I really wanted to get this question answered in time for
mother's day, but it's been a busy few weeks. Besides, I didn't get to see my mother to celebrate until this week, so I think it still
counts. Plus, mothers definitely deserve recognition more than one day a
year. So, to all the moms out there... this one is for you.
We have all heard the term maternal instinct and there is antidotal
evidence of its existence. Mothers, when given the option, will leap in front of a bullet
rather than let their child die. I mean that both figuratively and literally.
But is this instinctual? Or is it something else?
To start, this bond (whatever it may be) is not true of all
mothers. Among non-human life forms, we see that there are mothers who will eat
their children, abandon them and give them away.
On the flip side, many are very protective of their
children. They fight off predators, risking their life. Some primates will carry the body of their dead young, as if unable
to accept the loss. When a baby empire penguin dies, the mother will try and
steal another penguin's baby to replace hers.
I'm not a hundred percent sure if any of this proves maternal
instinct or not but it does show a bond has formed with their young.
the animal kingdom have also been known to take on the responsibility of
children that are not their own when their biological mother is unable to.
Obviously, humans don't eat their children. When a mother puts a
baby up for adoption, it's not abandonment. It's often a very hard decision and
is not because the child is unwanted. If anything, it's a selfless act; they
truly believe that the baby will have a better life with someone else. But bonding with a child that is not your own, may suggest there is something else linking a mother to her child.
Studies conduct with the aid of MRIs have shown that women
respond more to their own children than other children who are displaying signs
of the same level of stress or happiness. I'm not sure if this study included
any women who had adopted children. I'd guess no since that would add another variable
but I'd be interested to see the results of such a study.
But does that prove the bond is instinctual? Or are mothers
responding to something else? Is this bond caused by biological factors, such
as the exchange of hormones before and after a child is born?
In cases where a child is the result of a traumatic
experience, if the child is unplanned or the mother doesn't have the means to
care the child, there is less of a bond. In such situations, there is a higher
rate of postpartum depression. There is a feeling of resentment and disconnect.
This is certainly not true in all cases but it is statistically more likely.
The truth is, we really aren't sure yet. I'm inclined to say
there might be a level of instinct but it's more than that. However, in society
if a woman doesn't love children, it's assumed that she would be a bad mother
to her own children. If she isn't instantly bonded with her children after
birth, she's frigid and not a "real" woman. Those things simply aren't true.
I don't have children, I know plenty of women who do. Some of them aren't fond of other people's children. Some love all children. Some felt an instant
bond, others didn't. But they are all the best mother's they can be... which is
all one could ever ask for.
Being a mother is a huge commitment and can be exhausting. I
commend all those who take on the challenge. Especially, my own mother... for
without her, I wouldn't be writing this. And I mean that in the obvious way but
also because of her love and faith in me.
So... hi mom! Happy belated mother's day!
We have all seen the public service announcements about not talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. But does anyone ever say don't talk to your passengers? We are social creatures and silence makes us uncomfortable. It would be very hard for people to stay silent for long periods of time. And could they even enforce that? Maybe there could be a way to measure decibel levels in a car but then we'd also have to eliminate radios and they do serve a purpose while driving. They provide a way to communicate information to drivers (I'm sure at some point you've been the signs that say something like, when lights are flashing tune to 520 AM). Plus, there have been many studies that have shown reasonable use of a radio is safe while driving. Things that can be dangerous about the radio are: having it so loud that it impairs hearing and changing it while driving.
I digress. I recently took a defensive driving course and a woman in the class asked why using a cell phone was dangerous and talking to a passenger was not. I was sure they were different but didn't know of any proven theories and/or reasons. So, I did some research and I thought others would be interested in what I found out.
Fact: about 80% of accidents and 65% of close calls happen because the driver is distracted for about 3 seconds. So, the broader question is, what takes your attention away from the road for more than 3 seconds?
Doing things like playing with the radio, changing the destination on your GPS, searching for something in the car, putting on make-up or brushing your hair, changing the climate control settings and adjusting mirrors are all such distractions. Some more talked about distractions are texting and cell phone use.
Studies have shown that texting while driving it actually worse than driving drunk. A driver's reaction time is about four times slower while texting. In terms of stopping distance, a person needs to allow about 4 extra feet to brake while drunk, thirty-six extra feet when reading a text/email and seventy extra feet for writing an email/text. There is an alarming number of accidents that have been associated with texting while driving especially among young people (however that's because young people are more likely to text while driving not that older people are better at texting while driving).
Cell phone use is another big distraction for drivers. Astonishingly, for every ten people with a cell phone, eight will admit to using them while driving on a semi-regular basis. This is despite the statistics that show one third of accidents in the United States are caused by cell phone use; that's about the same chance of an accident as if you are legally drunk.
And don't be fooled: there is little or no difference between holding a cell phone while driving and using a hands-free device. This shows that it is not having a hand off the wheel that is distracting but the conversation itself. In fact, some studies have shown that while on a cell phone, you are
paying about 75-80% of your attention to the conversation and the rest
on the road... a little scary don't you think?
Anyway, the only notable difference I found was that, hands-free devices are legal to
use in many states while driving and using a cell phone is not. So, if what you are concerned about is not getting a ticket, hands-free is the way to go.
