Daniel Nye Griffiths
Longshot Magazine Submission
Zero sum games at the zero meridian - Daniel Nye Griffiths
I live near Greenwich, London, where they used to make empire, training the Royal Navythrough the peak
and the decline of British sea power. Now, Greenwich’s major export is
time and space. Greenwich Mean Time - Zulu time, the most middle of midnights - runsthrough the Royal Observatory, as does the zero meridian.
It’s like the North Pole:
nomatter which direction you take when you walk away from Greenwich, you are walkingaway from Greenwich.Unfortunately, just as the Soviet Union exported grain while its people went hungry, being
the word’s single largest exporter of time doesn’t offer any special privileges. A case in
point: solicitations for a 48-hour magazine arrive at 8pm on Friday, rather than noon. TheGreenwich meridian is uncompromising that way.For those in Britain living their professional and personal lives half over the Atlantic, this isan acute manifestation of a common issue. The day starts at nine, then starts again afterlunch, and again two hours later
, ending somewhere east
of midnight. For any normal
person, it’s a nightmarish
torrent of dawns, but
for the committed insomniac it’s
little shortof a miracle. As one world flags, the relief shift comes in.The universal desirability of the
“straight eight” is increasingly seen as mythical, and
specifically Procrustean. The Russian doctor Marie de Manaceine may have a lot toanswer for regarding its longevity. The market-friendly repackaging of her
Sleep: Pathology, Physiology, Hygiene, Psychology
Sleep: A Third of Our Life.
In the very first chapter she manages to raise the slumber stakes even higher,observing:
Every man loves life, every man wants to live for as long as possible, and yet each man consecrates a third and even sometimes half of his existence to sleep.
You start to wonder whether this dormouse dedication to shut-eye was the cause of some
of Russia’s problems at the turn of the 20th century. When she wasn’t sleeping, de
Manaceine satisfied her curiosity about sleep by killing puppies. No, seriously. She keptfour puppies awake until they died. Apparently this was very difficult for her emotionally, asyou would hope prodding sad-eyed puppies to death would be.A little under a century later, Alan Rechtschaffen devised a machine to automate theprocess of exhausting animals to death - a rotating disk that forced rats to keep moving toavoid being dunked into a bowl of water. Generally, the test group started dying after fourweeks, and stopped before six weeks
. The problem being that it’s unclear what they died
. One can divide REM and NREM sleep, and measure brain activity, blood pressure andendocrine response, but when it comes to solid conclusions one might as well try to recalla dream.Testing humans to destruction this way has not been the subject of many research grantapplications - although there are mutterings and legends, as there always are, of madscience and CIA laboratories. In 1963 William Dement of Stanford University watchedRandy Gardner stay awake for 264 hours, during which time he imagined himself to be arunning back for the Chargers and became short-tempered and irritable
the two perhapsnot unconnected. On the final day, Gardner got five steps through counting down from 100
Californians being inexplicably early risers.
Or widder-Greenwich, as they say around here.