meye1816: October 2011 Archives

I'd Rather Be Dreaming

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Wouldn't it be nice if you could put away all of those college textbooks and learn all of their material while snoozing?! It sounds crazy, but that is what a lot of companies are proposing. They call it sleep-assisted learning. In their advertisements, they say that by listening to their CD's while you sleep, you can learn to speak a new language, stop smoking, or even reduce stress.

One website, called Sleep-Learning-Guide.com, says that you can, "learn almost anything while sleeping." (the website can be viewed here) It also says that, "Sleep-learning can aid greatly in time-saving, in increased efficiency, and in improving general knowledge."

This idea sounds absolutely insane! Learning while sleeping! Because this idea seems so out of the ordinary, we must evaluate it with a few of the principles of scientific thinking.

First, we must look at the principle of Extraordinary Claims. This principle means that when we evaluate claims that seem to contradict what we already know, they must have persuasive evidence to support them. In the early investigations of sleep-assisted learning, there did seem to be some evidence to support it.

However, the first reports failed to rule out other explanations for sleep-assisted learning. This is where another principle of scientific thinking comes in. They failed to use the principle of Ruling Out Rival Hypothesis. One possible explanation for sleep-assisted learning is that the recordings may have awakened the listeners. When experimenters improved the experiments and used EEGs to make sure the subjects were sleeping, they found little evidence to support sleep-assisted learning.

So according to what researchers have found, sleep-assisted learning programs do not actually work the way they are supposed to. One may only learn from the recordings if they continually wake up while listening. This is a good example of how we need to learn to evaluate all scientific findings with the six principles of scientific thinking. And the next time someone asks you if you would like to learn while sleeping, you can just respond, "I'd rather be dreaming."

Picture taken from:
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01584/p_learning-dreamin_1584969c.jpg

Think Before You Drink

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v94-02-WineGraphic.jpgDid you know that switching between beer, wine, and liquor will make you more drunk than staying with one type of alcohol? Did you know that alcohol gives you more energy? Did you know that alcohol can't permanently damage you, it only temporarily impairs your sense of coordination? Did you know that taking a cold shower or drinking a cup of coffee will help sober you up? Did you know that both men and women react the same way to alcohol?

Did you know that all of the above statements are actually just myths about alcohol? They are all false, however, a large number of people believe these statements to be true.

But why? It is probably because people are falling prey to logical fallacies, specifically the bandwagon fallacy. Logical fallacies are traps in thinking that can lead people to mistaken conclusions. The bandwagon fallacy is the problem of assuming that a claim is true just because a large number of people believe that it is true. However, when people take a further look at these claims about alcohol and think critically, they will discover that they are all false.

Let's take the myth that all people react the same to alcohol as an example. The truth is that women will have a higher BAC (blood alcohol content) than men when they drink the same amount (even if they are the same weight!). This is because women tend to have more body fat, and alcohol isn't fat-soluble. And this means that women also have less water in which to dilute alcohol.

Analyzing each claim about alcohol allows us to use our sense of scientific skepticism. This means that we should approach each claim with an open mind, but insist on finding evidence that proves it. Otherwise, we will make the mistake of jumping on the bandwagon fallacy.

Other myths about alcohol can be explained here.


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Pictures taken from:
http://www.uwlax.edu/wellness/Alcohol_Awareness/Buttons/drinking_myths.jpg
and
http://www.utulsa.edu/collegian/photos/v94-02-WineGraphic.jpg

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by meye1816 in October 2011.

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