Ten Things to Talk About This Weekend
1. The world’s population is expected to reach seven billion before the end of the month. The six billionth child, 12-year-old Adnan Nevic, offered his comments to the press: “I wish that the birth of the seven billionth child brings peace to the planet.”
2. On the other hand, Paul R. Ehrlich, a professor of Population Studies at Stanford, predicts that the increase in the world’s population means that human civilization has only a 10 percent chance of avoiding collapse. This coming from the guy who, in 1971, bet that England would not exist by the year 2000.
3. But Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven A. Pinker has young Nevic’s back. In his new book, Pinker declares that the world is more peaceful than ever before.
4. Out of Iraq and on to Mexico: Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has announced that he would consider deploying American troops to battle gang violence inside the borders of our Southern neighbor.
5. In lighter news, Charlie Sheen has put a new narcissistic spin on the DIY Halloween costume. Of course, Sheen can find a mask of his own face, which some may find difficult.
6. Facebook stalking makes you smarter. A study to be printed in the journal “Computers and Human Behavior” suggests that while posting statuses is correlated with a lower GPA, “lurking”—as the author of the study, Professor Reynol Junco, calls it—is correlated with higher grades.
7. For most families, a corn maze is not the scariest part of Halloween. But for one directionally-challenged Massachusetts family, it proved to be a harrowing experience, only reaching its end when their 911 call beckoned police to their rescue.
8. Siri, the voice of the new iPhone, is female in the U.S., but male in France and the U.K. Stanford Professor Clifford Nass, author of “The Man who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships,” says that users’ preference for the female voice might be biological.
9. Bats, spiders, and poison dart frogs, oh my! Celebrate Halloween at the Harvard Museum of Natural History this weekend, and check out the new exhibit “Spiders!” Costumes are encouraged but not required.
10. Reading on the toilet might lead to health risks, says Val Curtis, director of the Hygiene Center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In Britain, she says, one in six mobile phones is contaminated by fecal matter. But “we don’t need to get anal about it.”