by Erica Ly

1. Math, English, Science, and… Sleep?

University students with early morning and late-night classes, and working adults with busy home lives alike, can understand the anvil-dragging feeling of sleep deprivation. Since we were young, we have heard about the need to start our day with at least eight hours of sleep. But the balance of work and life drives a hard bargain, almost always leaving sleep in the back seat of priority.

Newly initiated in 2017, high schools in New Mexico are incorporating “sleep pods” into the daily academic lives of students, and have been noticing positive changes in overall morale and performance. These sleep pods allow students with extreme fatigue to recharge, those with any form of academic anxiety to relax, and even staff or faculty with high stress to let their tension dissipate, before carrying on with their day. As a result, student who would have skipped classes to go home due to exhaustion, fallen asleep or zoned out in class, have instead been using the pods for 20 minutes a day and managed to remain alert in all their classes. 

There is no point in attending a lecture if you won’t retain anything from it due to fatigue. It is a much better short term and long term alternative to allow on-campus and commuter students a designated, quiet space to sleep and relax for a while between classes. The investment will clearly be proven as fruitful in grades and attendance.

 

2. Colin Cherry’s “The Cocktail Party Problem”

Have you ever tried to have a conversation in a noisy, packed restaurant or cocktail party? Besides trying to have a yelling match while shouting rounds of “What?” at each other, how is it possible that you can actually hear the right conversation at all? If your surroundings really are that concentrated with sounds, shouldn’t it all blur together into a white noise? How are you able to tune into the specific voice of the person across from you, and ignore the rest?

Think of voices as compromises of multiple physical layers. Depending on gender, voice intensity and where the speaker is located, your brain can help filter out the sounds that don’t match your impression of your dinner partner’s voice. Since the physical differences are so apparent in the auditory information received, apart from hearing the content of the person speaking to you directly, you will be able to pick generalizations of the conversations around you as well – for instance, if the speakers are female, and if they are having a light-hearted chat or arguing. However, unless there are emphasized physical layers such as sharp enunciation which pique your attention, you will unconsciously overlook if the conversations in the background were spoken in a foreign language, or even in reversed speech!

Furthermore, there is an idea surrounding social media which hypothesizes that if you are in a restaurant with aliens who are conversing with the same tones as human speech, you would never notice their presence!

 

3. “I can still eat it! Five second rule!”

Personally, I never believed in the five second rule – the idea which proposes that food dropped on the floor can still be safely consumed if retrieved within five seconds. In my mind, food which has fallen onto the ground where everyone sneezes, coughs, and walks with their shoes that retain a history of travelled places isn’t exactly something I want to put in my mouth. Although I also believe in eating carefully so food doesn’t fall in the first place, I can understand the perspective of those who do not want to waste food that has inevitably dropped.

Science has proven that most harmful bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella require moisture to develop. That being said, experiments have also proven that E. coli on everyday surfaces can travel to cookies and dry gummy bears in less than five seconds. In conclusion, sticky and wet substances are definitely not to be consumed once they’ve touched the floor (do not try to eat what you can rescue of the ice cream that’s fallen on the floor), but otherwise the status of solid food can be debateable depending on the beliefs of the individual. Is this your home where you always clean the floor yourself? Or is this the public bathroom floor?

This isn’t a prompt telling you to pick up every crumb you drop on the ground and eat it, nor that you must abandon your last, delicious coconut shrimp if you can attest to the state of the ground. No one is liable for your stomach-aches apart from yourself, so use proper judgement when applying the five second rule 🙂 .

 

Which of these ideas do you agree with? Which would you challenge? Should universities also designate a specialized area for students and faculty to have a “sleep-break”? Do you think there are any other factors that impede our hearing in a noisy restaurant? And what would make you hesitate if you’re thinking of picking up and eating food that has dropped on the floor – no matter how speedy your response in retrieving it?