Wednesday, 21 August 2019


Watch the continuous outward stream of plasma and particles, known as solar wind, emanating from the Sun in this NASA animation.

Top image: Screenshot from the video.

[Source: VideoFromSpace/YouTube.]


You’ll Lose Sleep Over These Terrifying Sleep Facts
By Jeff Kelly,
Toptenz, 19 August 2019.

To sleep - perchance to dream.” It’s one of the most famous lines in literary history, written (probably?) by the man himself, Big Billy Shakespeare. The line, contemplating death and whatever lay beyond, springs to mind easily when thinking about actual sleep. But as we’ll discover today, while it’s a haunting line about mortality and the unknown, another, modern day bard wrote a line that you may find more fitting after reading this list: “The night is dark and full of terrors.”

When it comes to these terrifying facts about sleep (or lack thereof, in some cases), all we can say is this: Ain’t that the truth.

10. Snoring isn’t just annoying; it’s potentially deadly

Well, the act of snoring itself isn’t deadly, unless you’re such a chainsaw at night that your significant other finally snaps and puts you down for good. But if you’re someone who snores heavily, it could be a sign that you’re in danger of significant health issues. Namely, a heart attack or stroke.

You’ve probably heard of sleep apnea, but in case you haven’t, here’s a very quick and dirty overview: if you suffer from sleep apnea, it means your breathing frequently stops, and then abruptly restarts. This happens because the muscles in your throat relax, allowing your airway to close, which is obviously…less than ideal. You know, for the whole “continuing to live” thing.

But more than just a lack of oxygen, sleep apnea can also serve as a symptom of numerous other, more serious conditions, including the aforementioned heart attack (or heart disease) or stroke. According to the American Heart Association, “one in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea,” with men being more frequent victims than women. The good news is treatment is relatively simple, with a CPAP mask the most common solution. But getting good, quality rest is another way to treat sleep apnea, along with exercise and cutting back on booze. So get jogging, rummy, and you should be just fine.

9. Sleep depravation can lead to suicidal thoughts

“Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?” It’s a cliché, and maybe one we should try to avoid from here on out, because believe it or not, someone acting a little grumpy in the morning might have some very serious stuff going. That’s because if that Grumpy Gus had trouble sleeping last night, he could run the risk of suffering from heightened suicidal thoughts.

Of course, the key here is that this essentially only happens in people who suffer from depression, though those who suffer often don’t tell people they’re victims of this very serious mental health issue. For people who occasionally entertain suicidal thoughts, a rough night of sleep makes those tendencies even more prevalent the following the day. In a recent study, 51 subjects were tested and the researchers concluded that, “sleep quality may alter the strength of the relationship between pre-sleep entrapment and awakening suicidal ideation.”

So basically, tread lightly around people who seem to have “gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.” Or, better yet: just try to be nice to them. You can do that, right?

8. Sexsomnia can make you an inadvertent sexual abuser

“Sexsomnia” may sound a little funny, or like the name of a film you’d find on a website you only visit on an incognito browser, but it’s a dangerous and serious sleep disorder. Sleep talking is pretty harmless; sleepwalking less so. But sleep sex can turn you into a sexual predator…all while you’re sound asleep, and fully without your knowledge or intent.

Some of the things that could occur with someone who suffers from sleep sex, or sexsomnia, include everything from fondling and groping, to pelvic thrusting, and even masturbation and actual attempts to engage in intercourse. And to make matters even worse, those who suffer have no idea they’re doing it, and don’t remember after they wake up.

While it’s unclear exactly what causes sexsomnia, some of the factors are pretty much what you could probably guess: alcohol or drug use, side effects from some medications, stress, and sleep deprivation. It’s not always a case of masturbation (which is more common in women), or fondling, or attempting to engage in intercourse (which tends to happen more with men) with a partner, either - if you suffer from sexsomnia, you may attempt sexual activity with anyone nearby, regardless of your relationship or their gender. As you might expect, sleep sex has led to criminal prosecution in the past, with sexsomnia successfully used as a defense.

