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Discovered: new tiniest frogs, climate change solution is more talking, email habits, autism diagnosis and a drinking age gap.

  • Some climate change agreement was reached in Durban, South Africa.  The end of the 17th UN global warming huddle between scientists and policymakers brought a "limited agreement," what was it? "[T]he promise to work toward a new global treaty in coming years and the establishment of a new climate fund." So, it looks like more talking. Yes, as The New York Times wrote, the Kyoto Protocol was renewed and some seemingly-tenuous progress was made on treating all countries equally for their emissions output, but the words "begins a process" doesn't seem too binding. Or are we just being pessimistic? "The reality is that there is no more agreement on the future of the climate talks than there was when negotiators first convened two weeks ago," one analyst told The Times. Cross your fingers for the 18th conference, then. [The New York Times]
  • How long it takes to respond to a friend, colleague, or stranger on email. In the vein of quantifying-it-because-we-can, Northwestern researchers given access to a treasure trove of a million or so emails from employees at a "midsize company" were able to suss out a few trends. Namely, "we exchange the highest volume of email with those people we know the least," The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that response times to strangers took around 50 hours compared with 11 hours to get back to a "professional contacts" and less than 7 to correspond with friends. Two things could be gleaned from this: it's a comforting statistical illustration that we treat online relationships just like real-life ones and we, on the whole, take an ungodly amount of time to respond to anyone on email. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • The new contenders for tiniest frog. This August, German researchers were touted as finding the tiniest frogs in the world on the island of Borneo, about the size of a single pea at 10.6 to 12.8 millimeters long. New research, however, finds even smaller specimens--"the world's smallest tetrapods (non-fish vertebrates)"--in New Guinea. 8-9 mm in length, just apparently edging out previous findings. They live mostly in leaf litter, according to the researcher's release. For comparison's sake, since it's hard to tell size from the frogs sitting on the leaf to the right, check out how small their kin is compared to a penny: looks like smaller than Abe Lincoln's face. [Eurekalert]
  • The rise in autism (diagnosis). The Los Angeles Times is out with the first of a lengthy multi-part series on autism, and leads with a provocative claim: "Two decades into the boom, however, the balance of evidence suggests that it is more a surge in diagnosis than in disease." The Times doesn't appear to take the disease lightly, only pointing out evidence from researchers that "some of the same experts say that in the sweeping effort to find autism, some children are being mislabeled." The article also cites a 2009 survey of parents that found 40 percent of children who were previously diagnosed with the disease "no longer had the diagnosis." Duke University's Dr. Allen Francis told the newspaper that the increase in autism has more to do with labeling. "People don't change that fast," he said. "Labels do." [The Los Angeles Times]
  • Young vs. Old drinking problems.  It's hard to read too much into this small, Scotland-based case study that questioned "36 people aged 35 to 50 from eight friendship groups." But, questioned by researchers, the trend was that the middle-aged used volunteering as a designated driver as a way to ensure that he/she didn't drink at all that night. Seems sensible. As The Telegraph reports it, the research had less to do with the ways to cut back on drinking and more on highlighting the notion that older drinkers have just as big of a drinking problem as the young, but they do it in less obvious ways. "When it comes to alcohol consumption, middle aged drinkers like to think they are ‘older and wiser’ than they were in their 20s. ... However, as the discussions progressed, stories of recent heavy drinking contradicted these claims." [The Telegraph]

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