All that said, studies show that talking on a cell phone (or doing any other of the mentioned tasks) is a lot more distracting than talking to a passenger. When you have someone in the car with you, they are experiencing the road with you. The advantage there is that they will stop talking to you when conditions become more dangerous and also provide a second set of eyes. They might see something that the you do not. This concept is known as shared attention and obviously does not exists while on a cell phone. While conversations can be a bit of a distraction, they aren't even close to being as distracting as a cell phone.
The bottom line is that we believe that we multi-task well. I've heard a variety of people say things like, "Other people can't talk on a cell phone and drive but I can." We tend to overestimate our talents. But the truth is, none (or a very select few) of us can do two or more things at the same time efficiently. You can only focus on one major task at a time and driving never seems to be that major task and people are killed. So, next time you take a call or need to send a text, pull over. There's a shoulder for a reason. And if your passenger, or passengers, are being a distraction ask them to keep quiet. Turn your radio down to a reasonable level and try to only adjust it at stop lights. It's those little things that will save your lif.
Someone says to me, "Let's go on that roller coaster" and I am on the verge of having a panic attack from the time I get in line, to the time I'm off the ride. I put on skis and I go so slow down the mountain that it's comical and frustrating to my friends. I went para-sailing and screamed the entire time. Needless to say, I didn't see all that much. Heights, going fast, being out of control... all things that I hate.
I cannot understand why anyone would jump out of a perfectly good airplane or why people would jump off a bridge attached to a cable. And unless you waved a whole bunch of money in front of my face, you'd have to push me out of the plane or off the bridge. I'd be like a cat who doesn't want to go in their cage; you'd have to pry my hands off the ledge or from the door.
That being said, I can at least face some of my fears so I'll claim being just a little bit brave. Still, bravery hasn't gotten me over any of the fear. I'm terrified the whole time I participate in the things my friends talk me into and I don't like it one bit.
The point this... some people love these things. They like to feel afraid. Some people don't. Why? What makes different people respond to the same situation differently? Well I went on a quest to figure it out.
When we are scared, there are two options. Run or defend yourself. This is known as the fight-or-flight response and is instinctual. During this response, the hypothalamus becomes active. This area of the brain helps keep balance between calm and stress in the body. This activation triggers the adrenal glands which secrete the neurotransmitter and hormone epinephrine. Epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline, activates the sympathetic nervous system. Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for regulatory functions in the body such as your heart rate, muscle contraction, blood vessel and air passages and pupil dilation.
In this heightened state, your ability to feel pain decreases and strength and awareness increase to aid in your survival. This is made possible by the increased blood and oxygen flow to your muscles and the increase in the conversion rate of glycogen to glucose, giving the body more fuel.
This strength you gain can appear superhuman. People have lifted cars off children and even fought polar bears and won. So why not use this strength all the time? Well, when the sympathetic nervous system is active, your parasympathetic nervous system is suppressed. Since the parasympathetic nervous system controls much of the immune system, high levels of stress for long periods of time can leave a person at risk for disease and infection. So when someone says, "Calm down you'll give yourself a heart attack!", you shouldn't just write it off as an exaggeration. It is actually possible. The good news is that once the stress is eliminated, your immune system gets a quick boost to make up for it's earlier supression.
Alright so what causes the addiction to this fight-or-flight response? It's the feeling a person gets during and after "rush" of adrenaline in the body. It can make a person feel euphoric and endorphins are released. This feeling is what people chase when they jump out of airplanes or off bridges. It's what attracts people to extreme sports and causes them to participate in high risk behaviors. Further, the risk level of behavior often has to increase as a person becomes tolerant of a behavior and the fight-or-flight response is no longer triggered. So an extreme adrenaline addiction can be dangerous not only in the effects that stress has on the body but also just the situations you have to put yourself in in order to get the feeling.
Why are some people addicted to it and not others? That's up for debate. Some people believe it's simply context for a person. Do they see the dangerous side or the fun side first? Others make the claim that it's maturity. As we get older, have more responsibilities, danger seems less appealing. People who are naturally anxious and those who hate feeling out of control, are less likely to enjoy adrenaline. But defining this is like defining why some people who drink wind up as alcoholics and some people don't. Genetics, environmental factors, personality... there probably isn't just one reason.
As I've said I like all things space so
when someone asked me what it really would be like to be sucked out
into space, I was curious as well. I think everyone has seen a
science fiction film where this happens. But how realistic are those
Hollywood wants to make things look
good. Something like being sucked out into space scares people
because space is the ultimate unknown. There's no air, it's cold and
is probably the most harsh environment a human being would have to
face. You might be surprised to know that it actually isn't as bad as
our imaginations make it out to be. And it certainly isn't as
Alright, so imagine that you are on a
space ship, or shuttle or some other vehicle in space and the hull is
breached or the airlock is released and you happen to be in the same
room. Since you are some poor no-named crew member you get sucked out
into space. What is the first thing you do?
Probably scream. Which might not be a
bad idea. Logic might say that you should hold your breath but that
would actually be a bad idea. Holding your breath may just damage
your lungs. This effect is similar to what can happen if a scuba
diver holds his/her breath during ascend. You risk an air embolism.
This is a fancy way of saying air bubbles are released into the blood
stream. If a large enough air bubble can block the blood flow to the
lungs causes respiratory distress. Another possible outcome is that
your lungs could tear or collapse. The fancy word for this is
If your lungs aren't damaged, you still
have quite a few other things to worry about and very little time to
worry about them. With such low pressure on the outside of the body,
hypoxia will occur. This means that the blood looses oxygen. Because
when exposed to space this will happen very rapidly, you'll only have
10 to 15 seconds of consciousness. Part of me thinks that is a
blessing in disguise. Would you really want more than that amount of
time to think about the fact that you are floating through space
without a space suit? But it's not just the oxygen levels in your
blood that drop. Carbon dioxide levels will decrease as well. This
condition is known as hypocapnia and can cause various nervous system
Once ambient pressure is eliminated
(that's the pressure of the air on your body), your bodily fluids
will start to turn to water vapor. In other words, your blood boils.
Of course put that way, it sounds a lot worse than it is. This may
cause some frost to appear in the mouth or around the eyes which is
probably where the idea of the body freezing came from.
There are some other minor problems as
well. If you happen to be in the direct line of some UV-rays from a
star... well you may get a really bad sunburn. Your eardrums may
burst due to the pressure build up in the body. It will leave you
deaf but won't kill you. There may be some swelling of the skin and
other tissues but if you are luckily enough to get rescued, it will
likely be reversed.
It varies, but generally you have about
90 to 120 seconds to be saved. If you are lucky and get back inside
within that time frame, you may live without any permanent damage.
After that, your official cause of death will either be heart failure
or asphyxia (medical term for suffocate). Of the two, heart failure
is the most likely because you'll probably die before asphyxia kicks
in. Heart failure is caused by the pressure build up in the veins
when the blood evaporated. Eventually the heart will give out, unable
So as much as it pains me to say
science fiction has failed us, it has. You won't explode, or burn and
you won't instantly freeze if you find yourself out in space without
a space suit. It's not even a death sentence as there are people who
have survived being exposed to a vacuum. Just hope that you have some
friends near by to get you back inside...
I found a quiz (click image below) to determine how long you
could survive in space based on things like weight, age, fitness and
knowledge of how to survive. I'm not sure how accurate it is; my
guess is not very. My time is not really all that impressive so I
think I'll just stay on planet Earth to be on the safe side.
So how long can you survive? Take the quiz and post your results!
I've only ever had on surgery in my life and it was minor; nothing to write home about. It took quite a while to completely recover but it may be because I'm not very good with pain. But I've also seen the aftermath of major surgery and it makes me feel like there must a better way and the person who sent this week's question obviously feels the same way.
The reality is, surgery for many years was quite barbaric. Doctors used to use the same knives that they used in the kitchen without washing them and the same saws that were used to cut wood were used to cut off limbs. We have of course come a long way since then. Doctors have learned how to cut with more precision and greater care. Tests before surgery can help map out the location of problems minimizing incisions and we know the benefits of having a sterile room to perform surgeries. And now, the medical field has taken another leap forward with the use of robots in the operating room.
There are two major components to robotic surgery. The robot itself and the computer program that controls it. The amount of automation (or reliance on the computer program) varies based on the type of robotic surgery.
Supervisory-controlled systems require the robot to be programmed before performing surgery. Since all patients are different, there can never be one program. Extensive planning on the part of the surgeon is crucial and the patient must go through a variety of tests (X-Rays, MRIs, PET-scans, etc) to develop the program that is unique to him/her. There is no room for error as the computer is not able to stray from the program on it's own. But, there is a fall back plan. The surgeon is able to intervene and take control of the robot if something goes wrong.
The da Vinci surgical system is probably the most well known. It has three to four arms to hold various instruments. One arm always holds the camera. The others hold tools that are used during the surgery. The number of incisions made is equal to the number of arms the system has. Then, stainless-steel rods are inserted into the incisions by the robotic arm which holds the various instruments. On a computer screen, the surgeon can see 3-D images from the camera and using controls that look a lot like those of a video game, they are able to instruct the robot's hands. The fields of gynecology and urology have been using the da Vinci system for many surgeries that could also be done laparoscopically (surgery that requires very small incisions and uses smaller versions of traditional tools).
One down side is that using the da Vinci system costs about a third more than traditional surgeries. The additional cost is contributed to, among other things, the cost of the technology and the increase in surgery time. On the flip side, it will decrease the number of people needed to perform surgery, reduce the amount of time patients need to spend in the hospital and there is less care needed after the surgery. Whether this will offset the increased cost of the surgery is still up for debate. Some critics say that laparoscopic surgery is less expensive and nearly as minimally invasive. Also, robotics surgery has not reduced the number of people who suffer from complications (about five percent of people for both procedures).
Those who developed the da Vinci system would say it is not meant to replace laparoscopic surgery but in some cases it is preferable. Some examples are, surgery on a woman who is morbidly obese, the removable of an exceptionally large uterus or if the surgeon needs to go deep into the pelvis.