7. Violent dreams can be a sign of a brain disorder

Most people tend not to put much stock into any meaning or significance behind their dreams. If you dream about being eaten by a hamburger, there’s probably no real hidden meaning, so it stands to reason that if you experience a particularly violent nightmare, there’s no need to worry. Right?

Well, not so fast. It turns out that if you’re having incredibly vivid and increasingly violent dreams with more and more frequency, it could be a warning sign. Studies have shown that in such cases, these subjects (mostly males) suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder, and it can lead to actual inadvertent violence while that person is still sound asleep. That’s because, while your muscles are typically in a state of, essentially, paralysis while you’re in a deep sleep, when you suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder, you “act out the dream’s punches, twists and yells.” Obviously, if you’ve got someone in bed with you, they may take the brunt of those dream punches.

To make matters worse - and to get back to the title of this entry - there is believed to be a connection between REM sleep behavior disorder and brain disorders like Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia. That’s not to say REM sleep behavior disorder causes these afflictions; but it can be a strong indicator that you’ll eventually suffer from them.

6. Sleep paralysis is just plain TERRIFYING

Excuse the on-the-nose description, but sleep paralysis is a waking nightmare. To quickly clear up any confusion right off the top: when we talk about sleep paralysis, you’re not actually asleep during said paralysis. Instead, imagine your eyes have fluttered open after a deep sleep…only, you slowly realize you can’t move a muscle. You can’t speak. But you’re acutely aware of your surroundings, powerless to act or scream. To make matters worse, you’re sure an evil presence is in the room, ready to attack.

It’s no wonder sleep paralysis is also commonly referred to as night terrors. Obviously, chances of an evil creature being in the room with you are pretty much non-existent unless your name is Dean Winchester, but hallucinations are par for the course when it comes to night terrors.

As we mentioned when discussing REM sleep behavior disorder, your body (usually) essentially enters a state of paralysis when you’re asleep. With sleep paralysis, your brain is basically waking up before your muscles do. While you may have a bit of trouble breathing while suffering from sleep paralysis, night terrors themselves are more or less harmless - though, like REM sleep behavior disorder, they can be a sign of neurological diseases like narcolepsy.

5. Lack of sleep can raise your risk of cancer

It may sound crazy, but believe it or not the less you sleep, the higher the risk you could become afflicted with cancer. When you stop and think about it, though, it does make a bit of sense. After all, when you sleep, that’s when your body works to repair itself and refresh for the following day. A lack of sleep means your body isn’t getting that chance to “fix itself,” so to speak, and that in turn can impact your immune system and overall health.

And unfortunately, the connection between cancer and a lack of sleep works both ways: cancer survivors and those in treatment frequently suffer from lack of sleep, or even insomnia. A study at Johns Hopkins found that 25% of childhood cancer survivors had trouble sleeping, which is obviously less than ideal, given the importance of building up the immune system and allowing the body to rest and become rejuvenated overnight.

Going back to a lack of sleep leading to an increased risk of cancer, more research has found that, among other things, losing out on sleep decreases the production of melatonin, which “[protects] against DNA damage and acts as a tumor suppressor.” Many times, the connection between lack of sleep and development of cancer revolves around shift work, which can often throw off your body’s internal clock. The common suggestion is to set a routine that enables you to get the same amount of sleep at around the same time each night (or day), but unfortunately, that’s not always a feasible thing for people who need to work those odd and long hours.

4. Bruxism makes us cringe just thinking about it

Let’s not beat around the bush: bruxism sucks…ism? Sorry, this is no time for rhymes. Better known as teeth grinding, it’s not only annoying in that it produces horrible sounds that your partner has to deal with, but it can get so extreme that you could actually crack, or even break, your teeth or develop a serious jaw disorder.

