With ‘Turkey Day’ on the way it’s important to discuss the ever popular myth that turkey makes you sleepy!
For the past few decades, we’ve blamed post-Thanksgiving drowsiness on tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey meat. Is this really fair or should we be pointing our fingers somewhere else? Perhaps somewhere closer to our empty plates and full bellies? Tryptophan indeed is linked to drowsiness – that’s no myth. It’s a biochemical precursor to serotonin, which has a calming effect on the brain and body. But to put an ordinarily awake person into a state of slumber it would generally have to be consumed on an empty stomach, in combination with little no other protein (which limits the absorption of tryptophan by the body), and in amounts larger than are typically gobbled up during a holiday feast. L-tryptophan is also present in chocolate, some fruits, dairy, red meat and eggs. But we as a society don’t associate those food items with drowsiness. However, tryptophan is almost certainly not the cause of the Turkey Day food coma. The real culprit? It’s probably a combination of your body working hard to digest a large meal and a fervent desire to put off doing the dishes!
As the September Equinox approaches it is important to understand how the equinoxes were discovered and how to prepare for the astronomical event.
Our human ancestors spent much more time outdoors than humans now a days. They learned to track the patterns of the sun and eventually used it to tell time and the seasons. They built elaborate observatories in order to track the sun’s progress throughout the year.
Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but instead is tilted on its axis by 23 1/2 degrees, Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. We have an equinox in the spring and fall, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis and Earth’s orbit around the sun combine in such a way that the axis is inclined neither away from nor toward the sun. Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally now. Night and day are approximately equal in length.
So how do we prepare for this astronomical event, on the day of the autumnal equinox, at sunrise/sunset, go outside to your yard or other favorite site for watching the sky and you will be able to decipher the cardinal directions. The sun will rise at due East and set at due West! If it is a clear morning/evening, be prepared for some amazing views as well!
The 2014 September equinox occurs on September 22, at 9:29 p.m. in the central United States.