October 2013 Archives

Crazy Cat Lady Theory


For some, cats are more than just household pets that you occasionally pet, but cats are more of companions and more human-like in some aspects. These people are often referred to as the "crazy cat ladies" of the world. Stores such as Urban Outfitters has recently started a trend in cat apparel, mugs, pins, or anything else you could think of. Could this be because cat ladies are on the rise? Or is this just another marketing scheme to make the already crazy even crazier?

Recent studies have been blaming the toxoplasma parasite on this cat lady phenomena. We had recently talked about this in class, however nothing was said of it causing a love of cats... As crazy as this sounds, when I searched toxoplasma and cat ladies many things appeared, it was also said here that over 60 million people in the U.S. alone have this parasite. If you weren't in class when we talked about this parasite then here are a few facts, the parasite needs a host, only able to live in the gut of a cat in order to reproduce, the parasite forms eggs that pass through the animals fecal matter. This then can come into contact with mice or even humans. The toxoplasma controls the Amygdala in the brain which controls things like your emotions. This makes the rat or mouse become somewhat "attracted" to cats and easier for the cats to prey on. Then this forms a cycle of cat eats rat, and parasite lives in cat's gut producing eggs, then the cat produces fecal matter that rat eats. So what happens when toxoplasma gets into a human? We can't exactly be killed by cats so what would it make our brain think to do?

Here's where the science gets a little shaky. Studies are all over the place in explaining what actually the parasite makes us think, if anything at all! There were no studies on whether or not you can become a cat lady from this parasite, however I found many other interesting studies on this parasite. 

This study tells us that women exposed to the parasite were 54% more likely to attempt suicide compared to non infected women, this percentage went up depending on how high the levels of infection were, creating a positive correlation between level of infection and suicide. However this article is clearly stating that correlation does not equal causation and they aren't ruling out reverse causation in this case either. Did they take into consideration other variables? The study was fairly large of 45,000 women in Denmark who were infected. However, according to abc news, about 10 million people attempt suicide every year and 1 million succeed. I think a better observational study would be to test the suicide victims to see if they had the parasite when they died.

Also, studies such as this one have shown a link between traffic accidents and the parasite. It states that infected people are 3 to 4 more times as likely of being in car accidents due to reckless driving. The parasite is known to impair reaction time which would explain why if you're infected, you're more likely to get into a car accident. It's also known to make people more of a risk-taker which can be linked back to the suicide studies.

Many of these articles also believe that the majority of people pick up the virus from uncooked or undercooked meat.The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that eating undercooked meat or accidentally ingesting contaminated meat is a main way to get infected. Also coming into contact with contaminated cat feces is a way to get infected. So people don't necessarily have to have a cat to pick up this parasite.

There are many crazy studies out there on this parasite and the effects it has on our bodies and minds. However, there is no scientific evidence that being infected with toxoplasma makes us more attracted to cats. It is a very interesting thing to think about, but as of science now, there is no link. To clear up this problem, and possibly to save lives of the infected, we could conduct more observational studies comparing people that are affected and their everyday actions with the non infected. Even more experimental animal studies could be done to better explain the effects toxoplasma has on other creatures rather than just mice. I believe that something could be going on in our brains when infected, the main question being what? 

Ending on a few last questions, do you think toxo controls our mind? Do you think it can make us suicidal when no other factors are involved? Could this explain why some of us are poor drivers compared to others? Are we in danger of all being crazy cat ladies if infected?


Lightning Strikes


As a result of Tuesday's class, I decided to look into something that brings about risk.  Being struck by lightning is a common fear that results in the delaying of sporting events, golf game delays, and even forest fires.  For some people, the idea of being struck by lightning is a truly daunting fear and involves an ample amount of risk, but upon furthers examination that should not be the case at all, at least in my opinion. 


According to an article by National Geographic, the chances of a single person being struck by lightning in the United Sates in any one year is 1 in 700,000.  This is a very low chance; however, the chance of getting struck by lightning in the United States in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000 which is a pretty substantial increase in chance.  With that sad, when examining the risk of getting struck by lightning you must look into the aspects of exposure and hazard.


When looking into the actual percentage of getting struck by lightning in your life time it works out to about 0.0003.  The average amount of people that die from being struck by lightning per year is 84.  This works out to a percentage that is quite frankly too small to even be mentioned.  When calculating the overall risk, I took the 0.0003 (exposure) and multiplied it by the very minuscule hazard number.  Let's just say that the amount that was calculated has many, many zeroes in front of it.  This number with the many zeroes is the overall risk.


Through the examination of the article, I concluded two things: there is a very small risk of getting struck by lightning and dying and Americans have a poor understanding of what risk actually is.  Through my experiences, people seem to be more concerned about getting struck by lightning while in the shower than dying in a car crash which as we stated in class is a pretty high risk.  The idea of risk is something that is examined every day; however, the perceptions of it are often times far off.


Does money = success?

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We always think that if you've made a lot of money in your lifetime that you are now magically a successful person and have achieved your life goals. Whenever you see someone with an outstanding amount of money they usually have nice cars, homes, vacations, jewelry etc. But the question I'm asking today is does money really equal success?    

      The USA is known to be a country full of material things and materialistic people. I know myself and I love getting a new pair of shoes or dress, I mean who wouldn't? We all want to be rich and make lots of money, but many people who have a lot of money seem to think of themselves as "successful". However, success is not based off of the check you receive each month, but rather the relationships your form and the feeling of satisfaction within yourself. The money you earn is simply an object or material, but what are important is the people you share it with. According to NASDAQ,  "In a new study commissioned by American Express, most survey respondents said you don't need to have a lot of money to be successful. Instead, good health, good relationships and agood job were deemed by respondents to be more indicative of a successful "


      You need to step back, and realize that happiness and success aren't about how much money you make but the experiences you make of them. "Research shows experiences provide more happiness than material goods in part because experiences are more likely to make us feel connected to others "Haven't you ever noticed celebrities start off being extremely humble and kind and once the money gets to their heads (because they have too much of a good thing) it changes them completely. According to Business Insider, "This is the sad reality of the human experience: The more we're exposed to something, the more its impact diminishes". 



            I was doing some research about college education, and came across an article that really came to my interest. I found an article that found a link between having a college education and happiness. It is said that people who are more happy are more likely to at least attain a bachelors degree.


            According to the dean of students in Grand Valley State University, a college education is a personal growth tool to open doors for many other positive experiences in life. It is said that having a college education improves the quality of your life. When the quality of your life is improved, it makes you happier and content. When you are happier and content, it translates into better relationships and being able to have fun easier.


            The median income for someone without and with a college degree is very different. Thus, many people seem to believe that money brings happiness. An individual with a bachelor's degree earns almost $1000 more then one who doesn't.


            On the contrary, there may be many other factors while getting a college education, that can hep an individual become happy. The stability of a college degree can also play a role when determining happiness.


As said by someone in the article, "People who don't pursue a college education are at a competitive disadvantage. There is a higher need for more education for the skills to do work in this advanced economy".


Overall College Education brings happiness because:

1.     Competitive Advantage

2.     Feel Sucessful

3.     Make more money

1.jpg4.     So many more reasons



Laptop-cooling-pad.jpgFor years, my mother has been constantly telling me to separate my laptop from my stomach or lap via a pillow. She claims that the radiation could seriously affect my chances of conceiving a child when I am older. Of course, I have obliged to make her happy, but to be honest I've also continued to do it out of fear. However, I have learned that it is simply not true.

As stated on www.parents.com, the heat from a laptop cannot seriously affect the fertility of a woman. The heat is external, while a woman's ovaries are internal. The distance between the two is too vast for their to be any serious connection or correlation between the two.

However, this does not particularly excuse males from resting their laptop on their lap or stomach. Since both the laptop's heat and a male's genitals are external, the chances of a laptop's radiation affecting sperm production is much higher. The heat raises the temperature of the testicles which could negatively affect the production rate, or production at all, of sperm.

In a study published in Fertility and Sterility, researchers obtained 29 male's semen and exposed it to Wi-Fi radiation for four hours. 1/4th of the semen was no longer swimming, in comparison to 14% of the semen (not exposed to Wi-Fi) that were also no longer swimming. The researcher came to the conclusion that laptop radiation does in fact affect a Male's fertility.

For now, this hypothesis has been strongly supported & not condemned. So males, what do you think? Will laptop radiation eventually be found to not be a source of male infertility? If you're more interested in learning about how laptop's might affect fertility, click HERE.

Until then, if you plan on having children, try to keep those laptops of your laps!

How to stay warm!



                I am
extremely amazed by how quickly State College manages to get cold in the
winter. Just last week the weather was beautiful and warm. The weather was
almost like tanning weather and I did not need a jacket. Now, I am in desperate
need for my mom to send up my long winter jacket coat. I really do not want to
get sick this winter, so I began researching simple ways on how to stay warm in
the winter.
thing that is recommended is to drink warm drinks and foods. By doing this, it
is getting your blood circulation going. The article also explains that if you
take a warm bath before you go to bed, this will help you stay warmer the next
day. Not only that, but it will help put you to sleep faster. On the other
hand, you would never believe this but eating nuts can help. Since nets are
high in fat, the fat will help you regulate your body temperature.
article also talks about how cuddling will help keep you warm, sound stupid but
it has a scientific explanation/ From cuddling, you are getting extra body
heat, releasing a feel good hormone (oxytocin), and reducing stress. It is
known that when you reduce stress, you are also reducing your blood
                It is
very important to keep your exercise up in the winter, exercise releases
endorphins. Endorphins ar essential to keep you mood and maintain a healthy
body weight.  If you in cooperate spices
into your meals, this also helps get the blood circulating.


                In the
case that there is snow, it is important to cover most of your body. Bundle up,
make sure your toes are covered. The most important thing is to also make sure
most of your face is covered and your ears.


All of these tips will:


Help you stay warm


Keep you healthy


Keep you feeling good


Get the Blood circulation going


Hope this helps!

Birth order and Awesomeness


I'm a psychology major and recently learned that birth order has an affect on a child's overall upbringing. After being fed only one Powerpoint slide-worth of information, I still wanted to know more. I'm the oldest child of two, and, in all honesty, I find myself to be much more cooperative and respectful than my younger sister. However, I always figured this was just due to her lack of maturity, and that with time, those gaps would fill out just as they did with me.

However, after researching a bit, I now understand! This website explains it all.

A couple's first child becomes a "trial and error". Couples have the tendency to be strict, assertive, and attentive to this child, being that it is their first. However, when having their second, parents tend to become more lenient and less reactive. This may seem like no big deal to them, and many may believe that since the first child turned out fine, the second will simply follow in those footsteps. However, that is clearly not the case. Firstborns normally take on characteristics such as cautiousness, control, and reliability. They tend to be a bit more driven due to their upbringing. Last born children, however, inherit different traits. They tend to be more manipulative, fun-loving, and attention-seeking. This describes my younger sister and I perfectly. I don't think she is in anyway rebellious or disrespectful, but I am clearly the overly-cautious while she is clearly the free-spirit.

I continued to research this topic and found an informative video breaking down the roles of each child. 

I also found an article  on CBS news's website that shows how birth order could potentially affect relationships. This is fascinating to me, but I cannot say I'm too surprised. The article and video go into detail of the best and worst "matches" as well as prime examples. Take a look!

My concern is, even if parents tend to be less restrictive, if a younger sibling has older siblings that can guide them, do the younger siblings still embody those traits? For example, I try to help my sister as much as possible in all aspects of her life. I motivate her to do well in school and sports, I make sure I'm available when she needs to talk, and I try to set good examples for her to follow and demonstrate her right from wrong. Although I am not actually her parent, would these guidelines and protective manners help avoid the negative characteristics that younger children are in a sense "prone" to? 


^^ My not-so-little sister & I 

"Just hold your breath!" "No let me scare them out of you!" "Drink water upside down!" "Stop eating so fast!"
For those of you who suffer from getting the hiccups a little more often than you would want, those sayings sound all too familiar. As someone who eats way too fast for anyone's own good, it's strange for me to go a day without getting those dreaded hiccups. Sometimes I'm lucky and they go away within a minute, other times, I try every single trick in the book and yet I still find myself helplessly convulsing and making those weird hiccup sounds. So why does our body put us through this torturing, annoying sensation? 
Since I am no hiccup expert or specialist, when it comes to what hiccups actually are this article says it best, "There are over 100 causes for hiccups, but the most common is irritation of the stomach or the oesophagus - the food tube that leads to it. The "hic" noise comes when the breath is cut off by the snapping shut of your glottis - which is like a fleshy lid or trapdoor that separates the food and air tubes in your throat." There are a lot of technical terms in that description, but basically a hiccup is a disruption in our breathing process.
Eating or drinking at irregular pace is probably one of the most common ways to get hiccups, but have you ever heard of getting them from certain emotions or even a drastic change in temperature? According to another article, both of those things can be responsible for a person getting hiccups. How do we know this? That's a great question that I couldn't seem to find any good scientific evidence on. 
Probably one of the most scary things when getting the hiccups is if you'll ever get rid of them. We all hear horror stories of people being stuck with hiccups for months, even years. One man, Charles Osborne, had hiccups for 68 years! Obviously this is a very rare case, but there are different levels of hiccups people can suffer from. The five groups they can be classified into are: common, persistent, acute, intractable and diabolic. It has been recommended that if you have the hiccups for more than 48 you should go to the doctors ASAP because they could be the cause of a more serious health issue. 
So that's hiccups in a little bit more detail, but do you think there has ever been a purpose for them? Scientists have debated that in the past hiccups helped animals swallow large food. Do you have any reasons as to why hiccups come about? Do you have any special remedy that always helps you get rid of hiccups? If it were possible to test if hiccups help or hinder our bodies, how do you think we could go about that? To me, it seems like hiccups will forever be one of those annoying things that we just can't seem to do anything about. 

Photo courtesy of http://www.everydaynodaysoff.com
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So you've made it to the final blog period. You can finally breathe that sigh of relief. If you're happy with one of the grades you received in a previous blog period, the good news is that you don't have to frantically post any last minute blogs (which you shouldn't be doing anyway, but I understand it's a stressful time). For those of you that haven't gotten satisfactory blog grades, you have this entire period to change that. Many of you are concerned with posting more blogs, but that's only a small portion of what makes up your grade. You also want to make your final shot at blogging good.

So how, during that final stretch, do you write an A-worthy blog?

Andrew has posted plenty of examples of well-written, well-thought blogs that you can model your posts after. But it's also essential to look back at the comments you received alongside your previous blog grades. Maybe your comments say you need to cite more sources. Or that you need a question at the end of your post. Putting those suggestions into action can highly affect your grade.

You may also want to look at your previous blogs and compare them to the grading rubric on ANGEL. Go through each category and try to look at your posts objectively. Your strengths could lie in the quantity section of the rubric, but if you're lacking in the content section of the rubric, your whole grade will suffer. Look at your blogs from a professor's eyes: Does this show that I put time and effort into my research, that I care about the topic?

As always, feel free to ask me or Ethan questions. I'm happy to look at drafts (if sent well in advance before the blog period ends) and send you back some feedback.

Good luck, and happy blogging! :D
Recently I took part in a 24 hour marathon for the video game club in which we play games in the HUB for 24 hours to raise money for charity. I personally did attend most of it, but I did not stay up the full 24 hours of the event and went to sleep for a few hours. Even though the event was for charity, staying up 24 hours without any sleep is not the best idea.

Staying up for 24 hours is not something that is easy to do, since fatigue and lack of energy start to set in when you are active and awake for so long. But sometimes we all stay up later then we should whether it be for an event such as the one I mentioned, or pulling an all nighter for the a big exam the next day or working on a project that is due the next day. But if you stay up for a 24 hour period and you are already a bad sleeper or you don't get good nights of sleep, you are putting yourself and maybe even others at risk.

This article talks about how a mixture of lack of sleep and then staying up for a long period of time (such as 24 hours) without sleep can be produce a cocktail of trouble in a way. It talks about a certain study that looks at this sleep deprivation: "Staying up for 24 hours straight is bad enough, but the study shows that if you do that on top of having gotten less than six hours of sleep a night for two to three weeks, your reaction times and abilities are 10 times worse than they would have been just pulling an all-nighter" (Weise, 2010). So if you are a person who has trouble getting a good nights rest, staying up for 24 hours only makes your situation worse. 

This is a major problem if you work in specific fields of work that require you to be awake for long periods of time. Without sleep, work performance suffers and the person doing the work can not do it to the best of their ability or in worse case scenarios could be a danger to the people around them. In fact, the article also says that staying awake for 24 hours in a row for multiples days can impair a persons performance that is almost or just as bad as being under the influence of alcohol if you are driving.

So make sure to get some Z's before you get yourself into some trouble.

I don't know about any of you, but I was fascinated after hearing Andrew speak about people thinking they cured their child of autism. Think about it, all of our lives we've thought this disease was incurable; yet there are parents who have no medical history claiming they've done the impossible. So, since I couldn't seem to understand how parents could believe such a thing, I decided to do some more research on it. In an article I found, it focuses around one family who believes they've rehabilitated their son from autism. Notice the key word "rehabilitated." This family understands that autism can't be cured, and they believe that if a parent was to think their child was cured, then they never really had autism in the first place. So right off the bat, it seems this family is a little more legitimate than the examples we talked about in class. The family paid for a program called Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA. This program helps teach the kids how to learn and how behave in a positive manner. The program uses rewards and repetition to help the kids learn. Through this, the family believes their son improved greatly.

Not only did they use ABA, but they also had their son tested for levels of mercury.  As we had also discussed in class, mercury in vaccines were found to potentially cause autism. Jamie, the son in the article, had six times the amount of mercury in his body. The doctors gave him medicine to reduce the mercury levels, and Jamie's parents claim it made a huge difference. This story kinda reminded me of the girl in the video we watched in class who suffered from a neuro disease after a flu shot. Definitely a powerful story, but I'm not entirely sure how realistic it is. So despite the fact that this family knows they can't cure autism, their story still isn't completely reliable.

I'm one of those people who will only believe it once I see it, so I tried to look up some more on whether or not mercury caused autism. I came across a study found on Forbes. They took an island around Madagascar and studied the women there for years. They chose this area because it has a much larger fish intake than most of the world, and fish contains mercury. Like all studies, there are confounding variables and other circumstances, but what the study found was that there is no negative developmental effects despite the huge mercury levels. This is just one study, done in one area of the world, on one large group of pregnant women, but I already am more convinced by this than the stories we heard in class or by Jamie's story. It's definitely a topic that will always be highly discussed, but do you believe the power of anecdotes, or do you need science to be there to back up your beliefs?

Photo courtesy of http://www.topnews.in

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According to an analysis of scores of over 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades, the conclusion has been made that religious people tend to be less intelligent than people who are not. An analysis conducted by the University of Rochester found a very convincing negative correlation between religion and smarts. He found that 53 of 63 studies responded in this way.

This must very shocking news to somebody practicing their faith, but religion is always debatable when it comes to scientific topics. It has been proven that even during early childhood development, the more intelligent a child is, the more of a chance there is for that child to be non-religious. This inference can be dated back to old age. 

One of the studies conducted a life-long record of 1,500 children with IQs over 135. It began in 1921 and still continues to this day, recording data about the kids. 

The definition of "intelligence" the scientists came up with based on the study was "ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience." Other factors, such as gender or amount of education, didn't influence anything in the studies conducted.

According to the scientists, intelligent people, who are also less religious, tend to do better in school, and naturally exceed in higher paying jobs. The inference I am getting at this correlation is that less religious people have more open minded ideas towards everything in life when belief isn't there to take place of it. They are naturally more curious and question more ideas, which is beneficial school wise and increases knowledge. In the same matter, less religious children may focus on school more and have more quality time to study.


A new study shows that consuming chili peppers and being in cold temperatures may aid in weight loss.

Brown fat cells apparently burn energy rather than store it, in opposition to white fat cells. Takeshi Yoneshiro from Hokkaido University claims that brown fat cell activity can be induced in people who have no brown fat cells, and the study is the first to prove this information. There is huge debate over brown fat cells because they can be manipulated to create anti-obesity drugs.

In the study, the scientists exposed eight people with little/no brown fat cells to moderately low temperatures, ranging to around 17 degrees Celsius, for 2 hours over a 2 week span, and people who went about their daily lives. By the end of the study, the exposed group had 5% less body fat and happened to burn more energy when in the cold in further situations. 

The same type of experiment occurred with chili peppers, and the exposed group burned more energy, but did not lose any body fat. The experiment might suggest that capsinoids, which are found in the chili pepper, might have white fat cell burning traits.

Other studies done in the past reveal information that people who eat capsinoids have a faster breakdown of fat levels. Talks about it being turned into a drug will show effects such as keeping healthy slim, rather than making obese people lose weight.  

In my opinion, I feel like spicy foods have metabolism-boosting effects, so it makes sense that chili peppers can help burn fat. As far as cold temperatures go, I would never assume that 17 degrees Celsius can help people lose weight so drastically. Based off the title, I assumed that you would need to constantly live in below freezing temperatures to see any effect. I also thought that people who tend to live in hotter temperatures would be more prone to losing weight, seeing as they are always sweating and moving around, burning more energy. It's interesting to see how assumptions can be proven wrong through simple scientific studies.

With this new information, will you be eating any chili peppers today?


Are you afraid?

Have you been terrified of snakes your whole life? is it a fear unexplainable but terrifying nonetheless? Well, genetics may be to blame for your fear of these reptiles. A new study is showing that the human brain may actually be programmed to be afraid of snakes!This study says that ALL humans may have this genetic fear of snakes due to our long evolutionary history that involved snakes preying on us humans.

The study comes from a tribe called the Agta 
Negritos in the Philippines. The author of the 
study, an anthropologist from Southern Methodist University, spent over 20 years with the tribe and was able to document their rivalry with the local pythons in their area. He uses his knowledge of the area to describe the history of humans and snakes. The study found that this fear is universal among humans but also a different type of fear compared to that fear gained when a robber holds a gun up to us. 

So next time you think its illogical for you to be afraid of snakes remember that it isn't! Because of evolution, history, and genetics none of us can help it we are all afraid of snakes. 


When people think of Australia a lot of times the first thing that comes to mind are kangaroos, but kangaroos aren't the only strange animal that call Australia home. This article does a good job explaining that because Australia is an island, it has no immigration of animals from other parts of the world which is why it has animals unseen anywhere else. Before Australia became an island though, it was part of Asia before continental drift and rising sea levels caused Australia to break off into its own continent. The animals that were in a way stuck on the island had to adapt or die, which is what the animals did. 

The kangaroos have a very strong tail as well as hind legs that help them hop long distances on the flat desert plains on hot days. The kangaroos hopping takes less energy than walking. The wombat is another unusual animal living in Australia. They were able to adapt to the heat that Australia provides by becoming nocturnal. Koalas have a diet of mostly eucalyptus leaves and their strong claw-like paws help them cling to the trees. While the leaves are poisonous for a lot of other animals, the koala's digestive system has adapted to it. Emus aren't able to fly or run fast but they were given strong legs to be able to deliver a powerful kick to any animal that tries to attack them. Their feathers resemble matted hair which allows them to handle the extreme changes in the weather. Platypus have adapted to be able to swim as well as dig with their flattened body, strong limbs, and waterproof fur. 

Australia is also host to some of the most dangerous animals in the world. The box jellyfish, also known as the sea wasp, lives in Northern and North Eastern Australia and can be found near the coast of the Great Barrier Reef. Their tentacles have a strong toxin that delivers what its few survivors call an electrical shock as opposed to a burn. It is necessary that a victim gets medical attention as soon as they are stung or else they will most likely die always die. The salt water crocodile is another dangerous animal living in Australia. They are typically around seven meters long and will usually attack anything that moves. Salt water crocodiles swim on the bottom which makes it uneasy to spot them and they have an extremely powerful bite. Unsurprisingly, sharks are everywhere inhabiting all Australian coastal waters. Although they don't kill humans too often, they still most definitely have the ability to. Shocking to most, the great white shark is not the most dangerous shark in Australia. Bull sharks have killed more humans than any other shark combined. Out of the ten most dangerous snakes in the world, eight of them are Australian. The most dangerous snake in the world can kill a hundred adults with a single bite. The brown snake, also from Australia, is capable of killing many as well. It is extremely dangerous, especially in the summer, to visit the Coast line and walk on the hills over the grass. 




When people think of Australia a lot of times the first thing that comes to mind are kangaroos, but kangaroos aren't the only strange animal that call Australia home. This article does a good job explaining that because Australia is an island, it has no immigration of animals from other parts of the world which is why it has animals unseen anywhere else. Before Australia became an island though, it was part of Asia before continental drift and rising sea levels caused Australia to break off into its own continent. The animals that were in a way stuck on the island had to adapt or die, which is what the animals did. 

The kangaroos have a very strong tail as well as hind legs that help them hop long distances on the flat desert plains on hot days. The kangaroos hopping takes less energy than walking. The wombat is another unusual animal living in Australia. They were able to adapt to the heat that Australia provides by becoming nocturnal. Koalas have a diet of mostly eucalyptus leaves and their strong claw-like paws help them cling to the trees. While the leaves are poisonous for a lot of other animals, the koala's digestive system has adapted to it. Emus aren't able to fly or run fast but they were given strong legs to be able to deliver a powerful kick to any animal that tries to attack them. Their feathers resemble matted hair which allows them to handle the extreme changes in the weather. Platypus have adapted to be able to swim as well as dig with their flattened body, strong limbs, and waterproof fur. 

Australia is also host to some of the most dangerous animals in the world. The box jellyfish, also known as the sea wasp, lives in Northern and North Eastern Australia and can be found near the coast of the Great Barrier Reef. Their tentacles have a strong toxin that delivers what its few survivors call an electrical shock as opposed to a burn. It is necessary that a victim gets medical attention as soon as they are stung or else they will most likely die always die. The salt water crocodile is another dangerous animal living in Australia. They are typically around seven meters long and will usually attack anything that moves. Salt water crocodiles swim on the bottom which makes it uneasy to spot them and they have an extremely powerful bite. Unsurprisingly, sharks are everywhere inhabiting all Australian coastal waters. Although they don't kill humans too often, they still most definitely have the ability to. Shocking to most, the great white shark is not the most dangerous shark in Australia. Bull sharks have killed more humans than any other shark combined. Out of the ten most dangerous snakes in the world, eight of them are Australian. The most dangerous snake in the world can kill a hundred adults with a single bite. The brown snake, also from Australia, is capable of killing many as well. It is extremely dangerous, especially in the summer, to visit the Coast line and walk on the hills over the grass. 



