Author Archives: Christopher Vecchio

E-cigarettes under the microscope


It’s been a trend of people to try and turn what is stigmatized as “bad” for you into something consumable, such as marketing light beer without the calories to make it more appealing. However, the same marketing change from tobacco cigarettes to the more safe electronic cigarettes has caused some scientists to take a second look. While these “e-cigs” have been more safe than regular cigarettes, a study in the journal Circulation shows what people who smoke e-cigs are really inhaling. What people are inhaling are high levels of nanoparticles, which can trigger inflammation. These nanoparticles have also been linked to such diseases as asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Furthermore, e-cigarettes’ vapors also contain solvents of dissolved nicotine and flavorings, which can turn into carbonyls. Carbonyls are a group that contains cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Newer e-cigarettes contain more nicotine per puff, because earlier versions did not include as much nicotine as a hit of tobacco would. Although these vapors are only an issue if the smoke makes it all the way to the lungs, it still possesses an issue, and should be a concern for anyone who wants to puff an e-cigarette thinking it is completely safe. One more issue that is hidden under the surface is that e-cigarette vapors can make antibiotic-resistant bacteria harder to kill. The vapors, rich with nicotine, create a coating that protects the already hard to kill germs. With all of the commercials and advertisements lauding the safety of e-cigarettes, I would call a warning. While they are safer than tobacco cigarettes, thankfully, there are still many under the surface issues such as the ones posed in the journal that prove that they are not completely clean. The next time somebody offers you an e-cigarette and tells you it’s completely safe, this information should be told for the safety of everyone.




The Possibility of New Life


The human race has always been faced with the eternal question of “what if there are other planets we can inhabit?” If this is the case, then perhaps Earth is not the only planet humans can claim for themselves. Recently, one of the moons of Saturn has been shown to potentially suffice for a life-friendly surface. Mimas, one of Saturn’s moons, is said to be “liberated,” or subtly wobbling around the moon’s polar axis, as said in a new study in the journal Science. Radwan Tajeddine, Cornell research assistant in astronomy, lead the study, saying this wobble could indicate something beneath the surface of the moon, possibly an ocean. The wobble has about twice the surface displacement that scientists expected, as measured by the Cassini spacecraft, thus adding to the ocean theory. It is just a theory at this point, as it may turn out that Mimas and what’s under its surface may just be more rock, as with the moons’ surface. However, we must consider the very real possibility that we will find life on another planet or moon in the near future. Our planet is overpopulating at an accelerated rate nowadays, due to the worlds’ economy ever increasing, and the air temperature is expected to rise by about 1 degree celsius by the year 2069, according to This increases the need to possibility find new life in new places. A plan to execute moving humans and sustaining life on another planet is a daunting one, but the need forces us to add plausibility to the scenario. Whether it be from a moon, or another planet, we could be facing a crisis closer than we think. A new planet of life, no matter how theorized, would be the biggest discovery of our lifetimes, and scientists need to think more about this possibility. Our lives may depend on it.




The Value of a Tweet


Today, we use social media for many purposes. To get news and information, keep up with old and new friends, and get a sense of culture through a personalization of your profile. However, can we use social media and its patterns in useful ways, to get a sense of what our social community is about? Thanks to a team of University of Pennsylvania scientists, we have begun to tackle this issue. Using Twitter, the scientists(led by psychological scientist Johannes Eichstaedt and information scientist Hansen Schwartz) questioned if a large amount of tweets could be valuable public information, specifically in the area of heart disease. The scientists at Penn used the new field of digital epidemiology, which is using social media to see the psychological traits(and therefore, health risks) of large communities. They took tweets that used key-words of emotion, both positive and negative(such as aggression, fatigue, hope and opportunity), and then found a correlation between these tweets and the tweets’ United States counties of origin. What they found is that negative emotions found in tweets correlated to heart disease significantly, and Twitter was a better indicator of heart disease mortality than other risk factors, like smoking and high blood pressure. It is truly a new type of way to measure a community’s’ health by measuring the emotional state of people using Twitter. Twitter is generally a place for people to vent frustration, but at the same time celebrate accomplishment. Using the balance of these two to find an emotional center of peoples’ origins can be now used to find actual physical diseases. If this process can be perfected, there is a chance for a cheaper and easier method to detect diseases such as heart disease, saving the medical world an obscene amount of money. This money can be spent in other ways, such as learning cures for diseases we don’t have yet. It is a tremendous process, all stemming from somebody picking up the phone and tweeting.


