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4 Lost Civilizations (and what might have happened to them)

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I've been to Pompeii, the Italian town that was buried by the 79 CE eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. To see a town that was abandoned so abruptly, coupled with plaster casts of the victims who weren't able to evacuate in time, was positively chilling. I can only imagine that visiting the remains of the four civilizations Nathan Johnson from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside dug up for this story would be equally sad and thought-provoking. Nathan is an Economics major who came to UW-P from the University of Minnesota, making me think he has an affinity for below-zero temperatures. - Stacy Conradt

4 Lost Civilizations
by Nathan Johnson

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1. The Lost Colony of Roanoke

croatoanIn 1585, after receiving a patent from Queen Elizabeth I to colonize America, the inexorable Sir Walter Raleigh sent a group of men to an island called Roanoke, Virginia. These colonists didn't fare very well, had run-ins with Native Americans and quickly ran out of supplies. When none other than Sir Francis Drake landed at Roanoke, they returned to Britain, but not before the ship left 15 of its own men behind at the colony. These men were never heard from again. In 1587, Raleigh sent another group to Roanoke, including 17 women and 9 children. The governor of the colony, John White left immediately for England to get food and other supplies for the colony. Not until 1590 was White able to return to Roanoke Island. When he arrived, no sign of the colonists could be found; all the settlements were dismantled. The only trace of life was the word "Croatoan" carved on a post. The fate of the colonists still remains unknown to this day.

2. The Anasazi

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The Anasazi tribe of the southwestern United States emerged around 1200 B.C., developing an amazing modern culture which included agriculture and the unique multi-story stone structures they built into the sides of canyon walls and lived in. However, late in the 13th century these communities were abandoned, for reasons unknown. Theories include drought, enemy attack, poor sanitation, and environmental collapse, as well as the always popular alien abduction.

3. The Khmer Empire

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The largest continuous empire of South East Asia, the Khmer Empire of Cambodia reached its zenith in the early 14th century, centered around the temple complex of Angkor Wat. The city of Angkor itself contained an area bigger than that of New York City. The entire empire was abandoned for unknown reasons in about 1432. Adventurers from Europe began to hear tales of a "mystic city of the gods" and sought out the site of the former empire. Archaeologists continue to uncover the vast ruins from their jungle camouflage.

4. Easter Island

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Also known as Rapa Nui, Easter Island has forever been capturing the imagination with its plethora of moai, or stone carved statues. But the story of the island's inhabitants is a bit less known "“ evidence suggests the island was populated around 1200, probably by Polynesians. It was first discovered by Europeans in 1722, who witnessed a devastated landscape supporting a few thousand emaciated islanders, and were dumbstuck by the gigantic statues and how they could possibly have been made and transported by the islanders. The most likely explanation for the population's decline was the devastation of the island's resources. The extinction of the Easter Island palm meant no more canoes, which spelled disaster for the 63 square mile island.

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The Brain Chemistry Behind Your Caffeine Boost
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Whether it’s consumed as coffee, candy, or toothpaste, caffeine is the world’s most popular drug. If you’ve ever wondered how a shot of espresso can make your groggy head feel alert and ready for the day, TED-Ed has the answer.

Caffeine works by hijacking receptors in the brain. The stimulant is nearly the same size and shape as adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down neural activity. Adenosine builds up as the day goes on, making us feel more tired as the day progresses. When caffeine enters your system, it falls into the receptors meant to catch adenosine, thus keeping you from feeling as sleepy as you would otherwise. The blocked adenosine receptors also leave room for the mood-boosting compound dopamine to settle into its receptors. Those increased dopamine levels lead to the boost in energy and mood you feel after finishing your morning coffee.

For a closer look at how this process works, check out the video below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.

1. EASE INTO THE HABIT.

If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.

2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING.

Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.

3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM IDEAL FOR SLEEP.

Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”

4. TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY WIND DOWN.

Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.

5. GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF LIGHT.

Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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