October 2012 Archives

            For most of you acne sufferers out there, I'm sure you've heard of Accutane.  It's a long, sometimes painful process that seems to be a 50/50 shot in the end when it comes to seeing results.  So is it really worth the 6 months of intense medication?

            First, let me mention just a few of the 43 side effects of this so-called acne curer.  For the common, yet not necessarily "serious reactions," the list includes pain and swelling of the lips, alopecia (hair thinning, baldness), vision problems, peeling skin, nosebleeds, joint pain, muscle pain, back pain, and depression. 

If that wasn't enough to scare you, let me give you a few of the actually serious reactions (please remember some are for males or females only).  How does erectile dysfunction, violent/aggressive behavior, seizures, strokes, cataracts, birth defects, swelling pressure in the brain, liver damage, a rapid and deadly allergic reaction, osteoporosis, and suicidal attempts?

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Because of the chance of birth defects, females on this medication have to prove once a month for 7 months (an extra month, one before the start of the doses) by having blood drawn.  In addition, they must take an online test every month to show they remember that there are dangers with pregnancy and Accutane. 

The entire purpose of Accutane is to reduce the amount of oil being released.  It sounds like a great idea until you hear or experience the list of side effects.  I was on Accutane my freshman year of high school and experienced extreme dry skin and lips, hair loss, vision loss (that has still been affected me), peeling skin, nosebleeds, back pain, aggressive behavior, stomach pain, and loss of the ability to concentrate.  I had to take aspirin to make it through track practice and dropped my grades because I couldn't pay attention in class.  Some of the side effects are similar to those of alcohol- aggressive behavior, liver damage, headaches, stomachaches, depression, and suicidal attempts.  So with all this happening to so many Accutane users, should doctors be prescribing it?  Even further, should this drug even be legal?  

 

Sources: http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/archives/fdaDrugInfo.cfm?archiveid=10663 http://www.accutanesideeffects.net

Breaking Out


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As an 18 year old who has battled acne since 6th grade, I've always wondered: why?  Why is my face so bad when others' aren't?  I've seen four different doctors, taken over a dozen different antibiotics, and even tried the ever-questionable Accutane.  Now, 7 years later, it's still here.  So why is it that my roommate can use Dove soap and have a perfect complexion? 

Acne vulgaris (which basically just translates to the "common type") can pop up basically anywhere from your face, neck, and chest to the shoulders and upper back.  The sebaceous glands create sebum, an oil, and most of the time the glands make an amount that is compatible with the skin.  But, while going through puberty, hormones make the glands produce more sebum.  Because of the excess of oil, the pores become clogged.  Once the pores are clogged up, bacteria can find its way inside and begin to multiply (hence the endless prescriptions of antibiotics).  The results of these bacteria traps are usually redness and swelling (so, believe, it or not, chocolate consumption is not the reason). 

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Unfortunately, the traditional cure-alls don't always work.  Even if you wash your face religiously and apply two dozen creams and ointments, you may just be that person that can't shake acne.  However, if your acne isn't bad enough for surgery (yes, surgery), then there isn't much to do but wait it out until your hormones are finished transitioning.

Until that time, do not poke, push, or pop any blemishes on your face.  It only leads to more damage such as scarring which can last a lifetime.

 Source: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/acne.html#

The Sleepwalker


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sleepwalking-man.jpg  Ever fallen asleep in your bed and end up somewhere else when you wake up?  These are one of the many things a sleepwalker may do.  Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to get up and walk while sleeping.  It may also be referred to as somnambulism. This is usually during the deep stage of sleeping. (The link provides the different stages of sleeping.) The sleepwalker is usually unable to respond to anyone or anything during this type of sleep. They also usually do not remember doing what they did.  
  There are many different symptoms of sleep walking.  This can range from a quiet stroll around the room to disturbed running as if the individual is trying to escape from somewhere. The walkers eyes are usually opened and glassy as if they are staring at something.  Their responses are usually also pretty slow. 
  There are many reasons why a person may sleepwalk.  Some of it may be genetic.  In fact, it is likely to occur in identical twins.  It is also ten times more likely to happen to an individual who may have a first-relative who has episodes of sleepwalking.  There are other environmental factors when sleeping that can contribute to a sleepwalker's disorder.  Lack of sleep, stress, alcohol intoxication and drugs can influence a person's ability to sleepwalk.  
  Many medical issues have also contributed to people sleepwalking.  These include, abnormal heart rhythms, fever, gastroesophageal reflux, nighttime asthma or seizures, or psychotic disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.  Kids tend to sleep walk an hour or two into sleeping.  Sleepwalking is also more common in kids than adults.  Results showed from a survey of 19,136 across 15 states that certain medical conditions and sleeping conditions have a correlation to sleepwalking. 
   In a blog written for Smithsonianmag.com, a study was done by neurologists that revealed we like to walk in our sleep. The first ever large scale showed that over 8.4 million Americans have had a sleepwalking episode in this past year.  "The study underscores the fact that sleepwalking is much more prevalent in adults than previously appreciated," the researchers, led by Maurice Ohayon of Stanford University reported.  
  There are two different types of sleeping the scientists reporter.  REM sleep and non REM sleep.  REM is rapid eye movement underneath the eyelids.  Sleep walking typically happens during the deepest stage of non REM sleeping.  This is the part of sleep that if it is interrupted it is the most groggy. It usually lasts from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.  Although scientists still do not know the direct cause of sleepwalking, some researchers think that it is caused by the brains attempt to switch from deep non REM sleep to wakefulness.  In other words, the brain is going through abnormal patterns of sleep.  
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   Although there are many statistics to show certain reasons for sleepwalking there are always multiple questions we can ask about studies done.  Some scientists ask if the medical conditions are provoking the sleep walking or is it the other way around?  I find this interesting because this is exactly what we talk about in class. We do not know if it is direct causation or reverse causation. 

Is sleepwalking harmful? 
  Sleepwalking is not harmful; however, people who sleepwalk may not know what they are doing or where they are going.  Some people tend to go outside and take a casual stroll down the street or even just walking downstairs.  Sleepwalking is not a sign of something being psychologically wrong with an individual.  The odds are the person may not even remember what they did by the time they wake up. 

How to keep a sleepwalker safe
  You should not wake a sleep walker especially if the person is a child because it may scare them.  You can however gently guide them back to their bed.  In addition, if you know your child is prone to sleepwalking you should lock all of your doors and windows to prevent them from doing anything too dangerous. 

I remember one time I was sleepwalking.  I had a dream but I did not think I was physically doing the dream.  I dreamt that I brought my blanket downstairs to my living room.  However, the next morning I woke up in my bed with no blanket on me and my dad was wondering why my blanket was on the couch downstairs in my living room.  We all laughed about it but were kind of creeped out at the same time. Do you ever sleep walk?  Do you even remember if you have ever?  

Websites used: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleepwalking-causes
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/05/the-science-of-sleepwalking/
Website for the pictures: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/sleepwalking2.htm
  

Can you be SCARED to death?!


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halloween-wallpaper-large006.jpgHappy Halloween Penn State! This is one of my favorite holidays, right after Christmas -- I love dressing up, giving (and getting!) candy and being scared by haunted houses, spooky tales, and anything creepy!

As someone who gets scared somewhat easily, I have said many times, "You just scared me to death!" But, is this possible? Can you actually be scared to death?

After finding an article on Yahoo! News (from Good Morning America), I learned it is actually entirely plausible to be scared to death!

Scientifically, it is identified as "stress cardiomyopathy," which is similar to a heart attack. This is also known as the 'broken-heart' syndrome', as it usually occurs after an "intense, emotional event." The symptoms are extremely similar to a heart attack such as "shortness of breath, trouble breathing and sweating," however, during stress cardiomyopathy, there is also a flush of stress hormones in your body.

When you feel scared or threatened, a surge of adrenaline rushes through you and triggers the 'fight-or-flight' response, an innate sense of protection that your body has. However, is the shock is so great, the sudden rush of adrenaline can shock your heart so extremely that it stops beating. 
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Stress cardiomyopathy doesn't have to be triggered by something as scary as a killer clown with a chainsaw; Dr. Samuels, the head of the neurology department of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, has seen cases that care caused by something as simple as "shooting a hole in one on the golf course, bowling a perfect game, and a not guilty verdict in court."

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It is somewhat rare, but if you happen to believe in ghosts and ghouls being real and haunting about, maybe stick with just the treats tonight!

All throughout school, my teachers emphasized the need to reread, revise and edit everything. Of course, spell-check or auto-correct on Microsoft Word and smart phones usually caught the obvious mistakes-using an "a" instead of an "i" in definitely, writing "teh" when we meant to say "the", etc. However, more subtle errors often went unnoticed. Sadly for many of us, spell-check often neglects to pick up on human errors like writing "to" instead of "too" and using the incorrect form of "their/there/they're". Being the perfectionist that I am, these errors do not cease to irritate me, causing me to delete many a misspelled Tweet or go back and edit my SC 200 blogs until they are error-free. But in reading other blogs, I have found too many frustrating spelling and grammar errors that seriously interfere in my understanding of what the person is trying to communicate. Often these blogs remain only half read, as the three or more errors in the first paragraph makes finishing and commenting on the blog almost unthinkable. So what's to blame-a lack of revision, an absence of/low quality spell-check or just sheer laziness? Probably a combination of all those factors, but the so called "Grammar Nazis" want answers. And so of course, I went searching.

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The claim that spell-check is making us stupid has been the topic of plenty of articles and 11 o'clock news segments. In fact, the general idea that technology is dumbing us down is of popular interest. Whether it's GPS, video games or technology in general, it appears are though our cognitive abilities as a population are at risk. An article published by BBC News in 2012 referenced a survey that appears to support the hypothesis that spell-check is "making us dumb". The survey was commissioned by Mencap and found that out of the 2,000 Britons surveyed, approximately one-third of participants could not spell "definitely" and two-thirds failed to identify the correct spelling of "necessary". Only 9% of the participants claimed to never use spell-check. The director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Ian McNeilly, commented that "If people are blindly writing things and expecting automated programs to address all of their inaccurate spellings, that's a concern-because they won't" (BBC News).

An article published by the Atlantic Wire  in the same year argues that while the conclusions of the Mencap survey hold some validity, "it is hardly a sudden development" (The Atlantic Wire). The article referenced two previous studies, both indicating that bad spelling was a problem long before Microsoft Word. A Stanford University study assembled students' papers in 1988 and again in 2008 and ranked the most common errors. Within the twenty-year span, the frequency of the use of the wrong word and misspellings jumped dramatically. A 2005 study done by Harvard University on 65 graduate and undergraduate students "at a major northeastern U.S. university" (Harvard study)  found that when spell-check was on, participants made more mistakes than when it was turned off.

The conclusion that the Atlantic Wire came up with from these results was that "Computer spell-check, an invention of the 1970s has been making us worse at spelling for at least 25 years" (The Atlantic Wire). Based on the variety of these studies, I find this to be a logical conclusion. A double blind placebo trial isn't reasonable in this kind of experiment, so the variety and scale of observational studies is critical. These studies have not only tracked the changes in spelling as a result of spell-check over time, but in regards to the Harvard study, the independent variable has been manipulated to see if it has an effect on the dependent variable. While technology has its merits, there are also downsides to consider. Do you find yourself dependent on spell-check when you draft assignments on a computer or smartphone? Are the number of spelling mistakes you make in hand-written notes as frequent as the ones you make on the computer?  Would you ever try replicating the Harvard study by turning spell-check software off and seeing how your spelling and grammar is without the threat of those squiggly red lines?

Unless you are living under a rock or are way too into your studies to turn on a TV or go on the internet, you have heard of Hurricane Sandy (or Frankenstorm). Millions of people have been affected by this grand hurricane. Over 60 people in the Caribbean have died from it. The U.S. has suffered 18 deaths over 7 different states. Millions of people ranging from South Carolina all the way to Ohio are without power. New York and New Jersey were especially hit hard. People's favorite vacation spots such as L.B.I. and the Jersey shore have been almost completely washed away. This has been devastating to those along the east coast.

 

So the obvious question comes to mind, "Why is there a massive hurricane in late October?" Researchers say that it is from an indirect cause of global warming. According to US News , "You can't say [global warming] caused any single event, but when we start to see a trend like this, I think it shows that there's a good chance these hurricanes wouldn't be happening without warming," said one of the report's authors, Aslack Grinsted. "What I show is only correlation, but it's purely consistent with the hypothesis that warming goes along with more frequent, large hurricanes."


 Skeptics of global warming say that this can't be true because there are numerous variables that go into creating such a grand storm and it is impossible to prove that global warming was the sole cause.


 According to the Huffington Post, they confidently tell their readers that global warming systematically caused the hurricane. Systematic causation basically means that it is indirectly caused. They say, "Global warming systemically caused the huge and ferocious Hurricane Sandy. And consequently, it systemically caused all the loss of life, material damage, and economic loss of Hurricane Sandy. Global warming heated the water of the Gulf and Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in greatly increased energy and water vapor in the air above the water. When that happens, extremely energetic and wet storms occur more frequently and ferociously. These systemic effects of global warming came together to produce the ferocity and magnitude of Hurricane Sandy."


 Whether we believe that global warming was the cause of this devastating event or not, we can all agree that it has been a living night -mare for those who went through it. Continue to keep those affected in your prayers. 


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operantconditioning.jpgOne of the most effective ways a teaching a child proper behavior is through a technique known as operant conditioning. The term, created and analyzed by well-known 20th century psychologist B.F. Skinner, explains the practice by which behavior is modified through the use of either reinforcement or punishment. There are positive or negative aspects of each. Before I get into my argument (which will include the problems that are associated with this type of discipline and children's moral development), it is first important to understand the four main aspects of operant conditioning:

Reinforcement refers to the measures taken to increase a behavior:

1. Positive reinforcement is when a behavior is rewarded with positive stimulus, thus increasing the learner's frequency of that behavior.

2. Negative reinforcement is when a negative stimulus is removed after good behavior, thus increasing the learner's frequency of that behavior.

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Punishment refers to the measures taken to decrease a behavior's frequency:

3. Positive punishment is when a negative stimulus is added after a "bad" behavior, thus decreasing the learner's frequency of that behavior.

4. Negative punishment is when a positive stimulus is removed after a "bad" behavior, thus decreasing the learner's frequency of that behavior.

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Operant condition is part of series of teaching techniques that I learned about in psychology last year, so when I stumbled across an article on the subject titled "Why Discipline is Overrated," I was interested to see the problems psychologists believe exist with this form of learning - seeing as it is a highly popular and natural type of disciplining children in their early behavioral development.

In the particular article in I linked to above, one of the main arguments they make against operant conditioning is that while it may result in improvement in a child's behavior, it is not healthy for their moral development and understanding why it is important to behave well and be a "good person". If the child is consistently being rewarded for good actions and punished for bad, the individual will continue to act only out of expectance of a reward or punishment, not out of a desire for good character or the benefit of others around them.

This theory presents the issue of what will happen when the authoritative figure is not around in the child's life to reward/punish him or her. Do you think it is likely that the child will immediately recognize the absence of the reward or punishment and realize they can "get away" with a bad behavior? Will there be a lag in moral development that resulted from constant operant conditioning as a young child - one in which the child knows that just because he/she will not be rewarded or punished...it is okay to go on with the bad behavior? Will there be no concern of personal character and conduct? These are the questions psychologists seem to be asking on the subject.

This lag in moral development can be better explained through the use of Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. Preconventional is what is expected of young children - an egocentric stage in which the child's prime concern is about themselves. They choose their actions strictly based on how the action will be rewarded or punished - an attitude based on the egocentric question "what's in it for me?"

With operant conditioning, the child may never be able to develop into the next stages (conventional and postconventional) which shift away from egocentric motives and begin focus on how their actions will affect overall personal character, what is considered morally correct in society, and how they will affect those who surround them.

Do you think children who are over disciplined by operant conditioning will become teenagers, or even adults, who choose their actions based solely on what's "in it for them"?

If too much operant conditioning in early childhood is a problem, a very significant and difficult question is: what form of discipline will result in healthy transition of moral development stages for an early learner?

The article explains education critic Alfie Kohn's belief that parents/guardians should limit the use of operant conditioning and instead let the children use strategic problem solving to make decisions for themselves without receiving reward or punishment.

While I guess Kohn's idea would be beneficial in a child not expecting a reward for being good, I don't foresee good results coming from a child not being punished. Perhaps the natural reaction and influence of a social environment would teach kids "the hard way" what is and isn't acceptable in society.

The concept is very hard - and there seems no clear-cut solution. While too much operant conditioning does seem (according to the article) to stunt moral development, will too much lack of operant conditioning have children at a behavioral setback by the time they begin preschool?

This subject is very interesting to me because it can go so many different ways. That's why I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you think operant conditioning, the most common way to discipline small children, is the most effective in creating a "good person"? Or do you think this tactic over-disciplines the child to the point where there is no comprehension of why they're acting the way they're acting aside from how it can benefit them?

If you believe it is over-disciplining, what solution can you propose for early childhood moral development?

 

As a girl I've always talked with my friends about how often they wash their hair each week.  I've always been obsessive about showering, shampooing, and conditioning my hair every day because I hate when it falls flat from sleeping on it two nights in a row.  But I have some friends who go days, even a week at a time without shampooing their hair.  They shower of course because body odor can get quite disgusting but for some reason they prefer their hair a little "dirty" I guess you could say.  My roommate in fact can go days without washing her hair and has no problem with it, and it doesn't even begin to look that greasy.  It irks me a little bit because of how often I wash my hair, so I started to wonder if it was good or bad for your hair to shower as often as I do.

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To my surprise, some sources say it really isn't good to wash your hair every single day.  In an article by WebMD, they say that washing it three to four times a week is much better.  It helps to preserve the natural oils in your hair rather than continuously washing them out.  Sonya Collins says, "the longer, thicker, curlier, and more processed your hair, the longer it can go between washes."  I agree with what she's saying because I definitely notice that my hair, which is extremely thick, can go longer without being washed than my friends with extremely thin hair.

Another article on Discovery Health's website by Josh Clark says that it's so disagreed upon by dermatologists that it's really just up to the person.  So obviously everyone can make their own choice!  But I think I'm going to lay off the shampoo a little bit!

There is only so much a student can do when they are stranded at East Halls during a hurricane. Since I was forced to stay in my room for hours without any schoolwork, I decided to go onto Netflix to watch a movie or TV series.  The show I decided to watch was The Deadliest Warrior, shown on Spike.  After watching an episode I figured it would be a good blog idea because of the science they use to make the show possible.

 

The purpose behind this show is to collect two groups of warriors in the past or present and battle them against each other based on their weapons to see who would win the battle if they were ever to fight each other.  Obviously this show has its flaws but it is very interesting to watch the show and see the science behind the weapons and listen to experts predict which warrior would win.   An expert in that warrior's field represents the warrior from the past or present.  For example, the first episode was Apache vs. Gladiators.  The Apache was represented by two men that specialize in the Apache weapons and likewise for the Gladiators.

 

The show is hosted by Geoff Desmoulin (biomedical scientist and high speed camera operator), Dr. Armand Dorian, (medical consultant), and Max Geiger (simulations programmer).  The show is broken down into certain categories of weapons; short range, medium range, long range, and special weapons.  The hosts then figure out which of the two weapons were more effective or better than the other.  Finally after the four weapons were shown for each warrior, a simulation is shown and a winner is decided.

 

Finally, I will explain the science behind the hosts figuring out which warrior's weapon is better than the other.  "The teams test the assigned weapons on various targets including human silhouette targets, mannequins, pig and cattle carcasses, and ballistics gel torsos, heads, limbs, etc. Additionally pressure mats, accelerometers, chronometers, and other measuring tools are used to test such figures as the striking force and speed of each weapon. Sometimes, the targets are covered with armor that is representative of what would be worn by the warrior's opponent. While the damage inflicted on the armor by the weapon is factored into the weapon's effectiveness.  All of the weapon tests are recorded with high-speed photography, and the results are fed into a computer that measures the damage each weapon is capable of inflicting." (Wikipedia)


Learning a foreign language in 10 days sounds like a linguistic crash diet. I, along with many of you, have been given the dreaded requirement of completing a certain amount of credits in a foreign language in order to graduate college. Luckily, I am finally done with my second language, but it would have been nice to know I could have "wired" my brain to pick up a new language in record time. This "wiring" method is known as the Pimsleur Approach - "a well known provider in audio-based language learning." (SmarterLifestyles) Even the FBI purchased it and it was featured in Forbes! 

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Dr. Paul Pimsleur created this method based on the idea that it wasn't the amount of words you know but rather the relevance of them. According to this article, studies show native speakers only use about 2,500 "distinct words and phrases on a daily basis."(SmarterLifestyles) The Pimsleur Approach uses these "language building blocks" to teach these specific 2,500 words. 

He unfortunately died suddenly in 1976, at 48 years old, before his courses were even available to customers. It wasn't until 1980 that a "listening booth" was used at the Harvard bookstore so "prospective learners could sample the lessons and understand how the Pimsleur Method worked"(Simon and Schuster's) before they were convinced and committed. 

Pimsleur's methodology behind his method was based on several key concepts he deemed important in learning a language. 

1) Anticipation
Pimsleur argued that "to repeat after an instructor" was a "passive way of learning."
(wikipedia) Instead, he created a "challenge and response" technique. 
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The student would translate a phrase in his/her first language "into the target language." Pimsleur said this was a more "active way of learning" forcing the student to "think before responding."(wikipedia) 

A way of learning language through retention by spaced repetition. Vocabulary is tested based on Pimsleur's "memory schedule" - 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, 2 years. To me, this is similar to using flash cards but for a longer period of timing (Pimsleur, P.; Modern Language Journal) 

3) Core vocabulary 
As stated above, studies have shown native speakers only use a specific set of 2,500 words regularly. Pimsleur says in the English language "2000 words composes about 80% of the total printed words."(Nation, Paul; Waring, Robert) 

4) Organic learning 
This is his school of thought that "auditory speech...is different than reading and writing skill"(Charles A.S. Heinle)  

I looked for any statistics of students using the Pimsleur Approach versus say Rosetta Stone. I did not find any. I also looked on statistics solely focused on results from using Pimsleur - also nothing. Until I see some data I am intrigued in learning a language in 10 days, but not convinced. 



Sources: 
http://www.pimsleur.com/about-pimsleur-language-programs
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pimsleur_method#cite_note-3
Pimsleur, P. (1967). A memory schedule. Modern Language Journal, 51, 73-75.

My older sister works in Silicon Valley and constantly shares with me the newest things happening in technology. A few weeks back, she told me she was at a restaurant down the street from her office and saw a man wearing a weird headpiece with a small glass frame on the corner of one eye. A coworker of hers pointed and said, "Look, Google Glass!"


Google Glass is a new product that Google is experimenting with in its early stages. In fact, only few people have actually been able to experience Google Glass with the exception of Google employees themselves.


What is Google Glass?


Google Glass is an entirely hands-free computer that you wear like a pair of sunglasses, except there are actually no eyepieces. Instead, there is just a small box in the corner of the frame on the right side. In a New York Times Article, (http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/google-glass-and-the-future-of-technology/) it was said that when a user focuses up at the piece of glass, the half-inch display actually appears comparable to a big laptop screen.


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source


Although Google Glass is still so new, think about what this could mean for the

future of technology. In a video on youtube called Google Glasses Project (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSnB06um5r4), they provide some examples of how Google Glass can be incorporated into your day. Imagine a computer that you could just speak to and it would act, that was in view whenever you looked up, and that could be a companion throughout the day. Google Maps could transition into arrows that appeared in front of your face. What will happen to our brains, the way that we think, our ability to multitask? Will textbooks become a digital media that can appear in front of your eyes?


So how will the technology work?


Google explains that glass will eventually have the ability to "get online." Right now, Google Glass hooks up wirelessly to a cell phone, but in the future the device could have it's own system entirely. This technology overall is pretty exciting, and I think it really could be the next big thing in technology. I imagine that these will replace cell phones and even computers some day. What is the need for a heavy laptop when you have a practically weightless, hands-free device that serves the same purpose?


There are some problems that could arise with this technology, however. For example, if the glasses doubled as a textbook, they would also need to be banned from classrooms to avoid cheating. In an article in Technology Review (http://www.technologyreview.com/review/428212/you-will-want-google-goggles/), the writer tries on a pair of Glasses after interviewing Starner, a technical lead for the project, who originally had the glasses on himself. The journalist actually saw that in the glasses, Starner was reading what he could and could not say on the screen during the interview. Right in front of his eyes, he was able to participate in his interview and read a screen without being detected. Google Glass could change the way we communicate, the way we learn, the way we think, and so much more. It could very well be the new big thing in technology, but how much is too much? I also consider the many hypothesis we have gone over in class that seemed like the next big thing or some revolutionary idea that went terribly wrong. Only time and more trial and error will tell, but how do you feel about the future of Google Glass?


Google has a lot of other cool stuff it's working on. Check out these links below:


Google Glass:

https://plus.google.com/+projectglass/posts

Google's Self-driving Cars

http://allthingsd.com/20120925/googles-self-driving-cars-now-legal-in-california/? refcat=news


There's actually a Google Mars (Like Google Earth)

http://www.google.com/mars/



During the first blogging period I wrote a post about the menopausal whale conversation we had in class. In my blog however I asked whether or not the age at which women begin going through menopause has changed in recent years. While my research on that topic yielded few answers, there is a related topic that I see in the headlines far more often.
As you've probably heard, girls are going through puberty earlier and earlier. The rapid change in the average age of puberty has caused difficulty for girls and parents alike. Girls are experiencing physical changes before their parents even have the chance to explain why these changes happen. In March of 2012, The New York Times published an article about the topic entitled Puberty Before Age 10 - A New "Normal"?. The article discussed many avenues of the subject, from methods of slowing down the process to why it's happening to what it means for girls psychologically.

Studies done in the past few decades have suggested that puberty is increasing earlier and earlier. Though African American girls tend to hit puberty earlier in general, girls of all races are going through puberty sooner. A 2010 study led by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital found that by age 7, 10.4% of white girls, 14.9% of Hispanic girls and 23.4% of African American girls had begun to develop breasts. The percentages in white and African American girls had risen significantly since a similar study in 1997, showing that the change in the population is undeniable. 

