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September 8, 2017

Weekend reads: What’s in your wallet? All sorts of germs, new study finds

Daily Briefing

Ben Palmer's Weekend Reads

Just how dirty is your money? We know coins and cash carry a host of germs, but a new study in PLOS One finds that the scope and range of those microorganisms are worse than suspected. For the study, researchers swabbed $1 bills from New York City and found microorganisms linked to acne and normal skin bacteria, DNA from pets, microbes from mouths, vaginal bacteria, and viruses. But there is some good news: According to experts, money typically isn't moist enough or kept in the temperature conditions needed to foster microbe growth and pose a health risk. Experts said as long as you don't actually lick any cash—and as long you regularly wash your hands—you should be just fine.

Antidepressants are ending up in fish in the Great Lakes. The active ingredients of popular antidepressant drugs, such as Celexa and Prozac, have been found in the brains of fish in the Great Lakes—with potentially problematic results, according to a new study in Environmental Science and Technology. According to the researchers, fish are ingesting the drugs because trace amounts are making their way from sewage systems, through waste treatment facilities, and into the Greater Lakes water. And while the deposits found in the tested fish don't pose health concerns for humans who might consume the fish, prior research indicates antidepressants can alter marine life behavior—including survival tactics and feeding behavior—which could threaten biodiversity, the researchers said. 

Rachel Schulze's Weekend Reads?

Why onions make you cry? To defend themselves. You might already know why onions make you cry—the release of a chemical, called lachrymatory factor—but did you know why onions release the chemical in in the first place? It's a "defense mechanism" for onions, Joanna Klein reports for the New York Times' "Trilobites," that the vegetable uses to shield itself from animals and microbes. And so far there's no easy fix for onion aficionados, Klein writes: While scientists in Japan have developed a tearless onion, it's missing the onion's distinctive taste.

You're not as self-aware as you think. Here's what you can do about that. New research sheds light on what people can do to improve their level of self-awareness—which often isn't as high as we think it is, Elizabeth Bernstein reports for the Wall Street Journal. In the new research, researchers identified seven categories of "self-knowledge," or areas that we need to cultivate to boost self-awareness, including aspirations, fit (what type of environment engages us and makes us feel happy), passion, personality, strengths and weaknesses, the impact we have on others, and values. Bernstein's tips for building self-awareness include: asking the right person for feedback, being specific in your request, watching people's reactions more closely, seeing whether people treat you differently, doing an "audit" of your friends, and creating an imaginary therapist—as in an imaginary friend who gives you honest feedback. 

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