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5 More Animals That Romped Through New York

An escaped peacock from New York’s Central Park Zoo found perching on Fifth Avenue window ledges drew attention—and international headlines—from news crews, bird watchers and well wishers last week.

The now-famous cerulean fowl, which eventually returned to the zoo on its own, got us thinking about a handful of other animals that have taken unexpected trips through the Big Apple’s urban wilderness over the years.

Photo credit: ANIMALNewYork

1. Wile E. Coyote’s Lesser-Known Second Cousin, Hal

In 2006, Manhattanites all but reenacted an episode of a Road Runner vs. Coyote cartoon, chasing a one-year-old coyote named Hal around Central Park’s famous ice rink, over the carousel, and through the woods on a two-day urban safari. Hal was eventually shot by a tranquilizer dart and captured, but not before New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was called upon to quell New Yorkers’ fears about the wayward wild dog. “This is New York,” he said at a press conference at the time. “I would suggest that the coyote may have more problems than the rest of us.”

2. Pale Male the Red-Tailed Hawk

Twenty years ago, a red-tailed hawk named Pale Male took up residency on a fancy Fifth Avenue apartment building, drawing the attention of thousands of curious New Yorkers toting telescopes. Denizens of the posh apartment, including Mary Tyler Moore, were less than thrilled about having birdwatchers’ binoculars outside their bedroom windows and decided to remove Pale Male’s nest under cover of night. Little did they know they would be sparking an international incident.

The Audubon Society, bird advocacy groups, and active-duty soldiers in Iraq all came together to demand that the nest be returned. It was, and Pale Male, along with his female mate, returned to their improbable home, where they live today. The famous hawk has since inspired an award-winning documentary—The Legend of Pale Male—three children’s books, and a recurring character on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

3 and 4. Maxine and Queenie: Renegade Bovines

Thelma and Louise? So last century. Maxine and Queenie is more like it. Both are cows that have gone on the lam in Queens and Brooklyn, narrowly escaping the fate of their cow-cohorts at a nearby slaughterhouse.

Both Maxine and Queenie were found stampeding through urban streets, tranquilized, and delivered to a farm animal sanctuary in upstate New York, where they joined dozens of other cows, sheep and goats, most of whom also made a break from the herd at the slaughterhouse. Animal control officials in New York say they usually get calls about two or three escaped farm animals per year, but more often they get calls about chickens who’ve snuck out the back door during Jewish Kapparot ceremonies—a ritual in which a chicken is sacrificed before Yom Kippur—or been dyed pastel colors during Easter. Mr. Pickles, a rooster rescued from the hard-knock streets of Brooklyn, now lives with Maxine and Queenie in upstate New York.

5. A Snake on the Loose

Just a few months ago, New Yorkers flew into a tizzy when a banded cobra escaped from its cage in the Bronx Zoo. A fake Twitter account sprang up, cracking every snake-related joke you can think of (when will the 2006 cinematic masterpiece Snakes on a Plane stop being hilarious?). The two-foot-long teenage cobra was discovered two days after its alleged jailbreak, curled in a ball in a cool corner of the zoo’s reptile house, but the fake tweets continue.

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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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