Science and Thanksgiving

Listen 49:15
Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner With All The Sides

Forget D vs. R when politics comes up at the dinner table (Mizina/Big Stock Photo)

Thanksgiving usually means we’re going big — way over the top. Twice as much turkey as we could possibly eat; more side dishes than the table can hold; and, of course, so much pie. We travel great distances to see our families and friends — we hug, we eat, we argue, and we nap. On this special episode of The Pulse, we explore the traditions and rituals of Thanksgiving through a scientific lens. We hear stories about the neuroscience of gratitude — and how it can help us through grief; the environmental impact of our holiday feasts, from cranberries to food waste; and ask whether turkeys are really as dumb as they look.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Turkeys have a reputation for being big, dumb birds. But are they? And what does it mean for a bird to be smart anyway? Reporter Alan Yu explores.
  • Jad Sleiman introduces a New Jersey family that does all their food shopping at local dumpsters. They are among a tiny minority of people fighting global food waste. We hear about how this problem affects the environment — and what we can do about it.
  • We chat with Yale GI specialist Earl Campbell about what happens inside of our digestive tract when we overeat.
  • Reporter Nina Feldman on her annual Friendsgiving tradition, and why it’s come to mean more than she ever thought it would.

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