Gene limits learning and memory in mice [via Medical Daily]
Scientists at Emory University’s School of Medicine have found that “deleting a certain gene in mice can make them smarter by unlocking a mysterious region of the brain considered to be relatively inflexible.” Mice without the gene were better able to remember objects and navigate mazes, indicating the gene somehow limits memory or the ability to learn. Researchers jokingly dubbed it the “Homer Simpson gene.”
Pope’s astronomer says he would baptize an alien if it asked him [via The Guardian]
Papal astronomer Guy Consolmagno said at a talk before the British Science Festival this week that alien species, if ever found, might have souls and could be baptized if they request it. “Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul,” Consolmagno said. The astronomer also dismissed intelligent design. “The word has been hijacked by a narrow group of creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it didn’t originally mean at all. It’s another form of the God of the gaps. It’s bad theology in that it turns God once again into the pagan god of thunder and lightning.”
Lost Libraries: The strange afterlife of authors’ book collections [via the Boston Globe]
Read the whole thing. A teaser: “Most people might imagine that authors’ libraries matter–that scholars and readers should care what books authors read, what they thought about them, what they scribbled in the margins. But far more libraries get dispersed than saved. In fact, David Markson can now take his place in a long and distinguished line of writers whose personal libraries were quickly, casually broken down. Herman Melville’s books? One bookstore bought an assortment for $120, then scrapped the theological titles for paper. Stephen Crane’s? His widow died a brothel madam, and her estate (and his books) were auctioned off on the steps of a Florida courthouse. Ernest Hemingway’s? To this day, all 9,000 titles remain trapped in his Cuban villa.”
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Gay Men Achieve World-Record Longest Kiss [via Gawker]
Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello, students at The College of New Jersey, broke the Guinness World Record this weekend for the longest kiss — 33 straight hours of locking lips. Adult diapers are banned by Guinness, so the boys went through a cleanse to try and rid their bodies of waste — though they had an unspecified contingency plan if one of them had to pee. They’re just friends, and Bobby noted he had permission from his longtime boyfriend to attempt the feat. The previous record, set in 2009, was 32 hours, 7 minutes and 14 seconds.
A Truly Bookless Library [via Inside Higher Ed]
The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Applied Engineering and Technology Library has no due dates and no late fees. Because it has no books. As IHE reports, this is the first actually bookless library. What it does offer is plenty of study space and access to 425,000 electronic books and 18,000 journal articles. “You study and work in the library,” San Antonio library dean Krisellen Maloney said. “That’s how libraries have always been. When people come to the library with books, they’re not necessarily using the books. They’re also there for the services — to consult, get instruction, find content, and use the content.”
The Plot Escapes Me [via The New York Times]
It’s an all-too-common phenomenon: you are engrossed with a novel, tear through the book and then a few months later can remember barely anything about it. Never fear, author James Collins writes; it happens to everyone. The details may escape you, but each book leaves some mark on your psyche. “Those books must have reshaped my brain in ways that affect how I think, and they must have left deposits of information with some sort of property — a kind of mental radiation — that continues to affect me even if I can’t detect it.”
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There’s disturbing news out of The New York Times. No, I’m not talking about the fact that an apparently popular Barnes & Noble across from Lincoln Center in Manhattan is closing due to escalating rent. No, I’m talking about the fact that it’s upsetting the people who spend time there reading without paying for the books.
The Times quotes 30-year-old lawyer Jai Cha, who said he comes to that BN often to read his way through “Book of Basketball” by Bill Simmons a chapter at a time. 70-year-old retiree Lillian Kelly said twice a week she eats a sandwich and coffee at the store while pawing through magazines.
As an enjoyer of books, this sort of cavalier behavior makes me shiver. Kelly’s magazine reading is less bothersome, but that’s only because magazines are discarded after a short period. A purchased book, however, is meant to last a lifetime. As such, I like for my books to be virtually untouched. It’s perfectly acceptable to read 10 or 20 pages to see if you like it (that’s what saved me from purchasing a truly awful thriller by Danny Tobey called “The Faculty Club”). But to read a whole book? Appalling! New books are sacrosanct, and each copy’s quasi-virginal nature is one of the great pleasures of owning books.
If you’re looking to read a book for free, try a library. The New York Public Library system has 87 branches and 20.4 million books. One of those branches, Riverside Library, is one block away from this BN, at 65th and Amsterdam. If you’re just browsing, please please please utilize the wonderful resource that is the library — I do all the time.
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