Monday, June 18, 2007
Et In Circadia Ego
"New research from Colorado State University shows that the function of all genes in mammals is based on circadian -- or daily -- rhythms. The study, refutes the current theory that only 10 percent to 15 percent of all genes were affected by nature's clock. While scientists have long known that circadian rhythms regulate the behavior of the living, the study shows that daily rhythm dominates all life functions and particularly metabolism." (Here.)The fact that the Earth's 24-hour "daily rhythm dominates all life functions" has got to have implications for long-term human settlement of other planets in our Solar System.
Mars has a day that is about 40 minutes longer than 24 hours. Some JPL Rover scientists and engineers lived on Mars time early in the mission and the experiment played havoc with their lives. Some of that can be attributed to what was, in essence, trying to live on two planets at once. (Here.) But other research has shown that living non-Earth standard days harms human health and productivity and leads to "jet lag in space." (Here.)
Research by Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s (BWH) Division of Sleep Medicine has shown that humans can function in a longer day by resetting their circadian rhythms through modulation of the brightness of artificial light over the course of a day. (Here.) But the purpose of the BWH research was to find measures that would allow humans to work effectively in a non-Earth standard day on missions with a defined length.
How will humans cope with living non-standard days for their entire lives? And if every single life function down to the genetic level is tuned to Earth's 24-hour daily rhythm, how will humanity change once new generations are born and die off-Earth?
Technorati: NASA, space, mars, science.
However, mammals, including humans do OK in the high arctic where there are months of continuous light or dark, so the effects of a different light dark cycle can't be too terrible.
Months of continuous light or dark such as we get when well above the arctic circle doesn't much resemble a 24 hour cycle. There do seem to be psychological problems with lack of daylight, so the 24.6 hour cycle might also cause problems.
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