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Love Is a Many-splendored Thing, Funerary Frills, How to Shoo Away Teens, Roll Over, Beethoven, Duct Tape Bandage

by Marc S. Reisch
December 12, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 50

Love is a many-splendored thing

The sweaty palms, heart palpitations, and thrill associated with the first flush of romantic love have a biochemical basis. Scientists at the University of Pavia, in Italy, discovered that certain nerve growth factor (NGF) levels were significantly higher for the love-struck than for subjects in a long-lasting relationship.

In an abstract of the work to be published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the authors report, "There was a significant positive correlation between levels of NGF and the intensity of romantic love as assessed with the passionate love scale." The abstract does not define what the passionate love scale is.

In any case, after 12 to 24 months, NGF levels for the love-struck were the same as for single people and those in long-term relationships.

Funerary frills

The final journey has taken on technological overtones. One firm, Vidstone, located in Miami, plans to sell a 7-inch solar-powered liquid-crystal display monitor to be embedded into a gravestone at a suggested retail price of $1,999. When visitors push a button, they can watch a seven-to-10-minute video that shows photos of the deceased. If they bring along a pair of headphones and plug them in, they'll hear the accompanying soundtrack.

Not willing to spend $1,999? Some funeral homes will sell guests a video tribute to the deceased for $25 with scenes that span a lifetime, according to an Oct. 19 article in the Wall Street Journal.

And for those with an ecological turn of mind, Eternal Reefs of Decatur, Ga., will mix the cremated remains of a loved one with concrete and then place the "reef ball" into the ocean to help rebuild damaged coral banks. Prices include a plaque and range from $995 to $4,995.

How to shoo away teens

Howard Stapleton has invented a device to shoo away rowdy teens. Called the Mosquito, because it is small and annoying, it emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that most people younger than 20and almost no one over 30can hear.

The device was installed just outside of a store in Barry, Wales, and the proprietor tells the New York Times that the Mosquito successfully chased off surly teenagers who hung around outside the store and smoked, drank, and spoke rudely to customers. The teens begged him to turn off the device, but the proprietor stood his ground. "I told them it was to keep birds away because of the bird flu epidemic," he says.

Stapleton, a security consultant, used his children as guinea pigs to test the device that broadcasts at 75 decibels, which he says is within government safety limits. "I didn't want to make it hurt," Stapleton said. "It just has to nag at them."

Roll over, Beethoven

Tests of skull fragments done at Argonne National Laboratory show that they likely come from Beethoven. The fragments now belong to a California man who is the great-great nephew of an Austrian doctor who acquired them in 1863. Paul Kaufmann inherited the fragments 15 years ago from an uncle who had them in a pear-shaped metal box etched with Beethoven's name on top.

The Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University arranged for tests of the fragments, whichlike a lock of hair known to belong to Beethoven and owned by the centershowed a high level of lead. DNA tests of the hair and bone are not conclusive, according to an article in the Dec. 6 Washington Post. But the artifacts provide the best available evidence that the 56-year-old composer died from lead poisoning.

Duct tape bandage

Necessity is the mother of invention, so tough guys like carpenters and plumbers sometimes cover their cuts and scrapes with duct tape and tissue. 3M, which makes the versatile repair tape and also makes bandages, has introduced duct tape bandages with "the look and feel of real duct tape." They are also longer than the standard model to accommodate brawny hands.

This week's column was written by Marc Reisch. Please send comments and suggestions to


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