Domestication of animals

Often times you see people post photos of pandas, wolves or otters and they explain that they want them as a pet. But if you truly think about it.. would they really make great pets? Just because they're cute and fluffy does not mean that they have the temperament to survive and be truly domesticated. Over hundreds of years, many people have tried to domesticate certain animals but have failed considerable. Yes, dogs and cats make great pets, but it has taken hundreds of years for them to adapt and evolve into perfect household animals.

Jared Diamond, an author famous for writing Guns, Germs and Steel talks about domestication and what important factors are worth considering before even trying to domesticate an animal. 

1. The animal needs to be able to eat different things so that humans are not relied upon to find a read food source for them. Animals like tigers rely on red meat and if you found yourself having to frequent the grocery store or kill prey, that would not make for a good pet.

2. The growth rate of animals must be quicker than humans. It would be extremely difficult to train and domesticate a pet that takes years for them to be even old enough to understand or behave well. Think about trying to train a turtle.

3. Animals must be naturally tame. The temperament of animals are extremely important - it would be dangerous and harmful to try to tame a savage animal or one that is very unpredictable. 

4. Animals need to be willing to look at humans as their new masters. In order for them to get along with humans and understand that they are someone they have to respect, the animal must have a flexible social hierarchy. 

Overall, it is not a good idea to domesticate animals, especially ones that are dangerous. Domestication has changed human life, and reshaped our culture. Without cows, sheep, and horses, where would we be today? We have done well with these animals, but it is extremely hard to imagine having a pet monkey or elephant. Just keep in mind that it takes more than just wanting them to be a pet - there are a large amount of factors that go into creating a domesticated species. 


Which ad do you prefer?

   Every one of us has seen a video advertisement online, whether we have to watch 15 seconds of it before watching our youtube.com video (called youtube pre-roll advertising) or have to wait until the video stops playing to get back to our Words With Friends game. Online/digital video advertising is clearly growing in popularity...but how effective is it?
   The University of Massachusettes at Amherst hoped to solve this. The primary scientific challenge in understanding video ads is the large number of conflicting factors that could influence viewer behavior," said Sitaraman, lead researcher in the project. The problem was the isolation of all the different factors and most importantly, they found, was how the video was watched.

   Some of their conclusions make logical sense. They found that people who frequented the same site over and over were more likely to watch and entire video ad, which is logical because frequent users are more often engaged users. Other results were more surprising, however. It's been much thought that the more relaxed people are in their environment, the greater likelihood the entire video gets watched, and for the advertisers perspective their message gets absorbed. However, the research begged to differ. The found no real environment variations in ad completion rates.

   What does this mean for us, the end users and valuable minds for advertisers to get their message to? I would guess that we will continue to see more and more video ads...until the next new advertising venture starts. A video ad every time you turn on your phone or start up your computer perhaps? Hard to admit, but as long as retail $$ are to be had, advertisers will always be looking for the next, newest and most efficient way to get their message across!


NaTuRaL sEleCtIoN: Men vs Women

gender.jpegA woman typically images the ideal mate as a partner with a taller height than her, however that is not always a possible case. The battle over height can be explained by the genes of men and women, tied to sexual conflict built in our DNA. 

Dr. Gert Stulp researched the competitiveness occurring between men and women height. His research describes how despite our technological advances, natural selection is a never ending mechanism for humans. To support, Stulp found evidence of sexual conflict currently storming the DNA of the human race. He explains the reasons these tensions arise are because men and women are subject to different selection pressures. 
Before reading the article, I had never known shorter women are more fit to reproduce as are tall men more fit to reproduce. This difference in selection pressure for human height between the genders for a better, more successful reproducing family is the bottom line to creating the sexual conflict. Short parents tend to produce short daughters and sons. This is only beneficial to the daughters (short females produce more children). However, the ultimate combination of reproduction, a short female and an average size male have the most children their genes are passed on the most. 

To conclude, this finding could create the correlation that 
  1. shorter families are more successful at reproducing because of the females
  2. families of average height are more successful at reproducing because of the males
This occurs because a particular trait (being short or average height) acts as both an advantage to one sex and a disadvantage when presented to the other.

When dealing with genes and DNA, experiments are random as can be. If only we could modify our gene make up to create the perfect offspring. (But then this wouldn't be life!)

NaTuRaL sEleCtIoN: Men vs Women

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gender.jpegA woman typically images the ideal mate as a partner with a taller height than her, however that is not always a possible case. The battle over height can be explained by the genes of men and women, tied to sexual conflict built in our DNA. 

Dr. Gert Stulp researched the competitiveness occurring between men and women height. His research describes how despite our technological advances, natural selection is a never ending mechanism for humans. To support, Stulp found evidence of sexual conflict currently storming the DNA of the human race. He explains the reasons these tensions arise are because men and women are subject to different selection pressures. 
Before reading the article, I had never known shorter women are more fit to reproduce as are tall men more fit to reproduce. This difference in selection pressure for human height between the genders for a better, more successful reproducing family is the bottom line to creating the sexual conflict. Short parents tend to produce short daughters and sons. This is only beneficial to the daughters (short females produce more children). However, the ultimate combination of reproduction, a short female and an average size male have the most children their genes are passed on the most. 

To conclude, this finding could create the correlation that 
  1. shorter families are more successful at reproducing because of the females
  2. families of average height are more successful at reproducing because of the males
This occurs because a particular trait (being short or average height) acts as both an advantage to one sex and a disadvantage when presented to the other.

When dealing with genes and DNA, experiments are random as can be. If only we could modify our gene make up to create the perfect offspring. (But then this wouldn't be life!)

NaTuRaL sEleCtIoN: Men vs Women

gender.jpegA woman typically images the ideal mate as a partner with a taller height than her, however that is not always a possible case. The battle over height can be explained by the genes of men and women, tied to sexual conflict built in our DNA. 

Dr. Gert Stulp researched the competitiveness occurring between men and women height. His research describes how despite our technological advances, natural selection is a never ending mechanism for humans. To support, Stulp found evidence of sexual conflict currently storming the DNA of the human race. He explains the reasons these tensions arise are because men and women are subject to different selection pressures. 
Before reading the article, I had never known shorter women are more fit to reproduce as are tall men more fit to reproduce. This difference in selection pressure for human height between the genders for a better, more successful reproducing family is the bottom line to creating the sexual conflict. Short parents tend to produce short daughters and sons. This is only beneficial to the daughters (short females produce more children). However, the ultimate combination of reproduction, a short female and an average size male have the most children their genes are passed on the most. 

To conclude, this finding could create the correlation that 
  1. shorter families are more successful at reproducing because of the females
  2. families of average height are more successful at reproducing because of the males
This occurs because a particular trait (being short or average height) acts as both an advantage to one sex and a disadvantage when presented to the other.

When dealing with genes and DNA, experiments are random as can be. If only we could modify our gene make up to create the perfect offspring. (But then this wouldn't be life!)
Since I was young, I always thought about the concept of naming stars. Every since watching A Walk to Remember, it always seemed like such a romantic gesture. But the realist inside of me knew better than to think that it was actually true. If you go on any of these websites: Star RegistryName a Star Live,  and Online Star Registrar. One look at these sites and you can immediately tell that they look shady.

Names of astronomical objects are decided upon by the International Astronomical Union. There are some stars that have names, for example, Sirius, Rigel and Betelgeuse. These names have been passed down through history. Others are named after highly influential astronomers. But most stars, especially dim ones, are only given a numeric number that sums up their coordinates. Of the millions and millions of stars, can you expect astronomers to hand pick a name of each one? No. Frankly, it's easier to name stars with numbers for efficiency's sake. 

So what are these websites? Basically, each company has a catalog of stars and you can spend an amount of money to "name" it. The name will be recognized within that company, but there is no promise that the same exact star won't be recognized within another company. You're hypothetically spending money to be recognized by a website. These names will never be recognized by the international astronomical community. 

Although this seems like a big scam, there are a couple pro's to this phenomenon. It gets people involved in science and makes them interested in space and the nighttime sky. The fact that people are naming stars and then making an effort to find them in the sky is a great way to start getting people involved. Going to an observatory and seeing things through super telescopes is also a good way to learn about the universe. Stars have always have an optimistic, almost happy meaning to them and the fact that naming them can bring joy to people's lives is really kind of nice. As long as you realize what you're paying for and what naming a star truly means, you can use your judgement on whether you would like to spend money to name your own.

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I'll take a pet fox, please!

  I have always been fascinated by the fox, well before the world began to wonder what the fox says. In my simplistic mind, they seemed a majestic blend of dog and cat, the most common domesticated animals in American households. I began to wonder how animals are chosen for domestication and whether or not anyone had thought about domesticating foxes...the search for my future pet fox began!

   They began the domestication of foxes with the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. Many were scientists that wanted to unlock the key to domestication, although a few admitted that foxes were cute and fluffy and just wanted one was a pet. They claimed success and began selling them for $8,000, claiming that while not exactly like your fido or feline at home, they were good pets. "They're a little unconventional, and they require a little bit of extra attention, but if you want a pet fox, you can have a pet fox," claimed the research institute.

   What they really learned, however, was the key distinct differences between taming a fox and truly domesticating a fox. There are numerous examples of people rescuing an injured fox, gaining its trust and eventually raising at a pet of their own (see here: http://www.youtube.com/user/foxalbiazul). They found that, while taming is possible, a true wild, albeit tamed fox, will never cuddle with you like most furry friends we currently have at home. And of course, with the "taming" of any wild animal, there are potential drastic consequences...at any point they could return to their wild routes and become incredibly destructive, or worse, even turn on their owner.

   Domesticating foxes, they found, even with the emphasis on behavior, created strange results. They were breeding solely to create domesticated behavior and nothing more, hoping the looks would stay the same; after-all, there is something beautiful about that wild fox look. After generations of domestication FOR BEHAVIOR, they found new PHYSICAL TRAITS. The tail began to curl over, different coat patterns occured...almost as if a new breed of animal was created.

  So where can I get one?! Not a tamed wild one, a true domesticated fox for myself. The company in Russia doesn't sell them anymore (in fact it is unclear if any American ever got one from them). There is a company in Serbia but from all reports, it is a very sketchy business and far from reputable. That's not the worst news though...in most states having a pet fox is illegal, domesticated or wild. For now, it appears that is as far as one can get...and no domesticated foxes will start appearing in American living rooms any time soon. 

As unfortunate as this news was, they are still learning more and trying new ways to domesticate so not all hope is lost yet!

But I mean really, who doesn't want one of these?!?!

The Hangover


Mostly every college kid has had one of those mornings; lying in bed, immobile, in the clothes you the night before... You've got yourself a nasty hangover. But how do the effects of alcohol do this to you?

Congeners are chemicals in alcohol "during the processing and maturation that increase the severity of a hangover". Usually when liquor is darker it contains more congeners. These chemicals are responsible for those crappy feelings you get the next morning (nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, headaches, rapid heart rate, and increasing blood pressure).

            I tried to find scientific studies on hangovers but then realized that it's a bit morally wrong to intoxicate subjects just to measure their hangovers. There were although many scientific studies on a hangover cure. Hangover research institute "has a number of research objectives that include: Ending the modern day hangover, Encouraging healthy choices during alcohol consumption, Educating the public about unhealthy folk-remedies for hangovers, Investigating inflammation caused by acetaldehyde during veisalgia". They think that scientists should be able to come up with a better cure than water and Advil, and I most certainly agree! But if there is a cure for hangovers do you think alcohol consumption would be excessive?

It's been said that dogs can tell when you are sick, sad, or happy; well, now a study has given reason to why this is. A recent study has shown that dogs are a lot like infants in the way that they are sensitive to our cues to communicate with them are our equally receptive to them as a "pre-verbal infant". 

In this study, eye-tracking technology was used to show how dogs reacted after they were given communication cues. It was found that the dogs gaze followed the person just as often as a 6 month old baby's would. This fact shows that dogs have evolved over time and become attuned to human signals. 

The only question that is still up in the air with this study is which part of communication is more important; eye contact, or directed speech? Personally I think it's all about eye contact. What do you think, can dogs really understand what we are saying or do they just follow what we are looking at?


I have never truly understood what the obsession with taking selfies by yourself...Honestly why do I want to upload a photo by myself I'd rather have my friends in it! I think it is especially strange when the picture ends up looking nothing like the person in real life. But  according to this site about women there are 7 valid reason for these uploads.


Number One: Show off your assets

Unlike a group photo you have control. One can control the lighting, the angle, what they're wearing, how their face looks, and whatever else to make them shine in the social media world. 

Number Two: Watch out world, here I am!

Posting selfies shows that you are comfortable with yourself and how you look and okay to flaunt it with a solo pic.

Number Three: Photoshop

No matter what you look like in this age you can do some simple clicks to make yourself look better; you don't want pimples in your photo use a filter that flatters you best. If you're the photographer you have the power of editing in your hands.

Number Four: It's Art

Selfies can be fun to take! You can get crafty with them where your selfie becomes almost like an art project.

Number Five: Profile Pictures

Social media sites were invited in a way for one to show case themselves. So someone with a selfie in their profile is actually doing it right, instead of people having to search through tags or group photos they can match a person name to face right away. This also seems to help people match ones name to face better.

Number Six: Online Dating

You want to show yourself off the the online world of single people so you want to make sure you are looking your best.

Number Seven: Sexy Can I

Taking a selfie allows you to also be as revealing as you want. No one said you have to post them so you could take sexy photos for you or the person you're in a serious relationship with. You may be surprised by how hot you can be when you're the center of attention in your own photo.

Image found: http://www.j-14.com/posts/20-hilarious-photos-of-stars-caught-taking-selfies-16808/photos/selfie-9-7629



Let's be real, the title made you happy. If it didn't, I'm sorry you don't find puppies to be as cute as I do. I love animals, but especially dogs. I've had a dog since I was born and now that I don't have one I find myself wanting one more than ever. It could be because they say you always want what you can't have. But I think it's more than that. I believe dogs and pets in general, are great benefits to our lives.


Studies have found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression. I think pets can be really helpful for people who are going through a hard time because they are 'there' for them. My friend always tells me her dog knows when she's upset and as a result, her dog will lay with her in bed.

Pets are also helpful because they can alleviate stress. A study showed that when patients spent a short amount of time with a dog before an upcoming operation, they experienced a 37% reduction in anxiety levels. The dog distracted the patients from the reality they were going to face.

When it comes right down to it, they always say 'a dog is a man's best friend' and it's true. Dogs create a sense of closeness. Families were survey and said they felt happier after adding their pet to their family.  Pets can make people feel safer and allow pet owners to relax. They are always there to brighten your day and make you feel less lonely.

Dogs communicate really well and have great instincts. It goes back to my friend's dog. Dogs obviously don't know what tears are or what anger feels like but they can sense those emotions. They also can sense danger and recognize intruders, which is why they bark. Even though it's really annoying, barking may save your life one day.

Here are 11 real-life stories about pets who have saved people's lives. Like I said, I think animals have a better instinct of danger than humans do. My favorite story is the one about the Chihuahua saving an elderly woman simply by yipping and yapping. I know someone with a Chihuahua and I think they're super annoying with their so called bark, but now I know it's a bark that shouldn't be ignored all the time.

I think the world has finally come to a common consensus about diet soda: it's bad for you. But, I want to know what the harmful effects truly are, what they are caused by, and how at risk the average person is of being affected. "Doctors say drinking 2 or more diet sodas per day actually increases your chance of being obese by 57 percent" (http://www.myfoxchicago.com/story/20939173/diet-soda-dangers-new-study-may-link-aspartame-to-cancer#ixzz2ikMsD8cB). Obesity can be caused by artificial sweeteners and over consumption of sugars because they both feed destructive forces in the body and compromise your metabolic functioning. Diet soda contains carcinogens, just like cigarettes do. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to tooth decay and increased weight gain and blood sugar. Aspartame is found in diet soda and findings of the chemical are particularly unnerving. It has been linked to certain types of cancers, brain tumors, and other harmful health conditions. There is so much information out there and none of it indicates consumption of artificial sweeteners found in diet soda is beneficial for one's health. Most articles I found, though, are a compilation of results from various studies. While it's helpful to know a plethora of harmful effects diet soda can have, there isn't one single risk factor mentioned more frequently than others. The words obesity and cancer stand out to me the most because they can be fatal. All of the news reports and articles written by doctors have the intention of consumers getting one take-home message: diet soda and artificial sweeteners are harmful to your health. So, who is more at risk? People who consume more products that contain artificial sweeteners (like diet soda) are more at risk for experiencing harmful effects.


What is Triclosan?

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I'm sure that Triclosan isn't a topic of everyday conversation for you. When I was researching the ingredients for hand sanitizer (my last blog post), I stumbled upon a lot of controversy regarding the ingredient, Triclosan. Triclosan and/or Triclocarban is found in over 76% of antibacterial washes.


So what is Triclosan? It is an ingredient that is added to products to reduce or prevent bacteria contamination. The thing is, it is not a necessary ingredient. Regular soap and water serves the same purpose and does not contain Triclosan. It is found in most soaps, toothpastes, dish soaps, mouthwash, cleaning agents, cosmetics, cookware, clothes and toys. It is found in the urine of 75% of the population today.


Japan and Canada has already banned the use of Triclosan in consumer products. The EU has classified it as a dangerous irritant.


Triclosan, has been linked to interfering with the endocrine system, according to the FDA. Recently there has been an increase in talk about Triclosan. It can attach itself to receptor sites and block thyroid function. Endocrine disruptors have been tied to childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic health problems. Research has shown that Triclosan affects hormone regulation in animals as well.


With so many everyday products containing it, why do we not notice the side affects sooner? Why is this not brought forward? Although there's various petitions online, there is not enough data to support that it is truly harmful. There is not enough evidence to prove that it is hazardous to humans. Data showing effects in animals does not necessarily mean that it predicts effects in humans. This is a standard example of people exaggerating problems and believing that whatever you read online. 


Can you imagine avoiding all of these products? Until the science can prove that Triclosan is dangerous, you can carry on with your normal lives.



Tanning Beds - Not Just the Ladies


A combination of living a 50 minute drive from the shore and being a competitive cheerleader, tanning beds have simply just been a way of life. I have always known the harmful effects of UV lights on the skin, but for me it's a game of pick your carcinogen (I consider myself very healthy otherwise). For this blog post I intended to write of the studies shown to detest fake booth tanning, but instead I came across a problem that for once didn't effect me (sorry boys, its not like any of you out here in Central Pennsylvania fake tan anyway).


A team of scientists at University of Oxford, suspected that variations in a gene pathway controlled by the tumor suppressor gene p53 could have either positive or negative effects on human health. Dr. Douglas Bell explains that the p53 stimulates skin tanning when ultraviolet light activities it in the skin. The suppressor then must bind a specific sequence of DNA located in a gene called the KIT ligang oncogene, which stimulates melanocyte production, AKA allowing the pasty skin to turn tan.


When the analysis was conducted through the human genome and thousands of genome-wide associations, the researchers found one variant in the p53 pathway was strongly associated with testicular cancer. Yet, on the positive side, they also found a benefit that is probably related to tanning as humans have evolved.


So who is subject to this testicular cancer??
White males with a single nucleotide (DNA code) of KITLG, called the G allele, have the highest odds of getting the cancer.

How safe are the white males??
Luckily, testicular tumors are often easily cured with chemotherapy because unlike other tumors, the p54 functions properly and it is not muntant-ized by the cancer. This allows the drugs used for testicular cancer to work along side p53, to kill the cancer cells.

This study is quite difficult to wrap my head around. I can not necessarily make any inferences used in classroom discussion, but the utilization of the Human Genome Project in this analysis is fascinating to me. The science world is slowly grabbing more and more off a piece in decoding the mysteries of cancers and DNA! 

No hair... do care


The thought of loosing your hair drives many people ballistic. Many people have tried to come up with treatments that help people regrow hair, but does anyone really know the actual cause of hair loss? Hats have been one of the sources that people report cause hair loss but this proved to be a false positive result because in reality they have nothing to do with people losing their hair.


            Many people think that because a hat blocks off airflow to one's hair follicles their hair will start to break off. In reality as we become older our hair follicles shrink. "The result is hair that begins to develop abnormally causing lighter, finer, and shorter hairs. In the end, the hair falls out, never to return".

            So what actually causes hair loss? There are "two known pathways that seem to mediate this process": Testosterone and hereditary genes. 'When testosterone is aided by an enzyme (type 2 5-alpha reductase) which lies in hair follicle oil glands, it turns into DHT and begins to bind to the androgen receptors. Once there, it shrinks the follicle, over time". This biological finding provides truth into why men experience more balding than women; because their testosterone levels are much higher.

            Genes play another factor in the balding process. An observational study proved that the balding characteristic is carried on chromosome 20. Now the balding pattern is neither dominant nor recessive but it is additive, so "Men with one affected copy were 3.7 times as likely to show early hair loss, and those with two copies were 6.1 times as likely". So these findings go to show that before you blame your hair loss on various myths first blame your testosterone levels and then embrace your inner teenage kid and blame your parents. 



From a Gallup pole  done of 550,000 individuals it was shown that Americans who are religious are less likely to be diagnosed with depression. Only 15.6% of religious Americans have been diagnosed with depression, as compared to 20.4% of moderately religious Americans and 18.7% of nonreligious Americans who have been diagnosed with depression. Further, those Americans who are very religious are less likely to report daily feelings of worry, hopelessness, and sadness (click http://www.gallup.com/poll/144980/religious-americans-report-less-depression-worry.aspx).


So why is it that religious Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with depression? The reason religious people are less likely to be diagnosed with depression is because religion often gives people a sense of purpose, something that depressed people often lack. This article further concluded that those who are religious feel a better sense of connection to their community and are more likely to have stronger social ties. Again, depressed people often feel that they are completely alone and that they have no friends. So, according to this study, it is actually the social connections and sense of purpose that religion fosters that causes those who are religious to be happier (study shown here).


Another study done of 2,100 Americans followed from birth to death showed that women who regularly attended church, were less likely to be depressed. However, there was no significant correlation between regular church attendance and men living a happier life. This further proves that God is not the reason that those who go to church are less depressed, because if that were the case women and men would be less depressed. It was noted that women who experienced depression as kids were often found to have stopped going to church services by the time they were 20. This study insinuates reverse causation, because it is not going to religious services that make you less depressed, but it just happens that those people who are not depressed go to church more frequently (for more information click here).


So after reading both of these studies we can determine that those who are religious are actually happier, but it's not necessarily God that is making them happier. While both explanations as to why religious people are less likely to be depressed are very plausible, neither has been tested repeatedly to see if their theories really hold. So we can conclude that religious people are less depressed, but we still cannot really pinpoint why this is the case.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90-95% of the 13 million men already diagnosed with diabetes today. You can learn everything you need to know about type 2 diabetes here but basically it is when your pancreas isn't letting out enough insulin or your body just isn't working with the insulin your body is producing. Diabetes is a serious issue but a new study has found that weight training regularly with aerobics may reduce your risk by up to 59%!
This study followed over 32,000 men for approximately 20 years. Every other year the participants tracked their exercise and their factors like smoking, alcohol, coffee intake, and diet. Out of all the participants only 7% developed new cases of diabetes which is below the national average of 11.8%. This study was able to prove that by lifting weight between 1-59 minutes per week men were able to lower their risk of type 2 diabetes by 12%, 25% if they increased their time working out to 60-149 minutes, and then anyone doing about 30 minutes per day lowered their chances by 34%!

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse about 1.9 million adults over the age of 20 were diagnosed with new cases of diabetes in the United States alone in 2010! So to make sure your chances are as low as possible start hitting the gym! 

Many people opt out of washing their hands and turn towards the more efficient route of using hand sanitizer. It's a cheap product and saves a lot of time throughout the day. But the real question is- is sanitizer enough to ditch regular soap and water? 


A study recently discovered that long-term care facilities who relied on hand sanitizers more so than hand washing reported more outbreaks of norovirus-related illness. Also, the use of antibacterial cleansers can lead to development of resistant bacteria. They kill off bacteria that protect our bodies from infection. Also, hand sanitizer can lead to the drying out of hands and the scented or dyed ones can cause an allergic reaction to people who are sensitive to unfamiliar chemicals.


When buying hand sanitizer, it is good to make sure that it contains 60% alcohol, which is the main cleaning agent in order to ward off bacteria and viral infections. If the sanitizer contains 60% or more alcohol then it is a great supplement to hand washing. If you cheap out, you may have a lower percentage of alcohol in the hand sanitizer so it is no better than using plain 'ol water. Although hand sanitizer is fairly convenient, it is certainly not a replacement. In order for you to have "good hand sanitizer use", one must rub their hands together for 15 seconds.

Overall, I think that hand sanitizer is useful only in moderation.  Overuse and reliance on hand sanitizer can lead to other problems that are avoidable when sticking with soap and water. So next time you're in the bathroom and you don't know which to use- go for the soap and water.


Can our personalities actually determine our health? Apparently the answer is yes. Who would have thought that the more optimistic we are and the more we laugh could actually keep us alive.


A study done by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yeshiva University found a common link in people around the age of 97.5.  When personalities were evaluated of 243 of these people the traits that they possessed in common were things such as "outgoing, optimistic and easy going" (HuffingtonPost). Along with these positive traits when compared to the average US population the subjects scored on neurotic personality tests and higher on conscientiousness tests (HuffingtonPost). The important thing to mention about this group of people is that they were part of a larger study examining 500 Ashkenazi Jews who researchers say are "genetically homogenous" (HuffingtonPost).

Another study of people 52-79 suggests the same conclusion. The 3,853 subjects, who were deemed as relativity happy people, had a 35 percent lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy people (HuffingtonPost).


There are many studies out there on why certain people live longer than others. Some may say that is it a blessing to live to almost 100 and some may not. But all of this research begs the question, what is it about being a positive and happy person that effects how long we live? Or in other words what effects does being happy have on our health?  





Wake up!


How many times have you heard "my day doesn't start without my cup of coffee?" Growing up with two coffee addict parents, I know that phrase well. They drink a pot (or more) a day between the two of them. I think it's gross because they grind the coffee beans in my house so it always smells like coffee! I can't drink coffee because it doesn't sit well with my stomach. The closest thing I drink to coffee is espresso in my Mocha Frappuccinos from Starbucks. However, what many of you don't know is that espresso doesn't contain that much caffeine.

Espresso is made by forcing nearly boiling water under pressure through ground coffee beans. It was discovered in 1884 in Italy. Espresso was made to be served quickly and in small amounts that's why they are called 'shots.'


For those of you who aren't coffee experts like me, you probably didn't know the darker the roast, the less caffeine. As coffee beans are being roasted, the caffeine is lost the longer they are. Espresso is considered a dark roast; therefore, there is not a lot of caffeine in one shot. According to this caffeine level indicator, there is 77 mg of caffeine per 1.5 fl. oz shot. There is 107.5 mg of caffeine per 8 fl. oz cup of regular brewed coffee.

