Monthly Archives: October 2012

Early Puberty In Girls-Why It’s Happening & What We Should Do

During the first blogging period I wrote a post about the menopausal whale conversation we had in class. In my blog however I asked whether or not the age at which women begin going through menopause has changed in recent years. While my research on that topic yielded few answers, there is a related topic that I see in the headlines far more often.

As you’ve probably heard, girls are going through puberty earlier and earlier. The rapid change in the average age of puberty has caused difficulty for girls and parents alike. Girls are experiencing physical changes before their parents even have the chance to explain why these changes happen. In March of 2012, The New York Times published an article about the topic entitled Puberty Before Age 10 – A New “Normal”?. The article discussed many avenues of the subject, from methods of slowing down the process to why it’s happening to what it means for girls psychologically.
Studies done in the past few decades have suggested that puberty is increasing earlier and earlier. Though African American girls tend to hit puberty earlier in general, girls of all races are going through puberty sooner. A 2010 study led by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found that by age 7, 10.4% of white girls, 14.9% of Hispanic girls and 23.4% of African American girls had begun to develop breasts. The percentages in white and African American girls had risen significantly since a similar study in 1997, showing that the change in the population is undeniable. 
Probably the most important question discussed here is why. The article focused on the story of Ainsley, who at 9 years-old was the tallest in her class and had very mature curves among other things. While conventional doctors couldn’t identify any medical issues based on x-rays and blood tests, an applied kinesiologist suggested that it wasn’t her ovaries producing excess estrogen, but rather xenoestrogens. A person’s level of xenoestrogens are a result of one’s environment. Though this is the explanation offered by the applied kinesiologist, scientists have also offered this as an explanation after animal testing on the subject. Of course, animal testing is the only way to ethically perform a study on the topic, though observational studies are still in the realm of possibility. As with any observational study, the data would always come with the risks of reverse causality and confounding variables. Doctors offer other possible contributing factors including family stress and weight. For example, overweight girls are most likely to begin puberty before thin girls. Researchers now believe that it is fat tissue that can cause the body to mature, rather than strictly weight.
There are many ethical and social issues that surprisingly arise from early puberty in girls. In addition to questions about earlier sex education and a changing gender dynamic at a younger age, there are also differences between the girls who develop much earlier than other girls their age. These girls are more likely to drink and lose their virginity earlier, in addition to higher incidents of depression, self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Ethical issues arise from the option of giving girls hormone injections that slow the process of puberty. Is it right to prevent the body from doing the “natural” thing with a monthly injection? Or is it in a young girl’s best interests to slow the process? If your daughter was going through puberty at 6 years-old, would you try to artificially slow it? Finally, when will the younger puberty stop and what long-term connotations of these changes on the female population? Clearly this issue raises plenty of questions and isn’t going away any time soon.

Fishy Feet,What Is To Blame?

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


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

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

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

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


Photo courtesy of HowStuffWorks.

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

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

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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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


Let us know if you have any questions!!

Sandy: Frankenstorm or climate change?

Before Hurricane Sandy decides to get truly brutal, a group of activists bounded together to protest lack of awareness about climate change. There has been some debate about weather hurricanes occur, or are at fuller force, due to climate change. Yet this debate has been kept at a sorry minimum, and has barely even been mentioned in this year’s presidential election. Phil Aroneanu, the co-founder of the protesting group, claims that while hurricanes aren’t necessarily caused by global warming, “the average of 5-degree warmer oceans have created so much more vapor for the storm to pick up and dump on NYC and Boston” (Kavner). So Sandy is reputed to be “Frankenstorm” because of the massive amount of evaporated water due to higher temperatures. Meteorologists agree that high water temperatures attribute to the severity of storms. But part of the protest was also an inflated reason to raise awareness of an issue that is not just seen through hurricanes. There is just enough science to make a definitive claim that climate change did or did not cause Hurricane Sandy.

According to Terrance Henry, the explanation climate change in terms of hurricanes is that it causes “hurricanes on steroids.” Natural disasters will always happen–even if polar bears aren’t in danger, and we aren’t actively screwing up our planet (oh what a beautiful world that would be), but high temperatures make for worse storms. However, scientists are still working to see how much they effect these disasters. Adam Frank argues that it’s silly to try to blame climate change on one storm, and that “climate is all about long-term trends — not the 5-day forecast.” Maybe if there were a string of severe hurricanes, we could start saying climate change causes them, but as of now, we see the same number of hurricanes now as we did 20 to 30 years ago. However, the increasing severity of these storms is a trend to start watching for.

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

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


Hurricane Sandy

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


As modern science continues to out-do itself, we are closer to creating what researchers would call a “super human”. This article claims, much like Frankenstein’s Monster, that researchers have found ways to genetically mutate the cells of animals like, rats and whippets, to give them “super powers”. In one study, experiemental rats were successfully given the human ability to see in color. 
Additionally, a recent study by the National Human Genome Institute Team reported a mutation in which whippets were given a gene that codes for muscle proteins. This protein, myostatin, is used to increase muscle mass. When it was given to the whippets, it greatly increased their racing performance and speed. The thinking behind these studies are that, if rats and whippets can be genetically modified to obtain human traits, why couldn’t other humans benefit from these modifications as well? 
Whether or not these genetic mutations would work in humans is still up in the air. One of the things holding researchers back from human experiementation is the ethical debate surrounding this issue. It’s clearly very controversial. The other important factor that restricts these kinds of experiments is that germ line engineering is currently banned. It is considered to be a manipulation of our genes. Do you think it’s fair to be able to genetically modify the human race to make us better, faster, and stronger? If you could modify one thing about yourself, what would it be? Would you ever be interested in genetically modifying your children if you had a chance? 

Lead in the air

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

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

Driverless cars

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

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

Driverless cars

Sleepy Bees

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

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

Red October

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


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


Science Daily