Author Archives: Caitlyn Cossu

Pick a Side

Ever wonder why people’s talents are so one sided?  For example, I’m majoring in two English-based majors, but for some people, books and papers are absolutely horrifying.   Why is that? 

Scientists now know that the brain has two separate sides, or hemispheres.  Each side has its specialties.  The right side is better with spatial abilities, facial recognition, visual imagery, and music- the artsier side.   The left side is more likely to be better at language, calculations, and math- the more logical side.  In most people, the hemispheres work together and are connected.  However, the different sides cause different learning styles due to which is more dominant.  Scientists also say which side becomes dominant in the brain is somewhat of a choice.  When the going gets tough in school, we always prefer a certain way to learn.  For example, “right-brained” people probably learn better when they can see what they are learning using visual aids, diagrams, pictures, or graphs.  A “left-brained” person would probably learn better when they are told the information or when they read the information. 

These hemispheres don’t just influence your talents and learning preferences.  They can also affect actions such as sitting up straight or lying down when studying.  Which do you prefer?  Sitting down straight is more correlated with the left side, and lying down is more correlated with the right.  Also, the left-sided people are more likely to be able to speak their minds using words, whereas right-sided people have trouble.  A classic example is giving directions.  A left-brained person will use street names and building numbers; a right-brained person will try to show you the directions by describing the building you pass and what street corner you turn at. 

So the next time you’re sitting in Math class saying, “Why don’t I understand this,” blame your left hemisphere for being the weak one.

And in case you’re bored, here’s a quiz to find out which side you are!


Adam & Evil

            Most people would agree that Criminal Minds is not a show you should watch alone in your room at night.  Some of the horrors that flash across the screen are enough to unnerve almost everyone.  Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if the real-life versions of Criminal Minds’ monsters are born this way.  Is it in their brain?  Is it in their figurative heart?  What makes Charles Manson, Robert Hansen, and Adolf Hitler different than me?

Good conquers.jpg

            According to psychiatrist Michael Welner, this defiance can be due to one of three different reasons: “… illness, brute contempt, or bravado.”  There is a worldview that most people are naturally good because nature is good, but there are some people that break the norm and have to battle evil inside them.  The confusion occurs when there is someone who is supposedly good does something horribly wrong.  What then? (ABC News)

            The reason that this happens more often than expected is because we all have the capacity to murder.  There is a theory from David Buss, University of Texas, that states that this happens because we are derived from beings that killed to survive, therefore we are naturally born killers.  According to Buss, we should be asking what prevents us from killing. (NY Times)

            Massacres usually occur when the person goes through life in situations that deteriorate sympathy and restraint.  They live in “forward panic,” which means after they endure fear for a long time their emotions turn into fear and rage at the first chance to respond.  Serial killers are known to naturally have a high opinion of themselves.  They form anger towards the people that don’t respect them as equals or with enough respect. (NY Times)

            The worldview says that there is always an inner battle between good and bad.  C.S. Lewis once said that there is no such thing as an ordinary person.  We all have virtue and moral corruptness inside of us.  It’s when we can’t learn to control the small evil tendencies that they spiral out of control, causing a morally good person to be comparable to the ones on Criminal Minds.


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.


*Cough Cough*

I have recently caught a case of Pertussis, or as it’s more commonly known, Whooping Cough. Now as if the constant coughing, waking up in the middle of the night, and occasional vomiting weren’t bad enough, what aggravates me most is that I have the vaccine for this menace! So if I was going to get this illness, why did I get the shot in the first place?

Vaccinations are a form of the disease that has been weakened, killed, or imitated in a lab.  Doctors inject them into children so that the child “gets” the illness.  As we all know, once we get one of these diseases, we cannot get it again.  Now since the vaccinated child has already “had” the disease (through the vaccination), they will not get it again. Or they shouldn’t, at least.  
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Let me get this straight. Make doctor infected me on purpose?” Not to worry, you don’t actually experience this illness from the vaccination.  There is a flaw in this plan though: it’s not 100% affective.  There is no guarantee that this will actually keep you from getting the disease. Disappointing right?
So the next time you think you’re invincible because the doctor injected you with an immunization, remember the “don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth” rule still applies to you!

