TIME Science

Now There’s an Insect Named After a Harry Potter Character


Hint: those scary soulless guys

The Natural History Museum in Berlin let the public vote on a name for a newly discovered species of wasp in Southeast Asia that eats cockroaches, and the name Ampulex dementor was chosen.

In the Harry Potter series, “dementors” are prison guards that can suck out a person’s soul with just a kiss, so naming the insect after those creatures is “an allusion to the wasps’ behavior to selectively paralyze its cockroach prey,” according to a report by the researchers published in PLOS One at the end of April.

Known for moving in a “typical running and jumping behavior, the red-and-black wasp stings the cockroach in one of its “neural nodes” which allows it to drag “prey in running mode into its nest, just like a zombie,” the ballot given to museum visitors said. Sounds like a pest, alright.

TIME Science

It’s “Perfectly Normal” to See Jesus in Toast, Study Says

Human brains are "uniquely wired" to see faces, according to researchers at the University of Toronto

Fred Whan, of Kingston, Ont., shows off a fish stick he cooked that he claims shows the likeness of Jesus Christ. Iam Macalpine—AP

Every now and then, there’s a viral news article about someone claiming to see religious imagery on a Goldfish cracker, a power meter, a turtle shell, or–more commonly–a piece of toast.

According to a new study published in the journal Cortex, that’s “perfectly normal” because of a phenomenon called “face pareidolia, the illusory perception of non-existent faces” caused by the interaction between the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps produce “expectations” of what an object should look like, and the posterior visual cortex, the part that processes the image.

Researchers at the University of Toronto — in partnership with Chinese universities — performed brain scans on 20 participants and showed them computer-generated pictures made up of indiscernible shapes. Some were told in advance that they were going to see images of a face, while others were told they would see a letter of the English alphabet. In both instances, about 35% saw an illusory image where there wasn’t one.

“Our findings suggest that it’s common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face,” the study’s lead researcher Kang Lee of the University of Toronto’s Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study said in a statement.

The CBC reports that Lee also said people who see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in food or other objects may see them because religious beliefs can dramatically impact how they want to see the way life works.

New York University researchers Ana Gantman and Jay Van Bavel recently discussed similar findings (available online) in an April New York Times editorial. In a few experiments, they “flashed strings of letters” across a computer screen and asked participants whether they could see a word. Some of the words shown contained “moral content (virtue,steal, God) and others did not (virtual, steel, pet).”

They “found that participants correctly identified strings of letters as words more often when they formed moral words (69 percent accuracy) than when they formed nonmoral words (65 percent accuracy),” and have dubbed this phenomenon the “moral pop-out effect” — comparing it to the experience of food seeming especially pronounced to people who are hungry.

TIME Business

Clothing Brand Apologizes for Mother’s Day Ad of a Woman Poking Holes in Condoms

This is not how you should get pregnant.

Spanish clothing company Desigual is catching flak for releasing a TV ad featuring a woman hoping to get pregnant by poking holes in her condoms, pegged to Mother’s Day in Spain, which was on May 4.

In the original version of the spot, a woman stands in front of a mirror and stuffs a cushion up her dress to admire her would-be pregnant stomach, then coyly plays with a pin before poking it through a green pack of condoms:

A copy uploaded by YouTube user jotaTVQ has started going viral, racking up more than 1.7 million views by late afternoon Tuesday.

The campaign has caused outrage on the Internet, with some calling it “wildly offensive” and others pointing out that it endorses dishonest and dangerous behavior.

In an updated blog post in Spanish, Desigual apologized for offending viewers, and stated that its intention was to produce a humorous spot. It has released another version with the controversial pin-pricking edited out.

Spain is currently poised to vote on a strict abortion ban, except in instances of rape or a threat to the health of the mother. Pro-choice activists even set up a fake pop-up “abortion travel agency” in Madrid last month.

TIME viral

This Exists: There’s a Draft for Prom Dates

Yet another high school popularity contest.

The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft starts this week, but the prom date draft is already well under way at a southern California high school.

Male students at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., choose their prom dates through a draft, and the results have been shared on Twitter, along with a rulebook for the exercise, the Orange County Register reports: “One tweet posted by the senior class Twitter account joked the day before Thursday’s draft that ‘Many drafters on the prowl tomorrow for #freeagents so dress nice ladies.'”

The newspaper says parents and administrators are concerned that the draft, which is not an official school function, objectifies women.

It’s the latest prom date ask to go viral, from popping the question in a note that looks like an acceptance letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to a reenactment of the iconic LIFE photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in the middle of Times Square on V-J Day.

LIST: Here Are The 10 Best “Promposals”

TIME animals

WATCH: Dog and Disabled Kitten Play Like Best Friends

They seem to get along purrfectly.

The latest animal friendship to go viral is one between an Australian cattle dog named Max and a kitten named Ralphee that wobbles because of a neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), which is caused by a cerebellum that is not completely developed. Watch the animals walk around in circles together — the dog seems to follow the cat everywhere — in a video produced by Wakaleo, which now boasts more than 1 million views on YouTube.

WATCH: This Disabled Piglet Named Leon Trotsky Gets High Marx For His Bravery

WATCH: How Internet Celebrity Lil Bub Lives with Her Bone Condition

TIME viral

Video About Social Media Ruining Our Lives Goes Viral Thanks to Social Media

Everything in moderation, people

Look Up, a short film about how social media is making people less social by London writer Gary Turk, has been taking the Internet by storm since it was uploaded to YouTube on April 25, racking up more than 13.6 million views.

However, there is something ironic about watching a video about the pitfalls of social networks on a social network, not to mention the fact that a social network is responsible for making this video as popular as it is. If everyone just logged off at the same time, that would probably be more effective.

WATCH: Viral Video Urges Us To Take a Hard Look at Our Phone Addictions

MORE: This Is Your Brain on Facebook

TIME Food & Drink

Baskin-Robbins’ New ‘Piece Cake’ Is Four Different Ice Cream Cakes in One


Here's the scoop on the ice cream chain's attempt to appeal to families and people hosting parties — an ice cream cake split into four different flavors: cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, pralines and cream, and strawberry

After launching its first Greek frozen yogurt flavor last week, Baskin-Robbins unveils a new ice cream cake Monday called the Piece Cake, made up of four different ice cream cakes for people hosting friends and family who cannot agree on just one ice cream flavor for dessert.

The four types in the six-inch round ice cream cake are:

  • OREO® Cookies ‘n Cream with chocolate cake
  • Mint Chocolate Chip with chocolate cake
  • Pralines ‘n Cream with yellow cake
  • Very Berry Strawberry with yellow cake.

The design, which is supposed to make the cake “easier to eat and easier to share,” has been tested in South Korea and in select stores in the U.S. for the past few years before debuting across the country today. “It comes in quarters, so it’s very easy if you don’t finish it to wrap it back up and stick it in your freezer,” says Bill Mitchell, President, Baskin-Robbins U.S. and Canada, and Baskin-Robbins & Dunkin’ Donuts China, Japan and Korea.

The company also hopes the new ice cream cake will draw customers to its new website for ordering ice cream cakes, which as Wall Street Journal reports, is a way to keep up with other major food chains that have or are testing mobile payment apps and “help its burgeoning turnaround, after a decade of store closures and strained relations with franchisees.”

Compared to the elaborate ice cream cakes on the specialty shop’s menu, like the one in the shape of a Thanksgiving turkey and the one that says “Over the Hill” above a R.I.P. tombstone, the Piece Cake looks pretty simple. But the four-in-one flavors concept is similar to the three-in-one flavors line “Cores” that Ben & Jerry’s debuted in February, which boasts two different flavors and then a fudge, caramel or raspberry jam section in the center. And arguably, the idea of big ice cream brands offering products that have several flavors in one could be a sign of the popularity of self-serve frozen dessert cafés where customers can sample as many different kinds of “FroYo” and toppings as they can fit in a cup.

The next new ice cream flavor that Baskin-Robbins hopes will wow customers: State Fair Fried Dough, cinnamon caramel-flavored ice cream with funnel cake pieces and a fried dough ribbon, available in stores starting in July.

TIME Appreciation

Here’s a Little Girl Wearing Iconic Met Gala Gowns Made Out of Paper

Vogue magazine collaborated with the mother-daughter duo on Instagram that makes paper dresses together.

In February, NewsFeed introduced you to the Instagram feed @2sisters_angie, a fun mother-daughter bonding project by Cincinnati photographer Angie Keiser and her four-year-old daughter in which they make intricate dresses out of gift bags, wrapping paper, tissue paper and construction paper—all without a sewing machine!

Now, in the walk-up to Monday’s annual gala hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Vogue has teamed up with Keiser and her four-year-old daughter to recreate iconic dresses that stars have donned for the event in recent years, such as:

The tartan Alexander McQueen getup that Sarah Jessica Parker wore to the 2006 ‘AngloMania’ Costume Institute gala.

The McQueen gown that Florence Welch wore at the 2012 ‘Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations’ Costume Institute gala.

The Oscar de la Renta dress that Lauren Santo Domingo wore at the 2012 gala.

The Dolce Gabbana tux with puffed sleeves that Rihanna wore at the 2009 “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion” Costume Institute gala.

TIME nation

Watch a Street Collapse Swallow an Entire Block of Cars in Baltimore

No one was killed or injured

There was a harrowing scene in Baltimore Wednesday as a residential street collapsed. Cars slid onto railroad tracks, and several homes in the neighborhood had to be evacuated. There were no fatalities or injuries, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings said that afternoon.

Heavy rains have swept across Maryland this week, and residents told WJZ-13 that they were relieved that children were not walking across the street at the time because the elementary school was closed that day. Jim Zitzer, a retired engineer who lives in the area, told The Baltimore Sun, “My wife and I haven’t been parking on that side of the street for years because we knew it was going to happen.”

WATCH: Sinkhole Swallows Smart Car

WATCH: Massive Sinkhole in Chicago Swallows 3 Cars

TIME celebrity

WATCH: Brian Williams Raps Ludacris’ ‘Rollout’

Correction Appended, May 2, 2014

In a viral video produced by Porter HouseMedia, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams is “rapping” Ludacris’ “Rollout (My Business).” The super-cut is a response to the latest segment in the Tonight Show‘s viral video series in which the broadcast journalist was made to look like he “rapped” Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.” In a recent interview with Fallon, the anchor requested more input in the song selection of this viral video series, saying, “I would like some pride of authorship … Any Luda would be great. I’ll do ‘Rollout.'”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the group that put together this video. It is Porter HouseMedia.

WATCH: Brian Williams Raps Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”

WATCH: Brian Williams Raps “Gin and Juice” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

WATCH: Brian Williams Raps Snoop Dogg’s “Nuthin’ But a G Thang”

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