Category Archives: First Blog Post

Is Laughter Contagious?

It is a scientific fact that during conversation, we mimic the actions and words of the person we are talking to. I had a childhood friend who would unconsciously finish everyone’s sentences with the same word they were saying. It was pretty annoying, but when I asked him why he was doing it, he was completely unaware he was talking at all. Laughter, according to Sophie Scott of University College London, is no different. I noticed this while sitting in class today. I was playing around on my computer while the professor played a video of an interview. The person being interviewed was very nondescript and boring, so my attention waned. I distinctly remember a part of the interview that caught my attention. The interviewer must have said something clever, because at that moment loud, boisterous laughter erupted from the video. I caught myself smiling and laughing along, even though I had no idea what everyone was laughing about. I caught myself and looked around the room to find that other students in the class were smirking and laughing, too. Why is it that we laugh or smile when others do, even if we don’t know why they are doing it in the first place?


A study by Scott had volunteers listen to a series of positive and negative sounds. They had their brain activity monitored via fMRI and measured the response to the sounds. It was found that the brain reacted more to the positive sounds, such as laughter, more than negative sounds (screaming, retching, etc.). The sounds triggered a response in the premotor cortical region of the brain, which is responsible for preparing the facial muscles to respond to sensory queues. The study states that because the response was much stronger for the positive sounds, this can explain why laughter is so contagious.


The study doesn’t exactly provide conclusive evidence, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Apparently, a laughter epidemic was actually recorded in 1962. In a small African village in Tanzania, Three girls began to laugh uncontrollably. Soon thereafter, 95 of 159 students were laughing and crying hysterically. The laughter continued for so long that the school eventually had to be closed, only to reopen later with 50 students still exhibiting the same behavior. The epidemic spread to nearby villages, and for two and a half years over 1,000 villagers were affected by an apparently bad case of “the giggles”. That must have been one hell of an episode of the Big Bang Theory!


It is now known that the two year long laughing fit was potentially caused by a stress-induced mass psychcogenic illness. Does this prove that laughter is contagious, or just that everyone in the village was going crazy? The answer is still convoluted, but the answer could possibly be revealed in an interesting point made by scientists for years (and my older brother). My brother and I were deciding what to watch on Netflix over thanksgiving break when he made an interesting point: movies are much funnier when you are watching them with other people than by yourself. This is true with all things, not just movies. According to researcher Robert Provine, laughter is up to 30 times more frequent in group settings rather than in private. Provine and his colleagues did an interesting study on what happens right before we laugh, in order to find the cause. They went to local malls and public places and recorded over 2,000 cases of natural laughter over a 10-year period from random passersby. Interestingly enough, they discovered that the majority of laughter does not actually follow jokes. It was recorded that most laughter followed statements such as, “How did you do on the test?” or “Do you have a rubber band?”


This helps conclude that laughs are involuntary, and act more as a social glue to bond people together in conversation. It is worth noting that laughter rarely interrupts speech, and usually occurs during pauses in speech or where a breath would normally occur.


The only biological mechanism we can identify for the contagious laughter hypothesis is the one stated in the study by Scott, however I challenge you to think about it in your own life. It is pretty difficult to force yourself to laugh, but if you walk into a room where your friends are telling a funny story, try to catch yourself cracking a smile. Studies say that is your premotor cortex at work. The question remains, is laughter socially induced, or is it a biological event?





Why Sleep?



I came to Penn State almost a month ago, and I quickly found out that college students don’t get enough sleep, or no sleep at all. Sleeping has become an option, not a necessity, for us college kids. I, as a 4-week college student, too don’t get enough sleep. It became normal not to go to bed until at least 2 in the morning! (and yes, I used to go to bed before midnight before)

I thought I was going to be so tired all the time to do anything because I don’t get enough sleep. However, I experienced something interesting instead. I’m not that tired!

Then I began to think, why do we need sleep at all then? Our parents and our older people say that we need sleep. But sleeping is for restoring energy, if we have that energy without sleep, then why sleep?

Well, This article, Why do we sleep, Anyway?, suggests several theories as to why we need sleep.

 First theory is “Inactivity Theory”; this theory suggests that “animals that were able to stay still and quiet during these periods of vulnerability had an advantage over other animals that remained active”.

 Second theory is “Energy Conversation Theory”; it suggests that “the primary function of sleep is to reduce an individual’s energy demand and expenditure during part of the day or night, especially at times when it is least efficient to search for food.”

Third Theory is “Restorative Theory”; and it says that sleep in some way serves to “restore” what is lost in the body while we are awake. Sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself.”

Last theory is “Brain Plasticity Theory” which illustrates that sleep is correlated to changes in the structure and organization of the brain. This phenomenon, known as brain plasticity, is not entirely understood, but its connection to sleep has several critical implications.”

Then what happens if we don’t sleep? This article, Sleep, Learning, Memory, indicates that “when we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information” and it might affect our interpretation, no sleeping makes us not capable of making fair judgments on life because “we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior.”

