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Bye-bye Bergman, arrivederci Antonioni

Attention legendary auteurs of world cinema: please stop dying! In the past two days, we've lost two of the best -- Swedish director Ingmar "Gloomy Gus" Bergman and Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni -- and if death keeps swinging his cinema scythe at this rate, we'll be down to the likes of Spielberg in a week or two. While both were highly respected filmmakers in their own right, Bergman was undoubtedly the giant of the two. American filmmaker Paul Schrader (he wrote Taxi Driver) said of his passing, "It's impossible for anyone of my generation not to have been influenced by Bergman." High praise indeed, and not far from the mark: you see his trademark all over today's movies, but perhaps nowhere more clearly, I will argue, than in dream sequences.

Everybody loves a good dream sequence, and Bergman was a master of them, playing with everything sound design to editing and music (or creepy lack thereof) to create something so uncanny, it could only be a dream. He perfected it in his masterpiece, Wild Strawberries, when the elderly professor dreams -- what else -- of his inevitable death:

If the uncannny dream sequence was one of Bergman's hallmarks, it's everywhere now. Roman Polanski's wonderful dream scenes from Rosemary's Baby are a perfect example (wish I could post them here, but YouTube doesn't have 'em): sound and image disconnect just enough to make the dreams seem almost but not quite real, and thus, super-creepy. (Check out our run-down of the uncanny valley phenomenon, which looks at why not-quite-human robots and clones are so darn creepy.)

Another great example of Bergman's dreams are played out (or rather, were) every few weeks on The Sopranos; Tony's dreams seem exported directly from the Swedish art cinema. Remember when he was in that coma, hovering between life and death, trapped in the dream purgatory of an Orange County hotel, a lighthouse shining endlessly out his window? Sooooo Bergman. (Again, wish I had a clip!)

David Lynch could never be called derivative, but watching Eraserhead feels like you're watching a feature-length version of one of Bergman's dream sequences. The whole darn thing is uncanny. I finally found a clip that feels appropriately illustrative of my point, so I'm going to post it, but viewer beware, not only is it super creepy, but Eraserhead's head flies off about halfway through, and fake as it looks, it's definitely grotesque. The first four minutes are really all you need to see, anyway:

When Schrader says that everybody is influenced by Bergman, he means everybody: even, to some small and silly degree, my friends and I in high school. We used to make videos on the weekends -- one-off, extemporized, edited-in-camera, bad acting and the rest -- and we called this one, quite simply, "Art Film." (In retrospect, not so sure about that claim, but hey, we were young and pretentious.) It's not a dream, but it is weird and black-and-white. Special bonus: stars two current floss bloggers!

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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