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Stuff we learned in 2009

  • Domestic pigs can quickly learn how mirrors work and use them to find food.
  • Grumpy people think more clearly because negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking.
  • High cholesterol levels in midlife are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.
  • Analysis of Greenland ice samples shows Europe froze solid in less than 12 months 12,800 years ago, partly due to a slowdown of the Gulf Stream. Once triggered, the cold persisted for 1,300 years.
  • One mutated gene is the reason humans have language, and chimpanzees, our closest relative, do not.
  • Obesity in teenage girls may increase their risk of later developing multiple sclerosis.
  • A fossil skeleton of an Aardonyx celestae dinosaur discovered in South Africa appears to be the missing link between the earliest dinosaurs that walked on two legs and the large plant-eating sauropods that walked on all four.
  • Women who have undergone successful breast cancer treatment are more likely to experience a recurrence if they have dense breast tissue.
  • Babies pick up their parents’ accents from the womb, and infants are born crying in their native dialect. Researchers found that French newborns cry in a rising French accent, and German babies cry with a characteristic falling inflection.
  • Surfing the Internet may help delay dementia because it creates stimulation that exercises portions of the brain.