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Is It True What They Say About Guys With Big Feet?

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We’ve all heard it before: The claim that the size of a man’s feet can tell you something about the size of his reproductive organ. Sometimes it’s as vague as "big in the shoes = big in the pants," and sometimes it's as precise as a complex algorithm that can supposedly deduce the subject’s masculine length, in inches, from his shoe size.

For a while, all that the people who claimed these sorts of things and their detractors had to go on was anecdotal evidence. All the “proof” either side had boiled down to, “yeah, well, I used to date a guy who [confirmed/disproved] what you say."

Thankfully, we have urologists, those brave men and women who boldly explore the nether regions of science most of us would never dare tread. In a handful of studies, they’ve searched for empirical evidence of the supposed foot-penis size connection and came up, ahem, a little short.

Let's Go to the Measuring Tape...

In 1993, two Canadian doctors measured the height, foot size and slightly stretched penile length of 63 men. The length of the penis was linked to both height and foot size, but the correlation was pretty weak. The researchers, who won the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize for Statistics for the study, warned that there was no “practical utility” in trying to predict penis size from either of those other measurements.
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In 1999, Korean researchers measured the length and circumference of 655 Korean men’s flaccid penises, as well as the size of their feet, length of their toes and fingers, the sizes of their ears, mouth and even the amount of hair on their heads. They found a weak correlation between the length of the penis and the circumference of the penis (three cheers for being proportional!), but not with any of the other measurements. The circumference was also slightly correlated with height, weight, and the length of the third and first toes (in order of strength), but not enough that the scientists could conclude anything beyond “the size or characteristics of body extremities is not enough to predict the penile size.”
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A year later, Richard Edwards found in the sixth edition of his online "Definitve Penis Size Survey" that there was no correlation between penis size and shoe size, but a strong one between penis size and height. There wasn't a vast difference in those sizes as men got taller, though. (Of course, we also have to keep in mind that all measurements were self-reported by the survey takers, which could color the results.)
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In 2002, a study from the University College Hospitals in London measured penises and feet of 104 men and found no correlation whatsoever. While their results may be the most discouraging to guys who like to talk up their size 16 shoes at the bar, they did have one of the best introductions of all the studies I’ve read in my science writing days: “The penis appears in virtually every aspect of life.”

[Image credit: Flickr user FallenPegasus]

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Food
Brine Time: The Science Behind Salting Your Thanksgiving Turkey
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Alison Marras, Unsplash

At many Thanksgiving tables, the annual roast turkey is just a vehicle for buttery mash and creamy gravy. But for those who prefer their bird be a main course that can stand on its own without accoutrements, brining is an essential prep step—despite the fact that they have to find enough room in their fridges to immerse a 20-pound animal in gallons of salt water for days on end. To legions of brining believers, the resulting moist bird is worth the trouble.

How, exactly, does a salty soak yield juicy meat? And what about all the claims from a contingency of dry brine enthusiasts: Will merely rubbing your bird with salt give better results than a wet plunge? For a look at the science behind each process, we tracked down a couple of experts.

First, it's helpful to know why a cooked turkey might turn out dry to begin with. As David Yanisko, a culinary arts professor at the State University of New York at Cobleskill, tells Mental Floss, "Meat is basically made of bundles of muscle fibers wrapped in more muscle fibers. As they cook, they squeeze together and force moisture out," as if you were wringing a wet sock. Hence the incredibly simple equation: less moisture means more dryness. And since the converse is also true, this is where brining comes in.

Your basic brine consists of salt dissolved in water. How much salt doesn't much matter for the moistening process; its quantity only makes your meat and drippings more or less salty. When you immerse your turkey in brine—Ryan Cox, an animal science professor at the University of Minnesota, quaintly calls it a "pickling cover"—you start a process called diffusion. In diffusion, salt moves from the place of its highest concentration to the place where it's less concentrated: from the brine into the turkey.

Salt is an ionic compound; that is, its sodium molecules have a positive charge and its chloride molecules have a negative charge, but they stick together anyway. As the brine penetrates the bird, those salt molecules meet both positively and negatively charged protein molecules in the meat, causing the meat proteins to scatter. Their rearrangement "makes more space between the muscle fibers," Cox tells Mental Floss. "That gives us a broader, more open sponge for water to move into."

The salt also dissolves some of the proteins, which, according to the book Cook's Science by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, creates "a gel that can hold onto even more water." Juiciness, here we come!

There's a catch, though. Brined turkey may be moist, but it can also taste bland—infusing it with salt water is still introducing, well, water, which is a serious flavor diluter. This is where we cue the dry briners. They claim that using salt without water both adds moisture and enhances flavor: win-win.

Turkey being prepared to cook.
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In dry brining, you rub the surface of the turkey with salt and let it sit in a cold place for a few days. Some salt penetrates the meat as it sits—with both dry and wet brining, Cox says this happens at a rate of about 1 inch per week. But in this process, the salt is effective mostly because of osmosis, and that magic occurs in the oven.

"As the turkey cooks, the [contracting] proteins force the liquid out—what would normally be your pan drippings," Yanisko says. The liquid mixes with the salt, both get absorbed or reabsorbed into the turkey and, just as with wet brining, the salt disperses the proteins to make more room for the liquid. Only, this time the liquid is meat juices instead of water. Moistness and flavor ensue.

Still, Yanisko admits that he personally sticks with wet brining—"It’s tradition!" His recommended ratio of 1-1/2 cups of kosher salt (which has no added iodine to gunk up the taste) to 1 gallon of water gives off pan drippings too salty for gravy, though, so he makes that separately. Cox also prefers wet brining, but he supplements it with the advanced, expert's addition of injecting some of the solution right into the turkey for what he calls "good dispersal." He likes to use 1-1/2 percent of salt per weight of the bird (the ratio of salt to water doesn't matter), which he says won't overpower the delicate turkey flavor.

Both pros also say tossing some sugar into your brine can help balance flavors—but don't bother with other spices. "Salt and sugar are water soluble," Cox says. "Things like pepper are fat soluble so they won't dissolve in water," meaning their taste will be lost.

But no matter which bird or what method you choose, make sure you don't roast past an internal temperature of 165˚F. Because no brine can save an overcooked turkey.

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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