Brag­ging, even humbly, doesn’t go over well, so have some­one else do it for you

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE - WEIRD NOTES

Q. Just how bad can a big bad bird get? A. Very bad in­deed. Just ask bi­o­log­i­cal an­thro­pol­o­gist Sa­muel Ur­lacher, who was do­ing field work in the jun­gles of Pa­pua New Guinea when he en­coun­tered an adult cas­sowary, con­sid­ered “one of the world’s most dan­ger­ous birds,” writes “Dis­cover” mag­a­zine.

At least five feet tall and flight­less, the bird is able to sprint 31 mph and de­liver fa­tal slashes with its dag­ger­like middle talons. Some 150 cases of at­tacks against peo­ple have been recorded, with at least one cul­mi­nat­ing in death.

Ur­lacher told his story to the mag­a­zine’s Brid­get Alex: Ma­chetes in hand, he and his lo­cal guide were hik­ing from his re­search vil­lage to a neigh­bor­ing com­mu­nity when “all of a sud­den, trot­ting di­rectly to­ward us ap­pears this huge, fully grown adult cas­sowary. It’s taller than I am and prob­a­bly 120 or 130 pounds.” His guide was al­ready climb­ing a tree when Ur­lacher be­lat­edly sprang into ac­tion, climb­ing as fast as he could. He got up only a few feet be­fore the cas­sowary was right on him, but for­tu­nately, it turned away and veered off the trail, stared at them and then walked off.

Con­cluded Ur­lacher: “It could have been a very bad story had it de­cided to ac­tu­ally get me. So we sur­vived, laughed about it, then picked up our ma­chetes and moved on.” Q. “Ev­ery­one hates a ‘hum­ble­brag,’” de­clares “New Sci­en­tist” mag­a­zine. Just what is a “hum­ble­brag,” any­way? A. It’s feign­ing mod­esty while boast­ing, a prac­tice that “an­noys peo­ple even more than out­right self-pro­mo­tion,” says the mag­a­zine’s Ann Klein. Ac­cord­ing to Ovul Sezer at the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina, a “hum­ble­brag” can be ex­pressed ei­ther as “a dis­play of hu­mil­ity — ‘I’m so shocked my new book is a best­seller’ — or a com­plaint — ‘I’ve got noth­ing to wear after los­ing so much weight.’”

When vol­un­teers judged the like­abil­ity and sin­cer­ity of com­plaints, brags, and these two forms of hum­ble­brag, none were very pop­u­lar but hum­ble­brag­ging (both kinds) scored low­est on both mea­sures (“Jour­nal of Per­son­al­ity and So­cial Psy­chol­ogy”).

As Sezer ex­plains, peo­ple hum­ble­brag to broad­cast achieve­ments with­out look­ing too ar­ro­gant, but it comes across as sneaky and strate­gic, lack­ing the crit­i­cal el­e­ment of sin­cer­ity. A bet- ter strat­egy is to tell a trusted friend to spread the news. Or an­nounce it your­self but be sure to credit those who helped you, thus ap­pear­ing “warm and com­mu­nal, which peo­ple find at­trac­tive.” Q. “If the avi­a­tion sec­tor were a country, it would rank sev­enth world­wide in car­bon pol­lu­tion,” writes “Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can” mag­a­zine. What is be­ing done to ad­dress this dire statis­tic? A. “A team of sci­en­tists at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, along with their gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try col­lab­o­ra­tors, is at­tempt­ing to fun­da­men­tally re­design air­planes,” says the mag­a­zine’s An­nie Sneed. Dubbed “dou­ble-bub­ble” D8, the con­cept changes the stan­dard Boe­ing 737 and Air­bus A320 air­craft to in­clude a wider, more oval-shaped fuse­lage (like two bub­bles joined side by side); smaller and lighter wings and tail; and a more aero­dy­namic nose. Most crit­i­cal, how­ever, is the repo­si­tion­ing of the en­gines from un­der­neath the wings to atop the body near the tail — where they suck in and reac­cel­er­ate the slow layer of air, greatly re­duc­ing drag. As aerospace and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer Ale­jan­dra Uranga ex­plains, an air­plane thus de­signed would use 37% less fuel than a typ­i­cal jet.

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