Here is a video on Why Do We Sleep.

So guys, whether you party or study, make sure you get sleep daily!

The Big M word…

So you’re probably thinking in you head ‘what the heck is she talking about?’ ‘What the heck is the big M word?’… with the fact that I’m posting this on a Sunday night, you could probably guess the big M word is (yes, you got it right) Mondays. 

We know we all hate Mondays, but do we ever wonder why? Just the besides the fact that they come right after weekends, Mondays have done nothing wrong to us. But why do we hate them so much? 

The researchers from Journal of Positive Psychology did a survey on 340,000 people; and  Arthur Stone, a professor at Stony Brook University, analyzed this data and concluded that “Mondays aren’t especially horrible according to people’s reported moods on that day compared to other days, but are focused on — and thus, made out to be more intolerable — due to their juxtaposition with the weekend. When something not-so-fun happens directly next to something fun — in the case of Sundays and Mondays, being able to do whatever you want compared to having to work — that only enhances how much or little fun something is. Ever watch a really good television show right before a really bad one? Same concept.” (Science Finds That People Hate Most Workdays, Not Just Mondays. Thanks, Science)

The researchers also found that people also hate the weekdays, other than Mondays, equally, if they’re workdays. This fact indicates that people hate working, not just the Mondays. To prove the hypothesis better, the researchers also found that people are in better moods on Fridays and weekends, on which they don’t have work to do, the article Science Proves It – We Just Don’t Like Mondays says. This article has another interesting fact; when the researchers surveyed older or retired people, they don’t hate Mondays. They like Mondays as much as they like the other weekdays and weekends! And yet again, they don’t have work to go to, or school for that matter. 

So, don’t be hating on Mondays just because you have to go to work or school. Blame it all on work and school!

After all, Have a great Monday and fantastic week guys! 


Why do we fall in love?

Have you ever fallen in love? If you said yes to the question, let me ask you this, why did you fall in love? Personally, yes, I have fallen in love before, at least I think it was love. If you ask me why I fell in love with the guy, I would say, it was because it was him. I don’t know the specific reasons as to why I fell for this guy.

According to, love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; or a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. In the article Science of Attraction, to Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and professor at Rutgers University who studied love for over 30 years, love is a drive that happens in three parts, the first is lust, stimulated by the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen; the second part is romantic love, driven by dopamine and serotonin and activated by cocaine and heroin. Finally, attachment is cultivated by oxytocin,  and vasopressin, an important chemical for commitment. And she says love is a chemical concoction and an addiction.

But why do we fall in love though? Appearance, right? In the article Why Do People Fall In Love?,  The researchers at the University of Texas found that women with a low waist-to-hip ratio (in which the waist is significantly narrower than the hips) are more attractive to men than those with wider waists. They believe that a good waist-to-hip ratio may subconsciously signal to a man that a woman has good health and reproductive ability.

Next, Chivalry. A survey by the University of Chicago showed that people who agreed with altruistic statements, like “I’d rather suffer myself than let the one I love suffer,” reported more happiness in their marriage than those who did not concur with those statements.

There is a saying that “opposites attract each other” but the researchers who has helped explained the phenomenon of doppelganger couples, found that people are actually more attracted to people who have similar traits and appearances. 

But let’s get real here. Even though there are billions of researches on love, nobody truly knows about love. I think that is why love is so great. (even though it could be very much so hurtful sometimes) When you fall in love, you don’t study love, you just feel it.



P.S there are some tips on how to keep the flame alive in case you are in love right now.

– “Do novel things” – that drives up the dopamine system.

– “Stay in touch physically” – hold hands, lie in your lover’s arms. Touch drives up oxytocin.

– “Say nice things to each other on a daily basis” – positive illusion is the ability to look past the negative and accentuate the positive.


from Science of Attraction






Initial Blog Post

Hello Everyone my name is Sean Peyton, I am from Collegeville, PA which is about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I am a freshmen and currently my major is undecided, however, I intend to major in one of the numerous business majors. I come from a family of 5 and have a dog named molly. My favorite place in the world is Beaver Creek, Colorado (I love to ski). Feel free to follow me on twitter.

I took this course because I have no intention to major in science and classes like bio and chem bore me to death. I was originally taking astronomy but the whole idea of space and all of the things in it makes my head spin so I transferred into SC200. I know science is very important to technology and how we live, but, it is simply not the field for me.


