Weekend reads: Watch tiny rats drive tiny cars (for science)

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Quick! To the ratmobile! Researchers at the University of Richmond have learned that allowing rats to drive small plastic cars in exchange for food can help reduce their stress. For the study, the researchers taught 17 rats how to drive the small cars by sitting on a small aluminum plate touching a copper wire, which would complete an electrical circuit and allow the rat to drive in whatever direction they wanted. After the trial, researchers found that all of the rats had higher levels of dehdroepiandrosterone, which researchers believe can be linked to the satisfaction of learning a new skill. Kelly Lambert, lead author on the study, said the findings could be useful for future research into mental health treatments. "I think we need to look at different animal models and different types of tasks and really respect that behavior can change our neurochemistry," she said. Watch the rats drive here.

    Vending machines are about to get healthier. The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), the trade group representing the vending machine industry, on Wednesday announced that it plans to significantly increase the amount of healthy snacks available in vending machines nationwide starting on Jan. 1, 2020. NAMA said it defines a healthy snack as a food or drink that meets at least two of the healthy food standards set by the Partnership for a Healthier America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Heart Association, CDC, or USDA's Smart Snacks. These new options will replace sugary beverages with water and non-sugary beverages, and will include apples, bananas, baked chips, string cheese, nuts, dried fruits, and sealed sandwiches, according to Josh Rosenberg, former CEO of Accent Foods.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    How to put down the cell phone.  More people are starting to realize they can't put their phones down—and they want to do something about it, Rachel Saslow writes for Vox. One of those people is Catherine Price. Price said she first realized she was addicted to her phone when she started browsing eBay for door knobs instead of paying attention to her newborn during a feeding. Now that she's changed her relationship with her phone she's "a happier person," Price said. Saslow names a few ways you can overcome your phone addiction. One way is to put the phone out of reach so that it is out of sight. "Relying on your willpower is a losing game," Saslow writes, so it's better to hide your phone in a drawer or charge it somewhere away from you for the night. Experts also recommend detoxing from everything digital, including your smartphone, for 24 hours to see what it's like. At first "you will feel twitchy and anxious, and it's totally normal," Price said. Next step is to find out why you're so emotionally connected to your phone in the first place, according to Price. "Reaching for our phones is an efficient way to not feel unpleasant emotions," Saslow writes. "Take a breath and ask yourself why you're picking it up in the first place."

    Team rescues 190-pound dog off a mountain. A team of rescuers came to the aid of an unusual victim earlier this month: a three-year-old, 190-pound dog named Floyd. The dog, who was with his owner, had to be rescued after hiking miles up the Grandeur Peak trail in Utah earlier this month. Floyd's owner said the dog was having so much trouble on the hike that he couldn't walk back to the car. When a few concerned hikers noticed that Floyd and his owner had been sitting in the same spot for hours, they called 911. Salt Lake County Search and Rescue found Floyd and his owner on the mountain and helped the dog get off the trail before dark. Todd Taylor, leader of the Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team that came to Floyd's aid, said the rescue was "interesting" because, given Floyd's considerable size, the team had to arrive with equipment hefty enough to rescue a person. However, the equipment broke a mile into the rescue, so the crew had to carry Floyd the rest of the way down. "He was very well-behaved," Taylor said.

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