News for Nerds - The 'Most Expensive Coffee' Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 8/30/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The 'Most Expensive Coffee' Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll talk about birds who can learn the speed limit on certain roads, we'll get the official definition of "a snail's pace," and we'll get to the bottom of a phenomenon known as "sleep texting." But first: you'll never guess the secret ingredient in the world's most expensive coffee.

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I'm not a coffee drinker -- and I also don't own a dog, so I'm practically begging to be a social outcast -- but I definitely understand the appeal of a daily cuppa joe. I've even shared stories in previous editions of NFN about the many health benefits that moderate coffee drinking can bring.

So when I read this story about the world's most expensive coffee, I was intrigued. It seems that a precious blend called Kopi Luwak is the priciest java on the planet, ranging anywhere from $150 to $227 per pound. At those prices, you're probably not surprised to learn that enterprising criminals regularly try to pass off fraudulent imitations as the real thing.

Luckily, there is now a method for authenticating Kopi Luwak, and, of course, it involves science. (Yay, science!) The process involves grinding, dissolving, and vaporizing both regular and Kopi Luwak beans, then bubbling the resulting gas through silicone oil before electrifying and fragmenting their molecules to identify them.

Which is all well and good, but I'm burying the lead here, because, for me, the real story is what this high-end coffee is made from: poop.

Yes, that's right. Poop. Kopi Luwak comes from the feces of a weasel-like creature that is native to Indonesia. These animals, called Luwaks, rely on coffee berries as a staple of their diet. Somewhere along the way, somebody had the bright idea of rooting through Luwak dung to collect the remains of these coffee berries, so that they could be washed, fermented, sundried, roasted, and subsequently sold for outrageous sums of money.

I guess this means that the next time you tell your neighborhood barista that her coffee tastes like doo doo, she'll smile and take it as a compliment.

Also: this doesn't really have much to do with the Kopi Luwak story, but any coffee-related story seems like a good opportunity to share this clip, which makes me laugh every time I see it. (Parental warning: there's one PG-13 word in it.)

- from NBC News

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Parenting is hard. Don't believe me? Ask any parent. They'll set you straight.

One of the most challenging things about being responsible for tiny, vulnerable people is that while some things are self-evident -- abuse is bad, vegetables are good -- for most of the things you do in your day-to-day life, it's hard to know just how your kids will process it. Sometimes you think what you're doing is right, and then BAM, 20 years later your children are grown and on TV, telling Montel all the ways your stamp-collecting hobby screwed them up.

Maybe you want a more concrete example? Take this study out of Australia, which shows that fathers who spend long hours at work may inadvertently be causing their sons to have significant behavioral problems. The study found that boys between the ages of 5 and 10 whose fathers put in 55 hours or more at their jobs each week exhibited a higher level of 'aggressive behavior'.

Interestingly, the study found no such correlation with daughters -- only sons. It also doesn't seem that having a mother who works long hours has the same effect, but the researchers caution that we shouldn't read too much into that. It's possible that different variables -- being a girl instead of a boy, or having your mom work long hours instead of your dad -- may affect kids at different stages in their development, or in different ways. In fact, it almost certainly does.

This seems like a classic lose-lose scenario, because I'm assuming that the only reason the fathers are working so many hours in the first place is so they can earn a good living and provide for their families. I'm sure there are some dads who'd rather work a 12-hour shift than play catch with their kid, but I doubt it's the majority. Finding out that your 55-hour work week is also contributing to your kid's behavioral issues is like rubbing salt in the wound.

I guess if I want to find out more about all this, I'll have to wait for that episode of Montel. Stay tuned.

- from LiveScience

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And here are a few other cool science stories you might enjoy:

  • The more we learn about birds, the more impressive they become. Researchers in Quebec have found that birds have the ability to learn the speed limit on a particular stretch of road. Previous studies have shown that our avian friends can remember people's faces and teach their friends which humans are not to be trusted. Wow.
  • Snails are known for two things: moving slowly, and being tasty. But just how slow is "a snail's pace"? British scientists were concerned about the risk to dogs from a certain snail parasite, so they began studying how quick the little critters could get from point A to point B. The answer: about one meter per hour.
  • And finally, you've heard of sleepwalking and sleep eating. But now, apparently sleep texting is a thing, too. Details here.

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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