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Why Did M*A*S*H Have A Laugh Track?

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When you think of wartime doctors performing dangerous operations on young soldiers in the middle of a bloody conflict, you usually don't think of laughter. Yet, when you catch a rerun of M*A*S*H on cable, that's exactly what you get. The canned laughter that billows from an unseen audience at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital seems remarkably out of place.

It wasn't just the subject matter that made the choice of using a laugh track questionable. Unlike almost all other comedies of the era, M*A*S*H was filmed in an immersive, fluid manner. That it didn't take place on a stage before a half-circle of cameras is what made the show unique and its laugh track so cringingly awkward.

The reason for its inclusion is rather simple. Studio heads at CBS had never even attempted to produce a comedy without a laugh track. It was a relic from radio days, and the thought of jokes hanging in the air without the affirmation of laughter made no sense to them. Even though M*A*S*H contained a mix of comedy and hard drama, CBS put their foot down.

“I always thought it cheapened the show," said series developer Larry Gelbart. "The network got their way. They were paying for dinner.”

Despite this, the show's producers were able to negotiate some grounds for dropping the laugh track. “Under no circumstances would we ever have canned laughter during an O.R. scene," Gilbert said. "When the doctors were working, it was hard to imagine 300 people were in there laughing at somebody’s guts being sewn up.” They were also able to argue for the removal of laughter altogether for a few episodes: "O.R.," "The Bus," "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?," "The Interview," "Dreams," "Point of View," and "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen." ("The Interview" was filmed in the style of a documentary, so the track's omission was pivotal to selling the concept.)

After season six, the laughter was toned down immensely, and later episodes feature a hushed track that contrasts sharply with the all-out hooting and hollering of the show's early days.

DVDs of M*A*S*H give viewers a fantastic option: The ability to watch the show without a laugh track. It's amazing how much a little silence adds.

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Big Questions
What Are Carbohydrates Used for In Our Bodies?
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What are the carbohydrates used for in our body?

Ray Schilling:

Carbs are varied. There are complex carbohydrates that are absorbed slowly and you hardly get an insulin reaction. On the other end of the spectrum there are refined carbs like sugar, which are rapidly absorbed in the gut and to which the body reacts swiftly with an insulin reaction to lower high blood sugars.

Generally speaking all carbs are broken down into glucose and absorbed in the gut. Glucose is the fuel that is metabolized inside the cells in the mitochondria to give us energy. This is particularly important in the brain, which lives solely by glucose as its energy supply, but our muscles, our heart, our liver, and kidneys are all very rich in mitochondria for the metabolism of glucose.

But there is a dark side to refined carbs that we need to know about: When all our glucose storage spaces in the liver and the muscles are full (glycogen is the storage form of glucose), then the liver starts processing glucose. With our sugar consumption having spiraled upwards in the last 183 years, this surplus sugar metabolism is causing more and more problems.

The liver produces triglycerides from the extra sugar and LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. This causes hardening of the arteries and causes heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

We need to come to our senses and cut out processed foods (which have extra sugar in them), switch to a Mediterranean diet and only consume complex carbs, contained in legumes, vegetables, and fruit. It is also recommendable to cut out starchy foods with a glycemic index of higher than 55 in order to bring our liver metabolism back to normal (normal triglyceride and LDL cholesterol production). This will mean cutting out pasta, potatoes, rice, bread, and muffins.

If you're wondering what kind of recipes you could follow, I have included one week’s worth of meals in this book: A Survivor's Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

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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