Is There a Scientific Explanation for the Impulse to Picnic?

Do we all stand around barbecues out of some innate craving for seared meat in a cave?

Picnics were once fashionable social events, where guests brought elaborate potluck dishes to share. In the mid-19th century, they spawned a sub-genre of American landscape painting: the "picnic pastoral." They've since evolved into informal meals eaten outside and they're a sure sign of summer.

But is there a biological reason we eat outside? Do we all stand around barbecues out of some innate craving for seared meat in a cave? Probably not. As Annalisa Barbieri writes in More Intelligent Life, the novelty of al fresco dining hinges on our previous experiences, so our impulse to eat in the great outdoors may have more to do with nurture than nature. One researcher, Herbert L. Meiselman, told her:

"I think food tastes the same whether eaten inside or out. But I think your appreciation of it is different. It’s about expectation—eating outdoors is idealised—and anticipation. For example, someone going to a fancy restaurant expects to enjoy their dinner, so they probably will enjoy it."


Others have linked outdoor dining areas in schools with improved test scores, as Richard Louv writes in The Nature Principle. So, as whimsical as it might sound, if we're serious about addressing the problems associated with fast food and cupholder cuisine, a culture of outdoor dining might be a good place to start. The gingham, I'm guessing, is still totally optional.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user foxandfeathers

via WFMZ / YouTube

John Perez was acquitted on Friday, February 21, for charges stemming from an altercation with Allentown, Pennsylvania police that was caught on video.

Footage from September 2018 shows an officer pushing Perez to the ground. After Perez got to his feel, multiple officers kicked and punched him in an attempt to get him back on the ground.

Perez claims he was responding to insults hurled at him by the officers. The police say that Perez was picking a fight. The altercation left Perez with a broken nose, scrapes, swelling, and bruises from his hips to his shoulder.

Keep Reading
via Affinity Magazine / Twitter

Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape in the third degree and criminal sexual acts in the first degree in New York City.

The jury was unanimous in its convictions as well as two not-guilty verdicts on predatory sexual assault charges involving actress Annabella Sciorra.

The Miramax co-founder may spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.

Keep Reading
via Wallace and Gromit

Most of the animation you see these days is done by computers. It seems that we see fewer and fewer films made with stop-motion animation, a time-consuming art where objects are manipulated and photographed 24 times per second to create the illusion of motion.

Keep Reading