Monthly Archives: October 2012

Accutane: Acne Breakthrough or Patient’s Worst Mistake?

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

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

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


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

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



Breaking Out

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

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


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

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


The Sleepwalker

sleepwalking-man.jpg  Ever fallen asleep in your bed and end up somewhere else when you wake up?  These are one of the many things a sleepwalker may do.  Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to get up and walk while sleeping.  It may also be referred to as somnambulism. This is usually during the deep stage of sleeping. (The link provides the different stages of sleeping.) The sleepwalker is usually unable to respond to anyone or anything during this type of sleep. They also usually do not remember doing what they did.  

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

Is sleepwalking harmful? 
  Sleepwalking is not harmful; however, people who sleepwalk may not know what they are doing or where they are going.  Some people tend to go outside and take a casual stroll down the street or even just walking downstairs.  Sleepwalking is not a sign of something being psychologically wrong with an individual.  The odds are the person may not even remember what they did by the time they wake up. 
How to keep a sleepwalker safe
  You should not wake a sleep walker especially if the person is a child because it may scare them.  You can however gently guide them back to their bed.  In addition, if you know your child is prone to sleepwalking you should lock all of your doors and windows to prevent them from doing anything too dangerous. 
I remember one time I was sleepwalking.  I had a dream but I did not think I was physically doing the dream.  I dreamt that I brought my blanket downstairs to my living room.  However, the next morning I woke up in my bed with no blanket on me and my dad was wondering why my blanket was on the couch downstairs in my living room.  We all laughed about it but were kind of creeped out at the same time. Do you ever sleep walk?  Do you even remember if you have ever?  
Websites used:
Website for the pictures:

Is Spell-Check Making Us Stupid?

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

The claim that spell-check is making us stupid has been the topic of plenty of articles and 11 o’clock news segments. In fact, the general idea that technology is dumbing us down is of popular interest. Whether it’s GPS, video games or technology in general, it appears are though our cognitive abilities as a population are at risk. An article published by BBC News in 2012 referenced a survey that appears to support the hypothesis that spell-check is “making us dumb”. The survey was commissioned by Mencap and found that out of the 2,000 Britons surveyed, approximately one-third of participants could not spell “definitely” and two-thirds failed to identify the correct spelling of “necessary”. Only 9% of the participants claimed to never use spell-check. The director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Ian McNeilly, commented that “If people are blindly writing things and expecting automated programs to address all of their inaccurate spellings, that’s a concern-because they won’t” (BBC News).
An article published by the Atlantic Wire  in the same year argues that while the conclusions of the Mencap survey hold some validity, “it is hardly a sudden development” (The Atlantic Wire). The article referenced two previous studies, both indicating that bad spelling was a problem long before Microsoft Word. A Stanford University study assembled students’ papers in 1988 and again in 2008 and ranked the most common errors. Within the twenty-year span, the frequency of the use of the wrong word and misspellings jumped dramatically. A 2005 study done by Harvard University on 65 graduate and undergraduate students “at a major northeastern U.S. university” (Harvard study)  found that when spell-check was on, participants made more mistakes than when it was turned off.
The conclusion that the Atlantic Wire came up with from these results was that “Computer spell-check, an invention of the 1970s has been making us worse at spelling for at least 25 years” (The Atlantic Wire). Based on the variety of these studies, I find this to be a logical conclusion. A double blind placebo trial isn’t reasonable in this kind of experiment, so the variety and scale of observational studies is critical. These studies have not only tracked the changes in spelling as a result of spell-check over time, but in regards to the Harvard study, the independent variable has been manipulated to see if it has an effect on the dependent variable. While technology has its merits, there are also downsides to consider. Do you find yourself dependent on spell-check when you draft assignments on a computer or smartphone? Are the number of spelling mistakes you make in hand-written notes as frequent as the ones you make on the computer?  Would you ever try replicating the Harvard study by turning spell-check software off and seeing how your spelling and grammar is without the threat of those squiggly red lines?

What REALLY caused Hurricane Sandy

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


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

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

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

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


The less disciplining…the better?

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

Reinforcement refers to the measures taken to increase a behavior:

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Should Washing Your Hair Be A Daily Ritual?

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


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

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

The Deadliest Warrior

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


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


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


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

How to learn a language in 10 days

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


Dr. Paul Pimsleur created this method based on the idea that it wasn’t the amount of words you know but rather the relevance of them. According to this article, studies show native speakers only use about 2,500 “distinct words and phrases on a daily basis.”(SmarterLifestyles) The Pimsleur Approach uses these “language building blocks” to teach these specific 2,500 words. 
He unfortunately died suddenly in 1976, at 48 years old, before his courses were even available to customers. It wasn’t until 1980 that a “listening booth” was used at the Harvard bookstore so “prospective learners could sample the lessons and understand how the Pimsleur Method worked”(Simon and Schuster’s) before they were convinced and committed. 

Pimsleur’s methodology behind his method was based on several key concepts he deemed important in learning a language. 
1) Anticipation
Pimsleur argued that “to repeat after an instructor” was a “passive way of learning.”
(wikipedia) Instead, he created a “challenge and response” technique. 

Thumbnail image for pimsleur approach ad, devil horns.jpg

The student would translate a phrase in his/her first language “into the target language.” Pimsleur said this was a more “active way of learning” forcing the student to “think before responding.”(wikipedia) 
A way of learning language through retention by spaced repetition. Vocabulary is tested based on Pimsleur’s “memory schedule” – 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, 2 years. To me, this is similar to using flash cards but for a longer period of timing (Pimsleur, P.; Modern Language Journal) 
3) Core vocabulary 
As stated above, studies have shown native speakers only use a specific set of 2,500 words regularly. Pimsleur says in the English language “2000 words composes about 80% of the total printed words.”(Nation, Paul; Waring, Robert) 
4) Organic learning 
This is his school of thought that “auditory speech…is different than reading and writing skill”(Charles A.S. Heinle)  
I looked for any statistics of students using the Pimsleur Approach versus say Rosetta Stone. I did not find any. I also looked on statistics solely focused on results from using Pimsleur – also nothing. Until I see some data I am intrigued in learning a language in 10 days, but not convinced. 
Pimsleur, P. (1967). A memory schedule. Modern Language Journal, 51, 73-75.

Is the future of technology hands-free?

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

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

What is Google Glass?

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



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

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

So how will the technology work?

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

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

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

Google Glass:

Google’s Self-driving Cars refcat=news

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