December 2013 Archives

I would like to consider myself a healthy individual with good eating & exercise habits. A habit I also include in my daily routine is taking a multivitamin. Since I was in elementary school, I heard how important it is to "take your vitamins". In 2010, over 110 million Americans spent over 28 billion dollars on supplements & multivitamins. However, is taking a multivitamin as beneficial as we think it is? 
Many people believe that taking a multivitamin will make up for the nutrition they miss out on due to their eating habits. Also, people are will to pay top dollar for these multivitamins.An article published in the Huffington Post talks about the issue & has answers. according to The U.S. Preventive Services task force, taking a multivitamin is neither advised or not recommended in order to prevent cancer. Also, that taking the top of the line multivitamin is unnecessary, and that the average, basic brand will work the same. 
I'm sure there are plenty of questions still to be answered about the exact effects of a daily multivitamin. It makes you wonder though, "What exactly am I putting into my body when I take these things?"

It is a habit that millions of Americans are committed to every day. In fact, some people claim that they need coffee to function on a daily basis. I even quote one of my friends on social network saying "don't consider me useful to society until I have coffee." Personally, I do not find myself needing coffee to function daily. However, there are people who drink up to 6 or more cups of coffee today. That makes you ask, "Is drinking coffee good or bad for your health?"

Coffee is actually a very unique drink, that consist of hundreds of different compounds. With so many compounds, it is difficult to say if it is good or bad for you. Some of these compounds can be beneficial to your health, while others can be not so beneficial. Some research over the year has shown that coffee drinking is beneficial. Some of the benefits may include protection against diabetes, Parkinson's disease, & liver disease. However, in order to be confirmed, these results will need to be studies further. If coffee is affecting your sleeping patterns or emotions, chances are you are consuming too much of it. Also, the article states that research is typically based on a typical 8-ounce cup of with little or no milk or sugar. If you are loading your coffee with a lot of sugar & cream, that could add to your daily calorie intake, which could eventually lead to gaining weight. 

Good news for coffee drinkers, a study conducted by Harvard found that there was no relationship between coffee drinking and increased death risk.

Therefore, coffee can definitely have its pros & cons like anything else we put in our body. It is my no means urgent to stop, or start, coffee consumption immediately in order to be healthy.
"I will just study the night before and i'll be fine." Being a busy college student, I am 100 percent guilty of cramming for an exam. Sitting at my laptop from night time up until the time of the exam the next day. At times it has worked for me, and other times, not so well. It made me wonder, is there a science behind whether or not cramming for an exam is actually affective. A new research conducted at UCLA sums up to answer in a few words, "don't bother."

Yes, you may think that you are being extremely productive studying all those consecutive hours. However, when all is said and done, you are actually being counterproductive. When a student sacrifices valuable sleep time in order to binge study, they are more likely to be like productive academically the next day. Andrew J. Fuligni, the senior author of the study, states that a proper amount of sleep is equally important for academic success. The most efficient way to study is to abide a schedule. 

Although it sounds extremely difficult considering we all live busy lives, it is important that we make room for adequate sleep and study time. Will I ever pull an all-nighter cramming for an exam again? I would be lying to you if I said "no". However, it is very eye opening on how counterproductive cramming for exams can be.
I am by no means a gym rat. I do try to make it a point of emphasis to make it to the gym 5 to 6 times a week. However, if I have something more important to take care of, I am willing to sacrifice my fitness time. Many people believe that spending countless hours in the gym is the key to being healthy. Is that actually as healthy as people think it is? New studies reviled that too much time in the gym can be just as unhealthy as not working out at all. 

The research suggested that teens who over do it in the fitness centers are as vulnerable to low self-esteem and stress as those who do not make exercising a priority at all. This is not suggestion that regular exercise is not a good thing. In fact, regular exercise has many positive traits. These include positive impacts on mental & physical health. The research, which was published in the British Medical journal, examines more thank 1,2000 16 to 20 year-olds. They found that teens who exercised 14 hours a week had the greatest physical & mental health benefits (14 hours a week is twice the recommended). It was the teens who did 17.5 and above hours of exercise a week who saw the negative affects. The study found that only 5 percent of the teens examined fell under this category. 

Therefore, it is important for you to get regular exercise. However, don't over work yourself. Us college students have enough stuff to stress about on a daily basis. The last think we need is something as enjoyable as a good workout to stress us out!
Once the weekend hits, there is absolutely nothing better than sleeping your days away after a busy week. It can't be that bad right? I'm sure we have all been told that sleep is very important for our health and well being. According to the article on , the average human being sleep 33% of their life. The question that arises now, "exactly how much sleep is too much sleep?"

The verdict that has been reached is that too much sleep can be bad for your health. Many factors go into how much sleep an individual needs. Your current age, health & level of activity throughout the day contribute to how much sleep you actually need. There is times in our lives when our body needs more than the average 7 to 9 hours of recommended sleep. For example, if someone is recovering from being sick, their body may require more rest time. However, oversleeping has been associated with some serious health issues. These health issues include kidney & liver disease, depression & dementia. 

Moral of the story, like anything else, sleep is good, but can also be bad if over done. Just because you can stay up really late & also sleep in really late, doesn't make it is a good thing to regularly do. Think about this next time you are thinking about hitting that snooze button for a couple of extra hours on the weekend.

Sweet & simple - walking.

As college students, we find ourselves busy with trying to get school work done & keep up with our social lives, all while trying to maintain a healthy sleep & exercise routine. Sounds impossible, right? Sometimes you will find yourself picking & choosing which to do on a daily basis. However, there is a simple thing you could be doing daily that has substantial health benefits - walking. Yes, walking is one of the most effective exercises. 

Walking is very simple, yet very good for your heart & lungs. Dr Craig Williams believes that "It is good for bones & improves the body's cardiovascular system". Also, because walking is a low intensity cardiovascular exercise, it does not present a high risk for injury. Believe it or not, walking is better for the spinal discs than running, since it puts less pressure on it. Of course you also need to maintain a healthy diet & other exercise routines in order for the benefits of walking to be 100% affective.  

It's hard to believe that something as simple as walking can have so many benefits. It is said that we are recommended to get 30 minutes of exercise daily. If you walk regularly, you should have no problem meeting the minimum requirement. Just think about how much us Penn Staters walk every day. Next time you can't make it to the gym due to school work or whatever else, just remember that walking can be a healthy & beneficial alternative.

Today as I was walking back class I overheard a conversation between a girl and her mother on the phone. The girl was whining that her mother had decided to buy her a new computer for school, instead of an iPad for Christmas. This led me to realize what many Americans have already realized: we've really lost the true meaning of Christmas.


The original reason Christians celebrated Christmas was because of the birth of Jesus Christ, whom they believe to be the savior. After Jesus's birth the wise men brought gifts to the manger where Jesus was born. You're probably wondering a fat, jolly man in a red suit came into the equation? Well, the legend of Saint Nicholas states that Saint Nicholas was a very rich and giving man who knew of a poor family with three daughters who could not afford to get married, so Saint Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down their chimney. Then there is also the story that some countries in Europe and Scandivia originally celebrated Christmas around the time of the winter solstice (darkest point of the year) to bring some light into the darkness. These are three really different explanations for celebrating Christmas neither of which anyone really seems to remember anymore. Somehow the magic of Jesus's birth, the kindness of Saint Nicholas, and the light on the darkest day of the year have morphed into a holiday that revolves around arguments over how nice the gift you get is. Christmas has truly become entirely about materialism.


Some people might say why is materialism around Christmas really relevant, the sad part is that the materialism displayed at Christmas seems to be perpetuating all aspects of our society. Today people put more value on the money they make and not enjoying their job, what you wear is more important than what you think, and money can buy anything or anyone. I suspect gained our greediness and materialism right around the time we fogged up the meaning of Christmas. While stopping the materialism around Christmas may not stop the materialism we see all over society, Christmas definitely contributes to the materialism we see everywhere today.

Most people believe that stuffed animals are only for children but I completely disagree to be honest. Luckily for me, thanks to 35% of British adults, I'm not alone. Studies show that 35% of adults in Britain still sleep with a teddy bear for the purposes for de-stressing while they sleep! In their efforts to re-unite past customers with their lost teddy bears, a hotel chain, Travelodge, noticed that many of the teddy bears they were returning belonged to adults and not small children! After making this funny observation, they surveyed about 6,000 adults to find out what their reasons were behind still using a stuffed animal. Their findings were also just as funny.

As it turns out, about 25% of the male respondents will take their teddy bears with them while they're away on business (or vacation like this guy). It's comforting for them, even reminds them of home and plus, " ...a cuddle helps them to nod off." Fifty- one percent of British adults still have a teddy bear from their childhood and the study also found that the average teddy bear is 27 years old! One in ten single men admitted to hiding their stuffed animals when their girlfriends come over and about 14% of married men hide theirs when friends and family come over!

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Among other pro- adult teddy bear loving responses that responsdents gave, it's easy to see that in Great Britain at least, adults having teddy bears is quite acceptable! It's quite refreshing that this study was able to test Britons' level of tolerance towards adults with teddies. However, to take the study even further, it would have been awesome to see them expand on their statement that people use their bears to de-stress while they sleep. Testing stress levels of adults of varying ages who still sleep with stuffed animals and comparing them to the stress levels of adults of the same age would be an interesting start to finding out if there really is a true benefit to hanging on to your stuffed animal later in your life. Or is it all just imagined and a stuffed animal doesn't really do much else but provide something soft for us share our bed with? Also, it would be interesting to compare Britons' level of tolerance towards adults with stuffed animals to that of Americans'! I get the feeling that in America, the number of men who carry their stuffed animals away on vacation or business would be much lower than 25%. How much of a difference can be expected when we compare stuffed animal tolerance across cultures?


Many of you have most likely seen Luminosity commercials or heard about it's efficacy. It claims to train your brain using the power of neuroscience and neuroplasticity! How scientific sounding is that?! But are they just using buzzwords or is this legit?

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Still sounds pretty convincing. Start their training and they'll give you an insight into how they will train your brain to be better and smarter.

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Graph with a picture of a brain. Can't go wrong there. Science!

The real question is, does it really work? Go to and look at their portion of the science behind it. They claim to have published many papers and given many talks on the project. But that's from the website itself, of course they're not going to say it's a scam. Well a third party study was done on these brain games and Dr. Shelli Kessler has led a study at Stanford to try and prove whether or not these do work.

Her experimental group played the Luminosity game four times a week for 12 weeks. The results before and after the 12 weeks showed they improved on "word finding, executive functioning, and processing speed" over a control group.  However this study had flaws, as it depended on self-report for a few measures.

Two more studies gave conflicting results. Professor Susan Jaeggi led a study that showed positive results of brain training game, while a Georgia tech study found no such effect on it's participants. There is new research coming out that says that playing video games in one area can improve cognition in that area. But for how long? Do you have to constantly play these games to maintain that level of cognition? And are the Luminosity games the best ones for your brain? These questions are still being debated by scientists right now.

I did the free trial myself and this is what Luminosity claimed it could do for me:

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But what do those numbers MEAN?! I'll be 92% better at spotting birds and remembering tiles (two games the trails had me do)? Or will I score better on my completely unrelated biology test? I don't know about other people that see these ads but it really does seem like a sensationalist scam.

Why are my Chips Stale?


            I do not think there is one person in this class that has not eaten a stale chip. I know I will look in the cabinet, reach in for a snack, grab a chip bag down, and when I bite in the chip has a stale taste I'm wicked disappointed. The word stale has been in my vocabulary for as long as I can remember; I have just accepted it, but truly I have no idea why chips go stale in the air and not in the bag that they are in. There is air in the bag isn't there?


            Well the answer is: Nitrogen. The article I said pointed out that if you think of feeling a chip bag, you think of it feeling inflated, similarly to a balloon. This is because chip bags are actually not filled with air but nitrogen gas! The nitrogen gas is actually what keeps the chips from going stale. Oxygen cannot do the trick because it is very reactive and when it is combined with other molecules it can cause chemical reactions. Nitrogen is the opposite being very stable and unreactive. When a food reacts with oxygen it is said to oxidize quickly and these nitrogen atmospheres can prevent that from happening. Something that should be mentioned though is that air is not just oxygen but actually 78% nitrogen gas! So don't worry opening those chips, nitrogen gas is all around us.





The short answer to this question is sometimes, but the real story is the effect that traumatic events can have in a baby's development. To start off I'd like to define what constitutes a traumatic event; traumatic events include, but are not limited to: car accidents, natural disasters, sudden illness, death in the family, abuse/neglect, terrorism or witnessing violence. If an adult were to experience any of these events it would have a traumatic impact on their life and for babies the effect of traumatic events is often magnified.


Experiencing traumatic events before the age of 3 can cause physical and emotional developmental problems in babies. Babies who witness traumatic events often experience issues with mobility and managing or developing emotions. If the traumatic event was witnessing a family member dying or losing a primary caregiver to divorce, babies are more likely to have issues developing relationships and have separation anxiety. Further, in the first few months of a baby's life they are especially sensitive to arguments between parents or issues with caregivers and they often feel like they caused the event because they don't fully understand it. Traumatic events frequently lead to physical and emotional developmental problems in babies.


A major issue for babies who witness or experience traumatic events is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Babies will re-experience the trauma they suffered when they are older through dreams, sounds, smells, or sights. This can lead to issues sleeping, increased anxiety or irritability. However, what is really significant about the PTSD that babies experience it that when they are older they are more likely to remember the traumatic event that happened, than the good events that took place in their childhood.


While traumatic events hinder the physical and emotional development of a baby, they also cause a serious disorder, PTSD. However the question still remains can children actually remember traumatic events that occurred when they were babies? The answer to this depends on the child and how developed they are. For children who are a little older and more developed(around 6) they are likely to remember the actual event, while babies who are only a few months old are likely to experience more negative development effects, but do not remember the actual event. Scientists have determined that there is not a specific age at which children remember or don't remember traumatic events, because every child responds to traumatic events differently and develops at different ages. 


Emotion in Color

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We all know that we normally wear dark colors to funerals and bright colors to weddings, but why? What is it about colors that communicate a message to others? Colors are such an important part of our world and society, from marketing campaigns to clothes to cars, it seems like colors are a major selling point wherever you go.


Red signifies power, passion, love, war, energy, and intensity. It is a very emotionally intense color which rises heart rate and metabolism. It has a high visibility and it found in many national flags. It is widely used to promote warning signs, energy drinks, and passionate love.

Orange combines the energy of red with the happiness of yellow, creating joy, happiness, and creativity. It gives the impression of heat without being as intense as red. It stimulates appetite and is associated with healthy foods. It is often used for promoting toys and food products. You will find it on many restaurant logos.

Yellow is also associated with energy, as well as intellect and happiness. It generates muscle activity and brain stimulation. You should avoid using yellow if you want to communicate stability and safety. Yellow is used most often on leisure items and children's products.

Green says freshness, fertility, and natural. Lighter greens make you feel safe, and dark green is often associated with money and wealth. It is the most restful color to the human eye. You should use green for medicine packaging since it is a "safe" color.

Blue is the color of depth and stability, like the sky and ocean. It slows the metabolism and calms you down. It is a masculine color, deeply accepted among males. Avoid using blue to promote food, because it suppresses appetite. However, you should use blue for travel, cleanliness, or a high tech product.

Purple is the recognized color of royalty, power, and luxury. Purple is better for women's designs.

Black symbolizes power, mystery, and evil. It denotes strength and authority, and also the unknown. It gives the feeling of perspective and depth, and can make you look thinner. Combined with more powerful colors, it mixes to be a great color scheme.

White is the symbol for light, pure, innocence, and virginity. These are all reasons that a traditional wedding dress is white. It is considered to be the color of perfection. It should be used to promote clean or pure products. It would be appropriate to use with medical products, salons, dairy products, and low-fat foods.


So, you can tell a lot about someone depending on the colors they choose to wear, and you can also use colors to your advantage to communicate subtle messages or make other people feel a certain way toward you. It's all in the eyes!

The Fight


Despite the incredibly advanced society that we live in with treatment for almost all of the threat posing illnesses, much of the world is not as fortunate and is victim to diseases treatable in other areas of the world.  It seems that people are as philanthropic as ever and are looking to solve the world's problems of hunger and disease. The world's donor countries have raise $12 billion over the past three years for the treatment of AIDS, Tuberculosis, and malaria.

I feel that country to country to aid is important. If one country has excess, while another is still in development (which is obviously always the situation) then the able country, barring any major misunderstanding or conflict between the countries, should provide aid in any way possible. Nowadays there are major donating foundations. At the same time, there are a select few of extremely wealthy people that are charitable. Bill gates is one of the more humanitarian and charitably active people. In 2007, Bill Gates set an initiative to completely eliminate malaria by donating $4 billion a year for the fight against AIDS, TB, and malaria. In recent years, global aid has been helpful. With the help of more widespread insecticide nets, sprays and drugs, malaria deaths have dropped to about 650,000 per year compared to one million in prior years. 

Charitable donations will hopefully continue to grow in future years. Selfishness with money is not an option; money funds research which is the ultimate answer to the worlds problems. In the meantime, money has its uses and makes the distribution of medicine and preventives readily available to those in need. Global Medical Brigades and Doctors Across Borders are examples of the many foundations that are committed to aiding through action as opposed to monitory donations. 


            With the impossible standards girls feel the need to live up to and the growing rate of obesity, everyone is constantly looking for the next big thing to help weight loss.  I have heard people say before that green tea is good for weight loss and have seen it being sold in stores like GNC, but never saw any evidence backing up everyone's claims. 

            Researchers of Penn State in the College of Agricultural Sciences experimented on mice the effects green tea would have on their weight gain patterns while also having a high-fat diet.  Mice fed the compound found in green tea (EGCG) had 45 percent slower weight gain than the control group who had a high fat diet without the green tea compound.  They also concluded that the mice fed the green tea supplement showed a 30 percent increase in lipids that suggest the tea limits the body's ability to absorb fat, making it enhance the ability to use the fat instead of storing it (1).  A problem that could have altered these findings is how relatable they are to humans.  They stated a person would need ten cups of green tea daily to intake the amount the mice used in the study.  They also only focused on already obese figures; resulting in little legitimate evidence on the effects green tea could have on people who are a healthy weight.

            In a second study, they said green tea didn't only slow down weight gain in mice, but reduced their weight by 49%.  They also claimed that the rats injected with green tea extract daily showed a loss of appetite and reduced their food intake by 60 percent after a week.  This alone led to a 21 percent weight loss in the rats.  They gone on with stating the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed green tea increased metabolism by 4 percent.  They claim adding 3-5 cups of green tea a day can help drop extra pounds and give people the energy they need to want to exercise.

            This second study was trying to prove it would increase weight loss, but consisted of many flaws and has been put beside a much better study method stating it does not increase weight loss, but slows down weight gain.  The first study consists of a control group and a group being tested with the green tea extract.  They also informed us of how much extract the mice were receiving and the amount that would be equivalent to for a person to take.  The second study never even mentions having a control group.  They also never claim how much extract is being injected which could result in exaggerated results.  By not having a control group in the second study, it makes it nearly impossible to say they have made a legitimate claim with so many possible third variables.  One third variable they mentioned they didn't even take into consideration for the significant weight loss in the mice.  They said after a week they were only eating 40 percent as much food as they were before the extract was being injected.  The tea could have kept their metabolism constant (not necessarily raising it) when the body's natural functions would quickly slow down the metabolism on it's own if someone were to take in less than half of what they use to ate.  If humans were also given this unknown amount of tea extract, it looks as though it could give them possible eating disorders, rather than healthily improve weight loss.  Since the first study found no signs of loss of appetite and stated their amounts were equivalent to ten cups of tea a day, the second study could be related to a fad diet, which is extremely harmful to the body.  Taking in well over ten cups of tea a day and eating less than half of what you use to?  Doesn't really sound like a healthy way to lose weight when you put their findings into perspective. 







Paying the Price

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I have noticed and many would agree that global warming is an increasingly debated topic. It is becoming more apparent that the government is taking it seriously by the amount of regulatory legislation being passed. To my satisfaction, climate-related carbon taxes are being imposed on some of the countries biggest oil corporations such as ExxonMobil- the most profitable corporation in the nation.

I am an advocate of natural gas because of the fact that it emits the least amount of carbon of the nonrenewable resources and I support the passage of this legislation. Oil companies are now inadvertently forced to switch over to the natural gas business to avoid paying the carbon tax. I am also supportive of the policies focus on consumers. As a result of the tax, the price of oil based products, mainly gasoline, are going to spike deterring consumers from purchasing the product. I do not think there is a more effective way to regulate carbon pollution then this. The thing that motivates these corporations to carelessly reek havoc on the environment is the exact thing to target in efforts to stop them. Money.

In this day and age, climate change is a reality and we are well aware of who the culprit is. It should no longer be acceptable for greedy corporations to suck up money from the ground with no regard for the toll that these activities are taking on the environment. Future generations are going to pay the price for our actions and the government should continue to regulate carbon emitting activities. Though companies are largely to blame, we also must admit that we are equally contributing to green house gas emissions: Every time it is a little cold in our house we turn up the thermostat as opposed to putting on a few more layers; every time we  leave a room the majority of us turn of the lights infrequently.


            I am taking the class English 181b which is an adventure lit class offered at Penn State where we venture to places that connect with what we our learning in class. Our latest field trip was to the State College sewage treatment plant, University Joint Association, where we were given a tour by the manger, Art, and spoken to about how the plant works.

