camping


V.23 No.30 | 7/24/2014

Summer Dining

Camping With Cans

Imbibing your way through New Mexico’s outdoor beauty

By Hosho McCreesh
Hosho McCreesh heads to the outback with a canned selection of New Mexico brewed beer.

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Science

Ruled by Sun and Moon

¡Viva la Science!

Andréia via Flickr

Take a look at the sky. See a big ball of light? If so, it’s probably doing something to you right now. Humans respond to light from the sun and the full moon in measurable ways, two new studies report, and our sleep hangs in the balance.

In one study, a bunch of lucky volunteers went camping in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains for a week. (For SCIENCE!) Before they went, they’d spent some time wearing activity monitors on their wrists. The monitors measured stuff like average activity levels, sleep duration and waking/sleeping times. After a week of monitoring, researchers used a saliva test to measure participants’ melatonin and determine their “natural” circadian rhythms.

During the camping trip, anything except natural light was verboten. No phones, no flashlights, just sunlight and campfires. After their wilderness adventure, during which they slept and woke when they wanted to, participants went back to the lab for more testing. Since all those measurements had been taken earlier, the researchers could see what had changed.

The main difference was in the amount of light individuals were exposed to: Study participants got four times as much of the stuff when camping. A thing to know about melatonin is that it normally rises in the early evening near sunset (to encourage sleep) and drops off in the morning before waking. For many of us, though, a life surrounded by the comforting glow of technology means that we’re getting artificial light at all hours of the day and nightand our melatonin levels reflect it, increasing later in the evening and sometimes not decreasing until after we’ve woken.

The campers’ melatonin levels after their trip, however, rose and fell according to the normal rhythm, chilling out at sunrise and ramping up at sunset. Participants’ circadian clocks shifted two hours earlier on average, indicating that time spent campingor exposed to natural lightcan “reset” the clock and help people fall asleep and wake up more easily.

Those are some pretty dramatic results, and they point to actions you can take if you want to adjust your own circadian rhythms. For example, you might try getting more natural light during the day. In the case of the moon, however, the measurable effect is more subtle and the plan of action isn’t so obvious.

*L*u*z*a* via Flickr

The moon study analyzed sleep data acquired from a previous study in a controlled laboratory setting. It looked at what phase of the moon the sleep data was associated with and foundmuch to the surprise of researchersthat a distinct pattern emerged. Despite volunteers being unable to actually see the moon in their laboratory bedrooms, their sleep was affected if it fell on a night near a full moon. Sleepers took five extra minutes, on average, to zonk out, plus they got shallower sleep and about 20 minutes less of it.

Do we have an internal clock that responds to cycles of the moon, just like we do for the sun? Maybe. Researchers really can’t say at this early point; this is “the first reliable evidence” that the moon can affect our sleep under laboratory conditions, they note.

Astrology this ain’t.These studies are smallonly 8 people in the solar study and 33 people in the lunarand additional research with larger groups and in other locations globally is needed if we want to draw firm conclusions. Nonetheless, this is science functioning precisely as science is supposed to. In both studies, we have a testable hypothesis, an experiment whose parameters can be repeated and results that can be impartially measured. Damn right, you should be excited.

Sources: Neurorexia, Science News, PubMed Health

dreams

Rowdy’s Dream Blog #306: A dream about large rocks in wheelbarrows.

G and I are car camping on a mesa. It is dusk. I watch a large, protractor-shaped spaceship descend and land behind some trees. Soon, a swarm of geology students dressed in white jumpsuits mill around our campsite, gathering large rocks into wheelbarrows. Some of them spill their loads, comically. I pull our canvas curtains closed and hope for some peace and quiet so we can sleep.

History

Fat Man and Little Boy go camping in Chimayo

South Park

This Friday marks the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, with the anniversary of Nagasaki's bombing on Monday. To protest the continued procurement of nuclear weapons, Think Outside the Bomb are camping near Los Alamos. Their website, thinkoutsidethebomb.org has directions to the camp if anyone out there is looking to make their weekend in the woods more politically active.

If you're not real outdoorsy, check out John Hersey's Hiroshima. It's an amazing book, which appeared as an article in the New Yorker's August 31, 1946 issue. In fact, it was such a powerful story, editors dedicated the entire issue to it, forgoing their cartoons or any other articles.

Another of my faves about the aftermath of World War II is John W. Dower's Embracing Defeat. It's not an uplifting book but it creates a vivid post-war world in your mind.

Of course, 65 is often cited as retirement age (though that's not exactly true these days), which gives Think Outside the Bomb's protest a little more of a "Happy Retirement Fat Man and Little Boy" feel.

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