Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do We Really Need to Sleep?

My droopy eared bloodhound, just like Jed Clampett’s, sleeps around 20 hours a day.  My wife needs around 9 hours and I do just fine with 7.  Albert Einstein got by on a couple of hours a night...and some animals can sleep for months...then stay awake for weeks at a time.   Most humans spend roughly one-third of their life asleep, and researchers still do not know why. 

Yep, the purpose of sleep remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science. Leading theories suggest it has to do with memory consolidation or other to benefit other physiological or neural functions. But a new theory holds that sleep is merely a good way to increase an animal's efficiency, by hunting only when the hunting is good, for example, and minimize its risk: The risk of an accident goes down when you're sleeping.  

While sleep is often thought to have evolved to play an unknown but vital role inside the body, the new theory now suggests it actually developed as a method to better deal with the outside world.

Scientists also wonder why their so much variation in sleep patterns. Newborn dolphins and killer whales and their mothers show an almost total lack of what might be called sleep for several weeks after birth, when these animals normally migrate. Birds can fly for days on end.  It raises the question, if sleep has a vital universal function, how are they able to survive without it?
So let’s consider our favorite morning personality,  Kitty Kinnin’s view of this.  Because Kitty gets up at 4:30 am to do her show...and has a busy social calendar  at night, she considers herself  chronically tired from lack of sleep.  This new research would seem to indicate that Kitty doesn’t really need sleep, she just thinks she does.  
Maybe this explains why people have insomnia.  Perhaps they really don’t need the sleep...they just think they do.  So they have tremendous anxiety because they think they need 8 hours and aren’t getting it.  Sleeping pills and other strategies are next, adding yet more stuff to worry about...thus making sleep even more difficult.
I think humans sleep because they are bored.   Before TV there was literally nothing to do...they couldn’t even hunt at night for lack of night vision goggles.   Even reading books was hard because the lighting was bad.  And for hundreds of thousands of years there wasn’t even a book to read.  
TV has been blamed for us NOT getting enough sleep...because it is actually something to do when the sun goes down.  People did get more sleep before its invention. So now most people go to bed after the 11 o'clock news, but thats because there nothing good on late night TV except for Letterman...and even he is getting old.  
Some people do stay up all night all the time.  Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci and almost every software coder I have ever known did not sleep much...they had too much to think about.  So sleep is just a learned habit, like drinking a beer at five o'clock or brushing your teeth the wrong way.  
So the way you feel when you consider yourself sleep deprived may be more about withdrawal symptoms than actually being tired.  Jeez, this whole issue makes me fatigued....I think I'll take a nap.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Gulf Oil Disaster is Our Fault

Everyone is furious at BP for causing the worst man made environmental disaster in history.  The logic is that somehow BP was negligent, irresponsible, even criminal.  Maybe.   But it was we, the people, who gave them the right to drill offshore in the first place.  It was we, the people, who  ignored the ramifications of an offshore drilling accident.  And it is, we the people, (and the animals) who will suffer the consequences.

Anything humans can conceive of and build will be imperfect and thus will eventually fail.  Witness the computer on your desk, the car in your driveway, the ice maker in your fridge and the lawnmower in your yard.  If any of those things fail...and they most certainly will, at most its an inconvenience and a pain in the butt.  Certainly no one would consider your overgrown yard an environmental disaster (although the garden club would appalled).

Even the most technically advanced things we build fail.  Space shuttles blow up, airliners crash, the cable TV goes on the blink.  How did we ever think that something as risky as drilling 18,000 feet into the ocean floor for oil would be just another day at the beach?

The next time some politician on TV blathers "Drill Baby Drill" or emphatically claims that your economic future relies on giant concrete plants and such being located in your community, think about the last computer crash you had.  In that case, you picked up the phone and called the "Geek Squad".

In the case of oil spills and mercury poisoning that will affect your children and their children, ....who you gonna call?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Facebook status: Having you recommend any products?

A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults who use social networks revealed that 30% of Facebook and Twitter users check their accounts every time they wake up during the night. Another study showed that 46% of women and 30% of men would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up Internet access for the same length of time.
Well, it appears some folks are mashing up these seemly conflicting activities into a single act of public/private sex.  A recent published survey found that 7% of Facebook users would look at messages and/or text during sex. What the actual content of these messages and posts were not part of the research, but you can just imagine (yes you can...keep trying).
As stunning as that sounds, other studies have shown that 25% of men think about baseball statistics during coitus, while 19% of women check the condition of their cuticles whilst making love.  So multitasking during sex is not new...but using your “Droid” during the act has some new weirdness to it.
Combine this trend with Facebook’s new behavioral advertising targeting system and some really interesting things can happen...especially for those who want to sell you something.  
Here’s how their new system works:  Facebook takes every little thing you say about yourself in your “Profile” settings and puts it into a giant database, which then blends you with millions of others who have similar interests.  
For example, if you list “Dr. Strangelove” as one of your favorite movies, you are now in a giant population of folks who also love the movie.  If a company were to design a product especially for Dr. Strangelove fans, such as a custom wheel chair or even a special “atomic glove”, then ads for said products would pop up on the home pages of the movie’s fans.
Even if you haven’t listed the movie in your profile, if you mention it in a message or post, you are also put in the pool of fans.  In fact, if you text the words “strange love”  while you are having sex, you will probably be getting custom wheel chair offers the very next day, but I suspect the “atomic glove” would be more appealing in this case.
Many people think these targeting capabilities from Facebook are an invasion of their privacy...yet these are the same folks who will post the details of their wild night out complete with the horrible symptoms of their ensuing hangover.  Rule of thumb in the Internet not put anything on a website or even your email or texts that you don’t want someone to see.
With that said, is it so bad that companies can target their advertising to folks who are actually interested in their products?  To me, nothing is more irritating than having to endure an advertisement for a product I would never buy.  
Case in point: Dr. Pepper, “I’m a Doctor” ads.  To me Dr. Pepper is liquid candy and concentrated caffeine suspended in what appears to be brown drool.  There is probably no drink on the market that could be worse for you, yet they have the nerve to have “Doctors” recommend it.  
Of course, you say, no one believes these people are real doctors....but these are the same people who are stupid enough to drink Dr. Pepper.  This is the old style behavioral targeting which basically says, “Let’s make a stupid product and aim it at stupid people...and then market it on stupid TV shows with ridiculously inane spots.
In contrast, in today’s world, the ads are focused on exactly what you like and want.  In a strange new way, it unclutters your life, and surrounds you with you (and the several million people who are just like you).