News for Nerds - The Sleepytime Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 10/11/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Sleepytime Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds. This week we'll learn about the power of superstitious rituals, we'll gawk at some amazing new animal species, and we'll have our minds blown by the latest batch of ultra-realistic robots. But first, here are your headlines.

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How much sleep do you get each night?

Your answer to that question might have a lot to do with your overall health, and with your risk of suffering from chronic diseases. It's well-known that getting too little sleep can be harmful, but did you know that it's also true that getting too much sleep isn't necessarily a good thing?

Scientists at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a study of more than 54,000 Americans over the age of 45. They found that the optimal amount of sleep is between 7 and 9 hours per night, and that about 64 percent of participants fell in that range. Another one-third of participants were so-called 'short sleepers', meaning that they got fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night. Another 4 percent were 'long sleepers', getting more than 10 hours of shut-eye on average.

As you might expect, the short sleepers were more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and frequent mental distress. But it's interesting to note that long sleepers were also more likely to suffer from those chronic diseases -- and for afflictions such as heart disease and diabetes, they actually were more at risk than short sleepers.

The lesson here is that sleeping well is crucial to good health, and that it's about more than just duration. Says one doctor involved with the study, "It is important to understand that both the quality and quantity of sleep impact your health . . . When and how you sleep is just as important as what you eat or how you exercise."

- from MSN (courtesy of NFN fan Jackie)

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Most of us have worked on school science experiments at one time or another, and I'm sure some of us have won awards and recognition for our efforts. But raise your hand if you've had your science experiment co-opted for use on the International Space Station?

Eleven year-old Michal Bodzianowski can claim that honor after his science experiment, 'What Are the Effects of Creation of Beer in Microgravity and Is It Possible?', won the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. His entry will launch into space in December.

Michal was inspired by a book he read that explained why beer was so popular in the middle ages. "It was a punishment for crimes, that you couldn't drink beer," Michal says. "And most people didn't survive (that) because the water was contaminated." That little tidbit got Michal thinking about the ways that alcohol kills bacteria in water, and how that might be applied to future space colonies. He proposes that in space, if there was an explosion that wounded people and contaminated water, "the fermentation process could be used to make beer, which can then be used as a disinfectant and a clean drinking source."

It's pretty heady stuff, especially for an 11 year-old. Since the start of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program in 2010, more than 17,500 students from 60 communities have taken part. Michal is the first winner from Colorado. Congratulations to him on a job very well done.

- from The Denver Post

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Here are a few other cool science stories that you'll enjoy:

  • An American hero died this week. Scott Carpenter was the fourth American in space and just the second to orbit the Earth. The story of his survival during a dramatic re-entry in 1962 is the stuff of legend. We need more Scott Carpenters.
  • We all have silly superstitious rituals that we cling to, even though we may not really believe on them. Ever knock on wood to prevent something bad from happening? Well, new research shows that these rituals might not be so silly after all.
  • You might not be able to find Suriname on a map, but a recent three-week survey of the tropical island has uncovered dozens of new species, including a cocoa frog and a Lilliputian beetle. Check out this cool slideshow and marvel at Earth's astonishing biodiversity.
  • And finally, for my longtime radio partner Jane London, I give you these videos of some incredibly life-like (and weirdly creepy) animal robots:

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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