The last type of robotic surgery is called shared-control and there is one major difference from the other two methods. The robot is actually controlled directly by the surgeon not through a computer. The robot's value here is providing active constraint. Before surgery begins, the doctors defines safe, close, boundary and forbidden areas on the patient. During the surgery, if the surgeon gets outside the safe zones, the robot will push back in various degrees depending on which area type it is approaching.
It is hoped that researchers will soon be able to develop a single-point incision using robots. It will reduce scarring and decrease recovery time. These systems also reduces stress on the surgeon that can lead to mistakes in the operating room. Normally a surgeon would be on his feet for surgeries that last hours and he/she can start to become fatigued and lose their ability to keep a steady hand. The robot takes away this danger.
Traditional surgeries will still be important to teach young surgeons even if they are using robotic surgery on a daily basis. There maybe a case where a robot is not able to be used or may not be available.
As robotic sugery becomes more commonplace, more surgeons will need to learn how to use the systems. New surgeons from the video game generation pick up this surgery method more quickly and easily than older surgeons for obvious reasons.
Researchers are working every day to effectively utilize this technology. One exciting idea is the possibility of tele-medicine or long-distance operations. A surgeon who is extremely skilled at one type of surgery would no longer need to travel to the patient. Instead they could control the robot remotely. This saves time which could be the difference between life and death for the patient. Such surgery has already been successfully performed but there is a delay in the time commands reach the robot. This issue will solve itself as the Internet gets faster.
All surgery comes with some degree of risk and it is so important that patients are informed and communicate with their doctor. Each patient should be evaluated individually and the method used should be decision between the patient and their doctor. But some day in the future, patients may just be having that conversation with a robot.
We have all been there. You log in to check your email and you have fifty messages. Wow! Aren't you popular? Well, maybe. But it's more likely that over half of those email are junk emails that you won't read. These junk emails are referred to as spam. The accepted origin of the term is based on a 1970's Monty Python skit. If you have never seen the skit, look it up on youtube and it'll all make sense.
Spam comes in many forms. Charity emails asking for money, chain messages with threats that you'll have bad luck if you don't forward it to ten of your closest friends, scams asking for personal information, emails that look like your bank account... It never ends. And some of these emails can contain viruses that will destroy your computer.
People try everything to stop getting these messages. Create a new email address and only giving it out to select people. Block emails from people you know are sending you spam. Turn your spam filter all the way. Yet still you have half a dozen spam emails left!
So who started all this mess? The first documented spam email was sent in 1978 from a DEC marking rep named Gary Thuerk in attempts to inform recipients of DEC's Arpanet support. This opened the door for floods of spam to take over user's inboxes world wide for years to come.
Thank you Gary Thuerk. In his defense, it wasn't malicious. He was just looking for a new way to advertise.
As early as 1994, people have been trying to discover ways of dealing with this global problem. Most terms of service policies, (defined by internet providers) have rules against spam. Congress has even passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marking Act of 2003, in effort to stop the spammers from sending unwanted messages. However, the act does not make spam illegal; it places the regulations on mass emails.
- Headers must be truthful and content made clear.
- Origin of message cannot be falsified.
- Messages must not be sent through open relay.
- Email addresses of recipients cannot be harvested.
- Users can unsubscribe to a mailing list and their request must be honored within 10 days;
Religious, political and national security messages are exempt from this law. Also if the user has a prior relationship with a company in anyway the company need only to give the user an unsubscribe option (all other rules do not apply). So all of those emails you keep getting from Best Buy because you ordered a video game three years ago, is not technically spam. Just update your email preferences in your account and they'll stop.
Spam saves companies around the world millions of dollars a year in postage. Yet to internet users, spam has become not only an annoyance, but an expense to those around the globe using dial-up connections. Bandwidth and storage space are wasted everyday by the distribution of spam emails.
We do have some methods of fighting back against spam. Some of the earliest spam filters used language analysis. It would search emails for words and phrases commonly used in spam emails. This works okay in some cases but only dents the problem. Some spam filters may look to see if an email was sent in bulk however this is often hard to detect.
Blacklisting is another method. Sites and email addresses that are known to send out spam can be added to a list that is then shared with other users online. The exact opposite of this is whitelisting. This is when a user rejects all users that are not on the list. Blacklisting has obvious holes; a spammer might not be on the list. Whitelisting however seems like the perfect solution... but it's not. Someone could use a common domain name to bypass the list. Plus, do you really want to have to keep such a list update? And if the list was out of date you might miss something important. Greylisting is a third option in this category that will reject all messages but tell the sender to try again later. If they do, it's more likely that it's a person than a spammer.
Other filters use various statistical analysis methods to make a judgements about whether an email is spam or not considering the words, order of words, frequency of words and percentage of the text is the same as known spam emails.
Whatever method you chose, you are still faced with one problem and that is emails that are incorrectly labeled as spam. It might get so bad that you are searching your spam inbox for your emails. And if that's what you are doing... well there really isn't might difference is there?
I consider myself to be an expert
sleepier. Even as a kid, I never argued when it was time for a nap or
time to go to bed. In college, I managed to get more sleep than most
of my peers. I rarely pulled all-nighters and when I did, I made up
for it the next day.
