Tag Archives: Popular Science

Consequences Of Going Sleepless Even If You’re Not In Seattle*

Sleep. Ah, blessed, wonderful, energizing sleep. How I love you so.

And, yet, sleep is something I tend to try and avoid as much as possible. I’ll stay up as late as possible before heading to bed. Once there, I will sleep as little as I can possibly get away with before forcing myself awake and starting another sleep-deprived day.

Back in my day, when I worked at my first newspaper, my normal shift didn’t start until 10 am. Which meant I could stay up until 1 am, sleep eight hours and still be in on time to start work.

That was, and I use this word with complete certainty that it is the right word for the job, beautiful.

Of course, things changed and, for the most part, I started changing with them. I still remember the horror with which I faced the night before the first day of Sarcasmo’s high school. He had to catch a bus at 6:30 am, which meant we had to be up before 6 and getting ready to head out.

I hit the hay before 11 pm for the first time in a long, long time. And I never really did acclimate to the whole early-to-bed-early-to-rise thing. Benjamin Franklin was a great dude for the most part, but he had some serious issues when it came to sleep.

So, I tend to be on the lookout for information about sleep. I like to make sure that, when I sleep too little, I am at least sleeping deeply and getting the most restorative efforts for my time. So when I ran across this great infographic from my apparently new go-to magazine for post kickstarters, Popular Science, I knew I had to talk about it.

Should you stay up late bingewatching House of Cards, or finishing off that really big book? Probably not. And here's why.

 

I can’t be the only dude who sees things like chronic depression on there and starts getting nervous about his sleep habits, yeah?

Which means that, dudes, if you’re reading this at night, it might be time to sign off the old IntarTubules, brush your teeth, change into the comfy jammies and hit the sack. See if you can get a good night’s sleep for a change.

You never know. You might actually enjoy it.

Footnotes & Errata

* Wow, did that reference date me or what? Erm, I saw it on Netflix? Not in theaters? Yeah, that sounds good.

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

Life’s too short to be depressing all the time, dudes.

With that in mind, let’s talk some astonishingly odd science instead of contemplating the onrushing death awaiting every dude at the end of his life. There, I went and got all depressing again. Sorry.

Anyway.

Back to science. Every year, we hear about the Nobel Prizes, which honor the most groundbreaking, amazing scientific achievements that come to the attention of the Nobel committee. These are the ones we hear about: quantum reality abnegation, new theories for rational prediction of stock market action, finding a way to avert a way. You know, the usual.

But I’m almost certain you dudes didn’t know there is a sister/brother/ugly cousin award to the Nobel Prize. It’s called the Ig Nobel Prize and it honors the year’s strangest–but also very good!–scientific research, in 10 different categories. Past recipients have honored research on remote-controlled whale snot harvesting and why you don’t spill your coffee. Thanks to Popular Science for the write up since my comp ticket to the event must have become lost in the mail.

The Psychology Prize was given for confirming, by experimentation, that people who are drunk believe themselves to be better looking than they, in reality, are. The folks behind this also should receive a special award for best use of a bad pun in a scientific paper.

“‘Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, epub May 15, 2012.

Eye of the beer holder, get it? Beer holder. Beholder. Yeah. It’s just that bad.

The Physics Prize went to a study that determined that a person could run across the surface of a lake unassisted. If, and I believe this to be an important caveat, that person and that lake both were situated on the moon. I’m guessing some hypothetical atmosphere and a heating element would be involved.

Humans Running in Place on Water at Simulated Reduced Gravity,” Alberto E. Minetti, Yuri P. Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, Francesco Lacquaniti, PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, 2012, e37300.

So, that’s the sort of good scientific work, albeit a bit on the esoteric side, that gets honored at the Ig Noble Prizes. However, to my mind, the best part of the entire event is the description that precedes each of the prizes. These are works of genius.

Take, for instance, the Peace Prize: (To the president of Belarus) For: “making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.”

The Probability Prize brings back memories of far too late-night idiocapades in college: For: “making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.”

To my mind, however, the capstone of the Ig Nobel awards and the description that might make it into the all-time list of best descriptions, comes out of the Archeology Prize. Which was given for, well, I can’t do this justice. I think I’ll let the organizers tell you what it was given For: “parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.”

Dudes and dudettes, I give you science!

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness is the one drug we all crave.

Don’t try to tell me any differently, because you’ll be lying.

Even me. I’m not a big sweets person. That is, I’d rather have an extra slice of the entree than a dessert, but. . . Leave a bowl of chocolate pieces sitting out and I’ll have a handful scooped up and be walking off without even noticing it.

Sweet food is the universal appeal. And it sits right along near the throne with that other dietetic nightmare delight: fat. Why else would we love ice cream so much? Combine sweetness and fat and, dudes, you’re got a winner.

And it’s been that way for a long, long time. Because, for a long, long time, fats and sugars have been exceedingly difficult for humans to consume.

For the past 200,000 years or so, fatty and sugary foods were hard for humans to come by and well worth gorging on. Fats help maintain body temperature, sugars provide energy, and craving such food is hardwired: Eating fats and sugars activates reward centers in the brain.

Popular Science, a fantastic magazine with the tagline of “The Future, Now,” recently ran an interesting little article about how our genes might influence our cravings for sweet foods. In addition to things like, if our blood sugar drops, it could trigger a craving for sweet food and that craving also will annihilate our self control — say hello to Krispy Kreme — there’s something in the genes that tells us to eat sweets.I'd eat that.

 Obesity runs in families, and although scientists still don’t know just how much of craving is hereditary and how much is learned, they have located more than 100 genes that seem to be linked to the disease. To evolve out of cravings, we’d need to stop passing down these genes.

The problem with that is that evolution doesn’t work in a straight line. And, in addition, many genes don’t act on a single trait. That is, you might try to eliminate the gene for blue eyes (I’ve never trusted those blueies.), but find that, once that’s gone, the gene that coded for that blue protein also assisted the production of the enzyme that enabled those folks to digest protein, say.

Evolution is a messy process that plays out over millions of years. It typically lags far behind changes in species behavior. Until about 50 years ago, craving fats and sugars actually helped us survive. Then fast food became abundant, and the number of obese people in the U.S. tripled between 1960 and 2007. Half a century is “just not enough time to counteract millennia,” says Katie Hinde, a human evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

So, really, it looks like if we want to master our cravings for fat and sugar, we’re going to have to stop hoping that the evolution fairy will come by and wave shir’s magic wand and wipe away the problem. If we want to stop eating too much sugar and fat, it’s going to be up to that three-pound wrinkled mass we’ve got up between our ears.

Self-control, dudes. That’s where the solution lies.

I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling I’m going to be more part of the problem than part of the solution.

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