Monthly Archives: September 2015

Sleep Experts Say Work and School Should Not Start Until after 10 a.m.

If you are among the people who favor waking later in the day, with your morning starting a few hours later, you are not alone. According to Paul Kelley, a researcher at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, the hours people force themselves to adapt to for work are unsuitable and unnatural for their internal body clocks, and this puts them in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis.

Adults are not the only ones who should have later start times, either. Kelley mentions the theory also applies to children and teenagers. In an initial study, there was an experimental trial with a later start time for students. Results of this initial study showed by starting school at 10 a.m., students performed much better and had higher test scores compared to students starting at 8 a.m. Now Kelley and his group of researchers hope to recruit up to 100 schools in the United Kingdom to participate in a broader research trial, advocating later start times for students.

Kelley recommends school start times for 8:30 a.m. for children up to age 10, 10:00 a.m. for students between 11 and 17, and 11:00 a.m. for students 18 to 24. The reason for these recommendations has to do with the body’s natural circadian rhythms and how a lack of sleep affects the body. Sleep deprivation results in mood changes, weight gain, frustration, exhaustion, anxiety, and makes people more prone to take risks and become addicted to depressants and stimulants.

Further, the group between the ages of 14 and 24 is one of the most sleep deprived. Most teenagers’ and young adults’ bodies do not start producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the internal body clock, until around 11 p.m. in the evening. As a result, the hormone does not even start circulating through the body until early the following morning, making it much more difficult to wake up early.

Before we turn 10 years old and, again, after we reach age 55, our bodies are able to adapt to an early morning schedule. It is the years in between these ages where the body’s clock changes, and adjustments to our daily routines should be modified by up to three hours, with later starting times than we currently have. According to Kelley, having a later starting time would be entirely natural.

Getting sufficient sleep is vital for everyone of all ages. A lack of sleep results in poorer performances and leads to health problems. Where the research into this area is headed, no-one is entirely certain, except that later start times would be widely acceptable to most adults, teens, and children. It will be interesting to see how Kelley and his researchers fare once they complete their 100 school study in the United Kingdom, and whether it will have an effect on start times here in the United States.

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Scientists Discover New Species of Human Ancestor

When American paleoanthropologist Lee R. Berger and his team of scientists from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa were first tipped off by a group of spelunkers that there was a previously inaccessible section of the local Rising Star Cave filled with bones, it’s doubtful that they could have predicted the gravity of the discovery that they were about to make. Now, two years later, Berger and a team of over 60 scientists from around the world have published a study revealing that their research has determined that the bones belong to a previously unknown ancestor of humanity, which they have dubbed homo naledi.

Within the Rising Star Cave, from which the new species takes its name (“naledi” is the local Sesotho language’s word for “star”), the team of researchers have so far identified over 1,550 fossil elements, making it the largest sample of any hominin species found at a single African site. Berger and his team have determined that the bones once belonged to at least 15 different individuals; according to the researchers, the naledi used the cave as a burial site where they would inter the bodies of their dead.

Burial Rituals

If Berger and his team’s hypothesis that the Rising Star Cave is an ancient tomb for an extinct pre-human species is correct, the discovery of homo naledi represents an overturning of previously held beliefs about the history of human ritual. Before now, it was believed that ritual burial was a behavior limited to modern humans, and not of any homo sapiens ancestor species.

While Berger estimates that h. naledi walked the earth near the beginning of the development of this homo genus, determining the fossils’ exact origin date has proven difficult, thanks to the mixing of sediment from different eras within the cave and a lack of fossilized fauna nearby. Given the new species’ primitive anatomy and small brain size, combined with geologists’ estimates that the cave is no more than three million years old, the researchers estimate that homo naledi likely walked the Earth between 2.5 and 2.8 million years ago.


In addition to burying their dead, there is evidence that homo naledi also made and used tools, which helped justify the scientists classifying the new species as a member of the homo genus. The species also had a relatively modern structure to its feet, teeth, and jaws, and also walked upright on long legs, though it appears their average height was less than five feet tall. While some scientists, such as University of Pittsburgh Jeffrey H. Schwartz, are not yet convinced that the naledi should be considered a member of the homo genus (Schwartz says he feels that the fossils are closer to resembling Australopithecus, the pre-hominin genus of which the famous skeleton Lucy is the most well-known example), the authors of the study say they are confident in their classification.

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Did the Curiosity Rover Take Pictures of Alien Life on Mars?

As NASA releases more and more pictures of the Martian surface taken by the Mars rover “Curiosity,” experts and amateurs alike have pored over the photos in hopes of learning more about the red planet. One man, however, claims that he has spotted the most shocking possible discovery of all while examining the Mars rover pictures: a black, scorpion-like creature wandering the Martian surface.

Scott C. Warring, the founder and editor of the popular UFO site UFO Sightings Daily, says that upon examining one of the photos released by NASA under the name “Sol 1100,” he has spotted what appears to be a living creature with a black exoskeleton, “much like a desert beetle or a scorpion would have.” Warring claims that when the picture is examined closely, the unnamed creature can be seen holding a clawed arm up in the air.

