The truth is out there: 16/01/2010

A weekly look at the world
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The Independent Online

*The Haitian earthquake struck just when some were pointing to signs of recovery. The Marginal Revolution blog highlighted two recent articles that appeared to suggest a better year was in store for the former French colony.

The first came from the Miami Herald in which the IMF lauded Haiti as one of only two Caribbean countries predicting growth in 2010. The other was AP's story in Business Week – "Comfort Inn plans Haiti hotel in tourism revival" – which said Choice Hotels would open the first chain hotels to serve Haiti in almost a decade later this year.

*A green sea slug that steals genes from algae could be part animal part plant. Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that Elysia chlorotica has acquired enough stolen goods to make chlorophyll the same way plants do, according to On hearing the announcement, invertebrate zoologist John Zardus said: "This could be a fusion of a plant and an animal – that's just cool."

*The more poker hands you win, the more money you lose, according to a new study by sociologists from Cornell University, New York. The counterintuitive conclusion was reached after analysing 27 million online poker hands, said EurekAlert. Doctoral student Kyle Siler suggested that multiple wins are likely for small stakes, and the more you play, the more likely you will eventually be hit with occasional but significant losses.

*An arthritis cure based on cobra venom could soon hit the shops, according to Discovery News. Scientists will next month publish findings which reportedly show venom displaying anti-arthritic behaviour and work on an ointment has already begun. The idea stemmed from stories like that of arthritis sufferer Joe De Casa from Northamptonshire who was bitten by a venomous snake in 2002. After surviving the bite, Mr de Casa claimed the following months were his only pain-free days in years.

*If it's raining you should reschedule your interview, according to new research by economists from the University of Toronto. After analysing 3,000 medical school applications over a six-year period, Donald Redelmeier and Simon D Baxter found people interviewed on rainy days received a 1 per cent lower score than those interviewed on sunny days. By studying subsequent admission decisions they found that rain accounted for a 10 per cent lower total mark on the medical college admission test, said the Freakonomics blog.

*Self-control – or a lack thereof – is contagious, according to a new study highlighted on the xenophilius blog. Researchers from the University of Georgia found that watching or thinking about someone with good self-control makes people more likely to exert restraint. And it works both ways, with indulgent types exerting a negative influence. Even seeing the name of someone with good or bad self-control flashing on screen for just 10 milliseconds changed the behaviour of volunteers.