TIME Research

Here’s Why Our Knuckles Crack

Scientists say they've finally figured out what happens when we pop our fingers

Scientists have answered the puzzling question of why our knuckles make that “pop” sound when we crack them.

A team of University of Alberta researchers had a volunteer crack his knuckles inside an MRI scanner so the researchers could figure out what was going on. They published their findings on Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers have concluded that the crack comes from a gas-filled cavity or “bubble” that forms in the fluid between the joint.

“It’s a little bit like forming a vacuum,” said lead study author Greg Kawchuk, a professor in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in a statement. “As the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created and that event is what’s associated with the sound.”

MORE: You Asked: Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad?

The study supports an original theory from the 1940s, the researchers say. But in the 1970s, other researchers believed that the sound came from a bubble collapsing in the joint instead.

But is cracking your knuckles bad for you? That little bubble appears to be benign; there’s no evidence to suggest that people who crack their knuckles are more likely to suffer from arthritis than those who don’t.

TIME Addiction

E-Cig Use Triples Among Middle and High Schoolers in One Year

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

More students use e-cigarettes than the conventional kind

E-cigarette use among middle school and high school students tripled in one year, reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The new data shows that e-cigarette use has surpassed the use of all tobacco products, including regular cigarettes, among young people.

The data, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that e-cigarette use among high schoolers increased from 4.5% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014. That’s a rise from about 660,000 students to 2 million, the CDC says. Use among middle schoolers rose from 1.1% to 3.9% in the same time period.

MORE: E-Cig Flavors May Be Dangerous, Study Says

The study looked at all forms of tobacco use and found that hookah use doubled for middle and high schoolers, and other smoking methods like cigarettes and cigars declined.

“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden in a statement. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use.”

Tobacco sources like cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are regulated by the FDA, and the agency is currently in the process of finalizing rules that would give it jurisdiction over other products including e-cigarettes. In hopes of discouraging use among kids and teens, several states have passed laws that enlist a minimum age for purchasing e-cigarettes, and many states have extended traditional cigarette bans to include e-cigarettes.

TIME TIME 100

Meet the Women Scientists of TIME 100

Joanne Liu TIME 100 Women Scientists
Bryan Schutmaat for TIME Joanne Liu

These five most influential women are pioneers in the field of science and medicine

It will surprise no one to learn that women are vastly underrepresented in the field of science. But in this year’s TIME 100, five outstanding women who are making huge strides in the fields of medicine, genetics, and infectious disease, made the list.

Read more about these five influential scientists.

Dr. Joanne Liu, International president of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Liu and her team at MSF were the first to respond to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. Liu has become a leader in the outbreak, and has fiercely and publicly criticized the international community for its slow response to the outbreak.

Emmanuelle Charpentier & Jennifer Doudna, Creators of gene-editing technology
Charpentier and Doudna developed a groundbreaking gene-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9, which allows scientists to add or remove genetic material as they please. The process has major implications for a variety of health problems from HIV to sickle cell anemia to cancer. In theory, CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to edit any human gene.

Dr. Pardis Sabeti, Geneticist who sequenced the Ebola genome from the most recent outbreak
Sabeti and her team are responsible for quickly sequencing the genome of the Ebola virus that has ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The task was important, since it determined that the disease was indeed spreading from person to person. Many of her collaborators and fellow researchers died during the outbreak. When she’s out of the lab, Sabeti sings in a rock band.

Elizabeth Holmes, Health technology entrepreneur
Holmes is the CEO of Theranos, a blood testing company that has challenged the traditional lab testing model. She studied chemistry before dropping out of Stanford University her sophomore year to start her company, and at age 31 she made Forbes’ Billionaires List as the youngest self-made woman billionaire.

TIME Addiction

E-Cig Flavors May Be Dangerous, Study Says

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Why you might want to reconsider that cotton candy e-cig

The chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes may surpass safe levels, a new study says.

The study, which is published in the journal Tobacco Control, reveals that high exposure levels of these chemicals could spur respiratory irritation. The chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes are the same flavors often added to foods, so the FDA has determined them to be generally recognized as safe in food. However, the authors of the new study say the high levels raise concern for safety and need for regulation and that these chemicals may be more dangerous when inhaled than when they are ingested in food.