You're better off getting a cup of coffee versus a latte if you're looking for a caffeine boost in the morning. It's significantly cheaper and you get more coffee. Don't waste your money on an extra shot of espresso.

Do you usually get extra shots of espresso? Do you think it actually helps or is it a mental thing? According to all of that data, you're not getting that much caffeine to make a difference.

Immortality, a Possibility?

Immortality: The ability to live forever, eternal life. The thing that most super villains in movies are trying to get. I remember as a kid I would always ask my parents if it was possible to live forever, and they would reply, no, only God lives forever. That answer always bothered me and I always believed in the possibility of immortality, no matter who told me that it wasn't possible. (Just like how I still believe a zombie virus taking over the earth is still possible). In history , a Sumerian King seeks eternal life, then another man more commonly known, names Ponce de Leon comes to the Americas in search of a fountain of youth. Where did these guys here about this? How were they so convinced that they searched far and wide for this immortality?

Well, researchers claim to have found the key to "biological immortality", using a girl named Gabby Williams, an 8 year old girl with a body of an infant. Though she is 8 years old, she only weighs about 11 pounds and still has to be taken care of as she is a baby. No we have all heard of the shortest women in the world, a women that hasn't grown at all and stands at 24.7 inches tall. Here's a video on her if you don't know about her.The special thing about this girl is that unlike the shortest women in the world, her skin and hair is still that of a baby. People with this disease are so rare that a name for the disease has yet to be made. These guys are actually the age they seem to be, not just the size. They have a thing that just prevents them from aging.

Though no experiments have been tried, scienctists and researchers just think and hope that these people hold the key to eternal youth. Why do we age? Read this article on why we age Dr. Michael Rose explains that "an organism ages because the process is a byproduct forced upon us by evolution by natural selection--governed by the passing on of genes." So technically in order to not age, we have to reverse that process or block it completely.

So, what do you guys think? Do you believe that we can achieve true immortality? If so would you guys be open to the idea of being given immortality and why?



"Girl Who Never Ages Could Hold Key to 'biological Immortality,' Researcher Says."NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

Gabby Williams may not look it, but she is 8-years-old. She has a mysterious condition that has caused her to virtually stop aging.

The things that run through my mind when I have been awake for 30 hours...and counting...



Knowledge is a very broad term and is not static, as the world advances technological advancements are made and what we know changes as well. It is often assumed that certainty distinguishes knowledge from mere belief but this is not always the case.  Instead people react to a lack of certainty by adopting the relativism theory. According to relativism an absolute truth does not exist, instead, it is relative and may be different for different individuals. It is essential for us to know the difference between what is and what is not knowledge. Knowledge would be "information for which we have either direct experience and or data to confirm that it represents a, more or less, accurate interpretation of the world around us.  Therefore knowledge is always going to have severe limits and most of the knowledge we possess will actually be a product of second-hand information we gain from other sources"1 and a belief would be "a system of thought that is compromised of the information we have accumulated and stored in our brains.  What is important to understand is that such a belief does not have any intrinsic validity beyond the fact that it is the way in which data has been organized within our brains."1 To guarantee that a statement is not just a mere belief when it comes to the problem of knowledge, we assure that the knowledge we carry is in fact true by making sure it is coherent and has positive evidence.


To find the truth in the natural sciences, scientists use inductivism which consists of; observation, hypothesis, experiment, law and theory. The natural sciences depend on observation which tends to be relative. For example during a physics lab we did a few months back my peers and I were given the task of having to conduct an experiment to find the temperature of absolute zero. What I realized from this task is that during an experiment people are prone to selective observation and confirmation bias which can affect the validity of your work. In the beginning of the experiment I had a general idea of what I was going to be looking for and it was not until the end of the experiment that I realized that there were a few things that I didn't observe that  I should have. Since I wanted my hypothesis to be correct I only saw data that was relevant to the hypothesis.  What I derived from this experiment could not be viewed as knowledge but only a mere belief because the information obtained from this experiment was relative and biased, before reflecting on this experiment I was certain that my work was accurate. Is it possible that researchers are prone to confirmation bias and selective observation?  

On the contrary, it is possible to acquire true knowledge from the natural sciences. There are theories and laws that we use today prove that the natural sciences can produce true knowledge that is coherent and has positive evidence to back it up, for example, Johannes Kepler's law of planetary motion. This law can be seen as knowledge because meticulous observations made over a long period of time were and several discoveries of anomalies were observed by various scientists and with the discoveries of these anomalies, auxiliary hypotheses were formed and refinements were made. When the scientific method is followed meticulously and scientists make sure that their experiments are repeatable, controllable and measurable and that biases are avoided it is possible that the information we gain can be seen as knowledge. We should keep in mind that as we advance we might find that what was thought of as knowledge before could be proven to be false in the future. We should also be careful in sharing our knowledge seeing as the difference between sharing knowledge and sharing a belief could result in the difference between telling someone that crystal rocks have healing powers and that antibiotics are used to treat syphilis.


other sources 

Van de Lagemaat, Richard. "Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma." United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print


The Real Super Spice

fotolia_cinnamon.jpgA few months ago when I was home, I noticed something others would find pretty peculiar sitting in my mother's medicine cabinet.
"What's this?"
I asked not because I didn't know what it was, but because I was curious which of her weird health kicks she was on and I wanted a quick and fast explanation to the bottle of cinnamon supplements (cinnamon in a capsule form).
"Oh, it's just this knew thing I'm trying," she responded nonchalantly. "Cinnamon is so good for you and sometimes I don't think I'm getting enough. Here, I got an extra bottle for you."
Like most of my mother's health habits or dieting fads she swears by, it seemed pretty pointless and harmless. Every day for months I've been taking cinnamon supplements and never once looked up the possible benefits or potential risks. I heard once somewhere cinnamon was good for you and that was enough for me. I thought it was time to dig deeper.
It turns out, cinnamon has a wide variety of benefits and is used to treat multiple disorders and problems. "Penn State researchers revealed that diets rich in cinnamon can help reduce the body's negative responses to eating high-fat meals"(http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php). It has been used to treat infections, the common cold, stomach problems, and muscle spasms. In ancient Egypt it was used as a remedy for arthritis, sore throats, and coughs. I thought that was impressive until I realized it's used to treat Type 2 diabetes because a certain extract lowers LDL cholesterol, serum glucose, and triglyceride. Certain extracts might inhibit the development of Alzheimer's disease and may help stop Multiple Sclerosis. It also has potential for HIV prevention. For the latter potential benefits, more research needs to done. But, early studies show promising effects of the spice in slowing the processes of these diseases in different experimental environments. There is no doubt in my mind that cinnamon helps boost the metabolism and lowers blood sugar levels. There is one risk factor I've found thus far and that is its ingredient coumarin which can put people at risk for liver damage. However, I think the potential benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to this medicinal spice. 

Does Head Gear actually help?


Professional boxer don't wear head gear and they have had study's done that show brain damage.  But amateurs do wear headgear, does this mean they don't get brain damage via too many punches to the head.  The Cleveland Clinic did an experiment to test the impact on the head with and without head gear coming from punches straight to the face and hooks to the side of the head.  The results were staggering (no pun intended).  The head gear was good at taking a majority of the blow from a straight punch   They measured the impact force in joules and it was clear that the impact was significantly dispersed around the head gear compared to the control.  But where the study got interesting is when they study hooks to the head.  In this case the head provided little help in lessening the impact.  If you look at figure 9 in the study you can see the impact forces graph.  The top one representing the straight punch and there is a clear difference in the unpadded head and the head gear.  But on the bottom graph you can clearly see the lines between head gear and the no headgear are very close.   This is alarming and a new advantage to amateur boxers who are familiar with the study.  Throw more Hooks.     


Yeah, I was shocked too! With everything we know about alcohol you would think that shyingaway from it would help rather than hurt but according to a new study, led by psychologist Charles Holahan at the University of Texas, regular drinkers are less likely to die early than those who rarely/never drink.
The study spanned a 20 year period, had many controls, and looked at people ranging in ages from 55-65. It accounted for variables ranging from socioeconomic status to the participants level of physical activity. The actual results were as follows; mortality rates or those that had never consumed alcohol at all were highest, then came theheavy drinkers, and then the participants with the lowest mortality rates were the moderate drinkers (one to three drinks per day). 
One possible explination given for why this happened is because alcohol can be a great social lubricant thus creating an easy way for the participants who classified as moderate drinkers to maintain a good mental and physical health. While in comparison, nondrinkers are known to be more prone to show greater signs of depression. Also moderate drinking of beverages like red wine is also proven to increase heart health.  
This study shows that alcohol isn't bad for you. Obviously we all know it isn't the best thing in the world but like all good things it has proven itself to be great in moderation. 

gardasil_s640x427.jpgThis week's lectures have really caught my attention. The controversial topic of vaccinations and their effects have caused me to consider both sides of the argument. Most people of our generation have been vaccinated at a young age and are perfectly healthy today. There is plenty of evidence to show that vaccines work. As for the question of safety, there has been inadequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. We learned that this is hard to explain; for people want to know without question that something is safe and effective.

Andrew talked about how powerful an anecdote can be to the rationale of a concerned population. We are led to believe that certain outcomes are more significant than the research that science has done in an attempt to rule out the null hypothesis. But sometimes, it can be hard to ignore the stories and events we see and hear in the media. For example, a column in The Washington Times communities section boasts the headline, "US Court pays $6 million to Gardasil victims."  The column begins with a warning--the vaccine for HPV may not be as safe as backers claim.  The author continues to present statistics from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) that illustrates the amount of claims that have been made and adjudicated, 49 of 200, to be exact.  The Judicial Watch, an educational foundation that performs investigations to ensure ethics and morality, announced that, "This new information from the government shows that the serious safety concerns about the use of Gardasil have been well-founded. Public health officials should stop pushing Gardasil on children." In addition, the article states that the adverse reaction reports detail 26 new deaths reported between September 1st 2010 and September 15th 2011, as well as a multitude of other maladies. In response, the Centers for Disease Control insists, "There was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine." Even so, the thought of this can be scary.

If you read some of the comments left on the article, it is clear that the audience has bought into the anecdotal argument against the vaccine.  Sometimes irrationality and emotion play into others' beliefs about its safety. One woman states, "I'm so glad I read this, I had been on the fence about getting this vaccine for my daughter..." and another, "Merck. The makers of Vioxx. Another deadly drug whose side effects were hidden during testing..."Can we really believe all that we see on the Internet, and take it for fact?  Looking at the credibility of the source, it may be more believable if this article were to be written by the CDC itself, rather than a contributor to a news website.

So, should everyone get the Gardasil vaccine? It can be difficult to make decisions about important topics such as vaccination, but it seems that the benefit of protection against HPV would outweigh any potential risks. Do articles like this affect your opinion on the vaccine?





Is it just me, or is Penn State a breeding ground for common colds and allergies? My roommate Laurel and I have been sick for what seems like eternity. Whether I'm waking her up with my throat-clearing or she's startling me with her hacking cough, we've come to the conclusion that we feel much sicker at night than we do during the day. I want to know why this is the case and what we can do to make it through a night's sleep free of interruptions.

So what is the science behind the nighttime coughing going on in my dorm room? A little research has taught me that in my specific case, there are three main reasons: gravity and an open window, and our dorm room itself. It doesn't take a doctor to point out the obvious; when we lie down on our backs, all the gunk falls down into our throats. But, to understand this a little better, I looked to infectious disease specialist Dr. Mitchell Blass. He says that the post-nasal drip coagulates around the gastroesophageal junction which can cause the gastroesophageal reflex to kick in. The junction is where the stomach is attached to the esophagus and the reflex helps protect the junction by clearing the substances out in a cough. Even though it can come at the cost of waking each other up, Laurel and I should remember that coughing is a good thing--each hack breaks down the mucus build up and (hopefully) brings us one step closer to health.

The second reason is that we leave the window of our dorm room open while we sleep. If you know either of us, you know that we're huge snugglers--it's next to impossible for either of us to fall asleep unless we're cocooned in our fluffy comforters and big blankets. We're definitely cozy, but it can get a little warm under there. Keeping our window open overnight for a slight breeze seemed like the perfect solution... keyword: seemed. Little did we know, our nightly routine of opening the window may have been what perpetuated our sickness into the semester-long cycle we've been stuck in.  According to the American Lung Association, 60% of us are breathing outdoor air that is unhealthy at night. Chances are, we're a part of that majority.

Unfortunately, leaving the window open does not purify the air in our room. This leads me to the last reason: indoor pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency "lists poor indoor air quality as the fourth largest environmental threat to our country" and that, in some cases, it is worse indoors than outdoors. As two sick girls living in a tiny space that is decades old, we can expect pollutants from bacteria and viruses, to mold and mildew, to dust mites and pollen. Ew.

The little girl below is adorable, but I'm so glad that I don't look like her anymore.


With our Science 200 hats on, Laurel and I decided to run a little experiment. Our hypothesis was that if we slept with our heads propped up under multiple pillows, used fans instead of the outside air to keep us cool at night, and cleaned and vacuumed the room, we would feel better within a few days. Those three factors were the manipulated variables and our health was the responding variable. Neither Laurel nor I have had a coughing fit in three nights! Of course the results of our simple experiment may have been due to confounding variables (like increased fluid intake) or chance. But, whatever the case may be, we are feeling better than we have all semester. These changes were all very easy to make. That being said, if you're experiencing a similar problem to us, it would be a good idea to make them yourself. 

I found the next addition Penn State needs to make to their campus.

According to an article from gizmag.com, the British company Pro-Teq just came out with a new technology called the "Star Path" that not only looks magical, but could revolutionize how we light up our world at night.

Star Path is a " water-resistant, spray-on coating that absorbs UV light during the day and releases it at night". The particles are able to tell how much light they should emit based on the light around them, similar to bio luminescence.

Pro-Teq applies the star path with special spraying equipment. The begin the application with a "polyurethane base and aggregate (a rocky, sandy mixture that forms the new path-top) followed by the biolmuniscent material itself and a polyaspartic topcoat that seals the whole thing together". What's awesome is it doesn't take long to apply - Pro-Teq did 1600 sq ft in 30 minutes. After that, the coating takes a little under four hours to dry, and voila, places have new pathways that look like regular pavements during the day and star paths at night.

The question to ask though is: how will this technology change our world as we know it?

The star path is an alternative to street lighting. It is very easy to apply, it harvests natural light, and glows comparable amounts to street lights but in a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way. It also has anti-slip properties and is none reflective.

Pro-Teq is testing it in Chris Piece's park in Cambridge, but they have big plans for the star path. They have a vision for bike paths, walking paths, driveways, and eventually, as Digital Trends covered,, roadways and highways.

There is conversation about how this will work in the winter with less daylight time, but Pro-Teq is confident in their product. Their website, http://www.pro-teqsurfacing.com/, offers 11 different path colors and shows pictures of their work with star path so far.

This technology could also significantly help developing countries who don't have a consistent power supply.

After learning about this new technology, I am most excited to see if it will catch on in the future. I think it should, especially in developing countries as an alternative to the inconsistent power. With the quick application and reusable energy benefits, I think we might see more of these paths in the future. Like Digital Trends, I too am crossing my fingers for glow-in-the-dark highways by 2014.

What do you guys think? Does this sound like a feasible technology that will catch on? Have you ever heard of something similar?

Here is a video put out by Pro-Teq if you want to learn more:

I have five siblings. The oldest two are my half-sister and half-brother, who are a result of my dad's previous marriage. From my parents marriage, there is my older sister, me, a younger brother, and a younger sister.  My sisters and I are all the same height. We share some common personality traits, and my-half sister and I both have very curly hair. But I don't look like any of them.

Granted, the picture above is not the best. I straightened my hair (it's not curly like my half-sister's), and it's not so focused. But you can see that we don't actually resemble each other very much.This is because your body is made up of cells. Every single cell in your body has two copies of <a href="http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/how-can-children-from-the">DNA (genes)</a>. So these two copies will form an X. One set of the DNA comes from your mother, and the other comes from your father. This makes sense that I might not look like my half-siblings, since we only share 1/2 the DNA  (from our father).

This doesn't explain why I don't look like my 'full' siblings, though. Without getting too complicated (since we're all non-science majors), people have <a href="http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask394">multiple copies of genes</a>. You might be carrying a blue-eye recessive gene and the brown-eye dominant gene, but only pass the brown one to your offspring. So imagine your parent has two versions of a gene. You will have a 50-50 chance on which one you will receive. But since I have 3 full siblings, who also have the same 50-50 chance, we only have 1/8 chance of all sharing that particular copy of a gene. It is virtually impossible that all of my siblings and I will share, by chance, the same copy of every single cell in our body.

Do any of you look a lot like your siblings? Or maybe you don't look alike at all? What do you think of this explanation?

People have know for years that getting hit in the head repeatedly is not good for you.  But a new scientific study  published in March of 2013 by John Gever shows a positive correlation between the number of years pro fighting and reduced volume in the caudate and amygdala.  The caudate and amygdala are areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory systems. 


The study looked at over 250 fighter's (both Boxing and MMA) MRI scans and measured the volume of several brain regions.  As we could have predicated the more experienced fighter (more head shots) showed a smaller volume in said regions of the brain compared to the younger professional fighters whose brains were still damaged.  Interestingly enough fighters who had less than 5 years experience did not see any decline in volume of the caudate, putamen, thalamus, amygdala, or hippocampus.  This tells me amateur fighting (college) is not as bad as the NCAA thinks.  The NCAA ban boxing as a varsity sport until 1960 when a Wisconsin Madison fighter collapsed and died due to a brain hemorrhaging.  Professional fighters don't wear the head gear that amateurs are required to wear which I believe is the reason for decrease cognitive learning and memory.  As we mentioned in class anecdotes carry a far heavier weight than statistical numbers.  Seeing Muhammad Ali formally know as Cassius Clay, deteriorating condition is a sad anecdote.  While he suffers from Parkinson's syndrome it is also clear his mind has been fogged with the many punches he has taken. 


Or seeing Joe Frazier's death last year all contribute to these anecdotes that boxing destroys ones brain.  Science has now put a biological mechanism to a conclusion people have "known" for years.  But science has also exposed the fact that fighters with less than 5 years of experience show no decrease in brain function and brain structure.   

More on the Booze Issue

My previous post didn't really delve into the specific negative effects drinking can have on the brain and the consequences of the potential damage. The same website http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm addresses specific studies and research on alcohol's effects on structures of the brain and the way it functions. As previously stated, heavy drinking can lead to shrinkage of the brain and difficulties forming and retrieving memories. Researchers use various neuroimaging technology to detect the physical effects alcohol has on the brain (ex. MRI, PET). Excessive drinking can cause deficiencies in both white and gray matter. This constitutes as issues in the fibers carrying information between brain cells. Problems in the cerebellum (responsible for coordination) and the frontal lobes (learning/memory) have been detected in alcoholics. This is just a small preview of the harmful biological effects alcohol can have on specific structure of the brain and its performance. I wonder how many college students notice a decrease in their ability to focus, solve problems, perform well on exams, make decisions, perform certain physical tasks, study, communicate well with others, and more. The implications of the potential damage drinking can cause to the brain could affect so many aspects of daily functioning. So, now that some of the harmful direct effects of the brain have been addressed, I want to offer some advice on how to prevent or counteract the harmful effects of binge drinking. There has to be a way, right?
Besides the obvious, abstaining from alcohol use or abuse altogether, a study suggests that regular exercise might counteract some of the harmful effects alcohol has on the brain. It found that heavy drinkers who exercised regularly did not show a decrease in white matter, while those who drank heavily and did little or no exercise showed a decrease. The topic needs further research because the study involved 60 participants with a wide range of drinking and exercise habits. It wasn't very controlled and this doesn't address people diagnosed with alcohol disorders. It also only looks at the brain at one point in time and only addresses one part of the brain (white matter). It involved a brain scan and a series of questions. I think an experimental design would be more beneficial than a randomized survey, but there would be issues with morality if people were told to consume a certain amount of alcohol for an allotted period of time if it resulted in damage. It would be great to know the types of exercise the people who showed no decrease in white matter engaged in (Was it more cardio heavy or a combination of weight training and cardio?). So, while the results of the experiment are far from foolproof, exercise is known to increase white matter in the brain. Also, exercise has so many beneficial effects for the body like increasing blood flow, improving mood, improving heart and lung functioning, and so many more. While exercise doesn't necessarily counteract the effects of alcohol consumption, it won't hurt to hit the gym a few extra days a week. If I'm not skimping on my late-night weekend ritual, I probably shouldn't skip my weekly trips to the gym.


Is obesity a disability? Hmm


Discrimination against the obese has been an ever present phenomenon since the birth of the industrial era, perhaps even before, but it was not until recent decades that it escalated and became the fast growing controversy that it is today. This is usually attributed to the dramatic increase in the number of overweight Americans. In 2012, our nation was ranked number 1 amongst the most obese nations, and even though it has since then lost the throne to Mexico we are still amongst the top 5. Still, should obesity be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in a number of areas including employment, public transportation and communications. Whether obesity should be protected under this act or not has been a thoroughly discussed topic since more and more court cases in which overweight people demand disability protection keep appearing.

The ADA defines disabilities as "an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment". It is because of this loose definition of the term and of what constitutes major life activities that many obese advocates have found ways to receive protection from the ADA in court. 

One specific court case worth mentioning is Cook v. Rhode Island. This was one of the first court cases to ever link weight discrimination with disabilities. The legal conflict developed after Cook, the overweight plaintiff, decided to apply for a position in a mental institution she had previously worked and performed favorably in twice in the past. She was turned down because her employers found her weight to be a potential liability. They had no medical tests or any other type of hard evidence to support this claim, still they rejected her and defended their decision by stating that "[her] weight compromised her ability to evacuate patients in an emergency situation and increased her chances of developing aliments that could lead Cook to be out of work or claim workers' compensation". The jury viewed this as the institution claiming that Cook had a disability that limited her life activities. Also, Cook managed to prove that morbid obesity can come as a result of a physiological disorder. A physiological illness is understood to be an illness caused by the malfunction of organs or the systems in the body. In the end the court ruled in favor of Cook; they declared that the mental institution employers were discriminating against her and found that obesity caused by physiological disorders could be considered a disability. 

Those who advocate in favor of obesity being a disease recognized this as a big step but were still not fully pleased with this resolution. They dispute the fact that other disabilities do not require a "background check" in order to receive protection. They use cancer as a common example. It does not matter if a person abused tobacco products and as a result got cancer; the fact that the individual has the disability is enough to receive the legal protection the ADA offers. On the other hand the morbidly obese need to have a physiological reason for their condition or they will not receive the ADA benefits. Also, there is currently only one American state with official state laws protecting obese citizens from discrimination; the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan. Pro-obese groups and other supporting organizations are looking to not only getting all morbidly obese people full protection under the ADA but also creating more state laws that protect them. Their objective is to create consciousness throughout the country and eliminate weight bias in the work force and any other areas of life. 

What do you guys think? Should obesity be considered a disability?






College is a time period where excessive drinking and substance abuse is rampant and often promoted by peers. I haven't been thinking about high school health class for the past three years, but I'm starting to think that I maybe should have paid closer attention. Although my first drink was about a decade ago and I was the opposite of sheltered, I never really thought I would have a drinking problem. I just turned twenty-one a week ago and can't help but worry for my health. I decided to do some research on binge drinking as not only a friendly reminder for others, but mainly for myself. If you're anything like me or my friends, the typical week involves going out at night anywhere between 1 to 3 times. Some weeks I plan on staying in. But, Thursday and Friday roll around and as I sit in my apartment hearing the giddy squeals of sorority girls outside my window and guys shouting from neighboring apartments with Kid Cudi cranked up loud, I find myself feeling fidgety and unproductive. "I'll just write those blog posts tomorrow morning," I think to myself and then I put on my heels and head out the door. But, is my seemingly harmless habit causing more harm than I think it is?
This article reminded me how women are more susceptible than men to multiple specific medical consequences of alcohol use. After less years of heavy drinking, women are more likely than men to develop: cirrhosis, nerve damage, and cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart). But, both sexes are at at a high risk for severe health problems if they are consuming large quantities of alcohol on a regular basis. I find it interesting that studies on brain shrinkage in men and women have been inconclusive when deciphering who is more susceptible. However, there is no question that alcoholic men and women show more shrinkage and exhibit more memory and learning difficulties than their lighter or non-drinking counterparts. Brain damage can occur from alcoholism as not only a direct result of drinking but an effect of a vitamin deficiency. "80 percent of alcoholics, however, have a deficiency in thiamine (15), and some of these people will go on to develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome..." (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm). The negative effects of alcoholism and excessive drinking can be debilitating and irreversible. I think I needed to read this article (link) today as a wake-up call. I'm not saying that all college students are alcoholics or have a drinking problem. But, it's so easy to get caught up in the party scene and it's perfectly natural to want to have a good time. I think it's important to stay informed on the potential negative effects of drinking and maybe refrain from ripping quite as many shots the night before your 8 am class that takes attendance.

 This specific topic piqued my interest because it is something my mother has mentioned to me for years. She used to scold me all the time because of my habit of sitting on bed while working with my computer on me. I never really asked her which were the health consequences driving her constant motherly scolding, but I thought it was about time I took my personal health into my own hands for once. 

Although there are a number of research studies supporting the hypothesis that using a computer on your lap  may be harmful, it seems like these negative  effects only concern males. Turns out that the overheating of the male scrotum, or scrotal hyperthermia, has negative effects on spermatogenesis. To be more specific, the over heating of this external male reproductive organ can impair healthy sperm production and even reduce sperm count which is where the infertility problem comes in. When it comes to women there does not seem to be any danger. This is due to the fact that, unlike males, female reproductive organs are not freely exposed to the outside environment. So in conclusion my mom was partially correct when warning me and my brother about this. I'm still glad she took her precautions with me though, even if I wasn't in any real danger. 

on fire.jpg





CAM or complimentary and alternative medicine refers to unconventional medicinal techniques that are simply not considered the standard, although many have been around for centuries. Many of these techniques center around the use of herbs, healing touch, and energy to restore balance in the patient, ease pain and cure disease. 

NCCAM stands for The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and it is the section of the NIH devoted to funding and incentivizing of  empirical study of unconventional medicinal methods such as CAMs. The NCCAM's job is to carry on scientific investigation on these methods' usefulness and safety. When it comes to research funds we are now close to $250 million from NIH sectors, plus tens of millions more from other private donors.  Also, according to an article featured on the NIH site referencing a 2007 government survey, in 2009 over the course of a 12- month period, Americans had spent $33.9 billion dollars on CAMs. Other sources indicate that this number has been increasing. 