            I will fully admit that I was nervous about going; I fully admit to being a girly girl and spending an hour or so touring the place where all people's waste from this area goes sounded smelly and unfortunate. Now I am not going to lie, it smelled, not unbearably, but I actually found the tour very engaging, the sewage treatment plant is actually doing many high tech things.

            The first building we ventured into was where the sewage water was being filter through these tubes (each tube worth about $1,000) that had a sort of microfiber inside of them that cleaned/strained the water that went through it. In the back of the room there is a computer set up that monitors all the machines in the plant and actually controls all of them. During our tour we were shown how they monitor how clean the tubes are, that there number on the screen when said 15 must be changed. When he was showing us the middle section was showing the number 14 so he said that meant tomorrow they would need to be changed (meaning almost $90,000 worth of new equipment would be used tomorrow). This is not all that the water goes through he said it also is it with ultraviolet light to separate the particles and previously to what we were seeing it had already been strained between solids and liquids and went through machines that used processes such as light and chlorine to separate the water (this is clear because it went from mucky brown water to clear).


            One could tell that Art was very proud of what they were doing at the plant. During the beginning of the tour he was prefacing what he was going to show us and he said that the plant is allotted 9 million gallons but due to regulation they are only allowed to dump 7 gallons into the river. They needed to figure out what to do with the rest of the of the waste they had. This is when they hired engineers to create a way to turn this waste into water that could be used to within the community. Currently the plant's water they produce is feeding the stream at the bottom of their property as well as the wetlands on their property and that's not all. The water is being used in local hotels pools and for dishes and laundry machines. He also spoke of a few other different places using their water lines for example the gold course uses their water to water the courses grass.

            Since this is before I had seen anything the plant does my first thought was I am never, ever swimming in that pool. As we went through the tour though I saw how clean this water really was getting; he even said that it is actually cleaner than the water we actually use in State College, but it is plain and simple that people just cannot get past that it is poop water and therefore do not want it to be classified as drinking water.

            When I shower or do the dishes or use the restroom to me that water and the waste I am producing was just gone. I never thought about the fact that it had to go somewhere, and that it was someone's problem to deal with. Even if I had though I now I could have never guessed how much science has gone into making our sewage benefit the environment and be safe to reuse. Art said that they even have 2 million fresh gallons of water stored in case of emergencies, such as if the fire department needed to pull water from it.

            He walked us down to the river that their water was feeding to and gallons and gallons of water was being pours into it, which opposed to the wetlands where it was almost just a constant trickle feeding into it. There plans for the future is to expand, apparently there is a stream next to IHOP that goes dry during the summer season, last year people had to save the trout in it because there was not enough water for them to survive, and they want to pipe and keep that stream active. In that direction they also want to create a wetland with their excess water; he says everything they are doing is in attempt to give back to the community and environment.

            The thing I thought that was really interesting that he was that through looking at the sewage in State College he can actually infer life at State College. He said Christmas day is the day when sewage produced is the lowest; he also said that breaks he can tell how many people left because the numbers drastically drop. Laughing he said he can even tell when it was a particularly fun night at Penn State! How weird that our sewage is telling our story!!


Black Friday shoppers are always a sight to see. With their raging emotions to grab the best deals from their competitors they spring into animalistic action. Consumers suddenly drop all of their morals and sometimes literally fight to the death for that Best Buy TV that's 500 dollars cheaper than before. But why to we do this? What sparks in our minds that make us think like acting like barbarians is okay. I believe that the important variable to consider is the environment. A scientific study on the craziness of a black Friday shopper concluded that there is a switch in our brain that is turned off when participating in these activities. "Consumers process information in two ways: high-level abstract and low-level concrete forms of thinking. With high-level abstract information processing, consumers consider things like the overall effect of the product, such as the brand value. At low-level concrete processing, however, consumers look at details such as how cheap the price is". This study was a beneficial learning for me because it aided in a psychological concept of black Friday. Our brain plays a major role in how we interpret situations and this study provided support in the hypothesis that depending on where we are and what were doing we take on a specific role. 


            Another website provided the fact from an observational survey that "44% of respondents said they'd mostly be purchasing goods for themselves on Black Friday". This fact didn't support my original thinking because I proposed that a confounding factor in our animalistic ways on black Friday is because we are hunting down gifts for our loved ones so we have a greater motivation to snag them more.

            The main purpose of these studies though is to help people learn ways into not acting like savages when partaking in Black Friday experiences. Frankly, this behavior has a domino effect; once one person cracks another does, and then so on and so on. So how do we embrace our inner classiness during these shopping rampages? One option is to know the store's promotions and their tactics to not end up in such situations. If you are aware of a stores hot deals but are also aware of equal deals that may not be as promoted you may save yourself from a fistfight in Wal-Mart! Another option is to avoid the chaos all together. Now with Cyber Monday deals arising people can stay in the comfort of their own homes while still obtaining door-busting savings. So be smart and process information on a higher level rather than lower and beware of your surroundings. 

How Does Popcorn Pop?


Although it seems like a rather elementary concept, the science behind popcorn popping is actually quite interesting. What makes this delicious treat come out of small, hard kernels?

Each popcorn kernel is special, and contains oil, water, and starch. It is surrounded by a hard outer coating that keeps it all together. When heated, the water inside wants to expand into steam, but the coating prevents it. The hot oil and steam make the starch like a gel, making it softer and more moldable.

When the popcorn reaches a temperature of 180 degrees Celsius, the pressure inside is enough to burst through the popcorn hull. It actually turns the kernel inside-out. The pressure expands the proteins and starch inside the kernel into a foam like texture.


Of all the types of corn grown all around the world, popcorn is the only one that can pop. This is because it's hull is the thinnest out of all types of corn.

Americans consume more than 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn per year. Get popping and enjoy this scientifically delicious treat!

One time or another in your life, you have an impending task you want to get done as soon as possible and then you look at the clock, or out the window, and conclude that maybe you will have time to do this task tomorrow. Possibly you have felt like me and had so much pent up anxiety about a task that you cant possibly start now while your mind is racing and you are more concerned with what happens if you DON'T complete the task. The feeling I am referring to is the dreadful procrastination. Procrastination is the act of putting off certain tasks with the hopes of completing them at a later time. There have been speculations that procrastination could be linked with anxiety and depression.

The heartbreaking thing about procrastination is that it is a full circle disappointment. You're anxious and have little confidence starting the task. You continue to put off the task until the very last minute and when you finally complete the task, instead of a feeling of accomplishment, there are just feelings of guilt and anger for wasting so much time. 

A more scientific approach taken from Amy Spencers <a href="">article<a> is

"The prefrontal cortex is a newer and weaker portion of the brain. It's what allows you to integrate information and make decisions. "This is the part of the brain that really separates humans from animals, who are just controlled by stimulus," says Pychyl. The prefrontal cortex, located immediately behind the forehead (where we tap when we're trying to think, dammit, think), gets the job done. But there's nothing automatic about its function. You must kick it into gear ("I have to sit down and write this book report!"). And the moment you're not consciously engaged in a task, your limbic system takes over. You give in to what feels good--you procrastinate."

 It is possible to combat procrastination however it takes time to train your brain (not everyone is the same). There are ways to combat procrastination such as breaking up your work and engaging with those who inspire you to take action.

Have you ever found yourself unable to focus on a task at hand? Whether it's studying or cleaning your room or even finishing a text? I most certainly have. The majority of my high school career was spend gazing out windows and unseeingly staring at my notes and textbooks. 

Well, we're not to blame! An article from Phys.Org says that a new study in the field of neuroscience shows that while we have more grey matter - which is a type of neural tissue most commonly associated with intellect - our brains are less fully developed than those of mature adults. Which means, we are more like younger children than adults. Evidence from the study also suggests that the brain doesn't completely mature until the late twenties and early thirties, which is much later than what was earlier believed.


The study, conducted by the University College London (UCL) used an MRI machine to observe the brain activity of 200 participants between the ages of seven and 27. The volunteers of the study were given tasks to do, while simultaneously having to ignore distractions and perform a side task.

The results showed that the brain activity for teenagers was much more than that of the adults showing that they were unable to use their brains as efficiently as the adults were. The easily distractible nature of teenage minds was explained by the excess grey matter - which is apparently responsible for chaotic thought processes. The fact that so much is going on inside the head of a teenager leads to a waste of energy and resources leading them to have an impaired decision making and multitasking ability.

So how will this knowledge affect our lives? Considering the fact that teenagers and people in their early twenties are so easily distractible should the government possibly raise the driving age, in order to lower the number of car accidents involving teens?

Christmas Trees Cause Depression?


              Well, it's that time of the year everyone. The time where every radio station you turn on, there's Christmas music playing. Also it's the time when everybody goes out to get a Christmas tree. Every year "about 25 million Christmas trees are purchased in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association." Wow, there's actually a National Christmas Tree Association, I learn something new every day. Anyway, it is very important for one to take good care of the tree so that it can stay fresh for longer and also so it doesn't become a fire hazard. Between 2006-2010, U.S Fire Departments responded to 230 fires that stared with Christmas trees with an average 4 dead, 21 injuries, and 17.3 Million dollars in property damage. More Statistics Here

              People who celebrate Christmas buy the Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday and bring a lively hood to the houses, however, how is it that some studies have proven that Christmas trees cause depression? Study Researcher Michael Schmitt of Fraser University asked participants to fill out surveys about themselves while sitting in either a nondescript room or a room with a small Christmas Tree. In this study, 30 celebrators and 22 non celebrators took part. The researchers repeated this study, this time have 19 Buddhist students, 19 Sikh students, and 47 Christian students.

              In both studies, the Christians/ Christmas celebrators felt mostly cheered by the tree, while the non-celebrators/ religious minorities felt fewer positive feelings towards the presence of the tree. This seems like the obvious response people were looking for, people that like to celebrate Christmas like Christmas trees, and vice versa. Of Course, even for Christmas lovers the holidays can be a stressful time. However, the interesting part is that both groups thought that Christmas decorations would make them happier.

              This result I don't really understand. How could religious minorities and non-celebrators be inside a room with a Christmas tree and be uncomfortable and have fewer positive feelings, but also at the same time think that decorations would make them happier? Schmitt explains that "Maybe it's a subtle effect, and they weren't really aware that the tree is affecting them."             

              This article is then concluded by explaining that positive things for some people could have a negative effects for others so one should take time to think about how their symbols could affect others.

Christmas lights are usually the catalyst to the fires, so remember to unplug lights before going to be or leaving the house. Other safety tips here.


How many of you guys celebrate Christmas and what's the best present you've gotten?


When I started lifting weights, I was always told that "you cannot overtrain your muscles" or "you can't work out the same muscle group everyday" When I heard about this I, like many others, thought it was true but had no idea why. I guess it made sense to me that your muscles need time to recover and that you need rest before your muscles are back at full strength but, looking at some of these bodybuilders, I thought to myself, "there is no way these enormous men do not workout their arms every day." So about a year ago I stumbled upon a few Youtube videos made by a former bench press champion, <a href="">C.T Fletcher</a>. Although C.T has a loud, vulgar way of saying it, lets just say he disagrees with this whole "overtraining" malarkey.


C.T believes in training his 22-inch pythons to the point of exhaustion every day in the gym. In short, this means that he goes through a full Tricep and full Bicep workout every day, on top of the other training he has scheduled for any other muscle. At first I thought he was just your typical meathead but after looking deeper into his videos, he definitely had some logic behind his claims.


He claims that "overtraining is individualized." This means that one man's workout may be too much for another and vice versa. Overtraining is only a mindset in a sense. C.T claims that if you are mentally tough and dedicated, you can see significant gains in the weight room by training to the point of exhaustion every day.


Fletcher compares <a href="">overtraining in the weight room</a> to basic training for the army and triathalon training. He claims that as he was in basic training, he was pushed to the point of no return with a lot of the exercises. Although it was extremely tough, he had no choice but to do it. He said his body "adapted" to the physical strain and any given workout then had a feeling of normality.


Additionally, overtraining is often time used by Professional athletes. <a href="">Eric Cressey</a>co-owner of Cressey Performance, preaches that the majority of people who believe that overtraining is affecting their performance, haven't actually trained to the point where this could be possible. The human body is an amazing thing. You can push yourself way further than you think. This is proven to be true in world-class athletes. Correct me if I am wrong, but if you think you are overtraining your muscles during a workout, imagine going through a workout that Adrian Peterson goes through to prepare for a big game against the Packers. That alone is evidence that the body can be pushed to such an extent where essentially, overtraining is impossible.


Some may be skeptical about C.T's methods, but I for one, 100% endorse it. I feel like the human body can accomplish more than what we think it can, and the only way to find out is too push your limitations. It makes sense that if you consistently break down your muscles every day, they have but no choice to adapt and recover at an accelerated pace. I highly recommend checking out his videos for anyone who is big into lifting weights. They may change your entire approach in the weight room. 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that cigarette smoking causes 90% of lung cancers, and smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to get or die from lung cancer. The relative risk seems insanely high, so I decided to research what the risk for getting lung cancer is for a non-smoker.


The American Cancer Society states that 16,000-24,000 "never smoker" Americans die of lung cancer each year. They define a "never smoker" as someone who has smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. It seems interesting that you could smoke 99 cigarettes and still be put in the same category as someone who has never touched one. This seems to be an inherent flaw in the research already, but may have a slight bias in order to try and convince people to quit or never start smoking. Either way, these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt.


The important thing is, if there were a separate category for lung cancer in "non-smokers" (notice the quotations), it would be in the top 10 deadliest cancers in the US. The leading causes of lung cancer in non-smokers are secondhand smoke, gas and carcinogen exposure as well as air pollution. Looking at the numbers, it is interesting to note that the American Cancer Society estimates 3,400 people die per year from secondhand smoke. I stated above that they also said 16,000 to 24,000 non-smokers die per year from lung cancer. What accounts for the other tens of thousands of deaths?


The answer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is radon gas exposure. An estimated 20,000 people per year die in the US from lung cancer caused by radon gas exposure in the workplace or elsewhere. The reason I am giving you these statistics is for perspective. According to an article from, "fewer than 10 percent of lifelong smokers will get lung cancer", and you apparently are "more likely to have a condom break than get cancer from smoking".


You have to look at the facts objectively or else they can become extremely ambiguous. As you cans see, the statistics I gave in the first part of this blog would make you wonder why anybody would ever pick up a cigarette in the first place. The information from this article attempts to explain the different risks and percentages that get thrown around in the cigarette danger conversation. It is important to note that if the CDC or the American Cancer Society posted the stats on how many smokers beat lung cancer and survived, it wouldn't make for a very good anti-smoking platform.


The problem with trying to research hard data on topics like this is the amount of bias and statistical manipulation that goes on. It really does feel like walking in circles, with one pro-smoking website giving one number and an anti-smoking website giving the inverse of that. This just furthers the importance of learning the skills like we have in class so that we can become more educated in how to see through the smoke and mirrors and identify the true facts.  I am curious if anybody else can find a true, unbiased number of deaths occurring from lung cancer in smokers and non smokers. 

            We all remember that time of year as an adolescent when we had to take our standardized tests. Up to three hours of pure boredom of writing in the box provided below and always "showing all work and explaining each step". These tests seemed like a gift of torture from our government. Now as I am past that stage of my educational process I pondered what the effects of these tests are. Are they even beneficial to teachers or students? My personal hypothesis is that the null holds true and that these tests do nothing for the teachers and students. Personally I think that the remedial aspects on these test downplayed my schools curriculum. The confounding factor that the test makers didn't think about was the demographics of the schools. All of the tests across the state were the same, and yes some of the simple math topics may have been difficult for some students in some areas but in others their simplicity was a nuisance and a waste of time.


            One study disagrees with my hypothesis in saying that testing is beneficiary to schools because it increases pressure on teachers to improve their students' learning. "Fish found that apparent pressure on teachers to improve their students' test scores was influenced by a number of factors including: the degree and nature of administrator involvement, teachers' professional self-concepts, and teachers' years of teaching experience (Fish, 1988)". One important note Fish's study was that there was a confounding factor was that experienced teachers thought that inadequate test scores were caused by factors beyond their control "such as low student ability and discrepancies between the test and curriculum, than did novice teachers". I admired the variety of the observational studies. The study observed different types of teachers in various types of settings and this helped explain the confounding variables that were found.  

            But what about the effect it has on the students? I also thought that it had no effect on the students because the tests were too easy to make a student think about the testing process. Another observational study agrees with my hypothesis in saying that the tests do nothing for the benefit of the students. The study says that the important traits of learning ("Innovation, creativity and love of learning") are not enforced through these tests, so "Subjecting students to incessant drills and practice under the guise of test preparation does them few favors in the long run". The issue that I have with this notion from this study is that these matters are subject to opinion and frankly if you ask a child does a standardized test help you in your process of the love learning, many will say no simply because of the fact that many hate the tests and think they are boring.

A third finding collaborated the pros and cons of standardized test. The website stated "93% of studies on student testing, including the use of large-scale and high-stakes standardized tests, found a "positive effect" on student achievement". It showed a randomized study that also provided reasoning for students to benefit from standardized tests. As the first study stated this one alike said that students feel pressure to do well on these and gifted students in particular feel pressure to bring up scores and have frustration for these tests. With these conclusions from the study I inference that standardized tests are detrimental to the learning process of students because it doesn't allow them to enjoy learning materials with the thought in the back of their head that they are only doing this for the benefit of their teachers and school personnel.  

            With the results from all of the studies I chose to adjust my original hypothesis. Now I believe that the null hypothesis remains true in saying that standardized tests have no benefit with regards to students, but the opposite is true for teacher in which the alternative is true.




The United States is still one of few countries that continue to enforce the law of "no drinking until you are 21." Right about now, all the seniors' in High School are shaking their heads in disapproval. But honestly, why is this? I understand that the United States is trying to prevent younger audiences from participating in such debauchery, but wouldn't there be benefits of lowering the drinking age?


When I think about the age "18," I think about the privilege of being allowed to vote. If someone is old enough to legally change the way a country operates, don't you think it would be alright for them to grab a quick beer at the bar afterwards? Along with being able to buy tobacco products, driving, and voting, turning 18, in a lot of ways, symbolizes becoming an adult. My parents always told me that when you are an adult you can make your own decisions, but I guess that was not entirely true.

 A lot of times, because kids are not allowed to drink, it makes them want to do it even more. This can lead to kids drinking in unsafe environments and developing unsafe drinking habits. According to the <a href="">Center for Disease Control and Prevention</a> people between the age of 12 and 20 consume 11% of all alcohol drank in the United States already. If kids were taught proper, safe drinking habits, this number would be undoubtedly lower. If the drinking age were to be lowered to 18, kids could learn how to drink in regulated environments and learn the safest way to handle themselves when doing so. In my opinion, binge drinking on weekends would be greatly reduced, as would the nasty habit of drinking and driving. If kids were exposed to this privilege at a younger age, it would give them the experience they need to learn how to develop safe drinking habits. Safer drinking habits means less underage citations and happier parents.Binge drinking is also the fifth leading reason for <a href="hospital visits"></a> among underage teens. If teens were taught how to practice safer drinking habits at a younger age, hospital visits would decrease as would the number of fatalities associated with binge drinking.


Not only would this <a href="">lower drinking age</a> incur benefits for the kids, but would also benefit the United States economy. With more people in general allowed to go to bars, beer distributors, and liquor stores, an entire new demographic would appear for the owners of these establishments. They would increase profits greatly and could really have the chance to thrive in their respected markets. The tax dollars generated from this new audience could also be used to better the United States in a number of ways. For example, the government could fund more programs to teach kids the dangers of alcohol use. A good idea would be to have every 18-year-old attend a mandatory alcohol abuse class funded by the tax dollars generated by the new law. This class could inform, teach, and even frighten kids about the dangers they could encounter when partying too hard. It would cut down drinking and driving dramatically and save many lives in the process. 

The most important reason why the drinking age should be lowered to 18 years old, is because it has proven itself to work in other countries. For example, Germany's drinking age is <a href="">16 for beer and wine and 18 for liquor and other spirits</a>. To many people's surprise, the number of drinking and driving fatalities in Germany is significantly less than the number in the United States. An alternative method of enforcing drinking and driving laws if the drinking age were to be lowered to 18, would be to have a "no tolerance" law for drinking and driving. This means that even if you have .01 blood alcohol content, you are over the legal limit to drink and drive. This "no tolerance" law would certainly make people think twice before drinking and driving. 

Works Cited:

Why America is so Fat


fat guy.jpg

The whole world knows at this point that <a href="">obesity in the United States</a> is a huge problem. Fast food places are thriving, gym memberships are going unused, and physical activity in general is basically non-existent. I get that our country has been labeled as "fat" but I just did not understand how we got to this point of near disaster. This curiosity allowed me to stumble upon some interesting reasons why it wouldn't hurt Americans to occasionally mix in a salad.


One of the catalysts of this problem are the many Americans who have extremely low incomes every year. This completely limits their abilities to obtain a healthy lifestyle. For starters, healthy food has become extremely expensive to afford. Lower class Americans have to resort to eating cheap fast food because they cannot support their families and, at the same time, make sure they maintain a healthy diet.


Yet another reason why obesity is at an all time high is because Americans are very insecure about their weight and those who are not overweight, are very judgmental towards others who are. Although some Americans are able to afford gym memberships and expensive exercise equipment, they are not willing to use it if they are not in a completely comfortable environment. For example, a man could have purchased a fancy gym membership at the local LA Fitness but never attend because he is afraid of the way people will perceive him as he is working out. No one wants to be seen as the "fat guy" at the gym. It is a shame that Americans are so harsh when dealing with anything concerning looks. A man or woman who puts their inhibition behind them and takes the leap of faith to workout at a gym, should be rewarded with compliments rather than being glared at like an outcast.


