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5 Real-Life Battles Superman Fought (And Won)

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With the powers of flight, steel-crushing strength, heat vision, and the good judgment not to be a total jerk about it, Superman is among our culture’s most altruistic and noble fictional creations.

Too bad he’s just a blob of ink.

Until technology and science figure out how to mold a real Man of Steel—and before you watch Hollywood’s latest attempt to reinvigorate the icon in theaters this weekend—check out these five ways the Big Blue Boy Scout actually made a real-world difference outside of the comics pages.

1. Superman vs. Looming Foreclosure

In 2010, a family living in the South came under financial duress after their small business collapsed. Unable to cover the second mortgage they took out, the bank initiated foreclosure proceedings.

As they began to prepare for eviction and sort through their belongings in the basement, one of them came across a stack of comics. Among the pile was a copy of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. Published in 1938 and considered the Holy Grail of comic collecting, fewer than 100 are thought to have survived the decades.

After seeing what other copies had gone for online, they reached out to auction house ComicConnect to act as a broker. The book, which originally sold for 10 cents, went for an astounding $460,000, saving the family’s home with cash to spare.

2. Superman vs. the New York City Blackout

New Yorkers have often had to display superhuman levels of endurance. Among their most trying times: The 1977 citywide blackout that saw rampant looting, fires, and over a billion dollars in damages.

With information hard to come by, New Yorkers turned to the Daily News, which had somehow managed to keep its printing presses running without power. How? Because Warner Bros. was busy shooting scenes set in the Daily Planet at the paper’s building for Superman: The Movie and generously lent them the production’s generators: journalists toiled as powerful klieg lights lit up the newsroom. Superman may not have been able to save the city from a lot of grief, but his handlers kept its citizens from being left completely in the dark.

3. Superman vs. the Ku Klux Klan

Before George Reeves donned the cape for television, Superman fans across the country got their fix with the character’s popular radio drama. In addition to fighting the usual variety of villains, he came across one very real and very formidable threat: the racist diatribes of the Ku Klux Klan.

In a 1946 serial dubbed Clan of the Fiery Cross, Superman runs into a KKK stand-in and sniffs out their secret code words, handshakes, and ideologies. While the story was fictional, the details weren’t: Superman producers had been slipped facts about the clandestine organization by Stetson Kennedy, an activist who had infiltrated the group and was spreading information about their inner workings to a variety of news outlets.

While Kennedy later came under fire for allegedly exaggerating some of his efforts—even prompting the authors of Freakonomics, who had documented his undercover work, to issue a retraction—his dialogue with the Superman producers isn’t in dispute. In Superman, Kennedy had a resource to infantilize the Klan and mock their hate speech. Soon, its leaders saw kids play-acting with hooded robes and treating them with ridicule; Superman had broadcast a lecture on tolerance, and an entire generation of children was listening.

4. Superman vs. a Speeding Car

Costumes rarely instill the wearer with the attributes of the character. (And in some instances, actually deprive them of one important trait: dignity.) But for a Melbourne, Australia man, his choice of superhuman threads couldn’t have been more appropriate.

On his way back from his own bachelor party where he was dressed as Superman, Heng Khuen Cheok stumbled across a man who had just been hit by a car. Bleeding and dazed, the victim took one look at Cheok and likely thought he was hallucinating. His friends, fearing Cheok was a menace, tried pushing him away until he finally convinced them of his day job: an emergency room physician. Cheok tended to the man until an ambulance arrived.

5. Superman vs. Psychological Hurdles

For child psychologist Patty Scanlon, superheroes often act as a handy allegory for the dreams and aspirations of her patients. As recounted in the book Using Superheroes in Counseling and Play Therapy, Scanlon notes she’s helped several children with psychological issues by invoking the Man of Steel.

One composite patient, Jason, was having difficulty at school and was acting out aggressively toward peers. By exploring Superman’s earnest nature, Scanlon was able to impart lessons on human behavior and social functioning. Later, Jason’s parents reported he was doing better in school and making friends.

Once, Scanlon role-played as Superman and apparently got too edgy: “No, stop,” Jason retorted. “Superman wouldn’t do that. He’s nicer than that.” Seventy-five years after his debut, Superman is still saving the world, one juvenile delinquent at a time.

Hungry for more Superman knowledge? Jake Rossen has just the thing: Superman vs. Hollywood, his comprehensive account of the Man of Steel’s successes (and many, many stumbles) in Tinseltown.

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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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