Author Archives: Alex Seth Blankman

Babies and Classical Music

Most people have most likely heard the rumor that listening to classical music as an infant can make your baby smarter, but is it true? I know for a fact that I did not listen to classical music as an infant, however, I am attending a world class university. Some studies say yes, that for some reason when you are an infant listening to classical music will make you smarter, others say no way.

The initial tests were done by people at University of California Irvine in 1993 and 1995 regarding classical music listened to by college students for a few minutes before a test, they found that that would help students perform better on exams, but what if those students were primed to perform better on their exams anyway just because they happen to get better grades in school or possibly studied many more hours than the people who did not listen to music, in this case, correlation may have not equaled causation.

At Appalachian State University they also did a study on whether or not listening to classical music helps people before an exam and they found that the answer was no, as they were unable to replicate the results.

The question was also asked whether or not playing classical music for unborn babies could help make them smarter. I do not feel that putting headphones to a woman’s fetus could help the intelligence of the unborn child whose ears only recently exist. Neither do studies, studies do show however it may allow the unborn baby to become closer with the mother and maybe allow them to appreciate classical music more than others growing up, but if moms are looking for better grades in college, they may have to look elsewhere.

Unfortunately for parents the results of whether or not listening to Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach can help your kid, but studies don’t show that it hurts the child’s mental growth. So moms are going to keep trying this method regardless of the result because who knows, maybe it does work and science just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Can hope and starvation drive a team to greatness?

The Kansas City Royals have not made it to the playoffs in 29 years, since entering the 2014 post season, now they haven’t lost and are 8-0 this post season. When die hard MLB fans have waited 29 years to see their team in the playoffs, they never want to see them leave. So just like the lecture in class regarding does prayer heal? I thought I would explore the topic can two totally opposite things, hope and starvation.

Hope is something that comes to mind when an illness needs to be cured, or if you want to make the impossible, possible. When people lose hope, it kills an interior part of them and makes them more and more unhappy until sooner or later even the most trivial things can make one depressed. According to there are four steps of keeping hope, lets look at them in the case of this scrappy baseball playing Royals.

  1. The future will be better than the present.
    1. After sitting at the bottom of the American League Central for all but one year from 2003-2009 the Kansas City Royals and their fans were only hoping that the future was better than the present, and after hoping and believing for so many years, they are headed to the World Series.
  2. I have the power to make it so.
    1. The Royals simply had belief. Every player, manager and owner had confidence in this team and even though 6 out of 8 postseason games were decided by one run, they believed that no matter how close, they wouldn’t lose, and they haven’t.
  3. There are many paths to my goals.
    1. Some teams take the money path, like the Yankees have for so many championships, spending over 200 million dollars this off season. Or the more respectable route of teams like the Kansas City Royals who build up using organizational depth and speed on the base paths.
  4. None of them is free of obstacles.
    1. Sitting at the bottom of the league for half a decade is a huge obstacle that has now been overcome.

Stephen King once said “Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Hope can drive those who believe in it, and that is what the Royals have done.

Now onto starvation, that feeling when you haven’t eaten anything all day and you get your hands on a juicy bacon cheeseburger, that feeling when you haven’t made the playoffs in 29 years and once you are here you never want to go home. These players, coaches and fans have been starving for a playoff berth for 29 years and by this time they want it more than any other team. More than the team with the AL MVP and the NL Cy Young, more than the teams who have made it in the NL to the World Series four out of the last five years, and I think very obviously more than the Yankees who spent over 200 million dollars for Derek Jeter’s last season.

Or does it all come down to skill? Is it as simple as the better team wins, and no matter how much adrenaline goes into a game or how much heart you have, can it really all just be simple numbers? With an ERA below 3.5 as a total rotation in the postseason, it is no wonder the Royals are atop the American League.

Who knows, but from what I can tell the team that wants it the most… wins.


Sunflower Seeds and Stress

Just like every single person at Penn State, I am stressed. Everyone is stressed for different reasons, clubs, schoolwork and even relationship issues. So as I try to balance what does and doesn’t stress me out I try to find ways to make me calm down, music works sometimes but I can never decide what to listen to and what works best for my studies.

