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Discovered: giving rats their due, nostalgia for cave-dwelling, shrubbery as global warming data point, and shifting the burden of responsibility for eating cookie dough.

  • The lab rats finally get their due.  Poked, prodded, enhanced, given alcohol, drugs and subjected to pretty much everything by inquisitive researchers, the plight of lab rats and mice often seems bleak (even though they may be doing humanity a favor). So, is it surprising that a new study finds them banding together and displaying "compassion and helping other rodents"? Sure, it may have been a shock to some scientists, as the Associated Press informed, but rats gotta stick together. They've been through enough over the years. Humorously, the thing that they were helping each other with appears to have to do with fleeing their cages: "Given a choice between munching on a tasty chocolate treat or helping a fellow rat escape from a restraint, test rodents often preferred to liberate a pal in need," wrote the AFP.  Lab jailbreak in the works? [Associated Press, AFP]
  • Something to be nostalgic for: ancestors had no trouble with bedbugs. Some tens of thousands of years ago our ancestors were sleeping on rocks, leaves and sticks, nestled in their caves next to the embers of a prehistoric fire. But they didn't have to worry about inbred, super-bug, impossible-to-get-rid-of bedbugs. Because they just burned their bedding, according to a University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) researcher who had his findings relayed by New Scientist. "Burning the plants would have killed pests and diseases. That the cave's occupants needed to do this, he says, may suggest they spent extended periods of time in the shelter, so had to keep it clean." Even though you too may spend "extended periods" in your cave-like shelter, burning everything is not a suggested option. [New Scientist]
  • Another global warming data point: get ready for more shrubbery.  Often, the most interesting climate change studies aren't the Inconvenient Truth-style scary statistics bandied about (like, for example, this). It's the little data points that point towards subtle shifts in the weather in the last decades (like, this). The latest of these data points comes from satellite-based research from NASA, which "for the first time" took a look at a relatively small patch of land in Northern Quebec and found, by the looks of their side-by-side satellite image, a sizeable increase in shrubbery there. Not earth-shattering. Just another indication of what to expect as temperatures keep rising.  [NASA]
  • Since we'll never learn to not eat uncooked cookie dough ... Let's just encourage manufactures to make it edible, because the temptation to eat the cookie dough is irresistible. But, is that possible? Who knows. That's the suggestion from researchers affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who studied the E. Coli outbreak in raw cookie dough in 2009 and came to the conclusion that even with the potential threat of getting pretty ill by eating contaminated dough, plenty of us will still risk it anyway. So, the team seems to suggest placing the burden of responsibility on the companies churning out the dough: "Manufacturers should consider using heat-treated or pasteurized flour, in ready-to-cook or ready-to-bake foods that may be consumed without cooking or baking." What about cookie dough ice cream? [Eurekalert]

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