Great news, everybody – science has discovered happy days are here again

We’re not sure whether to laugh or cry this week at the science desk of your friendly neighbourhood Weekender. 

Actually we usually cry more than laugh, but that’s largely down to our sensitive natures and the half-bottle of gin we neck before writing this column. 

Our teary dilemma is rather eloquently revealed this week with a new study by the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont Complex Systems Center. It’s displaying an online, interactive graph they call the Hedonometer, which has been randomly sampling 50 million tweets or so looking for around 10,000 keywords the researchers created. Each keyword is rated from 1 – sad – to 9 – happy – and therefore an average happiness score can be given. 

Guess what? Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the “happiest” days of the year by this measurement, because “happy,” “merry,” and the like were recorded more often. Like, well done guys. Awesome insight there. Next up the University of Vermont hopes to prove that stubbing your toe leads to people saying words such as “ouch,” and “fu-fu-fu-fudge.” 


Four legs good, two burgers bad 

Cardiologists at the American Heart Association have this week reviewed literature that links heart health with pet ownership. Studies show that the relationship between humans and pets can reduce stress levels physiologically as well as help stressful situations as they arise. 

While there’s no measurable difference in the weight of people who own dogs, for example, taking the mutts out for a walk can, of course, lead to more frequent exercise with all the attendant benefits. So adopt today! But do it properly and give them the attention they deserve. Not the words of Weekender – those of science, which is never wrong is it? 

Talking of fatties, Steven Shea, senior author of a paper released by the Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at Oregon Health & Science University, notes that humans are prone to the demands of their circadian system. Specifically, we’re pre-programmed to crave sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evening.  

This is bad because our sugar tolerance is lower then and it’s unlikely we’ll exercise all that much after a big evening meal, so fat can build up. He reckons this energy storage is based on our ancestors’ requirements when food was intermittent at best. Eating a lot late at night helped build up the ability to have fuel to draw on for the next day’s hunt, in other words.  

We hope ol’ Steve is prepared for the inevitable lauding he’s gonna get from Paleo diet-type faddists. We’re just saying. 

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