Although the NIH's NCCAM is responsible for the continuing research on these methods' efficacy and safety, the decision of wether or not to make use of these treatments falls in the hands of medical centers. Every medical center has it's own idea of how to best incorporate CAMs into their treatment programs, and it is quite rare to find a general consensus on what the best method, dosage and target disease or patient population really is. 

There is still a huge need for research on this field due to the fact that we have yet to validate the efficacy of most of these methods. It has been reported that many of the placebo trials have failed to support positive effects from CAMs, and there does not seem to be any conclusive evidence for most of these methods. Still, it has been show that Reiki may increase feelings of happiness, relaxation and calmness, acupuncture has a chance of reducing chemotherapy induced vomiting and chronic pain conditions, and finally it seems like chiropractic medicine may reduce lower back pain.  

Personally, I think I would definitely recommend some of these to family and friends. Although there's a lot of work to do research wise, as long as they produce no harm I would be willing to use them myself. I believe that a big part of getting better has to do with being in the right state of mind. If techniques and practices such as Yoga and Reiki can get you there without causing any significant harm, I feel that they are worth utilizing. On the other hand, I also recently became aware of other factors such as potentially high levels of mercury and lead present in herbal medicines, and now I don't think I would recommend this method without first doing some more intensive research on the specific option.

CAMs are definitely a growing trend in American medicine, but how do you feel about it? Would you recommend these to your loved ones too or just steer clear until more research has been done?








Is Barbie Happy?

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Referencing from my last post, happy and satisfied women were connected to exercise and physical activity, thus stimulating a higher self-esteem and self-confidence. But I scratch my head and question all the not-so-satisfied women. Out of all cosmetic surgery patients, women make up 87% of them. In the last post  about women I wanted to discover how they felt about themselves with the pressures of today's world, but now I will learn more about those who do slip under the pressure. Are there are any links to happiness and the effects of synthetic appearance?

Professors at the University of Basel were involved in a study investigating the psychological effects of plastic surgeryThey took 544 first time plastic surgery patients and compared them with two other groups; one group had 264 people that had once  previously wanted plastic surgery but then denied , and another group of 1000 people that have never been interested in cosmetic surgery. Among the three groups, mental health, life satisfaction and depressiveness had no significant differences.

To measure, the team used a "psychological instrument" that was dubbed "Goal Attainment Scaling" to examine what goals the patients wanted to achieve with their cosmetic surgery as an open ended response. Along with this was systematic survey that offered ten standard goals as a control sense of responses in comparison to the free-response goals. 

The patients were tested before surgery, and three, six, and twelve months post surgery. Studies found that on average, participants of the surgery seemed to have reached their desired goal set in the beginning of the study. Comparing to those had opted out of plastic surgery, the under-the-knife-goers had developed more self-esteem and felt better about their entire body, not just the area of focus.

Here, the putative casual variable measured is whether or not surgery was taken place on the patient. The putative response variable is the amount of happiness, satisfaction, and developed self-esteem. Although nothing was wrong with the non-surgery individuals in the study, the article depicts the patients as the ones who come out on top in the end. It is interesting to me that towards the end of the article, I felt a sense of pro-plastic surgery. What does this say about our society? Not only is cosmetic surgery in the limelight, but now it is receiving support from the scientific community. The article even says "no adverse effects were observed". It is hard to believe every patient was satisfied with their results. I traced back to where the article was originated and based upon, and it was all in German. I wouldn't be surprised if this author was subliminally promoting an industry that would help them as doctors by using a scientific study to make plastic surgery a sound procedure. 



It was found if one spouse has divorced parents a marriage is twice as likely to end in divorce and if both spouses have divorced parents than the marriage is three times as likely to end in divorce. This is what Wolfinger, an assistant professor at the University of Utah's Department of Consumer and Family Studies, commonly refers to as the divorce cycle. The divorce cycle states that children from divorced households are more likely to get divorced later in life (this information can be found here).


The question is why is this? Well according to Wolfinger's research (based on the Survey of Families and Households that includes general background information on families from over 13,000 households) there are several possible explanations (this study can be found here). The first being that children that who come from divorced families are more likely to marry at a younger age and those who marry at a younger age are more likely to get divorced. The other more complete answer is that children who live in divorced families experience more up and down cycles and less stability in their life. Their marriage is then likely to mirror the experiences they've had as a child. Relationships that experience constant up and downs typically occur when partners cannot agree to work on the issues in their relationship, when the problems are ignored in a relationship ending the relationship (or divorce) is often seen as the best solution.


However, scientist Ming Cui, University of Florida, proposed that whether or not children are more likely to get divorced depends on their perception of their parents' divorce. Both the cognitive-developmental model and social learning theory suggest that children's likehood of divorce is not necessarily due to do whether or not their parents are divorced, but their perception of their parents' divorce. It was found that commitment to relationships was directly related to whether or not the relationship was viewed as expendable and something that could be terminated at any time. So children of divorced families could be more likely to get divorced if they enter their relationship with the attitude that if there is a problem they should simply end the relationship rather than trying to work out the problem (for more information click here).


As the child of divorced parents I've realized two important things: the success of my relationships is directly correlated to the amount of effort I put into that relationship and my parents divorce. However, I like to believe that the study the done at the University of Florida is more accurate, because I think that relationships are what you make them. While it is definitely true that children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced, I think your attitude towards relationships can change this. So what I've learned from these studies is that the best way to a happy and successful relationship (if you come from divorced parents) is to remember that you have to address problems and work them out with your spouse, not just end the relationship after the first argument.

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In today's society, I feel as though women are categorized in two ways: you're either the woman on the cover of the magazine, or the woman gazing at the magazine longing for a better body, face, hair and whatever else she can compare to the model.

Are looks really linked to happiness?

When I began to research, studies showed numbers I could not believe. According to this article only 12.2%of women over 50 are happy with their body size. This study surveyed 1,789 women over 50 to comment on their bodies. The researchers in this study were interested to test how much effect social pressure to remain youthful and slim, along with the influence of the cosmetic industry, had on middle-aged women. This is a surveyed experiment, therefore can be defined as observational. Although a large sample is taken, the category "women over 50" seems too broad for a study testing attitudes on weight and shape. Various ethnic groups, cultures, and geographic factors may take a huge toll. To modify the experiment, I would take these factors into effect before administering and making conclusions.

The study found that the figure-happy women tended to have lower body mass indexes and few eating disorders. Other women were not as satisfied, and top areas of the body these women weren't happy with was their skin due to aging, along with their stomachs and faces. Interesting enough however neither group of women, satisfied or not, was any more likely to opt for appearance enhancement procedures (including plastic surgery, etc). Instead, the women who were happy with their bodies showed to exercise more than the dissatisfied group. Not only does physical activity give natural mood enhancers and daily energy, but also has shown to improve self-confidence. According to this article, physical activity fights depression by balancing the transfer of hormones between the endocrine and the nervous systems, thus improving the overall mood and morale in one's self.

 The link between happiness and appearance is something women of all ages will struggle with. The original article referred to in this post is summed up with the facts that older women are even more unhappy with their bodies than even teens. A teen may feel awkward and uncomfortable, but at least she has years ahead... contrasted to the aging woman, perhaps feeling only a downward spiral of old age (and skin). This is why I found it interesting that neither groups in the study were found to chose plastic surgery as an option. I revert back to the demographics problem of the women chosen and wonder if this has an effect. Geographics may also have a lot to do with the decision to go under the knife. For instance, living in Orange County, California where every housewife has the social pressures to botox the wrinkles on her forehead once a year?  The pressures a woman may feel to perform plastic surgery have more external factors than internal factors, and I feel this study only focuses on internal factors. I would like to see a study taking into account the region of the country the woman is from, her ethnic background, and social class.  

This multimillion-dollar industry is the solution to these unsatisfied middle-agers, so how come this study doesn't mention the 87% of cosmetic surgery patients? 

(next blog..)


Why is my Mom Moody?

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            My mom is about 54 years old and is going through menopause. For those who are a little unsure what menopause is, Women's Health states that "menopause is when a women's menstrual period stops permanently." This doesn't happen overnight. A woman's period can be irregular for a while before it completely comes to an end. Menopause is considered finished after one full year without going through any menstrual cycles.

            During menopause, women can experience many different symptoms or none at all. MayoClinic lists a few symptoms of menopause, including irregular periods, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood changes, weight gain, thinning of hair, dryness of skin, and loss of breast fullness. My mom has been going through menopause for quite awhile, and therefore I have witnessed these symptoms in action. Of the symptoms that I have been exposed to, the one that stands out to me the most has been the "mood changes."

            My mother has taken mood swings to an entirely new level. After spending the summer at home, I noticed that she was irritable, non-negotiable, hostile, and down right annoying. One minute she will be flowers and butterflies and the next, I think she's going to throw a hairdryer at me. I explained to her that going through menopause does not give you an excuse to be bi polar. She told me that it's not menopause, she's going through a mid life crisis.

            I've decided to do some research to figure out if my mom is getting mood swings from menopause or just because she's going through a mid life crisis.

           Dr. Kagan explains that estrogen and progesterone levels may rise during menopause before they fall at the end on menopause. These high levels of estrogen and progesterone may influence some women more than others. He says, "we don't understand why some [women] are more sensitive [to these high levels of estrogen and progesterone], but it's clear that they are." This sensitivity combined with hormonal shifts influence the neurotransmitters in the brain, which in turn cause a physiological change of a woman's mind. A.K.A. ... Mood swing.

            Now that I understand more about what is going on subconsciously in a woman's, I can see how menopause can affect women differently. Menopause.org describes each woman's menopause experience as different. Not every woman is going to have all of those symptoms. Some women may not have any symptoms at all. Because nothing is definite, I can't identify my mother's mood swings as menopausal.

            My mom could very much be going through a mid life crisis. Of her five children, two have graduated college, one is in college, and one is looking at colleges. With all of her children moving out, she may just feel very lonely. This depression can very well be the stem of her freak-outs.

            At this point, it would be very difficult to make a conclusion because there really is no way to test whether my mom is having mood swings from her hormone shifts or from a mid life crisis. In my own opinion, I feel that it could truly be a combination of both things.


Saving the pandas

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As some of you may know, there are fewer than 1,600 pandas in the wild. Well, that's according to WWF. You're probably thinking, 'why do pandas matter'? Like almost every other animal, pandas play a vital role in the world, especially in forests. They need to eat anywhere from 26 to 84 pounds of bamboo daily. They help spread seeds and aid the growth of vegetation.

Pandas are endangered partly because of their lack of reproduction. They have 2-3 days in the spring when they are actually able become pregnant. It's not that easy to find a partner in only a couple of days. The main reason they are endangered is due to habitat destruction. Their homes in China are getting destroyed because China is a fast-growing population. Forests are the first thing to go, which eliminates a lot of panda's food sources.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are two giant pandas who are members of the National Zoo. They are under a Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement that was signed between the China Wildlife and the zoo. Mei Xiang gave birth to a panda cub this year. You can check out the panda came here. The panda cub is adorable!

There is good news for giant pandas-- they are growing in numbers.  Over the past 10 years, captive breeding success rates have increased dramatically. There are a lot of contributing factors such as swapping success. When female pandas give birth to twins, they only care for one of them. Through human help, twins are now both being saved because one will be swapped out of the nursery regularly.

A lot of science and human contribution is what is saving these pandas right now. Do you think it's okay for humans/scientific research to be involved with animals and nature? They are doing a good thing and I'm really happy about it, so I definitely think what they're doing is more than okay. But I know there are some people out there who think human involvement is completely wrong. Should humans step in when animals are becoming extinct?

When I was completing the comment portion of Blog Period 2, it came to my attention that some blog posts had three to four comments, while others remained at zero comments. Further observing my own behavior and thought processes, I realized based on strictly number of comments the blog received, the higher the number of comments, the more I was compelled to also comment on the same blog. My business-orientented mental process, by default, led me to believe my fellow students had a jump start ahead of me, and had already sifted out the more challenged blogs and hit straight to the perhaps more enjoyable, easily/quickly-to-comment-on blogs. But I quickly stood back and realized there has to be more to the story. So, I constructed an experiment.  

I chose 15 random blogs and measured how many comments they received and how many paragraphs they wrote. My hypothesis is the shorter the entry, the more comments received, (making the dreadful assumption to Andrew's eyes & ears), that the students of SC 200 are slothful and uninterested. This is an observational study therefore I have constructed a scatter plot to display my results. 


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As you can see, no correlation! Although some instances stand true, for the majority there is no relationship between length of blog post and comments (I hope this delights you Andrew, the instructor blogs faith in us students is rather alarming). Also, I am not very proficient in excel so here in the kiddy website I made my graphs from.

I did not want to stop here so I further compared number of comments to number of pictures. Hypothesis remaining that the more comments received, the more pictures shown in a post, assumings students can recognize a blog by picture quicker than words. 

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Again, no correlation. However, direct causation is only one facet of possibilities for explanation. When dealing with observation experiments, third variables are commonly problematic when a news article wants to turn correlation into causation. Since there is no correlation in my testing, the "third" variable can represent all other factors affecting the number of comments that don't include (number of paragraphs and pictures.)  Interest to the topic of blog (sports, health), familiarization with images, familiarization with topic, etc. can be possible third variables (in terms of my experiment). My last theory is that students like me naturally are drawn to the blogs with an existing comment and skip over other personal factors. Certainly, this study has a lot due with chance. To correctly perform this experiment I would limit the data on the blogs of only first commenters and see where true pattern arises. Results would be quite interesting.


But hey, big pictures and few words don't attract these students! Maybe we're learning something!!!!! ?? 

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SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is known as the "winter blues" that strikes over half a million Americans as the seasons change. Back at home in Northern New Jersey, a measly four hour drive from State College, PA, I had never heard of this winter time sadness. However, now a second year student at this university where winter has redefined itself, SAD has come to my attention... and perhaps something that is affecting me. I found myself last winter sleeping for hours on end, losing motivation to complete my assignments, and losing a sense of my normal sociability. Initially, I felt I could justify my self-diagnosis with ease... My love for the summer; warm weather and long days and the sense of freedom tied along with summer vacation... along with my hatred for winter; short days, frigid nights, dark days... may explain that yes, naturally the pep in my step disappears during the winter months. But is this just an unfortunate disposition of summertime sadness or do I suffer from seasonal affective disorder? I seem not to be the only one with this loss, so what is the connection between temperature and mood?

From article to article I find numerous links between winter and sadness and common solutions, but HOW??? A team at the MedUni Vienna's University Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy is the process of this investigation. The scientists in this department are seeking to determine the influence of exposure to light on the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, or MAOA. Normally, this enzyme is the aid to break down and serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Researcher Dietmar Winkler hypothesizes that when light is scarce, the MAOA enzyme is excreted in higher quantities, increasing the breakdown of the neurotransmitters listed before and ultimately reducing their activity.  Winkler will test this hypothesis using positron emission tomography scans (nuclear medical technique that produces a 3-D image) which he hopes will provide information on the effects of lack of light on MAOA. His experiment:

Observe 24 test subjects with SAD, and 24 healthy subjects. 12 patients in each group will be given light therapy in randomized intervals for 3 weeks. The other half will receive the placebo lamp. 
To measure, he will use the tomography tool, along with a PET scan carried out before and after light therapy, and once in the following summer for control purposes. All subjects will wear photometers on wrists to measure their exposure to light. 

This experiment is current and ongoing, so I can only predict outcomes.

Neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline) play huge roles in relaying signals within the brain. These signals are among a very broad list but still are closely related to mood, appetite and sleep, for some examples. I predict there will be a lot of evidence to support that lack of light causes the abundance of MAOA enzyme, that then increases the destruction of neurotransmitters, sacrificing the brain's ability to properly function, even in the most trivial manner.

It is that time of the month when people mutter "It must be a full moon out tonight". This cliché best represents the "spike" in mischief and accidents that occur. This theory has been put to the test over the years to see if a full moon actually correlates to anything out of the ordinary. So is it true that there is such a thing as a Lunar Effect that alters people's way of acting? Well we will find out as it is a very fitting topic for having Halloween just around the corner!


So where did this theory originate from? Psychologists were firm believers in the moon actually influencing a person's mental state of mind. As it is known, the term lunatic is derived from the Latin term luna, which translates to moon. On nights where there was a full moon, psychologists would call up more of their staff to help them watch out for their chronically insane patients.

One plausible assumption as to how the Lunar Effect works seems quite logical. Human bodies consist of 80% water and it is well known that the moon has a solid control over ocean tides. It is said that the gravitational pull from a full moon may influence the way people act. What is wrong about this assumption though is that ocean tides are affected by all moon phases, whether they be full, half, crescent, etc.

Another aspect that people need to take into consideration with this assumption is that a gravitational pull on a tide works with the pill on the near side of the moon and the far side of the Earth so this theory can be ruled out for changing people.

Fortunately, there is also data that has been collected over the decades which can either make or break this myth. The collected data deals with violent and aggressive crime, anxiety or depression, suicide, accidents, etc. In 1997, there were 897 suicides that were reported in a three year period but had no relationship to a full moon being in the presence. Another set of data that dealt with data collected in 1993 shows that there were 4,835 traffic accidents reported in a four year span. This date unfortunately has no relationship with the moon phase either and shows a spike in the summer and on weekends. So what does this say about how the Lunar Effect actually effects people? It does not in these cases as there is an inconsistent pattern, no controlled setting, and there will always be outside forces that will be a factor in this situation.


So overall, is the Lunar Effect a busted myth or will it still remain a myth? Unfortunately, this effect will stay a myth as there is not enough evidence at the moment to support its influence on humans. The reason as to why people think that more mischief occurs around a full moon because we have preconceptions based on Hollywood horror flicks. These preconceptions will make us more aware of what happens on nights of full moon. So does that mean we should totally disregard this theory? I do not believe that we should as there is a possibility that evidence will be found which correlates to this. So be careful on Halloween and let's hope that there is no full moon just to be on the safe side....






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Solar energy is supposed to be the savior of our generation. The pace at which we are consuming our natural resources is not sustainable and the day is not far when we would be left which none of the natural resources known to mankind. Based on current resources and consumption levels we have probably 60 years worth of oil to burn. That is at the point where a large number of people in developing countries have still not been connected to the grid. The number of people who are going to get connected to the grid is going to increase from here on and so will their consumption of resources. This image here shows the current consumption of electricity, in the coming years the image is going to get brighter but do we have enough resources to fuel these light bulbs? I don't think so. And this is where Solar Energy comes in.


The total solar power generation capacity in the world is around 65 GW and this is going to expand considerably in the next few years. Especially in countries like India and China, which are constantly looking to break the records for the biggest solar power plants in the world. This should be great news for the future of this planet. The solar power skeptics will tell you why we should stick with coal and natural gas and how solar power is not reliable. All of it is unfortunately true to some extent. It all depends on how you look at it. The biggest issue with solar power, or any power production facility in general is that power cannot be stored for a long period. You might argue that it can be stored in photovoltaic batteries but unfortunately the world we live in economics matters more than the future of the planet and therefore a lot of electricity goes to waste without being stored in batteries. All these issues though are changing and power generation utilities in Arizona and California are changing them. This New York Times report here talks about it.  

The issue I want to explore in this blog though is storing the energy produced, which was till now theoretically possible and is finally being implemented. You can store as much energy in a coffee thermos as in a laptop battery, which costs 10 times as much. That's essentially what the thermos is doing, storing the heat of that coffee. And heat generates electricity in a solar-thermal power plant, so storing heat is a way to pause the process: Let the sun heat something up, keep that thing hot until the sun goes down, and then use that heat to generate the steam that turns the turbine. Of course, as relatively easy as it is to store heat, you've got to find the right substance for a solar-power application. To store the extreme heat that runs a solar-thermal power plant, the substance has to remain stable at high temperatures -- in the area of 750 degrees F, otherwise you'd run into problems with vaporizing and pressure changes. It's also helpful is the substance is cheap and readily available. Enter that white, crystalline stuff in your cupboard that you probably put on your scrambled eggs, your margarita glass and your edamame: salt. Salt melts at only very high temperatures, vaporizes at very, very high temperatures and it's available in virtually unlimited, low-cost supply. Plus, it only loses about 7 percent of the energy put into it. Actually, the first salt-storage-equipped solar power plant isn't using table salt. It's using a different salt mixture often applied as fertilizer, a combination of sodium and potassium nitrate. This makes storage of solar power a possibility and solves one of the biggest questions in the energy security of this planet. More on this can be found here .




I have been spending a lot of time taking my dog to the vet recently because she has been having trouble with one of her eyes. Through this process of treatments and endless visits I wondered about whether she was actually colorblind or not? It's common saying that dogs are colorblind, but I came to find out that wasn't the case!

            It turns out that our furry friends can see a small spectrum of colors! On the website puppyflix.com they make a dog to human comparison of colors and how dogs see what we as humans see! Overall dogs see yellow, blue, gray, black, and brown! So yeah, it's limited but it's still color!

            They way this works is our eyes are made up of rods and cones. Rods help distinguish black and white and the cones enable us to see color. The more cones, the more color. You still with me?...So in short, dogs have less cones, which means less color!

Not that I recommend trying this on any dog, but apparently a test you can do is shine a flashlight towards the dog's eye and see what colors refract back!

So for all you dog lovers out there, I will leave you with this, my favorite pal:


We spend so much time on our computers, writing papers, taking notes, surfing the internet, spending hours a day looking at our laptops, but instead of thinking about the harm we're doing for our eyesight and even our posture, what about our hands and wrists?  Leaving our arms in that position for a long period can't be good, so I've decided to look into if so-called keyboard posture is bad for us. 


Hands and wrists and arms that become numb can all be contributed to prolonged use and the same movement of hands in this position.  A build up of fluid in the wrists can cause a cyst growth, or even tendonitis.  In this article, if you experience any wrist pain, make sure to take breaks while typing for long periods of time, moving your wrists around to allow some muscle movement and to not allow your wrists to get cramped up.  It is also recommended to move your keyboard in different positions to maintain that changing of wrist positions.  

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Do your wrists ever hurt from sitting at your computer for too long? What other ways can you help the strain of your wrists? Will sitting at this position for long periods of time hurt our health in the future for arthritis and carpel tunnel?

Astronomers at NASA using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) took a look at the Boomerang planetary nebula; the coldest known place in the universe. Located in the Centaurus constellation, this body of molecules and gas has only been looked at through land telescopes in the past. This is the clearest picture we've ever had of it.

Remember that a planetary nebula is formed when a star dies and begins to shed its outer layers of particles as it becomes a white dwarf. These particles will float off into space, possibly colliding with more particles, and then more on top of that-to create something entirely new.

This nebula is 5,000 lightyears away. Think about that for a second. What you see in this picture is what that nebula looked like 5,000 years ago. In the time it took for that light to get here, Rome burned to the ground, the black plague ravaged Europe, the Mongols dominated most of Asia, the Allies landed at Normandy,  and we all were born. It's likely that the nebula we see right now is a white dwarf present-day. Of course, for us to know if it is or not, we'd have to wait another 5,000 years for the light to get to us-who knows where we'll be then? If we'll even be here? Will the human race ever get to see the dwarf that this nebula will one day form, if it hasn't already? Does it even matter?

To make this even more fascinating, this nebula is colder than the space around it. We see the orange in the center of it and believe we see warmth, but that is not the case here. The nebula itself sits at -458 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than empty space. Now, if you consider the fact that this light is 5,000 years old and the fact that it is quite possibly a full-fledged white dwarf now, it could be possible that this spot is no longer the coldest place in the universe. How incredible is it, then, that we can study a phenomenon so strange and so curious even though we missed it by 5,000 years?

Do Cats Hate Water?



When I was growing up, I always wanted a cat despite the fact that half of my family is allergic to them. I recently saw a video of a guy trying to bathe his extremely reluctant cat and it made me wonder if all cats really hate water as much as we think they do. 

This article discussed why cats aren't big fans of water. A lot of people are under the preconceived notion that cats automatically hate water so they don't often expose them to it if they don't have to. A lot of times, a cat's first experience with water is a bath they are being forced into or getting caught in the rain so it's not surprising that they wouldn't like it. Scientists believe that a cat's dislike of water comes from their ancestors. The wild cats of Europe, Africa, China had limited experience with water and didn't have to adapt or evolve to deal with rain or water. 

According to another article I found, a possible reason that cats don't like water is because their fur becomes waterlogged and weighs them down. It causes the cat a great level of uncomfort due to its coat being drenched. Cats can also be sensitive to odors so it's a possibility that the cat may not like the smell of the chemicals in tap water. Here's an actually highly amusing video that I watched of a guy trying to give his cat a bath: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFk0kAwLiEk#t=114 



Change for the better.

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In my previous blog post I talked about NBA synthetic basketballs. The result of them was that it didn't work out for the NBA. The idea of having all the balls be the same but the execution and results were poor. Though in the NBA a synthetic piece of equipment didn't work out it's a different case for the sport of field hockey.

            A couple years back the sport of field hockey started seeing less and less wooden sticks on the field. They have been quickly replaced with what are referred to as "composite sticks." They are made up of mostly carbon, aramid, and reinforced with fiberglass. Just like the NBA's synthetic balls the idea of the composite stick is that they are all alike. Granted within the realm of composite sticks you can buy sticks with different ratios of the three components but they all follow a "mold." The result of these newly invented sticks has been insanely positive. Wooden sticks are almost unheard of anymore. They are used at a beginner level because they provide good feel when dribbling and receiving the ball.

            After reading about the success of these composite sticks I wanted to know more about why. I went on to a stick info page on Cranbarry's (field hockey manufacture) site. It has a complete breakdown of all you would need to know about composite and wooden sticks. As stated above it explains the composite sticks are made up primarily of carbon, aramid, and fiberglass. Carbon provides a sense of stiffness to the stick. The fibers in it allow for a more powerful hit than the original wooden one. Aramid is used to dampen the vibration of the ball coming in contact with the stick. Wooden sticks tend to have a hard vibration due to no self-dampening system. Lastly, the fiberglass serves as the reinforcement and durability during playtime.

            The overall draw to these sticks and what I concluded from the info was that composite sticks have a better feel and with the right skill set can improve a player even further in the game. It also has really changed the pace of field hockey. Field hockey now is played at a very rapid pace, which is greatly due to these new sticks.

Way to go, NBA!



In 2006 the NBA came up with the idea that all the game balls should be exactly the same. They developed a synthetic ball to be used as the official game ball for each game. After the season began players made vast complaints about the newly issued balls. The biggest complaint being that they were getting cuts on their hands from them. As a basketball fan I was curious about the question of what went wrong? So I dug a little deeper.

