Search Results for: Patrick Michels

Miles to Go Before You Sleep

a very dark cave, with some light shining in from a far-off entrance
Photo by Ghosh Ujjwal via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A new Discovery Channel show, Darkness, sends three strangers into a cave or abandoned mineshaft, giving them six days to find each other and a way out — with no light, at all, at any time. For Esquire, Patrick Blanchfield takes a deep look at the premise, the participants, and the crew, who also have to spend the week in the dark. Leaving aside the cold, and the hallucinations, and the high potential for physical injury, there’s the issue of sleep: how do you sleep normally with no light or social cues? You don’t.

Brandon’s experience gets at another challenge of surviving underground, in the dark or otherwise: what happens to your sense of time. Brandon fell asleep twice, and only for thirty or forty minutes at a go. But when he awoke, he was certain that he’d been asleep for two eight-to-ten-hour stretches. When the safety crew came to retrieve him, Brandon was adamant he’d been underground for two full days. In reality, he’d only been below for twelve hours.

Scientists have documented this phenomenon extensively. Researchers who have undertaken simultaneous but separate sojourns into caves for extended periods will emerge with radically different estimates of how long they’ve been below—different from one another by weeks, and different from the calendar by yet more. Absent cues from the aboveground natural world or data from clocks or phones, our conscious perception of time can get weird, fast.

But that’s nothing compared to what goes on inside our bodies. When people talk about your “circadian rhythm,” they’re actually referring to dozens of different physiological processes, cycles governing everything from your heart rate to your breathing to your immune system to your digestion to your body temperature. These sub-systems operate on their own timelines, but are largely kept in sync with each other as long as the body follows a roughly 24-hour cycle that tracks changes in ambient light and various social cues. In situations of irregular light and darkness, everything goes out of whack within a couple of days. It is not uncommon for test subjects living underground to start sleeping and waking in forty-eight-hour cycles, or to experience bizarre changes in their behavior or sense of self. Michel Siffre, a European scientist, spent months at a time in half-lit caves in the Alps and Texas as part of research he carried out for NASA. Siffre not only got hypothermia, but also went off the rails, in one instance desperately trying to befriend a mouse for companionship but instead accidentally crushing it and falling into near-suicidal despair. When asked about the impact of those experiments on his mind and body, Siffre, who’s now in his seventies, describes it as “hell” and speaks of feeling like “a semi-detached marionette.”

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When Sartre and Beauvoir Started a Magazine

(Photo: Getty)

Agnès Poirier | Excerpt adapted from Left Bank: Art, Passion, and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50 | Henry Holt and Co. | February 2018 | 20 minutes 5,275 words)

In September 1945, together with their band of students and friends, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were working night and day finalizing the first issue of their journal Les Temps modernes. They had launched the idea at the end of 1944, choosing the title as a tribute to Chaplin’s Modern Times, and, apart from Camus who was too busy editing Combat, they could rely on almost everyone else to write for them — Communists, Catholics, Gaullists, and Socialists: their schoolmate and liberal philosopher friend Raymond Aron, the Marxist phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty, the anthropologist and art critic Michel Leiris, the Gallimard supremo Jean Paulhan, and even Picasso, who had agreed to design the cover and logo, along with a new generation of writers who were submitting articles and ideas such as Jacques-Laurent Bost. The British writer Philip Toynbee would contribute a Letter from London, while novels and essays the committee particularly liked would be serialized prior to their publication or with a view to attracting a potential publisher. Les Temps modernes would be a laboratory of new ideas and a talent scout rolled into one. Simone de Beauvoir had personally approached the minister of information, the Gaullist and résistant Jacques Soustelle, to ask for an allocation of paper.

Gallimard had agreed to finance the journal and to give the team a little office where they could hold their editorial meetings. The first issue was planned for October 1, 1945. Jean-Paul Sartre was made the head of the publication, “Monsieur le Directeur,” and he thought it important to make himself available to everyone. This would be democracy and public debate in action. He committed to receiving anyone who asked to see him at the magazine’s office at 5 rue Sébastien Bottin every Tuesday and Friday afternoon between five thirty and seven thirty. This commitment was printed at the beginning of the magazine, along with the telephone number Littré 28-91, where they could be reached. Sartre had decided to dedicate the first issue of Les Temps modernes “To Dolorès,” in all simplicity. Simone did not blink an eye.

In the first issue, Sartre announced loud and clear what Les Temps modernes stood for. It was to be the megaphone that would carry their thoughts far and wide.

Every writer of bourgeois origin has known the temptation of irresponsibility. I personally hold Flaubert personally responsible for the repression that followed the Commune because he did not write a line to try to stop it. It was not his business, people will perhaps say. Was the Calas trial Voltaire’s business? Was Dreyfus’s condemnation Zola’s business? We at Les Temps modernes do not want to miss a beat on the times we live in. Our intention is to influence the society we live in. Les Temps modernes will take sides.

The tone was set, the thinking promised to be muscular and the writing fearless.
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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

***

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

Read more…