Confessions of a Confused Science Student: First Entry

If I said was currently enrolled in Science 200 because I needed fulfill my last general education requirements for natural sciences, I wouldn’t be lying. However, I chose this course specifically because it is an interactive one and I find the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of other students to be extremely valuable. Blogs create the opportunity for students to connect with the material on a more personal level and to pick the brains of their classmates. And, for me, nothing is more interesting than what goes on in a person’s mind. That being said, I am a psychology major with a minor in human development and family studies. Yes, I am aware that psychology is a science. For me though, it is unlike any of the science classes I was forced to take in high school or to fulfill general education requirements. I am not a science major because when I think back to my high school physics class all I can picture is me squinting at the formulas on the chalk board and papers with smudges and rips all over them. I have perfect vision and sat towards the front of the room, so I was squinting because I felt like I was staring at symbols from an ancient tribal language. The papers were torn and sloppy from my constant erasing and occasional fury. So, I guess it’s safe to say science and I were not on the best of terms. Since attending college and having some reign over my curricula, science and I are no longer enemies. I now know all about the pH balance of the ocean, random facts about plate tectonics, that diesel fuel is more energy efficient than regular petroleum, the marine food web, among other things. While almost none of this is going to be useful when I am one day working in a therapeutic setting, I realize that science doesn’t have to be this huge struggle and could even be enjoyable. However, I am almost certain that the knowledge I will acquire from taking this course will be useful for my future.

Here is the single reason my brain didn’t explode from chemistry and physics during high school (his devilishly good looks kept me captivated):


Here’s a picture of a scene from my favorite movie:



Science?! I’ll give it a try…

Hey there Sc200, Im Luke Matthews from outside of Philadelphia in Bucks County. I’m a sophomore student planning to major in business. Everyone always says it’s so hard to decide what you want to do in life, but ever since I was in elementary school and we had to watch the annoying nerd Bill Nye, I knew damn well exactly what I wasn’t going to be doing; science.  Call me a quitter, but I have always sucked at science and really just never had the desire to excel in this topic. I almost can’t think about one aspect of science that I truly ever appreciated. What better class for me to take than “The Appreciation of Science”, right? I’ve come to the conclusion that I will enter this class with an open mind and try to allow myself to really appreciate as much as possible and see things for more than just an in depth problem.  All in all, I hope to take away more from this class than an aggravating headache.
Here’s a quick look at my hometown; really exciting place as you may find.,_Pennsylvania


Cogito Ergo Sum

      Hello and good evening to my fellow Science 200 classmates! My name is Michael Rangel, and I am a graduating Psychology (B.S.) Major with a focus within Neuropsychology. I was born in Philadelphia, and I frequently travel out of the country (Colombia specifically) to visit my family. I am going to be the first person in my entire family to graduate from a University, and I am honestly proud to say that it was Penn State that gave me the opportunity to do so. However, as a Senior, there is a stronger sense of pride to know that according to the United Stated 2012 Census, 27.5% of the population have acquired a College education and as of 2013, the ‘Pennsylvania State University’ is also ranked the top 50 University in the world!

     Now, as a Psychology major, I feel as though I have the upmost curiosity to learn more, not only about how one interacts with one another and their environment, but more so about the natural world around us. Albeit, despite being a Neuropsychology major, I’m required to take plenty of Science related courses, including Chemistry, Neurobiology and Biology courses. Never the less,  I absolutely love Science, and originally, I was a Biology major, but due to a severe burnout, I decided to retire from the major and pursue a mixture of both Natural Science, and Social Science. In the end, I’m happy with my decision to become a Neuropsychology major. If anyone is curious about Neuropsychology, feel free to ask questions about the major, but it is truly a fascinating major.

       If I had any words of advice for anyone whose a lower class-men, I would say the following: Enjoy the next 4 years of your life. This is a moment in your life where a lot of self-discovering occurs, from the good, bad and the ugly. One will make memorable friends who would walk through Hell and back for you, and most likely, you would do that same for them. Join clubs, go out and socialize, learn about your Professors’ but above all, study. Do not forget the reason why you are here at Penn State. Do not fear failure either, instead learn from these faults and improve on them, trust me, I’ve made my fair share of screw-ups, but I am proud of them.


So, whose ready to do Science?

Initial Blog Post (I’m so original)

Hello everybody! My name is Ryan, but you can call me Bender because Ryan apparently is a pretty boring name. I am a Freshman and I am an Undecided major but I want to do something with business. I am taking this class because I needed to take a science course and the description of this class made it sound pretty cool. I’m not gonna be a science major because throughout high school I hated all of the science classes we had to take even though I was pretty good at all of them. Also click here to see some funny clips from a funny show!

First Blog Post!

Hey all! My name is Joffrey and I’m from Coatesville, PA. I am a sophomore in the college of communications and I am still unsure of what to major in. A big passion of mine is music. I love to play, write, and listen to it. I listen to all sorts of music but if I had to listen to one band only for the rest of my life I would quickly choose The Beatles.


I am taking this course (SC200) because it was recommended to me by my guidance counsellor and I needed the science credits. I am not planning to be a science major. Why? Honestly, I never really gave it any thought but I guess I never excelled in my high school science courses and never felt like I made significant contribution in labs. I think science is very interesting but I have never felt that it is necessary for me to know all aspects of it.