Author Archives: Bix

Reindeer Herder Sleeps Outside In -76 Degrees Fahrenheit Weather

Yesterday I wrote that the human body has to hold a very narrow temperature range to stay alive. Hyperthermia and associated disability occur above 100.9 degrees F; hypothermia occurs below 95 degrees F. Normal body temperature is between 97.7 and 99.5 degrees F.

Imagine what is going on inside this man’s body to keep him in that very tight range while sleeping outside in minus 76 degree F weather:

They’re Very Deer To Me! The Hardships A Reindeer Herder Endures To Protect His Animals, Daily Mail, February 2014

In the frozen wilderness of northern Russia, reindeer herder Vladimir Bagadaev lives alone, braving temperatures of -60c [-76F] and even sleeping outside to protect his animals. The 46-year-old is one of a tiny population of Siberian indigenous people, known as the Evenks, whose association with reindeer dates back to prehistory.

Valdimir lives an often isolated life in a small log cabin near the forest, or taiga, battling one of the most extreme climates on the planet on a daily basis.

A handful of times every winter, when the animals wander particularly far, Vladimir is unable to make it back to his cabin and must sleep under the stars in temperatures that can dip below -60c.

To being with he locates a dead tree trunk which he will set his fire against before piling the wood high to create a large blaze.

He then scoops a shallow windbreak out of the snow to form his bed.

Amazingly, he then removes his jacket and outer trousers, for ‘comfort’, before climbing into his old woollen and canvas sleeping pouch, which was given to him by his father.

After a quick snow face-rub, and with his fur hat remaining firmly in place, he’s ready for bed.

I can’t believe he took his clothes off. And he washes his face with snow! Ok, I know, reindeer have been putting up with the cold for, like, forever.

Humans’ Body Temperature Changes Throughout The Day, But Not By Much

Humans have evolved to keep their bodies warm by shivering, burning fat, or using the brain to develop methods to adjust ambient temperature, for example, by manipulating fire.

While reading about how birds can withstand 15 degree drops in body temperature when it’s cold, and how alligators dangle in frozen water, I wondered what kind of temperature cycling humans might experience. I learned that our core body temperature changes by about 2 degrees daily, going down when we sleep and going up when we’re active. In fact, if we want to sleep we have to help it go down, and if we want to be active or think well, we have to help our body temperature go up.

Too hot to sleep? Here’s why, The Conversation, January 2013

Sleep and body control of temperature (thermoregulation) are intimately connected. Core body temperature follows a 24-hour cycle linked with the sleep-wake rhythm. Body temperature decreases during the night-time sleep phase and rises during the wake phase. Sleep is most likely to occur when core temperature decreases, and much less likely to occur during the rises.

Our hands and feet play a key role in facilitating sleep as they permit the heated blood from the central body to lose heat to the environment through the skin surface. The sleep hormone melatonin plays an important part of the complex loss of heat through the peripheral parts of the body.

At sleep onset, core body temperature falls but peripheral skin temperature rises.

Below is was a great article on body temperature in relation to sleep. I just posted some excerpts.

Thermoregulation, Tuck, 8 January 2019

Human temperature must be maintained within a fairly small range, up or down from the resting temperature of 98.6. Temperatures above 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit or below 92.3 degrees generally cause injury or death.

Humans have two zones to regulate, their core temperature and their shell temperature. The temperature of the abdominal, thoracic, and cranial cavities, which contain the vital organs, is called the core temperature. Core temperature is regulated by the brain. The shell temperature includes the temperature of the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and muscles, and it is more affected by external temperature. The core is able to conserve or release heat through the shell.

When you wake up, your body temperature is at its baseline of 98.6 degrees. Over the course of the morning through the late afternoon, your hypothalamus works to drive that up to 100.4 degrees. This rise in body temperature gives you energy, helping you stay alert. … In the mid-afternoon, your body starts to lower your body temperature to prepare you for sleep. At 5 am, a few hours before waking up, you’re at your lowest body temperature (96.4 degrees).

Here’s a chart I found on Wikipedia that shows normal body temperature cycling. It doesn’t match the above numbers exactly, but even the article said there is variation. Also:

In relation to sleep cycle, early birds experience an earlier body temperature peak than night owls do. In the chart [below], one might imagine their curve being shifted slightly earlier.

The hypothalamus regulates body temperature between 96.8 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit over each 24 hour cycle. During the normal human circadian rhythm, sleep occurs when the core temperature is dropping. Sleep usually begins when the rate of temperature change and body heat loss is maximal. The average adult’s lowest temperature is at about 5 AM, or two hours before waking time.

A cooler core body temperature is associated with sleep. Conversely, a warmer core temperature is energizing. Think about how awake you feel during exercising, and it starts to make sense. Human performance scientists have found a higher internal body temperature correlates with more alertness, better memory, and improved reaction times.

From your peak in body temperature in the early evening to the lowest point just before waking up, you experience a decrease in core body temperature of 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many mammals lose significant thermal regulatory capacity during sleep. Some animals like squirrels go into a torpor state during sleep, in which their body temperature dips well below the normal level for hours at a time. However, most research to date seems to indicate that humans do not have significant difficulty thermoregulating during sleep.

Thermoregulation in Humans: How Does Body Temperature Affect Sleep Quality?

A recent Dutch study shows just how important temperature is when it comes to sleep quality and fragmentation. The researchers fit human participants with thermosuits. Raising their skin temperature less than a degree Centigrade resulted in dramatic changes in sleep quality. People didn’t wake up as much during the night and the percentage of the sleep spent in deep sleep increased. The effects were most pronounced in the elderly and in people who suffered from insomnia.

The same researchers found that people with narcolepsy tend to have higher skin temperature when asleep, and also when awake. This warmer skin temperature may help explain why they’re so prone to fall asleep.

Thermoregulation is less efficient during deep sleep than light sleep. This is why having a too warm or too cold bedroom temperature can affect your sleep and cause you to wake up during the night.

However, some warmth before bed can be beneficial to inducing sleep. Why does a warm (but not hot) bath help so many get to sleep? Because it ends up cooling you down, especially as you dry off and the residual water on your skin evaporates.

One kernel I walk away with, besides that we only have a narrow range of 2 degrees to play with, is that sleep happens when the core is cool and the peripheral (hands and feet) are warm. If your core is warm (controlled by the brain) or your hands and feet are cold (controlled by environment and the brain) you’re going to have a hard time sleeping.

Paul Newman On Food And Character

Paul Newman on food and character, from Wikiquote:

I like racing but food and pictures are more thrilling. I can’t give them up. In racing you can be certain, to the last thousandth of a second, that someone is the best, but with a film or a recipe, there is no way of knowing how all the ingredients will work out in the end. The best can turn out to be awful and the worst can be fantastic. Cooking is like performing and performing like cooking.
– Quoted in “Saint Paul,” interview with John Aldridge, The Guardian (2005-04-10)

This is so true about cooking. Even though you use the same foods and the same recipe, there’s something about how you feel while cooking that gets baked in to the final product. It reminds me of the story, Like Water For Chocolate, where the protagonist cries as she’s preparing a meal, and everyone who eats it gets sick.

I’d like to be remembered as a guy who tried — tried to be part of his times, tried to help people communicate with one another, tried to find some decency in his own life, tried to extend himself as a human being. Someone who isn’t complacent, who doesn’t cop out.
– Quoted in The Films of Paul Newman (1971) by Lawrence J. Quirk (Citadel Press), ISBN 0-806-50385-8), p. 36

The concept that a person who has a lot holds his hand out to someone who has less, or someone who isn’t hurting holds his hand out to someone who is, is simply a human trait that has nothing to do with celebrity. I am confounded at the stinginess of some institutions and some people. I’m bewildered by it. You can only put away so much stuff in your closet.
– Quoted in “Paul Newman’s Road To Glory,” interview with Paul Fischer, Film Monthly (2002-07-01)

Alligators Survive In Frozen Water By Entering A State Of Brumation, Like Hibernation

Alligators Renew Freaky Behavior Of Freezing Themselves In NC Swamp With Noses Out, The Charlotte Observer, 24 January 2019

Alligators in one eastern North Carolina swamp have proven it was no fluke last winter, when they survived a cold snap by freezing themselves in place with their noses above the ice.