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Probably the most important question discussed here is why. The article focused on the story of Ainsley, who at 9 years-old was the tallest in her class and had very mature curves among other things. While conventional doctors couldn't identify any medical issues based on x-rays and blood tests, an applied kinesiologist suggested that it wasn't her ovaries producing excess estrogen, but rather xenoestrogens. A person's level of xenoestrogens are a result of one's environment. Though this is the explanation offered by the applied kinesiologist, scientists have also offered this as an explanation after animal testing on the subject. Of course, animal testing is the only way to ethically perform a study on the topic, though observational studies are still in the realm of possibility. As with any observational study, the data would always come with the risks of reverse causality and confounding variables. Doctors offer other possible contributing factors including family stress and weight. For example, overweight girls are most likely to begin puberty before thin girls. Researchers now believe that it is fat tissue that can cause the body to mature, rather than strictly weight.

There are many ethical and social issues that surprisingly arise from early puberty in girls. In addition to questions about earlier sex education and a changing gender dynamic at a younger age, there are also differences between the girls who develop much earlier than other girls their age. These girls are more likely to drink and lose their virginity earlier, in addition to higher incidents of depression, self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Ethical issues arise from the option of giving girls hormone injections that slow the process of puberty. Is it right to prevent the body from doing the "natural" thing with a monthly injection? Or is it in a young girl's best interests to slow the process? If your daughter was going through puberty at 6 years-old, would you try to artificially slow it? Finally, when will the younger puberty stop and what long-term connotations of these changes on the female population? Clearly this issue raises plenty of questions and isn't going away any time soon.

Fishy Feet,What Is To Blame?


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      It is without shame that I am telling you that my feet stink, and this repugnant odor has been with me for years. But from the experience of some dorm visits on campus, I realized before long that I am far from the only victim of this pathetic phenomenon. College students, when compared to the average public, generally have more intense exercise on a daily basis. After sustaining substantial amount of perspiration, our first thought would be no more than to take a shower, which is obviously not a bad way to save the air of your room. But when the stench is thick enough with the potential to make a feisty bull bow down at your knees, perhaps you couldn't escape but ask yourself what has indeed happened to your feet?

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      Before our discussion, it will be beneficial to clarify one term. When I grew up, I've been fed up with the notion that athletes, who practice massive extent of physical exercises for a long run, are exposed to a much higher risk of feet odor. At that time, I've already been taught that athlete's foot is the ordinary name to describe this unbearable notoriety on a human body.

      However, as I began to revisit this concept again today, surprisingly I found out my earlier comprehension about the athlete's foot is clinically wrong. Despite the stereotypic vision that athlete's foot only savages athletes, theoretically speaking, people stand for an equal chance of contracting this disease. "It affects the feet of athletes and non-athletes alike," explained a medical portal website. In addition, the further illustrations completely toppled my previous illusion about this disease. The article continues, "It is usually a scaly, red, itchy eruption and occasionally may be weepy and oozing." Having read about this, I  ejaculated, "I would rather like to have a severe foot odor than an athlete's foot!" The latter, based on the description, involves skin infection and blood release. Without much difficulty, I was able to link the appearance of athlete's foot to the hand blisters incurred during frigid weathers, which at times leave the back of hands with a handful of grisly blood scabs.

      Learning that athlete's foot by no means relates to the foot odor, I decided to look into the pathological aspect of foot odor. Not surprisingly, clinical professionals have a fancy obscure word for stinky feet. Footsmart, an online retailer selling smart-looking foot mattresses, put this medical terminology in a very recognizable way, "If taking off your shoes clears a room, you may be suffering from a condition known as bromhidrosis." Attention needs to be called for the referrals of bromhidrosis. Footsmart, perhaps whole-heartedly put its endeavors in podiatric products, skipped a crucial fact of bromhidrosis, so another medical reference portal came to rescue, "Bromhidrosis, also known as bromidrosis or body odor, is a common phenomenon in postpubertal individuals." This statement implies that bromidrosis not only applies for foot odor, but also many other parts of the body, armpits included. Therefore, to be accurate, foot odor is a subcategory of bromidrosis, and we shall use it with discretion.

      In spite of these misconceptions of foot odor over years during my growth, it seems to me one thing must be certain, that people who exercise extensively are prone to have more serious bromhidrosis than those who don't. Immediately, my research confirms that observation, "When sweat glands work overtime, stinky situations can ensue. MayoClinic.com explains that eccrine glands are sweat glands that exist on most of the surface of the body. The autonomic nervous system responds to increases in body temperature by stimulating the secretion of sweat onto the skin's surface, thus cooling the body through evaporation," as LiveStrong.com put it.

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Photo courtesy of HowStuffWorks.

      This analysis about the mechanism of sweating makes perfect sense to me, since almost everyone has the common sense that excessive sweat on one's skin may lead to the development of a prompt cold if not removed after the entry of a cooler environment. This article also pointed out that an overwhelming amount of sweat, known as focal hyperhidrosis, may ensue after a drastic physical workout, and body odor of the feet can result from hyperhidrosis.
      Andrew has told us over times concerning the analysis of a hypothesis. Obviously, in this case, alternative hypothesis should be stated as excessive sweating causes bromidrosis, and correspondingly the null hypothesis rolls in as excessive sweating does not cause bromidrosis. We may notice that in this study anecdotal observations may take the biggest part of the stage when alternative hypothesis is put to test. Since we had never failed to find a friend or family members who have various degrees of bromidrosis, and chances are the majority of them are males. Some basic logics soon brings us to the inference that because males engage labors more than females do---obviously in this occasion labors are only not limited to ones required by professions---males are more likely to be carriers of bromidrosis. The rarity of severe foot odor found among women seems also support the anecdotes, and the reality tells us that we barely expect any unwelcomed smell when women take off their shoes. Anecdotal observations are proved to be so convincing that no subsequent studies seem to be necessary for the alternative hypothesis.

      Having reached this point, one of the most critical aspects of scientific studies reminded me that probably we have not done enough work to speak with certainty---the 3rd variables factors. My initial reflection tells me that genetic influences could be the most interesting confounding variable here, namely does any particular gene relates to body odor? It turns out that public research did cover this seemingly unlikely story. In this article from The Washington Post, 353 people who complained about their strong body odors were tested in a medical center, and a test showed that one third of them had a rare genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria, and the author further explains, "Healthy people's bodies break down trimethylamine into smaller compounds that are then excreted through urine. But for those with trimethylaminuria, the substance remains in the body, causing them to exude a fishy smell through their breath, saliva, sweat and urine." Honestly speaking, I was astounded to see that somewhere far-fetched in your genome, a defect could be the outlaw which produces bromidrosis. Though this story strikes me as mind-blowing, I noted the author mentioned that this genetic imperfection is rather rare to be found in human cases, so this 3rd variable is probably not a convincing one.

      Some other 3rd variables I can think of were later rejected by me, such as the type of shoes or socks and the individual hygiene. Sneakers or basketball shoes by themselves do not nurture stinky feet, neither do cotton socks. For many times, we have heard the rumor that these athletic shoes and non-breathable socks really defeat you to have a pair of feet that smell fresh. However, if people do not sweat wildly to the degree that the moisture finds no way to escape thorough, neither our shoes nor socks should be blamed for the bromidrosis. As for personal hygiene, the factor of sweat becomes more prominent. Because our main purpose of body cleaning is to get rid of the sweat and metabolic wastes, apparently sweat still plays a big role in this 3rd variable.

      It's time to make a conclusion. Even though we can't assert that sweat does cause bromidrosis, the correlation is strong enough thus far that a reasonable proposal should be easily attained--- backup shoes are our good friends, and personal hygiene needs to be maintained.

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      Stinky feet is not at all alien to college kids, and this discussion somewhat seems to be redundant. But instead of just reaching a solid ground of sweat theory, I took a long journey to reach this conclusion, during which I dismissed some misunderstandings and challenged my own conjectures. And I believe this would be something priceless Andrew loves us to develop in SC200, what we called scientific analysis. Can you perceive any other 3rd variables which may contribute to bromidrosis? After all, can we entirely shed off the pain of the bad smell if we follow those tips, or is this an "oh-so-man" feature, which no interference is needed at all? Please share your thoughts below.

      Take good care of yourself with Hurricane Sandy and hope you enjoy the rain.

 

Sources:

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1072342-overview

http://www.footsmart.com/health-conditions-bromhidrosis

http://www.livestrong.com/article/190682-causes-of-really-bad-foot-odor

http://www.medicinenet.com/athletes_foot/article.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/unexplained-body-odor-may-stem-from-rare-genetic-disorder/2010/12/20/gIQAh4MMvJ_blog.html

SCIENCE TEST REVIEW - BOO!


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Hello everyone! Just a quick reminder to those who are interested, Andrew will be holding one more review session for your last exam.
 
The review will be held on Wednesday, Oct.
31 at 6 p.m.!


Note from Andrew on how to find the room/being prepared:

The session will be in Millennium Science Complex W-203.  Last review sessions, people got lost and wandered the building.  This is bad, not least because it is a research building packed with labs working on infectious disease. 

To find the room:  
Go in the Huck entrance under the big arch and then, via the stairs or elevator immediately in front of you when you come in the main entrance, go up one floor and W-203 is immediately across the corridor.  Its really simple.


Please: to make the most of this, go through the test on angel, identified what you got wrong, and think about what the answer might be BEFORE the tutorial.

 


Let us know if you have any questions!!
Before Hurricane Sandy decides to get truly brutal, a group of activists bounded together to protest lack of awareness about climate change. There has been some debate about weather hurricanes occur, or are at fuller force, due to climate change. Yet this debate has been kept at a sorry minimum, and has barely even been mentioned in this year's presidential election. Phil Aroneanu, the co-founder of the protesting group, claims that while hurricanes aren't necessarily caused by global warming, "the average of 5-degree warmer oceans have created so much more vapor for the storm to pick up and dump on NYC and Boston" (Kavner). So Sandy is reputed to be "Frankenstorm" because of the massive amount of evaporated water due to higher temperatures. Meteorologists agree that high water temperatures attribute to the severity of storms. But part of the protest was also an inflated reason to raise awareness of an issue that is not just seen through hurricanes. There is just enough science to make a definitive claim that climate change did or did not cause Hurricane Sandy.
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According to Terrance Henry, the explanation climate change in terms of hurricanes is that it causes "hurricanes on steroids." Natural disasters will always happen--even if polar bears aren't in danger, and we aren't actively screwing up our planet (oh what a beautiful world that would be), but high temperatures make for worse storms. However, scientists are still working to see how much they effect these disasters. Adam Frank argues that it's silly to try to blame climate change on one storm, and that "climate is all about long-term trends -- not the 5-day forecast." Maybe if there were a string of severe hurricanes, we could start saying climate change causes them, but as of now, we see the same number of hurricanes now as we did 20 to 30 years ago. However, the increasing severity of these storms is a trend to start watching for.

Every article concludes that there are no specific answers to weather climate change is really playing a huge role in natural disasters. The protesters may be adding hype to their cause (at least in context with this specific hurricane), but those who say the severity of Sandy is not at all due to climate change are perhaps underreacting. Scientific evidence shows that higher temperatures do contribute to harsher storms. How harsh Sandy would be if climate change wasn't a thing--that is what scientists are still trying to understand.

Do you think we can put most of the blame on climate change? Or was Hurricane Sandy bound to be severe, global warming or not?



http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/28/hurricane-sandy-climate-change_n_2036011.html
 

Hurricane Sandy


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      Hurricane season is here with the first major storm coming our way, Hurricane Sandy. I never really get worked up like some people do about hurricanes and I guess its because, I have never really experience a bad one. I work at Walmart and people were in there buying tons of water and batteries to the point that we started to sell out. People were really acting like the Zombie Apocalypse is coming tomorrow. Bloomsburg and Kutztown University canceled Monday and Tuesday classes. I do understand that some hurricanes are very severe and that regardless everyone should take caution.

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      But why is it that The Penn State University, will not ever cancel classes. I feel like it's going to take one of the Cata buses to tip over and someone to be severely hurt for classes to be canceled.

      While again, I understand the caution that should be taken during hurricane season, I cant help but notice that the media hypes all these storms up and nothing never really happens, but some power outages and heavy rain. Hurricane Katrina definitely did set the example that every storm should be taken seriously though, so I guess its better to hype the storm up for nothing to happen, than to barely mention the storm and the whole world gets wiped out.


      What do you think of the media coverage of hurricanes? Are you getting prepared? 

I also want to raise the question of the reporters and camera people that standout in these storms just to get the story. I think its so funny that the reporter in the yellow is talking about how wet it is as he is standing in the middle of the ocean -___-

      How do you feel about reporters that sensibly risk their  lives just to get the news out?

 

Franken-freaky


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Halloween is the one night a year where you can put on a costume and be anything you've ever wanted. The beauty of this holiday is that the next day, you can go back to being yourself again. But what would happen if one of Halloween's most infamous characters, Frankenstein's Monster, was real and not just a costume? Is this even possible? 

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As modern science continues to out-do itself, we are closer to creating what researchers would call a "super human". This article claims, much like Frankenstein's Monster, that researchers have found ways to genetically mutate the cells of animals like, rats and whippets, to give them "super powers". In one study, experiemental rats were successfully given the human ability to see in color. 

Additionally, a recent study by the National Human Genome Institute Team reported a mutation in which whippets were given a gene that codes for muscle proteins. This protein, myostatin, is used to increase muscle mass. When it was given to the whippets, it greatly increased their racing performance and speed. The thinking behind these studies are that, if rats and whippets can be genetically modified to obtain human traits, why couldn't other humans benefit from these modifications as well? 

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Whether or not these genetic mutations would work in humans is still up in the air. One of the things holding researchers back from human experiementation is the ethical debate surrounding this issue. It's clearly very controversial. The other important factor that restricts these kinds of experiments is that germ line engineering is currently banned. It is considered to be a manipulation of our genes. Do you think it's fair to be able to genetically modify the human race to make us better, faster, and stronger? If you could modify one thing about yourself, what would it be? Would you ever be interested in genetically modifying your children if you had a chance? 

Lead in the air


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It is not new information that lead is harmful to humans. The EPA has listed it as a neurotoxin. It has been banned from use in gasoline for automobiles but it is currently still used in aviation. According to an article in Scientific American "In 2010 the agency identified 16 U.S. regions that fail to meet clean air standards for airborne lead; all either contained or were near airports where leaded avgas is the norm." Some of the damaging effects of lead exposure are lowered IQ, kidney problems, central nervous system problems, and lower immune system among many others.

            Even if there are these harmful effects you may think if no one is being harmed directly then what is the problem? However a Duke University study showed that kids living within 500 meters of airports had higher blood levels than average. Even with these findings it has not been taken into action of ousting the use of leaded gasoline in aviation. It is having harmful effects to those in the surrounding areas. From these findings it is safe to say that either using lead in gasoline has to be banned all together or there has to be a certain distance for houses to be built by airports. It is simply too dangerous for this to continue with the recent findings.

Driverless cars


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Development of technology has taken us to places that years ago would have been thought to be unimaginable. Well it has become apparent that there are major strides being taken to make an effective driver-less car. In the world of automobiles this is the next big thing and it is no longer just an idea, but a product. Google has begun to produce this vehicle and is currently doing tests.

            It works based off a gps system that communicates off other cars to position and go at similar speeds and follow traffic safety rules. However this does not mean that there can be just kids in the car, there must be an awake adult in the driver seat at all times.   The reason that this has been worked so hard on to complete is to limit traffic safety deaths, which were in the 30,000's last year. However these numbers have drastically declined in the last 10 years. I raise the question how worth it/effective can this possibly be? Not to mention what is going to happen when the inevitable accident occurs? Who would be at fault? This technological advancement has many positive attributes however. It is made to reduce the amount of traffic accidents. These cars would almost be reducing the human element of the task, this does not address dealing with weather problems, other drivers among many other problems. This is the first of these cars making the plausible push forward to being on the road to be used in the everyday. Whenever you make the first of anything there are bound to be problems, although with technology like this there is no margin for error.


Driverless cars

Sleepy Bees


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There have already been many blog posts on sleep and everything to do with sleep, but none relating humans to honeybees. Surprisingly there are many similarities between the way humans and honeybees learn. The article in Scientific American recapped a study done with honeybees and sleep deprivation at Free University of Berlin. What the researchers did was capture a group of honeybees and train them to get back to their homes from a distance of about 600 meters in different directions on the first night. They noticed that there was no difference for bees trying to find their way back to the home on the first night. However the next night they had half the bees agitated for around 8 hours and then put them in a different location to navigate their way home from the new location. The results were viewed in person by the researchers and they found that the bees that had been sleep deprived and agitated were not able to effectively find their way home.

            "That observation indicates that the well-rested bees had learned from their experience the day before. Drowsy bees, however, took about as long to return home on the second day as on the first, and were just as likely to get lost." This study has impactful reassurance to many studies being done on sleep deprivation and its effects. "Jan Born a neuroendocrinologist, at the University of Lübeck in Germany, praises the research, "I think this is a very valuable finding for the whole field--it shows the formation of memories is hampered when bees do not sleep or rest."

Red October


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           Fall is such a nice time to be outside. The weather is cooler, but not too cold, at least everywhere but state college, the leaves are changing and everything is just more beautiful. But what causes the leaves to turn that deep rich red and orange? In an article in the Journal "Science" Katherine Sanderson debunked this question of changing colors. It turned out that as we enjoy the nice colors that they produce, the trees are not getting enough nutrients from the ground and they are taking all the life and nutrients out of the leaves. Trees do this as a sort of preparation for winter when they will essentially "die." It is as though they are preparing for hibernation.

           


         Not only is this imperative for the trees survival but it is also imperative for the survival of the leaves. This reddish tint acts as a sort of sunscreen for the leaves. A professor named William Hoch of Montana State University where he created trees that could not produce anthocyanin completed a study. The study showed that the trees lost their leaves while they were still green and they did not retain as much nutrients for the winter.


Nature

Science Daily

Radioactive Fish


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Everyone remembers the horrible nuclear disaster that happened in Japan around 18 months ago. It was a horrible disaster and we are now learning that the effects are still being felt today. In a New York Times article Hiroko Tabuchi states "Elevated levels of cesium still detected in fish off the Fukushima coast of Japan suggest that radioactive particles from last year's nuclear disaster have accumulated on the seafloor and could contaminate sea life for decades, according to new research." These findings have major impacts on not only the people of japan but the worldwide community. Japan is a leader among fishing exports and they now cannot sell or consume many different kinds of fish. It is said that around 40% of the fish caught of the coast of Japan are still contaminated with Cesium. The problem here is that cesium is still in the food chain. The way Cesium works is that it does not stay long in the systems of saltwater animals, which leads to the belief that they are being newly contaminated.

          

         So what does this mean for us? Should we stop eating fish? Is it too risky? The half-life of cesium is 30 years, which means it loses half of its radioactivity in 30 years so it could possibly still be contaminating fish for 60 years to come. This is a serious threat to those living in Japan and those who could possibly consume contaminated fish. To help reduce or eliminate the effects of more radioactive material leaking into the ocean the Tokyo electric plant is building a 2400 foot wall alone the ocean, but is that enough? What other actions must be taken to prevent and oust all radioactive effects from the Nuclear Disaster?

Have you ever found yourself wondering why our bodies do the things we do? Like why we get goosebumps when we are cold our scared or excited. These are the things that keep me guessing so I had to blog on them. When we get Goosebumps according to an article in the Huffington Post, what happens is, the muscles at the base of the hair contract which makes them stand straight up. So if we know what happens when we get goosebumps, what causes them? In an article in Scientific American it stated "Goosebumps are a physiological phenomenon inherited from our animal ancestors, which was useful to them but are not of much help to us." It has been shown that these bumps are linked to when animals experience fear. Similarly when a cat feels threatened it hunches its back its hair stands up. With all this goose bump information what else is weird or different that we do? If you were thinking, blinking, then you were right!

Why do we blink? How often do we blink? In an NBC news article Dr. John Stern states that we blink to cleans and moisten the Cornea. However he noticed that we blink more often than needed to simply clean the cornea. He made the connection that when we blink; it is like using a period in real life. It acts as a break in our train of thought. To put it in better terms if your life was a paper, each time you blink it would be acting as a comma or period. Even more interesting each blink is different! It is truly astonishing the way human body works. 

Earth 2.0


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 After listening to the Deans lecture on the expansion of the universe and the eventual fate or demise of our earth I thought, what are the people on earth going to do when that day comes? Where will they live? Well it turned out I was not the only one thinking about this.

            In an October 16th 2012 New York Times article by Dennis Overbye, he recapped the discovery of the closest same size planet like earth yet. A mere 4.4 light years away! This planet orbits a star in a neighboring solar system and it is presumably a rocky planet just like ours. However it is not hospitable because of how close it comes to the star making the surface temperature close to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. So you may be asking why this is significant if we cannot live there? This is significant because where there is one small planet there are others. The discovery of another planet that we could live on would be a breakthrough in science and life in general.

 Earth HD wallpaper for Standard 4:3 5:4 Fullscreen UXGA XGA SVGA QSXGA SXGA ; Wide 16:10 5:3 Widescreen WHXGA WQXGA WUXGA WXGA WGA ; HD 16:9 High Definition WQHD QWXGA 1080p 900p 720p QHD nHD ; Other 3:2 DVGA HVGA HQVGA devices ( Apple PowerBook G4 iPhone 4 3G 3GS iPod Touch ) ; Mobile VGA WVGA iPhone iPad PSP Phone - VGA QVGA Smartphone ( PocketPC GPS iPod Zune BlackBerry HTC Samsung LG Nokia Eten Asus ) WVGA WQVGA Smartphone ( HTC Samsung Sony Ericsson LG Vertu MIO ) HVGA Smartphone ( Apple iPhone iPod BlackBerry HTC Samsung Nokia ) Sony PSP Zune HD Zen ; Tablet 2 Android ; Dual 4:3 5:4 16:10 5:3 16:9 UXGA XGA SVGA QSXGA SXGA WHXGA WQXGA WUXGA WXGA WGA WQHD QWXGA 1080p 900p 720p QHD nHD ;

          I then began thinking how rare is this to find a small planet like this? In a December 6th CBS news article they remarked that another planet similar to earth that is in the habitual zone of a solar system that is 1,000 light years away. It always seems to be that we cannot find the perfect alignment of factors that we currently have on our earth. This raises the question is it simply too rare to have these factors line up like they already have?

Quantity and Quality


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Joseph Redden, of the Univeristy of Minnesota and Kelly Haws, of Texas A&M University say that dieters cannot rely entirely on strong willpower to control their eating. Despite the common belief that self-control is a battle between willpower and desire, these two professors are reluctant to accept this.

In a series of studies, researchers found that people who control their diets with success eat fewer unhealthy foods because they are satisfied sooner. These studies also found that people with less self-control established greater control when they paid attention to the quantity of unhealthy foods that they consumed. Simply paying attention to the amount of unhealthy food that these people were eating made them feel satisfied more quickly. 

In a study done, consumers who had poor self-control were asked to count the amount of times that they swallowed while eating an unhealthy snack. These people experienced better self-control because counting the times they swallowed made them satisfied quicker than if they did not count the amount of times that they swallowed while eating. 

Redden and Haws conclude that dieters should focus on the quantity of unhealthy foods that they are eating. On the other hand however, dieters should not pay too much attention to the quantity of healthy foods that they eat. Monitoring the quantity of healthy food eaten can actually be counterproductive when trying to maintain a healthier diet. The secret to success is knowing when to monitor your eating.

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Quantity and Quality


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Joseph Redden, of the Univeristy of Minnesota and Kelly Haws, of Texas A&M University say that dieters cannot rely entirely on strong willpower to control their eating. Despite the common belief that self-control is a battle between willpower and desire, these two professors are reluctant to accept this.

In a series of studies, researchers found that people who control their diets with success eat fewer unhealthy foods because they are satisfied sooner. These studies also found that people with less self-control established greater control when they paid attention to the quantity of unhealthy foods that they consumed. Simply paying attention to the amount of unhealthy food that these people were eating made them feel satisfied more quickly. 

In a study done, consumers who had poor self-control were asked to count the amount of times that they swallowed while eating an unhealthy snack. These people experienced better self-control because counting the times they swallowed made them satisfied quicker than if they did not count the amount of times that they swallowed while eating. 

Redden and Haws conclude that dieters should focus on the quantity of unhealthy foods that they are eating. On the other hand however, dieters should not pay too much attention to the quantity of healthy foods that they eat. Monitoring the quantity of healthy food eaten can actually be counterproductive when trying to maintain a healthier diet. The secret to success is knowing when to monitor your eating.

lens19321161_17ee9a25322eea77b3b2346eb3b5828f.jpg

Gen eds and electives are classes that many people take just for the sake of taking. Some gen eds are actually quite interesting, whereas others (like my horrible climate change last Spring...) are like death in a 75 minute class. But is there a connection between paying attention at a younger age, and having that continue on through your college years?

Snape thinks so, otherwise he wouldn't be doing something interesting!
SNAPE SNAPE SEVERUS SNAPE
As it turns out, the earlier that we learn to pay attention, the better we will ultimately end up doing in school, even through our college years! Researchers at Oregon State University did a little study about 430 preschool age children, and found that young children who are able to pay attention and stay focused have a 50% greater chance of graduating from college, as opposed to their peers who can't stay focused and stay on task.

Researchers conducted this study by tracking children from preschool age to age 21. The parents of the preschoolers were asked to rate their children on things like "child gives up easily when difficulties are present," and "plays with a single toy for long periods of time." The children then had their reading and math skills assessed a few years later, when they turned 7, and again when they were 21. 

The math and reading achievement tests did not predict whether or not the kids had graduated from college, but rather children who were rated higher on tasks at 4 years old on attention span by their parents had the 50% greater chance of getting their bachelor's degree by the age of 25.

With all this said, if you were a child who easily paid attention, wasn't distracted easily, and the like while in preschool, did this continue on through your high school years? And if you're one of the few seniors in the class (like me), does this have an impact on you as well? Are you fully prepared to enter the "real world" with important tasks like paying attention, keeping focus on something, and being able to be successful?

Research shows that woman are less likely to feel close to their partners than they would feel towards a more sexually desirable man during their most fertile period of their menstruation cycle. According to Martie Haselton, a professor of psychology and communications at UCLA, women evaluate their relationships differently at different times in their cycles and it seems that their evaluations are swayed by how sexually attractive they think their partners are.

Although women may feel differently about their partners throughout their cycle, these feelings do not seem to affect the long-term commitment in their relationship. According to Christina Larson, another psychology professor at UCLA, "Even when these women are feeling less positive about their relationship, they don't want to end it."

Studies show that during ovulation, women are more likely to dress up and speak in high pitch voices to possibly attract suitable partners. The study done at UCLA also found that women whose mates are less sexually attractive and less masculine tend to be more attractive to other men during the fertile days leading up to ovulation.

"Women with the really good, stable guy felt more distant at high-fertility periods than low-fertility periods," Haselton said. "That isn't the case with women who were mated to particularly sexually attractive men. The closeness of their relationships got a boost just prior to ovulation." The researchers found that women with less sexually attractive men were significantly more likely to find fault with their partners and feel less close to their partners during the high-fertility period than the low-fertility period. 

"Since our female ancestors couldn't directly examine a potential partner's genetic makeup, they had to base their decisions on physical manifestations of the presence of good genes and the absence of genetic mutations, which might include masculine features such as a deep voice, masculine face, dominant behavior and sexy looks," said Haselton, who is affiliated with UCLA's Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture. Could this be why women are more attractive to sexier men even in today's society? Research has not found the answer to that yet but it is definitely a possibility.

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Procrastination...


| 4 Comments

It is less than an hour until the blogs are due and reviewing my select few I realized really how poor they are. Andrews words have come back to haunt me, "Don't wait until the last minute!" I have tested his hypothesis and now I am rejecting the null hypothesis and I do not believe this is due to chance.

I decided to delete my half hearted procrastination.jpgblogs and revise them for the final blog period. I'm hoping this won't be a decision that comes back to haunt me. All of my eggs are in one basket now and I know i'll need to dedicate a portion of my Thanksgiving break and free time to science in order to get the results I want.

I'm sure I'm not the only one in this boat so best of luck to the rest of you.

Why you shouldn't PROCRASTINATE!

The Sky is Not the Limit


| 3 Comments

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Does crossing bridges make you scared?  Does flying in planes give you anxiety?  How about standing on high up balconies or riding roller coasters?  Personally, these things are some of my worst nightmares due to my fear of heights.  A condition called acrophobia is known as an extreme fear of heights.  But why isn't everyone scared of heights? 

Acrophobia is one of the most common phobias in the United States, as well as across the globe.  But what causes some people to have this fear and others to be perfectly fine performing any of the activities mentioned above.  After researching, I found a recent study performed by psychologist Russell Jackson that explains a potential reason why this happens to some, but not all. 

Jackson's study began by surveying students through psychological questions to gauge their acrophobia level.  From the results of this survey, he chose 43 students to test further.  The study asked each volunteer to approximate the height of a five-story, 14.4-meter parking garage, with test subjects located at the top or bottom of the building.  Results showed that errors were made by subjects both on top and bottom of the building, even though the subjects should have technically erred more from up top because of their fright.  This made the psychologist believe that those that have acrophobia may suffer from this because of an issue with perception of vertical dimensions.   The misperception of heights can cause acrophobiacs who see a 14-meter building like it is 50 meters to react like normal people would to a 50-metre building and therefore seem more scared of heights than the average person.

After reading about this study, the idea of misperception of height seemed like a perfect reason for acrophobia.  I believe the next question scientists would have to investigate would be why certain people have this misperception.  Is it something in the brain that causes it?  Or is it another psychological issue?  Is acrophobia genetic? Do parents pass the fear along to their children?  Answering questions, such as these, may help get a better understanding of acrophobia and perhaps can help find a "cure" of some sort to help those many people finally face their fear of heights!

References:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1370858/Acrophobia-Fear-heights-treated-stress-hormone-cortisol.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16658-fear-of-heights-linked-to-vertical-perception.html

 

 

The Sky is Not the Limit


| 2 Comments

heights.jpg

Does crossing bridges make you scared?  Does flying in planes give you anxiety?  How about standing on high up balconies or riding roller coasters?  Personally, these things are some of my worst nightmares due to my fear of heights.  A condition called acrophobia is known as an extreme fear of heights.  But why isn't everyone scared of heights? 

Acrophobia is one of the most common phobias in the United States, as well as across the globe.  But what causes some people to have this fear and others to be perfectly fine performing any of the activities mentioned above.  After researching, I found a recent study performed by psychologist Russell Jackson that explains a potential reason why this happens to some, but not all. 

Jackson's study began by surveying students through psychological questions to gauge their acrophobia level.  From the results of this survey, he chose 43 students to test further.  The study asked each volunteer to approximate the height of a five-story, 14.4-meter parking garage, with test subjects located at the top or bottom of the building.  Results showed that errors were made by subjects both on top and bottom of the building, even though the subjects should have technically erred more from up top because of their fright.  This made the psychologist believe that those that have acrophobia may suffer from this because of an issue with perception of vertical dimensions.   The misperception of heights can cause acrophobiacs who see a 14-meter building like it is 50 meters to react like normal people would to a 50-metre building and therefore seem more scared of heights than the average person.

After reading about this study, the idea of misperception of height seemed like a perfect reason for acrophobia.  I believe the next question scientists would have to investigate would be why certain people have this misperception.  Is it something in the brain that causes it?  Or is it another psychological issue?  Is acrophobia genetic? Do parents pass the fear along to their children?  Answering questions, such as these, may help get a better understanding of acrophobia and perhaps can help find a "cure" of some sort to help those many people finally face their fear of heights!

References:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1370858/Acrophobia-Fear-heights-treated-stress-hormone-cortisol.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16658-fear-of-heights-linked-to-vertical-perception.html

 

 

Fluke or For Real?


| 2 Comments
The other day I was reading an article on MSNBC.com about a women who lost nearly 80 pounds due to the fact she changed her diet to completely Starbuck's products.  According to the article, this women said by closely watching her calorie intake she was able to eat healthy everyday at her local starbucks.

This article got me thinking about others who have tried diets consisting of nearly all take out or fast food.  Theres the guy from 'Supersize Me' who ate McDonald's everyday for a month and nearly died.  Then theres Jared from Subway who much like the women from starbucks lost a great deal of weight.

Although stores such as these often use lower quality or cheap foods and have many unhealthy choices, do you think it is possible to consistently sustain a diet at a take out restaurant?  

A diet is made up of a large system of things, and not just one activity such as what you eat.  A good diet also includes a healthy exercise plan, and daily routine.  

I do think that these three correlate to eating at a fast food restaurant or on the go place and becoming healthier.  If you look at Morgan Spurlock from Supersize me he decided to have a McDonalds diet.  He had a very good daily routine, and never once did not eat the food.  However he lacked an exercise plan and that greatly affected his health.

Although you can argue that the food was so bad for him, that was the problem, you can also say his lack of physical activity to counteract the food was even worse.  When looking at both Jared from Subway, and the women from Starbucks, you can argue that they consistently practiced all three of the above mentioned basic needs for a healthy lifestyle.

I think that doing more experiments like this could easily happen only this time under the supervision of doctors.  With Spurlock, doctors were there just to watch his health, and not conduct an experiment.  Often it is unethical to test various things on humans.  However that is not the case here.  I think somebody would easily volunteer to eat Burger King for free daily because of the fact they love it.  

With an experiment you could have a variety of groups and monitor their exercise and daily activities while at the same time keep them on a specific take out diet.  Doctors could monitor the results and if somebody's health was in jeopardy such as Spurlock's was in his case, pull them out of the test.  

I think exercise may be the biggest factor if an experiment was ever conducted.  Often even if somebody does not eat completely healthy exercise can help offset unhealthy food intake.  I think by monitoring both exercise and even daily activities such as walking, (Jared said walking everywhere was a huge thing for his diet) scientists would be able to really see the affects of these foods. 

Fast food, and take out places have become a huge part of America over the past few decades, and it doesn't look like that is going to change anytime soon.  Do you guys think that a variety of fast food options affects our food choices and decisions a lot?  In addition do you think you could personally sustain a Subway or Starbucks diet?  And lastly do you really think Jared and the women from Starbucks main reason for losing weight was because of their takeout diets or extraneous activities that they participated in?



Sources:





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Each day on sports news channels, such as ESPN, highlights from sports including football, baseball, basketball, hockey and many more are featured.  Along with the amazing highlights from victories and game changing plays, injuries are also reported to viewers.  As a dancer of 15 years, I listen to the injuries and hear how harmful sports can be on the human body and wonder why people do not consider dance to be a sport.  While it is an art form, the amount of physical strain it places on a dancer's body is equivalent to that of an athlete. 

Dance incorporates basically every part of the body and requires it to make movements beyond what it is ordinarily used to.  This is why it takes years and years of training, practice, and conditioning to begin to master dance.  Dancers don't use equipment the way athletes do in sports; they use their bodies.  Some of the most important "tools" for dancers are strong feet and ankles (see this video to understand why this is so).  While being probably the most important parts of the body, they are also the most vulnerable to injury, especially due to overuse. 

Dance requires there to be a wide range of movement between forced maximum weight-bearing dorsiflexion (a position called demi-plié) and forced maximum weight-bearing plantar flexion (the en pointe position) (http://lowerextremityreview.com/cover_story/breaking-pointe-foot-ankle-injuries-in-dance).  Both of these positions, done repetitively, place an immense amount of stress on the bones of the ankles and feet, as well as their tissues and tendons because they must control each position of the foot in order to avoid injury.  Injuries are unavoidable, though, similarly to sports.

As mentioned earlier, proper use of the feet and ankles are imperative to a successful and healthy dance career.  However, dance often requires these body parts to move in ways beyond what they are naturally meant to do.  This happens over and over and over in a dancer's life and eventually an injury occurs.  According to Dr. Jeffery A. Russell, the ankle is frequently injured in dance, accounting for up to 31% of dancers' reported injuries.  When foot injuries are included, the combined total accounts for up to 57% of all dance injuries.  Also, Achilles tendinopathy and flexor hallucis longus tendinopathy ("dancer's tendinopathy") are frequently encountered overuse conditions. In the foot, spiral fracture of the fifth metatarsal shaft ("dancer's fracture") and bifurcate ligament sprain are two common traumatic injuries, while metatarsal stress fractures, Morton's neuroma, and plantar fasciitis fall into the overuse category (http://lowerextremityreview.com/cover_story/breaking-pointe-foot-ankle-injuries-in-dance).

In the ankle region, lateral sprains are the most common traumatic injury across all sports.  Studies show that ankle sprains account for about 21% of all sports-related injury.  Repeated injury to the ankle can cause chronic ankle instability which can end an athlete's career completely.  Athletes are also at a high risk for Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg, can progress into a degeneration of the tendon. 

Similar type and number of injuries show that there is not an extreme difference between dance and sports.  Evidence has shown that just about as many dancers and athletes get the same amount of injuries in their foot and ankles (statistics showed the number of ankle injuries was even more among dancers).  Both sports and dance require a person to strain their body to its maximum capacity in order to achieve success in his or her activity.  If what makes a sport is determined by the affect it has on one's body, dance should definitely be considered a sport.  Are there other activities you think should be considered a sport? 

References:

http://www.foothealthfacts.org/Content.aspx?id=1143

http://lowerextremityreview.com/cover_story/breaking-pointe-foot-ankle-injuries-in-dance

http://www.musculoskeletalnetwork.com/display/article/1145622/1659437

 

Curveball


| 0 Comments
I have played a good amount of sports in high school, and one thing I have found that is common across a lot of sports is that in any sports where the ball is circular, players have the ability to make it curve. And this got me wondering, what is it exactly that makes a ball curve?

Well the first sport I thought of was baseball, where a curveball is one of the most important aspects of the game. I found this article on curveballs, and it gives a pretty good explanation of why they do what they do. The spin on the ball creates high pressure air flow on one side of the ball, and low pressure air flow on another. This low pressure zone is created by the faster flowing air under the ball that is created by the actual spin, and this makes the ball move more in the direction of the low pressure zone, creating the curve.

Another sport I though of was soccer, however, while curve acts the same way, it is a bit more controversial in this sport because how the ball curves is affected by the ball itself. This article from the BBC explains why the ball curves, and how the exact ball in use can change the curve. What is important is that the number of panels on a soccer ball give it more aerodynamic stability, meaning that they will move less in the air than other soccer balls. The controversy comes from the goalkeepers, who say that the modern balls, which have very few panels, move too much, and too weird in the air, making it too difficult to stop for them. They also argue that this takes away from the skill of the game, because the players simply need to make the ball curve to make it hard to stop, and less precise technique is required than years before, where the ball had less panels.

What do you guys think. Is this an issue with soccer, where there are very few on-target shots and often only one or two goals a game? It is a multi-million dollar sport, and this issue with the curve could potentially gain or lose a team millions in one instance.

Baseball article: http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/211_fall2002.web.dir/jon_drobnis/curveball.html
BBC Article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5048238.stm

Soft Drinks vs Energy Drinks


| 1 Comment

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A few class periods ago, we discussed the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of soft drinks, particularly in terms of sugar content.  While growing up, I had always been taught that soda was always a poor choice to consume when it comes to beverages.  Personally, the only times I drink soda is when I need it for its caffeine benefit.  The taste of coffee has never really appealed to me so soda is usually the next best option for me when late night studying is necessary.  Other times I turn to energy drinks to keep me awake.  However, after our lecture in class, I began to really think about the nutritional value of other drinks besides soda, more specifically energy drinks, and researched more to compare and contrast the nutritional value of soda and energy drinks. 

Soft drinks and energy drinks are often consumed by teenagers and young adults primarily because of their caffeine content.  When comparing the two products side by side, on average, energy drinks contain substantially more caffeine than soft drinks. The caffeine content of energy drinks ranges from about 50 to 300 mg in each 8-oz. serving.  While non-caffeinated sodas are available, regular caffeinated soft drinks typically have between 20 to 72 mg of caffeine in an average 12-oz. serving, according to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest. (http://www.livestrong.com/article/394029-soft-drinks-vs-energy-drinks/).  It is also important to remember that when reading the nutritional facts on a can of soda or on an energy drink, that these items often contain 2 or 3 servings of the amounts listed.  Therefore, it is easy for consumers, particularly teens, to believe they are taking in a lot less caffeine than they truly are.  These extreme amounts of caffeine (often surpassing the amounts that are in coffee) can cause a crash after a burst of quick energy.  This can often leave you feeling more tired than you were before consuming the beverage.  Overall, energy drinks contain more caffeine than soft drinks, but the higher caffeine content can lead to a harder crash later on in the day.

Similarly to the non-caffeinated versions of soda, there are diet versions of both soft drinks and energy drinks that can contain little or no sugar.  While exact amounts of sugar vary among brand and flavor of soda and energy drink, soft drinks usually contain a good amount of more sugar than energy drinks.  On average, soft drinks usually contain between 35 to 45 g of sugar in each serving while energy drinks contain between 20 to 30 g of sugar per serving (http://www.livestrong.com/article/394029-soft-drinks-vs-energy-drinks/).  Clearly neither type of drink is low sugar or would be viable as a healthful option, but it is evident that soda contains more sugar than energy drinks.

 While excessive amounts of sugar and caffeine are being consumed by teenagers and young adults through both energy drinks and soda, the side effects are becoming more and more evident in our society.  These drinks have become the number one source of added sugar in Americans' diets (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2009/04/21/soft-drinks-and-energy-drinks-too-sweet-for-your-own-good).  Consuming large amounts of sugar may increase the risk of obesity, which in turn increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.  Walter Willett, who chairs the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, argues that there is a "direct causal link" between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and energy drinks and obesity, which is in turn linked to heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2009/04/21/soft-drinks-and-energy-drinks-too-sweet-for-your-own-good).  In addition, it has been found that energy drinks include not only harmful sugars in their ingredients but also include a variety of supplemental ingredients designed to serve specific purposes. These supplemental ingredients may include B vitamins, taurine, carnitine, glucuronlactone, inositol, ginseng or guarana.  Marketers claim that these extra ingredients provide health benefits both physically and mentally, when in reality, it has been found that many of these claims have not been scientifically proven at all and therefore almost trick the consumers purchasing the product simply to increase sales. 

In conclusion, multiple studies and evidence have unveiled that there is an extreme lack of nutrient value in both soft drinks and energy drinks.  So which, if any, should we choose to drink? Is it better to choose an option that will work to provide that extra boost of energy when you need it despite its negative side effects?  Is the extra sugar in our diet worth it? What do you think will happen in the future if young adults continue to consume these types of beverages at their current rates?  What do you think?

References:

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2009/04/21/soft-drinks-and-energy-drinks-too-sweet-for-your-own-good

http://www.livestrong.com/article/394029-soft-drinks-vs-energy-drinks/

http://milford-ma.patch.com/articles/energy-drinks-coffee-soda-a-health-dilemma

 

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What exactly is nostalgia? The term "nostalgia" derives from the Greek words nostos (return) and algos (pain). Indicating that it is the suffering evoked by the desire to return to one's place of origin. 

It could also be simply put as a reliving of a past time, which is usually a more positive light than the reality of that even may have been.

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Starting in the 1600s, through the 1700s and 18002, nostalgia was thought to be as an undesirable state. It was viewed as neurological disorder, which represents homesickness. However, since the 1900s, nostalgia has been regarded as sentimental longing of the past. Nevertheless, even during this century, nostalgia was sometimes regarded as a state that hinders growth, because it is said that people cannot linger and live in the past.

 

However, a study by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that nostalgic memories and experiences elicit a series of benefits:  

1.    1.It implants a sense of social connection.

2.    2.Evokes positive effective states and improves self-esteem.

3.    3.One's attitude or perceptions of one's self improves.

4.    4.One becomes more aware of one's desirable qualities.

And many more.


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More interestingly was the study conducted by Leboe and Ansons in 2006. It concluded that nostalgic memories tend to be vivid. Because they are vivid, they are processed fluently. However, this fluency has been shown to bias memories. In other words, memories are sometimes incorrectly perceived as positive or favorable.


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Another study has showed that daydreaming on events and experiences that have occurred in the past has more benefits to it than one may realize. Nostalgia that fills one's being with strong emotions while going back in time in one's memories can not only improve one's self-esteem (as mentioned earlier), but also can have an anti-depressant effects.


And yet, another study, has showed that reminiscing about the past can combat loneliness and off-set discomfort of thinking about death. 

However, the astonishing aspect of this study is that  it showed that nostalgia brings physical comforts too, making one feel warmer and increases one's tolerance to cold.

The researchers of this study began their investigation by having 19 people keep a diary of their nostalgia activities for 30 consecutive days. It turned out that the participants indulged in more nostalgic daydreaming during colder days.

To test this even more, another study was done that recruited 90 undergrads in China and put each one of them in a cold room, a 20 degree Celsius, a 24, and a 28 degrees. The students were asked to say how nostalgic they felt for things like music and friends they have known. The findings of the study were that students that sat in the colder room tended to be more nostalgic.

A third study was also conducted that involved Dutch participants. The study involved them listening to songs known to provoke nostalgic feelings. The students who said the music made them feel nostalgic also tended to say that the music made them feel physically warmer.

A fourth study with Chinese students also found that those who were being nostalgic perceived the room they were in to be warmer.

Finally, another study which involved 64 Chinese undergrads to think either about an ordinary event or nostalgic event from their past, and they had to hold their hand in an iced bucket of water fora s long as they could. The students who indulged in nostalgia managed to hold their hands in the water for longer. 


I find that quite astonishing. Nostalgia does not only seem to bring about emotional and spiritual comfort, but also physical! 

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What should you learn from all of this? 

Well, do not shy away from daydreaming or being nostalgic, since these are very helpful activities that can promote your self-growth. Just know that taking a trip back in time and enjoying it will have the power to boost your self-esteem, reduce any pain you may experience, and even help in solving an issue or problem you could be having.

So what do you think about nostalgia? If you have had experience with it, do you think it benefits you in any way, or the exact opposite? Do you feel the positive qualities suggested by the studies?

For me personally, I completely agree with the studies. Nostalgic daydreaming fills me with life. I always wondered why, I guess I was not the only one.

Other Sources:

Source 1

Source 2 

Source 3

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We've all been there. You're doing work, finishing a paper, studying, taking on online quiz 10 minutes before it's due, and you've been doing work like this all day. Your body is telling you to stop and go to sleep, but your schedule simply does not permit it. So you have to keep going on like the good student inside you tells you to. 

For me, I figure that sleeping for eight hours a day (on average) is such a waste of time. That is a whole third of your day just gone. Excuse me, but I have stuff to do!

So then I remembered, I have a friend who uses a different sleep cycle, and she has so much more time to fit everything in...and most importantly she doesn't look like death when walking around campus after an all-nighter.
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So, fellow hard workers, what can we do?

What we (and by we I mean most people) do, is considered a monophasic sleep cycle, where you sleep once a day for 
6-8 hours and are awake the rest.

But there are several other ways to attack that pesky little problem of needing enough sleep.

The other four sleep schedules are considered polyphasic and work by getting you to Stage 4 REM sleep a lot quicker than you do with a monophasic cycle. Generally, it takes you about 45 minutes of sleep to reach it, whereas the differing cycles can get you there almost instantly after falling asleep.
When you start switching over from sleeping once a day for a long period of time to sleeping a few times a day for much shorter periods, your body will adjust and make sure you reach Stage 4 REM a lot quicker, as you cannot live or function without reaching that point. The transition period is certainly a difficult one, and you should not try it if you cannot fully commit to it for at least 10 days to train yourself. Here are some options:

The Uberman Cycle: you take 20-30 minutes naps every four hours, resulting in about six hours a day of sleep. It is highly efficient, however, it is very difficult if you miss a nap, so the schedule is pretty strict. Steve Pavlina had a huge success with this cycle, and he documents his journey very thoroughly. This cycle has also been linked with an increase in lucid dreaming.

Everyman Cycle: you have one longer sleep time of about three hours, and then three 20-minute naps throughout the day. Many people have tried this cycle and found that it is a lot more flexible and missing a nap is not that detrimental. It is, again, highly efficient because you are only sleeping about four hours a day.

Dymaxion Cycle: the most extreme of the four cycles, this one requires you to take a 30 minute nap every 6 hours, resulting in only two hours of sleep per day! It is, not surprisingly, the most efficient of all the cycles.

Biphasic/siesta Cycle: apparently, this cycle is closest to what most college students do. This one involves sleeping four hours at night and then taking a 90-minute nap around noon. Although this is the least efficient of the four, it is still more efficient than the monophasic cycle, just not by much.

If you are genuinely interested in trying one of these cycles out, here are some tips:

-eat healthy and avoid fatty foods to make the transition easier
-make sure you have stuff to keep you busy or else it is easy to fall back into old patterns
-be patient and diligent when attempting to switch to these cycles

Doesn't seem too awful, none of the studies on these sleep schedules reported negative health effects.

Would you be willing to give one of these a chance?

What Happened Last Night?


| 2 Comments

Many of us have a night or two where we wake up the next morning with a pounding headache and that deep feeling of nausea. You think back to that last memory of the night before and its not climbing into bed. This feeling is all too familiar to some of us after events like celebrating 21st birthdays. We all know these activities take place in our university, but do we know exactly how frequently?

According to statecollege.com 44 percent of college students in the United States engage in bing-drinking. This frequent high risk behavior affects universities across the nation. A study conducted by Marlon P. Mundt and Larissa I. Zakletskaia at the University of Wisconsin interviewed almost 1000 high risk drinkers in universities across the nation. According to the study those individuals who experienced 6 or more blackout incidents in the past year were 70 percent more likely to be hospitalized by the activity. These hospital visits have accounted for $469,000 to $546,000 dollars in bills each year! These dangerous behaviors are an issue throughout universities.

What exactly causes someone who drinks too much to experience bouts of amnesia? We all have a part of our brain called the hippocampus that is responsible for storage of new event memories. Most research on why alcohol depresses the formation of memory shows that it alters how our hippocampus functions. The hippocampus has neuron receptors that are made up of proteins. These receptors receive neurotransmitters from hippocampus, which allows us to develop short-term memory into long-term memories. Studies have shown that alcohol can severely change the transfer of these neurotransmitters by inhibiting the proteins or receptors (Aaron M. White).

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            This idea was tested in a study by White and Best in 2001. They found cells in rat's brain that tended to fire neurotransmitters to other cells depending on the area in the maze the rat was in. They found that these "place cells" had a strong foundation in determining how long it took the rats to find their way around the maze. This is because these cells play a large roll in the hippocampus's ability to form new memories. Using wires they placed in the rat's brains they examined the intensity of how their place cells fired depending on where in the maze the rat was. After a baseline fifteen minutes of the rat roaming around, they introduced enough alcohol to the rats to bring their blood alcohol levels to .16. They examined that about seven minutes after the alcohol was introduced the firing of the place cells was virtually nonexistent. Seven hours later, sufficient time for the rat's BAC to return to normal, they performed they same test and the rat's place cells began to fire almost the same as the baseline test.

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            Scientists know that these place cells play an important roll in forming new memories and that alcohol can greatly affect the functioning of these cells. However, almost every source I looked into said that scientists still have not figured out exactly what is happening in the brain that causes blackouts from alcohol. Although many advances have been made in research in this area, no consensus or universal answer has been found. It is very interesting to me that even with all the advances in science, they cannot answer why this happens with certainty. We do know that the blackouts are strongly correlated with the drinker's gender, how much they drink, how fast they drink, their age, and even their genetic background( US Department of Health and Human Services) . Knowing this information or not we all must remember to enjoy alcohol responsibly and safely. Always remember to: 

  • Pace yourself
  • Keep track of how much you drink
  • Keep track of how long you drink
  • Never drink on an empty stomach
  • Have fun but be safe!

BEST, P.J.; WHITE, A.M.; and MINAI, A. Spatial processing in the brain: The activity of hippocampal place-cells. Annual Review of Neuroscience 24:459-486, 2001.

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm

http://www.statecollege.com/news/local-news/study-44-percent-of-college-students-bingedrink-blackouts-put-burden-on-hospitals-1025804/

 

Untitled


| 0 Comments
The idea that the laughing is caused by confusion is very interesting because it may be similar to when people laugh during a serious moment because they are not sure how to react. The awkwardness can cause confusion in our mind and the reaction that comes out is laughter. This may also be why some people are not as tickleish as others, because they are able to recognize the surprise and counteract the feeling because they now know what is going to happen. Another important part to this is where people are tickled. I know some people are ticklish in the stomach then the arm pit or foot. I'm curious as to why this is. 

"The moment I saw him..I felt love, I felt happiness from nowhere, my heart beat to see him again and again."

Many have claimed that they have experienced "love at first sight" but is it really possible? Studies show that falling in love only takes as long as 3 minutes or even as little as a fifth of a second! Others argue that you need time to develop a connection as strong as love. Maybe the hopeless romantics are on to something.

"Falling in love can elicit not only the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain. Researchers also found falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second."

In one study on friendship, people who enjoyed the first few minutes together were likely to develop a close relationship. Another study says that love at first sight is all about appearance. People tend to mate off of physical appearance. We relate with others based on similarities whether it be education, our jobs, our music interest, we choose our partners based on similar qualities we see in one another. Studies show that appearance is another factor that we try to see similarities in. 'Scientific' beauty, as we all know, is based off of symmetry.

David Perrett, cognitive psychologist at the University of St. Andrews, thinks that we are attracted to physical qualities in others that are similar to our own because it reminds us of our parents. After developing a computerized system that morphs faces, he had participants choose which face they find most attractive. The face that was chosen the most often by the participants was an image of their own face that has been morphed into the opposite sex. Perrett explains that we find our own faces attractive because they are a reminder of what we constantly saw growing up which are the faces of our mothers and fathers.

Statistics actually find that a lot of people who claim to have experienced "love at first sight" have a successful relationship. "In research outside the USA, between 11% and a whopping 43% of people said their long-term relationships began that way; one American study found that 55% of the respondents who had fallen in love within moments of meeting had married that person. "  So, is love at first sight real? I'd like to believe so, but can love be measured?

Lactic Acid, Good or Bad


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Whenever any of us start working out or running really hard it is hard to not notice the burning in your muscles. This burning is caused by lactic acid build up in that muscle. For years people have thought that this build up in your muscles was a bad thing and even caused the soreness in your muscles the next day. This was all caused by bad science by Archibald Hill who did his study on frogs. H e found a build up of lactic acid in the muscles after he would flex their leg. He made it out to be that the build up in the leg was bad, but he did not realize that in other parts of the body that lactic acid was very needed. By only looking at the legs Hill failed to realize his flaw. However since he was such a famous scientist back then his theory was accepted and became common knowledge.

Now we understand that the lactic acid is a very helpful function because of research done by George Stephenson of La Trobe University's Muscle Research Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia shows that it is actually very beneficial. The body craves the lactate from the lactic acid, which is a break down of carbs. All parts of the body need it from the brain, to the heart, and the muscles you are working. This acid will actually help keep you going instead of forcing you to stop. The way muscles work is that there is a natural imbalance of potassium and sodium in the muscle when it flexes, the lactic acid will help balance out the imbalance slightly.

To me this shows just another way that scientist can over think problems. To me it seems unlikely that such a natural process in our body would ever have a detrimental effect on our body like Hill suggested. If it did evolution would probably have taken it out by then.
We've all been there. You're doing work, finishing a paper, studying, taking on online quiz 10 minutes before it's due, and you've been doing work like this all day. Your body is telling you to stop and go to sleep, but your schedule simply does not permit it. So you have to keep going on like the good student inside you tells you to. 

For me, I figure that sleeping for eight hours a day (on average) is such a waste of time. That is a whole third of your day just gone. Excuse me, but I have stuff to do!

So then I remembered, I have a friend who uses a different sleep cycle, and she has so much more time to fit everything in...and most importantly she doesn't look like death when walking around campus after an all-nighter.
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So, fellow hard workers, what can we do?

What we (and by we I mean most people) do, is considered a monophasic sleep cycle, where you sleep once a day for 
6-8 hours and are awake the rest.

But there are several other ways to attack that pesky little problem of needing enough sleep.

The other four sleep schedules are considered polyphasic and work by getting you to Stage 4 REM sleep a lot quicker than you do with a monophasic cycle. Generally, it takes you about 45 minutes of sleep to reach it, whereas the differing cycles can get you there almost instantly after falling asleep.
When you start switching over from sleeping once a day for a long period of time to sleeping a few times a day for much shorter periods, your body will adjust and make sure you reach Stage 4 REM a lot quicker, as you cannot live or function without reaching that point. The transition period is certainly a difficult one, and you should not try it if you cannot fully commit to it for at least 10 days to train yourself. Here are some options:

The Uberman Cycle: you take 20-30 minutes naps every four hours, resulting in about six hours a day of sleep. It is highly efficient, however, it is very difficult if you miss a nap, so the schedule is pretty strict. Steve Pavlina had a huge success with this cycle, and he documents his journey very thoroughly. This cycle has also been linked with an increase in lucid dreaming.

Everyman Cycle: you have one longer sleep time of about three hours, and then three 20-minute naps throughout the day. Many people have tried this cycle and found that it is a lot more flexible and missing a nap is not that detrimental. It is, again, highly efficient because you are only sleeping about four hours a day.

Dymaxion Cycle: the most extreme of the four cycles, this one requires you to take a 30 minute nap every 6 hours, resulting in only two hours of sleep per day! It is, not surprisingly, the most efficient of all the cycles.

Biphasic/siesta Cycle: apparently, this cycle is closest to what most college students do. This one involves sleeping four hours at night and then taking a 90-minute nap around noon. Although this is the least efficient of the four, it is still more efficient than the monophasic cycle, just not by much.

If you are genuinely interested in trying one of these cycles out, here are some tips:

-eat healthy and avoid fatty foods to make the transition easier
-make sure you have stuff to keep you busy or else it is easy to fall back into old patterns
-be patient and diligent when attempting to switch to these cycles

Doesn't seem too awful, none of the studies on these sleep schedules reported negative health effects.

Would you be willing to give one of these a chance?

Caffeine Fiend


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I'd like to think I could give up coffee at will, and that I only drink it 'cause it's available...but I would be lying to myself.

They say the first step is admitting there is a problem, so here it goes:

My name is Alex, and I am addicted to coffee.

But what does that really mean, addicted to coffee?

After reading up on Yahoo Health, turns out caffeine is the number one addiction, affecting millions of people who don't even know they have a problem. Caffeine has a hormonal effect on the body. You get a rush of adrenaline that helps people *cough* like students writing blogs *cough* stay awake and get a burst of energy. This boost can last anywhere from 4-6 hours, however once your hormones balance out, you crash. To compensate we (okay, I), drink more coffee.


Obviously, coffee is not the only caffeinated beverage, the same cycle happens with soda, tea, and energy drinks. 

But is it honestly that bad?

Apparently, excessive caffeine leads to an increase in cortisol which leads to rapid weight gain, irritability, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Not too pleasant, if you ask me. 

Then, when you do try to cut back (or maybe you just don't have access to a coffee shop), you start to experience these withdrawal symptoms:

headaches, mood swings, extreme fatigue, muscle ache, nausea, loss of appetite, confusion, poor memory, and lack of concentration.

The sad thing is, all I can think about is that as long as I don't cut back, I won't have to experience these issues. I just feel like the long term affects aren't that bad, and can generally be alleviated with more caffeine consumption.

But maybe, I'm just crazy.

Any fellow addicts out there?

28 Days Later?


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Many people nowadays have the infatuation with zombies. Are they real? Is there a chance that a zombie apocalypse may occur? Are we protected? Although some see it as nonsense or just a reason to cause hysteria, there may be some legitimacy to the idea after all. According to Cracked, There are 5 legitimate reasons that a zombie attack is a real threat and possibility.

The first is a brain parasite. A brain parasite known as toxoplasmosa gondii has the ability to alter the behavior of its hosts. The parasite can only be bred in the intestines of cats, yet it only resides in the brains of rats. According to Corante, tests that were done using the parasite in rats and in humans showed some brain alteration and changed the personality of the infected.
This is still undergoing research, but it is believed that the parasite that was once thought to be helpful know is causing some issues in the scientific community. wILT T8.jpeg

The second reason is the use of neurotoxins. Neurotoxins are poisons that can affect mature and developing nervous tissue. They also can affect nerve communication and response. Tetrodotoxin, found in the Japanese blowfish fugu, has the ability to shut down electrical channeling in the nerves by binding to the pores of sodium channel membranes. Because the toxin doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, it leaves the victim conscious while paralyzing all muscles. In addition, it has the capability to send one into convulsions and cause mental impairment. If the victim doesn't die between 4-6 hours, the victim can be revived by a drug known as datura stramonium, an alkaloid. However, this causes patients to have amnesia, delirium, severe pupil dilation, bizarre behavior, and hyperthermia. majiniparasite.jpeg

The third reason is the possibility of a real "Rage virus". In the movie 28 days later, the cause for zombies was the rage virus, a virus that was spread through blood contact with other infected humans. There are many brain disorders in science, but very few are contagious. However there is one that is and may be the basis for a zombie invasion. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a disease that is causes by a protein called a prion. A prion causes all other proteins to fold abnormally. people stricken with the disease experience a change in gait, blurred vision, dementia, seizures, lack of coordination, and muscle stiffness. There is no known cure for this illness. People believe that this is serious cause for alarm because if the disease evolves and blocks the release of the brain chemical seratonin, humans can then turn on and eat each other. Scary thought.Rage_Infected.jpeg


The fourth reason, which to me is the most interesting, is the idea of neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the process in which neurons are created through stem cells. Neurogenesis most commonly happens in the pre-natal phase, and is responsible for filling the expanding brain with neurons. Neurogenesis has been recently used to revive cells that were thought to be dead as a result of Alzheimer's disease. The test, which was led by Willam Mobley of Stanford University and Jonathan Cooper of King's College London, showed that by using a chemical called nerve growth factor, or NGF, the dying cells can be revived and the disease may actually be able to be reversed. Those who believe that a zombie apocalypse can occur believe that this can be used to awake the dead and revive neurological activity. Can this happen even in the post mortem state?neurons.jpeg

The last reason a zombie apocalypse could occur is the idea of nanobots. Nanorobotics are the creation of machines that are the length of a nanometer. Most nanotechnology is still being researched and designed. However, there are some primitive models that have been created. One of which by two chemist at the University of Nebraska. Ravi Saraf and Vikas Berry created what is known as a cellborg. They were able to fuse living bacteria with an electronic curcuit, creating the entity. In addition, the chemists further discovered that even after the death of the organisms, the electronic circuit continued to work. Makes you wonder what doors can be opened with this?medical-nanobots-480.jpeg

Although many of these concepts are far-fetched, it does make someone wonder about how legit a zombie apocalypse is. Do you think that we are vulnerable to a zombie attack? If so, are you prepared?

Keep Your Hair Alive


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Every girl has been told that straightening their hair too much will damage it and result in their hair being dead. But that is not necessarily true. If you use the proper type of iron and product then you will be able to straighten your hair and keep it nice and healthy.

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Girls (and boys if you straighten your hair or ever want to buy your girlfriend a new straightening iron) here are a few tips to keeping your straight hair healthy. First of all, ionic and ceramic irons are no different from each other. You need an iron that gives off negative ions while straightening your hair. People tend to think that ionic straighteners are better because they ONLY give off negative ions but really ceramic straighteners give off negative ions while heated which is the only way you can straighten your hair. The types of straighteners you should really be staying away from are the ones that give off positive ions (ions that damage your hair) such as tourmaline and titanium. In addition to this you have to choose the proper heat setting. It's not hard, just think before you set your iron to 450 degrees. If you have thin hair, put your iron at a low setting. If you have thick hair, put your iron at a higher setting but it doesn't necessarily need to be the highest. It's common sense.

Another thing that can help keep your hair healthy is using products that protect from heat damage. Using a heat protecting product can help if you use the right one. For instance, you should be using silicon based products before you straighten your hair. The silicone based products let the heat pass through more slowly but still let enough heat through to straighten your hair. Think of it as a filter.

So if you want to have healthy hair and you're someone who whips out the straightening iron often then you should really look into getting an ionic/ceramic iron and using silicon based products instead of water/oil based products!

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Music surrounds us, we hear it every day. Many argue about what can be classified as music, in my opinion music is whatever you want it to be and in extreme cases I would go as far as to say the silence can be classified as music. But can listen  silence? Or is there even such thing as silence? These are questions that constantly keep us scratching our heads.

People enjoy music the same way one enjoys sex, drugs, gambling and food. The reason why this is possible is because when a person listens to music the brain releases a drug called Dopamine. (get link for Dopamine). Dopamine is a chemical which is responsible for one's motivation or addiction to something. Furthermore, dopamine is said to be the biological explanation for why music plays such a major part in evoking emotions within oneself and cultures around the world.

"You're following these tunes and anticipating what's going to come next and whether it's going to confirm or surprise you, and all of these little cognitive nuances are what's giving you this amazing pleasure," said Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal. "The reinforcement or reward happens almost entirely because of dopamine."

For me, a lot of times, I will listen to music because I am in a sad mood or need to pump myself up for a party or Soccer game. And sometimes I may even listen to a genre to suit the way I am feeling at that point in time and when I am feeling bored I'll put some music on as it expresses my emotions. I now because of the chemical Dopamine which is released.  

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In addition, music affects people's emotions in different ways similar to that of a drug. Certain types of music evoke sadness or anger while other types induce feelings of wellbeing or happiness. This leads me to ask the question......... Can music make you high? Hmmmmm?

Well I did a "LOT" more research and found another study taken by Valorie Salimpoor at Nature Neuroscience institute.

Project leader Valorie Salimpoor found that samples of a variety of instrumental music produced feelings of euphoria and cravings, as measured through cerebral activity and that music showed characteristics similar to that of drug use. In that regard I would have to say music is a drug and that on a very mild level can give you a high. I think we are all addicted J.

Works Cited:

1.      Sohn, Emily. "Why Music Makes you happy?."news.discovery. Discovery News, 10 2011. Web. 26 Oct 2012. <http://news.discovery.com/human/music-

2.      Burling, Stacey. "Philly.com/Health." Yes, music can get you high. Science shows how. (Try it!) Read more: 

Boogers travel at 100 mph!


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"Don't talk to Michael, he eats boogers!!!," and "the boogeyman is coming to get you" are  common things we heard during our childhood. The act of nose picking was absolutely disgusting and you might as well have been considered a real criminal if you were caught doing it .

Well it turns out that nosepicking acutally isn't so bad. In fact it helps strengthen your immune system. Dr. Friedrich Bischinger is quoted as saying:

"...eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system...In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine. Modern medicine is constantly trying to do the same thing through far more complicated methods, people who pick their nose and eat it get a natural boost to their immune system for free."

Some problems that may arise as a result of nosepicking however are nose infections if the hands aren't clean.

Cry a Little...


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crying_baby.jpgHave you ever felt ashamed of yourself for crying over something because you thought crying was a sign of weakness? Well, no worries. It just so happens that shedding a few tears is actually pretty healthy.

Dr. Frey II, a biochemist at the St. Paul-Ramsey medical center analyzed two distinct kinds of tears. He analyzed emotional tears and tears that arise from irritants. The difference between the two is that emotional tears happen as a result of being upset or stressed. Tears that are a result of irritants happen when people come into close contact with certain things such as onions.

 "...emotional tears contained more of the protein-based hormones, prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin (natural painkiller), all of which are produced by our body when under stress. It seems as if the body is getting rid of these chemicals through tears."

Dr. Frey II concluded that this is essentially why we feel better after we cry. I am a very emotional person and I'll admit that I cry all the time. After crying I genuinely feel lighter and as if a weight has lifted off of my shoulders. Even if my problem has not been solved, letting out the built-in stress makes me feel well.

In addition to provided emotional relief, tears are important because they lubricate your eyes and rid them from certain bacteria.

 

I'm sure we've all heard many opinions on whether or not video games are hurting or helping our countries youth, and with the gaming industry growing rapidly, I wanted to find out if it's beneficial or harmful for a child to play video games.

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Most of the older generation claims that video games are hurting the youth in America, making children more obese and more violent, but is that really true? While that might be true with violent video games, it certainly isn't the case for non-violent ones, and in fact, more than half of the video games out there have no violence whatsoever. In a recent study done by the Education Development Center, they found that video games could improve literacy skills in young children between 4 and 5 years old. According to the Federation of American Scientists "the success of complex video games demonstrates that games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaption to rapid change."

Another study done by researchers at McGill University's Department of Psychology showed that when children play video games, it can boost their confidence. For example, if a child completes a difficult puzzle or figures out how to get through a hard maze, it will make their self confidence improve.

Lastly, contrary to popular belief, video games in children have been shown to promote exercise. Many people believe that when children play video games they become more sedentary and obese. While this might be the case for some children, it's certainly not the case for others. With today's new gaming systems such as the Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect, children are much more apt to be moving around while they play video games such as baseball and tennis in the Wii Fit program.

Overall, video games for children might not be as bad as most people think. Of course there will always be those exceptions where children suffer from more harm than good by playing video games, but in the scheme of things, they aren't too bad for some children. Do you guys think there are more harmful effects or more beneficial effects on children who play video games? I never knew there were that many benefits, but that still doesn't change the fact that there are many harmful effects. It just opened my eyes a little more about some of the good that can come from video games. Do you think maybe just educational and physical video games are good and the rest all have negative effects? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Currently, humanity is planning to land on Mars.  I think we should do this as soon as we can before the government cuts the NASA budget any more than it already did, but that's a different blog.  Here, I'll be talking about something I saw in this article.  It says that manned missions to Mars can kill off native Martian life.

By "life", they mean microbes that live on the ground.  The threat is that Earth bacteria could kill the Martian bacteria, which is currently being examined by the newest rover, Curiosity.  Cynthia Phillips of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute says, "We have the responsibility to Mars, I think -- even if it's just Martian microbes -- not to kill them by the act of detecting them...If you have human astronauts there, there's no way to sterilize them.  They're spewing out thousands of microbes every second."
            It's rather unfortunate and very intrusive to be barred from exploring another planet because of a bunch of microbes, but then again, if a race of giants decided to visit our planet, I'm guessing we would probably feel the same way if we were in the bacteria's position.  The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) has a policy to prevent us from randomly killing an entire species on another planet.

The validity of the evidence of life forms on Mars is still rather fuzzy.  The only number mentioned in the article was the number of bacterial spores that Curiosity was allowed to have on it, 300,000.  The population of microbes on Mars, how much bacteria you could have, and public opinion on what the infection is.

In other news on the subject, while NASA is focused on the Curiosity rover, private companies like SpaceX (USA) and Mars One (Dutch) are picking up the slack in the space program.  They now need to remember that they at least need to follow the rules set by the government when it comes to the bacteria so they don't cause an unwanted invasion. Cassie Conley says that this is because it would be a way to preserve the environment on Mars.  Do you think there is more life on Mars than microbes?  Do the microbes justify why we shouldn't get to Mars?

Ticklish


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tickling.jpgHave you ever fell over hysterically because someone continued to tickle you and you could not stop laughing? Have you ever been severely upset and tried to cheer yourself up but nothing seemed to work? I know this might sound a little weird but I always wondered why tickling myself never has the same effect as someone else tickling me.

Sarah Blakemore asserts that the answer to this question lies in our cerebellum, which is at the back of our brains. The cerebellum helps us predict our own sensations and movements, but not sensations and movements of others. This is logical because we can't accurately predict what someone is thinking 100% of the time, nor can we predict what someone will do action after action.

The two areas of the brain that are involved in processing tickling are the somatosensory cortec which processes touch and the anterior cingulate cortex which processes information that we consider pleasing.

"both these regions are less active during self-tickling than they are during tickling performed by someone else, which helps to explains why it doesn't feel tickly and pleasant when you tickle yourself."

What is your take on this?

    I was in cooking class a few years ago when the teacher told us a great way to remove the smell of onions or different foul smelling products that were on our hands was to twist our hand on stainless steel. In the case of the class that was our stainless steel faucets. Since I had more classes and the smell of garlic or onions on your hands is enough to drive your date or someone who would be be hanging out with you away I but still being very skeptical about this I decided to give it a try and behold it actually worked. The question though is why does this work?

   In order to answer this question it is necessary to look at what happens when you are using something like garlic. Garlic contains sulfur molecules that are transfered from the garlic to your hands as you are cutting or smashing the garlic up. The sulfur molecules stay on your hands until the mollecules get removed somehow from your hands. The bad news though is that washing your hands in water will only cause the sulfur to turn into sulfuric acid, which is essentially the same thing that you smell when you are cutting up the garlic. The smell then K-6350-B4-Kohler-Avatar-Kitchen-Pullout-Stainless-Steel-Faucet-with-Polished-Nickel-Accents[1].jpgbecomes worse becasue the sulfur molecules turned into sulfuric acid.

   The good news though is that there is a cure to the sulfur molecules that are on your hands, stainless steel. While washing your hands under water and rubbing and or twisting your hands on a stainless steel device (like your stainless steel faucet) the molecules get transfered from your hands over to the stainless steel device. The question is why does this happen.

   If we look at EHow, it tells us that steel is made of a composite material of steel alloy and chromium which together helps resists rust and stains. The corrosive resistance found in stainless steel is because there is a self restoring layer of chromium oxide that protects the surface of the steel. As the layer wears off, the chromium grabs more oxygen from the air, renewing itself and keeping the steel from oxidizing or rusting. The garlic and the stainless steel that needs oxygen could possibly use the garlic as a form of bonding and oxygen exchange. Either way the smell does come off of your hands as you twister your hands on the stainless steel device.

 Some other possible odor removing items are:

2011-03-16-BitterGarlic[1].jpg- coffee grounds

- lemon juice

- tooth paste

- or vinegar

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/eliminating-garlic-smell_n_1341413.html

This website also contains a video about how to remove garlic off of your hands. -

 

We've all heard that wine can be healthy for you, but what exactly does it help, and is it even really true?

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Wine supposedly boosts your brain power. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated more than 12,000 women ages 70-81 on their mental functions. They evaluated women who drank one glass of wine per day compared to women who didn't drink at all. Surprisingly, they found a boost in brain power in the women who had a glass of wine per day. The results were that the women who had one glass of wine per day had a 23% reduced risk of mental decline as compared to the women who did not drink. This study seems pretty well done to me and doesn't seem like there are many flaws.

Researchers from Rutgers University did another study based upon the effects wine can have on brain power. The lead researcher, Megan Anderson, a graduate in the university department of neuroscience and cell biology, used rats in her experiment instead of just basing her studies off of humans. She had two groups of rats; the sober rats, and the rats who consumed alcohol on a daily basis. The rats that consumed the alcohol consumed an amount of alcohol similar to that of two glass of wine per day for human females. In the long term, it showed that the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain, were decreased by nearly 40% compared to the sober rats. This study was available in The Journal of Neuroscience, and also seems like a well organized experiment to me. The only thing I wonder about is the fact that the effect alcohol has on humans might be a little different than the effect it has on rats.

What you might take away from this is that the right amount of wine per day might be beneficial in the long run, but too much can be more of a health hazard than health benefit. What do you think? Can there be a way that wine is good for you? Or do you think drinking has no good benefits whatsoever?

How does meditation work?


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While trying to think of what to write for my blog post I got really tired and thought of how nice it would be to just relax. Then I got to thinking and wishing I could instead meditate to release all of the stress that I had built up inside of me from the past weeks. I then began to wonder why do we feel so good after we meditate? How do all of these different feelings come from such a sometimes simple activity like meditating? Why should we meditate? In order to answer these questions I decided to look at an article called Meditation: What It Actually Is, Why It's Awesome, & How To Get Started by Phil Drolet.

The article talks about how meditation slows down the breathing of the person doing the meditation and also controlling what we are thinking. The breathing according to Mr. Drolet brainwaves1[1].jpgacts as a connection between the thinking and the body. This also allows us to concentrate on our thought and to think more deeply and focused then we usually would not only on our thoughts but also on what our body is telling us. The article goes on to state that people go through the different patterns of brain activity. We first start with the Beta Stage, moving to the Alpha Stage, then to the Theta Stage, and ending with the Delta Stage. Each stage has the brain wave activity slowing down a little bit more from the previous stage. Each stage is also harder to get to. The author then talks about at the Delta Stage of having a feeling of being so relaxed that he feels like he is almost floating. He then goes on to state that the Delta Waves are similar to those that a normal person would experience if they were inside a deep restorative sleep.

Essentially we are so relaxed that our body is basically in a state of being in restorative sleep. Knowing that we are essentially in a restorative sleep I wanted to look up why we should meditate, besides the obvious answer that someone is like being in a restorative sleep. The answer to this could possibly be that because most of our lives are so hectic with us constantly running around we do not take time to relax and try to think out the stuff that we learned. By meditating we allow ourselves to take a break from the daily routine and think things through as we are meditating. It allows our brain to attempt to sort out all of the different stuff going on and try to make sense of it. I also wanted to look at some other benefits of meditating. Accord to the website BBC News website there was a study done of 41 different people at Wisconsin University. The study involved having 25 of the participants attend a weekly class and one seven hour retreat. The group also did at home meditation exercises, while the control group did not do any type of meditation. At the end of the experiment the scientists measured the electrical activity in the frontal part of the brain. They say this region was more active on the left side in the individuals who meditated and was associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state. The participants also recieved a flu shot with the meditation participants having a higher level of antibodies then yoga_lead_gallery__522x400-420x0[1].jpgthose who did not meditate.

Meditation is definitely good for the body because it helps the body relax and put it into a feeling similar to that of a restorative sleep. The meditation also allows the brain to think freely and figure out daily problems or situations that could be troubling it. Meditation is defiintiely a good idea to practice.

Immortality


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   If you ask people about their biggest fears, you would learn that a good amount of individuals would say to die. People wish to live forever. Young people wish to never grow old while old people wish to be young once again. People in later stages of life seem to accept death more easily than others, seeing as they have already lived. Then there's the few some odd people who wish death. We've come a long way in terms of increasing life expectancy. Centuries ago people married at fifteen and die at thirty. Nowadays, people marry at thirty and die at ages up to a hundred. I often wondered if we could make the push even further maybe to two hundred or even a thousand. 
  I stumbled upon an interesting article from the Daily Galaxy. I can tell you one thing, geneticist Aubrey de Grey is awfully optimistic about being to reach eternity. There are many professors working on "immortality", even the U.S government funds research on "the biology of aging" at a rate of 2.4 billion dollars a year! The article even picks up statements for biologist claiming that we will find the "cure to aging" within two to four decades. Now, I for one would not question the limitations of mankind. At the same time, our limitations serve as the perfect reason as to why you would. I respect the optimism, but two to four decades seems so far fetched. Yes technology has become so advanced that we now have little super computers in our pockets. But that doesn't necessarily mean we can find the key to immortality in 40 years. Hell, we might not ever find that cure because maybe we weren't live on Earth together. Maybe religion was right?
  Plus, if you are a firm believer of a Deity, why would you want to live forever on Earth when there is a paradise waiting for you in the afterlife? I am a Christian and I believe in Heaven and all it's glory which is enough for me to say that I don't want to live on Earth forever. But granted we do find the key to immortality, does that disprove that there is a high being? Do we replace the principals of religion with science? People who are religious spend some much time investing in being a good person in order to gain entrance to Heaven. Would finding immortality on Earth alter our opinions on moral ethics? See the danger in potentially finding immortality? Ad besides...would you want someone like this guy to have the opportunity to live forever?


Think about that one, he used his genius to do more harm than good.

KJB

http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/03/can-humans-live.html?cid=138763252
Early high school was when my addiction to Starbucks' frappuccinos began.  During high school, I did satisfy my craving for Starbucks at least once a week.  Upon arriving at Penn State this semester, I have continued to purchase from Starbucks and other local coffee shops but I am also drinking more sugary drinks than I was while in high school.  The entries about sugary drinks have been a sort of wake-up call for me, and I have since been focusing on replacing sugary drinks with water as often as I can.

My recent concentration on avoiding sugary drinks has got me thinking about the different "qualities" of water.  Growing up, my mom would never spend money on water bottles.  She didn't believe that the water in the bottle was any different than the water that she paid to have available at our sinks.  

An article from Fox News, titled Bottled Waters Vs. Tap: Pick One to Stay Hydrated, featured an explanation from Lou Savant, president of Kiwaii True Spring Water, "'Bottled water is tested to the same standards as tap water.  Reporting regulations are different, but that does not mean that bottled water is less regulated when it comes to standards.'"  The article made a point to explain that if a water bottle company is claiming that their water is "natural," they must provide proof that it does not simply come from the surface.

Alright, so maybe the water in water bottles IS different than the water that comes from our sink.  But how noticeable is this difference?  From what I have found, bottled water tastes better because we expect it to taste better; it's all based on psychology.  In most blind taste tests, individuals are unable to tell whether the water comes from the tap or from a bottle.  The article Why Does Bottled Water Taste Better? from PsychCentral.com shared a test from Penn & Teller: Bullshit that revealed that "75 percent of New Yorkers preferred city tap water to bottled waters."  The show hosts also conducted their own test in an upscale restaurant in Southern California to determine just how easily people could be convinced that it was necessary to pay high prices for what was actually just tap water:
  

So far, I have determined that bottled water is different from tap water, but is not different enough to be detected by our taste buds.  The final piece, then, is determining whether or not one is healthier than the other.  An article from ABC News, Study: Bottled Water No Safer Than Tap Water, claims that the lack of regulations on bottled water is to blame for it's lack of nutrients.  This, however, entirely contradicts the argument made in the first article that I referenced, which defended bottled water companies based on the fact that there are so many regulations in place for bottled water production.  Overall, there are more articles supporting the argument that bottled water is not any safer than tap water.  Nonetheless, there is still a lack of solid evidence for this claim.

The value of bottled water will continue to be a source of controversy as long as people are making money from producing it.  After doing this research, I have become convinced that bottled water isn't worth the cost.  I will continue to drink water instead of soda for my health's sake, and for my wallet's sake, I will drink tap water instead of bottled.  

What happens during Hypnosis


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       While thinking of what else to write and thinking of my previous post about meditation I started to think back towards summer and remembered seeing people getting hypnotized. I remember seeing those people that were chosen do all sorts of crazy things from thinking that they saw a ghost, to yelling every word that they say, to even speaking to each other in different languages that no one else could understand except each other. I started to wonder how hypnotism works and what causes the people to do these crazy and weird acts that they would never do if they were not under the hypnotic trance.

 hypnosis1[1].jpg   In order to answer this question about hypnosis we must first learn what hypnosis is. Hypnosis is basically a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It's not really like sleep, because the person being hypnotized is alert the whole time. It is kind of like watching television and having one of your friends call your name and try to talk to you. You however do not hear them calling you at all because you are so focused on the television. You are essentially in a trance towards the television. Sort of in the same way that you would be if you were being hypnotized. During hypnosis you are completely concious but you tune out most of the stuff around you except for the person telling you what to do.

   The question now what causes you to be in that trance. In order to answer this we must first look at the mind. According to the article " How Does Hypnosis Work? The mind is composed of two different parts the concious and the unconcious. The concious is basically you. It is what you can control like you wanting to go swimming, or liking the color red. Your unconcious is all of the other stuff, like your heart beating, your normal breathing, and in most cases your blinking. What happens when you go into a relaxed state such as going into hypnosis, or sleeping, your unconcious starts to take over. This could be why when you hear someone telling you something under a hypnosis you do it. This is also called conventional hypnosis. You have your own ideas or the ideas of the hypnotist and you think of them as reality. In this state you will probably embrace the ideas of the hypnotist completely.

 hypnosis-forms[1].gif   Most of this is what scientists think is what is happening. Scientists are not completely sure what is going on when people are being hypnotized or are already under hypnosis. One possibilily is that people could try to be relaxed that they end up becoming relaxed and as the article above states they slip into almost that trance state and the concious mind is not working anymore telling them that the idea is stupid or irrational. It is sort of the same as having a conversation when you are asleep. Your unconcious mind knows what is going on but when your concious mind kicks in it does not remember any of it. Whatever the answer to what happens when people are hypnotized one thing is certain right now, people will continue to line up to attempt to be hypnotized.

Conditions like epilepsy, blindness, and deafness can be built in at birth and can be impossible to cure.  But what if there was a way to prevent these conditions from appearing in a human before it's even born?  This article shows that Oregon Health and Sciences University may have found the solution, by using three parents for the development of the embryo.

            Wait, what? Three parents? Yes, you're reading that correctly, but it's not exactly what you think.  The scientists at OHSU have been able to develop embryos using genetic material from one man and two women.  This is news to us, but similar experiments were done in Britain, sparking an ethics controversy over the possibilities of what usually comes to mind when genetic manipulation is brought up: "designer babies", a hypothetical process where an egg/embryo's genes are manually arranged by the parents in order to give the baby specific traits.  I'll interject that I believe using genetics for that particular purpose is unethical because it destroys diversity.  Anyway, there have also been questions of whether or not this process is even safe for the baby that grows out of the manipulated egg, and that baby's child, grandchild, and so on.  This risk seems to fading, as other scientists from past years did similar tests on monkeys with four successful, living results in 2009.

            OHSU stressed that they were only doing test on eggs and only let them grow into embryos.  Whether or not this part of the process is ethical probably depends on the public's view of abortion, with Pro-Life supporters being more critical of it and Pro-Choice proponents either being supportive or complacent about it.

            All of these issues are probably blown out of proportion given what the scientists are actually trying to do with the genes.  This line from the article puts it very clearly, "The genes they want to replace aren't the kind most people think of, which are found in the nucleus of cells and influence traits such as eye color and height. Rather, these genes reside outside the nucleus in energy-producing structures called mitochondria. These genes are passed along only by mothers, not fathers."  So what they did was take an egg from one woman that was fertilized by the man, take out defective mitochondrial DNA from the egg, and replaced it with healthy DNA from the second woman.  This can prevent strokes, dementia, kidney failure, heart disease, and the conditions I listed at the start.

            Now, the scientists are trying to get the government to let them test this hybrid technique in women.  If you were in the government, would you allow it? Do the benefits outweigh the risks in your eyes?

Tanning is deadly. There is no simpler way of putting it. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, one person dies of melanoma every hour in the United States and the people who are most at risk are women ages 15 to 39.

A misconception about tanning is that many people think if they only go for a few minutes every so often, they aren't doing any harm to their bodies. However they are extremely misguided. A person's first tanning bed experience increases his or her risk of melanoma by 75 percent according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Just one time and you already have an elevated chance of developing melanoma from baking in beds with UV bulbs that are 10 to 15 times stronger than what you get from sun exposure. Everyone knows that there are risks in tanning, which prompts me to contemplate, why do people insist on going back to the salon time after time?

Tanning is like a new form of tobacco; it causes cancer and people keep going back to it because it looks cool. Bronzed entertainment and beauty icons such as the cast of "Jersey Shore" and the Kardashians make tans chic and alluring to some.

snooki.jpgImage courtesy: http://archive.feedblitz.com/84375/~3940142

Besides the appeal of tanned skin, an article by The New York Times features research published in Addiction Journal suggesting that people who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction. What the researchers found was that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. The findings may help explain why some people continue to tan often despite awareness about risks such as skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles.

"What this shows is that the brain is in fact responding to UV light, and it responds in areas that are associated with reward," said Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and an author of the study. "These are areas, particularly the striatum, that we see activated when someone is administered a drug or a high-value food like sugar."

I don't see why people who are "addicted" to tanning can't switch to a healthier alternative to achieve their glow in a less harmful way. Self-tanners such as lotions, wipes and spray tans can gradually darken your skin after a few applications. Why do you think people keep continuing to tan when these options are safer and just as effective?

Sources:

http://app.onlinephotofiler.com/Img1/A_9/8/7/4/94789/d3df4617fdfd4cfe84baf1f774eb3581.jpg?uid=0577310a-e9f8-47be-97b5-4bcfa399fbfb

http://www.curemelanoma.org/about-melanoma/what-is-melanoma/

http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/how-tanning-changes-the-brain/

So after seeing three different doctors, receiving two misdiagnoses, having my second knee surgery in two years and going to nearly thirty+ physical therapy appointments, I completed my first mile-run since January two days ago.  It was one of the most rewarding feelings I've felt in a long time.  I can honestly say that I've never been so happy to be sore!

I was never a GREAT athlete... though I played sports all throughout my childhood and into high school, I never was quite talented enough (nor ambitious enough) to want to play after high school and in college.  However I vowed to always be physically active and continued to run over the past couple of years.  Not being able to run for the past ten months has been one of the most difficult parts of college.  

I remember my mom always talking about "endorphins" and excercise.  When I lived at home, I'd say something along the lines of "I love working out, it makes me feel so good," and she respond with "that's because you're body is releasing endorphins!"  I never really knew what endorphins were, however, and how they are produced in the body because of exercise   What I DID know was that my lack of exercise since January due to my knee injury had caused me to be more cranky and irritable than ever before-- and I attributed THAT to my inability to run.

First off, I needed to define what endorphins are.  They are basically these neurotransmitters in the brain that are hormone-like substances which are produced when your body is under stress or pain.  

endorphines.gif


While browsing the web, I found this article from the Mayo Clinic about stress management.  It discusses how exercise is a good form of stress relief because increases the production of the brain's "feel good" transmitters, better known as the endorphins.  This begins to explain why I've been so cranky from my lack of exercise: I've been missing out on the "runner's high."

Some believe that the "runner's high" may be more psychological and less biological.  This article argues that, in part, the "runner's high" that I've been missing is may be "all in my head."  The article describes a study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champagna in which 46 women participated in a fitness test on a bike exercise machine.  Some women were told they were doing really well, while others were told they weren't performing well (regardless of how they actually were doing on the bike).  Then, according to the article, the women were asked to do a 20 minute workout on the Stairmaster a couple of days later; they were reminded of their previous performance.  Women who had been told that they did really well on the bike had a better reaction/mood after the stairmaster than the women who were told the opposite. This seems to demonstrate that, if the "runner's high" is psychological, perhaps it relates to how good we think we are at excercising.  I believe that my inability to do any kind of cardio probably was affected both biologically (lack of endorphins!) AND psychologically (I realized I was getting fat because I couldn't work out!).
 
With all that being said, I look forward to my next run.  Who knows, maybe I'll break out the running shoes when I'm done with all these blogs.  Better make sure I get the ice packs ready!

Breaking Bad


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   Anyone catch the newest season of Breaking Bad? To anyone unfamiliar, it's a show about an ex-chemistry teacher with cancer who decides to start cooking up meth for money to support his family granted he ends up dying. As the season progresses, Walt (Main character) ends up bringing home huge bank from his meth. Problem is why? Why is he making money from the meth? Why would anyone want to buy meth? Isn't it mean't to be damaging to the health? You can't blame people for wanting to try out things but when it comes down to drugs, why should you decide to try it again? It's that addiction, where your body is telling you no but your mind is telling you yes. 
  To briefly explain why we can become addicted, an article by howstuffworks talks about the concept of addiction. First of all, we are all susceptible to addiction. Our brain offers a "reward system" by releasing dopamine when we engage in a certain act such as exercising or eating. This dopamine is a "chemical that makes us feel good." When you take drugs, your brain releasing a larger than normal amount of dopamine and you start to feel high and incredibly good. Another article classifies this feel good mood as a synaptic gap. After the high, the chemical balance in your brain becomes screwed up resulting in a hangover. Prolonged use of drugs completely cuts the amount of dopamine the brain creates on a normal basis meaning that addicts would tend to take drugs just to restore the normal amount. 
   To this day, I will never understand addiction. Yes, I get the whole scientific aspect of an addiction. But why? I still find it hard to believe that we have a chemical that makes us feel "good". It just doesn't make sense how a drug, which clearly is damaging to the body, can some how trigger chemicals that can make you feel good? Do you see the contradiction in the whole concept? That's like making myself believe that chopping off my arm feels good. Does that make drug addicts masochists in that sense? If we are all prone to addiction, why can some of us snap an addiction much easier or even avoid getting ourselves into that situation in the first place barring social pressure? What separates myself a meth addict? Do I make much more Dopamine on a regular basis in which I wouldn't need drugs? Or do I release dopamine simply for choosing not to take drugs, and that makes me happy. 
   



    I just can't understand why some people do this to themselves. I hate seeing it. Promising lives are thrown away. Families are torn apart, progress is halted. I lost a cousin this way and what hurts the most is that others will follow. 

KJB

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/addiction1.htm

http://www.netplaces.com/addiction-recovery/the-nature-of-addiction/how-addiction-works-in-the-brain.htm
So after we discussed in class on Tuesday the types of diseases that your genetic make up can predispose you towards, I got to thinking about my own DNA.  My mother has battled with two rounds of breast cancer; in fact, cancer is pretty common on the entire side of her family.  However, my dad's side of the family .is relatively healthy.  My grandparents on that side are in their mid to late 70s, and aside from a few minor things here and there, don't have any serious health conditions.

I tried to think of health similarities between members of my dad's side of the family.  Though I couldn't come up with anything initially, I did occur to me the fact that both my father and I have asthma.  I'm not sure if other members of my dad's side of the family have it, but my grandfather used to smoke a lot when he was younger and so it wouldn't surprise me if he had developed asthma at some point. 

What I was curious about in writing this post is about whether or not the asthma I suffer from is a result of my genetic make up.  Do I have asthma because my dad had asthma?


asthma.jpg


When I was looking around for souces, I stumbled upon this one from the World Health Organization.  Basically it says that asthma is caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental effects.  According to the WHO report, there are certain genes that modify mucus production in the lungs, immune system receptors or genes that affect how cells deal with "environmental threats."We're not 100% what so called "asthma gene" would look like/is, although strong research seems to indicate that we're on our way to finding one (as seen in this study from researchers at Yale).   The WHO report states that about 1/3 of the genetic predisposition to asthma has been discovered.

While reading about the genetics associated with asthma, I learned some other interesting facts related to the environmental factors that can also cause the disorder.  Some of them include

  • asthma is a disease often associated with affluent societies
  • an environment rich in microbial organisms is beneficial in building infants resistantce to asthma
  • exposure to farm animals and unpasteurized milk is protective in farmer's children

The last point was especially interesting to me because it explained (in my mind) why my grandmother on my dad's side of the family, who spent 19 years on a farm, may not have had asthma.  It is a condition more commonly seen in urbanized areas, which I assume is because of the increased amount of air pollution.


Puppy love


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For me, the hardest part of being away at school is dealing with the separation between my best friend and I: my dog. Daisy, my little, white teacup maltipoo, who I adopted my freshman year of high school, is always glued to my hip whenever I am at home no matter how long I've been away from her. Because of Daisy, it is clear to me that dogs are extremely loyal to their owners. However when dogs show affection or try to comfort their owners, do they recognize that their owners are upset or distraught?

Daisy 

I found an article that detailed research published in the journal Animal Cognition that found pet dogs may be man or woman's best friend if a person is in distress and the individual does not even have to be someone the dog knows. http://news.discovery.com/animals/dogs-empathy-humans-120831.html

Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, both from the Department of Psychology at the University of London Goldsmiths College, exposed 18 dogs representing different ages and breeds to four separate 20-second human encounters. The human participants included the dogs' owners as well as strangers. The researchers found that when the humans began to cry during the encounters, the majority of the dogs comforted the person, owner or not, when that individual was pretending to cry. The dogs nuzzled and licked the person, the canine version of "there there." Custance and Mayer said this behavior is consistent with empathic concern and the offering of comfort. But why do dogs respond in this manner?

In an article by Stanley Coren Ph.D., he gave a possible explanation to this question saying that some researchers suggest that when your dog sees your emotional distress they are in effect "infected by it" and, in response to their own feelings, they come to nuzzle you. Their aim is not to comfort their human, but rather to gain comfort for themselves.

In another article, Kaitlin Flynn said that scientists think canines may need to also smell and hear signals tied to actual stress or sadness in order to respond. In an experiment she mentioned, dog owners feigned a heart attack or pretended to experience an accident in which a bookcase fell on them and pinned them to the floor. The dogs in these studies just looked confused and didn't do much, but this could have been because the canines need to smell and hear signals in order to react.

If dogs do empathize with us, do you think some are better able to do this than others? Why do you think dogs respond to human emotion?

Sources: 

http://www.globalanimal.org/2011/04/11/dogs-can-feel-empahty-for-us/32161/

http://news.discovery.com/animals/dogs-empathy-humans-120831.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201206/canine-empathy-your-dog-really-does-care-if-you-are-unhappy

Gene differences among "races"


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             As I was doing my reading assignment for political science class, I came across with an interesting research they have done. "The Human Genome Project, which has been mapping DNA, has drawn even sharper attention to the fact that diversity within so called racial groups is greater than between them". Since we are all sharing the same genome, there cannot be an idea of "different kinds". Thought it was quite interesting to find out that there might be more diversity among the same racial group rather than that of among different racial groups.

 

early_class of human_german.jpg

(American Anthropy Association)

             During the time when colonialism and slavery was booming, "The leaders sought to rationalize this inequality by attributing it to nature or to God"(Smedley). Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish scientist, classified animals and plants according to their similarities in his book "Systemae Naturae" in 18th century. In 10th edition of the book, he suggested "4 sub-categories of Homo-sapiens; Americanus, Asiaticus, Africanus, and Europeanus". Based on this idea, German professor of medicine Johann Friedrich Blumenbach brought up 5 categories of human according to their physical appearances; "Caucasian, the white race; Mongolian, the yellow race; Malayan, the brown race; Ethiopian, the black race; and American, the red race". Then there was an interesting categorization of a Philadelphia physician named Samuel G. Morton.

"He believed he could identify any skull's racial origin simply by measuring it...Morton assigned the highest brain capacity to Europeans--with the English highest of all. Second was the Chinese, third was Southeast Asians and Polynesians, fourth was American Indians, and the smallest brain capacity was assigned to Africans and Australian aborigines" (American Anthropological Association)

one_race.jpg(RACE) 

             However, according to the recent research done by Lynn B Jorde & Stephen P Wooding, they stated that "Analysis of many loci now yields reasonably accurate estimates of genetic similarity among individuals, rather than populations. Clustering of individuals is correlated with geographic origin or ancestry"(Jorde, and Wooding ).Thus, visual differences are not the results of the definite distinction among genes, but the result of environmental factors; such as geographical, weathers, and other conditions.

 

             I think observing a difference is inevitable and natural thing to do so. However, I believe it's a matter of how we deal with the differences. Race cannot be talked about without discussing the darker shades of it, like stereotypes and discrimination; "Jews" as shrewd, "Irish" as heavy-drinkers and so on. These are exaggerated, distorted images of groups. These stereotypes are mostly obtained by second-hand experiences. Also, these are inflexible and sometimes go on like societies' heritage. "Selective perception", seeing what we want to see, cannot lead us to a scientifically reasonable conclusion. "Racism" walks into the stage when these negative images of a specific race are applied to an individual. It is judging and treating a person based upon "what" he is, not "who" he is.

 

 

Work Cited

 

American Anthropological Association , , ed. "One Race or Several Species." RACE. American Anthropological Association , n.d. Web. 22 Oct 2012. http://www.understandingrace.org/history/science/one_race.html. Jorde, Lynn, and Stephen Wooding. "Nature Genetics ." Nature Genetics . (2004): n. page. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1435.html.

Smedley, Audrey . "American Anthropological Association." American Anthropological Association. (2007): n. page. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://www.understandingrace.org/resources/pdf/disease/smedley_abstract.pdf>.

 

 

déjà vu


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           Have you ever had "déjà vu"? It is a sensation of having a strong feeling that you have already experienced or seen the current situation that is new to you. I experience déjà vu quite often throughout the days. However, it happens randomly and sometimes they are insignificant incidents. I feel that I have dreamt it before, not seen it in my real life. Usually it is a scene that captures one moment.

 

           There are several theories about the sensation. Some scientists argue that it is an error during the process in the memory system of our brains. They say humans' memory is a process of reconstruction of cues rather than pulling a certain file from a stored deck. They suggest people do not reserve a fixed, coded scenes in our brains. Rather, when people "remember" something means, they are recalling last reconstruction with the cues. As a result, when a person encounters a situation with similar "cues", his brain will find the best match with the recognized signs. Then, the brain may signal the feeling of "already seen/known".

 

 

brain-1.jpg(HowStuffWorks) 

          

         Another theory is based on the idea of Imbalanced chemical in our brains. Once Scientists had an experimental study on mice. Mice's brains were conditioned with imbalanced chemical and "They eventually concluded that it was in fact caused by a chemical imbalance. In their human studies, they were able to locate individuals who experienced dejavu quite often, some individuals reported experiencing dejavu hundreds of times a day. Brain scans showed these individuals to have damaged amygdala's" (Vassen).

 

           Including Ian Stevenson, some parapsychologists suggest an interesting assumption based on "reincarnation". Thus, it may happen when a person live his second or "x" round of life. Reincarnation is when a person born again after his death. If the time is linear, I guess this theory may not work. I got to wonder, that most of my déjà vu experiences are based on my current life, then does that mean I am reincarnated as myself once again? Living the exact same way I did last time?

 

           Which explanation do you prefer for your own déjà vu? Would it be just an error on our complex brain system? Or, is it a flashback of your past life?

 

 

Work Cited

 

"What is déjà vu?"  13 June 2001.  HowStuffWorks.com. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/extrasensory-perceptions/question657.htm>  26 October 2012. 

 

Vaessen , Robert. "DejaVu and Mind Control." DejaVu and Mind Control. Robert Vaessen , 10 2002. Web. 26 Oct 2012. <http://www.robsworld.org/dejavu.html>.

Have your 8 glasses of water a day...?

 

 

glasses-ck-0707-article-l.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

l  Headache

l  Dark colored urines

l  Lack of energy

l  Feeling lightheaded

 

                  This is a simple checklist to determine hydration on a person's body. If you are dehydrated, get yourself a cup of water first! On average, a person loses 2.5 liters of water a day. He or she normally gains a liter from food intake. Then, 0.3 liters are replaced by the chemical reactions in cells (NHS Choices). Then we are left with 1.2 liters of water to replace. Water, milk and fruits are the most nutritious way to gain those amounts back. There is a saying; "8 by 8" among people about recommended amount of water per day. However, it depends on an individual's condition. There is no fixed number for us.

 

fn7_waterinbody.jpg  (Mayo Clinic)

 

                Soft drinks are not the best choice to hydrate your body. Mostly, those drinks are saturated with sugars, corn syrups, and low in nutrition like Vitamins and others. Also, energy drinks are high in caffeine which may be causing harmful effects on pregnant women and children.

                  However one may intake too much water and result in "Hyponatremia". In order to keep our blood at best condition, sodium is required in certain level. Sodium regulates the amount of water in the blood. If one drinks too much water, often happens to marathon runners, water level increases to the point where the cells get swollen. This may cause abnormal results that can be minor or severe (Mayo Clinic staff).

                  After finishing my research, I took a glass of water just to see if my headache was from dehydration or not. Then I got an idea which may sounds preposterous; Since our body can store fat in our cells, can we store water in cells too (not in liquid form though)? It will be much more beneficial to store water instead of fat. Then, there would be no obesity too! I have not thought about any other consequences though.

 

 

 

Work Cited

 

Mayo Clinic staff, , ed. "Water: How much should you drink every day?." Mayo Clinic:Nutrition and healthy eating. Mayo Clinic, 11 2011. Web. 26 Oct 2012. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283/NSECTIONGROUP=2>.

 

NHS Choices , , ed. "Water and Drinks." NHS Choices . NHS Choices , 13 2011. Web. 21 Oct 2012. <http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/water-drinks.asp&xgt;.

 

 

While browsing for blog topic ideas on Nature, I stumbled across a study that posed the question: can humans induce earthquakes?  Sadly, the article was not free to the public, and being the poor college student I am (my bank account balance is current around $2), I wasn't willing to pay $18 to have instant access to the article. 

Instead, I went in search of other (FREE) information related to this topic. I was able to find an article on the New York Times website.  Here, it described how an earthquake can be a result of humans if there is a change in the load on the crust and (1) the load is increased, like with the creation of man-made, artificial lakes, or (2) the load on the crust is decreased, like in the case with quarries and oil fields.  

Another cause suggested by the article is that of hydrofracking, which utilizes high powered water and sand to release natural gas from the ground to be used by us.  While Dr. Leonardo Seeber of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory says "the process [is] not likely to set off earthquakes, but [it requires] disposing of fluid in deep wells, which [is]"much more likely to trigger earthquakes than [regular] fracking itself."

**Below is a diagram that describes the process of hydrofracking.  Even though this is something that is currently happening near where I grew up, I didn't know that much about the actual process.**

hf.png



In another New York Times article, British seismologist Brian Baptie (associated with the British Geological Survey) suggested that two earthquakes in Blackpool could be traced back to a source very close to a hydrofracking site.  After the second earthquake, the hydrofracking group Cuadrillo Change suspended its operations while awaiting to see if the Department of Energy and Climate Change would impose any new kind of limitations.  Ths report from Nature shows that Cuadrillo were eventually given the OK by the Department to resume their operations, however many people are not willing to take any chances.

By what I can find, it seems as though more research and time is needed before a conclusive answer can be given related to a connection between hydrofracking and earthquakes.  For now, it seems as though (especially in Pennsylvania), the issue of natural gas benefits versus water contamination will be the biggest political debate related to this issue.


glow in the dark


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Trying to think of something to blog about, I began to look around my room for inspiration. Finally I came up with a question I had no idea what the answer was.... How do things glow in the dark??? On the wall next to my bed I have flowers hanging that glow in the dark.

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While the lights are on, the flowers look pink, blue, yellow and white. When i turn the lights off the flowers all begin to glow. How is it that a simple thing as turning on and off a switch can transform the look of an object? I decided to do a little bit of research on
how things glow in the dark. It turns out the answer is simple, chemistry. Glowing in the dark is also called luminescence. How it works is that certain chemicals have the ability to store energy while they are being exposed to light. Once the lights get turned off, the chemicals slowly get rid of the stored energy causing a dim light that looks to us as a glow. It is so strange how inanimate objects have the power to absorb and release energy. If you think about it, it is like the object is alive. For now on when I look at the decoration on my wall, all I am going to think about is the absorption and release of energy!

Most of the blogs I've written up to this point have had something to do with the brain. It's not that is the only thing I am interested in, because that's not the direct subject of my blogs, it's more of a common factor in all of my subjects. That's because most of what I've written so far has something to do with human behavior. I find the mechanisms behind why we do what we do incredibly fascinating, primarily because I have interacted with so many different people of all personalities who all have a completely different approach to life, it's kind of awesome to figure out the answer to why this all is.

 

What I've pretty much taken away from it all so far is that the brain is the single most powerful thing in the entire world. I mean yeah, duh, it influences our behavior, that's its purpose, but the mechanisms by which it does this are downright scary sometimes. It is insanely complex, and it has a different approach to quite literally everything. But, in every subject I have done, one word keeps popping as a key factor in everything I have researched.

 

Dopamine

 

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The general purpose of dopamine that I have come to understand through my other blogs is that it is essentially your brains work force whenever it comes to determining behavior. It has many different chemicals to trigger different behavior, but the mechanism by which it changes it all has quite a lot to do with dopamine. And this got me wondering, what is it with this chemical that causes it to be present under so many behavioral circumstances?

 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, so what it does, in essence, is conduct the signals between your neurons to give you a certain sensations. In dopamine's case, it deals specifically with the pleasure centers of the brain. To get even more specific, the part of the brain that causes the release of dopamine is the ventral tegmentum, which is a group of neurons located in the middle of the brain that contain your dopamine neurons.

 

The two main drugs that deal with dopamine are amphetamines and cocaine, but they deal with it in different ways, as this article explains. Neurotransmitters send signals both ways, so whenever your body releases dopamine, your neurons are both sending dopamine to other neurons, and receiving it as well. This process is called reuptake, and it is important as to how the chemical does what it does. Amphetamines simply cause the release of more dopamine, giving you a stronger pleasure sensation due to the increase levels. Cocaine does not do this, but instead it stops the reuptake process, meaning that the dopamine will stay in your neurons for longer periods of time.

 

So now you know what dopamine is, and how it's mechanism works. Why I think it's important, however, is because of the whole idea that it controls the reward system of your brain, and the reward system controls pretty much everything we do.

 

However, the reward system is a tricky thing, and the funny thing about biology is that it has no morals. As this article examines, the release of dopamine is actually, well, kind of evil. There is a million different things that can cause the reward system to go off and prompt a certain action, and not all of them are good. Danger causes the release of dopamine, as do drugs, and gambling.

 

I said Dopamine was important, not necessarily good. It literally controls your entire life through motivation, and not always for the better. What Dopamine is then, is the biggest double-edged sword in all of existence. It is the motivation behind why we are so inclined to eat, reproduce, and explore new ideas. It is, unfortunately, also the motivation behind why we do drugs, go looking for danger, and throw away money.

 

Why is this? How is our brain programmed to be like this, and what does it say about our evolution? Are we really that advanced?

Why is it quiet before a storm?


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Thumbnail image for stormclouds1[1].jpg        Have you ever noticed that before a storm sometimes the weather seems to be really calm? An example of this is right now where it is really calm outside and very nice and sunny. However, we know that Hurricane Sandy could soon be on its way to our location bringing with it horribly nasty weather. I have always wondered why it is so calm and what could cause the weather to act in this deceaving way before having the weather turn for the worst. In order to answer this question I decided to look at the website HowStuffWorks to try to figure out the answer to this puzzling question.

       According to HowStuffWorks, storms need warm moisturized air to use as fuel. In order to get this warm moisturized air they suck up the air from the surrounding environment similar to a  vaccum sucks up the stuff around it. As the warm moisturized air is being sucked up into the storm leaves a low pressure vaccum behind it. Meanwhile the warm air is sucked up to the top of the storm it essentially gets spit out at the top of the storm. The air then comes back to earth by the same type of vaccum that sucked it up before. The air then decends back to earth becoming warmer and dryer as it is decending. That air warmer dryer is generally stable and stablizes the air around it creating the calm sensation around it.

     This sounds like it creates like a type of circular motion with the air creating the feeling of being calm. Curious to see if this is what happens all of the time I decided to look at another website called Curiousity.com, which is put on by the Discovery Channel. The website states that this is not what happens all of the time, because Mother Nature is very unpredicatble and the weather can change at any time. I was also curious to find out if this calming effect is the same type of calming effect found inside the eye of a hurricane.

    My answer again came from the Curiousity.com website. The website states that air tries to come into the eye of the hurricane to equalize the low pressure that is inside of the eye. The air instead of coming straight in comes at a curve known as the Coriolis Force. That force moves with such strength that it creates and eye wall. This is essentially saying that it is different but at the same time similar to that of your normal storm. Instead of having the air come up and over and creating stability as it comes down the air of the hurricane is moving so strong it twists around the center creating the calming site (the eye). 

  Although this is the case for most of the hurricanes and storms that occur, as the first article points out some of the storms could be different because mother nature is unpredictable. One storm could be totally different and could be caused by a different set of circumstances from that of another storm. Hopefully weather will evolve enough in the future to try to actually know what happens every time before, during, and after there is a storm.

As a side note the website HowStufWorks also has a video of the process that makes it calm before and after a1435669599_45ff54895b_o[1].jpg storm.

 

Tour De Fraud


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    I'm sure you have all seen the reports about Lance Armstrong. The "legendary" cyclist who won seven Tour De France titles during his magical run of success. Armstrong served as an inspiration for millions after beating cancer that spread to his lungs and brains. He started an organization called Livestrong, which brought in millions for cancer awareness. Earlier this week, he was stripped of his titles and banned from the sport of cycling forever. He lost all his sponsorships and eventually stepped down from his beloved organization. He is now labeled as a fraud who had tricked millions into believing anything is possible.  The question is, why did someone with much acclaim fall rock bottom? PED's. Commonly known as performance enhancement drugs or what I like to call steroids are the culprit. Apparently, there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that he has been doping for years including during his seven year span of titles. Armstrong has been trying to fight this accusation for years, but a new report along with evidence finally coerced Armstrong into quitting the battle against defamation. But the question is, what are these so-called PEDs which catapulted Lance Armstrong from fame to underlying and degrading shame?
   According to an article in muscle and strength, steroids are used to "mimic" the effects of testosterone. The extra testosterones helps in faster and more efficient muscle development. If you want to get muscular quick, take steroids. Or should you take steroids? There's no hiding the fact that steroids can take incredibly negative effects on the bottom. One of the most embarrassing being "testicular shrinkage". Now seeing as I am highly protective of the "family jewels" area, I don't fancy the idea of having my testicles shrink. Not to mention the many other bad side effects, such as organ damage and potential anger outrages. I've had the unfortunate opportunity to know someone who has taken steroids, the rage isn't worth it. Why would someone want to pose significant risk to themselves and their family by taking these drugs? Anyone remember the WWE wrestling Chris Benoit? He unfortunately lost it and it led to killing himself, his wife and autistic son. Stories like these are sickening, but they are ever so realistic. 
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Here on the left and below are two pictures showing the effects of steroid use. The aid of steroids help in enlargement of the muscles as shown here of this (whatever you want to call this behemoth). In all, it looks unpleasing and seems to be definitely unnatural for a human to look like. The same goes for skin damage caused below in the picture two. Are steroids really worth the results (or at least more mild results) of the picture to the left as the expense of the picture below?









Now of course most athletes don't use steroids to get as incredibly huge as the first picture. Some athletes use it just to a get a slightly better edge in the competition. Take a look at Lance, he wanted to win so he used PEDs. It was hard for him not to being a sport riddled and plagued with cyclists who inject themselves which unfair substances. There are tons of stories of successful athletes who were accused of taking such, for instance Barry Bonds. These athletes try to find any loophole around drug tests and examinations to make that extra second or hit that extra homerun. Yet they seem to be unaware of the dangers of such drugs, not only to their public reputation granted they get busted, but to their own health and the health of others. 

I leave you with a video of a bad bad BAD story of excessive steroid use. Remember, play fair! 

 

 KJB 


 Sources:

 http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/steroids-and-their-harmful-side-effects.html 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmu_h8HCiGo

 http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/sports/steroids.html#

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,289649,00.html
So not only do I have the blog posts for SC 200 due tomorrow, but I also have a midterm for one of my hardest classes.  As I sat at my computer today thinking of my impending workload--and my subsequent plan to stock up on energy drinks-- I stumbled on an article on Huffington Post.  The article was about a 14-year-old girl who died from cardiac arrythmia.  According to the article, the teenagers's fatal arrythmia was linked to caffeine toxicity which was then linked to her consumption of two 24oz. Monster energy drinks in one day.  This story also reminded me of the media attention given to several Four Loko related deaths a few years ago.  This study that I found recognizes the dangers of energy drinks, like Four Loko, that are mixed with alcohol, but contends that those (like the Monster consumed by Anais Fournier) are also dangerous.  Interestingly enough, it also makes the case that those who are consume energy drinks without alcohol are prone to alcohol dependence down the line.

The family of Anais Fournier, the girl in the article, is currently suing Monster for the death of their daughter.  By way of the Freedom of Information Act, the Fournier family learned that there were five others fatalities in recent years linked to consumption of the Monster drinks.  Reading this the a few hours before planning to pull an "all-nighter," I naturally freaked out.  

While carefully selecting my Red Bull a few hours later (making sure it was less than 24oz.) I got to thinking: what are the signs of a caffeine overdose?




Currently, the FDA has limitations (200 mg/dose) on the amount of caffeine that can exist in over the counter products. This is equivalent to a 12oz. cup of brewed coffee.  One 24 oz. can of monster contains 240 mg of caffeine (7x the amount in a 12oz. soda), meaning that Anais consumed 480 mg of caffeine when she drank two cans.  While reading about the amount she consumed, I wondered: what exactly is in these drinks?  Curious, I looked up the ingredients, and listed just a few of the many that I have no idea how to pronounce. Your guess as good as mine when it comes to what some of these things are:

  • taurine
  • caffeine
  • niacinamide
  • sodium chloride
  • glucuronolactone
  • inositol
  • guarana seed extract
  • pyridoxine
  • hydrochloride
  • ...just to name a few!


Some of the effects of caffeine overdose can be seen in the diagram above. The most common symptoms I was able to find related to increased heart rate, heart palpatations, nervousness, and other symptoms that would be associated with a overdose of a stimulant.  Currently, there is no scientific information that leads us to believe that caffeine affects people differently based on their race or sex. 

In light of the dangerous health risks posed by caffeine consumption, pressure has been put on the FDA by several members of Congress to impose stricter limitations.  When it comes to sodas, the FDA limits the caffeine to 0.02% of the drink.  Surprising, there exists no such limit for energy drinks. 

More information related to this topic can be found at: 




Why do we sigh?


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Everyone does it. We all sigh at some points. Some sigh more than others, but we often do it at least once a day. Well, according to a group of Belgian researchers, we often sigh to hit the internal "reset button". The team conducted a study using 8 men and 34 women monitoring their daily breathing and seeing when some breathes were shorter or longer than others. They found that women sighed more often than men. (I immediately questioned this seeing as they only had 8 men in the study, it seemed strange that there was such a large gender distribution). How wouldn't have more women sighed?

natalia-breathing.jpgAnother study found that when people sigh it actually effects their respiratory system. If people sigh at the right times, and don't "over sigh" (yes, there is such a thing) their heart rate can come down, their blood pressure can return to a normal level, and they can regain mental composure. As one scientist put it, "It's really a miracle if you think about it." Well, let's not go THAT far, but it is definitely an effective relaxation tool. 

The "Nice Guy" Chemical


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Every so often, either you or someone you know will go completely out of their way to help someone. They drop everything they are doing, and immediately pivot their attention to helping another person they believe is in need. Sometimes its something small, like helping someone with homework, and other times it is something major like driving someone to the hospital.

 

Whichever way you look at it, sometimes we do things that directly make ourselves worse off in order to help another. In theory, this is completely irrational, and therefore we should never partake in these sorts of actions. We do though, some of us more often than others.

 

In short, why are some of nice, and some of us mean?

 

With an issue so broad, you might be thinking that this will be a complicated answer spanning three paragraphs describing some crazy brain function that I have to grossly simplify to fit into a blog. It's not. The answer is actually one word, Oxytocin, and as I will explain, it is quite possibly the most important and powerful chemical in biological existence. This is why it has sparked articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Sydney Morning Herald, all going into great detail about the molecule, how it works, and what it means for our behavior.

 

Oxytocin is a hormone that is released by the pituitary gland under certain circumstances in the brain. It was recognized as the main chemical released during and after childbirth, and it's roles were mainly associated with motherly care for most of it's known existence. Over the past decade or so the idea that this is the sole purpose of the chemical has been turned completely upside down. It is now known that it's release is present in both males and females, and any time an action that is considered kind or caring is done, the action can often be associated with elevated levels of oxytocin in the person doing so.

 

That's not the main reason why it is so important. If someone does something nice for you, your oxytocin levels will rise, making it more likely that you will perform the same sort of action for someone else. Your body then, in essence, has a biological mechanism that causes a sort of "help me, help you" effect. The exact extent of this effect varies from person to person though, as the receptor defined by the genetic coding is different.

 

Do not for one moment think that oxytocin's function is specifically related to how nice we are, because it's not. The determination of kindness is more of a side-effect of it's presence. What it really does is give human's trust in one another, giving us the mental capacity to interact with and generally be around people who are not of direct biological relation to us. So it is, in essence, the chemical that holds our society together.

 

One key aspect about this whole idea of Oxytocin as the sort of "nice guy" chemical is the receptors in everyone's body. Specifically, people don't all carry the same receptors for the chemical, and which one you have can drastically influence your behavior. There was a test done on two variants of the receptor, the A and G, to figure out what sort of different effect the two have. The results showed that subjects carrying the G variant did well on tests relating to empathy, and poorly on a stress test, where as the A variant subjects had the complete opposite results.


These tests revealed another side effect of the chemical. The empathy test they used was to take a bunch of black and white photos of people's facial expressions, and the subjects guessed what sort of emotion the person was feeling. The results indicated that the G variant carriers, the "nicer" people, were significantly more accurate in guessing what the emotion of the subjects in the photos were feeling. So what this says is that in essence, nice people are also much better at reading people.

 

It is very important to note that while Oxytocin does explain a lot, it doesn't cover everything. It has nothing to do with the development of the frontal lobe, which is it's own topic entirely. Oxytocin does not determine intelligence, maturity, or risk-taking, all of which are entirely different topics which also play a part in one's personality.

 

It does, however, explain why the person sitting next to you right now always saves a seat for you when they get there, or why they choose to avoid doing so. It gives a scientific mechanism for why some people help, and others hurt.

 

But what about the rest? Is that all concrete to, or are my other major characteristics developed over time, unlike my Oxytocin receptors?

 

While I'm supposed to end with a question, I actually want to end with another quick statement about Oxytocin. It is EXTREMELY sensitive. It is there, and then it's gone just like that. More importantly, it's release can be triggered by the smallest actions. The smallest act of kindness (or as your brain reads it, trust) can cause the release of oxytocin in someone else. Something as small as holding the door could cause someone to become immediately more inclined to do an act of kindness for another. So if you are into trying to make the world a better place, start small, and trust that science will do it's magic in starting a sort of chain reaction of similar actions.

Most people these days believe that driving drunk is the worst thing you can do in a car. Although drunk driving is a horrible thing to do, is driving while you're tired even worse? I decided to research this more to find out.

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When a person becomes drowsy or sleepy, it effects many things about their body.  First, it effects reaction time which is important when you're driving because you need to be able to stay alert with what all the cars around you are doing. Second, it effects your attention span and the ability to process information, which are both really important things you need to be aware of when driving. Lastly, it simply slows your brain down. When your brain slows down, so does every other function of the body. This means things like making quick decisions and even having time to think about what turn you're going to take next. Since the effects of driving drowsy are similar to the ones of driving drunk, it's hard for scientists to really decide which is worse.

Mythbusters recently did an experiment between driving drunk and driving drowsy to see which was worse. For the experiment, they set up two driving courses. The first course was set up to imitate real life situations in driving such as stop signs, traffic lights, turns, and parallel parking. The other course was simply set up like a race track to test the drivers attention spans. To begin the experiment, two drivers, one male and one female, drove on the two different courses while they were sober to establish a baseline. Then they had the two drivers down a couple of shots, and drive the course again while they recorded the results. After the drivers had a good night's sleep, they were forced to stay up for 30 hours straight so they were real drowsy. They then drove the two courses again while they recorded the results. After comparing the results, while both driving drunk and driving drowsy proved to be dangerous, driving drowsy had more dangerous effects. The male driver actually drove 10 times worse when he was tired rather than drunk, and the female drove 3 times worse when she was tired as well. This experiment seems to support the hypothesis that driving drowsy is worse than driving drunk. It's hard to completely agree with this experiment though, simply because it's hard to determine whether or not both drivers had the same BAC levels when they were driving drunk so it might have messed up the results a bit. It's also hard to pinpoint a time when people become drowsy to the point where they can't drive because there isn't, for example, a "breathalyzer" for sleepiness levels. That point is different for every person.

Since it's hard to make all the variables equal in an experiment like the mythbusters one, I feel like it's almost better to just compare statistics and observational studies about driving drowsy versus driving drunk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in every six fatal car crashes is due to a fatigued driver as compared to one in every three fatal crashes being caused by a drunk driver. These statistics show the opposite of the experiment. They show that driving drunk is worse. The only thing that's different about these statistics though is that they compare "fatal" crashes, not all crashes. Maybe on a larger scale including all crashes, the results might be different.

The bottom line is, you shouldn't drive drunk or while drowsy because both can be fatally dangerous for you and other people on the road. What do you guys think? Do you think driving drowsy can be worse than driving drunk?

The Older Brother Effect


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Homosexuality has probably been one of the most debated topics in science and psychology in the past century. With the advent of the idea of sexual freedom, scientists felt compelled to classify homosexuality in our world. Begining with the idea of mental illness in the 70's science, like society has opened up its attitudes towards the subject with a more unbiased approach than what was done earlier. The other night, for a class project, I ended up watching a really interesting documentary about Homosexuality, "Because the Bible tells me so" and a statement made in the movie really intrigued me. It was that "with more successive male children a family has the chances of the youngest male child to be a homosexual increases".  It seemed pretty irrational to me in the first instance, considering I have an older brother, I myself found it harder to believe. In fact if it were true, the implications of such a statement could be vast. I found myself on a quest for answers.

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This theory, called the "Older Brother Effect" , was first suggested by Ray Blanchard in 2001 who hypothesised that each older brother increases the chance for the next male child to be gay by about 33%  on the basis of the interactions between the male foetus and the immune system of the mother. In the research;, family backgrounds of  302 gay men and 302 straight men were studied. However this finding was was highly debated upon and met with a lot of criticisms. Scientists tried to explain the findings not through the biological means but in the  psychological terms stating it probably depends on the sociological environment the child grows up in - a notion that was quite resonant with what was believed to be the cause of Homosexuality. 

Similar to Blanchard's  observations - Anthony Bogaert conducted a Study where in 944 males (hetero and homosexual) were examined. various factors like the number of male and female siblings, relation by blood, if they lived in the same household, adoption etc where taken into account thus making this study more extensive and concrete. The research found that the chances of a child with an older brother being gay are more than the chances of a child with no older brother. The idea was still relevant even if the siblings grew up in different households but were related by blood. This finding, though resonating with Blanchard's findings was more believable thanks to the well designed experiment. Anthony Bogaert did try to give a biologival explanation just like Blanchard, ruling out  the idea that social factors control sexual orientation and that it  probably has to do with the

But what does this mean to us all? Before we all reach a conclusion I felt that this field required more replicated studies to completely rule out the idea of the statistics being there by chance. Also scientists counter by arguing that mormons who have large families do not produce a lot of gay men - a pretty interesting idea although not backed by facts. If the studies were proven to be true - it could very well have huge impacts on our lives. Homophobic parents would produce less children, with family planning changing the demography. The research I felt was interesting because it showed that Homosexuality was not something that one chose, as pre supposed, but was something that was inherent biologically. Similar to the class discussion we had about Homosexuality in animals, these researches add to the numerous challenges facing science today. This field of study is young and I feel more studies will benefit the outlook of society and maybe improve it.

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References : http://www.pnas.org/content/103/28/10531.full http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraternal_birth_order_and_male_sexual_orientation#cite_note-8

     

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     It's not all of us who've had both the pleasure and pain of experiencing a broken heart. The typical physical effects that manifest themselves after a severe breakup include but are not limited to depression, chest pains, upset stomach, and the inability to eat. This, however, varies from person to person. I've always found it interesting to think that something that happens emotionally could manifest itself physically. It almost seems unlikely or just overly dramatized. Turns out that it actually is not. It seems to be that our brain is not able to differentiate the pain from a disease or injury and the pain from being rejected by a lover. 

     According to an article from the L.A. Times researchers from Columbia University, University of Michigan and the University of Colorado conducted the following experiment. They gathered a group of people who had recently been heartbroken by the end of a relationship. Each individual was put into a brain scanner as they looked at pictures of their ex significant others and pondered the feelings and hurt that arose following the rejection. In separate scanning sessions, the subjects had "the laboratory equivalent of a hot poker held to the forearm (an 8 on a 10-point pain scale)". The increased blood flow to specific areas of the brain was extremely similar for those suffering from heart ache and those experiencing physical pain. Two of these areas are ones that neuroscientists associate almost distinctively with physical pain. 

    The "neural overlap" between these two emotions comes with the feeling of pain that humans experience by social rejection as well as say, being poked in the eye. However, the pain from heart ache just isn't as evident. These studies seem to be part of a relatively new body of research. However, they definitely seem to make sense to me and I'm sure it will too for those who have experienced heart ache or a strong feeling of rejection of a social nature. 


Have you ever felt physical pain as a result of emotional hurt? 

Tanning has become more and more popular and many people will say that having dark skin makes you look and feel better. Television shows like the Jersey Shore, actually view tanning as part of their lifestyle. We have all seen that dark bronze girl walking around in the dead of winter and joke to each other saying "someone's addicted to tanning". Now, new studies are showing that the statement may be true.

When I think of someone being addicted to tanning, I think they are just addicted to the way they look when they are tan. Similar to women who always get their nails done, it is not physically addicting but they continue to do it because they simply love the way their nails look after a trip to the salon. New studies are showing that the UV lights in tanning beds actually activate parts of the brain that play a role in addiction. One study concluded saying UV light was a type of substance disorder.

UT Southwestern medical center researched it even further saying "people who frequently use tanning beds may be spurred by an addictive neurological reward-and-reinforcement trigger".  In this experiment, frequent tanners participated in this study and went tanning on two different occasions. One was a controlled occasion where they went to a regular tanning bed and were exposed to the UV light and the other where a special filter blocked only the UV light without the tanners' knowledge. By using a radioisotpe, they were able to monitor the brain activity during each tanning session. Brain images showed that when the study subjects were exposed to UV rays, the areas of the brain that are associated with addiction were activated much more than when they were not exposed to the UV light.

The participants were also asked after each tanning session how much they wanted to tan again. The tanners who were just exposed to the UV light had less desire saying they've "gotten their fix" and the tanners who were not exposed to the UV light felt that they needed to go tanning again.

An article in the New York Times explains another reason tanners are addicted to tanning is because "tanners also report mood enhancement, relaxation and socialization". Most of these results show that tanning is addiciting in some way or the other, but does it affect every person the same way? Does it affect someone who lives in New York differently than someone who lives in Florida? Whether the UV light is physically activating addiction in the brain or girls simply just want the look of dark skin, women continue to tan despite the known risks associated with tanning.

Smartphones are all the rage these days and most people won't leave their house without it. Not only is it a phone, but a computer, and we use it for just about everything. The scary truth is that because it is constantly in use and goes everywhere you go, it is a breeding ground for bacteria and can actually be harmful to your health.

Smartphones carry bacteria called coliform that indicates fecal contamination. One study concluded that smartphones are as dirty as bathroom doors! The germs found on smartphones are the same germs found on computers, keys, and pens but the health risks are greater with smartphones because they are with us everywhere. We have our smartphones at the gym, at work, during lunch, and by our pillow at night and are continuously close to our ears and mouths. 

A study reported in the Wall Street Journal tested eight random phones from an office in Chicago and found 2,700 and 4,200 units of coliform bacteria. You only need to ingest as few as 10 organisms of some of these bacteria to get sick, "Bacteria from a phone can cause flu, pinkeye or diarrhea".  The bacteria from our phones could also explain one of the causes of acne.

So how can we avoid this health risk when we feel as though we need our phones? The best way to reduce the risk would be to keep good hygiene by washing your hands and also regularly cleaning your smartphone. Here are some tips from ABC News and PC World on how to clean your smartphone.