The reason for this is simple: I need
it. I'm miserable if I didn't get enough sleep. Everything feels like
a huge effort. I can't focus, I'm unproductive and am not very
pleasant to be around. Caffeine doesn't help. It just makes me feel like
my heart's going to pop out of my chest and I bounce off the walls
like one of those bouncy balls you get from a machine at the food
store. That feeling is just a different type of miserable.
Let's start with what happens when we
sleep. There are five stages of sleep. The first is the transition
between being awake and falling asleep. It should last only about 5
or 10 minutes. There is a high amplitude of theta waves (slow brain waves) during this stage which relaxes you and
prepares you for the next stage. In the next 20 minute stage, the brain
shows signs of sleep spindles (which are very rapid brain waves).
Body temperature decreases and your heart rate drops. You then
transition from light sleep to delta sleep (a more deep sleep). This
is only about 30 minutes. The fifth and final stage is where you
enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Here is where you actually
dream, your breathing and brain activity increase and your muscles
relax. It's important to note that these stages work on a cycle and
are not necessarily in numerical order. So, REM sleep does not last
the rest of the night. You get about an hour or so of that then
circle back around to one of the other stages. Missing any stage,
especially the fifth stage (REM sleep) will leave you feeling
So, why is this cycle so important?
Seems like such a waste of time doesn't it? Adults are advised to
sleep seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Most people don't
manage to do this on a consistent basis. The national average is only 6.7
hours a night. This is down from 7 hours a few years ago. Why aren't we getting enough sleep?
Well, there's work, family, the Internet... whatever your reason, you
are likely doing yourself a disservice.
There are also several
disorders that prevent people from getting enough sleep no matter how
hard they try. Insomnia is probably the most common and well known.
You either can't fall asleep or may wake up frequently during the
night. Now, the first problem is obvious but the second maybe not so
much. If you wake up frequently in the night you cannot get through
the five stages of sleep that we just discussed which are all very important to feel well
If you snore, the problem is the noise.
It can wake you (and your sleeping partner) up multiple times in the
night. Sleep apnea is a more serious sleep problem in which snoring
is a symptom. You will stop breathing for a short amount of time
while asleep which wakes you up. It may be a sign of more serious
conditions like high blood pressure and heart problems. If you
believe you have sleep apena seek medical help.
Narcolepsy is a disorder where you are
tired during the day almost all the time. This may be accompanied by
randomly falling asleep during the day and many movies make it out as
if this is something that happens to all people who are narcoleptic.
That is not the case. Most commonly it's just that you feel excessively tired.
Restless legs syndrome may also keep
you awake. It is the need to move your legs in the evenings which can
keep you awake or wake you up in the middle of the night.
At some point in almost everyone's
life, they have experienced nightmares which cause them to lose sleep. They may wake you up leaving
you feeling stressed and anxious and unable to get back to sleep whether you remember them or not.
This happens during REM sleep (where you dream) and is most common in
children. In adults, medications, depression and other psychological disorders may cause nightmares.
Another common disorder, mostly found in
children, is sleepwalking. There are many forms of this but while
still asleep you do activities that you aren't aware you are doing.
Mostly it's walking around the house doing normal activities, but it
can in rare cases be dangerous like someone leaving the
house, eating excessive amounts of food or participating in high risk
Now let's assume most people don't have
any of these disorders and still people in the United States are
getting less than the recommended amount of sleep. This is for some
of the reasons I listed above. The truth is while you may not feel
sleepy in reality you are. It's sort of like people who are
starving stop feeling hungry. When you are tired all the time, that
feeling becomes normal. Your body adapts and gives you the illusion
of being one of those prized people who only needs four hours of
sleep a night. It's simply just not good for anyone.
So, why do we need sleep at all? That
question is still up for debate. The evolutionary theory is
that we sleep at night in order to stay inactive. When inactive, you
are quiet which would make it harder for predators to find you. The
issue with this theory is when asleep, you are not aware of your
surroundings. If you aren't aware of your surroundings, you are
vulnerable to predators. Another part of this theory is that you
sleep to conserve energy. Those who sleep longer when food is scarce
will have slower energy metabolisms and can last longer without
eating. Plus, at night it's harder for humans to search for food so
it's a good time to conserve energy. Generally though, this theory is
not given too much credence.
Studies have shown that if you
deprive an animal of sleep, their immune systems start to fail and
die in just a few weeks. Due to these findings, the restorative theory has gained
some support. The restorative theory states that we sleep in order to
restore and repair the body from all that has happened to it during
the day. It may also be a chance to reduce the level of adenosine
from the brain. This is produced by the brains cells when awake and
when the brain becomes saturated with it, you feel tired. When you
sleep, the amount of adenosine is reduced in the brain making you
feel less tired. This is why caffeine is so effective at keeping us awake for it is an adenosine antagonist. Meaning it interferes with adenosine levels in the brain making it less effective at putting you to sleep.
The final argument is the brain
plasticity theory. The theory says that the brain is able to change
and reorganize as necessary while we sleep. We know that infants and
young children sleep 13 to 16 hours a day, most of this is REM sleep.
