It's almost Thanksgiving here the US. Before you tuck into your stuffing, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce, save a little room for a big helping of science. Here are a few of our favorite Thanksgiving science stories from around the Internet, detailing the research behind fattening turkeys, giving thanks, post-holiday shopping, and more:
Discovery News takes a look at what turkeys have for dinner before becoming dinner. Typical feed pellets are made of, among other things, "soybean meal, animal by-products, [and] distillers' grains." But a professor at the University of Missouri has developed "the Missouri Ideal Turkey Diet," carefully designed turkey food that costs 8 to 10 percent less than typical feed pellets while packing the same nutritional punch. Yum.
As you think about what you're thankful for this year, the New York Times offers one more thing to add to your list: the very act of giving thanks is good for you. Even a little bit of gratitude, scientists have found, makes people happier and healthier. If you're thankful for health and happiness already, you've got the start of a nice little feedback cycle there. And if you're not feeling particularly grateful, as you sit sandwiched between arguing relatives and choking down a slice of soggy pie, don't worry: psychologists suggest some practical tips for gratitude beginners.
Let's remember that not everyone enjoys the Thanksgiving bird. In addition to vegetarians, the nation's alektorophobics aren't crazy about poultry, either. A writer to Slate's Dear Prudence advice column details how she can't stand "their fleshy heads, their huge feathery bodies, the noises they make.... I literally startle if I accidentally see a picture of a turkey, never mind the panic that rises in me when I see one in real life." Be kind to your guests, and don't seat the family turkey-hater next to whoever's carving.
A video at the Wall Street Journal asks, "Will My Turkey Dinner Make Me Sleepy?" Answer: yes, though not necessarily because it's turkey. Scientists can't seem to agree on why; the explanations for such postprandial somnolence range from food-induced hormone changes to feeling weighted down by enormous mass of food you somehow managed to ingest.
Come Friday, you may still be stuffed, but retailers nationwide will be salivating over the biggest shopping day of the year. LiveScience details seven tricks stores use to bump up sales on Black Friday, including short-lived discounts, free samples, and alluring scents.
And last year, Emily Anthes investigated of the genomes involved in the traditional Thanksgiving meal. She found, for instance, that turkeys are especially prone to cancer, possibly more than any other known animal.
Image courtesy of Nordelch / Wikimedia Commons