The truth is out there: 02/01/2010

A weekly look at the world

*Tradition still tops the lists of popular baby names on both sides of the Atlantic, although pop culture is having an increasing influence. In a study of the top American baby names of the Noughties, found celebrity influence on the rise with names like Bella – popularised by the 'Twilight' movie series – entering the list for the first time in 2009.

A similar trend is emerging in the UK, as demonstrated by the rise in popularity of the name Theo, presumably in honour of the Arsenal footballer Theo Walcott. Jack and Olivia top the UK list, whilst Emma and Aiden are America's favourites.

*The world's oldest-air archive has been extended by eight years after a scuba diver donated a tank he last used in 1970. The old air will be analysed to reveal details of the atmospheric conditions at the time, a researcher from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) told ABC news.

*The inexorable rise of the machines gained momentum last week as scientists in Germany revealed they have created computers that can begin to understand art. A paper in the journal 'Computers and Graphics' describes how computers can use mathematical algorithms to analyse the style of a painting. They are still fairly basic, but the machines use details such as brush thickness, material and palette to place images within the various artistic movements.

*Couples who spend more time doing housework have sex more often, according to new research published in the 'Journal of Family Issues' and reported by the Boing Boing blog. Researchers from Montclair State University in America said that housework didn't cause sex, but couples willing to work hard were more likely to play hard too.

*'National Geographic' has published their top ten dinosaur and fossil finds of 2009. It was a vintage year for palaeontologists with numerous "missing links" found all over the world. The 47 million-year-old, exceptionally well preserved primate Ida topped the charts with other highlights including a tiny T-Rex, a prehistoric snake longer than a bus and a swarm of the world's biggest trilobites.

*Black market breast milk in Australia is fetching up to AUS$1,000 as desperate mothers seek to properly nourish their babies. A severe shortage of breast milk banks has led to a surge in unscrupulous internet-sellers profiting from inconsistent state legislation, according to the 'Courier Mail'.

*Earworms – songs that get stuck in your head for a protracted period of time – are, in contrast to popular belief, no more common in those with musical expertise than anyone else. The first empirical study on the phenomena, conducted by British psychologists and reported by the BPS research digest, found that people who judge music as important are most likely to suffer from them – though only 33 per cent of respondents said they found them unpleasant.