Lower education levels is also a contributing factor to the obesity problem in the United States. People simply are not informed enough to realize what they are actually putting into their bodies. If people were more aware of the harm they were doing to themselves, the epidemic would decrease drastically. Schools should consider adding a mandatory health class to the curriculum for kids from years k-12 that stress the importance of eating healthy. Although this may cost a little extra, the lives saved and the knowledge gained would certainly be worth it.


<a href="">17% of 6-19 year-olds are obese in the United States</a>. This is an absolutely alarming statistic. Almost one out of every five Americas between the ages 6 and 19 years old are obese. There are many easy ways to lose that extra, unwanted poundage. First off, keep track of the foods you eat every day. If the amount of calories, carbohydrates, fats, etc. consumed surpass the suggested amount for your body weight, it is clearly time to cut back on the junk food. Do not go on crash diets or starve yourself because this will decrease your metabolism in the long run. The weight that you would lose from your crash diet would eventually come back, along with some more. A high metabolism is key to losing weight. The higher the rate that your body can burn off the calories you consume and turn those calories into fuel, the easier it will be to lose the weight. Another way is too just start walking. If you normally drive everywhere or take public transportation, consider walking to your desired endpoints. Simply moving increases your metabolism, which should be the focal point of those who desire to lose weight.


I feel like if people are made more aware of the solutions to losing weight, the United States' obesity epidemic could be a thing of the past. If less people are obese, that means that average lifespans could increase, sports would be more competitive, and maybe even being healthy would begin to become a "cool" thing.


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To Run Or To Sexercise?

From September 2012 - April 2013 a rare study was conducted in the Montreal Region. Twenty-one heterosexual couples from the ages of 18-35 years were asked to engage in 40 minutes of exercise with a 5 minute warm-up and cool down, leaving 30 minutes for 65% of their maximal heart rate to be up. Each was administered a test at the beginning of the study to determine what amount of exertion on the treadmill did this for them. The couples were asked to perform 1 sexual activity per week in their homes for a month ( four sexual activities). Sexual activity was characterized by the study as the onset of foreplay, intercourse, and at least one orgasm by either the male or female. A questionnaire was filled out after each sexual activity involving how much energy output and pleasure they experienced from the sex in comparison to the treadmill.
As predicted, couples reported experiencing much more pleasure after their sexual activity than the exercise activity. Women assumed more energy output occurred for them during sexual activity than what actually did occur. The actual results somewhat surprised me. The energy expenditure for men was 101kcal (4.2 kcal/min.) and 69 kcal for women (3.1 kcal/min). This proves to be less strenuous than jogging at 8 km/h, but more strenuous than walking at 4.8 km/hr. From a very simplistic and general viewpoint, unless you are going to hit the gym and jog for thirty minutes or more, opting for sex isn't necessarily the lazier option. However, the 30 minute exercise proved to exert more energy and had greater intensity overall. On the contrary, though, men did occasionally exert more energy during the sexual activity than in the exercise activity. Also, sexual activity overall had an intensity level that represented more than 2/3rds of the treadmill exercise activity. The way I see it, sex can and has proved to be a rigorous exercise activity that can exert as much energy and burn as many calories as low to moderate intensity exercise. I find that if someone is having regular sex, they may have a health advantage over those who are not. Not only does it count as exercise but it can lower risk of heart attack, improve mood, promote well-being, improve sleep, increase chances of longevity, improve immunity, and lower mortality rates. The way I see it, everyone could benefit from some sexercise!

trinidad.pngI told myself I wasn't going to write a molly blog because it would be too predictable, but it is so popular it almost be ignore not to, so here it. This is about purity of supposedly pure drugs.

Molly is the trendiest drug right now. According to the New York TImes, it was patented by Merck pharmaceuticals in 1914, but did not start getting abused until the 1980's where it was used primarily in New York nightclubs. Molly is designed to make people happy and upbeat. It has become popular recently due to the popularity of EDM.

CNN Investigators, reported that Molly is appealing because is pure MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine), which is the active ingredient in Ecstasy. It was intended to be a medication to help with depression but the Molly sold today (or what is called Molly) is a dangerous mixture of lab created chemicals according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Either way, anything done excessively is not good in my opinion.

"You're playing Russian roulette if you take these compounds because we're seeing significant batch-to-batch variances" say deputy drug administrator Al Santos. Law officials have found completely different ingredients in the same package of molly. The main chemicals in Molly are created in China then distributed to middle men in the US who then combine it with other drugs. The worst part about it is that some of the filler drugs are drugs that are not even used for recreation, such as, plant chemicals. In other words it is not pure at all.

I do believe there is any pure drugs, even prescribed ones. The are manufactured chemical substances, so technically it cannot be pure in overall quality. This especially goes street drugs which are what are used for fun such as Molly.



Sleep is for the Weak



Over Thanksgiving break, I have been sleeping for almost 12 hours a night. I have actually done more sleeping than anything else. The universally "accepted" hours of sleep for proper function the next day is known to be 8 hours. I've noticed that when I sleep for more than 8 hours a night, I tend to be sluggish and unmotivated the next day. I've also noticed that when I sleep for 8 hours in any given night I tend to feel exactly the same, sluggish and unmotivated. But, the crazy thing is, I feel more awake and focused when I get less than 8 hours of sleep. Either I am programmed differently than everyone else in this world or this magic number of "8 hours" cannot be correct. This made me extremely curious about the subject so I tried to dig a little bit deeper.


According to the <a href="">National Sleep Foundation</a> the number of hours of sleep necessary for someone can vary. Various factors including, exercising, eating habits, and sleep consistency can all affect the amount of hours necessary for someone to sleep. This number of hours that an individual needs to sleep per night is completely variable depending on any number of these factors. This chart posted by the <a href="">National Sleep Foundation</a> shows the estimated amount of sleep time necessary separated by age group. So it looks like this 8 hours of sleep per night "mumbo jumbo" has come to be known as a thing of the past.


If one's sleep schedule can be variable, do we actually require sleep? Can we survive without sleeping if our body says "keep going?" I personally think that if we accepted tiredness as a state of mind rather than a necessity, we could sleep for shorter hours of time per night and could be way more productive as a society. Imagine the feats we could accomplish if we, as a world, cut down the amount hours of sleep per night by 5 hours. Those five hours could be used to think, generate ideas, and innovate society. It could incidentally, propel us into the future of technology.


Now, when I express the idea of decreasing the amount of sleep per night by 5 hours I am being completely hypothetical. Sleep is essential for brain function during the day along with several other key functions of living. The good thing about sleep, is that you can always make up for lost sleep. According to <a href="">many studies concerning sleep and brain function</a>, if you struggle with sleeping during the week, sleeping more on the weekends can reenergize your brain allowing you to have more brain capacity come Monday morning. And more brain-power on Mondays, equals happy college students.


In short, yes we do need to sleep to live. It is a basic human function. <a href="">The Scientific American</a> claims that any given human being can live without sleep for around 8-10 days. But, eyesight would suffer and hallucinations would begin to occur. So yes, technically we cannot go on without sleeping at least a little bit each night. But my theory is that if everyone decreased the number of hours they sleep per night by just a little, we could accomplish many things.

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Dream Weaving

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Dreams can be so puzzling sometimes. Why do we dream? Why are the dreams we have so vivid sometimes, and other times so fuzzy? It is extremely mind-twisting to think about. One theory explained by <a href="">Ernest Hoffman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Mass</a> suggests that dreams occur to help us cope with trauma in the future or prepare us for an out of the ordinary situation. Basically, he is saying that dreams are a way to prepare us for things that happen every day in our lives. This is an extremely interesting theory to me. I, personally, have had several dreams that I remember so vividly because I end up experiencing a situation similar to the dream in reality. So, could dreams possibly be the reasons we experience the sensation called "Déjà vu" as well?


This theory that Ernest Hoffman has created sounds like a pretty reasonable explanation of the purpose of dreams. Dreams aren't meant to confuse you or scare you (for example Nightmares), but are actually a way of preparation. Kind of like a teacher would prepare you for a big exam, dreams prepare you for the obstacles you could/will have in the future. Everyone knows that feeling of waking up helplessly from a dream, sweating and exceedingly scared. Without experiencing that feeling of helplessness as a result of a dream, would we be able to cope with deaths in the family, nasty relationship breakups or even the feeling of getting into a terrible car accident? I believe that dreams serve a positive purpose in the course of our entire lives although, at the moment, they can be frightening or puzzling.


On the other hand, I think that the dreams that we experience that give us an overwhelming feeling of happiness or enlightenment can prepare us for the good things that happen in the course of our lives. For example, I am sure every guy out there has had many dreams/fantasies about meeting a smoking hot girl. If we didn't have that dream to give us the feeling of arousal, would we be able to deal with the situation in a calm fashion if it were to happen in real life? Or would we freeze up and become suddenly overwhelmed because we have never had that experience before? Dreams can be interpreted as a test run for real life scenarios. Everything that we desire, fear, and question can be tested in what seems like an actual situation, but actually is a figment of our imaginations.


All in all, dreams are still an incredibly vague feeling that I do not think will be properly explained in the near future. Dreams play a huge part in the development of personalities and I, for one, am thankful that I have them. Hopefully one day a detailed explanation can be given as to why they occur. Who knows, maybe dreams can give a realistic point of view of how our lives are predetermined by an outside force. Although that theory may be a bit of a stretch, it is not completely out of the question. We will never know the true meaning of dreams until they are rigorously tested and multiple hypotheses are made.

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beer belly.jpg

Men, have you noticed that you have developed a "belly" after enrolling in college? If you have not already figured it out, it most likely is what people refer to as a "beer belly." These beer bellies are extremely common in men who drink heavily and frequently. Contrary to popular belief, beer bellies are not just as a result of drinking the calories from the alcoholic beverage, but also from the greasy food that your body craves after drinking the alcohol. For example, everyone tends to get the post <a href="">midnight munchies</a> after a long night of drinking and let's be honest, you are definitely not going to sit down to a healthy meal, but rather engorge your face in crunchy gordida supremes at Taco Bell. Alcohol actually drastically raises insulin levels in your body, sending the message "I need a greasy, hardy meal" to your brain. As a result of the increase of insulin levels, blood sugar levels drastically decrease as well, causing the hunger. Alcohol completely dehydrates your body. It can cause you to pee frequently throughout any given night which will decrease <a href=""> sodium levels </a>. So, the salty food that you crave (and usually devour) is an attempt by your body to replenish sodium levels. After sodium levels are somewhat replenished by the salty foods, a deep sleep usually follows.


So now we know that the calories from the food we consume while drinking is a contributing factor to the beer belly. The question still stands though, why does the fat for men tend to accumulate in the belly area? Men, most of the time, store the majority of their fat in their midsections. According to WebMD, <a href=""> "Because men have less subcutaneous fat, they store more in their bellies."</a>. Women on the other hand, tend to store their fat in other places around the body like the butt and thighs (which I might add is equally unattractive). The sad truth is that this accumulation of fat around the midsection is not going to get any easier to keep away. The older you get, the more likely your body is to store fat in the waistline area. Beer bellies will continue to be a likely "girl repellent" for years to come unless you can figure out a way to minimize the damage.


I actually believe it is extremely possible to avoid getting a beer belly. For starters, try to exercise at least 5 times a week. This will speed up your metabolism enough so your body has a chance to burn off the many calories associated with alcoholic drinks. Also, try to cut back on the drunk eating because you are most likely not going to remember eating it anyway. Try leaving an apple, or any other healthy alternative, on your bed before you go out. This will remind you to choose your snacks wisely when returning from a night of partying.


Beer bellies can be avoided. So please, men, do not lose hope. 

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I am one of the few people who can say that they have never seen an original Disney movie. Did your jaw drop just like many of the other people I tell this to? Now you're confused and you want to know what I mean by "original" because clearly I MUST have seen the Lion King, Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Peter Pan, Snow White and if not those then Tangled. Well you may have to sit down because no I have not seen any of those movies. My mom hates cartoons, always has, and when my older sister was born she sucked it up and tried showing them to her. According to my mom my older sister hated them and would cry, so she got what she wanted anyway which meant not watching cartoons. When I was born two and half years later my sister's hatred for cartoon had not changed (she's twenty two and still hates them) so there was no reason to show them to me.

People always ask me how is it possible that I have never been exposed to any of the movies and that's the thing I have been exposed to them. I can look at a character (for the most part) and tell someone which movie that character is from, but I cannot name the dwarfs from Snow White for the life of me. I mean it is funny because now that I am older and I hear all the ways Disney movies are actually bad for children to watch I am glad the way I grew up. I think that people who grew up with the movies cannot admit that they can do harm, but I get to have an outsiders view which is pretty unique.

It is easy to find sites that can point out bad things about Disney movies. Still in denial that Disney movies are bad because I will list some things that kids observe from them:

·      Importance of social status

·      Historical Inaccuracies

·      Beauty is thinness

·      Sexual harassment is acceptable

·      Ugly is immoral

·      Beauty is moral

·      Gender stereotypes 

Above are just a few examples that overlapped on multiple sites. Since I never watched Disney movies though I am more curious about what I could have missed from not watching them. In the article Disney Princesses Have Mixed Effects on Children it summarizes Sarah Coyne's findings from her research on the topic at hand. Coyne, inspired by her 3 year old daughter, predicted with her research team that, "higher levels of Disney princess exposure would lead to more female gender stereotyping, higher levels of pro-social behavior, worse body image and lower aggression." 


The study took three preschools, three hundred and seven kinds total, and tested them as well as their teachers and parents trying to understand as much as they could the child's tendency and exposure to Disney culture. A strange result occurred, everything matched the teams' hypothesis except their assumption about body image. Those more exposed to princess lifestyle most were actually more likely to have better body image. The data had definitely shown that the negative of producing gender stereotyping but the positives were pro-social behaviors and better body image as well as lower aggression.

What I found was interesting was Coyne's comments on how when speaking to the children about Disney princesses they are very real to the kids. This realization of hers is exactly why I think when those kids, who almost think a Disney characters like real people from their past, are not inclined to believe that Disney can be bad. Coyne's recommendation is to watch princess shows in moderation, there are positive effects she states but the negatives are there to and in order to reduce them moderation is key.

            A comment on an observation Coyne made in the article had me thinking there may have been a flaw in the study. She said that kids who watched princess movies seemed to be kinder; I then thought of the fact that she never spoke of splitting up genders in this study, which I would be curious to see their groupings they made off of their observations of who watched princess movies because I'm assuming it would be split majority boys versus girls. If this is true boys and girls have very different aggression/social behaviors at that age and therefore their findings could have been more because of gender than princesses influences. 


Walking into class with your hair disheveled and school supplies in havoc. Another night of little sleep and your body is punishing you for it. However, are you not the one to blame? Studies show that "social ties" may be the culprit behind your lack of sleep. 

Conducted at the University of Cincinnati, researchers wanted to discover the real reason behind teenager's sleep deprivation. Their hypothesis: social ties affect teenager's sleeping habits.  Therefore our null hypothesis: social ties have no affect on teenager's sleeping habits. Scientists sought answers by gathering a group of 1,000 teens ranging from the ages 12-15 of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The study measured each individual teen's cognitive, physical and social development-yet primarily focused on their sleep record as well. 

What they found was appalling. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need a total of 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night (Teens and Sleep,National Sleep Foundation). Scientists measured teens between the ages 12-15 were getting less than 8 hours of sleep each night. 

So where does this apply to the teen's social ties? In search of the reason behind teenager's decline in sleep, researchers found that their relationship with parents and peers is the contributing factor to their lack of sleep. Scientists concluded that teen's with parents who strictly observe how late they stay up, get better hours of sleep. Teens who also get the appropriate hours of sleep were ones who cared about their school work and had friends who did as well. Researchers wrapped up their field of study with one last piece of advise, "Having strong social networks of people who are positive and have good social habits themselves may encourage traits like getting to bed on time" (Sifferlin,TIME). 

However, where was this conclusion derived from? The article in TIME lacked to include any results or tests that led researchers to believe that social ties were the reason behind teen's tired bodies. The study at Cincinnati was clearly Observational, and found its results from the record log kept by the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. I do understand that it may be hard to make this field of study experimental, however I think a survey created by the researchers themselves and distributed among teens may be more affective.

Researchers accepted their hypothesis that social ties affect teenager's sleeping habits. However, I don't know if I can do the same. Results would be more convincing if they were taken from multiple fields of study-not just one. That is the only error I can conclude. 

So all in all, we have reason to think social ties may be the reason behind teen's lack of sleep. However, I'm going to need further proof to solidify the hypothesis before accepting it myself. Good thing is, us PSU students don't have our friends to blame for our late nights, but our academics instead. 

So when your not up late cramming for the next exam, follow these tips to make up for your lost hours of sleep.

  1. Sifferlin, Alexandra, and Alexandra Sifferlin. "Why Teens Stay up Late: Blame Their Friends." Time. Time, 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.
  2. "Teens and Sleep." Sleep for Teenagers. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.
  3. "How to Sleep Better." : Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep. Help Guide, n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.

Omega-3 fish oil supplements are one of the most widely used supplements. All over the world, people have incorporated Omega-3s into their health regimes. They are believed to be beneficial in a number of ways:

1) Scientists believe they might play a role in reducing inflammation in the body (blood vessels, joints, etc).
2) They lower triglyceride levels - which when elevated can increase risk of heart disease.
3) Reduce depression.
4) Help people with with rheumatoid arthritis - reduce stiffness and joint pain.
5) Can reduce symptoms of ADHD in children and promote cognitive function.
6) Prenatal health.
7) Asthma - reduce the inflammation.

However, a recent study showed that men with higher concentrations of omega-3s in their blood from animal sources had an 44% increased chance of developing prostate cancer when compared to those with low levels of them same in their blood. 

The first thing worth noting is that the study wasn't actually a study centered around the consumption and consequences of taking Omega-3 supplements, but was a study called 'SELECT' or Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial. Therefore the participants of this trial were not actually being given Omega-3 supplements, in fact most of them reported not having taken any at all. 

The second thing to remember is that correlation is not causation. While the study shows a possible correlation between the blood concentration of Omega-3s and prostate cancer, since the study was not specifically targeted at the problem they seemed to have found they did not control for third variables or manipulate an independent variable and since they haven't proved that it isn't reverse causation either (could people with prostate cancer have higher levels of Omega-3s?), all of this in addition to the fact that other studies did not support this finding, therefore it's more than likely that the findings were either due to chance - or, basically, anything else.

So, in conclusion, at the moment, we have no proof of the supposed harms of consuming Omega-3s while there is plenty of proof of the good the supplement does. In addition to that, what's clear is that the media often overlooks more sensible (often more correct) studies and arguments in favor of those that will cause a frenzy - so what I'm taking away from this is not to make decisions based solely on the word of the media. 

What do you think of the study? Are you likely to start/stop your Omega-3 supplement regime? Do you think this was a well conducted study? 

Here are a few examples of the media delivering the news calmly while not trying to cause a frenzy:

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No matter how old I get I cannot stop the habit of biting my fingernails. I have tried everything over the years: fake nails, polish, nasty tasting polish, and different products that all just ended up in the trash. My parents even tried reward techniques; my mom finds the habit really gross saying she would pay me to stop. When that did not work they even tried the opposite approach insulting my nails, telling me people did not find it attractive. Nothing worked. I would even get to a point where my nails had grown out and without thinking about it I would just bite them down.


In an article about nail biting it talks about how nail biting is over looked and how experts are classifying it as an addiction/mental disorder, an addiction that is even harder to get past than cigarettes. Decisions have been made to change the classification of nail biting from a simple habit to instead will be a form of OCD according to The American Psychiatric Association and will be in the upcoming issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

When compared to other disorders that are characterized within OCD such as repetitive hand washing and hair pulling, so nail biting fits right in with those. What people need to understand though is that even with this new classification it is a disorder that is not impairing, therefore not very serious medically. Not everyone who bites their nails even should classify oneself to the level of OCD, nail biting becomes an issue when it is destructive meaning when one is impairing their hands or are getting repeated infections from biting.

During my research I actually found a correlation between nail biting and the pinworms we discussed at the beginning of the semester. Pinworms are actually not a dirty thing, anyone that has pinworms can spread them on anything they touch: literally anything from couches, to blankets, to towels, ext. No matter how clean a child, children most commonly get pinworms, is the eggs live up to two weeks so if they catch one under their fingernails and stick that finger in their mouth, they will get pinworms. The unfortunate thing about pinworms is that they are even contagious to oneself, if one is also a nail biter (or even just puts ones finger in his/her mouth) one can give themselves pinworm all over again. If a child was getting pinworms over and over again from nail biting this becomes an example of nail biting being destructive.

TLC's show My Strange Addiction featured someone who is a nail biter and has been for 35 years. They bite their nails without the willpower to stop even after blood is drawn; they keep biting through the pain. That episode was in 2011 but actually is not the first time TLC has touched on nail biting in 2009 TLC printed an article in InTouch reporting on a study done by Dr. Jon Grant on the effectiveness of N-Acetyl Cysteine when used to treat skin picking and nail biting. After using the product Dr. Grant reported that 56% of the tested subjects had prominent reduction of symptoms. This was a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of NAC that was funded by a donor-funded Research Grant Program within TLC.


