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One of my life’s many pleasures is experiments. I enjoy experiments very much. I enjoy reading about them, I enjoy participating in them and I enjoy retelling them.
I have almost never found an experiment not vehemently proclaiming its own importance but this one of which I’m about to write is most definitely very famous. You can’t find one book on the issue of time and time perception that doesn’t somehow refer to this man with the electroded face. His self-inflicted experiments helped found the field of human chronobiology, a branch of biology that concerns itself with natural physiological rhythms, and he is, quite naturally, very important.
His name is Michel Siffre and he is a French speleologist. On the 16th of July 1962, merely 23 years old he decided to step 130 meters down into the abyss of Scarassson, a pitch-dark cave in the Alps outside of Nice. He wanted to see how the body and mind would react to a constant lack of outside stimulants and time indicators.
“I decided to live like an animal, without a watch, in the dark, without knowing the time.”
The cave was very cold and damp and his feet were often wet. He had a battery-powered lamp and spent most of his time reading, spelunking or in a folding chair staring into complete darkness. To remove the temptation of abandoning the experiments his assistants had taken away the ladder and he was completely alone apart from the little critters that so often dwell in caves.
He had developed a system for keeping protocol. Every time he woke up, ate and just before he went to sleep he would call his assistants waiting at the entrance of the cave and taking notes. His team was not allowed to call him so that he would never know what time it was.
According to his diary he found parts of the experience harrowing, the lack of time indicators confused his perception of time. What he thought to be a quick nap could last for 8 hours and when the experiment finished, on the 14th of September, he became surprised at the submission of the ladder, as he believed it was only the 20th of August.
What they discovered was extraordinary. Siffre’s time confusion was purely psychological. His body had adapted to the surroundings and he lived on a timely cycle of 24 hours and 30 minutes. He was usually awake for 16 hours and slept for 8. Most importantly they had discovered that the human body had an internal clock independent of the natural/terrestrial day light cycle. Subjects of later experiments achieved 48 hour cycles, spending 36 hours active followed by 12-14 hours of sleep. This was of interest to the French army who were interested in the possibility of doubling the wakeful activities of soldiers.
In 1972 he re-did his experiment in the Midnight Cave, Texas, to see if he could catch the 48 hours cycles. He did sporadically, and what is interesting is that he didn’t experience these cycles any differently from his 24 hour ones. When all indicators disappeared so did the experience of time.
Siffre began his experiments during the cold war when France had begun its nuclear submarine programme and t needed to know how to organize the submariners sleep cycles and he received a lot of funding from the French army. There are still a number of questions surrounding the reasons of altered sleep/wake cycles, but according to Siffre the end of the cold war and the increase of scientific ethics panels has made it much more difficult to get funding for these kinds of experiments.
Despite decreased public interest Siffre still spend a lot of his time in caves. Ten years ago he rang in the new millenium three and a half days late in the Clamouse cave, 905 meters beneath the surface of the earth.
This is a repost. This post was first published on the 2 of May 2010.
“Leaving the office at a reasonable time to push more priority out of the last hours of the day into the first hours of the day is a great strategy for getting more things done. If that’s all we do, we may still find our productivity lacking. Two additional co-strategies maximize the effect that we may get by becoming early risers.
The first co-strategy is that of making sure that the last half-hour of the day prepares us to ´hit the ground running´ the next morning. Nothing slows one down like getting up early and find that we can’t get anything done because we have to clean up messes from the previous day. To make sure the next morning is optimized for success, I follow a checklist of things to accomplish during the last half-hour of the day:…”
read the list and other things written by Bert Webb here.
Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, the optimistic title of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, inspires me to think twice. There is a difference in doing things right and doing the right things, he says. Yes, right you are, but tell me more please mister Randy.
What exactly is the right thing to do?
I for example usually feel that having another cup of coffee is the right thing to do. There are four questions you can ask yourself to find out, Randy says.
Why am I doing this?
Well, I like coffee.
What is the goal?
To get more energy I guess. And happiness.
Why will I succeed?
That’s easy. I can smell it brewing in the office kitchen.
Last but not least:
What happens if I choose not to do it?
Randy Pausch, you have convinced me. I will NOT have another cup. I will sleep much better without it and my teeth will be happy. Thank you. You are great.
Watch his inspiring lecture on YouTube. So far 11 082 315 people already have.
written by Josefine Thronell, copywriter
This is a repost. This post was first published on the 19th of February 2010.
It’s an amazing feeling having Mutewatch sold at colette!
Seeing the Mutewatch film appearing on the screens is surreal – we all feel a bit dizzy after the past months of final product development, shipping, production and of course – the launch in Berlin two days ago.
Best of all, the product turned out even better than we hoped for. People like it, talk about it and buy it! It’s a great feeling of taking a product from an idea to its final stage and then having it sold at colette.
See you around! Looking forward to get the other prebooked watches out there!