I wonder if it is possible to make a smartphone that doesn't attract bacteria. Maybe if the phone didn't heat up like a lot of smartphone or a different material is used to make the phones then it would attract fewer amounts of bacteria. Headsets would also be a better solution to use than having the phone touching your face. However, if we start using headphones every time we make a phone call, won't the headphones start attracting more and more bacteria? It is scary that one of the closes devices you have can be harmful to your health. We might not always be able to avoid bacteria but we can take actions to reduce our risks of exposure.

A recent report published in U.S. News has shown that students with ADHD might have a harder time transitioning into college from high school. Why is this? College is much different than high school. College has more boundaries, experiences, and classes to understand. Students who are fresh out of high school who have ADHD might find that college is a bit more difficult than they had ever imagined. 

Kristy Morgan, a recent Kansas State doctoral graduate, conducted interviews with eight different students and said, "The ones who are going to do best are those who come to college prepared, who are aware of their weaknesses and have some strategies for compensating." 

However, when students go off to college, a bit of a pattern emerges. Students with ADHD often found that their studying skills weren't exactly as strong as they hoped they'd be, especially with the added rigor of college-level classes. They also found it difficult to manage their time properly, as opposed to the rigidity that they had in their high schools. College can also be immensely distracting, especially to those who who need instant gratification or have hyperactive tendencies. Students with ADHD were also underutilizing campus resources designed to help them make the best of their college careers, some out of shame, and others out of lack of knowledge. 

After reading this article, it made more sense to me as to why I struggled a bit my first semester of college, even while being on Strattera (a non-stimulant, as opposed to Ritalin and Adderall), and why my brother, who also has ADHD, is struggling as well in his first semester right now. I'm on my fourth year of figuring out this college thing, and while I haven't been able to shake my procrastination skills, I've at least learned that having ADHD in college is a bit of a struggle, especially since I am the type of person who is a bit hyperactive and easily distracted. Of course, this led me to some questions: Why do students without ADHD feel the need to take Ritalin or Adderall to help them concentrate or do better in their studies? Why is it that it seems like those two drugs are the common study drugs that people use, instead of the drug I'm on? Most importantly, why are people with ADHD so afraid of the stigma?
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Lil Jaxe is his rap name. Jake Zeldin,a 13 year old unknown boy from Toronto, overnight paved his way to fame by showcasing his impressive raping talents. What's so special about him you might ask? He has a stutter. With his stutter affecting his way of communicating since he was 3 years old, Jake Zeldin has struggled with his speech impediment for a little over 10 years. Since being diagnosed with a stutter, Jake's family has done everything from speech therapy to private classes so that Jake could be helped with is stutter. It didn't work, but one day Jake unknowingly stumbled on his cure. For some miraculous and amazing reason Jake's stutter disappears when he begins to rap. How is this possible? Well before I enter this topic into depth  I'd like for you to understand the extent of his speech impediment and the extent of his miraculous rapping cure. Here's a clip of Lil Jaxe's new single Thomas Edison. Now check out his interview with CTV News. Is this person the same person you may be asking yourself. "How is this possible?", I was asking myself. As shown in the video, how Dr. Robert Knoll from the Speech and Stuttering Institute explains it is,"when you change, and whether you either speak faster or speak slower, you are utilizing different parts of the brain and therefore speech made me altered." Other scientists believe it's because the part of the brain used during rapping is different than the part used while talking and others attribute this phenomenon to Jake's complex neurology. So if this is the case, shouldn't all individuals that stutter be able to get rid of it when they quicken their pace of speech? 
The Halitosis Bomb or "gay bomb" was proposed by the U.S. Air Force in 1994. The Wright Laboratory ended up winning the Ig Nobel Peace Prize that same year. (The Ig Nobel Peace Prize is given to 10 of the most unusual scientific feats of the year.) The way the bomb works is that it releases a strong aphrodisiac that would cause enemy troops to be sexually attracted to each other. It has yet to be used, though scientists claim that it would in fact work. 
F16Bomb.jpgI obviously had a couple questions regarding this. The idea is that the enemy ranks would be undermined because the soldiers would be overcome by their attraction to one another. But, what if some of the men already feel attracted to their own sex. Then what? And the only evidence seems to be talking about male soldiers. Would women become attracted to women? How long does the intense feeling of attraction last? Why couldn't we test this on animals?

The Joy of Soy?


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Edamame is delicious. So is soy milk. However, I have to eat and drink these things
sparingly, only because I've learned that soy is my enemy. I don't have a soy allergy, but rather, I'm at a higher risk of developing estrogen receptive breast cancer. In reality, should I be avoiding all of these soy-containing products, or learn to embrace them, despite the fear of getting a cancer that feeds off of estrogen?

For starters, soy has something called isoflavones, which are similar in chemical structure to estrogen. Estrogen can fuel cancers that are hormonally-receptive, much like my mother's breast cancer. I'm also not the only one who has questioned whether or not they can eat things that contain soy over this fear, and possible misconception.

According to the American Cancer Society, soy is perfectly okay to eat in moderation, especially if hormone-receptive cancers run in your family. Oddly enough, scientists have found that there really isn't a connection between eating soy and getting breast cancer. What's even more interesting is that people who ate more soy ended up having less breast cancer. Also, studies done on Asian women have shown that they have a lower risk (24% lower!) of developing breast cancer. These women were also the ones that ate the most soy products. There wasn't an association between a lower breast cancer risk and soy in the U.S. and other Western countries, probably due to the fact that the diets of Asian women in countries like China, Japan, and Korea are much different than the diets of Western women today. 

The ACS released some guidelines earlier this year entitled Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors. A panel of experts, as well as researchers who have been looking into this subject have come out and said that breast cancer survivors can eat soy products, because there are no harmful effects from it, no matter what type of cancer a person had. The only thing these guidelines advise against is taking a soy supplement, which contains more isoflavones than one would normally take in through their diet. 

On the plus side, soy products can also help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease! If anything, that's a great reason to go out and eat soy, even if estrogen-receptive cancers run in your family. What's your take on this? Did you know that some cancers are fueled by estrogen, and that people tend to avoid certain foods because of the fear associated with it?
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Can you catch a cold from being cold?

Growing up many time I have heard "Button up or jacket you going to catch a cold "or " Cover up your neck before you get a cold " I never really understood how you could get a cold from being cold but I did what I was told . This is a question that I still wonder what the answer is and it has inspired me to research the answer

How do you catch a cold? http://www.drmirkin.com/morehealth/9941.html

A cold is caused by an infection to your immune system. Infection is caused by germs that get into your body from close contact from people who are sick. For instance, you when other person who sneeze or cough in your face or transmit germs with their hands to objects that you touch. Research shows that the most common way to get a cold is from someone who has a cold, sneezes on his hands, and then shakes yours.  Another way you can also get a cold when a person blows his nose or coughs into a handkerchief and gets some of the germs on his hands, then touches a door knob, and hours later, you touch the door knob and put your fingers in your nose. A way to prevent the common cold is to wash your hands often and spray Lysol.

But why is that more people get colds in the winter?

One belief is that more people catch cold in the winter because everyone is in school and you are surrounded by more people who have the cold all the day. As in the summer time you are surrounded by less people and for different times

Another belief is that our amount of Vitamin D is lower because our skin isn't receiving the same amount of sunlight as it was in the summer. Therefore resulting in our bodies being more prone to illnesseshttp://wiki.answers.com/Q/Can_you_catch_a_cold_from_being_in_the_cold

Why do you believe that we catch more colds in the winter time?

Two weeks ago, Penn State had a mandatory meeting regarding Hazing within the greek community here. The results were somewhat staggering. A presentation made it clear  that over half of greek life thought that other sororities/fraternities were hazing, which made some of students more likely to haze because they felt others were doing it. Well, according to a study by cornell  many students are hazing to just to "fit in". It has become a problem in that many students around the country, including Penn State, are having trouble speaking up. 
college.jpgIn the seminar mentioned, the speaker also talked about how all of this goes back to the "hot topic" of bullying. Certain kids (and really adults too) have this notion that they "had it the hard way" and don't want to let anyone get by easy. Hence there is hazing on athletic teams, clubs, and fraternities. The science piece comes in because the article essentially says that the power of numbers can change someone's opinion in a matter of seconds. Because they feel so overwhelmed, and may think otherwise, they mentally convince themselves that they are doing the right thing and actually agree with what is going on. 

In August 2011 former Falcons player, Ray Easterling, sued the NFL for failing to treat concussed footballs players properly and hiding any brain injuries linked to concussions.  On April 19th, 2012, he died from a self-inflicting gun shot after years of suffering from depression, insomnia, memory loss and dementia. He is not the only football player to die by his own hands, and he is not the only person who thought that his pain was caused by head injuries that happened while playing football. There might be some truth in his theory.

"The roughly 20 N.F.L. veterans found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- several of whom committed suicide -- died unaware of the disease clawing at their brains, how the protein deposits and damaged neurons contributed to their condition."

Former NFL player Dave Duerson was the first player to commit suicide after indicating that his brain injuries from football could be the cause of his death. Family members said he purposely shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be examined like Andre Waters was.  Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist of the University of Pittsburgh examined the remaining of Waters brain tissue and discovered a degenerative disease that he believed was caused from multiple concussions caused from playing football. This disease was also found in boxers, who continually face blows to the head.

In an article in Newsmax Health, Dr. Blaylock says glutamate can explain the causes of suicide from head injuries.  "Repeated injuries cause the microglial immune cells in the brain to become overactive and release toxic levels of glutamate, which creates a state of immunoexcitotoxicity in the brain." When glutamate is released in the brain, it can cause severe depression which can ultimately lead to suicide.

The latest football player to die by his own hands was former San Diego Charger, Junior Seau. Many hoped that his death would finally be what changes the way we think about the damages done from brain injury during football. But Seau has never been reported having suffered from concussions and some argue whether other causes like his disturbing childhood could be to blame.  Neurologist and sports medicine expert Anthony Alessi disagrees, saying "that's unlikely ... rather, impossible. Usually the person doesn't realize it and doesn't report it."

Another article says "it's well-known that athletes who suddenly can't play the game they love - whether because of injury or retirement - are susceptible to depression." So maybe there are other factors that contribute to players' depression, but how can we really prove what the sole reasoning is for their pain? These players who, who knows how many injuries they have suffered without knowing and without reporting, all committed suicide because of their pain that they themselves believe was caused from their football career. This can't just be coincidence. These studies show that their brain injuries from football are most likely the major causes of their depression and pain. Now we need to bring more awareness to these injuries so they are always reported and taken seriously.

 

 

       Recently, I was looking up why the actors in classic movies speak with such a weird accent. Initially, this made up, Trans-Atlantic accent was going to be the topic for my blog post, however, while I was researching the science behind accents, I came across something I thought to be both more scientific and relevant. 

       Is it possible to tell someone's sexual orientation through speech?

       According to a study by Ohio State University, the average person can determine whether or not a man is gay or straight based on the sound of their voice. In the study, seven gay and seven straight men were recorded saying a variety of monosyllabic words. The recordings were then replayed to subjects, who would then guess as to whether the speaker was gay or straight after hearing the first letter sound, first two letter sounds, and then the entire word. The study showed that after hearing the first two letter sounds, the subjects, 75 percent of the time, were able to distinguish the speaker's sexual orientation. Scientist responsible for the study attribute the significance to the vowel sounds generally placed in the second letter sound. In response to these results, Erick C. Tracy, lead author of the study stated, "We believe that listeners are using the acoustic information contained in vowels to make this sexual orientation decision."

            Results from Northwestern University's 2004 study show similar results, although their study included gay, bisexual, and straight men and women.  By including all different types of people, their study was able to clear the air about common misconceptions that gay men portray similar speech patterns as straight women, or that bisexual or lesbian women have similar speech patterns as those of straight men.  

            Although both studies' findings are very interesting, there is fear that the results will encourage stereotypes about the GLB community. Do you think this is true? 

            Lastly, do you think the "gayccent" occurs in all cultures and languages? And what do you suggest may be the science behind it?

Earlier this week I warned my roommate of the grotesque danger of consuming apple juice at a furious pace. Although I did not want him to suffer, he scoffed at me and began to consume the drink as if he would never again feel the sense of hydration. Later that night he came back to tell me that I was in fact correct, he had a horrible stomach ache for about half an hour. After that, it was gone, but it was a horrible pain. From there, we tried to figure out what exactly makes apple juice so painful if you drink it too fast?
4564520320_82b4fe4852.jpgWell, it turns out that it isn't just apple juice. It's an actual phenomenon that happens with a lot of fruit juices. According to Ross Butler, an Australian Professor, it has to do with the amount of fructose that is being consumed. In the article linked above, it states that children from ages 1 to 6 are often found to have malabsorption of fructose, (meaning it doesn't digest correctly). While over a third of grown adults faced the same problem. There is no immediate solution to this problem of digesting fructose, but I warn from personal experience, drink fruit juices (especially apple) with caution.  
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My mom is always cold, and that is not an exaggeration. We can be at the beach in July, temperatures at 98 degrees, and my mom will still say that she's cold. She's not the only person like this that I know either. My roommate almost always needs the heat on, or she's freezing. So if we're all built fundamentally the same, why do people perceive temperature so completely differently?

It turns out it has to do with nerve receptors buried deep beneath our skin's surface, that never even come into contact with environmental stimuli. Scientists have found that these receptors can be triggered by hormones, proteins, or other chemicals in the body. This causes a person to feel hot or cold, regardless of what the environmental stimuli may be. 

Because of these receptors and the stimuli they respond to, my mom and I can be in the same environment and feel completely differently temperature wise. This also seems to explain why my roommate can be bundled up in a sweatshirt and blanket and still be cold, while I'm fine in a t-shirt and jeans. 

What I'm wondering, that hasn't been discussed in this study, is whether we can find a way to control these nerves and change the body's temperature regardless of the environmental stimuli. Could we develop a way to send scientists to the Arctic, armed with a pill containing hormones to stimulate these nerves and cause the body to warm up despite the freezing temperatures of the environment? I think that's where this science could get really interesting!

In this article, we read about myoclonus, which is the scientific term for the twitching before someone falls asleep. As someone in this class already discussed, there are in fact multiple theories as to why this exists. None of them have been officially confirmed, but a few are speculated as being the most probable. The first two being that someone is in and out of sleep, their muscles are relaxed, and they are either in a dream which causes them to twitch, or it as involuntary muscle movement. 

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However, the last one, and to me the most interesting is the theory that people twitch in their sleep because of evolution. The theory essentially states that when we were primates and lived in trees, our body would wake us up before we fell asleep so that we did not fall to the ground. If this theory were to be true, that would mean that this trait given to us by our ancestors would have had to last thousands and thousands of years. Of course some pieces of evolution have gotten us to where we are in 2012, but if you look at most of parts of evolution, they are essential in our survival. By Darwin's standards, the "trait" would have died out by now, because we no longer sleep in trees and haven't slept high above the ground in thousands of years. So what do you think? Is this realistic? Or is it too far fetched?

ADHD. Four letters that have become common in the vocabulary of our generation. Has there been an outbreak of the disorder in the past ten years that has caused the latest generation to obtain the disorder? Or, are doctors more liberally diagnosing this disorder? And if so, for what reason?

To put the sudden outbreak of ADD and ADHD into perspective, "More children in the U.S. are being diagnosed with ADHD than even before -- 10.4 million in 2010 -- according to a new study that concluded a staggering rise in diagnoses of 66 percent since the year 2000" (Bindley 1). So, what is it exactly that is causing the increases in the amount of patients diagnosed?

As with any authorized disorder, both ADD and ADHD have valid diagnostic criteria, but do all of those being diagnosed fit said criteria?

Studies show that misdiagnosing is done particularly when, "the prototype is male and shows symptoms such as motoric restlessness, lack of concentration and impulsiveness" and the unwarranted diagnoses are given more frequently to males over females.

William Barbaresi, MD explains that the frequent misdiagnose is due to the bias that boys are more disruptive than girls, and therefore require the treatment for the disorder. However, Barbaresi claims of his study, "The fact that we had the medical and school records for every single child born in the community during this six year period makes us confident that the gender difference we saw was real" (Boyles 7).

Studies show that many cases of ADD and ADHD are found in children who were born with a low birth weight and/or complications during pregnancy.

So do all the young children (primarily boys) being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD fit the diagnostic criteria and the typical medical background? Probably not.

An article posted by the Huffington Post explains that in October of 2011, "The American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines to suggest that children as young as 4 and as old as 18 could be evaluated and treated for the disorder. Previously, it only targeted those between 6 and 12." So maybe children are being diagnosed too early and or too late? Perhaps it cannot be determined whether or not a 4 year old actually has the disorder, perhaps the 4 year old is just acting like a 4 year old.

Many psychologists and medical doctors alike, believe that the over-diagnosing of the disorders is sparked by the media, "As media attention increased, ADHD diagnoses also became inflationary. Between 1989 and 2001, the number of diagnoses in German clinical practice increased by 381 percent. The costs for ADHD medication, such as for the performance-enhancer Methylphenidate, have increased 9 times between 1993 and 2003" (Staff 2). Another hypothesis is that parents want their children to receive treatment for the disorders to make their children more calm, cooperative, and mannerly.

What else could explain the dramatic increase in children obtaining the disorder? 


Works Consulted:

Bindley, Katherine. "ADHD Diagnoses In Children Up 66 Percent." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/adhd-diagnoses-up-by-66-perent_n_1370793.html>.

"You Knew This: ADD And ADHD Over-Diagnosed." You Knew This: ADD And ADHD Over-Diagnosed. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://www.science20.com/news_articles/you_knew_add_and_adhd_overdiagnosed-88627>.

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I watch a lot of television. Like, a lot. More than a normal person does or, rather, should. But I am sure I am not the only person who gets entirely too emotionally invested in the lives of television characters. I cheer when good things happen and I get depressed when they encounter tragedy (and let's just put it out there, sometimes I cry, sue me!). But I never really wondered why that is until now. Why do I care so much about the lives of people that, well, just aren't real?

The answer I found was pretty simple. The question has been asked pretty often, but the answer isn't too far-fetched. Television is an escape for many people. We love to see characters doing things we will never do (I will never be a bad-ass CIA agent like Carrie on Homeland, and that's why it is my favorite show). We live vicariously through the things these fictional characters do. So it is easy to understand that we become a little obsessed with things that these characters do. Additionally, television serves as an outlet for our own hopes and desires, and can inspire hope in a person. Thus, people become obsessed with television because it helps them escape their own world which doesn't always seem bright.

So the emotional investment is pretty clear to see. We become enamored with these characters and what they are doing that we get a little more emotional than we should when it comes to their actions. Is it unhealthy? Well it hasn't been proven to be detrimental yet, so I say obsess on, TV lovers!

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Going along with my previous post about compulsive hoarding, I wanted to look up other strange addictions. Something incredible I found was that it is actually considered a medical condition to be addicted to food. That's right, just like being addicted to drugs and alcohol; people have been diagnosed as food addicts. Personally, I found this a little ridiculous, but many websites supported the idea that people actually are unable to control their eating habits. So-called symptoms of food addiction include:

1.     End up eating more than planned when you start eating certain foods

2.     Keep eating certain foods even if you're no longer hungry

3.     Eat to the point of feeling ill

4.     Worry about not eating certain types of foods or worry about cutting down on certain types of foods

5.     When certain foods aren't available, go out of your way to obtain them

 

Not only these symptoms, but doctors also conclude that people who are addicted to food will avoid social situations to avoid over eating and also "fear" working and school because they don't believe they can function properly without food. They conclude that people feel some sort of anxiety and fear if they can't be constantly surrounded by food.

Now I don't know about any of you, but to me this didn't sound like any actual "disorder" as I was reading up about it. I would assume that most obese people suffer from these "symptoms", and that just might be a side effect of being overweight. However, after reading more into it, there was much more medical reasoning to back up this disorder. For instance, studies in animals and humans have showed that the reward centers in the brain that activate when using highly addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin are the same ones activated when people are eating certain foods, especially those high in fat, sugar, and salt. Because of studies like this, food addiction has been classified as a biological disorder by the medical field.

Still not buying it? One article I read provided an especially intriguing example to back up food addiction. In the movie Super Size Me, when Morgan Spurlock first eats all the McDonald's food, he isn't able to stomach it. However, by the end of the movie not only can he stomach it, but he felt better after eating it. The way he felt can be considered similar to how a drug or alcohol addict feels once they've satisfied their cravings. Millions of people believe that food addiction is a real disorder, and there are even multiple websites to back it up. So what do you think, food addiction, fact or fiction?? 

What would you do


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Should you become a Vegetarian?

There have been a lot of debates about whether a person should become a vegetarian or continue to be a carnivore. There have been many debates supporting both sides. For Instance, a lot of people believe that if the US became vegetarians' it would not only be better for the environment it would help the economy as well.

Could a vegetarian lifestyle be better for the enviorment?The benefits of being an vegetarian                                                            

What is a vegetarian?

 A vegetarian is a person who decides to eat mainly fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts. But they stay away eat meat, poultry, and fish. Many vegetarians eat eggs and/or dairy products but avoid hidden animal products such as beef and chicken stocks, lard, and gelatin.

The Health benefits

According to the ADA, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing:

•Heart disease

•Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers

•Diabetes

•Obesity

•Hypertension (high blood pressure)

The reason being is that a Healthy Vegetarian takes in a low amount of fat and a lot of fiber, which is good for the body. Because vegetarians' are regular people it doesn't mean that they don't eat unhealthy snacks that can contribute to bad health as well.  With this being said, having a vegetarian diet need to be well plan in order to help prevent and treat certain diseases.

What to look out for

Even though there are many positive effects of being a vegetarian, there are some risks if your diet isn't well balanced. You can have a lack of key vitamins and nutrients that are very important such as: Protein calcium, Vitamin D and Iron.

1.       Protein

When people are considering becoming a vegetarian, protein intake is a major concern for the people. Studies show that if you eat a well-balanced diet you should have enough protein ;some food that have protein in them are orange juice, whole grains, lentils, beans, tofu, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, tempeh, eggs, and peas.

2.       Calcium

It is recommended that people ages 19-50onsume at least 1000mg of calcium per day -- the equivalent of 3 cups of milk or yogurt. To reach the recommended intake you can eat fat free yogurt, cheese and other dairy products. Calcium is also found in many plant foods including dark, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale, mustard, collard and turnip greens, and bok choy), broccoli, beans, dried figs, and sunflower seeds, as well as in calcium-fortified cereals, cereal bars

3.       Vitamin D

There are few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, though. Therefore, dairy products in the US are field with vitamin D. Many soy milk products are also field with vitamin D

4.       Iron

Iron-fortified breads and cereals, dark green vegetables (e.g. spinach and broccoli), dried fruits, prune juice, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and soybean nuts are good plant sources of iron .Also, cooking in an iron pot will help

http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/nutrition_&_eating_concerns/being_a_vegetarian.php

What would you do


| 0 Comments

Should you become a Vegetarian?

There have been a lot of debates about whether a person should become a vegetarian or continue to be a carnivore. There have been many debates supporting both sides. For Instance, a lot of people believe that if the US became vegetarians' it would not only be better for the environment it would help the economy as well.

Could a vegetarian lifestyle be better for the enviorment?The benefits of being an vegetarian                                                            

What is a vegetarian?

 A vegetarian is a person who decides to eat mainly fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts. But they stay away eat meat, poultry, and fish. Many vegetarians eat eggs and/or dairy products but avoid hidden animal products such as beef and chicken stocks, lard, and gelatin.

The Health benefits

According to the ADA, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing:

•Heart disease

•Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers

•Diabetes

•Obesity

•Hypertension (high blood pressure)

The reason being is that a Healthy Vegetarian takes in a low amount of fat and a lot of fiber, which is good for the body. Because vegetarians' are regular people it doesn't mean that they don't eat unhealthy snacks that can contribute to bad health as well.  With this being said, having a vegetarian diet need to be well plan in order to help prevent and treat certain diseases.

What to look out for

Even though there are many positive effects of being a vegetarian, there are some risks if your diet isn't well balanced. You can have a lack of key vitamins and nutrients that are very important such as: Protein calcium, Vitamin D and Iron.

1.       Protein

When people are considering becoming a vegetarian, protein intake is a major concern for the people. Studies show that if you eat a well-balanced diet you should have enough protein ;some food that have protein in them are orange juice, whole grains, lentils, beans, tofu, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, tempeh, eggs, and peas.

2.       Calcium

It is recommended that people ages 19-50onsume at least 1000mg of calcium per day -- the equivalent of 3 cups of milk or yogurt. To reach the recommended intake you can eat fat free yogurt, cheese and other dairy products. Calcium is also found in many plant foods including dark, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale, mustard, collard and turnip greens, and bok choy), broccoli, beans, dried figs, and sunflower seeds, as well as in calcium-fortified cereals, cereal bars

3.       Vitamin D

There are few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, though. Therefore, dairy products in the US are field with vitamin D. Many soy milk products are also field with vitamin D

4.       Iron

Iron-fortified breads and cereals, dark green vegetables (e.g. spinach and broccoli), dried fruits, prune juice, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and soybean nuts are good plant sources of iron .Also, cooking in an iron pot will help

http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/nutrition_&_eating_concerns/being_a_vegetarian.php

Why do chameleons change color?


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The first time I learned about chameleons changing colors was in elementary school reading Eric Carle's The Mixed Up Chameleon.  All I ever [thought I] knew about them was that they can change color to blend.  Since I know so little about this fascinating creature, I figured this was the perfect time to investigate further.


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Photo courtesy of this source

 

Contrary to popular belief (...or at least my belief), chameleons don't change color in order to blend in with their surroundings.  National Geographic's website says that chameleons change colors due to light, temperature, and mood changes.  They even say that the color changes can help the chameleons communicate with each other.

 

In fact, a new study (also published on National Geographic's website), suggests that this communication aspect is used quite frequently.  "Instead of vocalizing or using pheromones, chameleons communicate visually by changing the colors and patterns of their skin. Different colors and patterns mean different things--similar to how the colors of a traffic light direct drivers."  The article continues by saying that bright colors are used to show dominance, attract mates, and defend territory.  Female chameleons also use this color changing method, mostly to attract or reject mates.

 

NatGeo gives some examples as to why light, color, and temperature may cause a chameleon's pigment to change.  Lighter colors reflect sunlight better, so the pigments may shift to adapt to this.  Darker colors absorb heat, so if a chameleon is cold, the dark colors may help warm it up.  If it's angry, it may turn red to reflect the mood.

 

The newer study found that through an experiment with 21 species of chameleons, communication was the primary reason for color change.  The chameleons changed colors when faced against fellow males, as well as predators, and all of this was measured against background color.  The environmental change showed no significance, but the article says very little more regarding this ("Chameleons Evolved Color Changing to Communicate").

 

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Photo courtesy of this source


Cornell's website mentions that there are multiple kinds of chameleons.  While some follow the description above (and change color based on temperature, light, and mood), there is another kind of chameleon that changes color to blend in with its surroundings (they're called anoles).  Anoles change between green and brown, which is perfect for camouflaging in trees.   Anoles are likely what we've witnessed in America (southeastern area, like Florida), the Caribbean, South and Central America.  The chameleons described above are more common in Africa.

 

Now that we know why these creatures change colors, let's talk about how they do it.  Chameleons have unique cells called chromatosphores.  These are cells that are layered with different colored pigments.  The tops of the chromatosphores have the red and yellow pigments, while the bottom layers have blues and whites.  The brain sends a message to these cells to change color, and the pigments mix together.  Melanin can also help make the chameleons appear darker ("Chameleons").

 

Thanks to the children's book, my interest was sparked.  Now after doing some research, I feel as if I have a better sense for why chameleons behave in certain ways.


(Check out this video; embedding not available)

 

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Before I begin this blog I'm going to ask this simple question: Where is, for you, the line between a courageous activity, and a downright dangerous one?

 

Our body has a single mechanism that can massively determine the sorts of decisions we make. Odds are you learned about the fight or flight mechanism in your body in a middle school biology class. Maybe you love it, maybe you hate it, either way it's one of the most important mechanisms in all of the animal kingdom.

 

The mechanism kicks in when it senses risk. It floods your body with adrenaline, which you also probably learned about, which in essence kicks your body into a mode where it immediately decides to either fight, or flee. The two specific chemicals released are norepinephrine and dopamine, which, combined, raise your heart rate, and give you a sort of euphoric sensation.

 

But if you wanted to know about adrenaline, you could have read one of the many other blogs that have been written by other people in the class, which is why I'm keeping it to the above paragraphs. I will be examining something completely different, because the fight or flight response is universal throughout the animal kingdom, but in the human world, it is unique in one very particular manor.

 

It is, by far and away, the single most addictive thing on this planet, and it's dangerous as well.

 

This article in Psychology Today takes a look at why this is the case. But to save you time, I'll sum it up.

 

The reason for it's addictive properties are because of the two chemicals released. Dopamine is the primary ingredient in cocaine, and is itself an extremely addicting chemical. It is responsible for the sort of "feel good" sensation that your body experiences, and it is released under many circumstances, not just fight or flight. Norepinephrine is the primary chemical in speed, and it raises your blood pressure, increases your heart rate, and increases the brains oxygen supply.

 

But the difference between fight or flight and simply using cocaine and speed is quite massive for a couple or reasons. First, drugs will kill you with enough use, and you can go through withdrawal, where as the versions of these chemicals present in your brain will not do either. Second, the natural versions your body produces are about one hundred times more potent than the artificial versions found in drugs.

 

And to add on to this, just as with any drug, your body will build up a tolerance to the effects of the fight or flight response, and it will therefore take an increasingly larger trigger to get the same sort of feeling as before. But it's not just the fact that your body builds up a tolerance, there is another aspect in it as well. Brain scans have shown that some people lack autoreceptors, which work to limit the release of dopamine under the fight or flight response.

 

And what is the primary trigger for fight or flight? Pretty much anything that registers in your brain as danger, and for people with the danger tolerance and lack of autoreceptors like I discussed in the paragraph above, the limits they are willing to push are not modest like most peoples, which end at simple things like going down a hill fast on a bike. For some people, the limit at which they really get the rush from fight or flight is in behavior that is quite literally at a point where possible death is the nature of the activity.

 

Not too long ago, an Iraq war veteran was caught going 120 mph on his motorcycle while on a public highway. Whenever he was asked why he did it, he said it was because he wanted the same adrenaline rush he got from being under mortar fire. Because of cases like this, the army is just now starting a massive survey of enlisted soldiers and their attraction to danger. Interestingly, one of the main things they will be looking at will be the genetic properties of these enlisted soldiers. In doing this, they hope to find a way to give soldiers a safe way to get their adrenaline rush, and make some headway on the subject of why some people are such extreme thrill seekers.

 

But what about your everyday adrenaline junkie? Veterans are only a small percentage of the population, and the pentagon says there is a serious problem in the participation in this sort of dangerous behavior in just that demographic. So should we do something to tame the population of adrenaline junkies, not just for their own good, but to prevent collateral damage from road accidents and similar side effects to extreme actions?

 

Well the issue is that there isn't really a lot you can do, and that's part of the problem. People looking for a rush will always find a way to do so, no matter what the laws or rules depict. It isn't something we can directly do something about like drug imports or smoking, and since fight or flight is a biological mechanism, we most likely won't just evolve out of it in the near future. That is where the real danger lies, and because it is such a hard thing to put any sort of data or science to that is most likely why it has never been truly acknowledged as an issue.

 

I'm torn on this one as an adrenaline junkie myself. I know the feeling, and there really is no comparison. I know my stupid quest for this unique psychological high could very well kill me one day, but that doesn't stop me from doing dangerous things.

 

But is it really a problem like the pentagon claims it is with veterans? Furthermore, is risky behavior perfectly natural, or is there some inherent issue with it that should be addressed?

Hypnosis Real or Fake?


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I just got done watch the Fourth Kind for the second time the other day with my roommates. It brought to mind the concept of hypnosis and extraterrestrial life. I was contemplating doing a blog on aliens but I think the idea of having to be under hypnosis in movie, to help people remember things was something I could expand more on. I will leave the alien blog for next time.

            Studying the brain is the most interesting part of science for me. If I was going to major in any type of science it would be Psychology. The brain is the most sensitive part of the human body in my opinion, because it controls everything.  

I think people are confused or just really don't understand what hypnosis is because there is a lot of people that don't believe in it, but it can be as simple as daydreaming. Hypnosis is a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It's a very comfortable, natural state that we all go into and out of every day. It can be as light as daydreaming or much deeper. It's not mind control, and doesn't come over you like a drug. It feels very pleasant to be in hypnosis, light, drifty and peaceful. 

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Hypnosis is becoming even more popular as a technique to help victims of crimes remember what happened and also help people lose weight and quit smoking.

A research study done in 2009 shows that the brain undergoes changes when under hypnosis. Doctors recruited students for the study. Using functional magnetic imaging, the participants' brains were studied twice: once when the students were hypnotized, and the second when they were in a normal state. The research found hypnosis-lowered activity in parts of the brain, known as the "default mode" where resting, daydreaming or letting their mind wander is involved.

     imgres-1.jpegDo you believe in hypnosis? Why or why not? Have you ever been in a deep daydream? Tell me your thoughts and opinions please!

Here is a video that can supposedly "hypnotize" you. But it only really works if you want to be hypnotized. Try and see if it works on you! 




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This is something I've always wondered. What is it about onions that bring tears to our eyes when we cut them? After doing some research, I found that when you cut onions, you break cells in in the release vapors which reach our eyes. The contents of the onions membrane, which contains amino acid sulfides, are now free to mix and chemically react to create another chemical known as propanethiol S-oxide, which is a sulfur compound that wafts upward toward your eyes. When these fumes reach your eyes, they react with your tear ducts, causing your eyes to water. When you cook the onion, the fumes may seem like they are stronger because the smell is stronger, but actually the enzymes have been deactivated so your eyes will not burn.

Nowadays, we've seen so many food products that have labeled the term "Gluten-Free". Some of us who may not entirely know the meaning behind this term may wonder of what does it actually mean by gluten-free? To put in the simplest form: a gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. They most commonly found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. So if glutens are meant to be very common in the simplest kind of food in the grocery store, how does it affect our health? For those of us who are not having the problem with gluten-free, don't worry about it. However, to people with a chronic digestive disorder called "celiac disease", gluten tends to be the nasty evil. Gluten slowly damages the intestines of people with celiac disease by stopping the absorption of vitamins and minerals through their bodies. This can lead to a major problem later on like intestinal cancers or even infertility and osteoporosis.

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Somehow, many people choose to cut off their old lifestyles and give it a try with gluten-free diet. One of the most interesting cases I found related to gluten-free is from Chelsea Clinton's wedding. Apart from those elegant wedding ceremony, what led to media coverage was her gluten-free wedding cake. Many celebrities choose to go with gluten-free lifestyle as well such as Rachel Weisz, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Victoria Beckham. They claimed to have an increase in energy, smaller thighs, and even reduced belly bloat.

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So the next question I think might be very controversial is...should you go gluten-free? The answer is, if you have celiac disease or your body can't tolerate gluten, yes, you have to go gluten-free diet. However, if you choose to go with gluten-free diet because you THINK it will help you to lose weight...think about it again. According to Dee Sabdquist, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Associate, which suggests that cutting out gluten may result in losing few pounds but it's due to the decreasing of overall caloric intake--not because of the gluten itself. There's currently no science to prove that you will lose more weight by gluten-free food products. There are many gluten-free products such as rice, corn, and buckwheat. However, some of these non-gluten whole grains contain less essential fiber than the normal gluten whole grains food. According to FoxNews that says "just because a food product is billed as "gluten-free" does not mean that it is healthier." Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates and some of those people who go gluten-free actually gain weight too.

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In my point of view, unless you develop celiac disease and intolerance to gluten, wouldn't you prefer to stick with whole foods that taste better, more convenient, and contain loads of nutrition?

 


As an American consumer, there are a couple of things that I expect.

1) That the product I am purchasing is of high quality
2) The nutrition/ingredients label is accurate
3) The company has my best interest in mind

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With this in mind, I was shocked to read this article published on LifeScience.Com, citing a study in which energy drinks contained up to 20% more caffeine per serving than the label claimed. 

In this study, researchers purchased 27 different types of popular energy drinks and shots from stores in NY, CT, and NJ. The caffeine levels of each product were tested using three different samples of each. 5 of these products, Arizona Energy, Clif Shot Turbo Energy Gel, Nestle Jamba, Sambazon Organic Amazon Energy, and Venom Energy were found to contain at least 20% more caffeine than what was listed on the nutrition label. To put this in perspective, drinking one of these beverages is equivalent to drinking 4 cups of coffee or more at one time.
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As discussed in class, the way an experiment is conducted is extremely important to the accuracy of its results. I would definitely say the results of this experiment are accurate. The study used several different products and sampled each product multiple times. This ensures multiple trials and leaves little room for error in results. Is there anything you think could have been improved in this study to eliminate something such as a third or confounding variable? 

The bottom line of this study is to raise awareness in consumers that what is posted on your nutrition label may not always be true- especially in the case of energy drinks. So, be careful what you chose to sip on! 
When people don't have science, all they have is their imaginations, they make up stories and those stories spread and eventually become a religion. For example in my Egyptian Mythology class, we are taught how religions are invented and how they spread, people don't know how something works, so they make up stories and spread them, write them down in stone tablets for the whole world to see, and people add on to the stories, change them and expand on them over time. But soon enough they are no longer stories, but highly held beliefs that people are willing to die for, and refuse to believe in anything else no matter what. In Egypt, they had something called a Mortuary Economics, it was an entire economical system based on their beliefs on the after life, they would build these giant elaborate tombs, and they made statues that looked exactly like the person who died, and they would put food into the statues believing that the life force of the person would enter the statue and be able to eat the food in the afterlife. 

An average religious person today would probably look at this and think, wow, those ancient Egyptians were so crazy believing in that stuff, multiple gods? That's insane, there's clearly only one god. Clearly how exactly? Somehow people are able to objectively look at there information and not realize that there religion is the EXACT SAME THING. The human system of spreading stories, writing them down and believing them without proof. 

Maybe it all stems from the fact that people can't live without knowing everything, in science, there are still many mysteries, and facts are always changing, but at the same time it has been used to do so much, scientific theories are constantly being proven correct and they are being used in the real world. People need to learn to stop believing in the first thing they hear, just because their family believes in it, or they have believed it their entire lives. It's one big logical fallacy.

But you've got to believe in something right? How do you know science is real? Because you read about it? Well that's the same thing as believing in something you read in the bible right? Well not really, in my opinion, because without science, we wouldn't have computers, or buildings or anything we use, those are fully functional scientific facts that are true. But I also think that further into science, people become religious again and get these logical fallacy's once again. 

Making theories is obviously the first step towards discovery, but it is just as bad to believe 100% in those theories as it is to believe in science. You should be ready to change your beliefs the second they are proved otherwise. For example, no one should say with 100% certainty that dark matter exists, or that the big bang even happened, those are simply theories, that would explain everything, but for all we know maybe their is something better out their that would also explain everything! No body knows. We don't even know how gravity works , for all we
 know, the reason we only we think dark matter exists is because our tools of measuring the weight of the universe is completely wrong and everything we think we know about the universe is wrong! We've seen how delusional people can be, maybe the entire world is delusional. How do we know we exist and we're not just the 8th sense of a tree somewhere projecting it's thoughts through multiple forms.

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Okay now I'm just going completely crazy, at some point there are things you just have to accept as real, and that they are correct the way they are. But the point is, you should never believe in something so strongly you would die for it, because you're life is the only thing you have. But maybe I'm wrong maybe you should believe in something after all, religious people are happier right? Well according to this article, the only reason religious people are happier is because their are surrounded by more like-minded people, because their are more religious people than atheists. Happiness

You might be wondering, where is the stuff on porn? Well their is none, I just found that you get more comments when you include porn in all caps in your titles. It's a little experiment I am throwing, lets find out if it's true.

An Inexistent Past


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  Last week I had to write a re-definition paper for my English class. I decided to talk about nostalgia, or the yearning for a past event or place. While writing this I came across an article which discussed the brain and its distortion of memories. I came to the conclusion that nostalgia is actually a yearning for the past, but a past that may have never existed. It seems that our brains change events and details over time, but what is the reason for this? 

    The  recently discovered flexibility and constant development of our brain is essential to the storage of information. This includes memories, facts, events, and feelings. According to an article from Salon Magazine "the amount of activity between neurons corresponds directly to how strong their connection will continue to be", what this means in terms of memories is that the most intense the activity is between neurons, the more vividly the memory will be recalled. However, over time the details become blurred and cracks are formed in our minds. Only the most impactful instant can actually be remembered. The imprint, in essence, is what actually remains and the details are usually fabricated over time. We are usually fooled into believing these fabrications are seamless, which is when the question of how reliable are memories are comes into play. 

    It seems that unreliability of memories may actually serve us well over time. According to the same article, "Loss of memory, and creation of new memory, is central to a relatively efficient system of information processing that never sleeps.". This means that our brain is able to select which memories are important enough to be rendered long-term, allowing us to store information that we might need in the future. Despite all this, I still wonder why I remember the lyrics to about twenty Backstreet Boys songs, but can't seem to recall what reverse causation is. It seems this process is not perfect, but at least works for survival needs like where food can be found and where I sleep. 

    Just how infallible our memories are was shown through an experiment done by Linda Henkel in the department of psychology at Fairfield University. She showed participants various images of things such as pencils being broken and envelopes opened. They were later shown objects on a table and asked to imagine having done something with them (for example, breaking a pencil). Weeks later, the participants were brought back and were presented with phrases such as "I broke a pencil" and asked to answer whether they had performed the action, imagined performing it, or neither. They also had to rate how confident they were of their answer. The experiment showed that the more times the person was presented with visuals or representations of the actions, the more times it was shown that they believed to have performed it. It seems to be that we are all exceptionally gullible, not matter what our level of intelligence might be. Mere suggestions or a little push can lead us to belief things not only about ourselves but also about others. Our brains may be limitless in terms of space and capabilities but like anything else, they're also undoubtedly flawed. 

How would you eat a triceratops? Well, if you are smart, you would down this dinosaur like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. That is, of course, if you are also 40 feet long with four foot jaws filled with teeth the size of your notebook. But, since I'm pretty sure none of us meet this criteria (thank goodness!), let's see why the Tyrannosauras Rex is applauded for its smart eating habits.

The Tyrannosauras Rex, being the fierest known dinosaur, has recently been discovered to be quite intelligent, as well. Denver Fowler, from the Museum of the Rockies in Montana, recently spent a great deal of time examining numerous triceratop specimans, a favorite meal of the Tyrannosauras Rex.

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Fowler and his colleagues were quite surprised by what they discovered on the skull and neck bones of the Triceratops. They examined 18 sets of Triceratop bones only to find that many of the bone sets had deep skull bite marks with no sign of healing, which indicated these were fatal bites. This finding caused confusion. Why would the Tyrannosauras Rex focus such a great deal on the area of their prey that had the least amount of meat?

As they farther examined the bite marks on the skulls, they also discovered major puncture wounds and pull marks on the necks. After reviewing and replaying over and over again how these marks could of been created, they came up with an answer. The bite marks on thefdafdasfda.jpg skull and the pull marks on the neck were indications that the Tyrannosauras Rex was routinely decapitating his prey, more than likely to get to the meaty muscles inside the neck.

It is great to think about how smart animals can actually be and how they evolve to better suit their needs. Although, I'm quite glad this particular creature is no longer with us. For being known as having a small brain and a lack of intelligence, Tyrannosauras Rex seemed awfully smart.  

 

Works Cited:

Matt Kaplan, How to eat a Triceratops, nature, October 24, 2012

http://www.nature.com/news/how-to-eat-a-triceratops-1.11650

 

Matthew Steiner, Tyrannosauras Rex, Dinosaur Tiime Machine, 2008

http://www.mantyweb.com/dinosaur/t-rex.htm

 

     

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     I was recently sent a very interesting article from the BBC entitled Big Bang: is there room for God?Coming from a religious background, it is sometimes hard for me to express my agnostic beliefs for fear of being looked down on or simply because the ensuing discussions always tend to become heated. One of the things that makes me uncertain about religion is the fact that believers always think they know "the absolute truth". In religion there isn't room for doubt or questions, merely for faith. I enjoy philosophy because its not content with a notion of truth. For centuries philosophers have tried to find its meaning as well as its intrinsic and instrumental values; the search still continues. Uncertainty is why I was drawn to this class in the first place, because I like when people admit to not truly knowing anything, especially scientists that have gifted the world with a plethora of knowledge. The question that continues to plague me is whether or not Theology and Science can coexist, or if the two entities must remain separate. 

     This article touched base upon that while discussing the discovery of the Higgs Boson as well as a recent meeting in Geneva that consisted of theologians, physicists and philosophers  discussing the Big Bang. 


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     Science and religion are often thought of as opposing forces. This is why I found it so intriguing that this meeting took place. I pictured countless arguments and essentially three groups of people ineffectively communicating beliefs and premises so different, it's hard to visualize any form of consensus. It must be noted that the purpose of the meeting was simply communication while the outcome was the agreement that discussions should continue. 

    I wanted to write about this article because I think it's important to ponder this question as a member of this class. Despite what people may think, there is no truth in Science. In fact, the moment the slightest thing changes, especially in Physics, all the old information is rendered useless. Science is about what works and a working process that is never truly complete. Nevertheless, I think its important to try and find a medium ground between people who are religious and those who believe in Science. To go back to the Big Bang, there could always be the chance that God initiated it, but this notion is dismissed by atheists and those who are religious and believe Science to be a threat. However, this article discusses John Lennox, a professor of mathematics in Oxford Unversity and a self professed Christian who very insightfully noted that "If the atheists are right the mind that does science... is the end product of a mindless unguided process.", he believes that atheism undermines the rationality he needs in order to actually practice science. It may be that he has created a small but still existent space for God in the Science community. There may just be some room for God in the Science world, or at least in Geneva. 


Do you believe Science and God can ever coexist? 

Would you pay 1500 to 4000 dollars to have someone kidnap you  and hold you for an undetermined amount of time, for the thrill? Some people would, and that is why there is a business in New York doing exactly that, but why? Clearly there are enough people doing it if they are still in business.

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I've always envisioned myself as somewhat of a thrill seeker. I love snowboarding, I frequently go cliff diving and have plans to sky dive. Something that has always interested me however is the question, why? Most people hate scary movies or skydiving and would never dream of it, while others seem to keep pushing it and pushing it until they are in a situation where death is more likely than survival. The New York Times states that for some people it is the self-affirmation that gives people the thrill. It's the thought that, yes I just conquered what others consider terrifying.  Another theory is that these thrill seekers have a low level of arousal compared to others and need that fear in order to be excited. One more theory developed by Marvin Zuckerman from the University of Delaware is that thrill seekers have an imbalance of the chemical monoamine oxadise in the brain, which gets corrected when they are scared.

            For me though this is not enough, it cannot simply be the fact that there is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain and more science needs to be done on this topic. One man walks a tight rope from cliff to cliff without any safety harness. To me an imbalance of chemicals is not enough for someone to be willing to, in this case literally, put their life on the line for a "thrill". Watch this tightrope walker. There has to be something wrong with these people, a gene out of place, or something is wrong in the brain and they cannot sense fear. There is definitely a fine line between thrill seeking and stupidity, and I'm not sure what side of the line that guy is on. I would like to see more research on this topic but it is difficult to do. Examining someone's brain while they watch a movie is easy, but taking a CAT scan or an MRI of someone's brain as they jump out of a helicopter or walk a tight rope is impossible so I'm not entirely sure how this research would be done. The only information I have garnered besides these articles is from the dare devils themselves, and when asked why they do it their only response is for the thrill. Does anyone understand why these people push the limit so far, is it a lack of intelligence, or do they really need this thrill?

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Sources: -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOp0rPAju90

-http://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/02/science/why-do-people-crave-the-experience.html

-http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51891


Artificially Sweet


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     Coffee is a big part of the latin culture. Individuals tend to have a cup after every meal and its often used as a social vehicle and an excuse for a little gossip session between women. My mother, an avid coffee drinker, used artificial sweeteners in every cup for about 12 years. She tried everything from Splenda to Equal to Sweet n' Low but after multiple health risks were exposed as a result of consuming these, she chose to stop; specifically because it was reported that it could lead to alzheimer's, a disease that had already manifested itself in my grandmother. 

     Despite the alleged health risks, people still use these sweeteners. I see them everywhere from the commons to the Starbucks in the hub. I was curious to find out whether or not these health risks were mere fabrications or fact, so I decided to do a little research.

     The first of these artificial sweeteners was called NutraSweet and contained Aspartame, which is an artificial non- saccharide sweetener of which 40% is Aspartic Acid. "Too much aspartate or glutamate in the brain kills certain neurons by allowing the influx of too much calcium into the cells. This influx triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which kill the cells." 

    The other chemical content present in artificial sweeteners  such as Splenda is Monosodium Glutamate, which increases the amount on insulin produced by the pancreas. According to what I found online, excessive glutamate in the brain kills glutamate receptors and neurons connected to it, which ultimately has huge implications for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
   I found multiple articles and blog posts exposing this information, but I still questioned whether it was true since none of it seemed to be completely reliable.

      According to an article by Time Magazine, scientists have yet to reach a consensus on whether artificial sweeteners are really bad for you. It seems all the alleged health risks are merely internet rumors, since the substance has been tested more than 200 times, and each time it has been reported that it is safe to ingest. Nevertheless, it does adversely affect people who are unable to metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine. There are some correlations between artificial sweeteners and obesity, but that's about it. There's no concrete evidence that it may cause Alzheimer's or any other disease for that matter.

    It's up to individuals to decide whether they want to use artificial sweeteners or not. For the time being, I personally am all for them. Zero calories and a sweet taste? Doesn't sound bad to me at all. 

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Will the current epidemic of childhood obesity affect our country as a whole? With the change of our healthcare system, obesity is now not helping our debt crisis. According to a study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, direct and indirect costs of obesity are as high at $147 billion dollars annually. This will cost our country a trillion dollars every year if things are not changed.

 

More importantly than this, some folks believe that the epidemic may play a role in the future of our national security. Based on a report published by Mission, we are the only country whose military has to worry about obesity problems. Lt. Seip, a spokesperson for Mission, said that America is safe because of the people who defend it, not the weaponry.

 

Even if one is not worried about the health of the youth of America, they should be taking concern. Over 25% of youth are now considered obese, and this does not seem to be declining rapidly any time soon. I see this issue as being undervalued. If former leaders in our military are worried, I would be as well. If the US loses its notion as a well defended nation, we have nothing. If our debt issues continue, we will also have nothing.

 

So before our great nation collapses, let's turn the issue around! Besides obvious ways of promoting better eating, especially in schools, I would like to focus in on one major issue: stress levels on parents. Children with parents with high levels of stress, especially single parents, are more likely to be obese that parents without stress. Researchers stated that kids with parents who have high levels of stress tend to eat fast food very often. Along with this, I would think that parents may not have as much supervision over their children when they are stressed.

 

Obesity is affecting our nation in too many ways. Let's start by helping stressed out parents whose children may be lead down wrong dietary paths. Do you think childhood obesity is an epidemic? I do.

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My mom is obsessed with organic food. Whenever we go grocery shopping, I can't even think about getting non-organic anything without risking getting a lecture about how bad it is for you. Even on my college girl budget, she expects me to buy organic produce. I'm convinced that it's all a load of crap, so I did some poking around the internet to see what the experts had to say.

Why Would Non-Organic Be Dangerous?
The worries that come along with non-organic foods have to do with the pesticides, chemicals and hormones that the food comes in contact with while it's being raised. Non-organic meat is heavily treated with hormones, including estrogen and growth hormones, to fatten up the animals. Non-organic fruits and vegetables are treated with pesticides and other chemicals to keep bugs and diseases at bay. The worry is that humans are ingesting these hormones and chemicals and they are negatively affecting the human body.

So is Organic Actually Better?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report stating that they found no evidence that organic food is healthier. They did admit that organic food exposes consumers to fewer pesticides than non-organic food, and organic farming promotes better environmental practices. However, they found that "current evidence does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared with conventionally grown foods, and there are no well-powered human studies that directly demonstrate health benefits or disease protection as a result of consuming an organic diet." 

Bottom Line?
The reports bottom line was that the main focus should be a healthy, balanced diet, organic or not. Inability to avoid organic produce or animal products should not stop a family from eating all their fruits and veggies. So, if you can't afford the organic tomatoes, don't let that stop you! Buy the regular ones, and just give them an ex