CLOSE

Airing TONIGHT on PBS - NOVA: What Are Dreams?

NOVA: What Are Dreams? airs on PBS stations in the US tonight, Tuesday, November 24. This is a terrific documentary on dreams, packed with specifics on the science of sleep. If you've ever wondered about sleepwalking, why we dream, or why sleep is necessary, this is the documentary for you! Note: after the air date, the entire program will be available for streaming for one full week on the Nova: What Are Dreams website.

I'm a big fan of NOVA, the science program aired on PBS stations in the US. I recently got an advance look at tonight's program, What Are Dreams?, and I think it's awesome. It's very reminiscent of a Radiolab episode on dreams from 2007 (you may remember it as the "dreaming about Tetris" episode), as the NOVA team interviews many of the same scientists, though they are further along in their research at this point. The difference is that this is NOVA, so you get to see scientists in the lab, as well as bizarre video of people sleepwalking, video of rats running mazes, and so on. This adds a new dimension that the Radiolab program lacked (although the Radiolab episode is very much worth listening to -- it's a classic.)

Discussed in this NOVA program: REM sleep and "NREM" sleep; how people waking up from different stages of sleep feel about themselves (hint: waking up from REM makes you feel like you're a pretty crappy person!); how REM/NREM sleep ratios may affect depression (!); REM Sleep Disorder -- a frightening brain disorder in which your body is not paralyzed during dreams, so you act them out; the (surprisingly brief/recent) history of sleep research; how sleep studies work (electrodes all over your head!); dreaming about videogames; how "sleeping on a problem" actually improves performance the next day; and how rats dream about running through mazes.

Here's a trailer:

Remember, it airs TONIGHT, Tuesday, November 24, on PBS stations in the US. Check your local listings for the time, though is most markets it's at 8pm.

See also: 5 Full Episodes of NOVA, Inside Oliver Sacks's Brain (As He Listens to Music), My Sleep Apnea: The Sleep Study, and Sleepwalk With Me.

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
Why a Howling Wind Sounds So Spooky, According to Science
Original image
iStock

Halloween is swiftly approaching, meaning you'll likely soon hear creepy soundtracks—replete with screams, clanking chains, and howling winds—blaring from haunted houses and home displays. While the sound of human suffering is frightful for obvious reasons, what is it, exactly, about a brisk fall gust that sends shivers up our spines? In horror movie scenes and ghost stories, these spooky gales are always presented as blowing through dead trees. Do bare branches actually make the natural wailing noises louder, or is this detail added simply for atmospheric purposes?

As the SciShow's Hank Green explains in the video below, wind howls because it curves around obstacles like trees or buildings. When fast-moving air goes around, say, a tree, it splits up as it whips past, before coming back together on the other side. Due to factors such as natural randomness, air speed, and the tree's surface, one side's wind is going to be slightly stronger when the two currents rejoin, pushing the other side's gust out of the way. The two continue to interact back-and-forth in what could be likened to an invisible wrestling match, as high-pressure airwaves and whirlpools mix together and vibrate the air. If the wind is fast enough, this phenomenon will produce the eerie noise we've all come to recognize in horror films.

Leafy trees "will absorb some of the vibrations in the air and dull the sound, but without leaves—like if it's the middle of the winter or the entire forest is dead—the howling will travel a lot farther," Green explains. That's why a dead forest on a windy night sounds so much like the undead.

Learn more by watching SciShow's video below.

Original image
AFP/Stringer/Getty Images
arrow
Space
SpaceX's Landing Blooper Reel Shows That Even Rocket Scientists Make Mistakes
Original image
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches.
AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

On March 30, 2017, SpaceX did something no space program had done before: They relaunched an orbital class rocket from Earth that had successfully achieved lift-off just a year earlier. It wasn't the first time Elon Musk's company broke new ground: In December 2015, it nailed the landing on a reusable rocket—the first time that had been done—and five months later landed a rocket on a droneship in the middle of the ocean, which was also unprecedented. These feats marked significant moments in the history of space travel, but they were just a few of the steps in the long, messy journey to achieve them. In SpaceX's new blooper reel, spotted by Ars Technica, you can see just some of the many failures the company has had along the way.

The video demonstrates that failure is an important part of the scientific process. Of course when the science you're working in deals with launching and landing rockets, failure can be a lot more dramatic than it is in a lab. SpaceX has filmed their rockets blowing up in the air, disintegrating in the ocean, and smashing against landing pads, often because of something small like a radar glitch or lack of propellant.

While explosions—or "rapid unscheduled disassemblies," as the video calls them—are never ideal, some are preferable to others. The Falcon 9 explosion that shook buildings for miles last year, for instance, ended up destroying the $200 million Facebook satellite onboard. But even costly hiccups such as that one are important to future successes. As Musk once said, "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."

You can watch the fiery compilation below.

[h/t Ars Technica]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios