According to my family and friends, I am a repository of useless information. Much of what I find interesting has no monetary capabilities. On the other hand, I am ready if a random game of Jeopardy beaks out. 


For instance, it's interesting that Jimmy Dean is the narrator for his company's television commercials given the fact that he died in 2010. So, is that really his voice or a voice over actor who sounds like him?


The answer is that is Jimmy Dean’s voice. “In fact, the audio comes from much older Jimmy Dean commercials. The company uploaded both the new commercials and the older commercials they're based on to its YouTube channel. It’s the late Jimmy Dean advertising sausages then just as he is now.” Creepy and cool all at the same time. (


Speaking of speaking, fishermen might be interested to know that the fish may be having conversations. “In a new study published in the journal Ichthyology & Herpetology, Cornell University researchers reveal that fish rely on acoustic communication far more than previously thought. Researchers have learned that sounds are a major mode of communication among fish.” The sounds they make can be described as boops, honks and hoots. 


You might wonder, then, what the fish are talking about. “Mainly sex and food. We see more elaborate sounds being produced in reproductive contexts.” If the fish aren't biting the reason could be they are not talking about food at that moment. 

In a sort of humorous sidelight, a behavioral and evolutionary neuroscientist is one of the main researchers in this field. His name is Andrew Bass. I am not making this up. (


Fish are not the only animals smarter than humans have previously thought. An Australian study revealed that birds can be pretty clever. “When we attached tiny, backpack-like tracking devices to five magpies, we didn't expect to discover an entirely new social behavior rarely seen in birds. Our goal was to learn more about their movement. Instead, the birds outsmarted us.”


Right from the get-go the magpies organized. “We found out how quickly magpies team up to solve a group problem. Within ten minutes of fitting the final tracker, we witnessed an adult female without a tracker working with her bill to try and remove the harness off of a younger bird. Within hours, most of the other trackers had been removed. By day three, even the dominant male of the group had its tracker successfully dismantled.” Cue the Alfred Hitchcock movie and call Tippi Hedren. (


Still with birds, in a general sense, paleontologists say they have made the discovery of the century in Scotland. “A fossil of a pterodactyl with a wingspan wider than a king-size bed. The fossil, some seventy percent complete, is the largest of any pterosaur to come from the Jurassic period. When this thing was living about one hundred seventy million years ago, it was the largest animal that had ever flown.” Wow, just imagine how big those cave man bird feeders had to be. (


A  flying creature smaller than a pterodactyl, but a zillion times more annoying, is the mosquito. With summer coming on (in six months or so), there may be some good news in our annual battle with these tiny nasties. “Scientists recently found that mosquitoes are more attracted to some colors than others.”


Apparently, your fashion choices could affect your itch vulnerability. “They found that mosquitoes were drawn most to red, orange, black, and cyan. They also found that mosquitoes ignored green, purple, blue and white. Wearing clothes that avoid the most attractive colors could prove to be another way to reduce bites.” (


Mosquitoes are also attracted to human odors, but there could be help on the way in that regard. “Scientists have created an anti-microbial lining (for clothing) that can wipe out body odor thanks to some sweet-smelling chemicals in wine and chocolate.”

This finding could be useful. “The invention opens the door to making clothes that don’t have to go in the washing machine all the time. This means people working from home could continue wearing the same shirt without stinking it up. Cotton, polyester, and even silk maintained anti-microbial and odor-fighting properties for at least ten washes.” 


Better yet, the compound may be great news for hospitals. “We found that the coating neutralizes everything we tested it on. So it could be useful in hospitals and other ideally sterile environments.” (


With mosquitoes and body odor under control, perhaps this would be a good summer to begin a walking regimen. You may have heard that ten thousand steps a day is a standard goal. You might be interested to know there is absolutely no research behind that number. “It was actually dreamed up by a Japanese marketing campaign.”


That said, there is now some science related to the subject. “A team out of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst determined that getting more exercise is good.  But they didn't find anything particularly special about ten thousand steps. Instead seven thousand steps seemed to be an important inflection point. Taking that many steps reduced participants' chances of premature death by fifty to seventy percent. (


So here's the bottom line. Walking can help improve your creativity, and may even help keep your brain young. But there's nothing magical about ten thousand steps. Seven thousand steps will do just fine. If your fitness device still nags you to do ten thousand steps, feel free to tie the device on your pet's collar while you relax under a shade tree. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and