science
Rats Are Ticklish Too
rat being tickled

The belly is the rat’s most ticklish body part.

You may not think of rats as warm and cuddly, but it turns out they have at least one cute trait: They’re ticklish, just like us. In a recent experiment in Berlin, Germany, rats sought out researchers’ hands to get tickled and even emitted ultrasonic squeals of laughter while being tickled. Attaching electrodes to rats’ brains, scientists precisely pinpointed a tickle center in a mammal brain for the first time. Why does that matter? Though tickling is a basic behavior in humans and some other mammals, its mechanisms are little understood. The researchers at the Bernstein Center Berlin say rats could help shed light on how tickling works and why it’s been around so long. “Rats and humans [diverged] maybe 100 million years ago,” one researcher told Scientific American. “But the phenomenon of ticklishness is remarkably similar.”

Literature
Shakespeare’s Secret Helper?
Shakespeare mask

William Shakespeare is credited with writing some of the world’s most famous plays—from Romeo and Juliet to King Lear. But did he write them all by himself? Experts have long speculated that he had help, and now, Christopher Marlowe is getting some credit. For the first time, The New Oxford Shakespeare, a respected anthology, is listing Marlowe as co-author of all three Henry VI plays. Marlowe and Shakespeare were contemporary playwrights in 16th-century London. Scholars settled on Marlowe after using computers to analyze the plays and finding language patterns that were close to Marlowe’s own work. Not everyone agrees, but if Shakespeare did have a secret co-author, does that make him a fraud? No, says Rebecca Bushnell, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania. What it does mean, she says, is that we should see these works “more as collaborative efforts than the output of a single, controlling genius.”

NUMBERS IN THE NEWS

    • Emma Morano
    • 117

      AGE of Emma Morano, the world’s oldest person. She lives in Italy and is the only person alive who was born in the 1800s. The secret to her longevity, she says, is eating raw eggs and staying single since 1938.

      SOURCE: The New York Times
    • 40%

      PERCENTAGE of high school students in a recent study who believed a fake news story was real because a photo accompanied it (see Fake News Fooling Millions!)

      SOURCE: Stanford University
    • $148,000

      AMOUNT recently paid at auction for a 1942 eight-line poem written by Anne Frank, who was killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

      SOURCE: The New York Times
    • overflowing garbage can
    • 400

      POUNDS of food that the average American throws away each year.

      SOURCE: Rethinking Food Waste Through Economics & Data
environment
The World’s Top Recyclers
chart
Zoom In
Fullscreen

This chart shows the countries that recycle the most municipal waste—like food, clothes, packaging, and other everyday items. Does anything in the data surprise you? Why do you think the United States is 18th on the list? 

Tech
Selfie Security?

The average person has 27 distinct passwords, and it’s hard to keep track of them all. That’s why companies like Uber and MasterCard are trying a new kind of password you can’t forget: selfies. Advances in facial recognition software are what’s making selfie passwords possible. Here’s how they work: A company asks a user to snap a selfie, which it stores. Then every time a user makes a purchase, the app asks for another selfie for comparison. If the thousands of distinct traits in the photos match, the identity is verified. But the technology isn’t perfect; poor lighting can thwart the software, and hackers may find biometric data easier to manipulate than alphanumeric passwords, which are constantly updated. “There is nothing safer about” a selfie password, Marc Goodman, a security consultant, told The Wall Street Journal, “except it rules out the challenges of password management.”

Ethical Dilemma
Making Me Eat My Words
speech bubbles

A friend often sends screenshots of previous text conversations we’ve had to prove I’m wrong about something. It makes me feel as if we’re in a business relationship. Is there a rule about this? —Anonymous, New York

ANSWER The rule you are searching for is: Nobody likes a smarty-pants. Save screenshots for serious misunderstandings, not every little inconsistency. Text your pal: “It makes me feel bad when you send screenshots to prove you’re right. Please don’t.” Then send her a screenshot if she disregards your request.

—Adapted from Social Q’s in The New York Times

CREDITS: Courtesy Shimpei Ishiyama & Michael Brecht (rat); DeAgostini/Getty Images (Shakespeare); iStock/Getty Images (hand); Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters (Emma Morano); Shutterstock (garbage); Shutterstock (selfie)
News & Trends was reported by Carl Stoffers, Lucia De Stefani & Quincey Trigillo.

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