Author Archives: Blake Matthew Birns

Is playing video games good for you?

Like most teenage boys, I spent plenty of time in front of the TV playing video games as a child. My parents would complain to me that staring at the screen for such lengthy periods of time would only be detrimental to my health; however, I could not believe how wrong they actually were. Over the years, violent video games have been criticized for their negative effects on young children, who tend to become more violent as a result.


In a recent study conducted by Daphne Maurer, from McMaster University in Canada, it was proven that playing certain video games could actually lead to improved vision. The study required six patients, who had lifelong cataract disorders, to play the “first-person shooter” video game “Medal of Honor” for exactly 40 hours over a one-month period. The “Medal of Honor” video game, like many other games available today, requires an enormous amount of concentration by the player due to the distractions taking place during gameplay. As part of the experiment, the patients were advised to play the game 5 times a day for a maximum of two hours a day.

The results from the study showed that the patients’ vision did in fact improve. The patients were now able to see direction of motion more easily, as well as smaller details and things in lower contrast. Maurer stated that about two-thirds of the things that were measured “improved simply from playing an action video game.”

The findings of the experiment were further investigated, such as how these changes in vision are even possible. They discovered that what could be occurring is that the video games could be altering the balance of excitation and inhibition neurons in the visual cortex. The games could actually lead to the rewiring of the brain, resulting in the formation of new connections. They may be revealing connections that have always were always there, but they were never quite powerful enough to be expressed.

This study did make me wonder if only “first-person shooter” video games enhance vision or if other video games are just as effective. It’s quite possible that the increase in adrenaline is what leads to the alteration of the brain’s state; therefore, many different types of video games can have the same impact. It would be interesting to see an experiment in which all kinds of video games were used to measure the change in an individual’s vision.

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Does running shorten your life?

I was never really interested in exercising or any sort of physical activity when I was younger, as I spent most days watching TV or playing video games indoors. I began to realize that not being active could be really harmful towards my health, so I decided to start running as a form of exercise. At first, I could barely run a mile without gasping for air or feeling as if I was going to throw up. However, as time passed by, my stamina improved dramatically and I was eventually able to run several miles without stopping. I felt as if I was in the best shape of my life and that all of this running would really pay off in the long run, but I was shocked to discover that this may not be the case.


In a recent study conducted by Dr. Matsumara, co-director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley Network, the long-term effects of running both long and short distances were tested. Researchers who studied this topic earlier proposed that people who run more than 20 miles a week, at a pace of 7.5 mph or higher, will most likely have shorter lifespans.

Matsumara wondered if there were other factors that explained why high-mileage runners were living shorter lives. After looking at the backgrounds and routines of both types of runners, Matsumara discovered that that there were no differences between the two types of runners. There have not yet been findings that give any specific explanations for why high-mileage runners have shorter lifespans, but according to Matsumara, “running fast and far may be toxic to the heart in some way.” Although, some researchers believe that long distance running may lead to the buildup of scar tissue on the heart which can result in the runner developing what is known as “myocardial fibrosis.” Runners suffering from this may experience stiffening of their heart muscles, as well as the premature aging of their heart. However, there is not a sufficient amount of evidence to support this theory, so high-mileage runners shouldn’t worry just yet.


Running is definitely an excellent way to exercise and if running is your choice of exercise then you should absolutely continue to include it as part of your routine. However, people should consider the amount that they run because running excessively could be very harmful to a person’s health. If high-mileage runners ever experience any pain or fatigue, they should cut back immediately and not risk facing the possible consequences.

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Does kosher mean healthier?

Having been kosher the first half of my life, I have experienced all of the different kosher foods. I’m asked by many people what being kosher really means. First of all, you are not allowed to eat certain animals – pigs, rodents and birds. Also, when you are kosher you cannot combine both meat and dairy.


In order to be considered “kosher” the animal is killed during a process known as “shechting.” The animal is killed instantly and experiences no pain during this process. Kosher food is carefully watched during preparation; therefore, many people believe that kosher products are much healthier for you. Many people think that “the extra eyes and slower speeds probably allow the government inspectors to do a better job” (NY Times).

After being kosher for such a long period in my life, I truly feel that it is a healthier way of living. There were several unhealthy food products that I wasn’t able to eat before and I truly felt  healthier. Overall, it takes a lot of dedication to live a kosher life, but at the end of the day it’s definitely worth it.


How can the iPhone dance?

Using an app called Cycloramic you can make your iPhone 5 spin a complete 360 degrees. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, “theres no way this works,” but it does! Not only does the iPhone spin around in a circle; it shoots video as well!