This is the time period in a human's life when we develop, so the
increased need for sleep could have something to do with it. Further,
studies have shown that when deprived of sleep, we are unable to
learn to do things or perform tasks. This might also suggest that
sleep helps us process and solidify facts and tasks we are taught
while awake. Therefore without sleep we wouldn't be as intelligent as
Whatever the reason, sleep is
important. While it is hard to get those much needed hours, don't
forget that your health is at risk. In fact you can last longer
without food than without sleep! Everyone makes such a great effort to
exercise, eat right and be successful. Sleep to most seems to be a
waste of time. Those eight hours could be spent learning something,
doing work or your favorite hobby. But that extra cup of coffee in
the morning to help you make it through the day and make up for the
fact that you only had four hours of sleep, is not doing you a favor.
In fact, it may be killing you.
Growing up, I never drank tap water.
Most of the time I wouldn't even drink from a water fountain. I always drank bottled water or water from
the filtered tap. Drinking from a tap was an absolute last resort in my mind. Some one asked me the other day why and frankly I
had no answer based on fact. I think part of it is the people of
Philadelphia (where I'm originally from) look at
the Delaware River and think no amount of filtering will ever clean
that up. That of course is a fallacy. In fact, from a quick Google
search I learned that Philadelphia has a reputation for having one of
the cleanest, best tasting water in the country (Dasani has cashed in on that as they use water from Philadelphia as one of their sources).
So... let's examine this a little further...
First off, bottled water is expensive. About 5 billion
dollars is spent by Americans each year on bottled
water. It negatively impacts the environment; an estimated 50
billion plastic bottles wind up in landfills as opposed to being
recycled every year and it takes about 450 years for them to
completely decompose. The water has to be shipped to stores around the country
by trucks leaving a decent carbon footprint behind
There are different standards for tap
water and bottled water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
regulates the tap water in the United States. Water is treated with
chemicals, chlorine being most popular, to get rid of bacteria and
filtered to eliminate other containments such as lead and arsenic. While they do
not eliminate all traces of containments and bacteria, they get
pretty close. Further efforts would be expensive and mostly a waste of time as studies show it would not better for you.
On occasion, the bacteria counts are
higher than the standards allow which causes people to panic and shy away from
tap water. However when this does happen, the bacteria isn't usually a problem for most
healthy people. It's those with compromised immune systems, the
elderly and young children we need to be concerned with. When such problems arise, they are taken seriously and quickly addressed. Regular checks of the tap water's state are conducted and the public is kept up to date when a possible problem is detected. This problem is not unique to tap water. There have been cases of bottled water needing to be recalled due to contamination.
A big concern for people is the use of chlorine to purify water. It can combine with other molecules to create cancer
causing agents known as trihalomethanes (chloroform is a one
example). Truth be told, the amount of chlorine exposure from drinking cold tap water is far less than the exposure when showering and swimming. You breathe in a ton of chlorine when doing these activities and it doesn't
seem to stop anyone. Before the use of chlorine, countless people got sick from contaminated water and
thousands died. This is still a problem today in countries that do
not have water regulation. The benefits have proven to far outweigh the risks.
Lead is actually a problem with tap water, but there is confusion about the cause. It is not usually due to a lack a filtering. When hot water runs through pipes that contain lead sometimes minute amounts enter the water but it is typically not toxic.
Concern is not entirely misplaced; over exposure to lead can cause a
number of problems including delayed and/or hindered development in
children. One must remember that people for years have been exposed to lead
in small amounts, from a variety of sources and most have turned out okay. So, it takes quite a bit of exposure to cause any serious damage.
Bottled water is
regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The sad truth is that they allow a greater amount of contaminants in bottled water that the EPA does in tap water.
I found is disturbing to learn that a small amount of E. Coli is
allowed in bottled water (there is a no tolerance policy against it in tap water).
Most of the claims that bottled water companies make
are just marketing tactics. Often the water is just from the tap and
filtered again in a different way. Since chlorine is not used as much, the water has a "cleaner" more appealing taste. Studies have shown though that people rarely can tell the difference between tap and bottled water.
There are a variety of types of bottled water. Those that are just filtered water that I just mentioned. Spring water which contains minerals and comes
from water pockets under the ground called aquifers. Sparkling water
usually starts with natural carbon dioxide but during the filtering
process it's eliminated and it has to be put back in. None are shown to be better for you than tap water.
One definite downside to bottled water
does not have fluoride in it like tap water does. Fluoride can help
prevent tooth decay. Some people have conspiracy theories about
fluoride and others think it's bad for you but discussion on this
would be better for another day.
So the bottom line? Bottled water is
not any healthier than tap water. At times it's needed when the water
supply is found to be contaminated but for everyday use it's probably
unnecessary. Any other time it's just a way for people to make money.
Something that costs pennies to make costs us anywhere from between
Will these facts stop people, myself included, from buying bottled water? Probably not. For me it's nice to
have around because it's easy. Grab a bottle of water and go out the
door. I leave one by the bed if I get thirsty in the middle of the
night. It eliminates the risk of spilling it everywhere or breaking a glass.