NAC is an amino acid, which affects the levels of glutamate within the brain, therefore making it easier for people to control unwanted behaviors. This knowledge is why Dr. Grant chose to test NAC on nail biting for he believes that glutamate modulators have the capability to help with disorders, addictions, and compulsions. This study produced results in favor of Dr. Grant's hypothesis (56% improvement of subjects on NAC, 16% improvement on subjects on placebo), which in this field in science is actually rather exciting. This study is actually among the first studies that focus on glutamate's effect on compulsive behaviors as opposed to serotonin.  The hope is that from this study doors will open allowing them to expand with a larger subject pool and high dosages.

People like myself (though I am not as bad as the person on the TLC episode) are struggling to stop biting their nails. A study where 44% still do not see significant effects from the drug does not make me want to jump up and go buy the product. Clearly though 56% of people having an effect shows that there is a hope and a reason for more research. 

You've had your hair straight for a week now how does it stay straight when you wash it? You mean you only straightened it once? You haven't washed your hair all week? You don't have to? Of course you do! What? Ew! What do you mean you don't wash your hair everyday? Doesn't it get oily and dirty?

The science of kinky curly hair is truly fascinating. As a Black woman, I have been asked this question many times by puzzled white women who don't understand the nature of our hair as their hair type is most widely advertised. To start, curly textures are drier naturally since we have porous hair that loses and gains moisture very quickly. Our hair curls and coils prevent what little natural scalp oil we have from reaching all the way to the ends of our strands. There are many rules to <a href="'-Hair">black hair care</a> which many of us are not aware of. To start, the vast majority of shampoos are made with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate which is very drying to curly haired textures stripping the oils from your strands to cleanse them which is why conditioner should be used immediately after. 

Natural oils must be applied to curly textures to replenish the oils that have already escaped through the shampooing process. Replenishing the natural oils will help retain moist, strong, hair with little breakage.

photo taken from <a href="">here</a>

Everyone, at some point or another, has awakened to the dreadful sign of a new zit  emerging. It's a terrible feeling and once it is there in all it's red, pimply glory, people tend to try to hide it or hide out until it's gone. As a sufferer of mild to moderate acne, new research on acne always interests me and gives me a sense of hope for new treatments and future generations of sufferers.
A UCLA study conducted with researchers at the University of Washington in St. Louis and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute found both "bad" strains of bacteria that cause acne and "good" strains that may protect it. Every study can lead to a breakthrough, but this particular study caught my eye not necessarily for the content, but due to the intentions of the principal investigator. Huiying Li, an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA reported the following: "We hope to apply our findings to develop new strategies that stop blemishes before they start, and enable dermatologists to customize treatment to each patient's unique cocktail of skin bacteria." When a researcher's intentions are so clear-cut and innovative, I think he deserves his own fan-base. Anyway, the results of the study were eye-opening and potentially helpful for the cause.
With the use of pore cleansing strips, microbial DNA (P. acnes bacteria) was extracted from the noses of 52 clear-skinned participants and 49 acne sufferers. They then used technology to isolate over 1,000 strains of bacteria. They found that the strains of the diseased (acne-ridden skin) looked very different than those of the clear-skinned individuals. Also, two unique strains of bacteria appeared in 1/5 of the acne participants, but none of the clear-skinned individuals. The most helpful results of the research resulted from finding a third strain of bacteria found mainly in healthy skinned individuals. Researchers think that increasing this strain in acne sufferers through cream or lotion could help treat them. It is very possible that this strain is what is in charge of protecting the skin from breakouts. I wonder if this "good" strain kills or fights the harmful bacteria or if it acts as a balancing mechanism. Regardless, it seems that those who have too little or none of the bacteria seem prone to breakouts. Eventually, researchers might find a way to make individuals' bodies produce more of this bacteria on their own through a pill or injection. Hopefully the use of topical treatments will spike the body's own natural production of the bacteria if it's already present. I am curious as to how they will make these creams, what the side-effects might be, what balance of other ingredients/medications might be used, and how effective the treatment will be. Overall, I think this was an extremely effective study and one the population might benefit greatly from.




Step one: snap an awesome pic! Step two: pick out a flattering filter. Step three: Post it on the social media outlet of your choice. Step four: repeatedly check throughout the day to see if you've accumulated a sufficient amount of "likes". 

            We all find ourselves following these four steps multiple times during our social media careers. But does step four have a bigger impact on ourselves more than we perceive? Research studies have shown that an alternative hypothesis holds true when it pertains to social media. This alternative hypothesis is that the more social media "likes", comments, and interactions with friends the higher users self-esteem tends to be. There seems to be a positive correlation between the two aspects.

            So if social media is so great on our self esteems and makes us all feel good there could be no down side right? ... Wrong. Studies show that all the attention that we receive promotes narcissism. Also the lack of likes that we don't earn defeats our self esteems. A study conducted by Cornell University tested the affects that viewing ones own Facebook page as opposed to gazing at a blank screen would have on a person's self-esteem. The experimental study proved after an evaluation that the participants who made adjustments to their Facebook pages during the study had higher levels of self-esteem than those who simply stared at a blank screen. The findings had to do with "selective self-presentation in digital media"; meaning that when on a social media website a person can instantly become a 'better' version of themselves causing them to become more confident.  Baseline of Health Foundation describes Facebook as a way to put "the most positive spin you can put on yourself without losing reality or being deceptive".

            In my opinion I believe that the Cornell study should have gone further in depth to discover what parts of the social media experience causes this self-esteem boost. Is it the interactions with friends?; The "likes" that we receive on statuses and pictures? The recreation of ourselves?; Or all three aspects combined?

            A psychology student was also curious about how social media affects our brain and discovered studies that proved that social media has a greater affect on our self-worth than we imagine. She discovered that a study in the UK "reported that participants also said that their self-esteem suffers when they compare their own accomplishments to those of their online friends". This finding allows for justification of why we feel defeated when our profile pictures only get 15 "likes" compared to one of our friends picture that accumulates a massive 100 "likes". We begin to question whether or not our online selves are less popular or attractive compared to our friends, and even worse we begin to wonder if our actual selves are on a lower level than our friends.

            This is where the danger of social media experiences comes into play; when we transfer our feelings received from social media into our everyday life experiences. The UK study was beneficial as it explained how the feelings we receive from social media experiences transfer into our own lives.

            We as users though need to make the final push towards helping ourselves. Personally I know the attention I receive from my online friends effects myself esteem, so I know now that I need to take two steps back from my lap top and realize that its only a one second click of a button that causes these feelings. How will you control your emotions?

Do Video Games Cause Violence?

As more and more cases of major acts of violence occur -- first the shooting at Columbine High School, then at Virginia Tech, then Sandy Hook, and far more in between -- I become more and more interested as to why this stuff is happening. Being an 18 year old male, I am well acquainted with violent video games such as Call of Duty, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto. People my age play these games hours on end, and for some, it consumes their lives. This makes me wonder if there is any sort of causal connection between playing these outrageously violent games and violence the real world. Do these games cause people to commit real-world violence, or at least cause them to be more susceptible to such actions?

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One study, conducted by Ohio State University professor, Brad Bushman, took 70 French university students and sat them down in a room. It was a single blind study where the students were told they would be participating in a study to measure the effects of video game brightness on visual perception, and that they would each be paid 10 euros a day for their efforts. This method allows the study to be more unbiased because the students will simply go about the experiment like they normally would, not knowing that the researchers are actually measuring aggressive behavior.

 The students were split into two equal groups, with each group being randomly assigned to play either a violent or non-violent game for 20 minutes a day for three days. After each session, students were told to write the ending of a random story. For example, in one story a driver crashes into the main character's car and basically destroys it. The student is then supposed to write what happens when the main character confronts the other driver. Additionally, each student was told to play a computer game in which they had to respond to a visual cue faster than their opponent. The loser would receive an awful sounding noise that combined scratching nails on a chalkboard, dentist drills, and ambulance sirens. The winner was able to choose the intensity and length of these sounds. The results found that the students who played the violent games were more likely to write violent-related stories and give out more intensified and longer unpleasant sounds. 

Bushman concludes that exposure to violent video games can be positively linked to aggressive effect and physiological arousal. However, this study only proves the link of short-term behavior. Longitudinal studies must be done to prove that there is a causal effect between violent video games and long-term aggressive behavior. 

Although this study appeared to be very well done and conclusive, I am not yet convinced that video games cause aggressive behavior. There are just too many third variables that can skew the research, such as the chance that kids who play violent video games also watch violent television and movies. Who's to say that the violent television isn't leading to violent real life behavior? Additionally, reverse causation definitely needs to be considered on this topic. It only makes sense that people who are already violent in real life have more of a desire to play video games that allow them to continue to be violent. As british psychologist Guy Cumberbatch says referenced by this article from Live Science, "Finding that people who enjoy violent media may also be aggressive is tantamount to observing that those who play football also enjoy watching it on television." What he is saying is that football players watch football because they enjoy the game of football, just as people who commit violence in the real world like to play violent video games because they enjoy the nature of violence. The article goes on to make another good point: While video games have become more violent over the last 20 years, violent crime has decreased significantly, with gun violence such as assaults, robberies, and sex crimes dropping 75% lower in 2011 than in 1933. 

violence decline pic.jpg

After researching this topic thoroughly, I have concluded that there is no doubt a correlation between violent video games and real world violence. However, correlation does not imply causation. Until there is conclusive evidence that these video games cause short and long term aggressive behavior and violence (which is nearly impossible considering the points I have made about third variables and reverse causation), I will not be convinced. So for now, Science 200, I say keep playing GTA5. Just don't kill anybody. 

But enough of my opinion, what do you guys think? Have you been playing violent video games all your life and now consider yourself a violent person? Or has it had no effect whatsoever? It would be interesting to here how this topic has impacted you guys personally. 

Believe it or not, there are people who can answer that question. They're called synesthetes, and they possess what is perhaps one of the strangest medical anomalies known to man. Synesthesia, as it's called, is "a perpetual condition of mixed sensations: a stimulus in one sensory function causes an involuntary sensation or experience in another modality". In layman's terms, when a synesthete hears, sees, smells, touches, or tastes something, they will experience a simultaneous sensation in another sensory location. For example, one's synesthesia may create an involuntary connection between hearing and sight. That person would perhaps then see colors in coordination with music that is being played.

The disease itself has baffled scientists for many years, and was only recently recognized as an actual phenomenon, rather than a product of overactive imaginations or a sign of mental illness. While it is clear that there are neurological bases to the condition, the exact cause remains a mystery. According to one idea, irregular sprouting of new neural connections within the brain may lead to a breakdown of the boundaries that normally exist between the senses. Researchers at Imperial College London seem to think differently, however. They claim that the disease is actually genetic, and therefore passed down through generations of families. To test their hypothesis, they collected DNA from 196 people from 43 families in which there were multiple members with synesthesia. While there are believed to be over 60 variations of the disease, the researchers looked exclusively at auditory-visual synesthesia - the kind where sound triggers color. To their surprise, they discovered that the condition was linked to regions on chromosomes 2, 5, 6, and 12, not just to one single chromosome. As could be expected, this means that the genetics behind this remarkable disease are far more complex than previously thought.

Synesthesia is not a phenomenon that manifests itself in one way, as it involves many different parts of the human brain. It can occur between any two senses or perceptual modes, and can range from tasting colors to smelling sounds. While there are tens of logically possible combinations for synesthesia variations, there are several types that occur most commonly:

  • Grapheme-Color: one of the most common types; a person who experiences this may associate/see individual letters or numbers with a specific color
  • Sound-to-Color: when sound triggers the visualization of colored, generic shapes; can be limited to certain stimuli
  • Personification: known as ordinal-linguistic personification; an individual who experiences this will associate ordered sequences with various personalities (i.e. the letter "A" is a rude letter)
  • Lexical-Gustatory: one of the more rare types; a person who experiences this evokes different kinds of tastes when they hear certain words or phrases

So as it currently stands, I find myself somewhere in between really wanting this disease and having a great deal of sympathy for those afflicted with it. A more childish part of me wants to believe that it would be an exceptional experience, however the realist in me soon pipes in and reminds me that it would only be fun in short increments, and that those who actually have this disease have no control over it whatsoever. Either way, this is certainly an extraordinary and fascinating condition of the mind. What do you all think? How would you feel about being a synesthete?

Synesthesia is not a phenomenon that manifests itself in one way. In fact, synesthesia can manifest itself in many different forms, as it involves different parts of the human brain. - See more at:
A recent study by the University of British Columbia claims that women find happy guys less sexually attractive than brooding or serious men. This is the first study to show a significant gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles. More than 1,000 heterosexual adult participants rated the attractiveness of hundreds of photos displaying the opposite gender showing happiness, pride, or shame. The results were shocking. Women were least attracted to males appearing happy (smiling) and more attracted to men who appeared both proud/powerful and shameful/moody. Men were most attracted to smiling females and least attracted to women who appeared proud or confident.

This research suggests that while we may think we're becoming less susceptible to the effects of old gender and cultural norms and stereotypes, we may not be. It makes sense that past research associates smiling with a lack of dominance and that females found smiles the least attractive on males. Previous research suggests "happiness is a feminine appearing expression." Smiling is apparently associated with submissiveness and compliance, which is why men might have ranked it most attractive. Pride (puffed out chests, accentuating shoulders) displayed on men is a sign of power and accomplishment, which is why women might be initially sexually attracted to men exhibiting it. However, a man might be intimidated by a woman displaying the same, 'masculine' body language. It was surprising to me that women's initial sexual attraction to photos supported the assumed superiority of the 'strong silent type' of man. Does this mean women want a partner who is broody, moody, or ashamed over a man who is happy? No. I find that this research suggests what is aesthetically appealing to men and women initially might still reflect our culture's traditional gender norms and stereotypes' influences. However, this does not mean that when seeking a partner a woman will seek out a man who is constantly appearing macho and powerful or that a man will pick out the happiest looking woman at a bar to ask out on a coffee date.

While I find the results of the study to be shocking and interesting, I also think more research needs to be done. I wonder what evolutionary or biological mechanisms come into play here. Does male attractiveness based on expression change to women during ovulation or at certain points of their cycle? What age-range did most of the men and women fall under and do married versus single participants vary in their responses? How much does actual attractiveness of the individuals photographed affect people's reactions? Do responses have anything to do with a male's innate desire to be dominant and provide? More needs to be addressed. However, the results didn't convince me to walk around with a goofy smile plastered on my face and I would hope that men never stop smiling altogether.



Marijuana is currently the most commonly used illegal substance in the United States.  According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 21.4% of high school seniors have used marijuana in the past month.  In comparison, only 19.2% of those surveyed have smoked tobacco in the same time frame.  The survey also determined that in 2009 28.5 million Americans above the age of 12 smoked marijuana.  These percentages for marijuana use haven't been seen since the 80's.  Such widespread use by both teens and adults begs asking, Should the Federal Government legalize marijuana on a national scale?  I, along with many Americans, believe that it should be decriminalized because it is essentially harmless and there are serious medical uses of the drug.
The Food and Drug Administration has labeled marijuana as one of the most dangerous and addicting drugs on the streets today.  This classification has placed cannabis along side drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, all of which have no medical use and can be detrimental to the wellbeing of the user.  The label assigned to these drugs just does not hold true in the case of marijuana.  The FDA's views are respected highly, no pun intended, by the Federal Government and are influential in their decision making on the legality of consumer products.  As long as the FDA is opposed to marijuana, it is unlikely that any bills will be passed into laws on a national scale.
Much research has been conducted, with the use of surveys, experimentation, and historical evidence, on the side effects of marijuana use.
In fact, a 35-year study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this past August, concluded that people who began using cannabis after the age of 18 showed no signs of mental or physical impairment. The aforementioned article also explained that the results of their findings showed that persistent users of marijuana under the age of 18 exhibited lasting harm to intelligence, memory, and attention.  These findings are most likely due to the fact that cognitive development occurs as a minor, and the use of any mind-altering drug, such as the legal substances alcohol and tobacco, would result in similar deficiencies.
This being said, the Federal Government should legalize the recreational use of marijuana by non-minors in the United States.  This could be accomplished by enforcing a minimum age for the purchase and sale of marijuana, much like the age restrictions on tobacco and alcohol already being enforced.
Now that the long-term effects of marijuana have a solution, the short-term effects must be accounted for to win over the FDA's approval.  The immediate side effects of marijuana include euphoria, distorted perceptions, memory impairment, increased appetite, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.  These side effects will only negatively affect the general public if a user decides to drive under the influence of the drug.  To avert the use of marijuana on the road, police could be equipped with testing devices like breathalyzers, which they currently have on patrol for alcohol, that test for marijuana. 
Aside from the recreational uses of Marijuana, there are practicalities of the drug in the medical field.  Marijuana is currently being used in 17 different US states and in Washington DC for medical benefits that diminish chronic and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, cancer, and other painful and even untreatable ailments.  Marijuana also prevents nausea and vomiting stimulated by chemotherapy.  Commonly patients are also prescribed marijuana to improve the appetites of AIDS and cancer victims.  Many other, less serious, illnesses are treated with marijuana as well.  These include trouble sleeping, anxiety, and depression.
Medical Uses



            According to Psychology Today "addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health". Whether it's gambling, cigarettes, drugs, or something else, addiction is a serious issue that plagues our world today. So what is it about addiction that causes a person to continue a bad habit even when they know that they are causing harm to themselves and to their loved ones? Well I'm not sure, and am very curious to find out especially because I have loved ones who are suffering from addiction, so lets take a deeper look into the topic and find out.

According to TIME Magazine addiction is associated with a single chemical in the brain known as dopamine. Dopamine can be looked at as our bodies reward system that provides us with a euphoric feeling when we do something good such as get good grades, lend a helping hand, or even have sex. Dopamine is an essential chemical in the body for survival, and scientists believe that the dopamine system arose very quickly in the process of evolution because it rewards us for behaviors that are essential for survival. For instance if sex were not pleasurable, we would not partake in it, therefore causing no reproduction of the population and rapid extinction. When someone becomes addicted to drugs they don't crave the drugs per se, however they crave the rush of dopamine that these drugs give them. This situation can also be looked at as to why we have an urge to better ourselves, for instance an urge to achieve good grades. If getting an "A" on a blog period did not provide me with a rush of satisfaction then I would most certainly not be blogging right now, however since I do feel good about myself after achieving a good grade on something I continually strive to obtain that feeling. Although it may seem hard to believe right now, I am not blogging to achieve a good grade, I am blogging to achieve the feeling of satisfaction that the good grade will provide me with, and for many of us this is why we become addicted.

Based on this information I would say that we are all addicted to something, however some of us get addicted to the wrong things and on a much deeper level than other people. The reason why drugs are so dangerous, is that they are highly addictive thanks to the powerful dopamine rush the drugs provide. With some drugs this addiction is stronger than others based on the chemical properties of the drug and how greatly they effect our bodies reward system.  Gambling on the other hand is not an addictive habit until you win for the first time and experience the "reward" of winning. When people gamble they are not necessarily gambling for the money, rather they are gambling for the satisfaction that the money will provide for them. The more successful of a gambler you are the deeper the addiction to it becomes. Addiction and this dopamine release are the reason why adrenaline junkies exist, for them they are willing to put there lives on the line performing foolish acts, just to achieve an adrenaline rush, which for them also releases a dopamine rush. I would say that adrenaline junkies are not addicted to the stunts they preform, rather they are addicted to the adrenaline rush that these activities provide them with.

Overall I believe that addiction is a serious problem that our world faces today, and that the main culprit to blame for our world's addiction problem is dopamine, a chemical substance vital for survival, which just goes to show how messed up our body's reward system truly is. The reason why addiction ultimately tears families apart is that, the addicted person begins to get more satisfaction out of the dopamine rush form the vice of addiction, than they receive from their own family or their families success. Dopamine is a sick chemical which causes great trouble in our world, however it truly is just something that you can't live with or can't live without and this is why addiction is such a widespread problem in our world today. 


There are many studies that support the fact that girls without fathers are more likely to be promiscuous. In fact a study published in the New York Times found that girls whose fathers disappeared before the age of 6 were 5 times more likely to end up pregnant as a teenager. The question is what do fathers do that make girls less promiscuous?


Well, it all starts out with the way fathers play with their daughters when they are babies. When fathers play with their daughters (and sons for that matter) they tend to promote independence and orientation to the outside world. The sense of independence that a father inspires in a child helps promote confidence, security, and a higher self-esteem in an adolescent daughter. This allows them to make smarter decisions and have better relations with their peers. Confidence, self-esteem, and sound judgment all lead teenage girls to be less promiscuous (to see this article click here ).


Further, girls who have little contact with their father during adolescence are more likely to have difficulty forming long lasting relationships with men. Females with fathers have a better sense of acceptance of themselves knowing that there is at least one man that loves them. Having a father makes a female less desperate for male attention. However, this differs slightly for girls who have lost their father because of death; these girls are more likely to shy away from men and are unlikely to seek out any male attention. On the other side girls who have lost their fathers due to divorce or abandonment are more likely to have physical contact with men, crave male attention, and be more critical of the opposite sex because they are constantly seeking refuge from their missing father. In general, girls who have lost their fathers due to abandonment or divorce are much more likely to be sexually promiscuous than girls who have lost their father due to death. However overall, it still holds true that girls without fathers are more likely to be sexually promiscuous, because girls lose their fathers to divorce or abandonment much more frequently than girls lose their fathers to death (checkout this article here).


Clearly, the reason girls without fathers are more likely to be sexually promiscuous than girls with fathers is because they often have low self-esteem, lack confidence, lack of independence,  lack the ability to form long lasting relationships with men, and crave the male attention that they have lost. So even today when we see the supermom, who thinks that she can be both parents, we now know that it is still better for girls to have an active father in their life than supermom. In today's society where divorce is becoming more common I think we often forget the impact that a father can have on a daughter's life. Active father's breed strong, independent, and confident young women, which can impact the kind of relationships their daughters have later in life.

