Readings: Sleepless Elite, Montessori Mafia, AirTran, Online Cremations

A few good reads from this week. I’ll post some longer reads later this week.

1) “The Sleepless Elite” [Wall Street Journal] – why do some people function so well on little sleep? This article explores (albeit marginally) the “sleep elite,” those of us that can survive on two to four hours of sleep per night:

Here’s an interesting tidbit to remember: most of us actually need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Some of us, sadly, think we can get by on less:

Out of every 100 people who believe they only need five or six hours of sleep a night, only about five people really do, Dr. Buysse says. The rest end up chronically sleep deprived, part of the one-third of U.S. adults who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also fascinating is determining the biological basis for these “sleep elite.” Ying-Hui Fu at University of California-San Franscisco with the research:

Dr. Fu was part of a research team that discovered a gene variation, hDEC2, in a pair of short sleepers in 2009. They were studying extreme early birds when they noticed that two of their subjects, a mother and daughter, got up naturally about 4 a.m. but also went to bed past midnight.

Genetic analyses spotted one gene variation common to them both. The scientists were able to replicate the gene variation in a strain of mice and found that the mice needed less sleep than usual, too.

Read the rest of the article here. The most fascinating thing to me about sleep (ever since I found out about this fact in ninth grade in high school): despite decades of research, we still don’t have conclusive evidence of why we need to sleep.

2) “The Montessori Mafia” [Wall Street Journal] – interesting blog post briefly profiling Google’s Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales, and founder Jeff Bezos:

The Montessori Mafia showed up in an extensive, six-year study about the way creative business executives think. Professors Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of globe-spanning business school INSEAD surveyed over 3,000 executives and interviewed 500 people who had either started innovative companies or invented new products.

A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity…To paraphrase the famous Apple ad campaign, innovators not only learned early on to think different, they act different (and even talk different).

The inclusion of this line (which is sadly true) makes me wonder how we can change things in our schools to at least make the Montessori method more accessible to others.

We are given very little opportunity, for instance, to perform our own, original experiments, and there is also little or no margin for failure or mistakes.  We are judged primarily on getting answers right.  There is much less emphasis on developing our creative thinking abilities, our abilities to let our minds run imaginatively and to discover things on our own.

3) “AirTran Tops Annual Airline Ranking” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] – can someone explain this one to me?

4) “Basic Funerals Bets Baby Boomers Will Arrange Cremations Online” [Bloomberg] – proof that there’s a market for (almost) everything online. Kudos for outside-the-box thinking here, even if the thought/idea is, well, morbid.

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