Haroche & Wineland

Two physicists who developed techniques to get a closer look on the most intimate relations between light and matter won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday, October 9th. Serge Haroche, of the Coll�ge de France and the �cole Normale Sup�rieure, in Paris, and David J. Wineland, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado received their award today in Stockholm.

Dr. Haroche and Dr. Wineland, who have been good friends for 25 years, have approached the relationship between matter and light from two different experimentations. Dr. Haroche traps photons in a finely polished mirrored cavity that one photon will bounce back and forth for a tenth of a second before leaking out or being absorbed. Then he sends in a single atom, as a spy, to interact with the light. Usually, to detect light is to destroy it, but in one case, by observing subtle effects of the light on the atoms, he and his colleagues could count the photons without destroying them.


Dr. Wineland’s work has focused on the material side of where matter meets light. Dr. Wineland and his colleagues trap charged beryllium atoms, or ions, in an electric field and cool them with specially tuned lasers so that they are barely moving. Atoms of any particular variety vibrate and emit light at very precise frequencies, and the colder or stiller those atoms are, the less the frequency of that light is blurred by atomic motions. As a result, Dr. Wineland and his colleagues have used their trapped ions to make the world’s most accurate clocks.

David Wineland, left, and Serge Haroche. They will split eight million Swedish krona, or about $1.2 million. Their work allows scientists to directly observe some of the most bizarre effects predicted by the quantum laws that could lead to quantum computers and super accurate clocks.  Scientists have known for a hundred years now that atoms behave oddly.  Quantum mechanics are physical systems that are represented by mathematical formulations called wave functions that predict all the possibilities of some event or object.

Light, or a subatomic particle like an electron, could be a wave or a particle depending on how you want to look at it and causes are not guaranteed to be linked to effects. An electron could be in two places at once, or everywhere until someone measures it.

Until recent years this was all philosophy, and physicists could comfort themselves with the realization that quantum mechanics works so spectacularly well that for some of them the real problem is why the ordinary world does not work that way. Why? Okay, for example, your iPhone is not simultaneously in the car, in your purse or on the shelf when you want them.

Now scientists are able to direct experiments and catch nature in the act of being quantum, hence exploring the boundary between quantum reality and normal life. Their work involves isolating atoms and the particles that transmit light, known as photons, and making them play with each other. 

Yawn and Pass It On

Ever sit in class after a long night “studying” and let out a big yawn?  Ever witness the person next to you do the exact same thing merely seconds later?  For too long I have wondered if yawning is contagious, but I may have finally found my answer…

Finnish scientists have recently conducted studies to explain this suspicious behavior.  They first believed that the circuitry called the “mirror-neuron system” caused the impulse.  Basically, subjects would watch a yawn take place and subconsciously feel the need to execute the same action.  However, after further experimentation, they discovered that there was no correlation in the brain scans they ran.  After a closer evaluation, they found that witnessing someone yawn deactivates a portion of the brain called the left periamygdalar region.  The repetitive deactivation is the first real evidence scientists have of yawning actually being “contagious.”
For more information and about contagious yawning, and for the information found on this page, go to: 

What Does Science Have To Do With That?

Science and I used to get along in middle school, but like most camaraderies that reach high school, we grew apart.  I soon found myself hanging out with English books and Creative Writing papers.  I went from engaging in PJAS (Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science) in 7th and 8th grade to being editor of my school newspaper, the Leonid.  Now, I’ve found myself dual majoring in Public Relations and Secondary English Education, and after all, what does science have to do with that?  Basically, the only reason I’m here is to fulfill my Science Gen Eds.  

Cheer Nationals - Version 2.png
When I graduate from Penn State, I would love to be able to work for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a public relations specialist or maybe even go to law school and become an NFL agent. I am obsessed with football.  I love it so much, I want to be a part of it for my career.  However, if my unrealistic dream job doesn’t quite become reality, I’ll have a teaching degree for high school English, which was my favorite subject.   
In high school, some of my favorite times were standing underneath the Friday night lights and cheering for the football team.  In 2011, my squad went to Disney World for Nationals.  We took first in our division and celebrated by stunting illegally in the resort’s beach area.  
Cheerleading is an activity that I would also like to pursue here at Penn State, along with joining a sorority.  Despite my dislike for Science, I am excited for Science 200 considering it’s already unlike any other boring high school class.