Like most sleep disorders, one of the causes of bruxism is often stress or anxiety, or perhaps drug use. It can also be brought on by illness, causing your body to physically exert itself in really unfortunate ways - like grinding the hell out of your teeth, for example. Bruxism causes headaches, neck pain, and other similar discomforts. And while you may not break your teeth if you suffer from bruxism, all of that grinding may eventually loosen one or more of them. You could also suffer from serious cheek pain, as those who experience bruxism frequently chew on the insides of their cheeks while they sleep.

It’s unclear exactly how many people suffer from bruxism, but some estimates put it at around 8% of adults. Some of the tips for dealing with bruxism are pretty par for the course when it comes to any other sleep issues: try to relax before bed, switch up your sleep position, and make sure the bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable. Which are things we’d have thought people do anyway, but we’re not doctors. We just play them on the internet.

3. More people than you think fall asleep at the wheel

We’re as wary as anyone else about the move toward driverless vehicles, which is scary for a number of reasons, not least because, yes, we’ve seen Maximum Overdrive and the Terminator franchise. But we might be willing to risk robotic murder machines of doom (their technical name) if it means getting sleeping drivers off the roads.

And drivers falling asleep at the wheel is a lot more common than you probably realize. Chances are, a number of people who will read this article have drifted off while driving at some point, even if only for a brief moment. In a report by the Centers for Disease Control, one in 25 drivers aged 18 or older admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the previous 30 days. That same report noted that, in 2013, around 72,000 crashes were caused by sleeping drivers, resulting in 800 deaths and thousands of additional injuries. If that’s not scary enough, the report indicates that those numbers are likely on the low side, with fatalities related to sleeping drivers possibly reaching as high as 6,000 per year.

Another report backs that last part up, with the National Safety Council estimating 5,000 car crash fatalities coming as a result of a sleeping driver in 2015. Interestingly, the NSC found that the majority of these crashes involve drivers aged 25 or younger. The signs that you’re becoming a drowsy driver are pretty obvious, from things like drifting in your lane, to yawning, to beginning to nod off. If you feel any of those symptoms coming on, do everyone a favor and pull over as soon as possible. Those places on the sides of highways are called “rest stops” for a reason.

2. You may actually murder someone while sleepwalking

It’s like something straight out of an old Law & Order episode: someone has committed a murder, and much to Jack McCoy’s shock, the defendant’s counsel has invoked the sleepwalking defense. Amazingly, it’s a defense that’s been used multiple times in criminal cases, including several murder cases. Ripped from the headlines, indeed.

Now, given the fact that people who claim the sleepwalking defense generally get convicted of their crimes, we can’t say for sure whether or not it’s possible to be so deeply asleep that you could get up out of bed and flat out murder someone without being remotely cognizant of what’s going on. One case in the 1870s involved a father coming out of a nightmare and murdering his toddler, a crime for which he was acquitted.

There are some experts who believe it is possible to carry out these heinous crimes while asleep, as outlined in a 1996 article in the New York Times. Homicidal sleepwalking is closely connected to REM disorders, and as we’ve seen with REM sleep behavior disorder earlier in this list, it’s certainly possible to behave violently while fast asleep. Whether or not the sleepwalking defense is viable in a court of law, the violence that can come from sleep disorders is very real, and very scary.

1. EXPLODING HEAD SYNDROME!! (…isn’t exactly what it sounds like)

Exploding. Head. Syndrome.

That should be one of the most terrifying phrases in the history of mankind, but thankfully, it’s not exactly what it would indicate. It’s still unpleasant, but no, your head will not spontaneously explode like you’re in a low budget horror movie if you suffer from this affliction (which you probably don’t, given how rare it is). Exploding head syndrome sufferers, instead, will hear extremely loud noises either as they fall asleep or as they wake up.

These sounds could include anything from a gunshot to a thunderclap, but the thing is, the sounds aren’t real. (That said, if you think you hear a gunshot, you should still cautiously investigate just to make sure, because, well…someone with a gun might be shooting people and you should probably become aware of that fact.) There’s typically no actual pain associated with this sleep disorder, because again - you’re just hearing an imaginary loud noise. It can stress you out and raise your heart rate, but physical pain isn’t really a symptom, which you probably didn’t expect when you saw the phrase “exploding head.”

Exploding head syndrome has been associated with the hypnagogic jerk - which you probably recognize better as that phenomenon where you feel like you’re falling (among other things) while asleep. It’s a muscle spasm that creates weird sensations when you’re either falling asleep or waking up, and while it’s annoying, it’s not exactly life-threatening. So if you suffer, you’re going to be fine, and it’s been suggested that you can treat the disorder with things like yoga or a hot bath. Or hey, why not jump in a hot tub before bed?

Now that’s the kind of medical treatment we can get behind.

Top image: Sleep paralysis. Credit: Video screenshot from BuzzFeedVideo/YouTube.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

Tuesday, 20 August 2019


11 of the Best YouTube Channels for Understanding Mathematics
By Christopher McFadden,
Interesting Engineering, 11 August 2019.

Are you interested in mathematics? Do you need some help in solving a math problem? Then you might want to consider consulting some of these great mathematics YouTube channels.

Who is the best math teacher on YouTube?

There are few candidates for the best math teachers on YouTube. But these 11 are definitely some of the best.

1. PatrickJMT is one of the biggest

PatrickJMT is widely considered to be one of the best math-related YouTubers around. His channel has been around for some time now and has grown to over 1 million subscribers.

The channel's host, Patrick, is a community college mathematics professor whose love for math shines through in each of his videos. His mission is to help math-users of all levels up their game and improve their knowledge and grasp of some basic math principles.

This awesome free math channel also features numerous playlists which are helpfully tagged for ease of reference. They include things like inverse trigonometric functions, derivatives, optimization problems, integrals and anti-derivatives, linear equations, linear inequalities, exponents, polynomials, quadratic equations, quadratic inequalities, rational inequalities, logarithms, and functions.

2. Mathmantics is fun and educational

Mathmantics is another great math YouTube channel. It started in 2011 and has since grown to well over 1 million subscribers.

The channel was created by Rob and Jeremy who wanted to make learning mathematics that little bit easier for everyone.

"We know that many students struggle with math and that many teachers and parents need better tools to help students succeed. Our goal is to provide simple and engaging math resources that make learning math more fun for students of all ages." - mathmantics.

3. MathTheBeautiful are like online lectures

Credit: MathTheBeautiful/YouTube

MathTheBeautiful is another great math tutorial YouTube channel you might want to check out. Started in 2013, the channel has a respectful 41K subscribers to date.

Unlike other channels featured here, their content is in a longer format, rather than short punchy videos, that really dig deep into certain math problems. If you want the experience of a classroom lecture with the convenience of staying at home then this channel is for you.

According to their YouTube channel:

"Lemma is devoted to topics in mathematics ranging from High School Algebra to advanced subjects such as Linear Algebra, Calculus and beyond. Lemma videos are distinguished by the depth of the presentation that emphasizing the intuitive aspects of Mathematics."

4. Standupmaths combines standup comedy with math

Credit: standupmaths/YouTube

Mixing mathematics with standup comedy, standupmaths is an interesting diversion from some more serious math-related YouTube channels.

Hosted by Matt Parker, the channel started in 2009 and has well over 470K subscribers to date. He has also racked up over 49 million views at the time of writing.

He must be doing something right.

5. Eddie Woo loves mathematics!

Eddie Woo is a math teacher with a real passion for his subject. Eddie's day job is the Head of Mathematics at a comprehensive school in Sydney, Australia and his love for teaching the subject spilled over to the internet back in 2012.

"I think learning is awesome, and love being able to share what I've learned with others!" - Eddie Woo.

Eddie will inspire you to learn mathematics at your own pace and his enthusiasm for the subject is bound to rub off on you. We thoroughly recommend checking out his channel.

6. Video Math Tutor is one of the best

Video Math Tutor is another YouTuber who blends having fun with maths tuition. Started in 2006, this math-related YouTube channel has grown to over 50K subscribers and almost 7 million views.

According to the channel's introduction, "this channel has the BEST math tutoring videos you will find anywhere." We'll let you decide in the long run of course.

Apart from math videos, the Video Math Tutor also features brain teasers and funny clips that provide pure entertainment.

7. Khan Academy is one of the best known

Khan Academy is one of the best well-known YouTube channels for learning things. It offers a massive selection of videos on many subjects which of course includes mathematics.

It was founded by Salman Khan in 2006 and is one of the biggest on YouTube with almost 5 million subscribers.

8. Numberphile likes to make math fun

Numberphile is another enormously popular math-related YouTube channel you might want to check out. Founded by Brady Haran, the channel's mission is to help make learning mathematics fun and interesting.

It has almost 3 million subscribers and is still growing.

9. Mathademics is your own free math tutor

Founded in 2010, Mathademics is your own private math tutor. The channel features plenty of high-quality videos on various math-related subjects.

10. Professor Dave Explains combines physics and math

Professor Dave Explains is more aimed at Physics than math, but its math-related content is very good indeed. Prof. Dave is very engaging and will have you grasping difficult math subjects in no time.

11. Math Mammoth is all about math

Math Mammoth attempts to teach math in an unconventional and engaging way. It is one of the smaller channels with just over 25K subscribers but has racked up over 5.7 million views since 2008.

How can I be a good math teacher?

Mathematics can be a very dry subject at times, but a good math teacher can really bring the subject to life. Great math teachers will not only tutor students but also help address their individual struggles with certain aspects of a subject.

Good teachers will also make the subject, and classroom, an appealing place where students will want to return to time and again. But you will also need some other important characteristics to excel as a math teacher or any teacher for that matter.

1. Knowledge of math - Obviously you will need to know your subject like the back of your hand. Learners will quickly expose any deficiencies or holes in your knowledge, so make sure you are up to speed

2. Have a strategy - Plan lessons and make sure they are fun and varied. Talk to peers, attend conferences, or simply keep up to date with professional best practices.

3. Be a leader - Be a leader rather than a boss. You need to facilitate learning, not 'drill' students in mathematics.

4. Teach them to fish - No "do what I say, do what I do" mentality. Great teachers facilitate learning and provide students with the tools they need to solve problems.

5. Care and concern - "As any experienced teacher knows, teaching focuses less on the content being taught than the students being taught. A good math teacher cares about [their] students." -

Who is the best physics teacher on YouTube?

Just like mathematics, there are plenty of great Physics-related channels on YouTube. As it happens we have a whole article devoted to this very subject.

If you are particularly interested in space and the cosmos, you might want to check out some of these too.

Top image credits:  geralt and Corkythehornetfan (inset).

Monday, 19 August 2019


7 Ways Bees Continue To Amaze Us
By Daisy Hernandez,
Popular Mechanics, 15 August 2019.

Honey bees are some of the most industrious insects on the planet. With pollination, responsible for various crop yields and floral reproduction, they sustain large portions of the food market.

Some bees even work themselves to death - Mental Floss reports that in colder weather, worker bees can live as long as nine months, but in the summertime, when they're working non-stop and at full capacity, "they rarely last longer than six weeks."

Here are just a few amazing things bees can do:

1. Pollination

Credit: AdinaVoicu/Pixabay

According to the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF), honey bees are responsible for contributing $20 billion - yes, with a b - "to the value of U.S. crop production." In fact, honey bees are also responsible for pollinating apples, cranberries, melons, and broccoli. Almonds, for example, depend on honey bees for 100 percent of their pollination.

ABF notes that California depends on nearly 1.8 million out the approximate 2.7 million bee colonies in the U.S. to pollinate a million acres of almond orchards. The New Agriculturist reports that "bees pollinate about one-sixth of the world's flowering plant species and some 400 of its agricultural plants."

If a plant isn't properly pollinated, it produced substandard fruits which affect seed yields, availability, and ultimately, the price of food.

2. Honey Production

Credit: PollyDot/Pixabay

Bees have a symbiotic relationship with the flowers they pollinate. The flowers give the bees food in the form of nectar and the bees in turn, help the flowers reproduce by spreading their pollen. The honey-making process is involved and takes a lot of work.First, bees absorb nectar from flowers and store it in an extra stomach called a 'crop.'