True Health of Soda


The battle over taxing people for drinking large, surgary sodas is a topic most think is suited for the courtroom, however it may be better for the labs to decide. Science has taken great lengths in determining just how harmful drinking sugary soda is, and a new discovery may tip the scales for many soda defenders. According to an article in the Huffington Post and a study from the University of California-San Fransisco, drinking soda shortens the protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes, also known as telomeres. Telomeres have been shown to shorten as we grow older, and the new study suggests that drinking soda accelerates the process. Another fact shown in the study is that soda’s effect on telomere length is around the same effect caused by smoking cigarettes. These facts all add up to the statement that those who are drinking high amounts of soda really should re-think their process. We have made campaigns in the past 50 years to help end cigarette smoking, yet advertisements for soda are more common than ever. Granted, drinking a Pepsi doesn’t cause cancer, but according to a TIME magazine report, the telomeres of people who have a daily 8-ounce serving of soda are older by 1.9 years than normal. That number increases to 4.6 more years of aging with a 20-ounce daily serving. Yet, society keeps glorifying a drink that biologically accelerates us. Yes, it gives a boost of energy for those who aren’t coffee enthusiasts, but it is something that should be regulated to make this country healthier. Think of the way we regulate cigarettes in this country, and how cigarettes carry a negative connotation in today’s America. I don’t believe soda should be dealt with that harshly, however it should be toned down to prevent studies like the newer ones published. Before you take the next can of Coke out of the fridge, think to yourself if your aging is worth it.



Fruit Flies are helpful

fruit fly

Most people see species of flies, including the fruit fly, as a pest and a nucance. However, those who are looking to detect drugs and explosives may have found a powerful ally with the fruit fly, or more specifically, its nose. According to new research from Professor Thomas Nowotny at the University of Sussex, the “noses”, or sense of smell, of fruit flies can identify odors from drugs and explosive substances almost as much as they can sniff out wine odors. Wine odors are a natural attractant to the insects, as it smells like their favorite food, fermenting fruit. The study is another step forward in the development of electronic, or e, noses, that will be able to replicate the sensitive smell of animals. Professor Nowotny and his team saw how 20 different receptor neurons in fruit flies responded to chemical sets related to wine(the “wine” set), and a set related to drugs and explosive materials(the “industrial” set). Using a computer program, the team was able to see which smells gave out the strongest reactions in the flies. In the wine set, 29 of the 36 chemical compounds gave responses, as compared to 21 of the 35 for the industrial set. The long-term goal for the team is to re-create animals’ noses for applications such as sniffing out drugs and explosives. Re-creating the entire nose would be difficult, according to Nowotny. So the goal must be to find the 5 or 10 receptors that work the most efficently and try and re-create them. The fruit fly was a tremendous help to the team as far as advancing research in finding out which receptors can be used to sniff out drugs and explosives the best. In conclusion, the next time you think of a fruit fly as just a pest, think about the thousands of lives it could be helping to save through its incredible sense of smell.