In addition to the scorpion creature, Warring also says that he has identified what appears to be the roof of a building, which he hypothesizes is a hut for small alien women he claims to have spotted in previous pictures.

Life on Mars?

Despite Warring’s insistence that the pictures show obvious signs of life on Mars (which he also claims the government and NASA are attempting to hide from the public), the blurriness of the enhanced photos offered as proof on UFO Sightings Daily can hardly be called definitive evidence of life on the red planet. Nor would Warring’s claims of proving the existence of Martian life be the first time official photos were said to contain proof of alien civilization. The famous “Martian Face,” which was first spotted in 1976 by the Viking 1 Orbiter, was said by some to be an alien monument built on the planet’s surface. NASA, on the other hand, claimed that the “face” was an optical illusion; later images captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Global Surveyor revealed the landmark captured in the original photos to be a faceless mountain formation.

Another famous example of “proof” of extraterrestrial life, the “Martian canals,” was also partially the result of an optical illusion. In 1870, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli spotted what appeared to be long, straight channels in the Martian surface, which he called “canali,” an Italian word for “channels.” Further observation of the Martian surface in early 20th century and beyond proved that the canali were merely a trick of the light, but not before many latched on to the idea that the Martian surface was covered in alien-built aqueducts (the Italian word canali having been erroneously translated into English as “canals,” implying that the channels Schiaparelli claimed to have seen were something that had been constructed, rather than naturally occurring waterways).

While NASA has yet to verify Warring’s claims of identifying alien life, it has announced that Curiosity has found evidence indicating that molecular “building blocks” forming the basis of life can be found in the Martian soil.

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The 4 Craziest Scientific Theories (That Turned Out to Be Right)

Scientific progress may seem like a straight line of amassing knowledge and calmly correcting mistaken impressions to get to the truth, but the actual process is much more chaotic than that. Theories that we take for granted today were often met with confusion and hostility when they were introduced, and the people who introduced them called mad men, idiots, and worse. Today, we’ll take a look at the top four scientific theories that seemed crazy when they were introduced, but that time (and further scientific observation) proved to be correct.

Floating Continents

In 1910, German meteorologist Alfred Wegener noticed something funny. When examined closely, it appeared that the coastlines of Africa and South America were shaped as though they had once been connected. While he wasn’t the first person to make the observation, the idea that the two continents may have once been one continent stuck in Wegener’s mind, eventually leading to him delivering a lecture on “continental displacement” in 1912. According to his theory (which is now called “continental drift”), the Earth’s continents were once a single supercontinent that Wegener called “Pangea,” and had drifted apart with time.

Most of the scientific community dismissed Wegener’s theory, which he continued to try to prove for the rest of his life. In 1962, Harry Hess completed Wegener’s theory by discovering the force that caused the continents to shift. Today, Pangea and continental drift are widely accepted by the scientific community.

The Heliocentric Solar System

The idea of a heliocentric solar system – where the planets revolve around the sun – can largely be credited to two scientists: Copernicus and Galileo. Copernicus published a theory of planetary motion in 1543 that directly contradicted the accepted notion that the Earth was the center of the universe, and was widely derided at the time. In the early 17th century, Galileo used a telescope to observe the movement of celestial bodies, which both confirmed Copernicus’ suspicion that the Earth orbited the sun, and raised the ire of the Catholic Church and the Inquisition, which led to Galileo being placed under house arrest for the rest of his life, and his book being banned. As further scientific research was conducted, Galileo’s beliefs were vindicated, and his theories of heliocentrism served as an important base for modern astrophysics.

Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance

Gregor Mendel probably never imagined that his experiments in a vegetable garden would change science forever. Living in a Austrian monastery as a monk, Mendel noticed that when he controlled the pollination of the pea plants, the resulting peas would often have the same characteristics as the plants they were derived from. When combined his observations with the fact that children often had the same characteristics as their parents, Mendel’s vegetable experiments led him to develop the basic theory on which genetics would be based: Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance. Unfortunately for Mendel, the theory that would revolutionize our understanding of how life develops was ignored by his contemporary scientists almost entirely, despite Mendel attempting to contact and convince many of the luminaries of his day. It would take several decades for Mendel’s theories to be taken seriously.

Dark Matter

Fritz Zwicky was a Swiss astronomer who would make many important discoveries in his field, most of which were ignored for decades. Zwicky was also what could charitably be called a “difficult person,” one who had no problem venting his contempt for other researchers and the scientific establishment. Zwicky’s eccentric nature and hostile personality made it easy for his contemporaries to dismiss him as a crank, which resulted in much of his work being ignored and dismissed. It took 40 years for his most important discovery, dark matter, to be “rediscovered,” at which point the scientific community realized his idea explained much about the behavior of the universe that had been unable to be accounted for without Zwicky’s theories.

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