The Origin of April Fools’ Day

NewImage‘For Europeans, April Fools hearkens back to the transition to the Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century. The pre-Gregorian calendar had ended the year near the end of March, coinciding with the beginning of spring. With the new Gregorian calendar, the beginning of the year was moved to January. The calendar change was slow to take hold and there was resistance to it, but those who continued celebrating the new year at the beginning of April, old style, were ultimately shamed as “fools.”…’

Via JSTOR

Why People With Insomnia Don’t Know They’re Asleep

 

NewImage‘When you can’t get to sleep at night, you might explain it to someone as your brain not being able to shut off.

While your brain never truly shuts off, when you do fall asleep, your brain sends inhibitory neurons that help reduce conscious awareness to get to a point of deep sleep. Normal sleepers often feel like they’ve fallen asleep before their brain is in a scientifically-defined state of sleep, but people with insomnia aren’t so lucky.

A recent study by BYU psychology professor Daniel Kay published in Sleep suggests a dysfunction in the inhibition process could be what causes those with insomnia to have a hard time fully falling asleep.

“Previous studies found that patients with insomnia appear to be asleep, their eyes are closed and their brain is in a characteristic sleep pattern, but you wake them up and guess what they are more likely to tell you? ‘I was awake,’” Kay said.

This problem has traditionally been characterized by sleep scientists as sleep misperception. Kay, however, argues that that term is based on the assumption that sleep is categorical, either being asleep or being awake, and that when you’re asleep you don’t have consciousness.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” Kay said. “I think you can be consciously aware and your brain be in a sleep pattern. The question is: What role does conscious awareness have in our definition of sleep?”…’

Via Neuroscience News

What Happens When a Blind Person Takes LSD?


NewImage‘How do blind people experience psychedelic drugs? This is the topic of an interesting, but unusual, paper just out in Consciousness and Cognition.

The paper’s authors are University of Bath researchers Sara Dell’Erba, David J.Brown, and Michael J.Proulx. However, the real star contributor is a man referred to only as “Mr Blue Pentagon”.

Blue Pentagon (“BP”) is the pseudonym for a 70 year old blind man who reports taking large quantities of LSD and other drugs during his career as a rock musician in the 1970s. (“Blue Pentagon” was his favorite brand of LSD.)

How the researchers came to meet BP is not stated.

Much of the paper consists of BP’s accounts of his experiences under the influence of hallucinogens, and this is what makes the article rather unusual, as parts are more reminiscent of a late-night conversation than an academic paper.

For instance, here’s how BP describes the impact of LSD on the perception of music:…’

Via Neuroskeptic

Why the High-Tech Plan to Bring Back the Northern White Rhino Matters

NewImage‘With the death of the last male northern white rhino last week, the world was reminded that yet another charismatic animal is functionally extinct because of humans. But in the future, because of synthetic biology, extinction may not be forever. And the northern white rhino could be the animal that pioneers a suite of new technologies that get us there….’

Via Earther

The Fraud and the Four-Hour Workweek

NewImage‘Self-help millionaire Tim Ferriss is a fraud. But his success says a lot about modern capitalism and its discontents….

After dozens of pages of self-help and time-management cliches (“Poisonous people do not deserve your time”; “Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening”; “Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle”), Ferriss finally laid out his magic bullet solution: follow in his footsteps and become a fake expert. “Expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators.” …’

Via Jacobin