What's in the Water?


It seems like everywhere I go, the tap water tastes different than at my house. I always wondered what sorts of things are in tap water. It seems a little dirty to me and when I travel I would sooner bring my own water or soda than drink the tap water there. About 300 million Americans get their tap water from public water systems that are government regulated. I have always wondered what gave tap water it's distinctive taste bottled water doesn't have.



There are over 2,000 contaminants that could be in public drinking water in any given region, so I am just going to stick with informing everyone on the major ones.


There are several different microscopic organisms that could be present in tap water. Too much exposure to these could lead to several different health problems in humans, including vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps.

Disinfectants/Disinfection Byproducts:

This is the most shocking contaminant in tap water in my opinion, with the health repercussions trailing on and on. Drinking too much of the disinfectant-contaminated tap water can result in anemia, increased risk of cancer, eye and nose irritation, stomach upset, liver, kidney, and central nervous system problems.

Inorganic/Organic Chemicals:

There are many, many different health problems associated with ingesting chemicals. Just to name a few, you could experience reproductive difficulties, blood problems, liver and kidney problems, skin changes, and stomach problems.


My verdict is that we shouldn't exactly be afraid to drink tap water, however we should all start to try and filter most of our tap water. They have water bottles with filters, to make it easier for us college students on the go, and ones you can attach to your kitchen sink for at home. Happy Drinking :-)

When judging art, whether it is visual art, music, performing arts, or literature, quantitative judgments (such as literal measurements of supposed quality) tend to be discouraged. The method of attributing value to something, especially with pieces of culture that can have many subjective readings, is so without rhyme and reason, and so limited by biases, that it makes scientific studies of "quality" very difficult. However, there is one scientific basis for value judgments, and that involves the biological mechanisms within the brain.

In recent years, a scientific practice has emerged in Neuroscience that is simply referred to as Neuroaesthetics. Scientists have been conducting a variety of studies in which they scan and observe the brain activity that goes on while either viewing art, or while doing something creative. One study invited participants to read examples of both narrative fiction, or "prose" at the article calls it, and poetry, all while analyzing areas of the brain activated by such readings. As it states, the study found that "The experience of reading contrasting texts is associated with differing patterns of brain activation, the emotional response to literature shares ground with the response to music, and regions of the right hemisphere are engaged by poetry." Much can be discussed about whether or not there was enough variety in the works of "prose and poetry" read by the participants. Ultimately, there was enough there to indicate that creative or non-linear writing affected the brain in a different manner, and that content will effect the nature of biological response.


The above image gives an idea of what the scientists doing these studies are dealing with. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has so far been the standard of Neuroaesthetics

The experimental design/methods for many of these studies are roughly similar in the sense that they are based upon exposure to a selection of cultural materials (visual or otherwise) while the results are then analyzed through an fMRI. What does vary tremendously is the selection of material that is used, and what that has to say about how representative the selections are about visual culture at large. One study that specifically tested aesthetic judgments of beauty and symmetry did so through a series of generic patterns that resembled simplified compositional forms.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 9.16.56 AM.pngScreen Shot 2013-12-06 at 9.28.19 AM.png

Another study that dealt specifically with painting, dealt with a sample of about 120 images of both representational and abstract paintings that included both the original images of the paintings, and edited or blurred versions of some of the same images. The results of this particular study revealed a general preference for unedited, representational images, with activity in certain parts of the brain (left cingulate sulcus, bilateral fusiform gyro, and bilateral cerebellum) increased in accordance with the preferred work.

With regards to the purpose and benefits of these studies, there should be a distinction that Neuroaestheticism is not necessarily concerned with determining and absolute point of quality. Brain activity is the primary component of the aforementioned studies, and scientists in this field of research are generally more concerned with how brain activity occurs in response to external stimuli such as the viewing of paintings, dance, poetry, etc...

Generally speaking, assessments of aesthetics, beauty, and so on are plagued with biases based on taste (which could be seen as a third variable), all of which are present in the judgements and preferences of some work over others in certain studies. One particularly critical analysis of Neuroaesthetics, appropriately titled "Neuroaesthetics is killing your soul" argues that "aesthetics is partly a question of culture and circumstance, not a fundamental quality of the brain. Reducing it to what is shared and general recalls exercises in producing the 'perfect' picture or song from poll averages, the results of which are (intentionally) hideous and banal."

Whether or not the studies are there to test brain activity, or emotional response, a lot of this ties into the question of whether or not science has a place in the understanding of culture. These studies are interesting in the sense that they are able to link something as subjective and vague as art to specific biological functions. As with religious phenomenon, such as the study on prayer that was discussed by Andrew Read, I would say that art is just another one of the infinite number of subjects that can be approached with a scientific methodology.


Selling Out Or Fitting In?

I'm an international student. I'm just off the boat. I've never lived in America. I'm here specifically to attend Penn State.

One year ago, when I was a nervous freshman here with an easily understood Indian accent, people believed my international status (after the usual, 'Oh! But you speak so well!' and 'Your english is impeccable!' and my personal favorite, 'Is it hard for you here, having to speak english all the time?'). Setting aside the innocent but racist nature of these questions, I found the American perception of the average Indian to be extremely negatively skewed.

Side note: No, my life isn't just like Slumdog Millionaire, but it's pretty close!
Second side note: But seriously, it isn't. Stop asking.

Much more disturbing than the questions (which while annoying, were not borne of malice) was how I was undermined in classroom and social situations. In group discussions I would offer an opinion or an answer (usually correct, thank you very much) and I was politely heard out and then completely ignored in the actual answer. Similarly in social situations, if someone ever forgot a word or said something incorrectly and I corrected them, I was just automatically assumed to be wrong.  

A few months later, I adopted the American accent. Now people find it hard to believe that I'm not from here and have never lived here. With my 'new' accent I am no longer the 'weak link' of the group or the 'less literate' friend. (Obviously this is more than a little dramatized.) 

I still find it hard to come to terms with such a shallow basis for judgement and so I decided to look into it and I found this study conducted by the University of Chicago. The study was a single blind test which measured native American-English speakers' perceptions of credibility in people with mild accents, heavy accents and native American-English accents. The subjects were made to listen to a variety of facts (half of which were untrue) and decide whether they were true or not - only the facts were delivered by the three accent groups. To assure an unbiased response, the subjects were unaware of the true nature of the experiment and were misled by a series of superfluous activities. The results were as you'd imagine: on a truthfulness scale they rated the native speakers highest, followed by the mildly accented people followed by the heavily accented people.

The study was then repeated again, this time with the participants knowing what the study was about. The results were much more even with mild accented people and native speakers being rated similarly and heavily accents people being rated as slightly less truthful. 

While the results of this study are a little disappointing, they are not entirely shocking. Accents are the primary way of processing foreigners in a society. And while native American-English speakers' instinctive distrust of accented foreigners may seem offensive, it is more likely that it is due to the fluency theory. This basically entails that people are more likely to trust something if they can comprehend it easily. 

And while that may be true, I wonder if there is also a possibility of reverse bias? This article states that the British associate American accents with 'success in business'. While most Americans are said to view the British accent(s) as more sophisticated - despite some being anything but. Is it just our judgement of foreign cultures based on the stereotypes we see in the media? What if the University of Chicago study had been repeated with people who had lived in a foreign country for a period of time or travelled extensively, would the results have been any different? 

So by modifying my accent to suit my lifestyle, am I selling out? Or is it just that I have greater empathy for Americans (as this study claims)? More importantly, do the results of the UofC study bode well for non-native speakers who are on the lookout for jobs? Does this article make you think differently about a friend/acquaintance of yours with an accent?

As a psych major, and a person with a defiant younger brother, one disorder has always particularly caught my eye. Are some kids just being kids or is there a larger underlying problem? Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, is a serious childhood psychiatric disorder affecting 6-10% of the population. The diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV are as follows: (
A.  A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:
(1) often loses temper
(2) often argues with adults
(3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
(4) often deliberately annoys people
(5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
(6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
(7) is often angry and resentful
(8) is often spiteful or vindictive
Parents with ODD tend to have trouble parenting their children due to these aggressive and disagreeable behaviors and tendencies. I decided to take a closer look at parenting styles and which is most effective in helping treat and cope with this disorder.

James Lehman, a therapist who works with children and adolescents on their social problems throughout the country, seems to understand how serious the disorder can be. He discusses effective discipline and parenting methods that can be successful in dealing with it. Since the worst thing for children with ODD is unstructured time, it is important for parents to set clear boundaries and have their child busy with structured activities. The problem with disciplining children with ODD is that they typically will not respond well to a time-out. Due to the irrational thought process of the child, he/she will not use any "cooling-off" time or downtime beneficially and will be plotting some sort of revenge. Lehman claims that the child's oppositional behavior is often due to his inability to solve a problem. Apparently, it is important to teach the child effective coping through problem solving skills and not to give out unwarranted rewards. One of the worst things a parent can do is focus on personality and self-esteem, he claims. Praise should only occur when the child conquers something challenging. It is crucial the child's success for him not be given a reward to foster a false sense of self-worth.
I could not find an article that provided information on which specific parenting style is the worst when raising a child with ODD. It's safe to assume than anything but the authoritative parenting style, one that involves moderate amounts of discipline and gives child a clear sense of expectations with fair guidelines, feedback, and rewards, would be the most effective. However, it is clear that all parenting styles need to be tailored to their child's individual needs. For a child with ODD, typical punishments seem to fail in sending the right message or making progress. A permissive or neglectful parenting style is probably the worst for a child with ODD. If a parent is too permissive, it seems a child suffering from the disorder would constantly act out without structured time or a clear authority figure. A child with ODD needs a specific type of attention, one that takes a lot of patience, time, and care from a parent. To be out of touch with a child and his needs would be detrimental to anyone. But, if a child's ODD is not treated or addressed, it can lead to Conduct Disorder. This disorder is more serious, arises in adolescence or early adulthood, and often involves criminal and excessively destructive behaviors and thinking. The best advice for parents of children with ODD? Get professional help and experiment with different approaches instead of falling back on your typical parenting skills that seem to be failing your child.

Win, Win, Win


Everyone has seen those parents who force their 8 year old kids through the best sports camps in the country, who make their kids play every game even if they're injured, even if they don't want to play the sport any more. When did breeding kids to become professional athletes become acceptable? How does forcing kids to be involved in sports impact them?

Clearly, pushing kids to be intensively involved in sports can cause physical injury. Often times when kids become injured parents force them back to practice before they are properly healed. This can lead to more serious injuries. For instance, tedion or cartilage damage in the knees, are often caused by excessively pushing yourself when you are hurt and some of the solutions to this include knee surgery (for more info click here).

Not only does pushing children in sports too hard affect them physically it also affects their happiness. A study that administered a psychological test to 73 Dutch parents around age 43 with children 8-15 involved in sports found that parents who considered their kids as part of themselves, rather than individuals, were more likely to push their kids in sports to fulfill dreams that they did not fulfill in their childhood. These parents often put their children in situations where they could not possibly succeed. This was found to hinder psychological development in children and cause them to turn to alcohol or drugs and become depressed. Further it was found that parents, who put their children in situations where they could not possibly succeed, led to their children having low self-esteem and low self-worth. It was also found that when children receive strong encouragement and approval for excellent sports performances, they are more likely to believe that their self-worth is measured by their abilities and skills (to checkout this article click here).

While the physical and psychological effects of parents pushing their kids through sports are alarming, the real issue is that society has now put the importance of winning (whether it be a sport or not) over the lessons learned in playing the game. Parents have placed so much emphasis on the importance of winning that children think the only thing that really matters in life is winning. Children do not understand the real values of sports such as teamwork, responsibility, and discipline. As parents continue to force their children to be intensively involved in sports, children's self-esteem, self-worth, and their bodies are deteriorating and the real lessons learned in sports the work ethic, teamwork, and discipline are lost in the fray.


From a study done on violent crimes committed in North Carolina, it was found that between 1988 and 1994 arrests of juveniles for violent crimes increased by 73.3%. While the violent crime rate has decreased since 1994, it still remains well above the crime rate prior to 1988. Clearly, America has experienced an unprecedented spike in violent crimes committed by youth. The question is what has provoked youth to commit more violent acts today than ever before? Where have the youth of today gone wrong?

The main reasons as to why youth in America commit violent acts are: failure in school, family issues, substance abuse problems, behavior issues, and gang membership. In this blog I will focus on family issues and parental involvement that lead youth to commit more crimes, because often the state of a family can affect the other four issues (substance abuse, behavior issues, and gang membership).

Overall, youth in single parent households are significantly more likely to commit violent crimes. Firstly, this is due to the fact that children in single parent households typically have less supervision. Less supervision means kids have more free time to get involved with drugs, alcohol, and gangs. Parental households with little supervision are always more likely to have children that commit crimes later in life. Secondly, it was found that parent-child separation (which occurs frequently in single parent households) before age 10 is a consistent indicator that the child will commit more crimes when they are older.  Parent-child separation can lead to behavior issues such as acting out in school and juvenile delinquency.

While lack of supervision and parent-child separation are factors that contribute to single parent youth who commit violent acts, they can also affect dual parent households. However, the larger issues that tend to affect children in dual parent households are marital problems. Children in households with parental arguments and marital problems, before the age of 10, are almost always more likely to engage in violent behavior around the age of 18. Households with marital problems are likely to induce alcohol and drug related problems in children. This is just another example how family issues can affect other issues (like drug and alcohol abuse) that lead children to commit violent crimes(information click here).

The most significant issue for both single parent households and dual parent households is the discipline style and the acceptance of violence. It was found that strict styles of discipline (including use of corporal punishment on children or verbal abuse) before the age of 10 lead youth in both single and dual parent households to commit more crimes. Further, for parents who tolerant violent behavior in their children before the age of 10, their children are 10 times more likely to commit violent crimes. The tolerance of violence lead children to believe that violence is acceptable and that it can be a solution to their problems.  Parents who strictly discipline their children and allow their children to exhibit violent behavior are more likely to have children who will commit violent acts later in life(for more info click here).

It is clear that one of the main factors in the increasing violence in America is the parenting of today's youth. The real issue with the parenting styles today seems to be that parents have forgotten the integral role they play in the kind of person their child becomes. Parents need to step up and become role models and realize that their actions, whether it be just be tolerating violence from their children or disciplining their children violently, affect the kind of person their children will grow up to be. Parents need to hold themselves to a higher standard if we ever want to see a decrease in youth violence. I believe that stopping the cycle of violence that seems to be plaguing America starts with parents stepping up and becoming role models for their children.

           As the population continues to increase day after day, so does the demand for oil and other natural resources. Eventually we will get to a point where we will need to find different ways of efficiently producing energy at a low cost. Twenty to thirty years ago it was hard to imagine what sources of energy (other than obvious possibilities like solar panels and windmills) that could efficiently supply the world. The advancement of technology today is opening new doors in the energy field that are likely to change the way we think about energy. With so many different sources of energy that are prevalent around the world, the challenge is found in harvesting and securing the energy at its source, and doing so in an efficient manner.


            I decided to do some research about possible future sources of energy, and my search turned up some interesting results. One of the most basic yet potentially worthwhile investments was found on an alternative energy website.  This particular article talks about the use of flying wind farms. These flying wind farms are essentially "airborne turbines spinning at high altitudes sending power down via nano-tube cable tethers to generate power." Basically there would be two turbine's attached via the nano-tube cables that would fly high in the sky like kites. The strong wind from the high altitude would allow the turbines to capture and transmit the energy down the cables. The idea was being explored by NASA who said that the turbines would have to function at altitudes above thirty thousand feet. Some advantages of having turbines so high in the sky is that the wind is between eight and twenty seven times stronger than the wind at ground level.  Clearly there are many difficulties that would have to be addressed including maintenance, air space issues, safety, etc, but flying wind farms are a potential source of future energy.


         Another form of energy that could become very useful and resourceful in the near future is the transformation of human waste into energy. An article by Janet Zimmerman describes a process being developed by an engineering firm named UC Riverside. The new process "uses heat and pressure to turn human waste into clean energy," saving millions of dollars and reducing pollution in the process.  This idea has the potential to change the energy industry since there will never be a shortage of human waste. The first step of the process "pumps a combination of municipal sewage, sawdust and water into a pressurized reactor that is heated to almost 1,400 degrees." (Zimmerman). A senior development engineer with UC Riverside, Junior Castillo, explained that the extreme heat transforms the mixture into different gasses like carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide. In the later stages, these gasses are converted into substitutes for natural gasses. The goal is to eventually use the gas product to heat the reactor to increase efficiency. Although this process is still under development, they plan to have a functioning plant running within the next five years.


            A third viable solution to the impending energy crisis is the use of algae as biofuel. The oil inside of algae can be extracted and converted to fuel using quite a few different methods. An article from, Susan Cassidy talks about the different potential ways of harvesting the energy from the algae. The first of these methods is a "form of mechanical extraction (called) expression, in which the oil is literally pressed out of the algae." Different types of presses are used to release the oil from the algae, depending on the type of algae strain. This method has been proven to obtain about eighty percent of the oil contained within the algae. Another mechanical extraction method is called the ultrasonic method. Here extractors use ultrasonic waves in a solvent that cause the walls of the algae to burst and release the oil. There are also chemical processes that can be used for this task. Chemical solvents like Benzene and Hexane can be used to similarly infiltrate the walls of the algae and release the oil. Chemical methods can yield up to ninety-five percent of the oil inside. The oil extracted through chemical use is called "green crude" and needs to be mixed with other solutions like alcohol and catalysts that initiate the reaction with the alcohol and change it to a combination of biodiesel and glycerol. The last part is removing the glycerol from the solution to get the remaining biodiesel.  This energy solution, like the others mentioned, is still under development, but breakthroughs are being made that are bringing us closer to a world with cleaner and more efficient sources of fuel.

Works Cited

"Alternative Energy." AENews. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.


Cassidy, Susan. "How Can Algae Be Converted into Biofuel?" HowStuffWorks. N.p.,

n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <


Zimmerman, Janet. "UC RIVERSIDE: New Technology Turns Human Waste into

Clean Energy." Breaking News. N.p., 19 Nov. 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <>.


        Printers have been an essential part of life since the early days of the printing press. They are an extremely effective form of wide spread communication and distribution of information, among many other things. Who could have thought that printers would evolve to produce three-dimensional products? The first time I really heard anything about 3D printers was during my freshman year. I was in an Engineering and Design course in the Hammond building, and one of our classrooms had two miniature 3D printers. These are not industrial scale, but were in fact made by students here at Penn State. You could use them during the course by creating a prototype in the design software provided on the computer, and then printing it out in plastic on the printer. I thought it was fascinating and impressive that students were able to design something so sophisticated. I decided to do more research on the printers and found out something astonishing.


            An article from claims that 3D printers will soon have the ability to print organs suitable for human transplant. With improvement in technology, 3D printing "may eventually save billions in the health care field." (Walsh). The article states that over fifty billion dollars are spent each year on researching and developing new drugs, only to have as few as twenty approved annually. These new printers could speed up the process by creating test organs to be used in experimenting the effects of the drugs, negating the use for human trials, which as we've learned, can cause much controversy.


With so many people on organ waiting lists, the chances of actually receiving an organ become smaller and smaller. Three-dimensional printing has the opportunity to change that. Though we may be a decade or two away from fully functional prototypes, we've been able to make some headway suggesting that we are moving in the right direction. A University in China has "created a set of 3D printed kidneys in miniature, using a set of cells that can live for up to four months" (Anderson). The kidney was able to perform the same functions as a natural human kidney, as well as breaking down toxic matter. Kidney transplant waiting lists are among the highest in number. One method to creating the organ tissue includes "electrospinning for the creation of large blood vessel scaffolds that can then be joined with bioprinted microvessels." (Clark). Luckily, the same article explains that hearts will be "one of the easiest organs to bioprint". Having the ability to readily produce replacement organs like this would be an incredible feat of man and would save countless lives.


Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the seriousness of organ transplants and the dire need for donors. My father had a kidney transplant in 1998 and was on dialysis for months before the transplant. Dialysis is a medical process that performs the same functions as a kidney when patients suffer from kidney failure. Thankfully, my father's cousin was generous enough to donate one of his kidneys, saving my dad's life in the process. The procedure went as well as it could have and fifteen years later, the kidney is still staying strong. As a result, he has to take countless pills a day to keep him alive, but it's a small price to pay for life. Fortunately, his story is one of success and a great demonstration of a successful kidney transplant. Though before we got news from his cousin, it was a frightening and difficult time. With the advancement of technology, we will eventually be able to over come these difficulties and hopefully prevent future families from waiting in fear for a donor.

Click here for a video on the bioprinting process

3d bio printer.png

Works Cited

Anderson, Steve. "Could 3D Printed Kidneys Be Part Of Medicine's Future?" Could  

        3DPrinted Kidneys Be Part Of Medicine's Future? N.p., 02 Dec. 2013. Web. 05   

        Dec. 2013. <



Clark, Liat. "Bioengineer: The Heart Is One of the Easiest Organs to Bioprint, We'll

Do It in a Decade." Wired UK. N.p., 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <>.

"Dialysis Types, and Advantages - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. Ed. William C. Shiel,

MD, FACP, FACR. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <>.

Walsh, Brian E. "3D Printing Can Change Organ Transplantation, Drug

              Development- Marlin Equipment Finance Media Room." Marlin Equipment

              Finance Media Room. N.p., 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.







