This week in odd scientific studies: Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Warwick found that the Danish may be happier than other people thanks to their genetics.
Denmark regularly leads polls of the world's happiest countries, the study authors said, and they wanted to look into why, exactly, this was true. Last year's World Happiness Report ranked Denmark as the happiest nation on Earth, and researchers found that people who have Danish ancestry are more likely to have a positive life outlook.
Researchers at the university's Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) looked at data from 131 countries and found that nations genetically closer to Danes had happier residents. The research, published in a working paper by the German economic research institute IZA in its Discussion Paper series, found that Danish birth was correlated with a gene that influences serotonin — a mood chemical — levels in the brain. The greater a nation's genetic distance was from Denmark, the lower that nation's reported well-being was.
When compared with people from other countries, the Danish were less likely to possess a short version of the gene, which has been linked to lower levels of life satisfaction. While the researchers controlled for personal income and religion, those with Danish genetics were still found to be happier.
"It seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels," Andrew Oswald, one of the researchers behind the project, said in a statement. "More research in this area is now needed and economists and social scientists may need to pay greater heed to the role of genetic variation across national populations." Meghan DeMaria
Garrett Swasey, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer who died Friday after responding to a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic, had also been a champion figure skater, a university spokesman told The Denver Post.
— NPR (@NPR) November 28, 2015
Swasey, 44, and his partner won the junior dance competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1992, according to a Baltimore Sun article from that time. He had moved to Colorado Springs from Melrose, Massachusetts, to train in the 1980s, The Boston Globe reports.
A six-year veteran at the campus police department, Swasey also served as a co-pastor of a reformed Protestant church. He was married with two children.
"He was a great dad," David Swasey, the officer's father, told The Globe. "I mean, a super dad. Everybody in the police department loved him. Anybody who ever met him loved him. He was a great guy, a great person." Julie Kliegman
Gunman reportedly injures several police officers and civilians in attack near Colorado Planned Parenthood
Update 7:28 p.m.: After an hours-long standoff, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said the gunman involved in the Planned Parenthood shooting attacks is in custody. Police say that at least 11 people, including five police officers and civilians, have been transported to hospitals. It is unclear if there were any fatalities in the attacks.
Update 7:05 p.m.: Authorities are evacuating people from the Planned Parenthood building. Meanwhile, police say the standoff with the gunman, who reportedly brought "unspecified items" with him into the building, is ongoing.
Update 4:54 p.m.: After the most recent exchange of gunfire, a fourth officer was found wounded inside a Planned Parenthood clinic. In addition to the officers, police now say that civilians have been injured, and seven people have been transported to the hospital, although it is unclear if that number includes the police officers. While police previously said that the gunman involved was contained, they later confirmed they were still looking for the person.
On Friday afternoon, Colorado Springs police officers responded to reports of an active shooter at a Planned Parenthood clinic, reports the Associated Press, initially notifying residents and the media via Twitter to stay away from the scene because it was not secure. The gunman allegedly barricaded himself inside the building, reportedly injuring at least three police officers before he was eventually contained. Stephanie Talmadge
Only in America: Columbia student claims to be traumatized from the university's white-centric curriculum
A Columbia University student claims that she's been deeply traumatized by reading too many books about white people. Nissy Aya told a university panel that the school's required "core" courses forced her to look at history "through the lens of these powerful, white men." As a result of feeling "no power or agency as a black woman," she said, it will take her six years to graduate.
This weekend, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson will make a surprise trip to Jordan to tour a Syrian refugee camp, according to the New York Times. His advisers have framed the trip as an effort on Carson's behalf to improve his understanding of the refugee crisis, which has recently come under harsh criticism.
Prepared with Beanie Babies and soccer balls to distribute to the refugee children, Carson's trip will include a tour of the Azraq hospital and clinic near Amman. "I want to hear some of their stories," said Carson. "I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression."
Prior to the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, Carson held strong leads in some state and national polls, but his support has waned as national security concerns mount and the neurosurgeon has come under intense fire for his lack of foreign policy knowledge. Last week, Carson's senior foreign policy adviser told the Times in an interview that "nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East." Stephanie Talmadge
America's second-largest toymaker is "reaching out to that last frontier of consumers: seniors," says Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. Hasbro's new Joy for All Companion Pets ($100) promise to provide Grandma or Granddad with hours of virtual companionship in a small, battery-operated package. Three cat models are already available, and each uses motion sensors and light sensors to help it respond to being petted and hugged. You can hear and feel it purring, and it'll even roll over if petted long enough. The concept "might sound a little depressing," but even a lonely septuagenarian can appreciate the appeal of a pet that demands only affection — "not feeding or bathroom breaks."
Ah, Black Friday: the post-Thanksgiving feast day of digestion that is perhaps best known for turning American shoppers into monsters, as they abandon their visiting families to camp outside big box retailers and compete for the best holiday deals. While we all know the basics of the retail-frenzied occasion, many may be surprised to learn the long history of how the biggest shopping day of the year came into its name:
- Since the early 1900s, the post-Thanksgiving weekend has signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping rush, with New York City retailers fully embracing the marketing opportunity in the '20s by releasing Christmas ads and staging events, including a little parade you may have heard of — Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — which debuted in 1924.
- In 1939, the holiday had already become so important to merchants that President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a week earlier to extend the buying period.
- By the '50s, factory managers began referring to the day as "Black Friday" due to the rampant failure of employees to show up for work.
- Philadelphia's police officers during the '60s used the term to refer to the swaths of jaywalking shoppers who flooded the city's downtown.
- While the term continued to grow in popularity to connote the shopping frenzy, it wasn't until the 80's that the name took on a positive connotation, as shop managers pointed out that the holiday rush put "black ink," signaling profits, rather than loss-signaling red ink, on their revenue reports for the first time all year.
There you have it, but with Black Friday's continued encroaching on its Thanksgiving precursor and increasingly violent reputation, perhaps the name will once again revert to its negative origins. Stephanie Talmadge
Only in America: Arabic-speaking men forced by fellow plane passengers to display contents of carry-on
Two men were booted off a Southwest Airlines flight when a paranoid passenger overheard them speaking Arabic. The men were allowed onto the plane after being questioned by police, but were then forced by other passengers to open a small white box they were carrying — which was full of sweets. "So I shared my baklava with them," said one of the men.