Just a note, there's a whole other problem
with leaving bottles of water around the house. Assuming it started
out clean and virtually free of bacteria, there is a ton of bacteria
in your mouth. If you leave the bottle too long the bacteria that is
on the rim of the bottle will multiply and you'll need to throw out
the bottle only adding to the waste of money...
Maybe I'll have to seriously reconsider
this bottled water thing...
Since I first saw Star Trek when I was little, I've been hooked on all things space. That includes both science fiction and real life space travel. So, naturally in high school, when given the chance, joined Project SPARC (Space Research Center), in which we planned and carried out a space flight simulation. In fact in my junior and senior years I was project coordinator (I know doesn't get much geekier than that...)
During my senior year, I had to write a paper on... something in order to graduate. So, I picked manned space flight accidents. I wanted to prove that while tragic, NASA is one of the most important yet under-appreciated organizations that our country has. During that time I read dozens of documents on the accidents, NASA and even got the chance to interview an astronaut. Hearing his perspective was the most valuable in my opinion. I'll never forget him telling me, in not so many words... We all know we may not come back. It's a risk we are willing to take.
Before I start I want to say, I am a firm supporter of NASA and this is in no way intended to reflect upon them negatively. My hope is that knowing this will make others see that while they have had some major set backs, it was not due to lack of intelligence or lack of caring. In fact, NASA has over 6,000 patents registered with the patent office and are
responsible for many things we use everyday. Without NASA we wouldn't have things like: invisible braces,
scratch resistant lenses, water filters and long-distance telecommunications.
Also, this is not the paper nor taken directly from it (it was about ten times as long and a lot more detailed) but it shares the main ideas and findings...
On January 27, 1967, the crew of Apollo I entered their spacecraft for what should have been a routine test to determine if the craft would have minimal functionality if the internal power was severed. Upon starting the test, Commander Gus Grissom complained of a sour odor in the air. After some investigation, no cause was found. The test was resumed and pure oxygen was pumped into the cabin. The next problem came when an alarm sounded indicating high oxygen levels. No one seemed concerned and it was believed to be caused by the movements of the astronauts. The test continued until a fire broke out in the cabin. Communication was lost 17 seconds later. The crew, both inside the craft and out, desperately tried to open the emergency hatch but they were unsuccessful. All three astronauts died.
Investigations could not determine the exact cause of the fire but it most likely was caused by a spark from an exposed wire in the cabin. Many small oversights lead to this tragedy. The most obvious being the exposed wires and flammable materials on board. Others included, not realizing the true danger of the cabin containing pure oxygen while still on Earth and poor hatch design. Ironically the hatch was designed so the door would swing inward instead of outward due to the request and influence of Grissom (during a previous flight, the hatch to the capsule he was in blew). Because of this, the crew could not open the door against the pressure in the cabin.
As tragic as this accident was, the errors were oversights by the design team due to inexperience. However, the Challenger accident in 1986 most definitely could have been avoided. There was an inherent design flaw in the way the joints were sealed on the solid rocket boosters. This flaw was well known but overlooked by NASA and its sub-contractors. On the day the Challenger was lost, the seal of the joint, known as an O-ring failed and hot gas leaked leading to the structural failure shortly after lift off.
Another indicator of a problem was during the inspection of the shuttle the morning of the flight. Large amounts of ice had formed on the shuttle the night before. They reported back that it was not a good idea for the shuttle to launch that day. However, they could not definitively make the claim that the shuttle would explode and there concerns were disregarded. They found out later that the cold was the cause of the o-ring failure as it made them less flexible.
Even though some of the crew is believed to have survived the initial explosion, the had no plan of escape if such an incident occurred and the entire crew lost their lives.
Columbia's accident, in my opinion, was even more of a travesty. During launch, a piece of the thermal insulation broke off and created a hole in the left wing. Video taken of the launch showed the incident but when the engineers requested to be allowed access to information from the astronauts and the department of defense, they were denied. If they had been allowed, they may have been able to send the shuttle Atlantis to retrieve the crew or had the astronauts attempt to fix the wing with a spacewalk. But, management determined there was no need to be concerned. This is likely because this was on the list of "planned errors". Debris hit the wings on multiple occasions yet nothing was done to prevent it from happening during future launches.
Now me saying all of that sounds bad, I know. But despite knowing all of that, I still believe in NASA and their efforts one hundred percent and here's the reason: the attitude of NASA's management team is fuelled by lack of funding and political pressure competing with safety. NASA receives less than one percent of one percent of tax dollars and they face funding cuts every time a new budget comes out (including in the next budget). Any delay on their part cost NASA hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as backlash from the American people and politicians. So, they go ahead with the plans when they suspected they shouldn't have.
While every loss of life is horrific, only 18 people have lost their lives during manned space flights, all who fully understood the risks. Which makes it the safest way to travel actually... As a country, we need to not only honor them by continuing what they started by recognize the importance of NASA and the work they do.
