prospects.

In addition to the lignite already earmarked for extraction, they say there are another 1.6 billion tonnes approved for future mining in this area alone and demand remains high.

$299 3D Printer Achieves Kickstarter Goal In Minutes

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$299 3D Printer Achieves Kickstarter Goal In Minutes

An ultra-cheap 3D printer has hit its Kickstarter goal in just 11 minutes, with some lauding it as the first mass market version of the technology.

Makers M3D have currently raised over $1m (£597,000) well ahead of their $50,000 target with 28 days to go.

Early backers will get the machine for just $199 and other backers can pledge as little as $299.

Dubbed Micro, it comes with easy-to-use software that allows users to search, drag and drop objects to print.

Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website that has breathed life into a range of technology projects, including the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, which was subsequently bought by Facebook for $2bn.

Why Is Ebola So Dangerous?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is taking “very seriously” the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Out of 122 cases recorded in Guinea so far, at least 80 patients have died, with a further four deaths in Liberia.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a viral illness whose initial symptoms can include a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat, according to the World Health Organization. And that is just the beginning: the next stage is vomiting, diarrhoea and – in some cases – both internal and external bleeding.

The disease infects humans through close contact with infected animals, including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.

It then spreads from one person to another: by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments. Even funerals of Ebola victims can be a risk, if mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased.

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Finally: Japan Accepts Court Ban On Antarctic Whaling

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Japan Accepts Court Ban On Antarctic Whaling

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic.

It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo.

Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it “regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision”.

Australia argued that the programme was commercial whaling in disguise.

The court’s decision is considered legally binding.

Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan.