How to sound smart around the Christmas table

A woman pulls a Christmas cracker during dinner on December 25, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cracker-pulling: You may lose this, but don't have to lose arguments too

It's that time of year. The gifts are wrapped, the turkey is stuffed and your opinionated relatives are on their way round for dinner.

In fairness, some families will get along swimmingly this Christmas season. But some may not - any issue may spill into a heated argument.

Here at the BBC, we have put together this brief guide to help you win - or just to oil the wheels of debate as a starter.

Good luck - and remember: you won't need to see your less likeable relatives for another year.

Could Donald Trump become US president?

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, we asked that very question to five political experts.

The general view is that he may win the nomination for the Republican leadership for next year's US election - but that he wouldn't win the presidential race.

One view says the businessman "has clearly tapped a noxious nerve among Republican voters insecure about the economy". Another says Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in.

There's another question too: could Trump, criticised for several controversial statements, actually be a Democratic secret agent? Some people seem to think so.

Read more: Could Trump win?

Should we do more to help migrants?

Image copyright AP

The UK, for example, says it will take in 20,000 migrants from refugee camps over the next five years (by contrast, Germany looks like it will take in a million new arrivals in 2015).

Downing Street points out it has provided £1bn ($1.49bn) in aid to Syria, with an extra £100m given to charities to help thousands of people displaced by the conflict.

But a group of former judges said in the autumn that the UK should be doing much more - pointing out that 75,000 people a year were accepted on to British shores during the Balkan crisis.

Read more: What is Britain doing to help?

Why is it so mild?

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Image caption Mid-December in New York in 2013, mid-December in Washington, 2015

One thing is guaranteed to get people talking - the weather. And, in large parts of the northern hemisphere at least, it has been distinctly unwintery so far.

Why is that? Here in the UK, you can blame warm air from the Azores - but there are plenty of other factors, a particularly strong El Nino weather phenomenon being one of them.

Pacific waters are becoming exceptionally warm, increasing moisture and causing stronger winds than normal.

Read more: Why is it so mild?

Also read: Why New York is a wet and warm wonderland at Christmas

Is there alien life out there?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There is (probably) water on Mars, but is there life?

This year provided plenty of evidence for those who would like to believe in the existence of alien life.

In September, scientists announced they had discovered dark stripes on the surface of Mars, that they think were caused by flowing water.

In theory, it means Mars has the type of atmosphere where life could exist. But the leap to confirming any alien life is a large one.

Then a month later, there was some excitement at the discovery of unusual light patterns created by a distant star, that some took as proof of alien life.

One expert told the BBC there was "a very remote but very compelling possibility" the patterns were caused by an advanced civilisation.

Read more: Five questions about water on Mars

Could eating more than six bananas at once kill you?

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Admittedly, this subject is unlikely to come up at the dinner table. But you never know. So, in case of emergency, we have the answer for you right here.

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