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This common parasite could make people more attractive

The idea that a parasite can cause its host to engage in certain kinds of behavior is not new – a brain-eating parasite attacks ants and then directs them to climb up the tallest blade of grass so they can be eaten by birds. But some researchers believe that a common parasite named Toxoplasma Gondii can also change human behavior, and even make people more attractive. Studies have shown that male rats infected with T.gondii are more sexually attractive and preferred as sexual partners by non-infected females, and one study found that men infected with the parasite were more likely to engage in risky behavior, which researchers say could include being sexually promiscuous.

Christie’s has withdrawn a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that it had been planning to auction this month in Hong Kong, where it was initially expected to fetch between $15 million and $25 million, after questions were raised about the number of replica bones used in the specimen and where they came from. Questions were raised about the fossil when a lawyer for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research reached out to Christie’s about similarities between the Hong Kong T-Rex and another skeleton that Christie’s sold in 2020 for a record $31.8 million. Black Hills retained intellectual property rights on the specimen, allowing it to continue selling painted polyurethane casts of the skeleton.

The poet W.H. Auden on his addiction to detective stories

For me, as for many others, the reading of detective stories is an addiction like tobacco or alcohol. The symptoms of this are: Firstly, the intensity of the craving — if I have any work to do, I must be careful not to get hold of a detective story for, once I begin one, I cannot work or sleep till I have finished it. Secondly, its specificity — the story must conform to certain formulas (I find it very difficult, for example, to read one that is not set in rural England). And, thirdly, its immediacy. I forget the story as soon as I have finished it, and have no wish to read it again. If, as sometimes happens, I start reading one and find after a few pages that I have read it before, I cannot go on.

A journalist tries to buy a real, live goblin on the internet

Fergus Butler-Gallie, the editor-at-large at The Fence magazine, writes about his attempts to buy a goblin – not a virtual goblin, but a real live one – from a man on the internet. "Did you know you can buy goblins from the internet? I don’t mean toy goblins. I mean real goblins. Actual supernatural bringers of chaos. Obviously I decided I wanted to buy one as soon as I learnt of this fact. I needed the right excuse, though, as my instinct was that goblins are like a dinner at a fancy restaurant, a big television or a sex toy: there’s still a sense that buying one just for yourself is a little self-indulgent." Earlier this year my girlfriend’s birthday was coming up and I nursed a suspicion that wouldn’t go away. What she really wanted was a goblin."

Why does Thomas Edison's piano have bite marks on it?

On NPR, Scott Simon talked to Robert Friedman about his piano, which was once owned by Thomas Edison, and has bite marks on it that were likely made by the inventor. "Nobody who has housed that piano since the day it left his care and custody knew that the marks were in there," Friedman said during the interview. "I opened it when it was time to tune the piano. And it just so happens that Charles Frommer, who tunes pianos, lifted the top up and looked down on the lock bar. And he saw all these incisor marks on the top of the lock bar. And he says, oh, those are Edison's bite marks. He goes, I've read about this before many times. He used to bite his music boxes, and he bit his piano."

Man repatriates antiquities after reading a newspaper article

An American man has returned 19 antiquities to the four countries they came from after reading reports in the Guardian about the repatriation of looted antiquities. John Gomperts, who lives in Washington, realised that the ancient pieces worth up to £80,000 – including two seventh- and eighth-century BC Cypriot vases – that he had inherited from his grandmother could have come from illicit excavations because they have no collecting history. He wanted to do the right thing legally and ethically by returning the items to Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Pakistan respectively. After an agreement with his two siblings, he has returned them. He said: “It seemed like the right thing to do."

The "Dragon's Curve" puzzle, where all the pieces are fractals