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5 Ideas for Thanksgiving Table Talk

Worried about Thanksgiving spiraling into a political argument with family and friends? Here are five non-election table topics based on UT research. 

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Worried about Thanksgiving spiraling into a political argument with family and friends? Avoid the squabbles by weaving into the conversation some world-changing research, courtesy of UT Austin. Here are five non-election topics for the Thanksgiving table that will help steer clear of polarizing political conversations. 

1.  Is there life on Mars?


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Texas researchers may have hit the bulls-eye with this one. Based on the discovery of a strangely shaped depression on Mars, our UT geoscientists think it may be the perfect place to look for signs of life on the Red Planet. This is because the funnel-shaped structure looks like the ancient ‘ice cauldrons’ we have on Earth that formed when volcanoes erupted under the ice sheets of Iceland and Greenland. If the same process occurred on Mars, it could have left behind a warm, nutrient-rich environment, perfect for forming life.

2.  Should we spank our kids?

Not according to Texas research that found the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.

Texas researchers also explored the question “Should teachers spank our kids?” Research showed corporal punishment was ineffective, harmful to students and unevenly distributed to children based on their race, gender and ability.

3.  Why give thanks?

The thanks that goes into Thanksgiving is often lost in the bombardment of football fandom and holiday shopping ads. Art Markman, professor of psychology, reminds us why expressing gratitude is good for your psychological health. Giving thanks makes you feel more connected to others and less lonely. It also helps to eliminate stress.

4.  Are we all created equally?



According to UT research, the majority of young women and men prefer egalitarian relationships in which work and family responsibilities are shared equally between partners. But there are a few structural features in the workplace that make gender equality in relationships difficult to achieve. The lack of flexible scheduling, parental leave, and subsidized child care often makes egalitarian relationship ideal but unattainable.

5.  What did dinosaurs sound like?

Syrinx 2

Nicole Fuller/Sayo Art for UT Austin.

Forget what you heard in Jurassic Park — we don’t really know what the prehistoric world sounded like. But our scientists’ discovery of the Mesozoic-era vocal organ—called a syrinx—suggest noises heard during the dinosaur era may have sounded a lot like ducks and geese.