xxxiii. Owls of the World, Unite!

24 March 2007 at 12:57 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | 2 Comments
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In Denmark, Norway and possibly other countries ‘larks’ (early-risers) are called ‘A-people’ while ‘owls’ (late-risers) are ‘B-people’. Language is important in defining issues, so this terminology is unfortunate, I think, but it is well-established. Just the fact that there is a defining terminology in various languages is an admission that there is an issue. The common terms in English, larks for morningness and owls for eveningness, seem much less (de-)grading. 

 Danes are, in my experience, good organizers. In late December 2006, the B-Society, ‘B-samfundet’, went public and it now has nearly 4000 members and a newsletter in Danish. On its web page, its goals are defined in Danish and in English. [Update, June 2007: There’s now an international site in English: The B-Society.] There is a page for comments [now defunct, replaced by forum], which are appearing thick and fast in the Scandinavian languages as well as English and others; spam is also appearing, so something needs to be done about that.

The B-Society wants the world to please forget the archaic requirement for all work to be done while the sun is up and preferably just as soon as it’s up. When everyone must appear at work and school at the same time in the (early) morning, traffic jams result and up to half of the workers will not be performing at peak capacity for several hours yet. We’ve had electric light for well over a century, and it is past time to make some changes to everyone’s benefit.   

To quote the site (I’ve corrected their halting English some): “… it is unproductive for ‘owls’ dealing with knowledge, creativity and innovation to be at work at 8:00 a.m. without being present mentally, since their productivity peaks in the afternoon and in the evening. The different rhythms of people will generate a good bottom line in the innovation-driven society.”

One concrete project which may show some promise is awarding “certification” to employers who are friendly to “owls”, aka B-people. As they put it: “The B-Society is working with B-Certification of employers who accept and respect the working rhythm of ‘owls’. B-Certification will enable ‘owls’ to navigate in the labour market and find those workplaces that actually implement flexible working hours as well as show respect for and acceptance of the life and work rhythm of ‘owls’.
Now this is an idea whose time has come! The B-Society seems not to have heard of Delayed Sleep-Wake Syndrome (DSPS), only the eveningness of fairly normal “owls”. Yet achievement of their goals will obviously help us, too, as sleep deprivation is nasty for all of us. More power to them!
The chronobiologist “Coturnix” has a blog entry about the B-Society here. I borrowed his title.
And the remarkable photo of an attacking owl is the winner of National Wildlife’s 35th annual photography competition. Kim Steininger of Pennsylvania took the picture in Ontario, Canada, last winter. She noticed that one of the great gray owls was staring back at her. “I didn’t think anything of it until it started flying at me,” she says. Before getting out of the way, she captured this digital photo with a 500mm telephoto lens.



Next:  xxxiv. Guest Blogger: Alan West


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