CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

Can You Actually Be Bored to Death?

Original image
ThinkStock

Kind of. Boredom won’t directly kill you on its own, but it does make it more likely that a handful of other things will put you six feet under. 

Consider this: In a survey taken in the late 1980s, over 7500 London civil servants age 33 to 55, were asked, among other things, how bored they had been at work in the last month and how healthy and physically active they thought they were. Around 7 percent reported being bored “quite a lot” in the previous month, and about 2 percent said they were bored “a great deal,” and those who were more bored also reported lower physical activity and rated their health as worse. 

In 2009, decades after the survey was taken, a pair of public health researchers went through the survey data and the National Health Service’s central registry to see which survey takers had died and which ones were still alive. They found that the people who had been more bored at work were more likely to have died, and more than twice as likely to have had a fatal cardiovascular disease. (Increased likelihood of death tied to boredom also seemed to be cumulative. Data and surveys were collected several times over the the years, and the people who reported being bored multiple times were more likely to die than those who had only reported it once.)

The researchers thought that the boredom-death connection might have formed because bored people were more likely to feel unfulfilled, unmotivated, and unhappy, which could lead to unhealthy behaviors like excessive drinking and smoking, overeating, and drug use. Those habits, in turn, would increase their risks of stroke and heart disease. The state of boredom, they wrote, “is almost certainly a proxy for other risk factors.” 

Other research has connected boredom to risk-taking that can be hazardous to people’s health. Public health researchers in Baltimore found that, among urban drug users, those who were more bored were more likely to report symptoms of depression and engage in risky sexual and needle-use practices. Meanwhile, back in the UK, a psychologist and a civil engineer surveyed motorists and found that the drivers who were most prone to boredom while on the road were more likely to engage in driving habits that put them at high risk for accidents and crashes—like tailgating, speeding, driving while sleepy, or daydreaming behind the wheel—sometimes in an attempt to make driving more exciting. 

Novelty-seeking and risk-taking, psychiatrist Katya Rubia explains in Boredom: A Lively History, is also how bored children with ADHD “self-medicate” to cure their boredom. Likewise, psychologist Peter Suedfeld told mental_floss alum Maggie Koerth-Baker last year that “people will sometimes do reckless, stupid things when they suffer from chronic boredom.” The isolation of working on an Antarctic research station, he said, can send scientists out on solo strolls in the elements, sans coat, when the temperature is 40 below. 

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Where Is the Hottest Place on Earth?
Original image
iStock

The summer of 2017 will go down as an endurance test of sorts for the people of Phoenix, Arizona. The National Weather Service issued an extreme heat warning, and planes were grounded as a result of temperatures exceeding 120 degrees. (Heat affects air density, which in turn affects a plane’s lift.)

Despite those dire measures, Phoenix is not the hottest place on Earth. And it’s not even close.

That dubious honor was bestowed on the Lut Desert in Iran in 2005, when land temperatures were recorded at a staggering 159.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The remote area was off the grid—literally—for many years until satellites began to measure temperatures in areas that were either not well trafficked on foot or not measured with the proper instruments. Lut also measured record temperatures in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2009.

Before satellites registered Lut as a contender, one of the hottest areas on Earth was thought to be El Azizia, Libya, where a 1922 measurement of 136 degrees stood as a record for decades. (Winds blowing from the nearby Sahara Desert contributed to the oppressive heat.)

While the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) acknowledged this reading as the hottest on record for years, they later declared that instrumentation problems and other concerns led to new doubts about the accuracy.

Naturally, declaring the hottest place on Earth might be about more than just a single isolated reading. If it’s consistency we’re after, then the appropriately-named Death Valley in California, where temperatures are consistently 90 degrees or above for roughly half the year and at least 100 degrees for 140 days annually, has to be a contender. A blistering temperature of 134 degrees was recorded there in 1913.

Both Death Valley and Libya were measured using air temperature readings, while Lut was taken from a land reading, making all three pretty valid contenders. These are not urban areas, and paving the hottest place on Earth with sidewalks would be a very, very bad idea. Temperatures as low as 95 degrees can cause blacktop and pavement to reach skin-scorching temperatures of 141 degrees.

There are always additional factors to consider beyond a temperature number, however. In 2015, Bandar Mahshahr in Iran recorded temperatures of 115 degrees but a heat index—what it feels like outside when accounting for significant humidity—of an astounding 163 degrees. That thought might be one of the few things able to cool Phoenix residents off.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
How Does Autopilot Work on an Airplane?
Original image
iStock

How does autopilot work on an airplane?

Joe Shelton:

David Micklewhyte’s answer is a good one. There are essentially a few types of features that different autopilots have. Some autopilots only have some of these features, while the more powerful autopilots do it all.

  • Heading Hold: There’s a small indicator that the pilot can set on the desired heading and the airplane will fly that heading. This feature doesn’t take the need for wind correction to desired routing into account; that’s left to the pilot.
  • Heading and Navigation: In addition to holding a heading, this version will take an electronic navigation input (e.g. GPS or VOR) and will follow (fly) that navigation reference. It’s sort of like an automated car in that it follows the navigator’s input and the pilot monitors.
  • Altitude Hold: Again, in addition to the above, a desired altitude can be set and the aircraft will fly at that altitude. Some autopilots have the capability for the pilot to select a desired altitude and a climb or descent rate and the aircraft will automatically climb or descend to that altitude and then hold the altitude.
  • Instrument Approaches: Autopilots with this capability will fly preprogrammed instrument approaches to the point where the pilot either takes control and lands or has the autopilot execute a missed approach.

The autopilot is a powerful computer that takes input from either the pilot or a navigation device and essentially does what it is told to do. GPS navigators, for example, can have a full flight plan entered from departure to destination, and the autopilot will follow the navigator’s guidance.

These are the majority of the controls on the autopilot installed in my airplane:

HDG Knob = Heading knob (Used to set the desired heading)

AP = Autopilot (Pressing this turns the autopilot on)

FD = Flight Director (A form of navigational display that the pilot uses)

HDG = Heading (Tells the autopilot to fly the heading set by the Heading Knob)

NAV = Tells the autopilot to follow the input from the selected navigator

APR = Tells the autopilot to fly the chosen approach

ALT = Tells the autopilot to manage the altitude, controlled by the following:

VS = Vertical Speed (Tells the autopilot to climb or descend at the chosen rate)

Nose UP / Nose DN = Sets the climb/descent rate in feet per minute

FLC = Flight Level Change (An easy manual way to set the autopilot)

ALT Knob = Used to enter the desired altitude

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios