CLOSE

mental_floss College Weekend

So, Jason and Mangesh turned mental_floss over to me for the weekend. Yikes. I'm not sure what they were thinking. Don't worry, guys, I'll have 'er back safe and sound Sunday night"¦ mostly. I mean, a few bumps and bruises isn't really a big deal, right?

Nah, the floss is in good hands, and I don't mean mine. We have some great stories lined up for you from college students across the country (although international submissions are definitely encouraged). Here's a little sneak preview of what you can expect to find over the next couple of days:
tunnel32.jpg
"¢ If you've ever wondered if there is a real Necronomicon and where it might be located, you'll want to check out Marissa Minna Lee's story about urban spelunking. She doesn't exactly answer that question, but she does present a pretty interesting theory about it. Plus, she shows us how to turn an entire building into R2D2 and offers up some rather interesting pictures of the steam tunnels at UCLA (which she may or may not have taken herself"¦ shhh).

"¢ You might be surprised to know that more than 60 percent of students participated in marching band during their high school days. OK, I totally made that statistic up. But if you were a band geek (I was), you're in good company. Steven Clontz from Auburn exposes four celebrities who were band geeks before they became famous for other reasons. What, there's no glory in being first chair clarinet?

"¢ As a student, Katie Kelly gets to gaze out at Princeton's scenic Lake Carnegie every day, donated by Andrew Carnegie in 1906. While Princeton apparently preferred donations of the monetary sort, a lake is by far not the strangest thing to be donated to a school. Katie fills us in on donations ranging from a second floor men's bathroom to circus animal corpses.

"¢ If you thought sitting through the Lord of the Rings trilogy or all of the Star Wars movies back-to-back (to back-to-back-to-back-to-back) makes for a long session on your couch, wait 'til you see what Andy Luttrell from Eastern Illinois University has found. These movies make 11 hours of Elijah Wood and Sean Astin look like child's play.

"¢ Unless you've been living in a hole since 1981, you undoubtedly are familiar with Mario. But where did Mario come from? For that matter, where did Donkey Kong come from? And why is a gorilla named "Donkey"? Nick Cannon from Elon University answers all of your burning questions.

"¢ Admittedly I am not a science buff by any means, but I had no idea that hypothermia can be a good thing in some instances. Colgate student Cassandra Galante explains why that is and makes sense out of three other scientific breakthroughs that are going on right under our noses.

"¢ There's something inherently creepy, intriguing and mysterious about entire populations of people that disappear without a trace"¦ it probably makes us wonder if that could ever happen to us. Nathan Johnson from the University of Wisconsin Parkside walks us through four civilizations that just completely disappeared "“ be prepared to get goosebumps.

"¢ In addition to being our resident art historian, Andréa Fernandes knows her architecture too. She takes us on a tour of colleges that have distinguishing buildings or other characteristics that make them stand out from the rest. She passed up Iowa State, but I'll forgive her for that one.

"¢ We also have a quiz or two up our sleeves. If you're interested in submitting a story for the next College Weekend, we'll be posting details tomorrow.

See you guys this weekend! Hey, Jason and Mangesh, is anything in the fridge off-limits? And do you guys get cable? Is it cool if I have a few friends over?

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
iStock
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NASA/JPL-Caltech
arrow
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios