Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers

by Jane E. Brody

Originally published on the NYTimes Well Blog, 20 October 2014

Within a week of my grandsons’ first year in high school, getting enough sleep had already become an issue.

Their concerned mother questioned whether lights out at midnight or 1 a.m. and awakening at 7 or 7:30 a.m. to get to school on time provided enough sleep for 14-year-olds to navigate a demanding school day.

The boys, of course, said “yes,” especially since they could “catch up” by sleeping late on weekends. But the professional literature on the sleep needs of adolescents says otherwise.

Few Americans these days get the hours of sleep optimal for their age, but experts agree that teenagers are more likely to fall short than anyone else.

Continue reading “Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers”

From Violence to Peace (Excerpt)

Twenty-eight shotgun pellets
crater my thighs, belly and groin.
I gently thumb each burnt bead,
fingering scabbed stubs with ointment.

Continue reading “From Violence to Peace (Excerpt)”

10 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

“Every songwriter after him carries his baggage,” Bono writes. “This lowly Irish bard would proudly carry his baggage. Any day.”

From the Sixties protest anthems that made Bob Dylan a star through to his noirish Nineties masterpieces and beyond, no other contemporary songwriter has produced such a vast and profound body of work: songs that feel at once awesomely ancient and fiercely modern.

See our picks for his 10 greatest songs below, and for more, check out our epic list of his 100 greatest songs right here.

Continue reading “10 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs”

18 Complicated Scientific Ideas Explained Simply

Published on Mental Floss, February, 2013

In 2012, Randall Munroe of the webcomic xkcd published a description of the Saturn V rocket using only the 1000 most frequent words in English. Under this restriction, the rocket was called “up-goer five,” the command module was “people box,” and the liquid hydrogen feed line was “thing that lets in cold wet air to burn.” The comic inspired Theo Anderson, a geneticist who supports accessible science education, to build a text editor that would force the user to write with only the 1000 most frequent words. He then invited scientists to describe what they do using the editor. Continue reading “18 Complicated Scientific Ideas Explained Simply”

Weather vs. Climate

Excerpt from the introduction to The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow by Frances Malamud-Roam

The terms weather and climate are often used interchangeably. But there are important distinctions. Climate refers to the statistical description of weather over a given period of time and for a given region, including the weather extremes. Weather has been monitored extensively for more than a century in the West, so we have a good idea of the region’s climate for this period. For example, we know that Phoenix, Arizona, is arid, with hot summers and cool winters; San Francisco, California, has cool, foggy summers and wet, mild winters. Average high temperatures in Phoenix are much different in summer (104 F) than in winter (about  65 F), but its ten inches of rain annually are more or less evenly distributed between winter and summer storms. In contrast, San Francisco has average high temperatures that vary little throughout the year, staying mostly within the narrow range of 60-70 F. The twenty inches of rain received annually falls almost entirely between November and March, and the spring and summer months in San Francisco are often foggy. Continue reading “Weather vs. Climate”

The Most Frightening Animal on Earth

book chapter from Closer To Shore by Michael Capuzzo

Fortunately for everything else that swam, the great white grew slowly. Its body stiffened along three parallel muscles that ran from snout to tail. With the new bulk came a decline in speed, and the shark’s narrow teeth, once ideal for snaring fish, broadened out so that catching small fish grew almost impossible. Adaptation was not difficult. The shark’s size and strength were enormous advantages now, and its speed still remarkable for its size.

Like an infant child, the shark’s head had rapidly achieved adult size, expanding massively. Twenty-six teeth bristled along its top jaw, twenty-four along the bottom jaw. Behind these functional teeth, under the gum, lay successive rows of additional teeth, baby teeth that were softer but quickly grew and calcified. Every two weeks or so, the entire double row of fifty functional teeth simply rolled over the jaw and fell out, and a completely new set of fifty rose in its place. White and new, strong and serrated. Broken or worn teeth were not an issue of the apex predator. Continue reading “The Most Frightening Animal on Earth”