Short stuff

Faint stars shed new light on galaxy

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers last month took pictures of a faint globular star cluster named NGC 6397. They likened it to seeing a lighted birthday candle on the moon from Earth.

That's because NGC 6397 is a spherical concentration of hundreds of thousands of stars that are about 8,500 light-years away.

The photos indicated a lower limit in mass for stars to develop a core that is capable of fusion (burning hydrogen).

What does that mean? Large stars – those bigger than 80 times the mass of Jupiter – can self-perpetuate the fusion process. Small stars cannot and eventually burn out, becoming white dwarfs.

The information will help astronomers determine the age of the Milky Way more precisely.

It 'joggles' the mind

Running a 26.2-mile marathon is one thing. Juggling three balls while doing it is something else. But that's just what Zach Warren, a graduate student at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and Michal Kapral of Toronto are going to do in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sept. 24.

They're "jogglers." That's a cross between jogging and juggling in which participants are supposed to take no more than two steps without juggling three balls.

Mr. Warren and Mr. Kapral are two of the fastest jogglers in the world. They will join the other marathoners in the main race, only they'll juggle as they run.

Earlier this year, the pair "joggled" in the Boston Marathon. Warren's time of 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 23 seconds set a world joggling record.

Perry Romanowski, a joggler from Chicago, also is competing in the Toronto race.

Population boom

Been feeling crowded lately? You should be. Later this year, the US population will top 300 million people. That's roughly 80 people per square mile, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

While more people mean more crowding, the US still has more elbowroom than most other countries. That's because America has a lot of open space.

In China, the world's most populous country, there are 353 people per square mile. In India it's 869 people per square mile and in Japan, 876.

Yet, those countries seem "empty" in comparison to the most densely populated nation in the world – Bangladesh, with 2,594 people per square mile. Now that's crowded!

Push-up champ

If "Super Bill" Kathan was still in grade school, he'd be king of gym class.

Last month, the former dairy farmer set a world's best for single-finger push-ups. He performed 20 in one minute.

A week later, he broke his own two- finger push-up mark of 58 by pumping out 60 push-ups in 60 seconds.

Since 2000, Mr. Kathan, who lives in Brattleboro, Vt., has set records inabout 20 calisthenic feats – frog jumping more than 33 feet in 6.4 seconds, completing 24,360 leg lifts in six hours, and finishing 1,084 abdominal crunches in 15 minutes.

Dogs have favorite paws

Scientists in Australia studied 270 dogs as they attempted to steady their food containers and discovered that some dog breeds favor a right or left front paw, much the same way humans are right- or left-handed.

Fifteen percent of boxers, pugs, whippets, and greyhounds are left-pawed, say researchers, who are examining what makes a successful working dog. They want to find out whether being left-pawed, right-pawed, or ambidextrous indicates an animal's suitability for a career in law enforcement or as a guide dog for the blind.

"Half the dogs that are selected for guide-dog training don't make it, and we're trying to reduce that failure rate," says Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney.

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