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What Are Everyday Mysteries?

Jul 1, 2008
Everyday mysteries are things that you unsuccessfully try to understand. Somnambulism is as mysterious to me as the condition it describes - sleepwalking. Only 1.2% of the population sleepwalks, which explains why I've never known anyone with the condition. Sleepwalkers are supposedly in a non-dream state of sleep, which allows the process going on in the brain to manifest in actions. Although some drugs have been thought to cause sleepwalking, somnambulism experts say drugs only exacerbate the condition, as do anxiety, sleep deprivation and high fever. Although scientists haven't determined a specific cause for sleepwalking, they have discovered a genetic predisposition. Sleepwalking, however, isn't just walking. Some people perform complex tasks while they're asleep, such as driving, preparing meals and writing checks. The checks don't make sense, but they are signed. I don't think I'm a sleepwalker, but the check writing thing sounds like something I do every April 15th.

The workings of the circadian clock are another of my everyday mysteries. The circadian clock is supposedly a biological, time-keeping mechanism that connects the body's rhythms to external light levels - thus determining our sleep and wake cycles. Recently the Journal of Science reported that mice have a second circadian clock that connects with food consumption and that can override their light-based clock. Researchers at Harvard's School of Medicine think that the second clock helps animals adjust to hard times. It allows them to switch their sleep and wake cycles to maximize their opportunity to find food. Although the researchers think that all animals have this second clock, I think what maximizes the human animal's opportunity to find food is the light which goes on when we open the refrigerator door.

One of the mysteries that is no longer as mysterious - at least to scientists - is what causes left-handedness. In 2007 geneticists at Oxford University discovered "LRRTM1", also known as Leucine-Rich Repeat Transmembrane Neuronal Protein 1. It's the first gene that has been linked to the increased odds of being left-handed. Nevertheless, LRRTM1 doesn't explain why only 10% of the population is left-handed or why left-handedness is more common in males. Something else which remains a mystery is why researchers at both Lafayette College and Johns Hopkins University found that left-handed men who graduate from college earn 26% more money than their right-handed counterparts. According to the researchers, the earnings difference doesn't apply to women. - which may be a left-handed compliment.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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