Thanksgiving dinners can be a minefield for pleasant familial discourse. Let’s face it: putting a large cross-section of ages and opinionated personalities into a cramped arena that also features alcohol and a limited amount of food is a great recipe for disaster.
With that in mind, here are 15 easily-digestible, non-volatile stories you can use to break tension and fill dead air while also informing and entertaining everyone at your holiday table.
- In the mid-1800s in France, a single marshmallow was a special, expensive standalone treat available only at the most luxurious confectioners. So how did this sweet fluff become commonplace and eventually an ingredient in one beloved Thanksgiving dish? Would you believe it all came down to a man from Rochester and an advertising campaign?
- Whether you’re into sports or not, Thanksgiving means football. And here’s a good gauntlet you can throw down, even with the most passionate pigskin fans: teams should (almost) always go for it on 4th-and-1. Bring this statistical evidence and spike it on the living room floor like you’re celebrating in the end zone.
- Nobody wants reckless drivers to threaten pedestrians in a crosswalk but at the same time, nobody likes speed bumps. When faced with this conundrum, a small Icelandic fishing town turned to a beautiful optical illusion.
- On October 19, for the first time in history, a telescope spotted an object in space that most scientists believe did not originate in our Solar System – the first interstellar object ever identified. Where is it from? What’s it made of? Is it a UFO? A relative of Superman? Actually, it’s a very unusual asteroid and it’s been traveling for hundreds of millions of years.
- A few fun facts about America’s favorite cereal: did you know that Honey Nut Cheerios are NINE times sweeter than regular Cheerios? And did you know that after a public pledge to cut the amount of sugar in the cereal, General Mills didn’t actually do so? Go inside the box and learn a whole lot more those sweet little O’s.
- Much is constantly made of the salaries paid to modern professional athletes but with historical context, none of them (not even soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who reportedly earned $93 million in 2017) come close to matching the money made by a charioteer from ancient Rome named Gaius Appuleius Diocles.
- A new data set from Netflix reveals a lot of interesting trends about its users’ viewing habits. For example, how many Americans watch Netflix while on-the-go? How many were embarrassed by what they were watching? How many cried? Armed with these numbers, nobody can judge you for bingeing on your phone during the holiday weekend.
- Scientists in South Korea recently made a breakthrough in the ongoing battle with hair loss. And unlike existing popular treatments, this new biochemical substance can actually regenerate hair follicles – an actual cure, rather than a treatment of symptoms. Basically, think of it as a mutant power to battle baldness. (Nobody tell Professor X.)
- At the risk of sounding like an ignorant human, have you ever wondered how animals can possibly recognize each other when they all (essentially) look exactly the same? Several biologists, psychologists, and environmental scientists weigh in to help us understand.
- This time of year usually means multiple trips to the movie theater and it feels irresponsible to not share this quick breakdown of what’s actually in the “butter” they put on your popcorn at the concession stand.
- All dogs are good, of course. And some are especially good, in their ability to sniff out cancer, bombs, or illegal drugs. But now, those powerful noses are being utilized to locate invasive plants and weeds everywhere from Montana to Russia.
- A newly published scientific paper hypothesizes that the planet-killing asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was only so effectively devastating because of the specific location at which it made impact. Who knows, had it struck the arctic, we might all have domesticated mini-triceratops living in our homes.
- We may not be able to trust babies around electrical sockets but a recent study from MIT has revealed that infants are actually capable of learning that hard work pays off, if they observe adults struggling to accomplish a task. A good reason to lead by example when around any tiny relatives this week.
- Fruit flies are often mocked for being dumb and simple-minded but in a truly delicious bit of irony, it turns out that their tiny little brains are exceptionally elegant and efficient. Not only that but they are now serving as an inspiration for technology companies struggling to solve a longstanding problem when it comes to quickly searching through massive amounts of data.
- Once upon a time, a blue light special referred to a great deal at KMart but new research has revealed that a blue light is special for a much more important reason: it can reduce stress! This might be a good tip to keep in your back pocket for private moments, following Thursday’s gatherings.