Livin' on the MDedge

Sleepless democracy, space herpes, and the F-bomb diet


Sleep: the key to democracy?

You might need to lie down for this one. Insufficient sleep could be affecting the very institutions and behaviors that keep society from crumbling.

Hand dropping ballot into box BlackSalmon/gettyimages

Lack of sleep is proven to affect “private” behaviors, like working, but a new study has shown that exhaustion also has consequences on a national scale. Sleeping less negatively affects the “social behaviors that hold society and democracy together,” according to the study’s authors.

Willingness to vote, donate to charities, and sign petitions decreased in sleep-deprived participants. Although that last one is iffy – is anyone really willing to sign a petition, regardless of sleep intake? One thing to glean from this study is, if you’re holding a clipboard, let the most tired-looking people keep walking.

Perhaps we should start a petition to make the day before Election Day a national napping holiday.

I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in

LOTME takes you to the ends of the earth for this edition of Bacteria vs. the World. Let’s go to our correspondent, Danielle Kang, on the International Space Station.

Lever of a public toilet laymul/gettyimages

Hi, this is Briny Baird in Berlin, Germany. The space station’s extreme environment weakens astronauts’ immune systems, but it has the opposite effect on bacteria, as Elisabeth Grohmann, PhD, of Beuth University of Applied Sciences explains.

“The bacteria [astronauts] carry become hardier – developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics – and more vigorous, multiplying and metabolizing faster.”

This is, as scientists put it, bad. To prevent an on-board bacterial bacchanal, Dr. Grohmann and her associates covered a vital piece of ISS equipment, the toilet door, with a new coating containing “silver and ruthenium, conditioned by a vitamin derivative.” After 19 months in space, the coated section of the door had 80% fewer bacteria on it than an uncoated control surface.

With long-term missions to Mars being considered, it should be safer for astronauts and their toilet doors to … go where no one has gone before. Back to the studio.

The F-bomb diet

You might think vulgarities and Homo sapiens have been an inseparable pair since the first human bashed her thumb while chipping stones into spearheads to add meat to her diet. You’d probably be right – except for blue-tinged language built on the consonant foundations of the letters F and V.

Illustration of a bomb with the letter F JakeOlimb/gettyimages

New linguistics research finds that those $#%*! letters, like truckers and Marine gunnery sergeants, are relatively modern developments. As humans moved away from finger-harming hunting and gathering and toward finger-harming farming, they developed a taste for softer foods. And their speech picked up “labiodentals” such as F and V – which are sounds made when we touch our lower lips to our upper teeth. Half the world’s languages are now riddled with soft-food profanities, er, labiodentals.

Next on the linguists’ research list: Does the paleo diet lead to the dropping of fewer F-bombs?

Next Article: