SNEAK PEEK #1: The Truth about Chickens

Our ninth annual 10 Issue hits newsstands next Tuesday, and to celebrate we'll be previewing it here all week. This year's 10 issue includes a whole range of wonderful lists from 10 ways Video Games will Change Your Life (they can make you rich and help you find love!), to 10 Things You Definitely Don't Know about Afghanistan, to 10 Ridiculous Feats of Literature. Plus, we've got stories on outsider artists, the wild wild west, and so much more.

Here's a sneak peek at one of my favorite stories from the issue by author Megan Wilde: 10 Provocative Questions about Chickens... Answered!

How do I hypnotize a chicken?

Screen shot 2010-02-24 at 2.48.04 AMThe chicken mind is easy to control, and chicken handlers have found several ways of hypnotizing chickens. Three methods known to make a chicken very, very sleepy are: 1) holding a chicken's head under its wing and gently rocking its body, 2) holding a chicken upside down and wiggling a finger in circles around its beak, and 3) staring intently into a chickens' eyes. Chickens will stay spellbound for several minutes, or even hours, until a loud noise snaps them out of their trance. Scientists think this state is a form of tonic immobility, a defense mechanism in which animals "play dead" in order to shake off a predator. Hypnotized chickens can so resemble inanimate objects that Vice President Al Gore recalled using them as paperweights and doorstops during his childhood days on the farm.

I've heard roosters don't have penises. Is that true?

For all our talk of the birds and the bees, this answer somehow tends to get glossed over. It's true that roosters don't actually have penises. Instead, a rooster's reproductive organs are neatly packed inside its cloacal vent. When he's ready to mate, the rooster grabs hold of a hen's neck and jumps on her back. When their vents touch in what's called a cloacal kiss, the rooster deposits sperm into the hen. Hens release about one egg a a day, and one mating can fertilize her eggs for up to a week. Even if there isn't a rooster around, however, hens will still lay eggs.

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Of course, that just scratches the surface! We also cover whether chickens like the taste of chicken, whether chickens are magical (they are in some cultures) and what exactly is a gizzard. For the rest of the story, pick up a magazine on newsstands this Tuesday. Or better yet, pick up a subscription and a t-shirt when you order the magazine right here.

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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