September miscellany

eyesBy the numbers…

People blink as many as 15 to 20 times a minute, far more than needed to keep our eyes lubricated. So why do we do it?

A new paper posits that our constant fluttering is actually a form of wakeful rest, or a mental break between thoughts. Researchers discovered that when people blink, brain activity spikes in areas associated with such brief reprieves, improving our ability to tune in to our current activities. Read more at

And how many times do we blink when we stare at a computer screen? 7.5, according to a new study. Squinting at a computer screen reduces how often you blink and can lead to dry, irritated eyes,  says the study.  Just a slight amount of squinting reduced blink rates by half, from 15 blinks a minute to 7.5 blinks a minute, the study revealed. The more that participants squinted, the less they blinked. The less they blinked, the more their eyes ached or burned and became dry.  Read more at:


Ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind, only to completely forget what that purpose was? Turns out, doors themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses.

Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers what’s known as an Event Boundary in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next. Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate for the new locale.

Thank goodness for studies like this. It’s not your age – it’s the damned door!

Forgive me if I’ve already posted this from the other room.


The other war… According to newly released data from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 20 American military veterans take their own lives every day. That number comes from what is being described as the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide rates to-date. VA analysts spent four years pouring over more than 50 million veterans’ records, as well as data provided by the Center for Disease Control from all 50 states. Previous research into veterans’ suicide rates only pulled data from 20 states. Read more at:


It’s historic. It’s official. Germany is about to take nearly one million refugees according to the Guardian – 964,574 new asylum seekers were registered in the first 11 months of 2015, putting Europe’s top economy on track for a million arrivals in 2015, official figures have shown. The United States, whose President is calling on countries for more urgent action has taken a fraction of that. The number of refugees accepted, which is set annually by the president, reached a peak of 142,000 during the Balkan wars in 1993.

It was 80,000 between 2008 and 2011, dropped to 76,000 in 2012 and has been at 70,000 since 2013. This fiscal year, the U.S. plans to accept 85,000, including 10,000 Syrians. That is a fraction of the more than four million Syrians displaced by war since 2011.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.