I, like many of you I'm sure, had the
misfortune of having to go to the airport over the holidays. While I
love my family and it's always great to see them, traveling is such a
hassle and of all the methods of transportation I've taken, flying
has to be the more cumbersome. First you have to con someone into
taking you to the airport and someone to pick you up if you want to
avoid the cost of parking. Next you have a choice of paying to check
a bag if you want to bring a razor or full size bottle of shampoo or
carrying on a bag and buy stuff at the other end. Then, you go
through security where you have to take out all liquids and your
laptop, take off your shoes, belts, jackets, hats, etc. and put all
of this, along with any bag, through the X-ray machine. Then you get
to walk through those lovely new scanners and may or may not face a
After passing that point you have to
scramble to collect your things and as quickly as possible shove them
back in your bags so you don't annoy the person behind you. Once in
the terminal you wait to board. Someone gets on an intercom and makes
an announcement that they are ready to board your plane which is
usually impossible to hear. Then the boarding process begins and I'm
sorry, it makes no sense. While I get that people pay extra to get on
first, just slows down the whole process. They should board from the
back of the plane. Period. It would avoid so many problems. But I
digress. After waiting for all of those people to get on, you get
called by zone. Once you get called and you are trying to get on the
plan the most annoying part of the process begins. Because many
airlines now require you to pay for checked bags, people carry on
their luggage and no one tells these people that their bags are too
big. They try to jam their bags in the overhead compartments or under
the seat and when they don't fit, they get upset and everyone else
has to wait for the bag to be checked.
Once you get through all of that, the
plane takes off and you have to deal with your neighbor elbowing you
or snoring through the whole trip. Or maybe there's a screaming
baby/child on board to entertain you. Then you land and have to wait
for everyone to get their stowed bags.
If you are lucky and you have a direct
flight then it's over. If not you have to repeat the latter half of
All of that being said, flying is
almost always the most efficient way to travel. Although it can be
pricey, you will more times than now, save hours of your time. Not to
mention it's the safest way to travel. There is 1 accident for every
1.2 million flights; this includes ANY type of accidents in ANY type
of aircraft. There's about a 1 in 10 million chance of a commercial
plane crash and even if a plane crashes it's a misconception that you
are doomed; you have about an 80% chance of surviving. The chance of
dying in a plane crash is about 1 in 9.2 million. It's much more
likely to die on the way to the airport. It's even more likely that
you'll win the lottery.
Of course this doesn't stop people from
being afraid. There are a few reasons for this. One is that when a
plane crashes it usually is catastrophic and sensationalized in the
media. When something happens so rarely, it always newsworthy.
Another reason is that people feel out of control when they are
flying. Not only are they not piloting the plane, they can't even see
what's going on in the cock-pit. Finally... people are irrational.
Facts don't always keep emotions at bay. And I include myself in that
statement. Quite often I am nervous about flying and have to repeat
these facts in my head over and over again until I snap back to
But all of that is only indirectly
related to the question I am trying to answer. It was inspired by the
guy next to me on the plane (the least annoying of the four people I
was forced to sit next to). As a plane takes off and lands, you have
to turn off all electronic devices. Since he was involved with a game
of Angry Birds, he was huffing and puffing about having to comply.
Which got me to thinking... is this is actually necessary?
Well, let's start with the position of
the FAA. Portable electronic device (PEDs) are now carried by almost
everyone. There are still many unknowns about the radio signals that
cell phones and other PEDs give off. There is a chance that they
could interfere with the flight instruments. These instruments use a
pitot-static system to determine things like airspeed, Mach number,
altitude and altitude trend. Such systems are a composition of
sensors that detect air pressure (or pitot pressure) and static
pressure taking into account temperature, density, pressure and
viscosity of fluids. There electrical, magnetic and vacuum components
to such instruments.
This fear may not be that far fetched.
A compute monitor, for example can be effected by electromagnetic
fields which a cell phone emits. So if you ever hear a strange
magnetic sound right before the phone rings and until you pick up the
phone, you now know the reason. You may also notice this with
speakers, radios, etc. This is usually only way a phone is near these
devices. If your phone is on the other side of the room you have no
problem. The same thing, in theory, could happen with flight
instruments in an airplane.
So I guess one could ask why not just
say that the pilot isn't allowed to have a cell phone? There are some
arguments that it is the collective use of phones and other PEDs that
emit electromagnetic fields that would be a problem. Others claim
there is no actual reason for this especially with modern cell
phones. But I think the overall message I found from experts is that
the jury is still out on this one and it's better to be safe than
sorry. Taking off and landing are the most critical parts of a flight
so it's important that the plane and ground control have
uninterrupted communications. Also during these critical times, the
captain will want to have the attention of the passengers. It's hard
to hear announcements when you have headphones on or are engaged in
As technology advances, this rule will
most likely be a thing of the past. In fact, some flights even have a
WiFi system that people can use for a fee. These systems have to
undergo a great deal of testing to ensure that it is safe to have on
My final thought? I hope that sometime
soon they will realize that an e-reader, mp3 player, smart phone or
laptop with the wireless signal disabled is safe to use and you don't
have to put it away to take off or land. The issue there is of course
trusting people to turn off the wireless signal...
I must admit though that I hope cell
phone use, for making calls that is, continues to be prohibited. Does
anyone want to sit on a three hour flight having to listen to the
person next to them talk loudly to their friend who they are
traveling to see about getting their nails done? Or listen to one
side of a business deal? I don't think so...
Leave a Comment