So I started my research by talking to a friend who smokes cigarettes he said that he actually does the same thing and it has helped him smoke less and less cigarettes as the year has progressed. Sunflower seeds are not only good for relieving school stress but can actually supplement as a replacement for abysmal habits.

As I am sitting in my room studying, I get hungry and being a baseball player for 8 years I naturally go to sunflower seeds. Immediately I begin to feel more relaxed and my studying seems to improve so I wondered if this was a placebo or was it actually scientific. Turns out it is scientific. 

Sunflower seeds are filled with folate.  Folate is one of the healthiest foods in the world and helps with irritability, mental fatigue, depression, and insomnia; as well as diseases like gingivitis. Folate allows for proper function of nerves and support of red blood cells.

Having been a baseball player for so many years, another way people attempted to get me to relieve stress is chewing tobacco. According to studies this relieves stress as well, however, it is something I always resisted and will continue to. There are countless ways to relieve stress, from oatmeal and spinach to meditation and excersize. Realistically however, there are countless ways to relieve stress and some you probably cannot find on google, just whatever works for you, but everyone has that one thing that can make them calmer and more focused.

So next time you are stressed out about something, don’t fill your heart with cigarette smoke or full your mouth with some tobacco or bite your fingernails. Relax and take a deep breath and just like you did in little league before a big at bat and have some seeds, it’ll calm you down and help you focus to do better in  school.



Why do I see so many bald seniors?

My dad is bald, so naturally I am hoping baldness skips a generation, but what if it doesn’t? What if there is an alternative factor of why people go bald? So I thought I would research it.

Being a sophomore at Penn State I have had classes with seniors and have seen plenty walk around and I have noticed that while none of my sophomore friends are bald only three years from now I will be a senior and I am just hoping that I won’t be bald. But with all the exams and classes I have I wondered whether or not this level of stress was contributing to the seniors hair loss, simply because they have dealt with four years of it. Well the answer I find is yes. 

There are three types of hair loss that involve stress, they are known as Telogen effluvium, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata. Each does something different to your hair but seemingly has the same result.

Telogen effluvium is when the stress makes your hair shift into a resting place and therefore when someone washes their hair they are in a state of “rest” and will fall out

Trichotillomania is what you see in many commercials with a man screaming and pulling his hair out. Trichotillomania forces you to pull your hair due to stress and begins to settle in between the ages of nine and thirteen years old. By the time someone is 22 years old and finishing up college, the amount of stress that has built up throughout high school and college plus the stress of looking for a job in the real world after graduation could easily make people with trichotillomania lose more and more hair.

Lastly there is alopecia areata, which is a disease that causes the immune system to essentially attacks the hair follicles. This creates immediate balding.

However, it is possible that people just go bald because of genetics or other reasons. Hair loss can occur inexplicably and for no real reason, almost the same way that people who can smoke for 50 years may live until they are 100 years old. If there are ways to prevent hair loss then maybe no one truly knows why or how hair loss happens. Or maybe if you do lose your hair, just get it back with science, like Bosley. Stressed people may lose hair, but so do people who are not stressed, this could all just be due to chance. There are supposedly ways to lose hair, but there are always ways to prevent it, as well as get it back. So while it is possible for stress to be linked to hair loss, there are other potential factors in hair loss so really… who knows?


Candy Crush Saga, Molly, Addiction, and Procrasination

I am sure I speak for a lot of readers when I say at some point over the past two years I have played Candy Crush Saga for too long at one time. But why was I so addicted to such a simple game? I have seen plenty of people sit on the CATA bus crushing candy on their way to class and even once saw someone miss their stop because he did not look up. Roughly half a billion people have downloaded this free game and with $800,000 per day being spent on levels is not going to stop making levels.

There is actually scientific reasoning behind it when Candy Crush is being played, at least at first, all you do is win. This makes you happy and as the levels get harder and harder, winning them becomes more of a challenge. This is called variable ratio schedule of reinforcement, this theory states that if you play enough, you will eventually win, the same concept that applies to slot machines. So naturally when you do begin to beat the more difficult levels, it makes you happier and happier, but whats making you happy is the brains release of dopamine.

