Blue Light, Sleep, and Performance

I’ll attempt to explain the relationship between blue light and sleep, specifically how blue light from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, monitor, and TV can make it difficult for you to sleep at night. We all know sleep is important, but it’s a lot more important than we think.

Want to be at peak performance when you’re studying? Working? You need sleep. And not any kind of sleep will do: you need both good quality and decent quantity. Working backwards: to be at your best you need good sleep, and to sleep well you need to limit yourself from all those gadgets I mentioned above that emit blue light at night.

This will be quite technical at first, but only at first, so bear with me. I’m paraphrasing from Wikipedia. Melanopsin is a photo-sensitive pigment, found among ganglion cells in our retina. Melanopsin is sensitive to short-wavelength visible light and reach peak light absorption at 488 nanometers (nm), which is within the blue light spectrum of 450-495 nm.

Melanopsin has a direct communication link to a particular area of the brain called suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN. The SCN can be thought of as our biological clock, and controls our circadian rhythm. This makes sense: our eyes tell the brain when it’s dark and our brain tells the body to sleep. If you spend a lot of time looking at displays at night — most displays use blue LED as the light source — the chance of disrupting your normal biological circadian rhythm is high. Here’s a simpler way to put it: if you stare at displays at night there’s a good chance you’ll not be sleeping well. But sleeping well is important for your health as well as for your performance (no, not that kind of performance, though you may see improvements there too).

Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer” is an old Harvard Business Review article from 2006. The title is crystal clear: If you don’t sleep well your performance at work will suffer.

According to WebMD this is how sleeping poorly on a regular basis affects your brain: reduced attention and concentration, reduced reaction time, reduced decision-making and memory capabilities. Exactly the things you don’t want to happen when you’re trying to achieve excellence.

When the sun goes down, put down your smartphone, put the computer to sleep, and instead of watching that movie or TV show, turn off your energy-efficient LED lights, and get ready to go to sleep. Your body and your brain will thank you for it. And when you wake up you’ll be more ready to tackle your day.

Transparent Samsung Big Rig

Samsung Tomorrow:

The Safety Truck consists of a wireless camera attached to the front of the truck, which is connected to a video wall made out of four exterior monitors located on the back of the truck. The monitors give drivers behind the truck a view of what is going on ahead, even in the dark of night.

Driving behind a slow big rig is not fun; overtaking it — especially on a single lane — is really not fun.

This Safety Truck idea by Samsung is pretty cool, but I don’t know that I would overtake it if I happened to come up to one. I might stay behind and just watch.

Forecast: In 2016 Netflix On Top, Not Broadcasters ABC, CBS, NBC, Or Fox

Todd Spangler, Variety:

If Netflix were a Nielsen-rated TV network, the No. 1 streaming service would, within a year, attain a larger 24-hour audience than each of the major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — according to a Wall Street analyst firm.

June 2016 is far into the future, and I am certain no human knows what will happen by then. But some of us try. The Wall Street analyst firm — we all know how accurate Wall Street analyst firms are when it comes to predicting the future — is FBR Capital Markets whose analysts Barton Crockett and Chase White wrote:

Netflix subscribers clearly like it more than pay TV, which we see as arguing for pricing leverage, since pay TV, on average, costs over $80 per month.

The average monthly cost for Netflix: $8.

We haven’t had pay TV for many years and don’t plan to go back. Will the U.S. be watching Netflix more than ABC or Fox in about a year? Who knows. If I had it my way, I’d pay only for the shows I watch and not bother paying a penny more for shows I don’t. For example: $10 for 10 episodes of Game of Thrones. Maybe a little less since this last season was less exciting than previous seasons. And when the show is done for the season I don’t need to keep paying a monthly subscription.

What drives Netflix and other online video streaming services are widely available access to fast and affordable broadband. Our one-year low-price deal with Comcast ended last month so we’ve been bumped down from 50mbps to 3mbps (we’re paying the same amount). So in about a month we will be saying hello to Sonic (no bump downs after a year): 20mbps for the same price with a couple nifty extras. Competition is a good thing.

Rumor: 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K Display

Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac:

Likely destined for a refreshed version of the 21.5-inch iMac, which currently does not have a Retina display, the new El Capitan beta references Mac support for a new 4096 x 2304 resolution Apple-made display panel. While the larger, more expensive 27-inch iMac is offered with a 5K display, it could make sense for the smaller screen to be upgraded to a 4K resolution.

Apple will continue to retina-ize its lineup, and the 21.5-inch iMac is ripe for the taking.

The 27-inch iMac with retina 5K display starts at US$1999, and the non-retina $1799. My guess is a 21.5-inch retina will start at $1499, which happens to be the starting price (at the moment) of the top-end 21.5-inch iMac.

A 4K 21.5-inch iMac would sport a resolution of 205 ppi. Though slightly less than the 218 ppi on the 5K 27-inch iMac it would hit a nice sweet spot in terms of price for those wanting a 4K all-in-one with a decently sized display.

Teardown: Beats Solo

Avery Louie, Prototype Engineer at Bolt:

One of the great things about the solo headphones is how substantial they feel. A little bit of weight makes the product feel solid, durable, and valuable. One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight. In these headphones, 30% of the weight comes from four tiny metal parts that are there for the sole purpose of adding weight.

Pathetic. But how about the bass?

I couldn’t tell from the product teardown but the generic drivers make it seem unlikely.

Louie estimates the COGS (cost of goods sold) without labor or shipping to be US$16.89. Beats sells the Solo for $199. You don’t buy Beats for quality, you buy Beats because it’s cool.

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