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October 5, 2009


A Solo Sail Around the World
Smarter Than Your Average Bear
Who Owns the Rain?
America's Caught Napping
The Internet Turns 40
A New Land of Opportunity?

A Solo Sail Around the World
When he docked at his home port of Marina Del Rey, California, in July, 17-year-old Zac Sunderland became the youngest person to sail alone around the world. He made the 28,000-mile trip aboard his 36-foot sailboat Intrepid. Challenges during his 13-month voyage included raging storms and being followed by pirates. But Zac's record didn't last long: Mike Perham of Hertfordshire, England, who's a few months younger than Zac, completed his solo circumnavigation in August. And Mike may not hold the record for long. Abby Sunderland, Zac's 16-year-old sister, hopes to start out on her own solo sail in November, and Laura Dekker, 13, of the Netherlands, is waiting for a court to decide whether she is old enough to make the trip. Even back in July, Zac was philosophical about setting a world record. "I really don't care," he told the Associated Press. "Someone's going to beat it someday."

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Smarter Than Your Average Bear
The test bears at the Folsom City Zoo in California couldn't get it open, and it stumped 1,000-pound grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park. But in a corner of the Adirondack Mountains in New York, campers found that the Bear Vault 500—a canister designed to keep food safe from bears—was being broken into. The culprit? A small, shy black bear named Yellow-Yellow (for the yellow ear tags used to keep track of her). Wildlife officials say the 125-pound bear has figured out a complex locking system—similar to a childproof medicine bottle—that baffles even some humans. She apparently depresses one tab with her teeth, turns the lid, uses her teeth on the second tab, then opens the canister. Bears prowling campgrounds for food can be quite dangerous, so many parks require campers to store food in bear-proof canisters. Bear Vault's owner says he hopes to test a "new, improved" version on Yellow-Yellow.

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Who Owns the Rain?
It's now legal to catch rainwater in Colorado for the first time since the 1800s. In many Western states, where water has always been scarce, every raindrop and snowflake was assigned ownership from the moment it fell—making outlaws of people who collected rainwater from their own gutters. But new laws in Colorado will allow many people to collect rainwater legally. "I was so willing to go to jail for catching water on my roof and watering my garden," says Tom Bartels of Durango. "But now I'm not a criminal." (State officials say they rarely enforced the old law.) Other Western states, driven by population growth and drought, have also lifted their restrictions. In Utah, however, collecting rainwater from the roof is still illegal unless the roof owner also owns water rights on the ground.

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America's Caught Napping
One in three American adults say they take naps on a regular basis, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. The proportion of self-proclaimed nappers was even higher among those who had trouble sleeping the night before and those who had exercised within the last 24 hours. Napping is often stigmatized by being associated with illness, a lack of ambition, or laziness. But the National Sleep Foundation says that a 20- or 30-minute nap "can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance." In fact, according to James Maas, a sleep expert at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., napping "should have the status of daily exercise." Some notable nappers include Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

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A New Land of Opportunity?
Cities like Shanghai and Beijing are becoming magnets for recent American college graduates. The tough U.S. job market caused by the recession is one reason, but they're also lured by China's surging economy, lower cost of living, and a chance to get ahead more quickly than they would in the U.S. Joshua Arjuna Stephens, who graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 2007, took a summer job in Shanghai two years ago. "People thought I was nuts to go not speaking the language," says Stephens. Now he's proficient in Mandarin and a manager for XPD Media, a Beijing company that makes online games. Sarabeth Berman, a 2006 graduate of Barnard College in New York, went to Beijing at age 23 to be the program director at BeijingDance/LDTX, a modern-dance company. "There is no doubt that China is an awesome place to jump-start your career," says Berman. "Back in the U.S., I would be intern No. 3 at some company." Willy Tsao, artistic director of BeijingDance/LDTX, says Westerners often bring skills that are hard to find among the Chinese. "Sarabeth is always taking initiative and thinking what we can do," says Tsao, "while I think the standard Chinese approach is to take orders."

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The Internet Turns 40
On Oct. 29, 1969, a U.C.L.A. computer scientist tried to send the message "LOGIN" to a computer 350 miles away at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California. The massive computers crashed, leaving "LO" as the first message sent via ARPANET, the Internet's predecessor. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network was built for the Defense Department during the Cold War to link computers at research labs. Leonard Kleinrock, who sent that first message and developed ARPANET's technology, thought his work would turn into something bigger, but how big was a surprise. "The fact that my 99-year-old grandmother was using the Internet up until the day she died is not something I ever foresaw," he admits.

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