Discovered: a faintly bright spot in healthcare, the hearing loop arrives in America, a new hunting-gathering theory, the few that read nutrition labels, and the robots doing fine at job hunting.

  • 'Skim' is a generous word for how most people read nutrition fact labels.  Even though people think they read nutrition labels, calorie counts and fat counts, they really don't. The finding arrives from a new study that used an eye-tracking device on participants who were corralled to scan nutritional fact labels (which seems like a very tedious task). Participants self-reported that they "almost always" look at specific parts of the labels, which they didn't, according to researchers observations. Unsurprisingly, the study also found "that the average consumer reads only the top five lines on a Nutrition Facts label." Which is probably one reason why Congress is ordering a report recommending a much simpler, more intuitive, less boring version of nutrition labels. [Eurekalert, The Los Angeles Times]
  • The (faintly) bright spot in healthcare: there will be more generic prescriptions available. Buying versions of Lipitor, Plavix, Seroquel, and Nexium and a slew of other big name drugs will get much cheaper, as their patents expire and they go generic within the next few years, WYNC/NPR reports, citing an analyst saying that the average daily cost of drugs should drop a third by 2015. That's decent news. Unfortunately, there's always the caveat: "Some analysts say the growing field of costly specialty drugs could undermine the growing savings from generics." [NPR]
  • Food in this 6,000 year-old pot helped usher a new idea about hunting-gathering

    ancestors.  Namely, the research team found that the freshwater marine life residue at the bottom of such ancient pottery discovered in areas in Northern Europe served as evidence, as they explain in a release, for their theory that the hunter-gathering period didn't transition to an agricultural age as quickly as was once assumed. The University of York researcher behind the study, Dr. Oliver Craig told The Guardian: "It is not really the traditional way we think that farming spread," he said. "Some people like to think that farming was like a juggernaut that moved through Europe and destroyed what happened before." [The Guardian, Image via Eurekalert]

  • The hearing loop: 'like a wheelchair ramp' for people with hearing loss.  Hearing loops, an audio system which isolates the sound of a microphone away from background noise, are only just beginning to be implemented in the U.S., the New York Times informs. And audiologists are trying to make them standard at banks, subways and other public places stateside after being pretty common in Europe. Hearing the difference is pretty convincing: The Times carried a snippet of sound (listen here) that compares what it's like to ask directions for a hearing-impaired person without the loop inside the subway system (very loud, garbled, incoherent) vs. what the clear system sounds like. [The New York Times]

  • The jobs that aren't likely to be stolen by robots this second. Today, Race Against the Machine, a new e-book by two MIT researchers who probed the fertile vein of inquiry that is man-versus-machine is now available. And it touches on many familiar points of interest (the "Turing Test," automatic scripts for writing sports stories etc.) that have become a hallmark of the genre. Our sister site, The Atlantic, has published a short excerpt. This is from a passage explaining which jobs won't be robot-driven in the future. Were not sure how comforting this is: "In the physical domain, it seems that we do for the time being. Humanoid robots are still quite primitive, with poor fine motor skills and a habit of falling down stairs. So it doesn't appear that gardeners and restaurant busboys are in danger of being replaced by machines any time soon." [The Atlantic]