Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Will We Miss?

Michael Stevens, Internet Personality for the YouTube channel, "VSauce"
Having trouble seeing the above video on your device? View it here.


In 1993 they began building a Time Pyramid in Germany (Zeitpyramide) that, upon completion, will consist of 120 concrete blocks. They're only adding one block every 10 years, so it won't be finished until 3183. 

The Chernobyl exclusion zone won't be safe for human activity until the year 22,000. Yes, you read that correctly!

In about a million years, stars Betelgeuse and Eta Carina will explode into super novas so brilliant that it will appear that there are two suns in the sky. 

The Andromeda Galaxy (visible in our night sky*) is 2.5 million light years away from us, but coming at us faster than a bullet (300 km a second). In about 3.75 billion years, Andromeda will collide with our  Milky Way Galaxy. There will be twice as many stars and our sky will be glowing bright with birth of new stars. After a couple billion years, the cores of the two galaxies will "be married in a bright glowing center" and renamed "Milkdromeda". Life on Earth will likely be unharmed. 

To see stellar photos of what this collision will likely look like, check out mins 2:56 - 4:46 on the video, or visit the NASA link** in "Further Reading".

Michael's Side notes:
In 2 billion years, Earth's oceans will be largely dried up.
In 3.75 billion years, conditions on Earth will be more like Venus due to our sun's warming.


Every year the moon moves 1 cm further away from Earth. Because of this, in 600 million years, solar eclipses will be impossible to view from Earth. 

Niagara Falls is going to disappear. In the year 52,000, the rocks of Niagara Falls will have eroded all the way to Lake Erie. The rocks at the top of the falls erode 1 ft  backwards every year.   

Granite erodes 1 in. per 10,000 years, so in the year 7 million, Mount Rushmore will be gone.

In 50-100 million years, Saturn will no longer have it's gorgeous rings.


Though we don't likely remember our conception or birth, we can find out what day we were likely conceived on and what movie and song were the most popular during that time (perhaps, as Michael says, playing a part in the creation of you) here:

You can find out what star's light/photons first left the star the month you were born with this site: 

My thoughts:

First, I'm really thinking that not being able to see some of the stuff we have now isn't a huge deal. Niagara Falls? Ehh. Maybe it's because I grew-up outside of Rochester, NY  and saw them a lot, but I could do without them. Solar eclipse? Yeah, pretty cool, but they rarely seem to happen anyhow. Saturn's rings? Those are pretty beautiful, but really, I only ever see the rings in photos anyhow, and I imagine those pictures will still be around somewhere in the future, so it's not like much would change for me. 

What I want oh so badly, even more than a life supply of Nutella or to grow old with my "true love", is to be around to catch a blip of what it will look like when Andromeda has collided and filled our sky with twice as many stars. I'd probably have even more trouble going to bed at night as I do now, not wanting to take my eyes off the brilliance of it all, but that's okay. I'm sure there'll be some perfectly safe pill you can pop to make-up sleep by then. 

So, suddenly being cryogenically frozen sounds kinda good...if it weren't for the fact that I'd be a blubbering idiot and some sort of weird dated species compared to the evolved humans, or whatever life will be dominating Earth at that time, that unfreeze me. Darn it. I'm all "FOMO", as Michael calls it. I have a complete Fear Of Missing Out. Wait, but the oceans will be all dried up and it's going to be hella hot and wierd here by then. I'm a huge fan of the ocean. Damn it. So...

So, instead, and in more of my style, I'll suppose I'll continue to go see as many lovely wonders of the world that I can, explore, hike, look up at night, and learn all I can about it all. I'll appreciate and find beauty in every little thing. That's all we can do I guess. And be a wee bit jealous of those folks who will be here about four billions years from now. 

What are your thoughts?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Do We Sleep?

Russell Foster, Circadian Neuroscientist. Video by TED.

Knowledge Nuggets:

Sleep Stats:

You spend 36% of your life your life asleep. If you live to age 90, you spend 32 of your years asleep.

Sleep, which used to be coveted and understood to bring happiness and  good health, is now (and perhaps since the invention of the light bulb) often seen as something unnecessary and only for the weak.

Adults currently average 6.5 hrs of sleep. We were getting 8 hrs in 1950.

Teenagers biologically require 9 hrs. of slumber, yet it's very common for them to now get only 5 hrs.   Their body clocks are also designed for them to stay up later and rise later

Why You Should Bother Sleeping:

We have genes associated with restoration which are only turned on during sleep.

The ability to learn a task when sleep deprived is greatly reduced.

Finding novel solutions to complex problems is enhanced threefold by a good night of sleep.

Lack of sleep's affect on everyday behavior = Poor memory, increased impulsiveness and poor judgment.

Sleep deprived individuals have sustained stress. This causes suppressed immunity and increased risk for both diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Getting 5 hrs or less every night gives you a 50% likelihood of being obese, as being tired increases your craving for sugary carbohydrates.

Still Not Convinced?: 

31% of people will fall asleep once while driving in the Unites States. 100,000 accidents are attributed to tiredness and falling asleep every year.

Chernobyl and the Challenger disasters have both been found to be at least partly due to sleep deprivation. "Poor judgement due to extended shift work, and loss of vigilance and tiredness was attributed to a large chunk of those disasters."

Many use caffeine, nicotine and/or drugs to stay awake, then, too amped-up to sleep, use alcohol to sedate themselves. The problem is, alcohol harms neuroprocessing for memory processing and memory recall during sleep, so don't make it a habit..

How to Get Better Sleep:

Make your bedroom cool and as dark as possible. Reduce you light exposure at least half an hour before you go to bed, including screens. Use caffeine only in the morning. Seek out light exposure in the morning to appropriately set your body clock.

Some people need more or less than 8 hrs. Listen to yourself. Also, your need for sleep doesn't go down as you age. sleep is just more fragmented and difficult.

Current Findings in Sleep Research:

Mental health (or illness) and sleep disruption are physically linked in the brain. Sleep difficulties precede certain types of mental illness and sleep deprivation makes mental illness worse. It's hopeful that sleep disruption can be spotted and used for early intervention. It's thought that if sleep can be stabilized, it may alleviate some of the mental illness symptoms.

My thoughts:

Okay, so I suppose this sleep thing that I've avoided for years is kind of important. This post is half trying to convince myself to quit my "I'm fine on five hours of sleep" mantra, because honestly, it isn't even true anymore, but I can't seem to stop "getting stuff done" or "working on projects" and lay down and shut my pretty little eyes. What a waste of precious time! I'm a single mother! My free time is uber valuable! I'll never finish my to-do and want-to-do list before I die! YOLO! [Okay, I've never once typed YOLO until now, really, but it seemed like an appropriate next step in my rant).

If I'm again honest with myself, I'd admit that all the things I stay up trying to do I'm not doing very well. I can't even focus long enough to get started on something much of the time. I don't know what I spend so much of my time on. Browsing Facebook for the tenth time in an hour? Wandering around my apartment trying to remember what I needed to do? Reading articles that I wouldn't likely even remember later. I even considered buying Adderall from a friend recently as I figured my ADHD was just really firing-up (along with my frustration for being completely worthless as far as my goals). I  admitted that if I got more sleep I'd be better focused naturally, but I was unwilling to do it. Stubborn stupidity. I mean honestly. I almost became a criminal to avoid sleep. Hello, low point.

A question that arose for me while watching this video was around sleep in cultures where technology isn't rampant, or even available. I'm not readily finding stats to answer this, though I imagine that those without such savvy distractions aren't literally sending themselves to early graves due to a lack of sleep as often. Being smarter about our technology isn't a new idea, but this certainly points a direct eye at some of our stupidity.

And on that note, I'm turning off this screen, meditating in a dim room and heading to bed a bit earlier than 12:30 a.m. Time to at least try to start some new habits. After I wash the dishes and make lunch for tomorrow and respond to emails and see what my friends are up to on Facebook and text back all the people I've ignored while writing this. Damn it. Tomorrow. I swear.

Further Reading:

Recent findings linking sleep deprivation to Alzheimer's and more: (Oct 2013):
Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep

Alternative Sleep Cycles

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Much Does a Shadow Weigh?

Michael Stevens, Internet Personality for the YouTube Channel, "Vsauce"

Knowledge Nuggets:

Light's energy pushes on objects, making them weigh mere fractions more (half a billionth of a kilogram per square inch). For example, the city of Chicago weighs 300 lbs more on a sunny day and you weigh a bit more with the lights on than when the lights are off.

Pete Lawrence has found that Venus casts a visible shadow on Earth, otherwise termed a "Venusian Shadow". 

The speed of light is slightly slowed when it travels through a medium such as air or your eye, the speed varying depending on the material it must go through. 

You can only move an object as fast as the speed of sound (761 mph). The speed of push is not as instant as it seems, as it travels through the object via compression waves. For example, if you built a board long enough to reach an object a light year away, it would take 900,000 years for the board to reach the object. 

My thoughts: 

This was the first Vsauce video that I had encountered after my three year old asked me about negative weight. This was what we found on YouTube in a search for answers. We still haven't found a definite answer to the original question, but we became instant subscribers and lovers of this channel. I don't have a great deal of knowledge around the subject of physics (though I enjoy learning), so any personal reflection here is pretty out of the question.

Further Reading: 

NASA scientists working to break the speed of sound: Faster Than The Speed of Sound?

Pete Lawrence's journey to discover a Venusian Shadow: In Search of the Venusian Shadow

Information on light-years: How Far is a Light Year?

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Your Time Bending Brain

Video by Neuroscientist David Eagleman, Director of the Labaratory for Perception and Action at The Baylor College of Medicine

Knowledge Nugget:

Time seems to move more slowly when you're in a life-threatening situation, but this isn't actually the case. The events of this type of situation are (hopefully) so unique to your brain that it wrote down a good deal of footage for the event. This means that when you replay the moment in your head, there are more details, making it seem like it lasted longer than commonplace memories do.

My Thoughts:

It makes sense that this would also apply to the feeling that time moves more quickly as we age. When we're younger, so many events within each day can be brand new to us. Our brain is so busy learning and experiencing mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. As we age, we've kinda been there already. Other than unique life events such as a sparlking new relationship, the birth of a new baby, the start of an exciting new career, or a host of negative life crisis such as death and divorce, life generally becomes routine. Many humans wake to complete the same familair steps, go to work, do their jobs, and come home to exhaust the same chores. We can drive to work and upon arriving, not even remember doing so. There isn't a lot of novelty for the brain to write down in mundane adult life.

This then makes me curious about those whose jobs vary each day, who research and work on larger ideas, or those who choose to get out into the world to explore and try new things more frequently, breaking from the everyday monotony. These more adventerous people, from my experience, tend to more joyful, positive human beings. Could part of the key to happiness be breaking from the everyday normal? Children seem much more joyful than your typical adult. This could easily be for several reasons, but I wonder if you could hold onto  some of that child-like mind by creating newness? Could simply entertaining new ideas, continual learning, and exploring new places generate gleeful traction in the human mind?

Further Reading:

Book: Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past

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