Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more. Hosted by Larry Mantle

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AirTalk for August 24, 2011

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TSA chat downs – are they effective?

The Israelis have been using it successfully for decades to weed out terrorist suspects but until now behavioral profiling has only been used occasionally at U.S. airports. Last week Boston’s Logan International Airport started requiring every passenger to undergo a brief conversation or a “chat down” with a security official who is trained to spot suspicious behavior. The traveler is asked a number of simple questions like where are you going, for what reason and for how long. The security officer is trained to notice various non-verbal cues or “tells” that may indicate that the passenger is lying or hiding something. Those clues might include profuse sweating, eye movements and other involuntary behaviors and physiological reactions that people can’t avoid when they are trying to conceal information. Some legal experts express doubt that TSA officers can be trained in a relatively short time to recognize the right clues. These critics say it’s difficult to sort out real terrorists from those people who are just nervous about travelling and training low level TSA officers to skillfully recognize bad guys in 30 seconds will be extremely challenging. But TSA officials respond that the goal is not to identify terrorists but pinpoint high-risk passenger for further screening. What do you think of behavioral profiling? Do you think it will work in U.S. airports where millions of passengers are travelling through? Does this practice raise civil rights concerns?


Wake up call! The battle between the sexes continues between the sheets

Several new studies have revealed some key differences in how men and women experience sleep. For instance, compared to men, women typically fall asleep faster, sleep longer and deeper, and have fewer instances of waking up during the night. Also, when subjects in an experiment mimicked the effects of sleep deprivation, women performed better than men on assigned tasks. Researchers attribute this to the fact that women are able to have more deep sleep on a regular basis. Paradoxically, women still complain more than men about not getting enough rest. New mothers, who are customarily awoken by their children, remark on their lack of sleep more than men even if the fathers are the ones waking up more throughout the night. Another seeming idiosyncrasy found in these studies is that, even though sleeping with a partner leads to less deep sleep and more disruptions, people tend to be happier with their sleep history if they are sharing a bed. However, body clocks are not synchronous between men and women, with those of males being six minutes longer than those of females. Over a series of days, those six minutes compound exponentially, causing the schedules of both people to be drastically out of sync. Is the comfort of another human being more satisfying than the sleep one receives alone? Why is it that women, who sleep better than men, tend to complain more about not getting enough? How can this gender gap be crossed?

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