Why a familiar bed provides a good night’s sleep.


That people often experience trouble sleeping in a different bed in unfamiliar surroundings is a phenomenon known to psychologists as the “first night” effect. This is because if a person stays in the same room the following night they tend to sleep more soundly. Yuka Sasaki and her colleagues at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, set out to investigate the origins of this effect.

Dr Sasaki knew the first-night effect probably has something to do with how humans evolved. The puzzle was what benefit would be gained from it when performance might be impaired the following day. She also knew from previous work conducted on birds and dolphins that these animals put half of their brains to sleep at a time so that they can rest while remaining vigilant enough to avoid predators. This led her to wonder if people might be doing the same thing and suffering from fatigue the next day as a result.

Dr Sasaki found that, as expected, the participants slept less well on their first night in the lab than they did on their second, taking more than twice as long to fall asleep and sleeping less overall. During deep sleep (as opposed to the lighter phases of sleep which are characterised by rapid eye movement), the participants’ brains behaved assymetrically, in a manner reminiscent of that seen in birds and dolphins. More specifically, on the first night only, the left hemispheres of their brains did not sleep nearly as deeply as their right hemispheres did.

Curious if the left hemispheres were indeed remaining awake to process information detected in the surrounding environment, Dr Sasaki re-ran the experiment while presenting the sleeping participants with a mix of regularly timed beeps of the same tone and beeps of a different tone made sporadically during the night. She worked out that, if the left hemisphere was staying alert to keep guard in a strange environment, then it would react to the random beeps by stirring people from sleep and would ignore the regularly timed ones. This is precisely what she found.

Read the complete article on The Economist here.

Democracy Index 2015. The Economist Intelligence Unit report.

Democracy Index 2015: Democracy in an age of anxiety

“The fearful era in which we live is not conducive to defending democratic standards or extending democracy’s reach across the globe. The latest edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index reflects the situation in 2015, a year in which democracy was tested in the face of war, terrorism, mass migration and other crises, and, in some cases, suffered serious setbacks. In our age of anxiety, the first casualty of fear and insecurity is often freedom.

The Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide. Almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies, but, in our index, the number of “full democracies” is low, at only 20 countries.

Download the complete Democracy Index 2015 report in PDF:


Mary Norris: The nit-picking glory of The New Yorker’s Comma

“Copy editing for The New Yorker is like playing shortstop for a Major League Baseball team — every little movement gets picked over by the critics,” says Mary Norris, who has played the position for more than thirty years. In that time, she’s gotten a reputation for sternness and for being a “comma maniac,” but this is unfounded, she says. Above all, her work is aimed at one thing: making authors look good. Explore The New Yorker’s distinctive style with the person who knows it best in this charming talk.

View Ted Talk video here.


The great escape: Inky the octopus legs it to freedom from aquarium

An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea.

In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar.

Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium.

Rob Yarrell, national manager of the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, said: “Octopuses are famous escape artists.

“But Inky really tested the waters here. I don’t think he was unhappy with us, or lonely, as octopus are solitary creatures. But he is such a curious boy. He would want to know what’s happening on the outside. That’s just his personality.”

Click on the link below to view the video and read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper website.

Inky Escapes

Play the ‘Stairway to Tax Heaven” online game

Welcome to the secret world of offshore. Your goal is to navigate this parallel universe and hide your cash away. Don’t worry! Lawyers, wealth managers and bankers are there to help you.

Pick a character and don’t get caught.

Play now at icij.org.

Two new ebook sales/outlook reports

I recently published on my Smashwords Forum two new reports on ebook sales and ebook sales outlook for 2016. Below is a brief summary.

  1. For Libraries: According to OverDrive, “based on the activities of 50 top circulating public libraries for Q1 (Jan. 1, 2016 – March 31, 2016), eBook, audiobook, and digital magazine checkouts through OverDrive are on track to grow 30-40 percent for 2016 over the record levels achieved for 2015.”
  2. Independent report predicts U.S. ebook market growth leaving print far behind. Technavio Research has just released a report, titled “E-book Market in the US 2016-2020″, which predicts “the e-book market in the US to grow at an impressive CAGR of approximately 14% until 2020,” reaching a striking dollar market size of $13 billion. That’s a dramatic contrast to the Big Five-led narrative of stabilizing or even contracting ebook sales.

Authors interested in joining for free our Smashwords Forum may click here.

Readers wanting more information on this post may do so by following these links:
1) http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/overdrive-reports-2016-digital-library-trends-for-public-libraries-2112311.htm

2) Sources: