US Federal Reserve

Photo Credit: Ploy Buraparate | Daily Texan Staff

Final exams are almost here, which means it’s time to choose between sacrificing either sleep or study time, unless there’s some way to combine the two. Maybe, just maybe, if you listen to information while you sleep, you’ll wake up in the morning reenergized, refreshed and ready for that organic chemistry final.

Most college students want this to be true but also know dozing off during the lectures has not helped all semester. Still, it never hurts to take a look at what the scientific literature has to say.

It doesn’t take long to find a paper from 1956 that debunks the “study in your sleep” myth. In this experiment, researchers played audio recordings of questions and answers for sleeping subjects while recording their brain waves. Upon waking, the subjects received a test on exactly the material they heard the night before.

The brain wave monitors allowed scientists to tell exactly how deep into sleep the subjects were when they heard each piece of information. The researchers found that the deepest level of sleep where the experimental group outperformed the control group corresponded to “heavy drowsiness.” In other words, the only cases where the trick worked were the ones in which the subjects were still awake to hear the answers.

Still, there is some research that provides hope that there may be a way to learn while in the land of dreams.

Babies, for instance, have the capacity to learn new things while sleeping. An experiment took several infants, no more than a few days old, and fed them formula until they fell asleep. The researchers then blew air into the sleeping babies’ faces but preceded each burst with an audible tone. When the babies awoke, they would react to hearing the tone, expecting to receive the burst of air even when none came. A follow-up study found that babies learn to react even better when there are social cues involved.

Baby brains and sleep states don’t function in the same way adult brains do, but a study published in Nature suggests something similar to this effect may be possible with adults. Researchers combined various odors — pleasant ones, such as shampoo or deodorant, and unpleasant ones, such as rotting fish — with specific sounds while subjects slept. Once the association became strong enough, subjects reacted to the sounds while still asleep, sniffing up a greater volume of air for the pleasant smelling sound and a smaller amount for the unpleasant one.

Then the scientists exposed the subjects to the smells during the early moments of deep sleep, which are referred to as slow-wave sleep or SWS. Once awake, this effect continued.

It’s unlikely that this is helpful unless your final has something to do with smelling rotten fish, but the proof of concept is here: It is possible to learn new things while asleep.

More significantly, a study published in Science indicated that there may be ways to better help reinforce things we’ve already learned during sleep. Subjects performed a memory-related task while exposed to a rosy scent and then went to sleep. During SWS, when it’s believed that the brain consolidates memories, scientists re-exposed the dozing subjects to the rose scent. 

Upon waking, the subjects scored an average of 97.2 percent as compared to a control group’s 85.8 percent on a test of the memory task from the previous day. The effect is significant, but only when the scent exposure occurred during SWS. When presented during the rapid-eye movement, or REM, cycles associated with deeper sleep states, the scent had no effect on the subjects’ performances.

Further investigation revealed that this effect may be limited. Researchers noted that the improvement didn’t occur when the subjects performed a task that was more procedural in nature, such as tapping their fingers in a specific sequence. This is bad news for music performance majors but good news for virtually everybody else.

With that in mind, if you want to do well on your finals, your best bet is to study hard, get plenty of sleep and, possibly, keep a bouquet of roses nearby.

Sathiya Ramdoss, a PhD candidate in special education, works on a Close Circuit Television (CCTV) in the Assisting Technology Lab Wednesday afternoon. The CCTV is used by visually impaired students to magnify the print in books and papers.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

When Jennifer Applegate purchases her books for the coming semester, she brings the texts to the Student Services Building, where they are stripped from their binding and fed into a scanner. Applegate doesn’t hate books — she is legally blind, and this process enables her to access her assignments through screen-reading software.

Applegate, an English senior, is one of 42 students with visual impairments registered with Services for Students with Disabilities, according to disabilities services coordinator Emily Shryock. Other students might be visually impaired, but they choose to work individually with professors and not use the accommodations the University provides.

“The only way we can track the numbers is if [students] choose to self-disclose their disability and register with our office,” Shryock said. “Some students are able to work individually with professors and may not need to use the accommodations or support offered by our office.”

Craig High, the coordinator of assistive technology in the Services for Students with Disabilities office, said he feels the office is successful because it responds to the demands of students.

“We’re 100 percent consumer-driven,” High said. “I’m here to support the students, so I try to mirror whatever strategies they’re already using.” 

High said oftentimes, by the time a blind student enters college, the student has already determined successful study methods. 

“When we see students, they’re already pretty much an expert, and they already know what works for them,” High said. “My job is to keep my pulse on what students are using at home and try to get those technologies in place here.”

Applegate said she feels the University is generally committed to increasing accessibility for blind students.

“Textbooks from the Co-op get back to me really quickly, although PDF documents can be really slow,” Applegate said. “But in general, the University is really good about being inclusive and diverse — whenever there are stairs, there will also be a ramp.”

Still, Applegate said, there are ways in which the University does not accommodate blind students. She cited Waggener Hall, which does not have signs posted in braille. Earlier this year, Applegate mistakenly entered a men’s restroom in the building as a result.

“I didn’t realize what had happened until I heard men’s voices, and I tried to leave as fast as I could,” Applegate said. “That wasn’t fun.”

Applegate said she contacted Student Services about the incident, but has not had time to follow up on getting braille installed.

“I’ve been swamped with schoolwork, and I know it’s an old building, so [the administration] probably thought it wasn’t a big deal,” Applegate said. “I know it’s a big project.”

The Greek Stock Exchange in Athens has taken many hits lately, as a default could cause another financial crisis in Europe.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Europe has a debt crisis. America has a jobs crisis. Corporate profits could be in trouble. World financial markets are in turmoil. And no one seems prepared to ride to the rescue.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke bluntly warned Congress on Tuesday of what most of America has sensed for some time: The economic recovery, such as it is, “is close to faltering.”

The central bank chief spoke on a day when the stock market spent most of the trading hours in bear market territory — down 20 percent from its most recent highs in April. A late-day rally helped the market finish higher.

Bernanke’s exchange with lawmakers seemed to capture the growing belief that no one is prepared to help the global economy in any meaningful way anytime soon. Speaking in unusually frank terms, he also captured the nation’s sour economic mood.

The Fed chief was asked about protests around Wall Street, which went on for an 18th day as demonstrators railed against corporate greed and expressed frustration over the economy.

Bernanke replied: “I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess. And they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”

Throughout the day, traders and U.S. policymakers kept one eye on Europe. Investors worry that a messy default by Greece could hurt European banks and their American counterparts. Bernanke told Congress there was little the Fed could do about Europe’s problems.

Bernanke said he believes the Fed’s latest move to help the economy would be “meaningful but not an enormous support” for the economy. The program, known as Operation Twist, is designed to lower long-term interest rates so people and businesses will spend more money.

The Fed has used most of its tools to help the economy. It said this summer that it expects to keep interest rates super-low into 2013. Congress is inclined to cut, not raise, spending. Europe is resisting bold steps to save its most troubled economies. And fears are rising that a recession is on the verge of seizing Europe and eventually spreading around the world.

Printed Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: Debt crisis, job turmoil cast doubts on recovery

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is renewing his criticism of the Federal Reserve Board, saying it must be more transparent.

The Texas governor repeats in a CNBC interview that if elected president, he wouldn’t reappoint Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman.

Asked about that, Perry said, “We would put someone in who actually believes that the private sector is how you stimulate the economy — not by printing more money at the Fed.”

Perry created controversy earlier by saying that if Bernanke came to Texas, “we would treat him pretty ugly.”

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Perry attacks monetary policy held by Fed chairman Bernanke

We already know Texas A&M, soon to be the newest member of the Southeastern Conference, doesn’t like the Longhorn Network.

Judging by some recent comments on our website, it looks like Texas fans are getting fed up as well:

“This has really gone too far!! Our family has been a ‘Horn’s backer for years ... this network thing is one step too many in UT’s arrogance, especially after last year.” — comment from DCE.

“Goodwill to the Longhorns has been lost, fan for 50 years and this is the thanks I get! Good, bad, ugly, I’ve been behind them ... and now that maroon team (can’t say the name) our longest rivalry is gone ... thanks LONGHORN NETWORK, UT, MACK BROWN, AND ESPN.” — comment from ‘lnghrntchr”

“Got to be one of the most unabashed examples of mismanagement and financial greed we’ve seen in a while. Too bad The University stands by and allows it.” — comment from Prospector.

While none of these folks chose to reveal their real names (give it up, lnghrntchr) they had no problem expressing their sudden disgust for the network that is the driving force behind the sudden instability of college football.

“Some of us don’t want it anymore. LHN has already cost [the] Longhorns in lost goodwill, stability and a conference rival.” — comment from RN.

Brace yourself for more, RN. There is talk that super conferences could align and that Texas’ arch nemesis Oklahoma could be jumping to the Pac-12. If the Longhorns don’t follow suit, it’s entirely possible that the Red River Rivalry, perhaps the finest game in college football, could end.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to keep the OU-Texas game if we do move out of a conference with Texas,” Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday. “I know no one wants to hear that, but things change.”

Once again, all this realignment talk was sparked by Texas A&M’s desire to leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference, which, as you all know, was because of apprehension over the unjust Longhorn Network.

The Aggies don’t want to be in the Texas’ conference anymore. Neither does Nebraska, who left for the Big 10 last summer. Now it looks like the Sooners don’t care about sharing a league with the Longhorns, either.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Stoops said.

What’s sadly ironic is that hardly anybody can even watch the damn thing that started all this mess.

“LHN is like dark matter. We know it is out there but nobody can see it! I am very, very disappointed.” — comment from Stevesiemer.

“I live in Oregon. I have waited nine months, salivating for the season to begin and am left out in the cold. No way to receive the [Rice] game. S---.” — comment from bisalazar.

“I live in Minnesota so I can’t even listen on the radio. I would pay anything to see the games. If it weren’t for updates on my Sprint phone, I’d totally be in the dark all season.” — comment from Patikivi.

You think these are bad? Wait ‘til you see comments from people who aren’t Texas fans!

“Let me understand, this is a government-sponsored school that wants to [screw] the fans. Go anyone else. Houston [Cougars] looked good [Saturday]. Burn the Burnt Orange” — Geomark33.

All interesting points. But does anybody sum up the Longhorn Network better than commenter Rsf?

“If last season’s 5-7 season [didn’t do] enough to disenchant fans, this sure will.”

Lynne Gravier visits her former home last year in Laytonville, Calif., as a wild bear wanders onto the property. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Gravier pled guilty Monday in Mendocino County to a misdemeanor charge of feeding big game.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

UKIAH, Calif. — A woman who turned her rural Northern California home into a spa for wild bears won’t go to jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of feeding big game.

After Lynne Gravier entered her plea in Mendocino County Superior Court on Monday, Judge Richard Henderson set her sentencing date for three years from now, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. If Gravier stays out of trouble and stops feeding bears, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge then.

Gravier, 77, known as the “Bear Woman,” set up a plush hangout for her furry friends at her 40-acre Laytonville property, complete with a kiddie pool and a buffet of cornmeal and peanut butter sandwiches, sometimes laced with glucosamine to ease the arthritis pain in older bears.

Authorities who raided the property in response to neighbor complaints last August found a total of 15 black bears who regularly relaxed inside Gravier’s house and on her deck. She also fed 18 cats, three dogs, 40 peacocks and other wildlife out of her home, which was covered in filth.

California Department of Fish and Game wardens called it the worst example of bear feeding they had ever encountered.

Gravier’s supporters protested her prosecution, defending her as an animal lover. But neighbors complained that she drew in bears that terrorized the community by breaking into homes, ransacking feed sheds and chasing livestock.

“This lady may have thought she was doing a good thing,” Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster told the Chronicle. “We don’t want to bash her, but we have to get her attention and get her to recognize that her feeding the bears was causing a problem for the neighbors and, frankly, is dangerous.”

A firefighter walks along Road Runner Dr as other units attempt to contain a wildfire near Tangle Aire in Amarillo, Texas. Two wildfires have destroyed at least 12 homes on the outskirts of the Panhandle city, Texas Forest Service officials said Monday. (The Amarillo Globe News, Joe Gamm)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

STONEHAM, Texas — Dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people evacuated as firefighters across Texas are working to contain wildfires fed by triple-digit temperatures, high winds and drought.

Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Lexi Maxwell says crews are trying to hold lines to avoid additional evacuations. She was outside a staging area Monday in Stoneham in Grimes County, where at least 4,000 acres were torched in a blaze that began Sunday. Smoke is visible over the trees, and the odor of burning wood is evident.

Some 35 homes and 20 outbuildings have been lost in the blaze about 50 miles north of Houston. It's one of 12 new fires that broke out over the weekend across the state.

Forest Service crews are at 20 fires Monday around Texas.

In her Wednesday column “Raise the bar on minimum wage,” Jessi Devenyns argued that “it is our generation’s responsibility to inform the government and citizenry about the positive effects of implementing higher wages.” Devenyns cited an article in The New York Times that referenced research published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research to argue that the minimum wage could be increased without adversely affecting employment. However, after reviewing the research myself, I have serious doubts about its quality. For example, anywhere from 57 to 85 percent of the results were deemed statistically insignificant. That is, anywhere from 57 to 85 percent of the results are likely to have occurred by chance.

In my opinion, economics is plagued by mathematical and statistical sophistry. Effects that are seen are almost always considered, but effects that are not seen are almost always forgotten. Frederic Bastiat wrote about this in his essay, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen,” in the 1800s. In the case of minimum wage laws, the effect that is seen is a higher wage. The effect that is not seen is the employment that did not materialize because of the laws.

While it is true that the real value of the minimum wage has decreased over the past 30 years, simply increasing its nominal value will do nothing to solve the problem. Such proposals distract from the real issue at hand: The system we live in today was created by, and for, the most powerful institutions in the world. The Federal Reserve is arguably the lifeblood of this system. If you would like to learn more about the Federal Reserve, I recommend reading the materials on its website as well as the freely available book, “The Case Against the Fed,” by Murray Rothbard. That way you can make an informed decision for yourself.

—Joseph Gauthier
Aerospace engineering senior