Dopamine  is the neurotransmitter that is the pleasure point of the brain. Dopamine is also released when people take Molly (pure MDMA.) Molly essentially floods your brain with dopamine in order to make you happier, the same happiness and chemical reaction apply to Candy Crush. Because of the rush molly gives you, people end up having “bad comedowns” from molly. After the molly begins to wear off and all of the dopamine levels come down, people get sadder in the coming days because their body does not know how to react without the high levels of happiness (dopamine.) It is the same feeling that makes you upset when you cannot beat a candy crush level.

When you are stuck on a Candy Crush level you keep wanting to play it because you are unhappy with the result, you need that higher level of happiness that can only come from winning a level.

Or maybe Candy Crush isn’t addicting at all… maybe people are just hopelessly bored or maybe people don’t know what else to do when they procrastinate. Procrastination is something that effects nearly 20% of the population so when I think about what I do to procrastinate, it includes maybe 10 minutes of checking my fantasy team, another 10 checking sports scores and then maybe 30 minutes playing Candy Crush!?!?? So maybe stats are wrong, maybe Candy Crush players are just playing it a lot due to chance, after all, correlation need not equal causation. I think it is more than probable that the reason so many people such as myself sit there and play candy crush is procrastination from whatever activity I am supposed to be doing. Since the 1970s, procrastination rates are up 21% and Candy Crush certainly hasn’t helped this issue.

So no, for anyone reading this, I am not saying Molly is equal to Candy Crush in health or addictiveness. But the next time you pick up your phone to play some candy crush ask yourself… am I addicted?


Hitting a Baseball Hardest Thing in Sports?

I have been playing baseball since I was young and unlike most people I didn’t quit after Little League. As I’ve gotten older I have tried to convince countless people that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in the world. My argument is simple, there is less than a second to decide not only whether or not its over a small home plate, but also the speed, which can be anywhere from 70-100 mph. Lastly, you have to figure out from seam rotation and release point how the ball will move and at what speed followed by swinging a round bat at a round ball. But somehow people still disagree, the point of this is to eliminate any argument. 

Look at any sport in the world , you need a specific body type, even some of the more uncommon ones. In sports such as rugby and football is a sport based on size, if you are big you can be a lineman in the NFL, of course it requires some athletic ability too, as do all of the following examples. In the NBA over 76% of NBA players are above 6 feet tall, the average height for a man is 5’10”. Also,

Let’s take a look at the epicenter of height-discrimination: The NBA

  • 42% of American males are 5’9 or shorter. And yet, 0.45% of NBA players fall into this category.
  • 80% of American males are under 6 feet tall. And yet, only 3.5% of NBA players can say the time.
  • 99.9% of American males are 6’4 or shorter. And yet, the average height in the NBA is still 6’7.

Based on these stats, the vast majority of sports require a certain body type. In Horse Racing, the riders have to be small so they do not weigh down the horse. However, in baseball anyone can play, from 5’6″ All-Star 2B Jose Altuve to 6’10” Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer, Randy Johnson. Players of any height can partake and it requires a certain skill to hit the ball and is not based on anything but skill.

However there is a very good argument for boxing as well according to Boxing is being called “pound for pound the hardest sport.” The ESPN panel of experts clearly disagree with me and based off of their chart baseball is actually the 9th hardest sport. However according to hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports.

Hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in sports according to some, and not others, having played baseball I am still going to say hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do, despite what ESPN says, because as everyone has learned in the past with quotes like “If [Jimmy Clausen] is not a successful starting quarterback in the NFL, I’m done. That’s it. I’m out. No, Jimmy Clausen isn’t successful and no, Mel Kiper Jr. did not quit. So as you can see ESPN is not always right, despite what some statistics say, hitting the baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports… or is it?


Does Marijuana cause cancer?

Since the late 17th Century Americans have been harvesting tobacco but until fairly recently no one was sure what the exact effects were, we now know the devastating effects of tobacco. The reason it took nearly three centuries to figure out the exact effects were a combination of lack of technology, awareness, and it took time to harvest so much data. Had the facts been known there may never have been a harvested tobacco crop and odds are tobacco would be illegal.

Tobacco brings it millions of dollars of revenue for the government every year and that is most likely the key component in why it is not illegal despite it cutting 10 years of millions and millions of smokers lives; but what are the effects of marijuana on someones body? Why is marijuana illegal?

On September 16th, 2013 the State of Colorado legalized marijuana for people who are 21 years old and older. Marijuana was legalized for uses other than medical purposes for the first time since 1910.

But just like cigarettes and tobacco the effects of marijuana are not 100% known and most likely within the next 10 years marijuana will be legal in most if not all places throughout the country.

According to a study done by UCLA in 2006, people who smoke marijuana but do not use tobacco are NOT at any any further risk than those who do not smoke either. According to although there are supposedly 33 cancer causing chemicals in marijuana, many of them are from the unfiltered cigarette joint, however, if you smoke out of a glass piece (like the one shown below), the potentially harmful chemicals will not effect you which would make it so there is no ill effects on the lungs.  images-1

America’s Past Time and Cancer?

If you were to ask people what they think of when they think of baseball, you will probably get a variety of answers both good and bad, these may include World Series, October, Derek Jeter, Yankees, or Babe Ruth; however, one thing that people usually don’t say is chewing tobacco. Since baseball has been around, players have been chewing tobacco and spitting it everywhere, from the field to the dugout to the on deck circle, but do these men know exactly what they are doing to their mouths? 

Former MLB pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling roughly 7 months ago was diagnosed with mouth cancer. After many tough months of chemotherapy and a long absence from his job on MLB Tonight he is finally ready to return. In an extremely honest interview Schilling admitted he believes his mouth cancer was caused by chewing tobacco. 

Schilling isn’t alone, many players and managers such as Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians and AJ Burnett of the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite none of these men having cancer yet, they will forever be at a much larger risk to mouth, gum, throat and many other types of cancer. 

I feel the MLB should make an attempt in the near future to slowly eliminate chewing tobacco. It could end up proving very difficult for veterans who have been chewing it their entire careers, Curt Schilling for example chewed tobacco for roughly 18 years and blames that fully for the cancer he endured.

Many young players throughout professional baseball, the MLB as well as the MiLB have been making an attempt to switch from tobacco to sunflower seeds, something to spit that isn’t cancerous. Also, if you were to look in MLB dugouts during games, both the home and away dugouts have many different flavors of David’s sunflower seeds as well as Double Bubble in an attempt to rid tobacco and cancer from the MLB.images


How safe is the NFL keeping its players?

Since the NFL started back in 1920 players have been taking hits everywhere throughout the body but most body parts will heal over time, whether with rest or reconstructive surgery. In the MLB for example, roughly 19 MLB pitchers underwent season ending Tommy John Surgery in  2014, but these players torn UCL’s will recover over time and they will be back in the MLB sooner or later; however, concussions in the NFL are something that could end a players career, no matter what position you play. On August 23, 2014, Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker suffered his third concussion since November 17, 2013. This is an injury that can put not only his career, but his long term mental health, in danger.

Welker has had a series of head injuries earlier in his career with the New England Patriots and unfortunately for the Denver Broncos they may be forced to choose a players health throughout his life over the team. While the NFL is doing all that it can to help prevent these injuries, it may be wise of the league to start forcing certain players to retire.

Currently Welker wears an enlarged helmet to help prevent concussions but clearly, since the hit by Dj Swearinger gave him a concussion, the helmet isn’t full-proof and the tricky part is knowing when players are fully healed from concussions. In 2012, at the age of 24 years old, an extremely talented running back for the Detroit Lions named Jahvid Best was forced to retire because of a history of concussions. In 2010 during a college game he was left unconscious on the field  and after playing only 22 games in the NFL, the über talented back out of Cal was retired.

No matter what the NFL does to try to help these players, some are either prone to concussions or extremely unlucky where they get hit. But no matter how many rule changes the NFL attempts to employ, there will always be concussions and I feel that after a certain number within a years time, players should be either forced to retire or sit out the remainder of the season. Wes Welker has enjoyed an extremely prominent career but I feel it is time for him to hang up his cleats at 34 years old. Repeated head injuries that can jeopardize the players long term health, isn’t worth an NFL career.espnw_a_welkerw_300x200

First Post

My name is Alex, I am from Long Island, New York and I am taking this course to finish my science GenEd requirements. I am not planning to become a science major because it has always been my dream to work for ESPN and that has nothing to do with science. As I said I want to work for ESPN so here is a picture of the ESPN logo. espn_logo_887