Experts say the adaptation disproves the long standing belief that alligators are prevented from migrating north due to cold temperatures.

Howard says the alligators seem to sense when the water is at the freezing point and they respond by poking their nose above the surface “at just the right moment.”

Once frozen, they enter “a state of brumation, like hibernating,” until the water thaws.

The alligators that froze last year in the park thawed out a few days later with no apparent injuries, he said.

Scientists Say These ‘Frozen’ Alligators Aren’t Dead. They’re Still Creeping People Out, Washington Post, 25 January 2019

When it starts getting cold, the alligators submerge most of their bodies in the shallow water, then stick their noses up in the air in anticipation of the freeze ahead, creating a little hole to breathe through. Once the water freezes, the ice sticks to their snouts, locking the gator-cicles in place while their bodies dangle below the surface.

The behavior, he said, is likely not something the alligators learned by practicing but, rather, is instinctual, something developed over time through natural selection. … “If the alligator species has been living in cold temperatures for a long enough time, then the ones who were able to do this are the ones that would be able to survive and reproduce.”

When the alligators go under, Rosenblatt said, they enter what’s called “brumation” — like hibernation but for the coldblooded — and their bodies almost entirely shut down. All they need to do is breathe. … “They basically shut down their metabolism. They don’t need to eat because they’re not burning a lot of energy,” Rosenblatt said. “They slow down their heart rate, their digestive system, and they just sit there and wait out the cold weather. It’s a pretty amazing adaptation.”

Humans may not be able to go into a state of brumation, or torpor, or hibernation, to weather the cold, but there’s one thing we can do that these animals cannot: control fire. Not only has it kept us warm, but it has allowed us to cook our food, which, according to Richard Wrangham in his book, Catching Fire made us the humans we are today:

Richard Wrangham makes the claim that learning to cook food was the hinge on which human evolution turned. Eating cooked food, he argues, enabled us to evolve our large brains, and cooking itself became a primary focus of human social activity — in short, cooking made us the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today.

I wonder how we would have evolved if we hadn’t learned to control fire. Maybe we’d also have developed some kind of metabolism shut-down, some kind of torpor.

Paul Newman And Robert Redford In 1968

This photograph was making the rounds yesterday. It was Paul Newman’s birthday. He was born on 26 January 1925.

I’m always taken aback when I see bodies of people from the 1960s and 1970s. They strike me as leaner than bodies today, still muscled but with less body fat. Newman was 43 years old here. Redford, born on 18 August 1936, was 32. They weren’t young. I know they were prominent actors and had to stay in shape for roles but even other photos of people from this time reveal a leaner shape. Why do you think?

A Laughing Paul Newman and Robert Redford playing ping-pong in Mexico during a break from the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, taken in 1968. – Photograph by Lawrence Schiller

Red Pepper Hummus

This batch will last a few days in the refrigerator. We eat it on toast (like avocado toast) plain or with tomato slices or roasted red pepper and coarse salt.

1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans
1/2 of a roasted pepper (from a jar of fire roasted red peppers, or you could roast your own)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt (to taste but I use somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, I’ll measure next time)
Spices (e.g. 1/8 teaspoon each: cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried mustard, and a pinch of chipotle)

Puree everything in a food processor until very creamy. You will need to add water periodically, in 1 or 2 tablespoon increments.

You can add or delete to this as you choose: make it more or less chunky; omit the pepper and add garlic and scallions for an onion-dip flavor; garlic, basil, and a few walnuts for a pesto flavor; roasted beets for a bright purple dip that adds color to a vegetable plate. It’s up to you. You’ll notice it has no fat added. We like it that way but you could add some traditional sesame paste (tahini) or olive oil.

Jack LaLanne Summing Up His Philosophy About Nutrition And Exercise

Wikipedia: Jack LaLanne

Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the butt. It’s like an athletic event. You’ve got to train for it. You’ve got to eat right. You’ve got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.

Jack LaLanne with his wife Elaine. He continued his two-hour workouts into his 90s, which also included walking. – Photo: IMDB

I feel this way about the mind too. If all we deposit is crap, all we’ll be able to withdraw is crap.