            Let's start with the complaints about cuts on the player's hands. It turns out that the synthetic balls are tackier when DRY. This temporarily improves a player's grip until they start sweating. Though the synthetic balls are tacky when dry, they are extremely not absorbent. This disables the player from having a firm grip on the ball which can result in turnovers and injuries.

            On the actual playing level and handling of the ball different tests found that the synthetic ball will bounce anywhere from 5-8% LESS than a standard leather ball. It says in the article I read,  that the balls were tested from a dropping height of four feet. Considering bouncing the ball in basketball pretty much dominates the game, we can see how this is a problem. Not only was the bounce height decreased but the way the ball bounced was different as well. The ball had no sustainable flow to it. Bounces were unpredictable and often bounce in unintended directions.

          It's safe to say that the retraction of these synthetic balls was an excellent move for the NBA. There's no saying that in the future they won't come up with an improved version but for now, they're sticking with the classic leather ball.

Good try, NBA. Better luck next time. 

Turn Off the Computer!


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            Finishing up that last paper before you go to bed for the night?  Falling asleep in bed while watching a movie?  We all are constantly using electronics, 24/7 (or at least every hour were awake).  They're extremely useful and convenient, but they can be bad for us to use.  Not only so consistently like many people are aware of, but even more so right before bed.

Using technology before going to sleep leaves people feeling tired the next day and unable to perform daily tasks at 100%.  Charles Czeisler, a scientist with the Harvard Medical School and head of the Hospital for Gynecology in Boston, claims that "exposure to artificial light just before bedtime increases the metabolism and reduces the release of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating sleep."  

Interestingtopics.net stated that in a study conducted, 95% of participants said that they used technology before bed and 67% admitted they were not sleeping enough.  To back up this study, they compared it to the Baby Boom generation (people ages 46-64) are the biggest group that put their kids to sleep with the television versus lullabies.  The study followed by showing that as many as 22% of teenagers admitted they are constantly sleepy, compared to nine percent of baby boomers that weren't revealed to as much technology growing up.

            Another article I found on telegraph.co.uk also agrees with this statement.  They claimed that "a person's brain is biologically wired to be awake when the sun is out because bright light after dark causes the brain to stop secreting the hormone called melatonin that makes us sleepy."  The extra light we're revealed to confuses the brain.  The article also explains why a lamp is does not affect us the way our electronics do because we are not looking directly into the light it's giving off.

            Although both of these articles gave good evidence, it was still not matching up with our definition of the "scientific method", but this last study does.

            In a study published in the journal Applied Ergonomics, they had participants read, play games and watch movies on an IPad or PC tablet for different amounts of time and measured the light their eyes were revealed to.  The study found that "two hours of exposure to a bright tablet screen at night reduced melatonin levels by about 22 percent." 

            Overall, I believe that all of these articles are good evidence that we can credit our technology for keeping us up so late at night, even on those nights were not trying to.  The last study had a control trial because they measure the participant's melatonin levels before participating in the trial and using the gadgets directly before bed.  The only fault I could think of is if they were any third variables involved during the study that were not controlled (but they seem unlikely).  It is unlikely, but nobody has tested that a third variable causes younger generations to sleep less, which could result in reverse causation.  Since we are sleeping less, we have more time to spend on our technology.  With this being said, it's probably best to finish your work earlier in the day.

Age vs. Technology Use Compared to Fatigue


First Article: http://www.interestingtopics.net/say-no-to-technology-before-bedtime-id-520


Second Study: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7731807/Using-laptops-or-iPads-just-before-bed-increases-risk-of-insomnia.html


Third Study: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/really-using-a-computer-before-bed-can-disrupt-sleep/?_r=0


Last Study: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use-


Picture: http://mocoloco.com/archives/025718.php


   In short, yes. I spent about 10 years as a competitive swimmer growing up and now am a summer swim coach. I am always intrigued by what new "gear" is released and especially intrigued by new products that cause controversy. The swim world's most ongoing controversy is over the new Fastskin Elite line. To give a little background, Fastskins originally started as just a swimsuit, which was made out of a mix of nylon and spandex. The objective of the suit was to aid swimmers in speed and shaving time off of their races. Since these suits came on to the scene there has been talk of the legality of them. The have been banned on and off and are a continued hot topic especially at the Olympic level.

            Speedo this year has moved from not only improving Fastskin suits but has created a whole line of competitive swim gear called Fastskin Super Elite which includes the notorious suit, newly designed caps, and goggles. I have growning increasingly curious about the goggles because I thought my $20-$30 pairs of goggles were expensive so I couldn't possibly imagine paying $75-$100! This was the perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper. After a good bit of research and many review videos and comments I am utterly impressed with the technology of the goggles.

            The Speedo Fastskin 3 Super Elite goggles are designed with what is called an IQ fit. The IQ fit includes how the rubber fits to the eye sockets and the strap which, has a measuring tape printed right on it to fit to the exact measurement for each individual swimmer. The idea is that the IQ fit when executed properly relieves some pressure from the head which one would feel with a standard goggle. Next, the feature that stuck out to me most was the way the lens is designed. The lens is very wide and expands back towards the temple to give increased vision at all angles so that a competitor would not have to turn their head in any direction to look around. Any movement of the head that draws it out of line with the body increases a swimmers time. These goggles eliminate the problem all together. Next, which should be expected, these goggles are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. Due to the IQ fit they have a slim fit to the face and head creating and alignment in the water. Lastly, like most goggles they provide different size nosepieces to attach. The thing that sets these nosepieces apart is that they are sturdier and attach better than the standard goggle to improve durability.


            I am shocked to admit that at a competitive level these goggles are truly worth the investment. I had my doubts but after my further research I would absolutely buy these.


If you would like to see an excellent video review on the goggles check out www.simplyswim.com on youtube here.

Tweet Tweet!


After you alarm goes off in the morning, what's the first thing you do? I for one roll over, grab my phone, and open up Twitter.  Most of my friends would say I'm pretty obsessed with it.  I checked it right before I went to bed seven hours ago, but I need to see what I missed.  Twitter has become so much of my life, much like probably many of yours, since you created your account, and I'm pretty sure I'd be lost without it.  When I go home, I usually have my phone on my 95% of the time, and of course my parents nag me about putting it away and to stop looking at it and it made me wonder, can one become addicted to Twitter?  


Of course we have these humorous blogs mocking our strange addiction (CNBC, BuzzFeed), but there I feel like being addicted to Twitter can be as bad as being addicted to anything else.  Written here, it explains that logging onto Twitter creates that need to see things over and over again, refreshing something new that can always be updated.  The satisfaction of interacting with someone and even retweets give a person comfort and delight in knowing their impact on the social media world.  I wouldn't be surprised to see in the new few years if a Twitter addiction is a forefront contender for mental and psychological disorders.  I started using Twitter to keep up with my favorite sports teams, but now I follow a multitude of different people, media and news outlets, and other things.  It's not the 'cool thing' if you don't know the news if its' not happening right then! 

If you 'suffer' from a so-called Twitter addiction, let's help ourselves! What are your ideas on how to curb the refresh pull-down obsession, and do you think Twitter addictions can only get worse before they get better? 


Digging in to Darwinism


The purpose of this blog is to illustrate what happens when a theory (in this case Darwinism) is "put under the microscope of scrutiny". The point is not to prove that Darwin was completely wrong or to say that theses examples are sole evidence his theory.  This is merely to show that science makes mistakes.


Here are the original theories/discoveries:


In 1953 Stanley Miller of University of Chicago created a reproduction of the primitive earth and its atmosphere and with a little electricity emerged amino acids, the building blocks of life. This proved that that life could have spontaneously arisen in the chemical oceans of our ancient planet.


Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" theory or tree of life accounts for the millions of species that came from this life over vast expansions of time. Organisms slowly change to become new specie.


Biologist Ernst Haeckel sketched embryos of a variety of different species and established that they all appear very similar in their earliest developmental stages.


A 150 million year old fossil called the archaeopteryx was discovered which resembled a lizard-like bird. This is known as the missing link between reptiles and today's birds.


Here is the investigation:


Lets go back to Stanley Miller. Nobody knows for certain what our ancient atmosphere looked like, but recent agreement in science shows it is nothing like the one Miller used. If he recreated the experiment in a more accurate atmosphere, the organic molecules created would not be amino acids, rather formaldehyde and cyanide, which would kill proteins and embryos. If amino acids were to form on the earth they would still be extremely far from producing a living cell.


Next is Darwin's tree of life where organisms change into new specie over time. Fossil records, however, show nothing even close to this. Something called the Cambrian explosion totally disproves it. The Cambrian explosion refers to the fossil record where arthropods, echinoderms, and chordates almost instantly appeared out of nowhere without any evolutionary history. It is often argued that pre-Cambrian fossil evidence of ancestry is non-existent due to animals with no shells or bones to fossilize, but that can't be valid because we have found soft bodied organisms from the pre-Cambrian era as well as from the Cambrian explosion itself and there are also many microfossils from before the Cambrian era. Millions of fossils have been dug up already and still no evidence of ancestry links.

Scientists today are focusing on molecules to find similar features and common ancestry. To do this, they take a molecule basic to life, like ribosomal RNA, and examine it two different animals to find an equivalent link. If there are similarities then theoretically they are common ancestors and you can form a 'tree'. But if you take another aspect of the animals, like anatomy, you get a completely different tree. There is no consistency. However textbooks still call Darwin's tree of life theory a fact when in reality it is not even a good hypothesis at today's level of knowledge.

Third is Haeckel's Embryo sketches. The similarities between the early embryo sketches look shockingly similar. As it turns out, these similarities were faked. Haeckel was so sure of his theory that he didn't bother to make separate drawings for some of the organisms. He also doctored other drawings to make them look more similar. This was discovered in the 1860's and is known to evolutionary specialists. Haeckel also "cherry-picked" his examples, picking the embryos that best supported his theory.  Haeckel's final flaw was that his sketches labeled as early embryos were actually mid stage, when in reality the early stage embryos look nothing like each other. One last point is that humans share 98-99% of their genes, which shows common ancestry.  Referring to Darwin's theory, the drastic differences in humans and apes are therefore due to the 2% of the genes, but this 2% is trivial genes that have almost nothing to do with anatomy.

Finally we have the archaeopteryx: half-bird/ half-reptile. Turns out that it is 100% bird. Birds differ greatly from reptiles. Their breeding system, bone structure, lungs, and weight and muscle distribution are totally different. In 1985 the archaeopteryx was classified officially as an extinct member of bird, not an ancestor of birds.  Another interesting part to the archaeopteryx story, involves a branch of evolutionary theory called cladistics. Cladistics is somewhat of an extreme form of Darwinian theory. Cladists define homology (physical similarities), as the result of common ancestry. Then they group animals in the evolutionary tree by their homologies. Looking back into fossil records, they figure birds come from reptiles by descent, and they search for reptiles that resemble a more bird-like skeletal structure. Where they found these bird-like reptile fossils were from tens of millions of years after the archaeopteryx. This means the missing link between reptiles and birds is still missing because it is not possible that these recent bird-like reptile fossils could have evolved into birds with such short notice.

The archaeopteryx









Is technology ruling our world?! Studies show that the average person checks their phone up to 110 times a day. Before I heard this statistic I didn't consider the fact that the number would be so high, now that it's been brought to the forefront I think I may check my phone even more times than that especially when Candy Crush is involved. Is this practice trickling down to our little babies? There are thousands of apps out there now and quite a handful of these apps are geared towards babies to help them learn. Back in my day there was Hooked on Phonics to help kids learn how to read now there are all sorts of apps and DVDs out to help babies learn things ranging from their ABCs to a whole other language. Is it beneficial for babies to have their eyes and mind locked on a bright and colorful iPad or Kindle?

            Last semester in my HDFS class my professor did a segment on babies and technology. One of the reasons he pointed out why babies are so interested in our phones and iPads are because they're eyes aren't fully developed and can only see bold colors. We all know that our phones can be extremely bright and with games such as Candy Crush our phones deliver bold colors as well which babies gravitate towards. There are two different perspectives on our little baby geniuses. One side feels that if the developing brain is exposed to too much multi-tasking (which cell phones and iPads help us do) the baby can acquire attentional and learning difficulties. On the other hand, other research contradicts this finding claiming DVD and TV producers use their media enhances learning and social growth. Are educational DVDs helpful? A study was done on two of the most popular baby enrichment DVDs, Baby Einstien and Brainy Baby. It was concluded that these videos were not beneficial to babies but in fact slowed down language development in infants between 8-16months. They knew on average six to eight fewer words than babies who didn't watch them. I would gather that having your baby glued to a television or Kindle would hinder your child from interacting with other people thus decreasing their social competence.

            I'm not saying that it's bad to let your child watch TV or play with an iPad. I'm Saying if you're going to do it, do it sporadically. Do not give your child an iPad or sit them in front of the television just so that you will have time to yourself. If that's the case you will find yourself putting them in front of technology pretty often which isn't beneficial to the baby at all.


Bed bugs


Most people I know love to travel, and one of my favorite parts about going away is the hotel stay.  My family usually doesn't go all out for the fanciest hotels, but they're still exciting nonetheless.  I've never really had a big problem with cleanliness, but over the past few years, many reports have come out about bed bugs- gross and terrifying bugs that especially infect hotel rooms across the country.  


Bed bugs are found all over the world, and most commonly thrive near places where people sleep and live, including our beds, mattresses, and many crack and crevices around a room, until people sleep at night.  Bed bugs' bites tend to leave bites, but can go unnoticed, but may cause an allergic reaction.  The pesky bugs have been springing up around hotels across the country because their slimness and tininess allows for them to cling to people who travel around, and can spread to other infected areas.  


^^ bed bug outbreak areas in the US, most common on the East coast, such as NY

In this article, many ways are described on how to help you make sure you don't get affected by bed bugs when making your travels.  It's important to stop the spread of them, before you can even get them yourself.  I know for my roommate and I, we sprayed our beds with an anti-bed bug spray before we put our bedding on our beds in our dorm, just to stay extra safe here in our room.  

So how do we know if our hotel stay will be safe for us? Will you still like to travel even with the possibility of bed bugs lurking under your bed?

The Rumor About Shaving

I think since before the shaving phase started (or maybe didn't for some of you... although a 2008 study shows that at least 80-90% of women regularly remove unwanted body hair) many have heard that shaving causes your hair to grow in thicker, darker and faster than before. As No-Shave November approaches, I figured it would be interesting to find out if that's actually true. 
shaving.jpgWhether leg hair, underarm hair, or facial hair, according to Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson and many other researchers, the rumor is false. Shaving unwanted body hair does not change it's thickness, color or even the rate of growth. This honestly came as a shock to me because I feel like as I have gotten older, the hair on my legs has started to grow back darker. Up close you can even see small, dark dots where the hair follicle grows even though my hair used to be bleach blonde. My high school track team used to have a competition for competing in No-Shave November and every girl would pay $5 to see who could go the longest without shaving their legs. The winner obviously won all the money. But looking back it's funny how we would all "save up" the week right before the competition started and refuse to shave. Then the night before November 1st we all shaved our legs, thinking that this process would prevent our leg hair from growing back as quickly as when we shaved every or every-other day.
Going into details, the hair follicle, which is located deep under the skin, is what determines thickness and rate of growth. By shaving, we are only cutting off what has grown above the skin and is already dead. A 1970 study used 5 men who, over the course of several months, shaved one leg weekly while leaving the other untouched. The results showed that there was no difference in texture of the hair or rate of growth when comparing the two legs. Dr. Jessica Wu, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School in Los Angeles, says that, "It's a common belief because when hair grows out naturally, they taper at a sharp point, so they look thinner. However, shaving hair cuts it at a blunt angle so hairs look thicker - you see the cross section of the hair." A really interesting point I found in an article I read says to think of a long, skinny tree branch. When it's long, you can bend it because it's flexible. However, if you were to chop it down to a very short length, it becomes difficult or impossible to bend. Same goes with your hair, which makes it seem and feel courser and thicker. As I said, the rate and color are both dependent on the hair follicle itself which, most of us don't realize, hair growth often speeds up and color often darkens as we get older. Just as the blonde hair on top of a child's head often darkens with age, the amount of melanin, the pigment which colors your hair and skin, is what determines this. 
So, the rumor that has been ongoing for over 50 years now and passed down from parents to children and friend to friend is completely false.


Anti-Drug PSAs, Do They Work?


1342917732_original-logo-above-the-influence-teens-7050386-500-400.gifSince the 1980s, in an effort to fight the war on drugs, the United States government has implemented the use of anti-illicit-drug public-service announcements (PSAs). The "Just Say No" advertisement was a campaign that taught children various ways to say no to engaging in illegal recreational drug use. It also taught student skills in resisting peer-pressure and other influences. But how effective are these anti-drug campaigns?


As a young lad, I remember watching these anti-drug PSAs with my friends and laughing at them. I specifically remember an MTV "Above The Influence" commercial with a dog and a girl. The dog was telling the girl that he didn't like it when she smoked pot and the girl said she could stop anytime she wanted. The dog said how bout right now? And she said maybe tomorrow, or something along those lines. My friends and I were about 15 or 16 and we thought it was the stupidest commercial we'd ever seen. It didn't make us want to never smoke pot at all, and I'm sure many American teenagers felt the same way. This is a classic anti-drug PSA, "This is your brain on drugs." (http://youtu.be/ub_a2t0ZfTs) It shows a man in a kitchen. He holds up an egg and says, "This is your brain," then he shows the frying pan, "This is drugs." He then cracks the egg onto the frying pan and says, "This is your brain on drugs," while the egg cooks. In my honest opinion that is the most ridiculous analogy, and it DOES NOT deter kids from doing drugs.


In February, 2002, an observational study was done to determine the relative perceived effectiveness of 30 antidrug PSAs. 3,608 students in grades 5 through 12 in 10 schools were used for this study. Students in 5 experimental conditions filled out 6 questionnaires after viewing sets of 6 antidrug PSAs. The control group filled out questionnaires after viewing non-drug-related PSAs. The results varied greatly. Compared to the control group, "16 were rated as significantly more effective, and 6 were as significantly less effective" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447050/). In conclusion to this study, there are anti-drug PSAs that show an effect opposite to the one initially intended, therefore should not be shown at all.


Instead of showing lame analogies about the effects of illegal recreation drug use, PSAs should show actual negative consequences to engaging in the activity. For example, the anti-cigarette campaign shows disgusting pictures of shriveled up, tar-filled lungs. That, in my opinion, is an effective deterrent of adolescent cigarette smoking.

Keep Dreaming


I'm one of those people who have the most extreme dreams. When I was younger, I was convinced that everyday that there was a chance I was going to die based on the dream I had the night before. I was told to stop eating before I went to bed and it was also suggested that I do not watch scary things prior to falling to sleep. I followed all of the suggestions and there was no luck for me having better dreams. In previous research, I found the Freudian theory to somewhat help me understand what my dreams mean vaguely. Freud dream theory suggest dreams are the direct connection to the subconscious. He suggest that many of the urges and impulses of our dreams are reactions to our subconscious. One thing I found interesting in this reading is how he made sense of our behaviors in our dreams in reactions to the things that can not be done when we are awoke.

Consider this, the mind is divided into three parts, the Id, Ego and Superego. The Id is the part of the brain responsible for behaviors, impulses and desires. The Superego is the censor to the Id while the Ego is the conscious of one's behavior. So when we are awake, our behaviors (driven by the Id) are censored by our superego. Now when we are sleeping, our body is at peace and there is not much activity nor muscles movement. With this, the impulses our body undergoes have no filter because the limited activity in the brain when we are sleeping can not trigger the superego to be that sensor. Now it gets interesting, those behaviors and impulses that are suppressed when we are woke due to the superego now have the opportunity to sneak into our dreams. Mind-blowing right!!

Now that this answers my question about my dreams, I am now interested to know more about my suppressed thought and feelings....

As a huge fan of music something I have wondered for a long time is "why do people like the music they like. For the longest time I thought the reason was simple, such as, a person's culture and environment. Although, that's definitely is part of it, that can't be the sole reason when I consider my roommate from the Bible Belt's favorite recording artist is rapper Childish Gambino and a guy from Philadelphia I know who loves Taylor Swift. I have also thought it is based on how our brains and minds perceive and process things but then I think about all the songs and artists that I like that I wouldn't typically listen to, so it cannot be that mechanical. 


Before I get into what attracts us to our favorite genre (the fun stuff) I wanted to explore one of the basics of music and anything we hear in general, the tone. According to, Maggie Koerth-Baker, a tone is a sound and a scale is a collection tones that are in groups of ascending or descending order. We are able to hear many tones at once and there are billions of ways to group them together, however, humans tend to focus on a small amount of tones, about five to seven. The same scales are used repeatedly in Western music and in most music in general, in fact, "styles of music that sound completely different--say classical Chinese music vs. Western folk music--use the same scale... they just use it differently". I think this fact is interesting because as stated earlier I theorized that music preference may be a mechanical function in the brain, but gave up on it because people enjoy music that "sounds completely different", but now I know that I was actually correct. This also opens a new question, why are we attracted to the specific tones and scales that we are attracted to? According to Dale Purves, Ph.D, professor of neurobiology at Duke University and director of the Duke-NUS Neuroscience Program in Singapore, any perceptual quality we have is there for some biological reason. They evolved because they provide us with useful information, "so if you take a microphone out in nature and ask what the tonal sounds are in our environmental niche that we would have evolved to appreciate, the tonal sounds you record are nearly all animal vocalizations. And the ones that count the most are the vocalizations of other humans." In other words, the sounds people make matter the most because that's where we receive information about our competitors and potential mates. We've learned to notice common tones in human vocalization and the ones we find most appealing are the ones made into musical art. Much of this knowledge has been known for years (if you like a sound you listen to it), but what has been discovered in recent years is the similarities between scales, the spectrum of speech, and frequencies. 

A study was performed by Pro. Adrian North where people's personalities and music chooses where correlated. Here are the results:

Blues fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease
Jazz fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing and at ease
Classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introvert and at ease
Rap fans have high self-esteem and are outgoing
Opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle
Country and western fans are hardworking and outgoing
Reggae fans have high self-esteem, are creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease
Dance fans are creative and outgoing but not gentle
Indie fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard working, and not gentle
Bollywood fans are creative and outgoing
Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease
Chart pop fans have high self-esteem, are hardworking, outgoing and gentle, but are not creative and not at ease
Soul fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle, and at ease

The fans that I found intriguing were rap, country and western, and rock/heavy metal. Hip-Hop/rap is usually described as being aggressive yet the fans of this genre have positive fun personalities. Country and western music is known for evoking emotion but are appear to be emotionally stable based on this study. Finally, rock/heavy metal has a harsh reputation but its have a lot in common with classical fans which has a gentle and sophisticated.

In conclusion, there is not a singular reason of why people like the music they do. It is a combination of how humans process and perceive sound personalities. No matter what genre you are more prone to listen to everyone should open to variety of music. 

This is part 2 of my previous blog. If you want to understand what I'm talking about here, you should read that post first.

So, we know this study has an extremely small sample size. While I blasted it for that reason, that doesn't mean the information it provides us isn't valuable. It just means it's not very applicable to the large group of people that is impoverished children. They're still worth talking about.

The study showed that the participants who were impoverished at age 9 had a lot more brain activity in their amygdala (the part of the brain that controls fear, anger, frustration, and many other negative emotions) than the children in the control group when presented with an emotional regulation task. The study suggests that there is a correlation between the stress experienced whilst living in poverty and the conditions that come with it and the increased activity in that area of the brain.

Now, this sample size is small, but poverty is known to be an extremely negative factor in a child's brain development. For example, we know that children who are impoverished don't do as well in school. Many factors go into this fact, but because we already know that poverty can impact educational development, it's not hard to believe that children who are impoverished can have other parts of their brain affected because of the nasty living conditions poverty presents.

However reasonable the results seem to us, however, we must keep in mind that this study's sample size is far too small for us to take this evidence and generalize it to all impoverished children in America-let alone the entire world. I personally do believe the results of this study could very well be applicable, it'll be interesting to see if more studies (with broader, larger sample sizes) will be performed. If a correlation between poverty at a young age and activity in the amygdala as an adult is found, it'll be even more interesting to see if our government enacts new policy to try to counteract this unfortunate lasting effect of growing up poor.

I'm adopted


Now a million questions are probably running through your mind because that's everyone's reaction. The first question I always get is, "really?" My answer is yes...why would I make that up? That question is always followed by, "do you know your real parents?" I'm telling you now, do not ask that question that way. I don't take this personally because I know people don't know better. Ask the person, "do you know who you're biological parents are?" To answer the question, no I don't. I was technically adopted before I was even born. The reason I find "do you know who your real parents are?" to be offensive is because my parents are the people who adopted me and have cared for me my entire life. They are real. They are my real, true parents. My biological parents are somewhere back in South Korea. To me, they are as real as my next door neighbors, but it doesn't make them my parents in any way.

Anyway, the point of this blog is that I feel like a lot of people overlook adoption. There is this stigma attached to adoption that the children aren't their 'real' child, meaning they don't share the same DNA and blood. That's such a small-minded thought and it blows my mind when I hear people who think that way. According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, there are 400,540 children in the U.S. without permanent families, meaning they are in foster care. There are 115,000 of those children who are eligible for adoption, but almost 40% will wait over three years until they are adopted. Those are ridiculous statistics. There are so many couples out there who can't have children for a variety of reasons, but they will still choose to not adopt. What turns people off about adoption? I seriously want to know.

From that same website, the U.S. State Department said in 2011 more than 9,000 children were adopted by U.S. families. Assuming those children each went to different families, that's 9,000 families who just made a life-changing decision. That makes me happy to know not everyone rules out adoption. Just look at Angelina Jolie. In 2002, she adopted her first child. She now has three adopted children and three biological children.

For those who say parents won't care for their adopted children as much as their biological children, you're wrong. American Adoptions, an adoption agency, put close to misconceptions like that. Nearly 3 out of every 4 adopted children are read or sang to everyday from ages 0-5. Only half of biological children receive that same kind of attention from their biological parents. 90% of adoptive couples say their relationship with their adopted child is "very close" and nearly half say their relationship is "better than expected."

After reading this Wall Street Journal article about 152 South Korean infants being abandoned in the first seven months of this year, I have realized I'm extremely fortunate. South Korea implemented a new law to reduce the number of South Korean children being adopted abroad and to make domestic adoptions a priority. All I can say is thank God I was adopted when I was because I may have ended up in foster care or even abandoned.

What is your opinion on the statistics I mentioned? Are you opposed to adoption because of some of those psychological factors? I can't imagine living in South Korea and I certainly can't imagine my life without my family. These are two of my older brothers. My parents adopted their first son, had two biological sons, then adopted me. Adoption isn't for everyone, but you shouldn't bash it when it changes people's lives for the better.



I think it is safe to say I have a new favorite plant.  Introducing the Kudzu Vine.
Yes, that in the middle of the picture WAS a house.
Kudzu, which is native to mostly eastern Asia is one of the fastest growing plants in the world.  It can grow at a rate of a foot per day.  If you ever wanted to know what a stereotypical invasive plant looks like this would be the one.  Kudzu literally grows over anything ranging from houses and cars to other plants and entire trees.  Surprisingly, Kudzu is actually of the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae.  The plant is classified as a noxious weed and will kill anything it grows over.  The leaves of the vine will cover any existing plants and prevent them from receiving sunlight.  Underneath the vast green of kudzu lies a forest of dead trees and plants.

Because it is an invasive species in the United States that destroys natural plants, it is trying to be controlled.  Unfortunately, removal is difficult or expensive.  Common methods include herbicides, fire, animal grazing, mowing, and fungi.  Herbicides are on the one hand effect but also quite expensive for a plant as large as kudzu that grows a foot a day.  Supervision after treatment can last up to 10 years to ensure that the plant does not return.  The other negative factor of herbicides is that it is extremely deadly to all other plants as well that may be hit.  The other method I thought was interesting was the use of fungi.  The fungi treatment can start to work within the day but the only downside of it is that it can produce toxic byproducts.

In the distant future if/when humans no longer inhabit Earth I imagine kudzu covering all of what man has since created, turning cities into jungles.  As of right now in the US it is only referred to as "the vine that ate the south."

Souces & Photo :

A month into school and a week after walking around on a swollen foot, I found out I had stress fractured my foot. Boo.

This was not my first orthopedic injury, but every time I end up back on crutches or a cast I am reminded of how difficult it would be to live with a disability/a handicap your whole life. It was a struggle to walk around with the boot for four weeks, and it is true that you cannot understand a handicap unless you do the whole "walk a day in their shoes", or rather "ride a day in their wheel chair".

People with disabilities make up the largest minority in America. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. This act was the first one of its kind to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. It mandated that public accommodations be made as well as changes to public services in the interest of handicapped people. This act brought about many of the things we see around us today - handicapped parking spaces, handicapped entrances, elevators, etc.

Having a bad day trying to get around on crutches, I was having a conversation with my roommate Anna one day when she brought up a pretty compelling thought - what is considered to be worse, being born with a disability and living your whole life with it or developing a disability later in life and having to live knowing what you've lost?

I decided to research the matter further. I thought for sure I would find studies or articles online about this topic, but to my surprise there was not a lot of information talking about this question. In an article from about.com, it is noted that for those recently disabled, depression is very common as they deal with grieving the function they've lost.  On the other hand, people that are born with disabilities from birth spend years struggling to fit into society.

One thing I did come across was a debate from debate.org focused on this topic. Two opponents argued both sides.

Opponent number one argued that it was worse to be born with a disability than to acquire one later in life. He said people with birth disabilities will "incur more financial expenditures", will "die before the normal life expectancy", and because of physical and cognitive developmental issues, they never get to have the same experiences as other people do.

Opponent number two countered with the idea that "someone who is disabled from birth cannot miss something he never had", where as "someone who is blinded later in life will drastically miss his former abilities." This can cause serious depression in a person who is a grieving the loss of one of their normal functions. Also, he argued that it is harder for these people to adapt contrasted with a person who has been disabled from birth and who has had the advantage of quickly learning how to deal with their disability.

Both of these opponents had quality arguments backed up by sources, but their arguments are not sufficient evidence to determine one way or another which is harder. Their arguments are just their interpretation of the facts, their opinions. I found no study to support one side or another scientifically, but I did find a slightly different study about satisfaction of life compared with time since a disability was acquired. This study measured general life satisfaction in 29 individuals whose limbs were recently paralyzed in an accident. The research made a number of different conclusions, but what stood out to me was one, having a disability decreased overall life satisfaction (no surprise), but two, after a few years post disability life satisfaction was able to increase to almost pre disability levels. To me, this means that time heals, but what would the rates of life satisfaction look like on people who were born with disabilities? I think that it would be useful for a study to be done to compare the life satisfaction of people with born with disabilities vs. people who acquired it later in life.

What do you guys think? If you had a disability, would you rather have it since birth or get it later in life?







It's 6am on a Wednesday morning and I'm up for PT (physical training) for ROTC. Of course today is another run. My legs are still so sore from PT the previous day that I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through the run. Naturally, as I'm running up the steep hill on University Drive, I'm contemplating two things: why I ever decided to join ROTC and why didn't I massage my legs last night. This led me to question whether or not massages can actually help muscles recover quicker after a workout or if it just temporarily relieves some of your pain.


According to this article in the New York Times, the soreness that you feel after you over exert yourself in a workout is due to small tears in your muscle tissue. These small tears are present where damage has been inflicted to the myofibrillar structure, which causes the muscles to become inflamed. In addition when the myofibrillar structure is damaged cytokines are released. Cytokines also cause inflammation and soreness.


In a study done by the Science Translational Medicine journal (for information click here), it was found that those who received a 10 minute massage after they worked out had less cytokines in their muscles. Of the 10 men that were involved in this study each were required to cycle for 30 minutes, then one of their legs were given a massage, while the other was not. It was found that the leg that received the 10 minute massage had less cytokines in it and therefore the athlete was less sore. Further, it was also found that massages stimulated the mitochondria, which are the cells that convert glucose into the energy that is essential for cell function and repair. This means that massages can actually help your muscles recover faster.


On the other hand, Brian Hemmings Ph.D, a researcher at the University College Northhampton in the U.K., found that massages do not speed up muscle recovery. Hemmings conducted a study (found here)here of eight amateur male boxers in which each participant completed two punching trials, one with the boxer just given rest, the other with the boxer being given a massage. It was found that there was no difference in blood lactate levels in those who received massages and those who did not. When blood lactate levels build up it prevents the muscle from recovering and leaves you feeling sore. Researchers did note that those who received massages expected that they would recover faster, simply because they had been given a massage. Hemmings found that massages did not actually help muscles recover quicker, but simply led the athlete to believe that their muscles were recovering quicker.


So the question that I'm still left with is whether or not I should get a massage after my morning PT? The answer to this seems to lie in the fact that while I found many studies debating whether or not massages actually reduced muscle soreness and led to quicker recovery, I did not find studies that claimed that massages had strong negative effects. If there is no harm in getting a massage after you workout, why not get one? If a massage could possibly help your muscles recover quicker or at least make your muscles feel better, then it's worth it. So after that long run today at PT, I think I'm going to give myself a massage.

A recent study suggests that the stress that comes from living in poverty can have a negative impact on brain development in children. The stress purportedly stunts development and alter how these children react in emotional situations when they grow up to be adults. I will be analyzing the study design in this blog, and be discussing its implications in the next.

The first thing to note about this study is that it is an observational study. This isn't a bad thing; it just means that it's going to be harder to draw out concrete evidence without an appropriate sample size that eliminates third variables. It's unethical place kids in poverty for an experiment, so the only real way to perform this study is through observation. The study chose children who were impoverished at the age of nine, and measured brain activity when presented with stressful situations at age 24


Now, I said we need a large enough sample size for this study to provide and applicable conclusion right? Yeah, well, the sample size is 49. Only half of those in the sample are people who were impoverished as children, with the rest acting as control.

The need for a control group in a study like this is real and necessary, but the sample is way too small. As of 2010, 16.4 Million children live in poverty in the U.S. A selection of 24-25 of those kids isn't going to be representative of the entire population of impoverished children in the U.S. There are race, health, gender, geographical, and familial variables that simply can't be accounted for in such a small sample.

To make the issue even worse: this is a sample of only U.S. children. Poverty could affect people differently all around the world. It is impossible to generalize any result from this study to such a large population of poor children throughout the world.

So, now that we know that we must take the results of this study with a large grain of salt, I'll discuss the findings of this study and the science behind them.

What is an E-Cigarettes?  I have seen them advertised on T.V and in the mall but still have no idea what they are and what they do.  Join me in this blog to explore what an "E-Cig" is and how they can change the tobacco industry for the better.  E-Cigarette stands for electronic cigarette which uses a small battery to turn liquid nicotine into smoke.ecig-how-it-works.jpg (http://ehookahhq.com/) 

The thinking is that if the chain smoker can get their nicotine fix from an e-cig which contains none of cancer causing elements a normal cigarette has will save millions of lives each year.  A review of the science behind the e-cig was done by Igor Burstyn who concluded that  "It's about as harmless as you can get."  This is an impressive review and one that could help the success of the E-Cigerette.  Great idea right.  Maybe not there is one study from the CDC that suggests that middle school and high school students have gotten their hands on e-cigs.  While this is harmless it could be considered a gateway to a nicotine addiction or worse smoking real cigarettes. I would argue its a dangerous game to play.  E-Cigs if used in the right way by the right people can saves millions of lives.  But the kid flavored smoke taste has lead to an increase of 3.5% use between 2011 and 2012 with a confidence of 95%.  This could lead to more kids developing a nicotine addiction.  One would think the tobacco companies would be apposed to these  E-Cigs but I believe they could help sell more product to teens who use e-cigs and develop a nicotine addiction.  In class we talked about the risks that tobacco has, but here is an adequate solution to the problem.   A simulation of the feeling of blowing smoke and a way to curve those nicotine craves in a healthy way.  I think society will have to run the risk of kids trying these e-cigs because the payoff is too large in terms of the number of lives this invention could save.

Where's the Soda?

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We've all been there, the morning after a great night of going out and partying with friends quickly comes to an end when we wake up with a hangover. The headaches, and the nausea are brutal and we just want a quick fix to get rid of all of it. There are the typical things we do like take aspirin, eat some bread to absorb the alcohol, and drink fluids. Multiple amounts of fluids: water, coffee, Gatorade, and Vitamin Water. Not to mention biting the bullet and either having another drink for your body to process the new alcohol rather than the old, or have a nice cold Bloody Mary. But what about soda? 

Earlier this month, a group of Chinese scientists announced that the best way to get rid of a hangover is a simple can of Sprite. Not for the morning, but to drink as soon as you are done drinking the alcohol. Just like you have probably been told before to have a glass of water every once in a while, it's kind of true. The scientists believe that it's not the alcohol that gives us the hangover but acetaldehyde in our body.  They say that "he key to reducing alcohol-related damage lies in minimizing the amount of time acetaldehyde is present in the body." (Chemistry World) Sprite, and other herbal drinks that the testes, help increase the Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase and the Aldehyde Dehydrogenase enzymes that help you get rid of that "I-feel-like-I-wanna-die" feeling. So before you binge eat some Canyon Pizza, or go straight to bed, stop at a good point in the night and grab some soda; you won't regret it. 



Scared to go to sleep?


Whether we remember them or not, we all dream; we can even have up to several dreams each time we lay down to sleep at night.  Although what I have become curious about over the past few months are nightmares.  Ever since I got home from school last May, I would have very vivid nightmares every night, and I wasn't really sure why.  I never took a psychology class or learned about the REM cycle enough to discover as to why I would have these nightmares.  And it wasn't random nights these were happening, it was every night.  I'd wake up and say to myself, did that really just happen? Why were they so vivid? And what is that even supposed to mean?  

I thought this blog post would be a great place to attempt to break down what causes these nightmares and if they can be stopped!  According to this article, the origin of what causes nightmares can't be scientifically proven, but stress and anxiety can lead to them.  In my case, of course college and everything that goes along with it is one of the most stressful things I have ever done in my life, but the nightmares only started when I got back home, where there was little stress, so why would they start up then?  Medications and caffeine can also affect them, but currently I'm not on any meds, but I do drink coffee regularly.  Other options are to see sleep specialists, but in most cases, nightmares are just things that happen and there are limited options to help them.  


Have you ever experiences vivid nightmares on a regular basis?  How have you managed to curve them, and why do you think we have them in the first place?

Pimples?!?! EWWW!

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Don't you just hate waking up to start a new day and discovering those ugly blemishes and pimples on your face?! I know I sure do! We all can agree that on days where our sporadic pimples are at their finest we just want to stay locked in our room. If some of us aren't that dramatic we still go out having a complex that people are staring right at our bumps. So exactly where do pimples come from? What triggers them? According to Ezine Articles pimples come from our oil glands and skin block our pores and trap dead skin on the inside. The clogged skin cells attract bacteria which causes the swelling and redness of our pimples. On the contrary Science AAAS illustrated a study that took place revealing that some bacteria actually help fight against acne.

            In the study they took swabs of bacteria from the noses of 101 people 49 had acne and 52 of the participants had clear skin. What they found was the participants with the clear skin had strains of bacteria living in their pores that actually fought against bacteria. They have hopes of including these particular bacteria in acne medicine to help fight against pimples. On average over more than 80% of Americans suffer from skin conditions such as pimples, cyst and inflamed skin. Although we can't fully avoid acne there are ways to prevent it from occurring such as washing your face twice a day with a cleanser, benzoyl peroxide can also help reduce blemishes. Be sure to stay away from soaps and exfoliating cleansers because they can dry out and irritate your skin.

            You may be wondering "how can I treat my pimples?" There are multiple ways to prevent pimples. One of the most important ways is to refrain from picking at them. I am guilty as charged because I do it all the time. Picking at them can cause scarring as well as spread the bacteria that caused the pimple. Make sure to keep hair out of your face and avoiding touching your skin as well. As clean as we may think our hands are there are still some underlying bacteria on our hands. Also try using all natural products as well. Remember acne isn't forever, it can be treated.


Are you SAD?


Ah, State College weather.  This fall was a tease for us because from the weekend we moved back into school until only a few weeks ago, it was a nice warm summer day, everyday.  Now that fall has truly set in, it's kind of back to reality for us Staters.  Fall is here, winter is coming, and there is no going back to the days of shorts and flip flops until we pack up our dorms and apartments and head home in May.  I've noticed since high school, many people are starting to talk more and more about seasonal depression, which is defined as seasonal affective disorder, where one becomes depressed, sad and or moody at a certain time of year, usually in the fall and winter.  

I always thought that it was just the gloomy months of darkness, lots of work and limited things to do that made me feel down in the dumps, but looking into research, I can see how this is actually a real disorder that can affect many people.  Being up here at Penn State, there is never a dull moment, but I know I've had my fair share of times throughout the winter where it seemed getting out of bed, doing work or even feeling down.  According to this article, having a few weeks of sadness doesn't necessarily qualify for one to be affected by SAD, but if it is recurring, then it's a possibility you may have it. Treatments for SAD include light therapy, where exposure to more light (and vitamin D) helps trigger chemicals in the brain to change mood, some medications and regular psychotherapy.  


Do you think there is any other causes to SAD, more than a change in temperature? Have you ever thought if you might have SAD? If so, let's hope we can beat the serious winter blues!

Not all babies bring joy

First thing that comes to mind when you think about a mother giving birth to her newborn baby is joy. While this is a common feeling for most mothers, 10-15% of first time mothers experience Post-Partum depression. Post-Partum depression is the increase of sadness and hopelessness following the delivery of their baby. Studies suggest that this depression is triggered by the raging production of hormones after delivery. Some other contributing factors that contribute to this depression includes external factors such as lack of support and internal factors such as stress. Of the previously mentioned 10-15% of woman positively diagnosed, 19.3% have an increased risk of seriously cause harm to themselves.


The Mayo clinic found that there is no single determinant of this depression but this depression is influenced by three factors, emotional, physical and lifestyle influences. Of these influences, the resulting symptoms are severe mood swings, crying, trouble sleeping, irritability and sadly troubles bonding with the baby. As an Human Development and Family Studies major, I have learned the importance of that initial bond with between a mother and her child. This bond, beginning in the womb, is one of the essential components for the development of the child. This bond is a major determinant of the child's mental abilities, temperament and later developed personality. In order to reduce some of the symptoms of the mother and to foster the proper development of the child, some of the treatments established for Post-Partum Depression is counseling and anti-depressants.

As a soon to be God-mother, I found this topic to be extremely interesting and informative for the possibilities my best friend can experience. After completing this blog, I am now aware of the symptoms to look out for so I can get her in the necessary help if need sooner rather than later.

texting.jpgEveryone texts. If you don't text, you're pretty much considered ancient. But what has texting done to our society? Instead of meeting up to talk to someone, we send them a quick text. Throughout classes, we are constantly occupied by the messages on our phone. Even when we walk, our faces are glued to our phones to respond to a message to one of our friends who could literally be in walking distance.  Has this modern convenience backfired on our generation? Has is hindered us from being able to effectively converse with one another?

In an article found in the Olympian,texting can be and is often used as a technique to avoid interaction with others. We all know what that's like when we don't really feel like talking to someone, we text them instead because it allows us the opportunity to avoid speaking. The article also mentions how texting allows for complete control over responses. At any time during a text conversation we can think about our response (type, backspace, and type again) or choose to not even respond at all.

Another article suggests yet another hypothesis for why texting is killing the art of conversation. PR Daily mentions 4 different reasons as to why texting just may become our talking demise.  Reducing the need for deep conversations, decreasing the need to know correct spelling and grammar, prohibiting people from being fully attendant and increased ambiguity are all disadvantages that are created by texting.

More studies show that texting isn't all bad, it just needs to be done in moderation.  An article from the Intelligencer said that people prefer texting over a phone call, but found that writing skills had enhanced with people from our generation.

With the vast number of opinions and ideas about texting, it is clear that it has both advantages and disadvantages. The key to being able to text without losing the art of conversation is to text in moderation and has physical interactions and phone calls regularly. That way, you can master both!



After sifting around the internet looking for an interesting article I came across one that reported rats being able to move after suffering severe spinal cord damage and being unable to walk.  The restoration of this mobility came from a process called deep brain stimulation.  In order to do this scientists had to deliver electrical impulses to the mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR).  The MLR is located in the brainstem, an important part in the lower brain that helps for the central nervous system.  This part of the brain is essentially the relay station for all information that goes from the brain to the rest of the body.  In the spinal cord are nerve fibers that carry the information around the body.  The damage to these nerve fibers in the spinal cord can be anywhere from complete disconnection to a few fibers still remaining.  The tests done with the rats were on those that had a few remaining.

The results showed that those with at least 20% to 30% of the nerve fibers were able to walk again, albeit not as well.  Those that had only 10% of their never fiber could moves but only in water where the water helped support the movement.  Lukas Bachmann, co-author of the study Science Translational Medicine, said, "We thought that a deep brain stimulation of the MLR would maximally recruit the few fibres from the brainstem to the spinal cord below the injury and they could regain the capacity to activate/control walking in injured animals."  To put it into easier terms, by sending electrical stimulus to the MLR they can try to boost the remaining nerve fibers into being able to move limbs again.

The study is still being looked into and there is no conclusive evidence that this can be used on humans yet.  After the experiment, once the the electrical stimulus was no longer being sent to the MLR in the rats they could no longer move again.  As of right now there is no long term solution to the paralysis after the stimulus.

The interesting part is if this could ever come to humans.  After reading the article I immediately thought of my neighbor back home who has had his arm paralyzed since birth and a fellow student's blog in which the girl in the post became paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the spine.  Currently the treatment is only being tested on rats and is nowhere close to being ready for humans but cures for anything always start with animals so there is hope.  If testing and progress on the the treatment of paralysis continues then I say the future looks bright for anyone that is paralyzed.


While thinking about scientific topics that interested me for this blog post, my mind wandered to the Middle East and the conflicts that have occurred over valuable oil deposits. As a Political Science Minor, I feel I have a decent grasp of what is going on in the world today, but realized I have no idea what the worldwide distribution of oil looks like. My hypothesis is that the Middle East is the most oil-concentrated region in the world, evidenced by years of oil wars in the region. This picture shows not only where in the world oil is found, but labels the amount in billions of barrels:

SC blog 3.jpeg

Looking at the numbers, America's interest in the Middle East begins to become more clear. In his paper "Why So Much Oil in the Middle East?" petroleum geoscientist Rasoul Sorkhabi writes, "the term "MIddle East" focuses on the oil-rich countries in southwest Asia including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Yemen. These ten countries together have an area of 5.1 million square kilometers or about 3.4%of Earth's land surface, but they possess 60% of world's known oil reserves and 41% of natural gas reserves." But why is there so much oil in the Middle East? The region was primed to become resource rich through years of ocean subduction and micro-continental collision, which created a basement rock, "thus enriching marine sediments with organic carbon necessary for oil generation," according to Sorkhabi. The oil-rich Middle East is just one example of science having a massive impact on world politics. 

Everyone right? wrong! There are actually more people than you would think, in fact 15% of adults in the United States are not online and 92% of those are perfectly fine with it! ThisUnknown.jpeg information comes from a survey that was conducted last spring that surveyed 2,252 peopleover the age of 18. 
As many of you probably guessed the majority of those in the study who came in as a non internet user were also part of the older demographic.But they aren't the only ones making up the fifteen percent. Many other reasons for not using the internet include lower education, not having a computer, web access being too expensive, or just plainly because they have no interest in what the internet has to offer them. 
So how do these people get on with out internet these days? Well, those in the survey said that they would ask a family member or someone who lives with them to do whatever they needed done on the internet for them.


The hookah tradition originating from the Middle East, consists on smoking shisha, a flavored tobacco, through a water pipe. This has become a beyond popular practice amongst the american youth, specially college students. Many consider this to be a fairly healthy practice and a good alternative to cigarette consumption. It is generally believed that since the shisha smoke is filtered through water all of the carcinogens from the tobacco are eliminated.

Unfortunately for all hookah lovers this is not true. As a matter of fact, hookah may be just as risky as smoking cigarettes. Hookah users inhale more smoke for longer periods of time which as a direct result causes them to inhale more tobacco. It is supposed to deliver the same amounts of nicotine meaning that there is a chance of creating a dependency. There is also the risk of cancer, due to the toxic components in the smoke such as tar, carbon monoxide and other carcinogens. 

As a hookah consumer I personally feel very ignorant for not having been aware of the dangers surrounding the practice. This also makes me wonder how many other popular, seemingly harmless, and yet unhealthy practices have we integrated into our culture? Hookah is not something we see being regularly advertised on t.v. or magazines like cigarettes did back in the day, then how did it manage become so popular, and its effects so unrecognized?

Here are some quick hookah facts extracted from "tobaccofreeu.org" :

  • Compared to a single cigarette, hookah smoke is known to contain: 
  • Higher levels of arsenic, lead, and nickel1 
  • 36 times more tar
  • 15 times more carbon monoxide
  • Smoking a hookah requires taking longer and harder drags, increasing levels of inhaled nicotine and carcinogens in the lungs. 
  • The longer the hookah session, the more nicotine and toxins one takes in. 
  • A 45 to 60 minute hookah session exposes the smoker to approximately the same amount
    of tar and nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. 
  • Sharing mouthpieces without washing them can increase the risk of spreading colds, flu,
    and infections--even oral herpes.
  • Health risks of smoking hookahs include cancer, heart disease, lung damage, and dental
  • Do not think that if you are just visiting a hookah bar, that you are in the clear. There are still high levels of damaging secondhand smoke to all who are present. 


Sneezing is part of life

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I don't know about you but I hate sneezing. A lot of people say it's relieving because it feels so good. Personally, I think it's an awful feeling. The feeling comes at inopportune times Maybe I sneeze wrong because as weird as it sounds, mine hurt. They come from my chest and really don't feel that good. Even when I have a cold and I don't feel relieved after I sneeze. I just don't understand the concept of sneezing, so I decided to look up anything I could find about it. I found an article on WebMD that listed "11 Surprising Sneezing Facts." Here are the first three that are the most 'scientific':

  1.  A sneeze is considered a nerve transmission. It signals your brain that something is in your nose that needs to be released.
  2. Sneezes keep us healthy because they clear the nose of bacteria and viruses.
  3. Sneezes travel about 100 miles per hour. One sneeze can send 100,000 germs into the air.
As far as the first two go, I guess after all sneezes aren't that bad. I wish there was an alternate option, but I guess I'll learn to deal with them. However, that third part grosses me out. I'm a semi-germ freak. Only in the sense that I try to make sure I keep my germs to myself and I hope other people will do the same. When I see someone sneeze into their elbow, I want to give them a pat on the back. When I see someone sneeze into their hand, or without their hand, I want to spray them with hand sanitizer the way exterminators spray houses to eliminate bugs. Anyone else feel the same way?

Yes, I know germs are everywhere and not all of them are bad. Let's face it, not being cautious when you sneeze can lead to a lot of problems with other people. When you sneeze into your hand and open a door with the same hand, numerous people are touching that door after you and picking up your germs. I hope you second guess yourself the next time you think about sneezing into your hands.



We are all mature adults and I think it's about time we have this conversation. I'm sure many of you have heard at one point that people have to drink to reduce their stress. I always thought this was BS, but maybe this is because I don't really stress. People at school say that they need to go out and drink to get rid of their stress from school. I get that it's nice to get out with your friends and forget about class for a night but my question is if alcohol really has an effect on stress. 

The answer to this question is yes. This is not an excuse to go get drunk every time you feel stress because there are caveats. It can only reduce stress in some circumstances. For one, it only reduces stress at low levels of intoxication. If too much alcohol is consumed, it can actually elevate stress levels (I'm sure we all have that friend that cries or gets overly dramatic when they're "intoxicated".) 

Heavy drinking might reduce psychological stress but it increases physiological stress by a lot. Alcohol puts a lot of stress on the body's metabolism system, which increases physiological stress on the body. A study done by the University of Missouri states that very moderate drinking can reduce drinking. The definition of moderate I'm talking about is not what most college students know. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate for men as four drinks per sitting and no more than 14 per week. For women, it's 3 drinks per sitting and no more than 7 per week due to their lower body mass. Although alcohol can benefit stress there might be a point where it becomes a problem. If you become dependent on alcohol to relieve stress, you're in trouble and should stop right away because it's likely to be unhealthy.

Are Tattoos Really Addictive??

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I would like to consider myself to be a lover of the arts, all of them. I especially enjoy using my own body as a canvas. As of now, I have 7 tattoos. I've been getting them since I was 16 and have averaged about 1 a year ever since. I just can't help myself. Before going to the parlor, many people warned me that they were addicting and that I would end up with half of my body covered in ink. I assured them they were wrong, but here I am, 6 tattoos later and eager to get more. Why do they seem so contagious? Are they really addictive?

            According to a website that focuses on addictions, tattoos are not listed in the DSM as something that you can become addicted to. However, getting tattoos allows the release of endorphins. These chemicals are released to help deal with the pain that comes along with having a needle dug into your skin to create a desired image. The article explains how the release of these chemicals, along with the associated pain, allows for an emotional attachment to be made with the experience. This memory then becomes a positive experience, that people want to happen over and over again.

            WordPress.com mentions a study that was done that supported the idea that tattoos were addictive. They concluded from a survey that they distributed that people become addicted to inking their body because it is a trend, it enhances social identity, and because they fall victim to the concept of consumer behavior.

            Interestingly enough, even with the research, the topic is still up for much debate. It is possible that the popularity among tattoos may be subjective, and unique to each person.  So, my advice, when considering getting a tattoo is to think long and hard about the decision. It could potentially be your first and only, or it may be the beginning of a creative addiction.





We need sunlight

Summer has come and gone and now we are all preparing for the harsh winter of State College. The change in the weather can be an easy deterrent from students attending class and finding a reason to stay in their room to keep warm. But did you know that the change of season can lead to depression. Seasonal Affective Depression, according to  WebMD, is a form of depression where an individual emotions can vary from being sad, grumpy and anxious. Some other symptoms that are often associated with Seasonal Affect Depression (SAD) is a loss in appetite and loss of interest in activities one once found enjoyable.

seasonal-affective-disorder-2.jpgTypically occurring during the fall and winter months, many scientist suggest that this change in attitude and behavior can be due to lack of sunlight. There is evidence to suggest that the lack of sunlight have more of an impact that many would think of. For instance the lack of sunlight can throw off one's sleep patterns which can create an imbalance in brain functioning, especially in regards to the reproduction of serotonin.  

Another source suggest that the lack of sleep also affect the reproduction of melatonin, another imbalance in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone that increases levels of emotional lows in reaction to darkness.When the days begin getting shorter sooner, this hormone begin to reproduce more and leads to the depression we now know as Seasonal Affective Depression. 

Now knowing what Seasonal Affective Disorder is, do you think that you have ever experienced some of it's symptoms?
You know that feeling. Shaky hands, weak knees, and butterflies not only in your stomach, but somehow fluttering madly throughout your entire body. You can't stop thinking about them. "Events occurring in the brain when we are in love have similarities with mental illness."(BBC) I think that's pretty believable. Why does this happen? Why that one person out of everyone? Helen Fisher of Rutgers University says that we fall in love in three stages and that different set of chemicals in the brain is responsible for each one.
Stage one is none other than Lust. This stage is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. Take note that testosterone is not just found in men, but also plays a big part in a woman's sex drive.
Stage two is Attraction. "This is the truly love-struck phase. When people fall in love they can think of nothing else." (BBC) In this phase a group of neuro-transmitters called monoamines play the important roles. These include dopamine, norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline), and seratonin (the one that "sends you temporarily insane").
Stage three is Attachment. This is the stage that signifies a long-term relationship. The two hormones that play a role in this phase are oxytocin (released during orgasm to promote bonding) and vasopressin.
So now you know. It's not a fairytale, it's not fate, it's simply hormones oozing around in your brain as if you had a mental illness. <3


One of the most common pieces of advice for incoming college students is the catchy phrase: "Beer before liquor, never sicker; Liquor before beer, you're in the clear". As a junior in college, I've witnessed friends and strangers feeling "sicker" whether they start with beer and finish with liquor, or start with liquor and end with beer. So I decided to get to the bottom of this old wives' tale.

According to Carlton Erickson in a New York Times Article, most people do not drink a lot of beer after they've had drinks with liquor. This could be a result of liquor having a higher alcohol content than beer. However, it is common for college students to "pregame" with liquor and end their night with beer. This pattern can be explained logically. Liquor, which usually has a high alcohol content, will cause people to feel the effects of alcohol quicker. Today Health has a good point, in the idea that the more alcohol you drink, your ability to clearly make decisions will decrease. This leads people to think that they have the tolerance to drink more than they really can. So if you drink strong drinks made of liquor first, and then finish with lower-alcohol content beer, you will most likely think you can drink more.

As an "experienced" college student, what is you opinion on this theory? In your experience, does it hold true that drinking beer before liquor will make you sicker? Or will you disregard the saying, and instead monitor the amount of any kind of alcohol you are consuming?

How Much TV is too Much TV?


Everyday, students go to class, get something to eat, and eventually end up sitting on their couch at home watching television.  What is even more interesting, is that sometimes we just need background sounds to what we are actually supposed to be doing (homework).  Actually, my television is on right now while I'm writing this blog.  I don't even know what show I am watching, yet I still watch it.  So if everyone is watching so much television, do we know how much TV is too much?  According to CNN.com, too much television can lead to an early death, especially from heart disease.  A study was done with 8,800 adults with no history of heart disease for more than six years.  "Then compared to those who watched less than two hours of television per day, people who watched four hours of more were 80% more likely to die from heart disease and 46% more likely to die from any cause.  All told, 284 people died during the study."  The study also showed that "each additional hour spent in front of the television increased the risk of dying from heart disease by 18% and the overall risk of death by 11%".  This was found by the American Heart Association.  CNN.com also added that "the pattern held even after the researchers took into account the education level and overall health of the participants: their age, whether they smoked, and their cholesterol and blood pressure".  So how does television hurt a person?  It is said that the issue with watching too much television comes with sitting in the same position for a long amount of time, which means there isn't a lot of muscle movement.  So what do you think?  Is television as bad as this study makes it out to be?



Works Cited: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/11/television.tv.death/

Growing up I used to get the occasional migraine maybe once or twice a month and I hated taking medication to try to relieve the pain. Knowing this, my mom would have me lay in bed, tell me to believe that I do not feel any pain, focus on my breathing, and in my head repeat mind over matter and within 10-15 minutes of deep breaths and meditation my migraine would be gone. No more pain, all because I believed I didn't feel any pain. A couple of days ago I went to my first session of Butts and Guts at White building. Butts and guts is an intense 45 minute workout that focuses on toning the glutes, thighs, and lower abdomen and as expected the next morning I was sore. I could barely sit on the toilet. I then remembered that when I get a migraine I usually meditate and tell myself I don't feel any pain and that works like a charm so I thought why not do the same but this time focus on the pain on my thighs, quads, and glutes. Like I thought it would, believing I was in no pain and meditating on that thought for a few minutes helped relieve but not completely rid the pain I was feeling. So I guess my question is...is pain a construct of the mind? 


In order to know if pain is truly a construct of the mind one must be able to define what it actually is. So, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain, pain is "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage"(1). Therefore pain is a perception similar to hearing and sight determined by the cerebral cortex. The skin has several types of specialized peripheral nerve cells, called nociceptors, which sense stimuli and send their messages to the central nervous system (2).   French philosopher René Descartes described nociceptors as nerves that send a clear message to the brain about the problem. The intensity of the message is directly proportionate to the severity of the injury. The brain interprets that message at face value, if the message says, there's some bad damage here, we believe it. This was the old way of thinking and recent discoveries and research on pain have revealed that this model, that any message sent to the brain by a certain kind of nerve will always cause pain and that these are "pain messages," is according to neuroscientist, Patrick Wall, worse than an oversimplification.(3) Having defined what pain is it is vital to understand that pain is not just a message from injured tissues but rather a complex experience that is thoroughly tuned by your brain. There is no pain without the brain. The way pain really works is the nociceptors don't detect pain but rather detect some kind of stimulus in the tissue then the brain decides what to make of it, and what to do about it.


Since the brain decides what to do about the stimulus in the tissue does this mean we can think the brain-built pain away? According to Dr. Moseley, who has a Ted Talk about pain (insert link), he states "Pain really is in the mind, but not in the way you think." Sadly, pain neurology can't be manipulated by simply believing that there is no pain.  The brain controls how we experience potentially threatening stimuli, but we don't control our brains. Our brain modifies pain experience based on a number of other things that are completely out of your control, or rather difficult to control. We may not control our brains but we can alter our physiology with deep vigorous breathing, which is what got rid of my migraines. Seeing as pain is a construct of the mind it seems plausible that you can over time train yourself or use coping mechanism to help ease your pain. In a small study done with 20 men and 20 women it was found that the females were able to reduce their pain by smelling roses and almonds. Considering this was a small study these results may have been due to chance but nonetheless for these women seemed to help reduce pain.(4)

Here is a link to an article about the strongest man on earth and he too believes that you can control how much pain you feel. Do you think it is possible for people to control the amount of pain they are in?


3. The relationship of perceived pain to afferent nerve impulses, by Patrick Wall and McMahon SB, pp254-255

Oreos the new cocaine?


Ever wonder why it's so hard to resist junk food? Many scientists believe that we crave junk food the same way we crave other substances, like illegal drugs. This belief is growing thanks to a study being conducted by students from Connecticut College. 

The study tested the affect of oreo's on the rats brains by looking at the number of neurons in the brain's "pleasure center" that were activated from eating. The results of the study supported the fact that consumption of foods high in fat or sugar can lead to addictive behaviors and can make the brain act in a similar way an illegal drug would. 

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An important thing to keep in mind with this study is that "addicted" doesn't mean what we are all thinking it means. When it is used in terms of the study it is more along the lines of meaning that the rats sought something out and found pleasure in eating them. The main purpose of the study was not about the oreos but to show the effect foods high in fat and sugar have on your brain. 

Now its' easy to see why unhealthy foods are so hard to say no too! So next time you are eating oreos just keep in mind that everything is great in moderation!

After explaining the many reasons why you should never skip breakfast in my last blog post, I will now go into what that breakfast you are making time for in the morning should consist of. There are so many options for breakfast foods and, personally, they are some of my favorite things to eat. Between cereals, yogurt, fruit, pop-tarts, oatmeal and omelets, what breakfast foods are best? 

Professor of pediatrics and Duke University, Terrill Bravender, says keep a low glycemic index. As I said in my last post, glucose fuels the brain. This glycemic index shows how fast our bodies convert the carbohydrates in our food to fuel. Foods high in sugar are absorbed into our bodies quickly and cause a quick rise in our blood sugar. This spike drops rapidly after a couple hours, leaving us hungry again and it can even release hormones that affect our mood along with concentration. Sugary cereals have a high glycemic index. In other words, stay away from them.

Many researchers highly recommend oatmeal - good thing I just stocked up on a couple more boxes. Although it is similar in the amount of carbohydrates when compared to cereal, it is absorbed slowly into the body so it lasts you the morning and doesn't cause the spike in blood sugar. Holly Taylor, a psychologist at Tufts University, did a study having children split into two groups and feeding one group sweetened oatmeal for breakfast, while the other ate Cap'n Crunch. The tests they then performed included things like memorizing names of countries on a map. She says that this study showed kids who ate oatmeal did up to 20% better than those who ate Cap'n Crunch. While this is just one study, and as we know correlation does not prove causation, it's not a bad idea to swap out sugary cereal for oatmeal instead. However, this is not to say that refined grain and whole-grain cereals are not acceptable. Oatmeal has plenty of fiber, including a type known as beta-glucan, which can also help lower cholesterol. A good suggestion is to add some milk, honey and fruit to make your oatmeal even more delicious and nutritious. In general, whole grains and a little protein are a good way to go for breakfast. These are just what you need to give you a boost and keep you satisfied. 

As always, a classic breakfast of eggs is always an excellent way to get your protein. A study done by researches at Pennington Biomedical Research Center compared the weight loss of women who ate either two eggs or a bagel for breakfast every morning. Both foods had the same amount of calories and volume, however, when worked into a diet for overweight women, the egg eaters lost 65% more weight, shrank their waist by 83% and had higher energy levels with no increase in cholesterol levels. 

Overall, great options to combine for your breakfast would be things like whole-grain toast or a whole-wheat english muffin, fruit smoothies with low-fat yogurt, greek yogurt, fresh fruit, oatmeal, an egg or two, and a cup of tea or coffee. There are so many possibilities when it comes to breakfast, just make sure you are actually making time to eat it!

Foods that fight cancer

Talking about cancer and vaccines today in class got me thinking if there are any ways to prevent or lessen your chances of getting cancer. I stumbled upon an interesting article on CNN on about foods that actually help fight breast cancer. These foods are geared more to people who have or have had breast cancer but I'm sure it could hurt to eat them as a precautionary measure. Also, it wouldn't help to eat these foods as a precaution to other types of cancer as well because too much healthy eating can do no harm, except if you love your junk food as much as me, but I digress. 

 Let's start with soy. It was believed for quite some time that soy actually was bad for cancer. So naturally, someone decided to do a study on this. The American Journal of Nutrition did a study involving 9,500 breast cancer patients after diagnostics involving soy intake. In this study it was found that the consumption significantly reduced the chances of reoccurrence of breast cancer. Another study by the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention produced similar results stating that eating soy-based foods reduced mortality rates and reoccurrence of the disease. 

How about kale? As many of you may know, kale is the new super food and is known to be extremely healthy and to have many benefits. One of them being to reduce the chances of the reoccurrence of breast cancer. Kale has carotenoids which are pigments found in yellow and orange foods such as oranges and sweet potatoes and dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Dr. Mitchell Gaynor has this to say about carotenoids "We know now that certain foods make your body inhospitable for cancer cells to thrive. The goal is to keep cancer cells dormant, and what you eat makes a difference." 

The last one is fish. We have to talk about some meat because you don't have to become a vegetarian. Salmon and cod are known fish that contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids have been linked to improved breast cancer prognosis. A 2011 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that this acid inhibits the proliferation of breast cancer cells. Now this may not help prevent cancer but hey I'm always down for some salmon and maybe it could help prevent cancer. Who knows?

There are many other foods that are thought to help prevent cancer. None of these have mechanisms and none of them are 100% proven. My whole thing with this is that it can't hurt to eat healthy. Nothing bad will come out of it and you may just be saving yourself from getting cancer.
I was always curious as to what causes people to have the munchies after they smoked. In the article What Causes the Munchies?,Stuart Fox says "Scientists have finally begun to understand why smoking pot leads to so many late night trips to Taco Bell."

According to the article, the main factor is a brain pathway known as that "endogenous cannabinoid system" (Fox). This system, which involves naturally occurring brain chemicals that resemble the active ingredients in marijuana. It effects your body by craving tasty food.

It has been recently discovered that pharmaceutical companies are researching both marijuana-like drugs in hops it will activate the appetite of chemotherapy patients and HIV sufferers. Although there were some studies in the 70s, there will eventually be more and more doctors will be using the "munchies" for a better, safer cause. 

When Harriet de Wit, a professor from the University of Chicago, was asked where the "munchies" stemmed from she responded by saying it also resembles stress levels which cause most of the cravings. 


Stars go missing?


Considering that today's lecture was made by the Dean Larson of the Eberly College of Science, I felt the need to find a topic that involved Stars and Galaxies. Therefore, I have found an article that actually explains how a Supergiant Star goes missing. You're probably thinking, a star going missing? What the, how would we not notice that until now? Well actually, finding the chain of events that led up to a Supernova is apparently a very difficult task, and so the only reason that we were able to make an exception for this phenomenon was because it occurred in the spiral galaxy known as M51. M51 is however a rather popular galaxy, and in more casual terms is called the Whirlpool Galaxy.

For those of you who don't know what the Whirlpool Galaxy is can watch an image tour of pictures taken by the Hubble here

Some facts of the Whirlpool Galaxy

-        The Whirlpool Galaxy is approximately 25 million light years away

-        It was discovered in 1773 by Charles Messiner

-        Other names include M51 and NGC 5194

-        It was recognized as a Spiral Galaxy by Lord Rosse, and therefore it became the first classified spiral galaxy

-        It is one of the most watched and most popular galaxies because of its beauty

-        It is contained in the constellation Canes Venatici

Now that we are situated with some background of the Whirlpool Galaxy and the whereabouts of this place, let us get into the meet of the subject.

This article is about a star that when "missing" when in reality is a Super Giant star that actually went into the final stages of its life. The fascinating thing about this Supernova however is that it was a type IIb Supernova, which is super rare (like 1 in every 10 stars rare). This supernova however, was not what would be expected from a Super Giant exploding. Scientists came up with two conclusions:

1)     "Perhaps a binary companions of the yellow supergiant that had been stripped down, nearly to its core, by the gravitational pull of its neighbor."

This team thought that "the progenitor was essentially this very stripped, very blue, and so it was unseen in the Hubble images" .... That the "yellow star was hiding the blue star that actually exploded"

2)     These guys found that "the giant star the Hubble had spotted at the site of the explosion had indeed been the progenitor".

Looking at the fact that they have two different conclusions, I can tell that they still aren't sure of what exactly happened during this rare supernova. Also what makes me a bit angry is that this wasn't a big deal when the supernova exploded. The title of this article is misleading because the star didn't go missing, rather it just exploded. 

Sources: "A Supergiant Star Goes Missing, and a Supernova Mystery Is Solved: Scientific American." A Supergiant Star Goes Missing, and a Supernova Mystery Is Solved: Scientific American. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.


supernova 2011dh

Question : What did you guys think about Dean Larson's lecture? Also, any astrology majors here?

I'll be honest guys. I didn't really know what plankton were, and only thought they looked something close to plankton in Spongebob. Nor did I know the massive toll it would take on the fish if they were gone. It has been recorded that ocean plankton are headed to extinction because they are struggling to adapt to the changes in the sea temperature.

               With that fact present, it is only natural for one to question, what causes these changes in sea temperature. According to National Geographic, two words. Global Warming.

As the Earth is warming, though the Seas have had a slower response, it has still been happening. The temperature of the earth has risen on average about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last 100 years. Though globally it has risen this much, the temperatures of the seas has only risen about .18 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the sea seems like it hasn't been changing that much, it has had a detrimental effect because of how sensitive the marine ecosystem is to even the slightest rise of temperature.

               Researchers, led by Deakin University and Swansea University has found that the population of cold water plankton have been declining. This is a huge problem because these plankton are the main source of food for cod and hake, common fish that are eaten by us humans. As the water gets warmer, fish that are considered the "warm water species" are able to expand their territory because the regions that were once "cold water species" region are now getting warmer. With this expansion, the "cold water species" are contracting, causing population decline of cold water fish.

Observational studies have been conducted observing a 50 year time period on two contrasting species of ocean plankton, one that thrives in cold water and one that thrives in warm water.  Researchers have found that the cold water plankton have been contracting. Meaning that "In other words, even over 50 generations (each plankton lives for one year or less) there is no evidence of adaptation to the warmer water." So who can even come up with the conclusion that there is even a chance for the plankton to be able to adapt now?

Considering these conclusions, it can be now thought that this is a very critical problem, and that measures must be taken in order for this problem to be solved. Without these plankton, let me remind you that vital sources of fish will be destroyed in the process. Professor Hays has concluded to say that "the consequences of this study are profound. It suggests that cold water plankton will continue to become scarcer as their ranges contract to the poles, and ultimately disappear. So certainly for these animals, thermal adaptation appears unlikely to limit the impact of climate change."

Global warming must be fixed, so how can everyday normal citizens like us reduce global warming? This website will give detailed ways to reduce global warming.


1.      Carpool with Friends or Co-Workers

2.      Replace Plastic Water Bottles with Reusable ones

3.      Recycle and Reuse

4.      Choose to Buy Local Products

Penn State overall has been a huge help in the fight to reduce global warming. The fact that it is encouraged to buy a washable and reusable water bottle, and that there are special filling stations to fill water bottles with. I love fish, and will not be the same without, so what say you guys that we try and make the planet a happy and fish filled environment to live in?

What do you guys do in order to prevent Global Warming?

Sources :"Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe." EarthSky. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.


Men "breast feeding"

Please tell me you watched Meet the Fockers. The part that caught my attention was when Robert DeNiro wore the fake breasts to feed his grandson. That got my attention because it got me wondering if men can breastfeed. According to the World Wide Web, there are many fathers who feel helpless when their kids are first born and want to help their wives as much as possible. One way they want to help is by breastfeeding.... I know what you're thinking. IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?! The answer to that question is yes, although it is a tentative yes. Men do have milk ducts and some mammary tissue. This allows men to lactate. Although men can do this, it is quite hard to produce enough milk to feed a baby. Another factor to the phenomenon is that men don't have the necessary hormones to produce the same milk for babies as women. Maybe the best way to help is to buy one of those fake "manary glands" from Meet the Fockers. IF you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch this video.

Super Earth


Ever since watching the movie "Treasure Planet" when I was a kid, I've always wanted to live until traveling and living in another planet was made possible by the growth of technological innovations in the future. Be able to take my family to live in another planet, and new place with new things to explore. According to ecologists "Humanity would need five Earths to produce the resources needed if everyone lived as profligately as Americans" (Phys. Org). That fact really alarms me because thought not yet, the rest of the world is growing slowly but surely, meaning that more resources will be used as the standard of living for these people increase. Even now "humanity each year uses resources equivalent to nearly one-and-a-half Earths to meet its needs" (Phys. Org). If we continue to use more resources than the speed it takes the Earth to regenerate them, then there will be serious ecosystem collapses and destroy our home planet as we speak. Humans already generate more CO2 44% faster than the Earth can regenerate. Since the growth of natural resource usage by the planet is only increasing, Ecologists calculate that "we will require the resources of two planets to meet our demands by the early 2030s" (Phys.Org). Our Earth that we live in will not be enough for the growth in population and growth in use of resources, meaning that sooner or later we need to either cut down heavily, or look at the more attractive idea of looking at different planets to inhabit.

             In order for a planet to be habitable, it must have a certain traits that give it Earth-like qualities. These traits include temperature, water, atmosphere, energy, and nutrients. For a better look at a table that really explains what the earth needs, click on this link here.

To quickly summarize the table, since you guys probably didn't read a single word of it, pretty much a planet has to fit into the just right category of the table in order to sustain life.

Temperature: a range from 15 degrees Celsius-115 degrees Celsius.

Water: Available regularly, dormant in wet periods but needs to be available.

Atmosphere:  "Be able to keep the surface warm and protects from radiation and small to medium sized meteorites."

Energy: "steady input of either light or chemical energy, cells can run the chemical reactions necessary for life."

Nutrients: Be able to transport and replenish chemicals required by living organisms.

Too much or too little of these 5 criteria can destroy the chances of a planet being habitable or inhabitable.  Scientists however have found planets that follow these strict guidelines.  Planets orbiting around the red dwarf star Gliese 581.

The planet is called Gliese 581 d, and this planet is around 20 light years away in the constellation Libra. Though the planet is significantly bigger than the earth (if you see on the table you see that in the atmosphere category it shows that Earth and Venus size planets are ideal for planetary habitability, technically making this higher in the atmosphere category), it contains surface water, making it along with other factors a planet that can be consider to be habitable.

However, little is known about this planet. There are many limitations to the technology that we have today. No atmosphere could be observed for the planet, and also other compositions are unable to be seen/measured because we are limited with current technology. Another thing observed by this planet is that half the planet is in eternal darkness, while the other half is in eternal light. Other factors that hinder the chances of this planet is that it is predicted to only get 30% of the light from the Sun as the Earth does, making this too cold to support life in the planet. The cold in this planet could range from -18 degrees Celsius, which is too cold. It can be a minimum of -15 degrees Celsius, according to the table in the earlier parts of this post. In the plus side, there has been many similar characteristics between the Earth and this planet. One of the big similarities is that both planets stabilize the CO2 levels, making it possible to produce a liquid water cycle and support life.

Much more research must be don't in order for the scientists and astronomers to find whether or not this planet can be habitable or not, and in order for that to happen the technology must increase and grow significantly. Meaning that it might happen 10 years from now, or maybe in my children's lifetime. 

Who else would want to live on another planet? If so Why?


Sources:  "Discovery News." DNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2013 


Sleep talking...

Has anyone ever told you a story about that you were caught in the act of sleep talking or even worst, sleepwalking? You might have felt embarrassed or maybe this wasn't the first time. If you're like me, you likely hear this just about every time you sleep in the same room as some one else. Have you ever wondered what causes this? Sleep talking is also known as somniloquy and it's a type of parasomnia. A parasomnia is an abnormal behavior that takes place during sleep according to WebMD. This behavior occurs in about half of kids between the ages of 3-10 and about 5% of adults. As of right now, the cause of sleep talking is unknown. This behavior can be dangerous because it can be a symptom of a sleeping or mental disorder but most of the time, it's a harmless behavior. 

There are no known causes for sleep talking but it is believed that it can be induced by some medications, emotional stress, mental disorder, or substance abuse. There is little known at all about this. All that is known from studies is that it is most common in young children. This may be a part of the brain developing or it may have nothing to do with it. It is also a theory that people who commonly talk in their sleep after the age of 25. Sleep talking is quite different than a sleep terror. If you ever experienced a sleep terror, you know what I am talking about. They are very scary and there's very little you can do. Sleep terror is also most common among younger children but it's as far as the commonality, that's all that's similar. 

Next time you experience someone sleep talking, there's not much you can do. If it's not a night terror, you might even want to consider having fun with it. There aren't any known harms to this as far as we know. You might want to take a video while you talk to them and make a funny conversation out of it. Since sleep talkers don't realize they sleep talk even when they wake up, it could be used as proof or just as a black mail.
The tobacco companies have found a new way to bring back the excitement to the smoking industry.  New flavored tobacco has seen an increase of 240% between 1997 to 2007 according to a study done by the CDC.  While it is clear why the tobacco companies have changed the flavor of tobacco, to mask the harness, it is not clear to me why kids continue to smoke tobacco.  I myself have never smoked tobacco a day in my life so I have never experienced the "buzz"  which could cause some objectivity in my blog post.  What I don't understand is even with an increase in the education about the risks of tobacco, why teens and even adults choose to accept said risks and take years off their life.  I thought to myself why hasn't government stepped in and saved the lives of millions every year.  The truth is Obama passes legislation that bans flavored cigarettes, but not flavored cigars.  While, I see some conflicting ties between the success of our economy and the success of these tobacco companies I applaud the governments effort in this case.  They walk a fine line between disrupting a major cog in the economy and saving the lives of millions.  One thing the government could do is raise the smoking age.  This is because 88% of adults who smoke started at 18 or before.  I believe that this will keep in balance the billion dollar industry with protecting the youth against the clearly addictive forces inside a tobacco product.  These cigars are the new choice amongst teens as 2 out of every 5 middle school and high school students who smoke, smoke flavored.  In class we talked about how science can not say without a shadow of a doubt  that smoking causes cancer, but science has observed a substantial amount of evidence that suggest a casual link between smoking tobacco and cancer. I would love to hear your take on why in the face of so many risks people still choose to smoke tobacco.   In my next blog post I will talk about the "e-cig" and how it might revolutionize the tobacco industry.  
(photo courtesy of CNN)

Poison a Painkiller?