           Every year at the beginning of the holiday season, turkeys are butchered and devoured across the nation. Everyone spends time with family, throws back a few drinks, eats to their hearts content, and then casually passes out on the family room sofa. Consistently, at some point during Thanksgiving dinner conversation, perhaps toward the end as food begins to digest, the topic of tryptophan is often raised. 


Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in many types of meat and other products. An article I found from explains the process of how your body breaks down your food during digestion. The article states that when the digestion process begins, large amounts of glucose are set loose in to your blood stream, in response your body creates insulin to aid in the absorption of the glucose (unless you have diabetes). The insulin sorts through the amino acids and "works by affecting the uptake of a bunch of amino acids in the body... except for tryptophan."( Condliffe) Once the tryptophan reaches the brain, it is transformed into serotonin, which in turn is changed into melatonin, both of which result in sleepiness. This proves that tryptophan can indeed cause the onset of tiredness. tryptophan.png

As a result, tryptophan has become notorious for being the big sleeping pill of Thanksgiving dinner. Since there is in fact tryptophan in turkey, many people accredit the post dinner nap to the large intake of turkey during the meal, but is turkey really the cause of such massive nation wide lethargy? To answer this question, we must first examine the amount of tryptophan found in turkey and how it relates to other regularly consumed foods. A website I found online ranks food based on tryptophan content per 200 calorie serving. Their list puts Alaskan Native sea lions at the top with 2580mg of tryptophan per 200 calorie serving. So turkey should be close to the top too right? Actually, turkey is ranked 158th on the list with 448mg of tryptophan per 200 calorie serving. Some other foods with very similar tryptophan content include Duck (449mg), Pork (449mg), Chicken (449mg), and many types of fish (445-447mg). With this information, it could be hypothesized that replacing turkey as Thanksgiving's main meat with any of the previously mentioned, would create the same effect due to similar tryptophan levels.


So then why is turkey singled out as causing so much drowsiness? While the tryptophan in the turkey is what actually makes you tired, the tryptophan could not possibly do it with out aid from carbohydrates. Historically, Thanksgiving is an extremely high calorie meal, chalked full of side dishes, deserts, and alcohol all high in carbohydrates. According to Rebecka Shumann when the carbohydrates enter the body, they too cause the creation of insulin. Once this happens, "some amino acids that compete with tryptophan leave the bloodstream and enter muscle cells" (Helmenstine). The increase of insulin causes the other competing amino acids to be targeted, but leaves the tryptophan free to flow through your blood stream. This results in a higher concentration of tryptophan accessing the brain and creates higher levels of serotonin and in turn melatonin, causing the end result of sleepiness. In addition, the high levels of serotonin also create a feeling of happiness, comfort, and relaxation, which of course leads to the tiredness.


The high calorie intake during Thanksgiving is what really puts your digestive system to work. According to, "the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat from snacking and eating a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings." Obviously this is way over the normal daily calorie intake suggested. More information on Thanksgiving calories can be found on a blog post by Georgie Anne Wayne . With so many calories and a busy/distracted digestive system, it becomes easy to imagine how tryptophan can pass so easily through your body. Just remember to go easy on the sides next year if you don't want to participate in the infamous post dinner snooze.

Works Cited

Condliffe, Jamie. "Why Your Thanksgiving Meal Makes You Tired." Gizmodo. N.p., 28

Nov. 2013. Web.  29 Nov. 2013. <



"Foods Highest in Tryptophan." Foods Highest in Tryptophan. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov.

2013. <>.


Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Does Eating Turkey Make You Sleepy?"

Chemistry. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <>.


Schumann, Rebecka. "Thanksgiving 2013: Why Does Turkey Make You Tired? 4 Fast

Facts About Tryptophan." International Business Times. N.p., 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <



"Stuff the Bird, Not Yourself." The Calorie Control Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 028 Nov.

2013. <>.



All right, let's get this out of the way now. If anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can find a more kick-ass awesome creature on this Earth than the mantis shrimp, I will tip my hat to you. For those of you who know what mantis shrimp are, you know where I'm going with this. For the likely majority of you who don't have any idea what I'm talking about, buckle up. This crustacean can take you for a wild ride.

Without a doubt, there is more sheer science involved with this creature's existence than any other organism that I am aware of. We begin with its eyes, which are widely regarded as the best in the world. You see, the mantis shrimp can see things that our brain could never be capable of processing. To elaborate, let me give you an ordered list of sorts:

4. Dogs are receptive to two colors: green and blue, allowing them to see blue, green, and a little bit of yellow

3. Humans are receptive to three colors: green, blue, and red, allowing them to see not only red, but all the colors that are derived from red

2. Butterflies are receptive to all the colors that we are, as well as two colors we don't have names for, and a massive spectrum of color that our brains aren't even capable of processing

But the mantis shrimp is in a league of its own. With the ability to detect SIXTEEN colors, as well as ultraviolet, visible, and polarized light, it is truly an ocular marvel. To put that into perspective, the rainbow we see stems from just three colors. Through the eyes of a mantis shrimp, it's composed of sixteen different colors and their variations.

That's only the beginning, though. You see, the mantis shrimp is also one of the most creatively violent animals on Earth. It possesses two raptorial appendages (or arms for short) on the front of its body, which, when prompted, can accelerate at up to 800 feet/second - equivalent to the velocity of a gunshot from a .22 caliber rifle. With this blinding speed, they can strike prey with 1,500 Newtons of force. If human beings could accelerate our arms at one-tenth that speed, we would be able to throw a baseball into orbit from the Earth's surface. Yet that isn't even the most impressive thing about their assault strategy. When the mantis shrimp springs into action, its limbs move so quickly that the water around them actually boils in a process known as supercavitation. When these cavitation bubbles burst, they produce underwater shock waves that are capable of killing prey even if the mantis shrimp completely misses its target. In addition, the force of these bubbles collapsing creates temperatures in the range of several thousand degrees Kelvin and emits tiny bursts of light in an effect known as sonoluminescence.

Mantis shrimp are also among the most physically resilient creatures to dwell on the ocean floor. So much so, in fact, that the military has long been looking into the cellular structure of their limbs as a means to develop new body armor and vehicle and aircraft frames. It has to be durable to withstand the impact of its own attacks; dismemberment is primarily how the mantis shrimp kills its prey, smashing apart crabs, mollusks, oysters, and octopi with its mighty hammer claws. Aquariums don't tend to house mantis shrimp for this same reason, as they have the potential to break the aquarium glass.

So, as you can see the mantis shrimp is nothing to be trifled with if you're a small aquatic creature. Packing the world's best eyes and the animal kingdom's most powerful punch is a lethal combination, regardless of your size. At little more than a foot in length, the mantis shrimp has managed to rise up and become the apex predator of the shallow tropical waters it inhabits.


Franklin, Amanda M. "Mantis shrimp have the world's best eyes--but why?." The
Conversation, 4 Sept. 2013. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <>.

"Mantis shrimp, peacock mantis shrimps, breaking glass, and other facts." Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <>. 

Nealon, Sean. "'Armored caterpillar' could inspire new body armor." UCR Today. University of California, Riverside, 7 June 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <>.

Late Night Chats?

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As someone who lives with a roommate who sleep takes, has a brother at home who screams expletives some nights heard from down the hall, and has been known to babble in her own sleep I suppose it is only appropriate that I dive into the question: Why does one talk in their sleep?

According to WebMd   Sleep talking is also known as somniloquy "is the act of speaking during sleep." It's viewed as an out of the ordinary sleeping disorder and probably a lot more common than you think.  However a typical episode doesn't last any longer than thirty seconds and majority of the time it is mumbles and senseless phrases that come spewing out of the sleeper's mouth.  On one occasion my roommate who took Chinese for several years in the past began speaking Mandarin in the middle of the night, startling myself and our other roommate. It was hysterical, but crazy! The statistics say that around 10% of children sleep talk and converse while about 5% of adults do the same.  It is also shown that the disorder is gender neutral, but may run in families.

Onto the real reason why this blog post is being written: Why do we do it? Scientists claim sleep talking can occur in any stage of sleeping, not necessarily just your deepest sleep or when we dream and have nightmares.  Sleep talking is rather harmless, but if severe enough can point to certain sleep behavior disorders and even night terrors. Sleep talkers often overlap with sleep walkers or sleep eaters.  The article claims stress, medication, fever, mental health disorder, and substance abuse as some of the main causes for sleep talking. There is rarely ever a need for treatment, unless the person becomes a danger to themself or those around them. In that case, a doctor's appointment must be made. Since there is a lack of treatment, there really isn't a known way to reduce the talking either. It is advised to be aware of medication side effects, when you exercise and when you drink any beverages.

sleep talker.jpg

I don't know about you, but I am not quite satisfied with all these unknowns. I personally, would like a stronger answer as to why this occurs. I don't find sleep talking bothersome, but it would be nice to know why my body does some of the things it does. I feel that on nights where I get less sleep I hear about my sleep talking session, or nights when I eat a late dinner similar occurrences ensue. I suppose until a true study is done the world will never know. There is always the possibility of chance. But for right now I am intrigued to find out what the causation would be. If anyone has any leads, please let me know!

Late Night Chats?



As someone who lives with a roommate who sleep takes, has a brother at home who screams expletives some nights heard from down the hall, and has been known to babble in her own sleep I suppose it is only appropriate that I dive into the question: Why does one talk in their sleep?

According to WebMd   Sleep talking is also known as somniloquy "is the act of speaking during sleep." It's viewed as an out of the ordinary sleeping disorder and probably a lot more common than you think.  However a typical episode doesn't last any longer than thirty seconds and majority of the time it is mumbles and senseless phrases that come spewing out of the sleeper's mouth.  On one occasion my roommate who took Chinese for several years in the past began speaking Mandarin in the middle of the night, startling myself and our other roommate. It was hysterical, but crazy! The statistics say that around 10% of children sleep talk and converse while about 5% of adults do the same.  It is also shown that the disorder is gender neutral, but may run in families.

Onto the real reason why this blog post is being written: Why do we do it? Scientists claim sleep talking can occur in any stage of sleeping, not necessarily just your deepest sleep or when we dream and have nightmares.  Sleep talking is rather harmless, but if severe enough can point to certain sleep behavior disorders and even night terrors. Sleep talkers often overlap with sleep walkers or sleep eaters.  The article claims stress, medication, fever, mental health disorder, and substance abuse as some of the main causes for sleep talking. There is rarely ever a need for treatment, unless the person becomes a danger to themself or those around them. In that case, a doctor's appointment must be made. Since there is a lack of treatment, there really isn't a known way to reduce the talking either. It is advised to be aware of medication side effects, when you exercise and when you drink any beverages.

sleep talker.jpg

I don't know about you, but I am not quite satisfied with all these unknowns. I personally, would like a stronger answer as to why this occurs. I don't find sleep talking bothersome, but it would be nice to know why my body does some of the things it does. I feel that on nights where I get less sleep I hear about my sleep talking session, or nights when I eat a late dinner similar occurrences ensue. I suppose until a true study is done the world will never know. There is always the possibility of chance. But for right now I am intrigued to find out what the causation would be. If anyone has any leads, please let me know!

Late Night Chats?



As someone who lives with a roommate who sleep takes, has a brother at home who screams expletives some nights heard from down the hall, and has been known to babble in her own sleep I suppose it is only appropriate that I dive into the question: Why does one talk in their sleep?

According to WebMd   Sleep talking is also known as somniloquy "is the act of speaking during sleep." It's viewed as an out of the ordinary sleeping disorder and probably a lot more common than you think.  However a typical episode doesn't last any longer than thirty seconds and majority of the time it is mumbles and senseless phrases that come spewing out of the sleeper's mouth.  On one occasion my roommate who took Chinese for several years in the past began speaking Mandarin in the middle of the night, startling myself and our other roommate. It was hysterical, but crazy! The statistics say that around 10% of children sleep talk and converse while about 5% of adults do the same.  It is also shown that the disorder is gender neutral, but may run in families.

Onto the real reason why this blog post is being written: Why do we do it? Scientists claim sleep talking can occur in any stage of sleeping, not necessarily just your deepest sleep or when we dream and have nightmares.  Sleep talking is rather harmless, but if severe enough can point to certain sleep behavior disorders and even night terrors. Sleep talkers often overlap with sleep walkers or sleep eaters.  The article claims stress, medication, fever, mental health disorder, and substance abuse as some of the main causes for sleep talking. There is rarely ever a need for treatment, unless the person becomes a danger to themself or those around them. In that case, a doctor's appointment must be made. Since there is a lack of treatment, there really isn't a known way to reduce the talking either. It is advised to be aware of medication side effects, when you exercise and when you drink any beverages.

sleep talker.jpg

I don't know about you, but I am not quite satisfied with all these unknowns. I personally, would like a stronger answer as to why this occurs. I don't find sleep talking bothersome, but it would be nice to know why my body does some of the things it does. I feel that on nights where I get less sleep I hear about my sleep talking session, or nights when I eat a late dinner similar occurrences ensue. I suppose until a true study is done the world will never know. There is always the possibility of chance. But for right now I am intrigued to find out what the causation would be. If anyone has any leads, please let me know!

Lung cancer, emphysema, throat cancer, tooth decay, the list goes on and on.  Those are the major health risks to the millions of people who decide to smoke cigarettes.  Of the many consequences from smoking cigarettes, hearing loss is the most unexpected.  Yes, that is right I said hearing loss.  Recent studies have shown that second-hand smoke as an affect on the hearing of teenagers.  Researchers first took a sampling of teens who tested positive for cotinine, a chemical present if the teen was exposed to second hand smoke.  Next, the teens were put through hearing tests of all different wave lengths.  The researchers at New York University concluded that the smoke from a cigarette almost doubles the chances of hearing loss among young adults.  As I stated before, the list of harmful affects of cigarettes are endless, and to top of the list with hearing loss.  It is terrible to hear that poor decisions made by people hurt innocent bystanders. Tobacco has been proven to affect the blood flow in the vessels that the ears depend on.

The reason why this is a contemporary issue is because half of the children in the United States are exposed to the harmful smoke of a cigarette.  I believe that smoking is one of the unhealthiest activities one could partake in.  Although outlawing cigarettes would be ideal, I know the government will not take such action.  This country's economy benefits greatly from tobacco sales and therefore will hinder the reform I envision.  Therefore, instead of putting sole effort into treating the teens, we should put funds towards non-smoking advertisements.  Also, the government should fund pamphlets and workshops for current smokers wanting to quit.  Therefore, we can save some lives of current smokers and save the hearing in teens.
My entire life I have always had serious déjà vu. To be honest, it feels so real that I almost get freaked out sometimes. When experiencing these episodes, the first thoughts that came to my mind were - "Why is this so familiar?", "Have I really done this before?", and "Why does this feel so strange?". I have struggled with the frustration of these questions for quite some time, and finally, I have decided to take the liberty upon myself to research deja vu. 

This French term, "déjà vu" can be literally translated into "already seen". The concept of déjà vu can be defined as having a strong sensation of previously experiencing the present situation, regardless if it has actually occurred or not. Déjà vu has has an extensive history in the medical field, from being studied by scientists to doctors to psychologists. In the early research of déjà vu (1928), a psychologist by the name of Edward Titchener, defamed déjà vu's reputation as being somewhat psychic or prophetic, to be actually be explained by something of a "partial perception" which can foster a false sense of reality.

In my initial research, I took a deep look into the functions of the brain. The brain has three main parts; the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem; each of three have their own separate functions. The cerebellum is the part of the brain containing your cerebral cortex which occupies all your memories and processes your current situational memories as well. The cortex functions on four separate parts, called lobes. You have your frontal (thought and decision-making, short and long term memory), parietal (sensory information), temporal (sematics of speech, vision, and recognition), and occipetal (sight). Each of these lobes play a key role in retaining and extracting memory. 

Many theories on déjà vu have been argued. Some say that it is impossible for the mind to have preconceived ideas with out having the sensory input and experience in the past at some point; others say that déjà vu is merely a lapse in judgment from the brain's processing strategy, and maybe the brain is taking these sensory inputs and viewing them as a "memory in progress". The most respected and well argued theory is that déjà vu episodes are stemmed from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and dissociative identity. Although this all sounds plausible, researchers have yet to make clear diagnostics on this. 

What I have taken from this, is that no one really knows the true meaning behind déjà vu. Maybe I am having memory issues..maybe it's reincarnation and I have actually experienced this before in some lifetime..or maybe I am crazy (haha most likely).. From my research I have been able to understand the theories of déjà vu and how the brain holds memory, but when it comes to the meaning of déjà vu, I guess it will always be a mystery. 

For more information check out the following sites:

Student-Body-Language-Poster2.jpgOn Tuesday we learned about how certain body posture can make a person feel more powerful because of how it affects hormones. I thought this was very interesting because in CAS100 A I learned how certain body language will determine how people perceive you. The reason I thought this was intriguing is because  the body language that makes people feel powerful or timid that was taught in a science course  is similar as the body language that  determines the perception of someone that was in a a communication course. Scientists have figured out what effect posture will have but haven't figured out why, whereas, body language experts know both. The factor in the art of nonverbal communication is that is the most intiguing in matters of scence is that the meaning of gestures and positions differ in each coutry. With this being known, how can the science of posture be apllicable too everyone? This leads me to believe that the chemical reactions that happen as a result of posture is a psycological response.


In a documentary on body language from the History Channel, you will see a clip of a photo-op with President Clinton, Israel Prime Minister Barak, and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat. As they go inside a building for their meeting, Arafat and Barak have what seems to be a friendly scuffle, but their smiles were just to look professional and civil, because it actually was a near fight for dominance. In the USA letting someone walk through a door before you is a mere common courtesy but it in the Middle East it symbolizes power. It nonverbally says "I'm in control here, so I already know what to do, so you come in first so that can lead." Due to these cultural differences Clinton walked through without any problem and felt content, meanwhile, Barak and Arafat were being aggressive toward each other. Barak won the altercation has he pushes him through, which I am sure gave him a sense of pride and irritated Arafat. If the physical effects of body positioning are universal than we all would be shoving people through doors (imagine walking through the library revolving door).

The documentary also mentions that Bill Clinton shakes his head as he is denying his sexual allegations with Monica Lewinsky. Wendy Williams recognizes the same thing in a Paula Deen apology video for scandal. Shaking your  head means basically "no" in our culture and nodding means yes, so for Clinton and Deen to do it during these moments indicates insincerity. Contrary to us shaking your head in Bulgaria means yes and nodding means no. Clinton's and Deen's head movements were subconscious unintentional actions, such as, moving quickly and having an adrenaline rush when are frightened, however, it is different in that it was learned because it is a norm of our society, therefore, Deen and Clinton would have responded oppositely if they were Bulgarian.

As I said before, scientist have discovered what postures and positions make us feel more powerful but have not discovered why, so I did not find a lot of research on my specific topic. The majority of what I found was about the various ways gestures are interpreted other cultures, but based on the little I found and observed I cannot confidently say that my theory is accurate. Nothing I found included anything about the chemical reactions that occur using these gestures. Perhaps scientist and body language experts can work together to find answer.

           After talking awhile back about the effects of texting on drivers, it sparked my mind again and I decided to see what other studies had to say about it and why they believe their findings are true, but with relation to marijuana use and driving.  We talked in class about the neutral effect texting possibly has because the study we discussed also stated while texting, drivers also slow down.  I wanted to see if there was a possibility of finding something similar with marijuana users.  It's stated that around 19 percent of teen drivers admitted to driving high in a survey- meaning this doesn't include the percent of teens that could have lied about not doing this as well. (1)

            Turns out, this widely known myth could be due to the file drawer problem because people simply don't want to admit that it may not be as dangerous as they want "driving on drugs" to be.  This also has caused very little studies to focus on positive/neutral effects of driving high when everybody is set out to find all negative effects.  Seven separate studies were reviewed that involved 7,934 drivers said, "Crash culpability studies have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug free drivers to be culpable in road crashes." (2) They state people who smoke are more aware of their impairment than drunk drivers, allowing them to slow down and focus harder when they know a response is required.  Although this isn't a study proving the evidence, it's the community themselves stating this is what they believe from what they have seen happen in their lives.

            I found a good example of a news report twisting up a story a little to also follow this popular idea of solely negative effects.  CBS stated that a study found "nearly 30 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, with marijuana being the main culprit." (3) They continued with stating researchers "analyzed nine large-scale drugged driving studies."  Drivers who tested positive for marijuana within three hours of use were over twice as likely to be in a wreck. 

This sounds more legitimate than the first case made?  Not really.  If you pick apart the report, you can slowly see they are merely proving that their statement is false.  First off, to be accurate with my reasoning, this news report is from October 2011.  Around this time there was an estimated 2.24 million car crashes that led to a form of injury.  30 percent of this would be 320,000 crashes that involved someone who tested positive for drugs other than alcohol.  This also doesn't necessarily mean that they are using marijuana, because they state it was the "main culprit", indicating various drugs being used.  They gave us no number stating how many of those drivers had other drugs besides marijuana.  For example, if it is only being considered the "main culprit" and every other drug was five percent of the 30 percent, marijuana use could have consisted of being involved only ten percent of these drug related accidents.  This would reduce marijuana use accidents to consist of 224,000 wrecks, while it already is fewer than 320,000 because the 30 percent of those wrecks are referring to various drugs, including marijuana in the mix.  This means that somewhere between 224,000 and 320,000 accidents involved marijuana use.  Another question is, was that the cause?  They never stated if the drivers who were intoxicated were the cause of the accidents or that their intoxication made the accidents occur.

My last claim to possibly sway your opinion is the statistics on the most common things that have caused fatal car crashes. (4) The first claim they make is that 33% of fatal accidents are solely from drunk drivers, leaving 67 percent left.  It then states a high amount of accidents between midnight and 3am.  They also added that during these hours, 66 percent involved alcohol-impaired driving.  This leaves us with 34 percent solely from driving during the "vampire hour", which now makes up for 67 percent of all accidents.  The third factor is messing with different technology in the car and distracting yourself (i.e. talking on the phone, texting, etc.)  Which accounted for an additional 5,500 deaths- accounting for an additional 25 percent of wrecks out of 2.24 million.  After confusing you with all of these numbers that actually adds up to being the cause of 92 percent of all accidents leaving 8 percent possibly from marijuana, other drugs and freak accidents.  Even when everything is going right, you risk being in an accident every time you drive.  Is a less than 8 percent change really stating that marijuana is one of the leading factors of fatal car crashes?

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Here's a quick spreadsheet I made to give an easier visual of all these numbers.  This shows that marijuana, along with ALL other reasons for accidents (besides the first three specific ones) are involved in less than 8% of all accidents.  Let me know what your opinions on this topic and if you feel CBS truly did prove the opposite of what they were trying to claim to be true.



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In my last post, I began analyzing over-the-counter drugs. Should you take these kinds of drugs, considering the risk of the damaging effects they can have, or should you try to avoid them at all costs?

I talked about the risk of liver damage excessive acetaminophen could cause. This ingredient is common in many over-the-counter drugs, especially Tylonel. But there are other kinds of OTC drugs that are pain relievers and fever reducers as well - for example, Aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Motrin, and others, labeled as ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and nanoproxen.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, are found in these types of drugs. As with any medication, there is a chance of potential risk. In this case, NSAIDS are known to cause damage to the inside of the stomach, creating ulcers. NSAIDS have also been known to worsen blood pressure and cause reversible damage to the kidneys.

How serious are these effects? When taken daily, especially excessively, over long periods of time, "there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal complications ranging from stomach pain to ulcers" as well as "severe and potentially deadly gastrointestinal problems." A study analyzing 43 generally healthy patients taking NSAIDS/aspirin daily for their arthritis found that "71 percent of those who were exposed to NSAIDs for more than 90 days had visible injury to their small intestine." The long term side-effects of NSAID use cause nearly 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths each year. In addition, "more people die each ...year from NSAIDs-related complications than from AIDS and cervical cancer in the United States." I was not able to find the specific background on the study or statistics to evaluate their value, but if we can believe what they are saying to be accurate, NSAIDS effects are pretty serious.

Even though there are negative effects to taking an excessive amount of NSAIDS, many people do take these drugs despite the risks because, as rheumatologist John Klippel, MD, President and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation said: "pain is not just an inconvenience, it can be devastating. It can destroy people's lives. NSAIDs can be a valuable treatment."

Both Tylonel and Advil, ibphrofen, Aleve, Aspirin, Motrin, etc. have pros and cons to them that make the question "should you take OTC medicine or should you avoid it?" a touchy question to answer. Both kinds of drugs have risks to them when taken in excessive amounts, but do the risks really outweigh the benefits? In the case of acetaminophen and to a certain extent, NSAIDS, taking the drugs over the maximum dose increases the risk of negative effects such as liver damage, stomach ulcers, kidney damage, etc, not necessarily the damage itself. NSAIDS can cause more serious long term damage, but if you follow the instructions use it accordingly, you should not run into this problem.

Considering this, and weighing the positive benefits that OTC drugs offer, I think that people should not avoid using them as long as they use them safely. They do help - anyone who has had a fever reduced, their sinuses reduced, or a migraine cured because of them will attest. People should not avoid using them, but they still should be wary, only using them when necessary and never in excessive amounts. As the FDA says, "the best way to take your over-the-counter pain reliever? Seriously."

There is a lot of negative information out there about OTC drugs, so I understand why many people would be deterred and not want to use them at all. There are holistic alternatives to OTC drugs, but these come in the form as supplements and are not as popular. I couldn't find a study comparing the effects of both methods, but I believe there has not been a big movement from OTC drugs to holistic supplements because people find it harder to believe it will work. With OTC drugs, there is some element of placebo because you know so many other people have had success with them you will too.

Based on the information about acetaminophen and NSAIDS, do you think the negatives of OTC drugs should prevent them from being used? Should people be more wary of them?

No matter what kind of over the counter medicine you are taking, it is important to be aware of the following:

·         how much you can take at one time (dose)

·         how many hours you must wait before taking another dose

·         how many times you can take it each day

·         when you should not take it and talk to your doctor

Popular Science magazine  may have an extremely interesting story for me to tell. As someone who adores spicy food - Mexican, Indian, whatever the origin, the spicier the better in my eyes (stomach?).  Written by Jennifer Abbasi, she proposes that a love for spicy food is no longer simply just a cultural upbringing, but draws a connection to your personality.


She explains that in recent years, culinary psychologists (yes, they exist) have dove into the idea that there are both biological and cultural reasoning to the food we eat - spicy food in particular. Among possible reasons are elicit pain, societal norms, or even oral anatomy.  Abbasi quotes Nadia Byrnes and John Hayes both staff here at Penn State's School of Agricultural Sciences. They say that even something has obscure as chili gives off a burning sensation that is pleasant to certain people, leaving them wanting more. Byrnes and Hayes explored the chili lovers in a large study utilizing oral receptors. Their pool avoided gender and age biases and consisted of ninety-seven participants between ages 18 to 45. The participants filled out questionnaires and rated the sensations on intensity. The study concluded that there was no association between high spicy eaters and "feeling the burn" from the receptor, which may prove that personality truly does play a key role. In other words, the individuals who enjoy spicy foods don't feel the sensation less than those who don't like spicy foods, they just seem to enjoy it more.

Byrnes and Hayes don't rule out childhood exposure and education as possibilities. I personally feel it has a lot to do with open-mindedness.  For me at least, spicy foods were an acquired taste. I never really cared for them until a few years ago.  The researchers also nod to the fact that many individuals' taste buds grow and mature as time goes on.

An even more recent study  than the one mentioned above associates spicy foods with risk takers! They are seen as "sensation seekers" by the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting. This study was coincidentally done by Penn State's staff again, Nadia Byrnes and John Hayes; this time testing 200 people on their level of risk behavior and assessing their enjoyment of intense spiciness. This is an interesting test, because people raised in the United States are brought up around spicy foods, so they may be seen as risk takers. However, if this study were done in Asia this would probably be close to normal and wouldn't describe personality.

steam out of ears.jpg

In my mind this makes complete sense.  When I sit back and think about the people I know who love spicy food they come from culturally diverse backgrounds where spices and robust combinations of flavors reign in their home. There are also the people who are willing to try anything once, and therefore they go into eating things with a positive attitude.  

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I ever wished that I had "good healthy hair". Naturally I was taken aback by her question, and slightly offended..."what's wrong with my hair" I asked and she responded "well, you have kinky hair isn't it frustrating to have bad hair" she responded. Seeing as I value my friendship with her and in all honesty was not in the mood to let an ignorant remark ruin my day I simply responded "nope I'm fine with hair just the way it is" and proceeded to change the topic of discussion. Nevertheless her remark left a lingering question in my mind... Why is Afro textured hair different from Caucasian and Asian hair? 


Afro-textured hair is the term used to refer to the natural texture of African hair that has not been altered by hot combs, flat irons, or chemicals through perming, relaxing, or straightening. Hair is composed of the bulb, root and the shaft. The bulb and the root are found under the scalp. Contrary to popular belief, the part of hair that we see, the shaft, is not a living structure. According to biology, once it shoots from the scalp, it is dead. Thus, meaning that there is no such thing as healthy hair because a dead thing cannot be healthy. However, unlike Caucasian or Asian hair, Afro textured hair has a matte or dry appearance and this is mainly because the coiled structure of our hair does not allow for sebum, a natural oil produced in the sebaceous gland in the hair follicle, to go all the along the hair shaft. Sebum hydrates hair, maintaining its moisture and volume. Your sebum is actually part of what dictates whether you have curly or straight hair. When sebum is able to easily spread from the root of the hair to the tip, this produces straight hair that is silky and shiny. In curly, coiled, kinky hair, the sebum is not able to spread down to the tip which causes the strand to curl. 

Afro-textured hair has been found to be not as densely concentrated as other hair types, the average density of Afro-textured hair was found to be approximately 190 hairs per square centimetre. This was significantly lower than that of Caucasian hair, which, on average, has approximately 227 hairs per square centimetre. In a study on the diversity of hair growth profiles Genevieve Loussouarn found that Afro-textured hair grows at an average rate of approximately 256 micrometers per day, while Caucasian hair grows at approximately 396 micrometers per day. In addition to this Afro textured hair is prone to shrinkage after it is wet which is why some people chose to perm their hair to stop the hair from coiling and shrinking after it is wet. Blogger James C. Collier states that "hair, like skin, is part of our genetically malleable, adaptable, outer layer, protecting us from the elements. Tightly coiled, moisture resistant head-hair creates an enhanced barrier to ultra-violet radiation by turning many times on itself". 

In conclusion my Afro textured hair is different from Asian or Caucasian hair because I am genetically predisposition to have hair that will protect me from the harsh rays of the African sun and because of the coil like structure of my hair the necessary lipids to keep my hair silky straight do not reach my hair shaft.


Franbourg, A., et al. "Current research on ethnic hair." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 48.6 (2003): S115-S119.

Loussouarn, Geneviève, Charles El Rawadi, and Gilles Genain. "Diversity of hair growth profiles." International journal of dermatology 44.s1 (2005): 6-9.

Good Hair, Documentary by Chris Rock

In Part 1 of this blog, I looked at a study that was referenced a lot in my research of why vegetarianism could lead to a healthier lifestyle. It was a huge observational study and eventually concluded that vegetarians live longer than meat eaters. Now, as promised, I'll look at the other side of the conversation.

A lot of people believe that vegetarianism can actually lead to a less healthy lifestyle because meat contains many important proteins and nutrients that aren't as prevalent or concentrated in vegetables, fruits, legumes, dairy, and grains.


For example, there is an essential nutrient in meat called vitamin B-12 that is responsible for "keeping the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helping make DNA". It also, "helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak." However, because vitamin B-12 is only found naturally in meat and dairy products, a strict vegetarian may find it hard to intake the daily-recommended amounts. This deficiency can "boost blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid implicated as a strong risk factor for heart disease and stroke... [and] promote blockages in arteries over time.

A study published by a team of German researchers in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined the status of vitamin B-12 in a group of 95 vegetarians (66 lactovegetarians- no meat poultry, or fish and 29 vegans- no food or animal origin) and 79 omnivores, all of which had maintained their current dietary habits for over than a year. The scientists further screened these participants to exclude those that had associations with any of the following...

• Renal disease

• Current consumption of weight-loss diets

• Current pregnancy

• Medication or metabolic diseases known to influence nutritional status.

All subjects were also asked to "complete a preliminary questionnaire about lifestyle factors, the degree of animal-products restriction they followed, and vitamin consumption." Then, the researchers collected twelve-hour fasting blood samples from all the participants and analyzed the levels of vitamin B-12 using biochemical markers. 


The results showed that 92% of vegans, 66% of the lactovegetarians, and 5% of meat eaters had a vitamin B-12 deficiency. These findings held true even though 17 vegans (59%) and 13 LV-LOV subjects (20%) reported supplementing their diet with bioengineered B vitamins.

How much stock can be put into these findings though? Well let's analyze the study.

The participant pool was a good sample size (165 people total) and was split between vegetarians (58%) and meat eaters (42%) pretty evenly. As mentioned before, the researchers also controlled for a number of possible confounding variables. Even though the study was partially observational, the researchers did take measurements of the participants' 12-hour fasting B-12 vitamin levels to see how the x variable (type of diet) affected them. Furthermore, the report of the study is thorough and detailed, allowing the experiment to be easily reproduced. All in all, I'd say that the research was carried out well.

However, there were a few potential flaws. Because participants were responsible for classifying their own diet before the study, researchers really have no way of knowing if what the subjects reported was completely accurate. In addition, even though some confounding variables were controlled, more could exist. Last but not least, as always, the findings could also have been do to chance. 

Ultimately though, I believe that the results of this study should at least be a warning to people considering a vegetarian diet. They don't necessarily prove that a diet without meat is unhealthy, but they do provide some evidence to support the claim. In my personal opinion, I'd have to do more research before making a final judgment on whether or not vegetarianism is worth it in the long run. It's also important to remember that many people choose to be vegetarians for reasons other than the potential health benefits. For example, some people don't eat meat for spiritual or ethical (animal rights) reasons. In the end, it seems like the benefits of vegetarianism are ultimately determined by whether or not an individual believes the potential risks are less than the potential rewards. 

The final of my three blog music posts will question why we listen to sad music and how music is said to heal.  In an article from the NY Times by Al Kawakami the reasoning behind our love for sad music is explored. Kawakami brings up a strong point: why do we listen to music that just seems to induce our sadness? Why does it please us? These are questions experts have pondered for years, and the respect for artistic expression may be the answer.

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Kawakami and his colleagues studied a new idea of "music emotion" this "encompasses both the felt emotion that the music induces in the listener and the perceived emotion that the listener judges the music to express." When separating the emotion of the song and the emotion felt by the listener it is easier to dissect their true identities. In Kawakami's experiment he had a random pool of 44 participants, men and women. He then had them listen to thirty-seconds of three separate musical selections, experimenting with minor and major keys. A participant would be asked several basic questions on their current state of being after listening to the selections.  The researchers concluded that despite certain music being deemed "tragic" the listeners didn't typically feel that way about the piece; it was more of how they perceived it.  After having the subjects listen to "happy" pieces a similar conclusion was reached. The participants didn't exactly feel "happier," but they could easily perceive happy emotions.  This also came across in rating of 62 emotion related words - participants ranked perceived emotions higher than felt emotions.

Kawakami believes that when we listen to sad or happy music we can easily separate ourselves from the true feelings, because unless we are in the situation we know we subconsciously know we are not in any danger. Interestingly, like the past experiments I have discussed that innate ability to differentiate between feelings in music and feelings in "reality" come up again.

Tied into the sadness question posed above, a sensation that is currently gaining momentum is music therapy. According to Suzanne Hanser, EdD, chairperson of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music and a music therapist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, explains ways to utilize music to help heal. The article claims that music therapy manages pain, decreases nausea during chemotherapy, relieves anxiety, and lowers blood pressure among other health benefits.  "There is no set prescription," Hanser says. She claims anything you could need is found in your own home. An important aspect of successful music therapy is choosing music with appropriate memories and feelings. She "prescribes" upbeat and rhythmic selections in order to cheer up and classical and new age music if you're trying to sleep. She even has certain methods and routines that optimize results. For example, before bed she suggests skipping after dinner coffee to wind down, and relax by listening to your music in bed whilst taking deep, steady breaths.  If interested in music therapy, definitely check out the article it has some useful information. Not only is music therapy a personal experiment, but it is being widely used among hospitals. Many of you might have recognized the practice which benefits from THON efforts.

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As per usual, I suppose all of these benefits could be due to chance. It might also be worth noting that when someone is hurt or stressed they often listen to music, but you don't listen to music in order to get hurt or stressed.  Music therapy is a very unique practice and worth experimenting, so maybe one day before dreaded finals week lie down on your twin sized bed, concentrate on proper breathing, and switch on a slow Dave Matthews Band jam to get yourself comfortable. 

Sodas and health


We have talked about sodas and the effects to our health in class. We have also talked about the risk factors in following the new "rules"about drinking soda, which should be compared with cigarettes in terms of how society is receiving it. In a new study, analysis involved 194,095 participants; over a median follow-up of more than 8 years, 4462 incident cases occurred. There was a 23% higher risk of developing kidney stones in the highest category of consumption of sugar-sweetened cola compared with the lowest category and a 33% higher risk of developing kidney stones for sugar-sweetened noncola; there was a marginally significant higher risk of developing kidney stones for artificially sweetened noncola.


Kidney stones are no joke.  Over 200 components have been found in the stones, and they are mostly deposited while urinating. This is incredibly painful for somebody that is trying to pass a kidney stone. It is commonly known that fr every 4 men that form a kidney stone, one woman has one. Does anybody think that the experiment above could have ben caused by chance? Andrew has made it clear that everything can be caused by chance. But Is there a higher probability in this case?



                Among the long list of things I've been procrastinating (homework, a dentist appointment, an oil change, etc.) is a tonsillectomy. After being diagnosed with sleep apnea caused by enlarged tonsils, my doctor recommended I get a tonsillectomy. Although I'm not excited to undergo surgery, I can at least look forward to a nice big bowl of ice cream afterwards.


                Curious about what I'm in store for, I had to do my research. When I searched the internet on information related to tonsil removal, I found an interesting article about children getting their tonsils out. This article explains a phenomenon that really perplexed me: there may be a correlation between children who get their tonsils out and weight gain. A study of 127 children who got their tonsils out showed that within 6 months to a year, the average weight gain was 7 percent of their body mass index. With tonsil removal being the most common surgery for children in America, the article speculates that maybe tonsil removal has something to do with the childhood obesity epidemic. I did some math to put things in perspective. If a 5 foot tall adolescent weighing 112 pounds gained a 7 percent increase in BMI, he would shoot up to 120.7 pounds, an 8.7 pound gain in one year. While 8 pounds in a year isn't necessarily outrageous, it is something to think about. If that's the average, then it's possible that some kids are moving categories on the BMI scale. Some kids may even be going from a healthy BMI (between 18.5 and 24.9) to an overweight BMI (between 25 and 29.9). This would certainly be cause for concern after just one year.

                So why are kids gaining weight after they get their tonsils removed? The article speculates that kids tend to eat more after they are removed. When tonsils are inflamed or infected, kids may be more hesitant to eat because of the added difficulty or discomfort of swallowing. After they get their tonsils removed, the decreased discomfort may encourage them to eat more. This is certainly possible. Much like girls have bad hair days, I have bad tonsil days. Very often, I alter my eating habits because of tonsil discomfort regardless of my unaffected appetite. Like I said, I can't wait to inhale a nice big bowl of ice cream as soon as I get them removed. This hypothesis I can agree with.

                Another thing the article points out is that children must use more energy (and therefore burn more calories) to breathe when their tonsils are enlarged. The article speculates that once the enlarged tonsils are removed, it becomes easier to breathe, and therefore children burn less calories and gain more weight. To me, this hypothesis is garbage. Sure, my enlarged tonsils may make me work harder to breathe. But don't expect the next Cosmo issue to reveal tonsillitis (enlarged tonsils) as the next great weight loss secret.  First of all, difficulty breathing caused by tonsillitis discourages me from attempting the most effective way to burn calories: heavy exercise. Knowing that I'll be prematurely short of breath from even a heavy jog makes me not want to go out for a run, meaning I'll miss out on a nice calorie-burning cardio session. Secondly, the article is leaving out my demographic: those who have sleep apnea from enlarged tonsils. Sleep apnea can become a problem when enlarged tonsils block the airway during sleep. This actually leads to weight gain among other problems. So it is possible that children with enlarged tonsils (who also experience sleep apnea) could actually start losing weight after the surgery.

                Either way, I think there is still more that could be explored. Tonsillitis is caused by infections. Is it possible that the same lifestyle that leads to infections in the tonsils also leads to obesity? I don't necessarily think the relationship between tonsil removal and weight gain is causational. This study examined over 300 children, but I have not seen other studies like it. I would like to see more experiments done with third variables in mind to investigate this epidemic of weight gain after tonsil surgeries in children.

                No matter what, though, nobody can stop me from enjoying a great big bowl of cookies n' cream ice cream after I get my tonsils out.

Around this time last year, my dad went to a health conference with the company he works for, General Electric. At the conference were a number of other companies, all which were presenting some sort of new health and fitness product. One of these companies included Nike, who was presenting their new device called Nike FuelBand. Nike FuelBands are "bracelets" that you wear throughout the day from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, which track your energy output that day. You figure out a daily goal, and the FuelBand tracks your active movement and displays them as "fuel points" in which you can achieve in order to meet your goal. Everyone at the conference got these bracelets for free, and my dad has been addicted ever since. 

Although my dad was instantly sold by the Nike FuelBand, I was not so easily convinced of the accurateness of these devices. My question was, "why would someone pay $150 for a speedometer in fancy packaging?" After some research, however, I learned a lot more about how these bands actually go about tracking your activity, and it is not just the amount of steps you take. On the nike website, the page for FuelBands states that "NikeFuel is a single, universal way to measure all kinds of activities- from your morning workout to your big night out. Uniquely designed to measure whole-body movement no matter your age, weight or gender, NikeFuel tracks your active life". If you're wondering about how exactly these fit in to your daily routine and measure your activity, the video called A Day With Nike+ FuelBand tracks three different people throughout a day wearing the FuelBand. 

Not only are Nike FuelBands great for tracking your daily activity, but they are great for motivating you to reach your daily activity goal. There is a Nike FuelBand app in which FuelBand users can upload their daily activity, set new goals, unlock rewards and surprises for beating your goals, share your success and even see other users around them and connect with each other in order to possibly workout together! You can also plug your FuelBand into your computer and the software will take all of your data from your FuelBand and generate charts and graphs that show your activity history and activity trends! To me, this is a huge appeal of the FuelBand, as seeing this information in front of you on a computer screen can help you understand your progress and motivate you more!

Obviously, Nike FuelBands are not yet perfect, as they have only been out for about a year or so, but they keep on improving, as a new updated version of the FuelBand will be coming out in 2014! This new technology, as small as it seems, is really a key contributor to a new era of personal health and fitness devices. Will you join in the new fad and consider getting a Nike FuelBand? I think I just might. 


Does age really matter when it comes to the consumption of alcohol, and if so why does the required drinking age vary so greatly from country to country? This is a question that came to mind after my trip to Ireland last summer where I was able to legally purchase and consume alcohol whenever I pleased.

The drinking age in most European countries  is 18 years of age, however the drinking age in the United States is 21 years of age, so why is this and are the three years that separate the two significant? According to the National Library of Medicine "setting the minimum legal drinking age at 21 clearly reduces alcohol and its major harms." Drinking age is a number set in order to attempt to reduce the number of alcohol related harms, so when deciding on an age it is important to pick it based upon whether or not the reduction in alcohol-related harms justifies the reduction in consumer surplus. For instance it wouldn't make much sense to change the drinking age from 21 years of age to 25 years of age in the US, because adults in this age group experience a significantly less amount of alcohol-related harms than those form the 18-21 age group. In this situation, the value of raising the age would not be greater than the value of the associated costs. This is opposed to changing the drinking age down from 21 to 18 where alcohol-related harms are much more frequent, therefore the value that is obtained from drinking is not as valuable as the consumers safety. Overall this study found that setting the minimum legal drinking  age at 21 opposed to 18 clearly reduces alcohol-related harms, which is ultimately the main reason we have a required drinking age; safety.

An opposing study in The Daily Wildcat claims that it's about time that we lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, under the basis that people who are under 21 drink less often than people who are older than 21, however when people that are under 21 drink, they often drink more than someone older than 21 would in a single sitting, which leads to binge drinking, the reason why alcohol related harms occur in the first place. The author of this article believes that if we lowered the drinking age to 18 then we would almost eliminate the problem of binge drinking, because the 18 year olds would follow the trends of the 21 year olds and not drink as much in a single sitting. I believe this to be an entirely bogus theory with many flaws, even though the article does claim that "More than 70 percent of teens drink by the time they reach 18, and 80 percent of college students drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism". Personally I couldn't see lowering the drinking age just because of a trend that proves that people of age are less likely to binge drink than those underage. I believe that this issue would just create a bigger problem for us and in no way remove the problem of binge drinking, it would just present it to a younger crowed. I believe that if we lowered the drinking age to 18 then 15 and 16 year olds would first and foremost be more inclined to drink, and would then begin to trade places with the 18 year olds in this paradox, causing them to binge drink. Personally I would rather have an 18-year-old binge drinking than the 15 or 16 year old whose body is much less matured and therefore not as capable of digesting alcohol properly.

Overall I believe that 21 is the optimal drinking age as far as our country is concerned; a place where people pride themselves on there drinking ability rather than their intelligence quotient. As far as I see it I, if the drinking age were lowered I do not believe that the amount of alcohol related harms would be reduced, in fact I feel as though they would occur much more frequently. The only reason why I could see making a change in the legal drinking age would be for the sole purpose of reducing these harms, which has been proven back in the 1970's and 80's when some states had a required drinking age of only 18,  to only increase when the drinking age is lowered. With that being said I do not believe that reducing the drinking age is the answer, and 21 seems to be the happy medium age, where of course there are still alcohol-related harms, but much less than there would be if the age was lowered. 



Medicine: A Good or Bad thing?

As far as I knew growing up, I thought taking over-the-counter painkillers for your sickness/pain needs was a universally accepted practice. It wasn't uncommon in my house to ask for a tylenol when you had a headache, motrin when you had a fever, etc.

It wasn't until this year that I met people who try to avoid medicine as much as they can. I met people, a doctor and a nurse, who told me they don't believe in medicine for day to day issues. They believe that the human body is very resilient and can take care of itself. My roommates, having been raised the same way, rarely take any medicine unless they absolutely have to. Interestingly enough, they rarely have to at all.

I am the opposite - when I feel a headache brewing, which happens kind of frequently I guess because of my allergies, I take a Tylenol without even thinking about it.

"Three-fifths of the medications purchased in the United States are nonprescription over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, widely viewed as a cost-effective segment of personal health care" - that number tells me that I am not alone in my practice. Should I start thinking twice every time I take over-the-counter medicine like my roommates, or should they not be afraid of taking over-the-counter medicine when they need it?

This post, I will focus on the common over-the-counter drug ingredient, acetaminophen. In my next/follow-up post, I will focus on analyzing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are found in Aspirin, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve among other medications.

People take over-the-counter drugs all the time. They take them as pain relievers and fever reducers, as cures for coughs and colds, as a solution to aches, cramps, and discomfort. And they help. According to the consumer goods tracker Information Resources Inc., "Drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchandisers like Target and Kmart sold more than $2 billion worth of over-the-counter pain medicine in the past year." OTC drugs are popular and offer convenience and results to consumers. Based on this information, it makes sense to use these types of drugs when you need them.

Too much of a good thing, however, can be bad, which is why a lot of controversy has surrounded OTC drugs in the past few years till now. Within the last two years, the FDA had recommended a ban on all prescription pain relievers containing the ingredient acetaminophen. This is concerning as acetaminophen is the number one ingredient in the OTC pain reliever Tylenol. The panel also proposed "lowering the amount of acetaminophen in over-the-counter medication like Tylenol from 500 milligrams to 325, which could cap the maximum daily dose at 2,600 milligrams." Apparently, the reason for this was because "about 400 Americans die and 42,000 more visit the ER because of acetaminophen overdoses, which can lead to liver damage." Since many OTC products contain acetaminophen, this makes overdosing not hard to do if an uneducated person is self-medicating.

Liver damage is a word that has been floating around acetaminophen since it came out. To get to the point of risk of liver damage however, one would have to take more than 8 pills of Tylonel, or exceed 4000 milligrams of acetaminophen, within a twenty-four hour period. That is a lot of tylonel, which is why Sandra Kweder, M.D., deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) insists that "there is no immediate danger to patients who take these combination pain medications and they should continue to take them as directed by their health care provider."

Continue reading my next post where I will analyze another type of OTC ingredient and then make a conclusion based on the evidence I have found.

We all know that obesity can have serious health risk such as heart disease, high cholesterol and increased risk of early death. According to a new study, obesity can cause other serious problems too, such as loss of vision and hearing.


Hearing loss, according to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, can be prevented by remaining at a healthy weight and by exercising regularly. A study was conducted which measured physical activity, body mass index, waist circumference, and hearing loss and included more than 68,000 women. The women were tracked for 20 years. The study showed that those with a higher BMI were at a 17-40 percent higher risk of hearing loss. It showed that women with a bigger waist circumference also had a higher risk for hearing loss, between an 11-27 percent increase. Walking for two hours a week can lower the risk by more than 15%. This study, however, did not account for genetics or other risk factors, such as a working environment with loud volumes. Women with these third-variables should be exempt from the study's reported results.


According to another study, obesity can also increase the risk for loss of vision. Obesity is related to the creation of cataracts, which act as a thin film over the eye and impair vision. Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is another disease of the eye that can be caused by obesity. ARMD causes loss of central vision, and that even a 0.1 increase in the waist/hip ratio increased the risk of ARMD by over 75%. In addition, obesity can cause diabetes, which can cause damage to a blood vessel inside the retina. This study was not described in depth, so it is hard to say whether or not third variables were taken into consideration or whether they would impact the results.


Neither of these articles delved into the actual biological mechanism behind the results. If I were to hypothesize, I would say that it was due to the body working harder to do so many other things because of the increased body weight, that it put too much stress on the other parts of the body, such as the ears and eyes. Or, there could be nutrients in food that, when consumed in large amounts, are dangerous to those parts of the body.


It is hard to say what exactly causes these reactions, because the studies didn't specify, but it is safe to say that these are just two more extremely dangerous risks of being overweight and obese. There are so many benefits to losing weight that it is always worth a shot to eat right and exercise.


The Benefits of Books

When I was little, every night without fail, my dad would read me at least three books. He did the same with my older brother and with my little brother too and he did so before we were even old enough to understand what he was saying. I've always heard that reading to children makes them smarter but I never knew if it was actually true. Turns out, it might be. 

According to this article I found, reading to children when they are young helps with literacy development, language acquisition, and achievement in reading comprehension. It also increases the children's overall success in school. Approximately twenty-six percent of kids who were read to when they were young at least three to four times a week by someone in their family recognized all the letters of the alphabet. Kids that were read to frequently are more likely to be able to count to 20 or higher than children who were not. Children who were read to also were more likely to be able to write their own names and read. Apparently, just by having books in the house can help improve the student improve in school as well. 


College kids drink a lot.  Most of that probably isn't water.  Judging by the lines at Dunkin, Starbucks and any other speciality coffee store each morning, students thrive on their caffeine fix each morning.  Whether we want to admit it or not, many studies have show that a majority of college students have "alcoholic tendencies" by drinking enough alcohol to technically qualify them as an alcoholic.  It is widely proven and accepted that caffeine is bad for your heart/blood pressure and alcohol has a negative effect on your liver.  But could these two popular college vices help your genome?

A study from Tel Aviv University's 

Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology

has isolated telomere, the end points of our genomes, as a contributing cause of aging and cancer.  They wanted to figure out what factors affect the telomere in hopes to fight diseases in the future. "Most of the stressors -- from temperature and pH changes to various drugs and chemicals -- had no effect on telomere length.  But a low concentration of caffeine, similar to the amount found in a shot of espresso, shortened telomeres, and exposure to a 5-to-7 percent ethanol solution lengthened telomeres."

Before we all go running to Dunkin and the state store for our caffeine and alcohol fixes, Professor Kupiec urges us to recognize there is much more research to be done before we can be sure that alcohol and caffeine have these positive genomatic effects. While more laboratory work needs to be done to prove a cause and effect relationship as opposed to just correlation, she recommends we all "Try to relax and drink a little coffee and a little beer." Doctor's orders!

Mosquitoes are annoying. Period. I am sure they serve some scientific purpose but I don't know what it is and refuse to acknowledge what it is so my irrational hatred won't be rebutted. Therefore this article is not about their "purpose". However, I have always wondered why one never finds a mosquito on their clothes but always on their bare skin! Do they smell the blood they yearn for through my skin? (Does blood even have a scent?) This article helps explain that.

A study at the University of California Riverside has unlocked the answer, and more importantly if there's anything we can do to stop these pesky bugs!  For years it was thought the complex antennae of the mosquitos were the key to them finding our bare skin and feasting. Upon further research, however, "...the very receptors in the mosquito's maxillary palp that detect carbon dioxide are the ones that detect skin orders as  well, thus explaining why mosquitoes are attracted to skin odor -- smelly socks, worn clothes, bedding -- even in the absence of carbon dioxide." Fortunately, there is good news, as they were able to focus in on two "compounds" that can help deter the mosquitos from our flesh.  They hope to use these compounds to both "mask" the scent on us and to "pull" the mosquitos interest away from us.  There is even some methods that can work for multiple people in an area, including some that don't even require skin application.  Further research on this subject may help you and I at our next family picnic, but could be essential to eradicating the mosquito epidemic that currently plagues some prominent third world countries.


Another burning question, why do humans enjoy music? It's mind-boggling that music has such power of us.  Unsurprisingly, for something so variable there is not just one answer.  When this question was proposed to Dr. John Powell, a Visiting Professor of Materials Science at the University of Nottingham he had some interesting points to make. Firstly, he distinguished the differences between sounds of music versus noises. They are simply not the same, your ears register noises as warning signs for danger, and your ears can also magnificently register musical instruments and voices that are "unlikely to be lethal," he writes. He further explains the way the human ear reacts to music: the ear drum consistently pulsates in and out x number of times per second. The fact that our ears respond differently to the ebb and flow of music versus other sounds allow the individuals to hone in on harmonies, melodies, and all other elements of the music. Dr. Powell clarifies the significance of a simple twang on a stringed instrument like a cello or guitar. The pluck or strum gives off frequencies that bounce to us, leaving a pleasant sound. As a species we appreciate melodic notes, and enjoy spots of tension that resolve. These "twangs" allow orchestrations to blossom and combinations of sounds to thrive. When listening to a song it is important for consistency and consecutiveness, which often holds a certain melody or musical phrase that resonates with the listener. This key note is known as "home." Dr. Powell describes well written songs as "conversation." Perhaps this is what makes listening to music an everyday occurrence for most humans; our subconscious wants to hear what the music has to say.

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Contrary to the ideas just discussed, there is also a natural desire to "keep us guessing." With so many variations of music, Dr. Powell says that in genres such as jazz or classical anticipation builds and builds only to "set up expectations and then either reward or frustrate them." A third component that adds to the pleasure we find in music would be the natural cadence of a song. From drumming, dancing, or short and sweet pop melodies it gives the audience something to hum and remember. 

Like in my first article, Dr. Powell goes on to discuss the significance of Western music. Unlike many traditional music systems, Western music follows sequences that are carefully organized. Indian traditional music for example is vastly different where there may be a steady drum and a soloist soars among an abundance of varying notes. These two musical systems and all those in between are different, yet possess the same hold over humans. According to Dr. Powell science can't distinguish why an individual might prefer one type of genre over another. He also included an interesting analogy that like acquiring a taste for new food it takes people about 10 times of "trying" a new genre of music to actually get enjoyment out of it if originally put off.

To ensure Dr. Powell was accurate, I found several other resources that say virtually the same thing.One in particular from Time magazine written by Michael D. Lemonick brings up an interesting point. We technically don't need music to survive. It doesn't help us physically reproduce, make food, or sleep. So why has it lasted all these years? It has been cultural foundation for the billions of people that have roamed this planet. It is the center of many worlds, religions, and customs.

The most intriguing part of Lemonick's article brings to light the science. Music activates the part of the brain that releases dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that gets released during the climax of sex and eating. It's most commonly discussed with addictive drugs and taboo behavior, but it is certainly a natural release for humans. Because music triggers the release of this chemical, that is another stack of evidence to add onto our already lengthy pile on why music is truly so enjoyable for humans. Music is tied to our "survival mechanisms" that allow us to recognize patterns and understand emotions (as mentioned earlier).  The main component all these researchers and scientists stressed in their findings was the ultimate foundation of being satisfied. Music gives humans a release, an outlet, and something to hold onto.

To conclude, there is something innately within us, perhaps a biological mechanism, that gives us imagination, aspiration, and satisfaction when listening to music. We have every desire to plug in headphones and "zone out" to our favorite songs.

As an avid Harry Potter fan, I've certainly yearned for an invisibility cloak.  Take a second and imagine all you could accomplish without the fear of ever being seen. Now come back to reality and realize that invisibility cloaks exist only in the make believe world of Harry Potter; us mere muggles will never see one in real life.

Or so I used to believe.  As it turns out, electrical engineers at the University of Texas -- Austin, have been studying actual invisibility cloaks.  Could this be THE Christmas item this holiday shopping season?  Sadly, their research has counterintuitively found that items behind an invisibility cloak are actually more visible. How invisibility cloaks work, I learned, is by scattering specific wavelengths. "For example, making an object invisible to red light may also make it bright blue, boosting its overall visibility.  Assuming one looked at all wavelengths of light, one would actually see cloaked object more than the uncloaked object it is trying to hide." Made of "meta-materials", these invisibility cloaks scatter a specific type of wavelength. Unfortunately, their research has shown that by scattering a specific type of wavelength enhances the visibility of other types of wavelengths.

All hope of walking around in secret isn't lost yet though.  Their research show there is potential in making cloaks with dynamic active material that essentially tailor the coat to the different types of wavelengths currently present. The three scientists on the project believe there is potential for these active invisibility cloaks in the I guess truly anything is possible!


There you are, sitting in the Hub on a typical Friday afternoon.  You scramble through the crowds of students to find an empty seat just to sit for the hour between now and your next class.  To no avail, you circle the hub three times and finally a seat opens up. You pull out a reading for your class, finger through the pages but can't seem to catch a break from the girl sitting next to you chatting obnoxiously on her cellphone. And the Starbucks line stretches out so far you're practically among the dozens of people waiting for their pumpkin spice lattes. Now you decide to whip out your earphones and switch on a playlist. Finally, some peace and quiet. You find serenity among the absolute chaos surrounding you. You smile to yourself as your favorite melody pours into your ears.

The above situation seems all too familiar to each of us. It's a simple equation. When we're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, upset, happy, or sad (whatever emotion happens to be with us that day) we choose music as our drug of choice. It acts as a pain reliever or gives us a euphoric high. Why is music truly the universal language? Why do we genuinely enjoy music? Why are we willing to pay hundreds of dollars for fancy headphones, concert tickets, or mp3s? I hope to answer these questions and support the importance of music in my following blog posts.

To start simply, according to Webster's dictionary music is "the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity." The textbook definition sounds rather wordy, so it is much simpler to break music down to a colorful science of art. One question that has been pondered throughout the ages is if music truly is the universal language? Well, according to a study published on March 19th, 2009 in Current Biology newsmagazine yes, yes it is. The revolutionary study conducted by Thomas Fritz and Stefan Koelsch of the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences along with their colleagues, set their objective on the effects of Western music. They wanted to explore the many ways Western music can be understood and possibly appreciated by people who had absolutely no previous experience. The researchers contrasted the expression of emotion in typical Western music to the culturally vibrant, ritualistic music found in other musical traditions. Although previous studies had been conducted in attempt to make similar finds, none truly required participants "who are completely naive to Western music."

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To find participants for this study, Fritz and his team of colleagues traveled to the central African country Cameroon where he recruited the Mafa community, one of the many ethnic tribes located in the region. The researchers traveled to the group's home located in the desolate Mandara mountain ranges. There, Fritz brought a backpack with his laptop computer and solar electricity source to power the laptop.  The studies concluded that Mafa listeners who had never heard Western music could register musical expressions of emotions, "more often than would be expected by chance." Twenty-one Mafa group members participated, and due to the incredibly unique experience of listening to Western music the research concluded two of the participants were more than likely performing at chance level. The study later included a number of Westerners who had never been exposed to Western music. In all, the listeners used human instinct to decode messages such as changes in tempo, volume and pitch. Interestingly, the study also concluded that these first time listeners found the original version of music   more appealing than the remixed or technologically altered versions.

The ultimate conclusion of this study was that both new listeners, Mafa and Westerners, possessed the capability to "recognize three basic emotional expressions" undergone in this study. All participants were able to gauge at or above the chance level which is indicative of the fact that these Western pieces can indeed be universally recognized. Fritz compared these results of universal music to that of recognizing human facial expressions and speech intonation.  This study, specific and unique from others done before helps us see that despite chance and third variables, this control group was able to truly verify that music is a universal language.

In my opinion, I find the study quite interesting and well thought out. Although it was hard for me to distinguish particular details from the article I read, I do feel the study was a success. It found problems from earlier trials and applied that knowledge to the new experiment. Because the nature of the objective was rather obvious and general, I feel that third variables and chance do not really take part in the study. If the subject has never heard Western music or anything like it, they simply must rely on their own instincts to guide them. According to Fritz and his team of experts, they did just that. They differentiated between the feelings emoted through song. Personally, I would have been interested to see the song list they chose to play for the participants. What would you have done differently if conducting the study?

I have always been a dog lover, having spent the vast majority of my life with multiple dogs in the house.  It has always been clear to me that there are easy ways to tell when my canine friends were happy...licks, nudging me for pets, and, of course, anytime they were eating.  I also always associated wagging tails as a sign they were happy, perhaps even ready for some playtime! A new study by the Center of Mind/Brain Science in Italy has just completed a study that, while not necessarily proving me wrong, found some important details about the tail wagging, specifically with which direction it is wagging.

Through a study using 43 dogs of various breeds with a custom vest for tracking results, they found there is a clear difference between the emotions of a dog wagging it's tail to the left versus wagging it to the right.  "The pets...(with) left-side tail wagging behaved more anxiously and their heart rate sped up...while the dogs that watched on their peers wag their tail to the right stayed cool, suggesting a signal of companionship," the researchers said

. They further hypothesized that the left and right side of the brain in dogs trigger different emotions, much like human brains! The hope is to use this information to improve canine welfare and keep dogs calmer while visiting the vet.  As a dog-owner that has taken my dogs to the vet many times, I will happily endorse any way to help keep dogs calmer...especially during those dreaded "shot" visits.


Whenever I think about the winter holiday season, I instantly get excited. Christmastime, no school, and quality time with my family, what could be better? Since this time of the year is so upbeat and magical, I figured it would directly play a part in reducing seasonal depression. But instead, many studies have shown that the winter brings about seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.
Every case is different, but seasonal affective disorder during the holiday season can have to do with a number of things including stress, fatigue, or unrealistic expectations. What is interesting about this specific disorder is that it only occurs during the winter months, and people who suffer from SAD tend to be okay during other seasons. How can people be so sad in winter months but so full of life in all of the other seasons?
A 2008 study by Jaap Denissen shows that there is a significant association between sunlight and tiredness, which can then affect someone's mood. He states that it is not the weather that affects one's mood, but rather the lack of energy. As winter approaches and hours of sunlight decrease, so does one's energy level, which can then lead to a change in mood or behavior.
Although this is a unique study, I believe it makes sense. SAD is less common in countries near to the equator where the hours of sunlight are more constant and bright throughout the year, which directly correlates with Denissen's ideas. In addition, SAD is less common in the summertime, where there is clearly more sunlight. Because of the ideas of this study, I would recommend looking at bright lights in order to try and feel happier during winter months. Maybe looking at Christmas lights will reduce depression as well.
Works Cited:

"Holiday Depression and Stress Symptoms, Causes, Treatment - What Are Symptoms and Signs of Holiday Depression and Stress? - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <>

"United States." AccuWeather. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <>

Aliens: Life beyond earth!