What’s Wordsworth’s words worth? What of Will?

We always thought reading was the key to success, (apart in the case of Weekender, not reading it. The pages are, however, very absorbent.)

Liverpool University have just proved that reading classical writers is beneficial for the mind. This was discovered by monitoring the brain activity of volunteers as they read works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth and other old-time wordsmiths. The level of activity was way higher whilst reading the more ‘challenging’ texts than modern, easier-read versions. Moreover, the brain stayed active as if it switched into a higher reading gear. Reading poetry increased right-brain activity, which scientists noted was ‘autobiographical memory.’ That is, it allowed reflection on the works and the themes thereof.

“Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain,” said Professor Phillip Davis.

“The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid alike. Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive.” We agree.

So whilst Prof. Davis is embroiled in studying the literary equivalence of the Mozart effect, his compatriot across the pond is researching the possibilities of cloning Neanderthals. At least, that’s what George Church of Havard claimed in German paper Der Spiegel. The Churchmeister has previous notoriety on this one, too, having boasted the following to Bloomberg Businessweek.

“We have lots of Neanderthal parts around the lab. We are creating Neanderthal cells. Let’s say someone has a healthy, normal Neanderthal baby. Well, then, everyone will want to have a Neanderthal kid. Were they superstrong or supersmart? Who knows? But there’s one way to find out.”

Which in itself is rather worrying. More worrying, perhaps, is that he would search for, quote, ‘an adventurous surrogate.’ Neanderthal women had a way bigger birth canal than Homo Sapiens does; the babies have massiver heads. So, you know. Scientists aren’t always the best people to bring theory into practice.

Way better to do the obvious thing, we reckon, and utilise the teeth of marine snails to improve the performance of batteries. Specifically, that would be the gumboot chiton of the Pacific Ocean. Their special radula organ has 70 to 80 rows of teeth in parallel which the creatures use to grab algae on and even inside rocks. Turns out that the material these chompers are made of contains magnetite – the hardest mineral on earth, which is also magnetic.

Because the teeth structure formation occurs at room temperature, scientist David Kisailus of University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering postulates that this could lead to engineering crystalline nanomaterials which will allow solar cells to operate more efficiently and for lithium ion batteries to recharge quicker. Seems that there are, indeed, more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

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