Have you ever been stung by a scorpion? I never have and do not really plan on it but it is apparently a very painful experience especially from the bark scorpion. A bark scorpion is capable of killing animals with its sting and causing serious pain if it stings humans. Recently scientists have been experimenting with the grasshopper mouse which is immune to the bark scorpion sting which kills rodents of similar size. It turns out that the grasshopper mouse possesses an amino acid which bonds with the poison neutralizing its effects.(utexas) Scientist also believe that these amino acids may even alter the effect of the scorpion poison and turn it into an analgesic that blocks the pain signals from reaching the regions of the brain that register pain.(utexas) This would mean that with the use of this amino acid the poison could potentially be turned into a painkiller.

I find it truly amazing how some animals have evolved to deal with threats such as the venom of its prey. This could be used to develop new types of drugs to be used to treat diseases. If these scientists are successful in reproducing this effect in a drug for people it would be truly astonishing to me how they could turn the venom of a scorpion into a painkiller. They would undoubtedly have to put it through many tests and trials before they would be able to determine if they could get this to work however.


Space Tourism

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I imagine I'm not the only one in class who has dreamed of space travel. In fact, I would make it a top priority if I were to make a bucket list. I recently read an article that makes that dream more possible than I ever thought. A "space tourism company" named World View estimates that it will be able to accommodate customers above the stratosphere as early as 2015, according to Kenneth Chang's article "Balloon Ride to Offer Expansive View, For A Price" in The New York Times yesterday. How expensive is this groundbreaking balloon ride? $75,000, yikes. Fortunately, over time this price is sure to drop. Space tourism is still in its beginning stages, but I'm so glad to see it begin, and can only dream of the possibilities that will exist in space tourism in my lifetime. 
We all try our best to eat healthy, even though as a college student it can be somewhat challenging. Luckily, thanks to common knowledge, its become insanely easy to pick apart the healthier food options at the grocery store from the unhealthier options; right? Wrong! According to this article many things that we are eating that we think are good for us may be the exact opposite.
The dreaded bread aisle. We all know bread isn't good for us, especially white bread. Many of us think that wheat bread is the healthiest of them all. This is the first mistake we make! Wheat is actually just as bad for us as white bread is. Unless it says "100% whole wheat" you are still eating enriched bread which is basically the same thing as white bread just a different color.
Another big mistake are those who try to go vegetarian in the hopes of becoming healthier as a by product. While you may get healthier in the long run, many people actually become less healthy from going vegetarian simply because hey don't know how to balance their new diet. They replace the meat with processed foods which, are high in salt, sugar and fats. 
If you want to eat healthy the best way to do it is to read up! Learn as much as you can about what actually makes a food healthy compared to a not so healthy option. Once you become educated on healthy lifestyle choice eating well will be super easy and you wont be fooled by these "healthy" foods!

For more ways to learn how to eat healthier check out this site! 

Does Laughter Heal?


Everyone loves a good laugh, but can laughter cure sicknesses?  According to WebMD.com, definitive research concerning laughter healing an illness hasn't been done yet, and the healing may be due to other reasons.  Other reasons may include a "good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family".  It has been said that laughter does more good than harm, with WebMD.com saying "We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues".  So while certain tests haven't been done to specify the facts of laughter curing illnesses, it has been known to help patients going through treatments to stay positive.  Cancer Treatment Center's of America has said that "after evaluating participants before and after a humorous event (i.e., a comedy video), studies have revealed that episodes of laughter helped to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones and boost the immune system in participants".   The Cancer Treatment Center's of America has also stated that "medical journals have acknowledged that laughter therapy can help improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses".  This shows that some doctors suggest using laughter treatments to help patients with coping through their treatments and sicknesses.  The question is, does laughter actually heal sicknesses? I believe that laughter does help patients with their forms of treatment and their road to recovery, but the fact is there isn't enough research to prove that laughter actually causes the body to heal. 

Works Cited: http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter





PMA. Have you ever heard of this? This is something I first heard of a couple of years ago thanks to MLB pitcher CJ Wilson.

"A positive mental attitude is the starting point of all riches, whether they be riches of a material nature or intangible riches." - Napoleon Hill

Positive Mental Attitude is "a mindset that helps to dictate a way of life in which you create the future you want to live into.  It's a way of being focused on what you want in a way that encourages yourself and those around you to be the best you can be."

Positive thinking may lead to positive outcomes in life. It doesn't mean that every situation is good, but it allows for people to look for solutions and ways to improve, rather than dwell on the negatives that can't be changed. PMA lets people exercise a better attitude towards things that may not be ideal. It is easier to be mad and hope things resolve themselves, but that also causes stress. Positive thinking allows people to see things in a more approachable way and encourages to strive for better things. Being negative only runs you down and makes you feel like you the world is closing in on you when in reality, you are closing every door for yourself.

Wilson says ""If you have a positive mental attitude, then you can be positive for your teammates and kinda really get together [as a team] in that regard. If you're negative, you're usually by yourself in a corner and you need someone like me to give you a high five and tell you everything is going to be OK." For average Joes like us this could translate to when we wake up in the morning and we smile instead of groan because we'd rather sleep; it affects how we go on about the rest of the day.

People who tend to look at the glass half empty rather than full:

·         Are at risk of bad health

o   "Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied people with high levels of brain activity in a region linked to negative thoughts. Those with the highest activity levels responded worse to a flu vaccine."

o   Have higher risks of heart conditions

o   Stress more

o   Depressed more

·         "In 2000, Mayo Clinic researcher Toshihiko Maruta, M.D., published a 30-year study of 839 patients, indicating a pessimistic view was a risk factor for early death, with a 19 percent increase in the risk of mortality."


It's hard to be positive when it seems that everything is going wrong, but seeing things through a different light can affect not just you, but those around you too! Some say to surround yourself with positive people and that you are who you associate with. Well if you are Negative Nancy because of your own problems, you could be dragging down someone else's mentality too without even meaning to.

I have personally adopted this way of thinking and I can honestly say it makes my days go better. What is the point of being mad that I failed an exam when I clearly can't do anything about it now? I can only look forward and look for ways to improve for the next one. Same goes for my personal life. Instead of being upset that I can't just go shopping every day, I look at the positive and think of all the money I am saving. That fat bank account will soon enough book me a trip to the beach and that will definitely make me think of positive warm thoughts!

smk (2).jpgimage: twitter.com/str8edgeracer

CJ Wilson.mp4

Invasion of the Lionfish

There has been a longstanding problems across the world with the invasion of foreign species in a new ecosystem and of course this is always due too humans introducing the invasive species. Recently in the waters around Bermuda there has been a growing problem concerning lionfish. These lionfish have been destroying local ecosystems and are threatening the reefs. Lionfish have no known predators in the area because they were introduced by humans so their only predators and humans. These lionfish are capable of wiping out 90% of a reef and the problem is escalating. (cnn) People are attempting lower the populations of the lionfish but it is proving extremely difficult due to the fast rates which they reproduce and the difficulty to catch these fish due to the depth that the lionfish usually live at.

Humans are just about always the cause for the destruction of an ecosystem either purposely or accidentally. This is a case of humans accidentally threatening an ecosystem. If we want to continue to live in a world with a diverse collection of animals and ecosystems we need to stopped causing such events as this. We need to begin to take many more precautions against the introduction of a foreign species into an ecosystem to prevent the possible extinction of species. Harsher regulations should be put into place to prevent invasive species from spreading and better methods of removing these species if they are introduced into an ecosystem should be developed.

Image: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-11/fm/feature/images/Fig1SM.jpg

Have you ever heard of the power of smiles? If this sounds ridiculous to you, think again because there is a chance that smiling may actually make you happy, and if that's not a super power then I don't know what is. More than smiling this post is about facial expressions and their effect on your emotional state and stress recovery rate.

An experimental study conducted by Kraft and Pressman from the University of Kansas, called Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response consisted on having 170 participants oblivious to the study's purpose complete two sets of stressful tasks while holding chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they would be displaying a "duchenne" smile, a standard smile, or a neutral expression. Results showed that participants in the smiling groups had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral participants did. What the researchers concluded from the resulting data was that "there are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress". 

Although this is not conclusive evidence showing that there is a reverse causation situation between facial expressions and emotional states, the study does give us something to think about. If faking a smile can lower a natural stress response such as rapid heart rate, what else can we  achieve through this? Could this be the key to a happier life? What about facial expressions that display negative affect, do these make you sad? Perhaps if we could establish the reverse causation, we could have better control of our emotions and live a more fulfilling life. Meanwhile, at least we know that there is an effect on stress response, so next time you are stressed out just remember to smile. Even if it's a fake one held on by toothpicks you might end up feeling better a lot faster! 

all smiles.jpg

When Will It End?

As we all know at this point there has been a civil war raging in Syria which started in 2011. The country has been plagued by fighting and unrest with many innocents being killed. Now they are facing more problems than just violence. Now across the country there have been outbreaks of diseases which have begun to spread due to the unrest which lead to the collapse of health care in the country. The first outbreak of Polio in 14 years has been recorded in Syria due to the inability to administer vaccinations and treatments. Before these cases of Polio in Syria that last recorded case of Polio in Syria was in 1999. The country is literally falling apart on every level and the question is when will the violence stop?


If a disease which has a cure and has been reduced by such a large amount such as Polio can make a resurgence due to war what other diseases could spread in such areas. How many more people will die due to disease if they survive the war raging all around them? The real question however is how are these people supposed to receive treatments for this horrible disease which is affecting them? These are serious questions that arise in times of war because despite the desire to give these people the help they need doctors would be forced to enter a war zone to do so.

Sources: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10392547/Polio-cases-in-Syria-spark-alarm-over-rise-in-diseases-including-flesh-eating-parasites-due-to-civil-war.html

Waking up for my 8am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is never an easy task, in fact just in order to begin thinking straight I need to get a hot shower, brush my teeth, and drink a tall glass of orange juice. From an early age I've always enjoyed a glass of orange juice in the morning, but one thing I've never enjoyed is the awful taste of the drink after brushing my teeth. So why the hell does orange juice taste like shit after we brush our teeth? Well I'm not sure and this is why I pose this question, so lets take a deeper look into the topic, and hopefully come up with an answer for this paradox that has troubled man since the beginning of time!

According to HowStuffWorks scientists don't fully understand how taste works, however they do have a pretty good idea and hold a general consensus as to what causes the horrific taste when OJ & toothpaste are combined. Many of us would consider orange juice's sweet citrus taste to be very enjoyable when drank alone, just as we enjoy the minty fresh taste of a well brushed mouth, however the combination of the two is disastrous. The most commonly accepted theory as to what taste is according to another article from HowStuffWorks, is "a chemical sense perceived by specialized receptor cells that make up taste buds". These taste buds or taste receptors are separated into five sections on the tongue that are best at picking up that specific taste; the categories are as follows sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami a Japanese word meaning delicious savory taste. Scientists currently believe that taste sort of works like a puzzle, where molecules of a certain shape will interact with receptors that are shaped to accept them, however these receptors are easily manipulated which is why scientists believe the combination of orange juice and toothpaste is not a good one.

So who is responsible for the foul taste, the OJ or the toothpaste? Well many scientists believe that the foaming agent found in toothpaste known as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is mainly responsible for the offense. SLS destroys phospholipids, which are fatty compounds that serve as inhibitors on the bitter receptors, on top of this SLS also dampens our sweet receptors suppressing orange juice's sweet citrus taste we've all learned to love. So by increasing your tongue's ability to detect bitterness and decreasing your tongue's ability to taste sweetness, it is no wonder why orange juice tastes so awful after brushing your teeth. According to Science Made Simple dentists believe that SLS is responsible for giving people mouth ulcers as well.

The bottom line is that orange juice tastes bad directly after brushing your teeth because of the foaming agent found in 99% of all toothpastes known as SLS. In order to avoid this problem you could stop brushing your teeth or stop drinking orange juice all together, which I don't recommend doing either of the two. Instead it would be wise to eat a light snack before drinking your OJ or simply brush your teeth AFTER drinking your orange juice. If you follow one of these simple tips you will no longer gag first thing in the morning from the repulsive taste of orange juice after brushing your teeth. 


Ear Poppin'

Every time I leave or come back into State College my ears pop. It's annoying and sometimes painful. And this got me to thinking why does this happen when your driving or in other situations like on an airplane?

When you fly in an airplane your ears tend to pop when the flight begins. Gizmodo explains how and why your ears pop when you are in an airplane. The earth's air pressure changes as you go to higher or lower levels. We are able to adjust to the changes by our ears popping. But how does that work in your ear? 

"The sound waves are transmitted from the outer ear to the inner ear using the eardrum." The membrane in your ear is like a fence to the liquids, but allows the reverberations to get through. But there needs to be air pressure on both sides so that it is equal. When you are at the same level the air pressure between the outer and middle easy is easy to equalize, but since you are changing levels rapidly your ears have trouble keeping up with the changes. And when you're in an airplane the air pressure is going up as the pressure in the cabin is decreasing and the pressure in your inner ear doesn't change. Because of this your eardrum is being forced to push outward, which is when you have that sensation to "pop" your ears. 


Today in class we discussed Autism and how it may have been believed that it was possibly related to the administration of vaccines. I actually called my mom right after because she is a school psychologist and has a first hand experience with autism. Having studied psychology at the graduate level, and working as a psychologist for 20 years, I thought it would be interesting to hear what she had to say about what was discussed in class. As a journalism major, I never thought I would be doing an interview with my mom for my science class, but I thought it would make an interesting post, here is what she had to share:

Q:  What are your thoughts on the alleged links between vaccines and autism?

A: There is an abundant amount of research that proves that there is no link between vaccines (specifically the MMR vaccine) and Autism. There has only been one study from England that made this claim. The research and data from that study has been disproved many times and the researcher who conducted the study has been denounced by the medical field.

Q: What are you thoughts on Jenny McCarthy and what she has to say about autism?

A: I believe that Jenny McCarthy is an "expert" about Autism as it relates to her son and his personal experiences only. She makes global statements, when she has only had "real life" experience with one child on the spectrum. I think that some of the things she states as "fact" about Autism can be misinterpreted by others and give other families struggling with this issue false hope. She uses her own experience as fact and it is frustrating that people take her seriously.

Q: McCarthy claims that she has cured her child of autism, what are your thoughts?

A: As far as I know, there has been no cure for Autism. I believe that her son has received the best level of intervention and therefore has made tremendous gains in his skills and appears more neuro-typical  than he had in the past. Again, saying he is cured gives false hope to a large number of families. 

Q:From your perspective, what do you think causes autism? 

 A: The most recent research indicates that there is a genetic basis to Autism. There is not a single gene, but several genes that show some mutations in people on the spectrum. I believe that these mutations may express/display themselves given certain environmental stimuli.

Q: To your knowledge, how does science play into your role as a school psychologist?

A: Much of what I do on a day to day basis in my role as a School Psychologist is very data driven. I look to data and the scientific method to make critical decisions about behavioral intervention and intervention with students who are struggling with the learning process. Without scientific research and theories which have resulted from that research, I would not be able to effectively do my job.  School psychology practice is also based heavily on developmental psychology, which is considered a "real" science like biology or chemistry.

(Source: My Mom)

If you have any questions about what my mom had to say, feel free to contact me. She loves to talk about her work and has plenty of experience in psychology and in all types of environments.


Resistance Rising

In recent years a very serious and frightening problem which has been emerging are drug resistant diseases. These diseases have been evolving and adapting to become resistant to many antibiotics and treatments which once could be used to cure them. Recently  doctors have been looking towards the problem of multi-drug resistant TB. This form of tuberculosis has been emerging and is threatening to put back all of the progress which doctors have made towards controlling the disease.There are many problems with these drug resistant bacteria and they are growing in numbers while the cures are diminishing.


This is a growing problem in the world which is emerging due to the over use of drugs in people and livestock. It seems that we are approaching the point where we will begin to need new sources of antibiotics and other drugs to treat these diseases. However it is a problem of incentive because there are more profits to be made in the development of different types of drugs other than antibiotics. While doctors may gain so much progress in eradicating these disease all of their efforts could be countered if one day they find themselves with no working cure. I worry about the day that an extremely contagious and deadly bacteria emerges which is resistant to the drugs at our disposal.

Sources: http://www.voanews.com/content/multi-drug-resistance-puts-gains-in-tuberculosis-control-at-risk/1775465.html
Image: http://textbookofbacteriology.net/MTBCDC.jpg

What DOES the fox say?

So I'm sure we have all heard the wildly popular song The Fox by the two Norwegian brothers that go by the name of Ylvis.  If you have somehow NOT heard I highly recommend it.  And now because of the song everybody is asking, "What DOES the fox say?"  According to the Ylvis brothers it can be anything from "Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding" and "Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow.  Unfortunately, we know it does not make those sounds.

In Norway, the two species of fox that live there are the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) and the red fox (Vulpes vulpes).  Worldwide there are 37 species that are called foxes but only 12 that truly belong to the Vulpes genus. The type of fox that they were most likely referring to was the red fox, the most common in the world.  Foxes are canids (a mammal of the dog family [Canidae]).  Although being apart of the same family, foxes are much less diverse in the noises they can make as compared to dogs.  That does not mean they aren't very vocal when it comes to making those sounds though!

The most common sound from foxes are short barks and screechy howls.  In my opinion it sounds like a smaller dog but a lot less developed if that makes sense.  If I had to make an analogy I would say a fox's bark is to a dog's as an infant's speech is to an adult's.  Here is a short 10 second video of a fox's bark/screech for better reference.

To delve a deeper as to why they make the specific noises that they do..  A series of "barks" from a fox can be used to tell different foxes apart by other foxes.  This can be similar to as how people can distinguish their friends by the different voices..  Foxes know who is who by the barks they make.  The other common "scream-y" noise is used during the springtime, also know as mating season.  The call is most often used by the vixens (female foxes) to possible lure in males and prospecting mates.

Basically the two main noises from foxes are a shrill bark and scream.. This is another video of a fox making its scream/bark.

Works cited & Photo Credit



Water has got to be one of the healthiest things for anyone to drink. It's pure, has 0 calories and cleanses your system! But after a while, drinking water gets so boring and dull. In our attempts to avoid sodas and other drinks with tons of artificial sweeteners, we turn to liquid water enhancers like MiO and Dasani or even powdered beverage mixes like Crystal Lite. The companies boast that their products are natural and low in calories but in all reality, they really aren't that great for us. Here's the ingredient list of the Strawberry Watermelon MiO flavor.


Notice the section of the ingredient label that says "Contains less than 2% of natural flavor". What about the other 98% of the flavors... Also, on the label appear the two ingredients Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium. These are both artificial sweetners! Suclarose can cause migraines, respiratory problems, seizures, and heart palpitations among other health problems on an ever- growing list! Acesulfame Potassium is not much better than Suclarose as it has been linked to kidney tumors.

Based on these tidbits alone, it's safe to say that artificial water enhancers aren't the safest to drink with your water, which we consume heavily on a daily basis. A healthier alternative to this? Fruit! Lemons are one of the most commonly used fruits for giving water a flavor boost but cucumbers, raspberries, peaches or even flowers or herbs work just as well and they are all so much more beneficial than using artificial sweeteners.

Using citrus fruit like limes, oranges and lemons are helpful in keeping kidneys healthy by preventing crystallizations and therefore, kidney stones as well as allowing for detoxification of the body as a whole. As well as the benefit of keeping hydrated, by drinking fruit infused water you can still get all of the vitamins and nutrients that you'd get from eating a fruit! Others fruits can even help lower cholesterol, inflammation, and fight off diseases! I bet those Dasani flavor drops aren't capable of half of that! So next time you find that your water is getting dull, skip those artificial sweeteners and go straight for some fruit! It's super healthy and tastes just as great! Check out this website for a few fun recipes!Fruit-Infused-Water.jpg

Infidelity Unwraveled

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In today's society there is no question as to which gender is responsible for the most cheating. Even if there was a question, statistics show that men cheat more and multiple sociologists and sex therapists support the findings. The article "Our Cheatin' Hearts" (featured on http://men.webmd.com/guide/our-cheatin-hearts) addresses some of the reasons why this phenomena is so prevalent.
The first concept the article addresses is a biological urge. But, the author only briefly touches on the evolutionary/biological perspective of a man's need to "spread his seed." It mentions that this isn't a valid excuse anymore because biology is really only a small part of a plethora of reasons responsible for a man's infidelity. Many would argue otherwise, claiming some men are less evolved and have these insatiable desires that drive them to cheat. While some of this might ring true, the other arguments the article touched on seemed more plausible.
The author addresses a concept I never would have attributed to cheating. He claims that instead of pinpointing an issue or problem a man might be having, he will resort to a former pleasure that once brought them positivity in times of stress. This argument states that men use cheating as not only a distraction, but a cure for their problems when they are unhappy in their marriages. The author addresses it as a sort of addiction they might resort to instead of facing the real issue at hand. Another reason the author mentions is a man's use of cheating to get out of a marriage. Both of these are not reasons I would consider to be commonly attributed to cheating. Whenever I think of infidelity in a relationship, I first picture a man who is bored, going through a mid-life crisis, feeling overworked or unappreciated whilst being tempted by a woman who is drastically different from the woman he married. I probably think of these reasons because they are the ones frequently portrayed in movies, t.v. shows, and novels. In reality, infidelity has less to do with sheer desire for a younger colleague or because he is bored (although boredom might play a small part in it), but more to do with underlying issues with himself and his marriage. That being said, according to the article, people are marrying in their late 20's and even older more than ever. Cheating is seldom due to a biological desire and often has a psychological and emotional basis.


Does The Cure Already Exist?

Alzheimer's disease is one of the debilitating diseases which affects people across the world which has not had many breakthroughs in its treatment. But recently Researchers have come across a drug which they hope will be able to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. This drug which is called Liraglutide is not a new drug that was created with the goal to treat this disease but was instead commonly used to treat diabetes has been seen to significantly increase the recognition skills in mice suffering from late stage Alzheimer's disease. Reasearchers hope this drug will reverse memory loss in those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease as well as help prevent the build up of toxic plaques on the brain that contribute to the symptoms of this disorder. <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266081.php">Diabetes drug</a>

This recent discovery makes a person wonder if the cures for other diseases are already in existence but only being used to treat a different type of disorder. Perhaps the cures which we are searching for are already being used for other less deadly diseases. This sort of discovery will of course have to be put through human trials in order to determine if the drug will actually work as they hope it too. The researchers will most likely put this drug through a double blind test using placebos in order to determine if these outcomes are possible in people. Now only time will tell if this drug can help those who are suffering with this disease.

Image source:  http://topnews.in/health/files/Mice_0.jpg




A very big topic in science today is if we can one day achieve immortality. According to some of the smartest minds in today's world, it could be possible by the year 2035. The idea of being able to live for forever is almost eerie, something one would almost see in a Twilight Zone episode. According to Russian scientist Dmitry Itskov, being able to live forever is just around the corner. He says the process for immortality would have four different phases.

"Dmitry says that we could have the first phase--that will enable people to operate a nonbiological body--in the next seven years. And he believes that the concept can be proved viable in the next three years. He is talking about an artificial body with sensations--the sensation that you would be walking in the body"(Bob Pisani, CNBC). We could soon have a machine similar to the one used in "Avatar", where one could load the mind into another life like organism and reap the benefits of living life on the edge without the fear of "physically" dying. "The next phase (Avatar B) is brain transplantation. Instead of your dying, neurosurgeons isolate the brain and some of the spinal chord, put it in a life support system, and that is inserted into the android developed in Avatar A. The timetable: 2020-25"(Bob Pisani). The third phase that Dmitry describes involves the brain being able to be uploaded into a computer, eliminating any biological component of your body. "The final phase (Avatar D) is replacement of the physical body with a nonphysical, hologram-like body. You are essentially living inside a computer, but you can physically manifest yourself as a hologram. Think Princess Leia in "Star Wars." The goal: 2045"(Bob Pisani). Imagining a life like this is almost incomprehensible. How would social order be kept if one did not ever have the fear of death? Also, what would be the purpose of life if it were impossible to conceive children in a robot like state? Although Dmitry may be on the right track in predicting the future, until we have significant research to say that this is possible, it's safe to say this is all science fiction. 

Another recent breakthrough in the search for immortality has been in studies done on the enzyme called telomerase. It "slows the shortening of telomeres--sequences of DNA that grow progressively shorter during cell division until the cell eventually mutates or dies. In theory, stop this countdown and cells should live indefinitely"(Adam Hadhazy). If this enzyme is in fact able to slow the aging process in our cells, not only could this benefit the length of our lives, but it can also be a major contributor in discovering a cure for cancer. "Stig E. Bojesen, a researcher at the Faculty of Health and Medicial Sciences, University of Copenhagen, and staff specialist at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, has headed the efforts to map telomerase -- an enzyme capable of creating new ends on cellular chromosomes, the so-called telomeres. In other words, a kind of cellular fountain of youth"(ScienceDaily.com). As technology continues to improve at remarkable levels, it is only a matter of time until we not only cure cancer, but become nearly immortal.


Works Cited:





Life after death



I'm sure you have heard stories of people on their death bed who have come back to life after being proclaimed dead, describe images of a bright light or an out of body experience. For years it was thought that when your EEG(test to measure brain activity) went flat, you were considered dead. Well, recent studies are now saying otherwise.

At the University of Michigan, several scientists conducted a study on 9 lab rats to determine if there is in fact brain activity after the brain is considered "dead".  They "anesthetized and then subjected to induced cardiac arrest as part of the experiment"(News.Discovery.com). What they found was shocking. "In the first 30 seconds after their hearts were stopped, they all showed a surge of brain activity, observed in electroencephalograms (EEGs) that indicated highly aroused mental states"(News.discovery.com). This is only the beginning to potentially answering the many questions as to why "about 20 percent of people who survive cardiac arrest report having had visions during a period known to doctors as clinical death"(News.Discovery.com). Although this study has promising results, how much can we conclude from an experiment from only 9 lab rats? The experiment was well conducted but we need to question the fact that different species may psychologically experience different death like states.

A similar study was also done on 26 lab cats in the Universite de Montreal. "The study came after Romanian doctors noticed odd electroencephalogram (EEG) activity in a patient who had lapsed into a coma while under the influence of anti-seizure medication"(Articles.LAtimes.com) They found, like the previous study on lab rats, a "ripple event" in the hippocampus after the EEG went flat. These studies could change the rules for determining whether a person is brain dead or not. "Researchers said their findings suggest that the brain can survive an extremely deep coma and that inducing such a state could help preserve some brain function that otherwise might cease, causing the brain to atrophy"(Articles.LAtimes.com). More studies need to be conducted, but if this holds to be true, the rule of thumb for declaring a person brain dead may be changed for the better.


Works Cited: