As users of Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking sites pile up hundreds, even thousands, of “friends,” several commentators and news articles have cautioned that there is a natural limit to a friendship circle. They typically cite the so-called Dunbar’s number, 150, as a ceiling on our personal contacts. This limit was derived by extrapolating from social groups in nonhuman primates and then crediting people with greater capacity because of our larger neocortex, the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language.

But there is reason to believe that the social-networking sites will enable their users to burst past Dunbar’s number for friends, just as humans have developed and harnessed technology to surpass their physical limits on speed, strength and the ability to process information.

Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist whose 1993 research gave rise to the magical count of 150, doesn’t use social-networking sites himself. But he says they could “in principle” allow users to push past the limit. “It’s perfectly possible that the technology will increase your memory capacity,” he says.

The question is whether those who keep ties to hundreds of people do so to the detriment of their closest relationships — defined by Prof. Dunbar as those formed with people you turn to when in severe distress.

“Technology doesn’t change that a whole bunch; you really do need to be touchy-feely with people,” adds Alistair Sutcliffe, who studies human-computer interaction at the University of Manchester. The researchers are part of a U.K. group studying the impact of technology on personal relationships.

That sentiment also was corroborated by an online survey managed by Will Reader, a Sheffield Hallam University lecturer in psychology. Dr. Reader announced the results of the first 200 surveys of young people and their networking habits in September, to much fanfare. The news was spun as proof that friendships still generally start offline.

Less-close friendships and acquaintanceships, however, also die offline, while the Web can help sustain them. At the outer edges of your friend group are the people you don’t talk to regularly, but who count toward Dunbar’s number if you’re likely to swap tales, or more, should your paths cross. A couple of former colleagues you run into at an airport bar and have a drink with might qualify. So would a long-lost high-school friend passing through town and asking for a place to stay. “You would probably have to do a lot of catching up, but they know you fit into their social world and you know they fit into yours,” Prof. Dunbar says. “You have a history.”

Similar sorts of contacts can be managed on an online social network, which helps you to keep ties with people who have moved far enough away that they might otherwise have fallen away from your social group. “You can communicate with people on Facebook in a very low-cost way,” Dr. Reader says.

Even before Facebook, Dunbar’s number never represented a true limit to friends. Other primates mostly inhabit single, coherent groups, as did our ancestors. In that case, 150 may be the cap on effective group interactions, at least in contexts like business units or self-governing villages. But modern man moves among several groups in a fragmented world, often with little or no overlap between work, play, school and family.

Also, Prof. Dunbar’s research has focused on average friend-circle sizes, not maxima. There is a wide variation in the size and makeup of people’s friend groups. He cited a range of 100 to 300 in a 2003 paper.

With low-tech help, politicians and business leaders long have been able to exceed 300 so-called friends, Christopher Allen, a Berkeley, Calif., social-software consultant points out. Aides can jot down notes on a long list of constituents that a politician can refer to when needed.

Facebook and its ilk have democratized that system by making it free and easy for everyone to do the same, going beyond simple email and personal Web sites. In the past, new friends and contacts might have replaced old ones as you graduated from college, switched jobs, or moved to a new city. Now, old friends can stick around alongside the new ones on your MySpace. When you have occasion to call on one of them, a page contains all the vital stats you’ll need to renew the acquaintance.

If the numbers game sounds tawdry to you, you’d fit in with the U.K. researchers, who are looking at the effects of such friend-hoarding. “The cheapness of communication is a double-edged sword,” Dr. Reader says. Whereas you might enrich your life with more contacts, the things that are “important for intimate friendships,” such as presents, meals and a ride in your car, he says, don’t exist.

Prof. Dunbar isn’t sold on the idea that social networks make his number outdated. The research, he says, “made us realize people don’t know what these wretched things called relationships are — and that helps explain why we’re so bad at them.”

Source - Is There A Numerical Cap On How Many Friends We Can Have?

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One Dollar Isn’t Much Money, But It Will Buy You A Bridge In Wisconsin


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SOLDIERS GROVE, Wis. - The Kickapoo River bridge is a big structure with a small price tag: one buck.

Village officials fear the nearly century-old bridge, which hasn’t hosted traffic in 31 years, will collapse into the river and want to get rid of it quickly. Village board member Vicki Campbell said they hope high scrap prices help attract a buyer who may want to sell the bridge’s steel parts.

“With the steel prices what they are right now, we thought this was an opportune time to sell it,” Campbell said.

They previously tried a similar offer, she said, but the buyer backed out.

The overhead truss bridge was built in 1910 and was a major connection for the community. Over the years, a new route into Soldiers Grove was built, and the bridge became a fishing spot.

In 1976, the state Department of Transportation recommended closing the bridge, saying its age and condition posed a hazard.

Laurel Hestetune, village president, said he still remembers the rattling sound of the boards as travelers passed over the span.

“Once it’s gone — if it goes — I’m going to miss it,” he said.

Source - For Sale: Defunct Wisconsin Bridge, $1

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A butterfly species discovered in a Florida museum has a new name after an anonymous bidder paid $40,800 for naming rights in order to honor a woman who died in 1972.

The butterfly’s common name will be the Minerva owl butterfly. It’s being named after the late Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Malvern, Ohio.

While the bidder’s name was not disclosed, the payment was made on behalf of Kitzmiller’s grandchildren.

The butterfly’s scientific name will be Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae.

University of Florida researchers George Austin and Andrew Warren discovered the new species while looking through a butterfly collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville earlier this year. They found it was misidentified as an example of another species.

