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Making aliens look cute is a tricky thing to get right in kids' entertainment. Make them too weird-looking, and you could freak out your audience. Make them too adorable, and you run the risk of them looking more like plush toys than creatures from another planet. And then sometimes you make them look cute... but forget to prevent them from acting like hideous, depraved monsters.

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The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn't mean our brains don't have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do maths thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we're subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. Here are a dozen of the most common and pernicious cognitive biases that you need to know about.

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You know it when you feel it. You've just sat down at your breakfast table, or settled in at your favourite cafĂ©. You're a few sips into your brew when, out of nowhere, the urge to download a brownload is becoming urgent. Just a few swigs of coffee and it can feel like you've mainlined a laxative — but why?

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Lots of people have a little booze before bed to help them get to sleep — but while a night cap may help in the dozing-off department, too much alcohol can actually do a number on the overall quality of your shuteye. Let's take a look at some of the important differences between drunk sleep and sober sleep, including why it's so damn hard to sleep in after a tipple-tastic night on the town.

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Kissing is so commonplace that most people rarely think to stop and ask where humans picked up the habit in the first place. Where in humanity's evolutionary history did smooshing our faces together come to be regarded as a display of lust, care, friendship, and love?

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On June 4, southern Chile's Puyehue volcano erupted for the first time in 50 years. It's been spewing giant ash clouds ever since. Enough ash, it seems, to make the Nahuel Huapi Lake in neighbouring Argentina an unrecognizable, soot-covered abyss, as you'll see in the above video of one diver's attempt to sift through it all.

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Minutes before midnight, after a landslide House vote of 250-153, President Obama signed legislation backing a four-year extension on the controversial USA PATRIOT Act. (Did you know that's an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism? Now you do.) Yay, habeas corpus denials, warrantless searches and carte blanche wiretapping! Four more years! Four more years!

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Scientists have been able to use metal to do tricks with light. Now they can differentiate that light into a spectrum, and store each colour in separate little grooves on the metal. With the power of plasmonics, you may one day have a rainbow on your keychain.

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newVideoPlayer( {"type":"video","player":"http://www.viddler.com/player/795fd72e/","customParams":{"flashVars":"fake=1"},"width":500,"height":301.25,"ratio":0.5625,"flashData":"","embedName":null,"objectId":null,"noEmbed":false,"source":"viddler","wrap":true,"agegate":false} ); Liu Bolin must have slain a lot of dragons and evil ninja skeletons in magic Chinese catacombs, because his invisibility powers keep getting better and better. His last batch of camouflage photos are simply awesome.

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newVideoPlayer( {"type":"video","player":"http://www.viddler.com/player/54dbfe17/","customParams":{"flashVars":"fake=1"},"width":500,"height":301.25,"ratio":0.5625,"flashData":"","embedName":null,"objectId":null,"noEmbed":false,"source":"viddler","wrap":true,"agegate":false} ); After going down in a spiral of paranoid stupidity—called out for saving body scan images, ridiculed for patting down an almost-naked woman or nailed for harrassing a kid at airport security—the TSA has reached a new low. It's surreal.

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Writing on his own Facebook fan page, Mark Zuckerberg today proposed that he forsake all riches for social good. Uh, sure. Naturally, such a declaration did not really come from the world's youngest billionaire; Zuckerberg just got hacked.