According to Live Science, "while sloshing around in the crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition and pH, making it more suitable for long-term storage." When a bee get back to its hive, it regurgitates the crop nectar into the mouth of another bee and that bee will do the same with another in the colony until the nectar is placed in a honeycomb.

Here, the nectar begins the process of water evaporation - a chore the bees are also responsible for by beating their wings to get rid of excess water in the nectar. After this, bees harden the nectar into wax using fluid secreted from their abdomens. As long as the wax is kept tucked away from air and water, it will stay edible indefinitely - or at least 3,000 years, like the ancient honey discovered in King Tut's tomb.

3. Well-Developed Hierarchy

Credit: Scott Bauer,/Wikimedia Commons

The queen bee is the largest in the colony - she is the only bee within an entire colony that lays eggs, therefore, everything revolves around her.

The queen's primary responsibility is egg-laying, which she does by utilizing sperm stored in her spermatheca from her mating sessions. The stored sperm will last for the duration of the queen's life.

Worker bees will create 'queen cups' which are portions of the hive in which the queen will lay eggs for future queens to come from. Once new queen eggs have been laid, the current queen takes about half the colony with her to settle into a new location in a process called swarming. Once the queen leaves the old hive, she will not return to the old one.

Queen bees are savages - the first to hatch in the old colony can choose to take some of the bees in the hive with her and swarm a new location that will become their permanent home or decide to stay in their birth hive and kill her sisters before they hatch so she has no competition. If two queens are born around the same time, they fight to the death and the survivor becomes queen by default.

4. Bees Remember Faces

Credit: Lance Cheung/Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times reports that bees are able to recognize human faces via configural processing - a method of putting a face together similar to completing a puzzle and forming a complete image. This is also the way humans recognize each other.

Researchers from the University de Toulouse in France found that bees were able to distinguish human faces by flying around an image of one and learn the "configuration" of that face.

"Bees were able to learn the face images, not because they know what a face is but because they had learned the relative arrangement and order of the features," said the researchers in a study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

5. Incredible Wings

Credit: skeeze/Pixabay

The characteristic buzzing sound associated with bees is produced by their wings which beat at an astounding 12,000+ times per minute - upwards of 230 beats per second.

Bees have four wings in total, two on each side of their body, which are held together by hamuli - ridges that fit together like teeth to help the wings stick to each other.

In fact, Live Science reports that bees move their wings so fast, that "studying them, even seeing them, has proved difficult." Bee wings can move the incredible little critters at a speed of 15 mph.

6. Honey Helped Create Our Brains

Credit: stevepb/Pixabay

Bees are the only insect that produce food consumed by humans, per the Ontario Beekeepers Association.

Humans have been consuming bee honey for at least 9,000 years, and the Smithsonian reports that "energy-rich honey may have helped hominids evolve big brains." The brain needs fuel, and honey is rich in fat, glucose, vitamins, and minerals.

Bees also show up in Egyptian hieroglyphics that go back to 2400 B.C.E.; Science writes that some ancient rock art "appears to show people gathering honey" and adds that evidence from fragments of clay pots may indicate Neolithic farmers might've used beeswax to waterproof those pots or possibly used honey to sweeten food.

7. Mathematical Geniuses

Credit: Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons

If it wasn't already evident, bees are smart. Just how smart? They're kind of mathematical geniuses.

The Royal Holloway University in London discovered that bees have solved the 'the traveling salesman problem' by discerning the shortest distance possible between pollination stops in order to save time and energy. Currently, bees are the only known animals able to solve this problem.

Bees are also clever builders. Due to their shape, honeycombs are incredibly efficient and use the least amount of wax. Thomas Hales, an American mathematician actually created a proof showing that honeycombs are the most efficient structures in nature.

Top image: Honeybee. Credit: via RMIT University.

[Source: Popular Mechanics. Some images added.]