The 4-inch butterfly is brown, white and black and lives in Sonora, a Mexican state bordering Arizona. Proceeds from the auction will go toward further research of Mexican butterflies.

Beverly Sensbach, director of development for the museum, said Kitzmiller’s grandchildren wanted to honor her through the name of a beautiful butterfly because she was “an extremely creative person who wrote poetry, played piano and sang.”

The rights were sold via an online auction. Warren had said before the auction closed that the researchers were hoping to raise at least $50,000, which would fund two years of work in Mexico.

Source -  Butterfly Naming Rights Go For 40K

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It was at the Honey Dew Donut shop that Cyndi LaRose and her honey said, “I do.”

LaRose and Joseph David Smith exchanged wedding vows Wednesday at the North Kingstown shop where they had met.

Marjorie Harrison, the baker, made the food. Faraq Mohamed, the shop’s owner, greeted customers with a simple question: “Coffee or the wedding?” A former probate judge conducted the ceremony. The shop’s regulars served as the witnesses.

“I had the privilege of knowing Joe and Cyndi before they met,” Mohamed said. “I watched as they fell in love.”

LaRose, 49, a caregiver for Coventry Home Care, has been coming to the shop for years. Smith, 58, who works at Kingstown Mobile Home Park, started coming when his niece worked behind the counter.

“I saw this good-looking guy standing up there,” LaRose said. “He was a country-looking guy, the type I look for, the Grizzly Adams type.”

But they didn’t really fall in love until they helped Mohamed with an errand a few weeks ago. Two days later, Smith asked her to marry him. They picked out rings last week.

They thought about having the ceremony on the beach, but decided it was too cold. The doughnut shop is a casual place where most of their friends hang out anyway, so it was a perfect fit.

“I don’t even own a dress,” LaRose said.

“You couldn’t get me in a tie,” Smith said.

The couple planned to spend a Thanksgiving weekend honeymoon at a Connecticut casino.

Via - Couple Married In A Doughnut Shop Where They Met

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1. Remember that summer you spent with your parents in Hawaii and how mad you were that they made you go? And how you were hopelessly bored until you saw the most gorgeous man you’d ever encountered strolling down the beach looking at you, skillfully removing your skimpy bikini with his piercing eyes? And how you spent the last month imagining him taking you in every possible way, masturbating feverishly day and night, wishing he would reappear, but he never did because you were 15 and he would have gone to jail? That was me, and you just turned 18.

2. Mmmm Pez! Rabid Wonder Woman fan looking for someone in satin tights, fighting for our rights and the old red, white ‘n blue. You look like Linda Carter? Big plus. Know all words to theme song? Marry me.

3. Angry, simple-minded, balding, partially blind ex-circus flipper boy with a passion for covering lovers in sour cream and gravy seeks exotic, heavily tattooed piercing fanatic, preferably hairy, either sex, for whippings, bizarre sex and fashion consulting. No freaks.

4. I’m about 5*2 and about 118lbs. I have light brown hair and gray/blue eyes. I wear glasses, I have my belly button pierced and I am slightly tan(because of the sun). I am planning on going to college to be a probation officer. Hop to here from you soon!!!!

5. When I was thirty my dates had to be young, tall, handsome, rich, intelligent. Now I’m 64, they only have to know how to read and use the telephone!

6. Me–trying to sleep on the bus station bench, pleading with you to give me a cigarette; you–choking on my odor, tripping over your purse trying to get away; at the last moment, our eyes meeting. Yours were blue. Can I have a dollar?

7. Bitter, unsuccessful middle aged loser wallowing in an unending sea of inert, drooping loneliness looking for 24 year old needy leech-like hanger-on to abuse with dull stories, tired sex and Herb Alpert albums.

8. I am black and a woman. With children being slaughtered in Rowanda.
What difference does it make how big my breasts are, how long my legs
are, or how much money you or I make? To hell with long walks, holding
hands, candle lit dinners, and all of that other crap that people never
continue doing after the first date anyway; that didn’t even take place
in Cinderella (I’ve seen the movie). If there is a man out there who:
isn’t a crackhead or crack dealer,
isn’t an alcoholic,
doesn’t have any kids,
doesn’t smoke,
doesn’t beat women,
isn’t wearing women’s underwear as you’re reading this ad,
isn’t a liar,
isn’t looking for fun behind his wife’s back,
isn’t into being hit, peed on, or tied up while having sex,
doesn’t want to hit, pee on or tie me up while having sex,
likes having sex,
CAN have sex,
is not
in jail,
on probation,
has a court date pending,
isn’t a
member of the military,
policeman (Malice Green, Rodney King),
bible boy, or
a pompous ass.
What you have to be is HONEST, HONEST, HONEST!!! If you’re out there,
if you exist, call me. Please don’t make me give up on men. Prefer

9. Austrian-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher/engineer/kindergarten teacher and published author (one book of philosophy, one of spelling) seeks companion/housekeeper adept at soup preparation and prepared to travel to Norway on a moment’s notice. Must like: silence; dampness; impenetrable intellectual speculation; detective novels. Must despise: clarity; optimism; fellow academics. Age, race, gender unimportant. Respond (’Y’ or ‘N’ only) to L. Wittgenstein, box 354.

10. Things I won’t do for love include replacing corroding soil pipes and trepanning at home. Everything else is A-OK. Eager-to-please woman (36) seeks domineering man to take advantage of her flagging confidence. Tell me I’m pretty, then watch me cling, at box no. 3286.

Via - How (Not) To Write A Personal Ad

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