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Hack Manchester:

Biological timing challenge

Hack your body clock

We are pleased to be setting a challenge for this year’s Junior Hack and annual 24 hour coding event, Hack Manchester as part of the Manchester Science Festival.

Our internal body clocks are not adapted to life in the 21st Century – with electric lighting and smartphones – and this can cause a range of issues or people.

We’re excited to see how technology could be made to work for our body clocks rather than against them…

 

Each member of the team that most impresses our judge will be rewarded with a black Fitbit Alta HR.

Who we are

We investigate how human internal body clocks affect physiology, health and behaviour. We are the largest biological timing research community in Europe.

Our internal body clock is key to our health. Working late at night, doing night shifts and constantly changing shift patterns can put our body clock out of sync.

As we’re pretty sure as hackers you know only too well, staying up all hours on your computer can mess with your body clock and over-ride your body’s natural’s timing. Imagine if you could create a technical solution to this..

 

The challenge

How could we bring our prehistoric body clocks into the 21st Century with our 24-hour always-on technology and find ways for modern life to adapt and keep people healthy?

 

Our challenge is for you to hack your body clock!

 

The context

We take for granted our regular exposure to 24-hour patterns of light and dark. What is perhaps less well known is that humans have evolved internal clocks which beat with 24-hour cycles. These cycles are synchronized to the outside world by the rising of the sun each day.

These internal circadian rhythms keep ticking to drive our 24-hour sleep and wake cycle even if we were to live in dark caves for prolonged periods.

We simply did not evolve to co-exist with electric lighting or smartphones. This is because it is hard to keep shifting the timing of our body clocks around – so abnormal work patterns or lighting can have a profound impact on our well-being.

Research has found that prolonged shift work is a risk factor for many diseases, including diabetes and cancer, with disrupted sleep patterns often a symptom of underlying disruption to our body clock. One of the most common complaints in society relates to lack of proper sleep in our 24/7 world. Other research shows that eating late at night puts our metabolism under dangerous strain, pre-disposing us to Type 2 diabetes. This is because the liver clock is ‘out of phase’ late at night and performs poorly.

In the last decade, scientists have also made important discoveries about the role of our eyes in resetting the body clock, how internal human rhythms are synchronized and the wide diversity of processes that they drive.

We hope to use this new knowledge about our pre-historic clock to adapt to life in the 21st Century. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make technology work for our body clocks rather than against them?