“Chronic inhalation of these ingredients has not really been studied much at all,” says study author James F. Pankow, a professor of chemistry and civil & environmental engineering at Portland State University.

In the study, Pankow and his colleagues assessed the levels and types of flavor chemicals used in 30 different e-cigarette refill bottles, including a wide variety of flavors like tobacco, menthol, vanilla, cherry, coffee, chocolate, grape, apple, cotton candy and bubble gum. In 13 of the 30 products, the flavor chemicals made up more than 1% of the refill liquid volume, the researchers found, and the chemical levels were higher than 2% in seven of the liquids. Two of the liquids had levels of flavor chemicals higher than 3%.

The researchers found that some of the flavor chemicals used were benzaldehyde and vanillin, which are known to be respiratory irritants and have exposure limits for the workplace. However, when Pankow and his colleagues estimated consumption rates, they found that an e-cigarette liquid consumption rate of about 5 ml per day puts users at an exposure of twice the recommended occupational limits. “That’s probably not a good thing,” says Pankow.

The study authors point out several concerns about flavoring, including the fear that flavored e-cigarettes might attract young people and the fact that flavored e-cigarettes don’t usually list the levels of specific chemicals that are present in the liquids.

“The point is that when e-cigarettes manufacturers talk about these things as being food grade or food-like, they are sort of suggesting that use of flavors is equivalent to using them in foods,” says Pankow. “Never mind the fact that these things have not really been tested for safety, but in food FDA requires labeling ingredients. If they are going to say these are food-like, then why don’t they list the ingredients? It’s also not food-like product because you are inhaling it not ingesting.”

The researchers note that the small sample size doesn’t necessarily represent the entirety of the growing e-cigarette market. But they conclude that the results are likely what a broad survey would have revealed and that their findings suggest high levels of certain chemicals are likely present in many products.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

There’s a Record Number of Organic Farms and Processing Facilities in the U.S.

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Danny Kim for TIME

The number of organic producers in the U.S. has risen more than 5% in a year

There are nearly 20,000 certified organic operations in the U.S., which is a new record, officials announced on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) counted 19,474 organic farms, ranches and processing facilities, up more than 5% from last year and 250% from 2002, when officials began tracking certified organic producers. Worldwide, there are more than 27,800 organic producers.

“As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be.”

Recently, the USDA put forward $66.5 million in funding to support specialty crops and organic food production. The USDA is also creating an organic operations database that will streamline organic certification processes, and keep updated information about certificated facilities in the U.S. The USDA says the database will likely roll out in September.

Other recent data shows that U.S. consumers are continuing to buy organic produce even despite rising prices, which is good news for producers.

TIME Healthcare

Boy of ‘Success Kid’ Meme Fundraises For Father’s Kidney Transplant

The GoFundMe campaign has already raised over $86,000

If you’ve spent time on the Internet, you’re probably familiar with the “Success Kid” meme: A young baby looking confident with a fist full of sand. As it turns out, memes are real people—who face real problems.

The child behind “Success Kid” is 8-year-old Sammy Griner, and his father is in need of a kidney transplant. The Griner family recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the medical bills. The family was asking for around $75,000 and has already surpassed that goal. According to ABC News, the site reached about $9,000 in just five days. Currently, funds are at over $86,000 in just a week.

Sammy’s mom, Laney Griner, told ABC News that while at first she wasn’t happy about a photo from her son at the beach had gone viral, today she’s happy it happened. “By now, it’s just out there. What am I going to do? At least it’s positive,” she said. “Without that happening, how much could I get this recognition about my husband’s kidney transplant?”

TIME viral

Dennis Quaid’s Freakout Is a Funny or Die Prank

Funny or Die releases full video

The Dennis Quaid meltdown video that “leaked” last week was officially a prank.

The comedy video website Funny or Die claimed responsibility for the video on Wednesday and released a full cut showing the same Quaid freakout, but with more context.

In the initial video, which looked like it was taken on a cellphone and was uploaded to YouTube on April 10, Quaid is seen screaming expletives at the crew on what seems to be a film set.

The full video below shows the tirade was part of a larger Funny or Die sketch, where the “horses–t” is actually just that, and the “p—–s” Quaid screams about are really a basket of kittens.

Viewers had previously speculated that the seemingly leaked video might be a hoax. Many thought Jimmy Kimmel was behind it, given his love for a good prank.

Watch below (but be warned that the video contains profanities throughout):

Read next: Watch Rihanna Prank Jimmy Kimmel While He Sleeps

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

David Chase Analyzes the Infamous Final Scene of The Sopranos

TV-David Chase-Sopranos Ending
Victoria Will—Invision/AP This Dec. 3, 2012 photo shows director and producer David Chase in New York.

Don't stop believing!

Sopranos fans rejoice: Series creator David Chase has finally revealed the motive behind one of television’s most infamous endings.

In an interview with the Directors Guild of America Quarterly, Chase delves into scene-by-scene detail of the very final, notorious sequence, where the world turns black for Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, to the soundtrack of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” While Chase doesn’t give readers much information about what actually happened plot-wise, he provides insight into the meaning behind it, saying:

I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion. I really had no idea about that. I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black. The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don’t stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it’s all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we’re so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.

You can read the entire scene-by-scene breakdown, here.

[Directors Guild of America Quarterly]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Baby Food Recalled for Containing Glass

Beech-Nut Nutrition has recalled approximately 1,920 lb. of baby food

A baby-food company has recalled around 1,920 lb. of its product due to possible contamination with small pieces of glass, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The company, Beech-Nut Nutrition, is recalling its “Stage 2 Beech-Nut Classics sweet potato & chicken” baby food in 4-oz. glass jars. The baby food was made on Dec. 12, 2014, and the recall applies to food expiring December 2016. The company learned of the problem when a customer reported a small piece of glass in their baby food, and the USDA notes that a consumer reported an oral injury from the product.

“Outside of this single report, we have no indication that any other jar of our Classics Stage 2 Sweet Potato & Chicken is affected, but as a company of parents and families we are acting with an abundance of caution,” the company said in a statement posted to its website. “The quality and safety of our products is our number one priority. We know we have not met the expectations of parents who rely on Beech-Nut for quality nutrition for their babies and toddlers in this case, and for that we apologize.”

People who have bought the affected product can return the baby food to the store they purchased it from for a refund or exchange.

The recalled baby food contained the product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821.” It also contains the inspection code “P-68A.” Customers can get more information on the Beech-Nut Nutrition website.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Egg Company Execs Get Jail Time For Food Safety Breach

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Getty Images

The execs were tied to a 2010 salmonella outbreak

The former owner and Chief Operating Officer of the company Quality Egg were sentenced to three months in jail on Monday for their role in a 2010 outbreak of salmonella.

Quality Egg owner Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son and the company COO Peter DeCoster pleaded guilty to distributing adulterated eggs. Quality Egg must pay a fine of $6.79 million and each of the DeCosters must pay $100,000. After three months in prison, the DeCosters will also have one year of supervised release. The company has been placed on a three-year probation. The pair was not taken into custody and may appeal the sentence.

In 2010, adulterated eggs from Quality Egg were tied to 1,939 reported consumer illnesses from salmonella. Workers for the company disregarded food safety standards, according to prosecutors, and mislead its customers—including major retailers like Walmart—about its food safety practices. The court says that the company also falsified documents for food-safety audits and used false expiration dates that misled customers about how old the eggs were.

Quality Egg pleaded guilty to its employees bribing an U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector on at least two occasions to release eggs that had been flagged for failing to meet quality standards. As NBC reports, it’s not clear when the DeCosters learned about the bribes.

“The message this prosecution and sentence sends is a stern one to anyone tempted to place profits over people’s welfare. Corporate officials are on notice. If you sell contaminated food you will be held responsible for your conduct. Claims of ignorance or ‘I delegated the responsibility to someone else’ will not shield them from criminal responsibility,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau for the Northern District of Iowa in a statement about the verdict.

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