TIME Parenting

Toyota Adds Minivan Feature Designed to Keep Kids Quiet in the Backseat

Just in time for summer road trips

The dawn of the minivan began in those halcyon days when vans were just that: large, unwieldy, and neither fashionable nor practical. They didn’t have the restrained elegance, beauty, or allure of, say, station wagons. Now over the last few decades, minivans have arguably become symbols of stability and family values – plus, the kids love the space for activities!

So if you’re in the market for a new minivan—and if the people you tote around in your backseat are usually unruly—Toyota has just announced a compelling feature for their newest iteration of the venerable Sienna. They call it Driver Easy Speak, and it’s a system intended to amplify the driver’s voice in the backseat via the vehicle’s own audio system “so parents don’t have to shout to passengers in the back,” according to Toyota, the Associated Press reports.

The feature will only appear in vans with Toyota’s premium audio option at the moment. For some parents, however, that might be a small price to pay to get their kids to buckle up and get to soccer practice on time. Plus, think of how much fun those kids will have with the system when they’re teens who let their friends bum rides! That in itself may be priceless.

TIME

Skateboarding Cop Gives Out the Gnarliest Tickets

Joel Zwicky aims to pull off some sick arrests, bro

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There’s a new sheriff in town. And it turns out he’s got a mean ollie.

Meet Joel Zwicky, the world’s first skateboarding cop. He’s based in Green Bay, Wisc. and started his skating patrols in March—already, they’ve been a huge success. In an interview with ABC News, he told reporters that he floated the idea in response to his department chief’s call for new ways to engage with the community. “I kind of had the idea, like, two years ago, just because I like to skate and I was trying to figure out how I can do it more at work so that I can – you know, if you do what you love, you don’t work a day in your life,” Zwicky told ABC.

His skate patrols have had two main benefits: First, he engages in more open conversation with the community (due to the unorthodox/slightly absurd sight of a policeman on a longboard); and second, the board allows him access to places he’d otherwise be unable to patrol. According to ABC News, he hopes other departments across the country implement skateboards into their stable of vehicles—if, of course, their officers are rad enough.

TIME psychology

Study: Women View Other Women Wearing Red as a Sexual Threat

They believe scarlet-clad women are looking for a little romance, given half a chance

The ballad “The Lady in Red” was released in 1986 by the singer Chris de Burgh, to widespread acclaim; the pop ballad was massively successful, reaching the top position on the charts in Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Norway, while peaking at #3 in the U.S.

De Burgh’s lyrics—e.g., “I’ve never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance/They’re looking for a little romance, given half a chance/And I have never seen that dress you’re wearing”—depict a wonderfully special night, and he’s stated publicly that the song was inspired by the first time he saw his future wife.

In the past, psychological research has found that men perceive women wearing red (like de Burgh’s lady) as more sexually receptive, due to the “biologically based predisposition to receive red as a sexual signal”. Recently, a companion study has been published that documents how women perceive other women wearing red—as it turns out, the color has a similar effect.

The research team, led by University of Rochester psychologist Adam Pazda, conducted three experiments to find out how, exactly, women respond. Here’s how they did it, via Pacific Standard:

Pazda and his colleagues describe three experiments conducted on two different continents that provide evidence that wearing red sets off certain alarm bells. In the first, 196 women recruited online viewed a photo of “a moderately attractive women in her late 20s.”

Half saw an image of her wearing a white dress; the rest viewed an otherwise identical image of her in a red dress. Afterwards, all responded on a sliding scale to a series of statements such as “This person is interested in sex.”

As expected, the woman was seen as more sexually receptive if she was wearing red. This held true whether or not the study participants were in a committed relationship.

Fascinating stuff. Pazda and his colleagues found another effect—that the women who were exposed to the photo of the woman wearing red engaged in “mate-guarding” and “derogation”; in other words, they were more likely to speak negatively about the woman wearing red (“I would guess that this women cheats on men”, “I would guess that this woman has no money”, etc.) and more likely to protect their significant others from her. Here’s Pacific Standard:

Another experiment featured 143 women enrolled at two Slovakian universities. They, too, looked at a photo of a woman in her 20s; she was wearing either a red or green shirt. Afterwards, they were asked to rate not only her interest in sex, but were asked “How likely would you be to introduce this person to your boyfriend?”

Those who viewed her in the red shirt rated the woman as “more sexually receptive,” and “reported stronger intentions to guard their mate from the target,” the researchers report.

De Burgh’s song didn’t speak about the other women in the room—if it had, he might have told a different story.

 

TIME animal

Woman’s Pickup Truck Stalls Due to an Unexpected Case of Python

"How much horsepower you got?" "Nah, man. Pythons."

A woman in New Mexico found a surprise after her pickup truck stalled in Santa Fe. When she and local chef Jackson Ault (who stopped to help) popped the hood, they were greeted by a 20lb brown-and-yellow python in the engine block, the Associated Press reports:

The python was taken to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, where spokesman Ben Swan says the reptile has minor injuries but otherwise is in good shape.

Police say the snake likely crawled into the pickup at the motorist’s home several blocks from where the vehicle stalled. And Ault says he thinks the truck stalled because the snake dislodged an electrical wire.

Authorities say the owner hasn’t turned up yet.

TIME animals

This Guy Went to Alaska and Caught a 482-Pound Halibut

An old man and the sea

After a 40-minute struggle, 76-year-old Californian Jack McGuire recently caught the world’s largest halibut, the Associated Press reports.

McGuire’s monster fish weighed a whopping 482 pounds and was 95 inches long, smashing the previous record set in 1996 (a very respectable 459lbs). Unfortunately his catch will go unrecognized by the International Game Fish Association, because McGuire’s boat captain shot the fish before it was brought onboard to keep it from flopping about and hurting someone.

According to the AP, McGuire “applauded the decision” to kill the fish despite his disqualification from record-holder status.

TIME Beer

Australia Has a ‘Beer Can Regatta’ Every Year

Check out those cans!

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Each year, Australia’s Mindil beach plays host to the Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta, a waterborne festival that celebrates the virtues of charitable giving and one’s instinct for building seaworthy vessels out of improvised materials (as you can see from the video).

The event began on June 16, 1974, and has been held annually ever since. This year marks its 40th anniversary, and is irrefutable proof that Aussies are just better at having fun than the rest of us.

TIME animals

WATCH: A Ridiculous Number of Hummingbirds Just, Like, Hanging Out

I won't make an Angry Birds pun for you, dear reader

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I’ve never seen so many cute things at once. Have you?

TIME food and drink

Here’s Exactly What’s in Those Hot Dogs You Ate This Weekend

You celebrated America's independence by eating a fleshy tube filled with "lower-grade muscle trimmings," and worse

Happy Independence Day weekend! Did you happen to catch the most important event? No, not fireworks. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Begun in 1972 and held in the same Coney Island, N.Y. location since then, the contest pits approximately 20 competitive eaters against each other, for glory (and processed meats).

The contest itself has garnered around 1 – 1.5 million viewers on ESPN since 2004, and the media furor around the event itself is nothing short of magnificent.

But in all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that the contest itself revolves around the hot dog, that humble, All-American treat. Have you ever wondered how the sausage gets made? (Pun entirely intended.)

If you have, don’t fret! Gizmodo has an impressively comprehensive article on the process behind the processed meat.

The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (NHDSC) notes that hot dogs, whether regular, turkey, pork or beef, begin with “trimmings.” A purposely-vague word, trimmings come in lots of shapes and sizes.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): “The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.”

Yum!

Yum indeed! The rest of the steps—pre-cooking, meat emulsifying, batter extrusion, and casing—are similarly…gory. Bon appétit!

TIME

China’s Internet Boot Camps Are on the Rise

There may be as many as 250 in China, and the phenomenon has already spread to the U.S.

When you think boot camps, what do you picture? Involuntary incarceration? Behavioral modification? Military-style discipline?

If you said yes to the above, you’d be correct—and now, these techniques are being widely applied to fight internet addiction in China. Recently, The Straits Times reported that there “are as many as 250 camps in China alone”; Smithsonian, for its part, adds that camps like those in China have surfaced in South Korea as well.

In 2007, the New York Times reported on the first of the military-style camps:

Patients, overwhelmingly male and aged 14 to 19, wake up in dormitories at 6:15 a.m. to do morning calisthenics and march on the cracked concrete grounds wearing khaki fatigues. Drill sergeants bark orders at them when they are not attending group and individual counseling sessions. Therapy includes patients simulating war games with laser guns.

The article concluded that the cause of addiction lay somewhere between parents’ expectations, a hyper-competitive environment, and the fear of failure.

But the boot camps aren’t unique to Asia. Last month, VICE wrote on America’s first internet addiction camp, reSTART, which opened in Seattle in 2009. It warned that the camps may do more harm than good, a conclusion that the Straits Times echoes:

Yet the regimen may not succeed for all. One Beijing education centre is being sued by a distraught mother who says her daughter’s addiction worsened after a course last year.

A cautionary tale, certainly.

TIME Bizarre

This Shredder Can Mulch Entire Trees in Seconds

The woodchip really hits the fan

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We’ve not seen a shredder this powerful since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. This ridiculous thing is called an excavator mulcher. Steer clear if you happen to see one.

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