Cycloramic goes for $1 in the iPhone’s App Store, and only works on the iPhone 5 and 4S. The 4S supposedly doesn’t work as well, and the iPhone 4 doesn’t work at all. In order for the app to work, you must remove any case you have on your iPhone. I wouldn’t expect anything other than a face plant if attempting this with an OtterBox on!

For the best results you need a completely flat and smooth surface; even a tiny little crumb will prevent the iPhone’s rotation. From my experience the best results have been on marble and granite countertops, and my worst have been on wooden surfaces.

Honestly, I could care less about the iPhone’s video recording feature in this app. The most interesting part is that your device can spin in a circle hands-free. Users have the option to make their iPhone spin 360, 720, or 1080 degrees. There is also the option to use the front or rear facing camera.

There are a few updates I’d like to see in the future, such as its ability to record sound and take 360 degree panoramic pictures.


Can sushi kill you?

Sushi has many benefits due to its source of low-calorie, high quality protein. It has many fatty acids that can lower your cholesterol, as well as your risk of heart disease. Eating sushi is not detrimental to one’s health, unless they eat it too often. Also, it depends which type of sushi you decide to eat, because certain types of fish are worse for you than others.


Extremely high levels of mercury are found in tuna, mackerel, yellowtail, swordfish and sea bass. These fish can be very damaging to one’s health, especially tuna which has the highest mercury levels of all fish. There are several symptoms when one experiences mercury poisoning, such as problems with vision and tremors. These are indications that one should most likely cutback on their sushi intake or the consequences may become very severe. Also, some individuals should stay away from sushi completely, such as pregnant women. Pregnant women should avoid sushi because mercury poisoning can be extremely harmful to a developing fetus or child.

Overall, sushi can be quite healthy if you eat it every once in awhile, but you shouldn’t overdo it. You should be very careful about your sushi intake because eating too much can definitely be dangerous.



Can tea make you live longer?

Most people believe that tea dehydrates you; however, this is not the case at all. The British Dietetic Association discovered that “tea counts towards our recommended daily intake of six to eight cups of fluid.” Does this mean that you should go and drink enormous amounts of Snapple or Arizona Iced Tea every day? No. This type of tea does not provide the benefits that natural tea does. However, whether tea is black, green or white, or bagged or loose, tea is extremely beneficial towards your well being. Tea has many antioxidants, known as flavonoids, that assist in fighting off several illnesses and lower your risk of certain health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.


Believe it or not, tea may even lead to weight loss. Recent studies have proven that green tea can speed up your metabolism and one of the flavonoids that is found in green tea can cause a drop in weight when combined with caffeine. Tea also is a source of fluoride, so it keeps your teeth strong and protects them from decay.

Another recent study in Japan of more than 40,000 people proved that drinking green tea does make you live longer. The study showed that those who drank five cups or more of green tea a day “had rates of heart disease 16 percent lower than those who drank only one cup a day” and their “rates of death were 26 percent lower” (Early To Rise).

Personally, I truly love the taste of tea, especially green tea, and I drink several cups a week. People should stay away from the sugary drinks and have a nice, hot cup of tea every once in awhile because it will definitely lead to a healthier life.



Were students right all along?

We all remember the dreadful weekday mornings in high school, struggling to get out of bed and hitting the snooze button countless times. Sleep becomes a major problem during adolescence mainly because high school students carry a heavy academic workload, participate in multiple extracurricular activities and many even have jobs. Being a high school student can be exhausting, which is why these students must get anywhere between 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep a night. Experts recommend this many hours of sleep for high school students; however, a recent study reported that seniors in high schools only averaged about 6.9 hours of sleep.

Sleep deprivation has several negative impacts on a students’ academic performance. Although many parents may applaud their child for staying up past midnight to study for a test or finish a paper, their children will most likely perform considerably worse the next day due to being sleep deprived. In order to stay awake and concentrate, many students rely on caffeinated drinks, such as soda and energy drinks, to assist them. These drinks are damaging to a teenager’s health and they are absolutely not worth the temporary benefits that they provide.


The fact that most high schools have class begin around 7:15 is ridiculous. Even if students attempt to go to sleep early, it is quite difficult for them to wake up because “the onset of puberty produces a sleep phase delay so that teenagers find it difficult to fall asleep until 11 p.m.” (Duke TIP). High schools nationwide should strongly advocate for later starting times. The National Science Foundation reported that individual schools in 19 states have delayed start times, and over 100 school districts in 17 other states are considering making the same changes. High schools are responsible for the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on these students and it is something that they should take very seriously.


First Post

Hey guys! I’m Blake Birns and I’m from Miami, Florida. I’m a freshman in the College of Communications and I plan on majoring in Advertising. I decided to take this class because my academic advisor highly recommended it and it seemed very interesting. However, I cannot see myself pursuing a career in anything science related, which is why I decided not to major in anything in this field.

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