The first hour of life


The first stages of life are considered one of the greatest gifts in this world. But what goes into the first moments of a child’s life? Thanks to an article from Science News and based on a report in Acta Paediatrica, we now have at least a small sample of an answer. The article took a small sample size of children and went through their first hour of birth, taking a look at the interaction between the baby and the outside world, as well as interactions between the baby and its mother. In the first minute, babies release a cry. This is pretty common knowledge, however the reason for the cry is very understated. The cry babies release in their first minute of birth is used as a method to help wake up the lungs. Even at birth, babies show self-preservation traits. Another example of this is in the 2nd minute, where babies hold perfectly still on their mothers’ chests. They do this because, according to author speculation, it will help the babies become hidden from predators. Even in their 2nd minute of life, babies are protecting themselves from possible attacks. The reasoning for this may come from the fact that newborns had spent the last 9 months as an embryo in their mothers’ womb. Now that they are in the unfamilar territory of the outside world, they take a defensive and self-preserving stance. The babies do this until they are hungry, as they are cut off from the supply of nutrients provided by the mother in the womb. As the babies become hungry, they open their eyes and gesture to their mother(using small noises) that they are hungry. After the babies are fed, they fall back asleep. There are many reasons for what babies do in their first hour of life, and the majority of the reasoning comes from self-preservation, and even at such a primitive state, the babies succeed in gaining nutrients and easing themselves into the outside world.


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Why are dogs so loyal?


Any dog owner can’t describe how much their dog really means to them. Dogs have always been considered “Man’s best friend”, but why is this? Do you really think it is because we give them food and a place to live? Dogs are one of the most loyal animals in the animal kingdom. Dogs want to be a part of a family because they are a pack animal. They want love as much as they want to be loved. Cesar Millan has one of the best articles on the loyalty of dogs and some pretty great stories of their loyalty. Going to college and missing your dog is going to happen to all dog owners and sometimes they are missed more than our parents. When I left for summer session here at Penn State I missed my dog so much but to see his reaction when I walked back in my door at the end of summer was absolutely amazing. Dogs are just naturally affectionate. They want a loving companion just like us humans. Dogs never want to bite or fight to be harmful it is humans that train them to be this way. All dogs have that natural unconditional love. Dogs know everything about their owner, look where they are when you come home from work at the same time everyday they wait at the same spot looking at the door. They get excited every time you come home not because it is time to get fed but because they love you and want to see you. Dogs really are mans best friend.



Does diet and exercise prevent cancer?


Everyone is doing posts on what causes cancer so I decided to do research on what can prevent cancer. My research led me to diet and exercise. A good healthy diet and daily exercise can lead to a less likely chance to get cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “Each year, about 585,720 Americans die of cancer; around one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight.” Daily exercise is very necessary towards a healthy life style. If having less of chance of getting cancer isn’t a motivation to workout then I don’t know what else could motivate you.


Eating healthy is very hard to do now a days especially at college. Maintaining a good diet requires a lot of dedication. It is not a bad thing to treat yourself every once in a while but you still got to eat a variety of foods and healthy foods. Controlling your weight is huge to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You need to be a healthy weight, but what is a healthy weight? A healthy weight is different for everyone and you need to your Body Mass Index. This is a score based on the relationship between your weight and height. American Cancer Society says, “To reduce cancer risk, most people need to keep their BMIs below 25. Ask your doctor what your BMI number means and what action (if any) you should take.” I really do believe if you live a healthy life style you could prevent cancer. There will always be exceptions though.


Can stress cause gray hair or hair loss?


We have always heard people say “your going to make my hair fall out” when under a lot of stress. This is a typical saying for mothers with young kids. Is this saying actually true though? Can stress really make you go gray or even lose your hair? People under a lot of stress do tend to go gray quite quicker than most others. Take a look at the presidency, don’t the presidents go into office with a full dark head of hair and within a few years are already gray. According to web md graying and hair loss can only be caused by physiological stress. So this means the hair loss and graying is only temporary and will last as long as the physiological stress event occurs. But what about people who are always stressed out about work and their job? Does this mean that they will definitely lose their hair? I think that stress does have some type of effect on hair but we still quite aren’t sure about how much effect it has. We don’t see students losing hair or graying and most of them stress out about school and other things. Hair loss and graying can also be hereditary. Could stress just be speeding up the process of graying and hair loss? I believe it does because when my dad opened up his own business and was working 12 hours a day he was quite stressed and I noticed him balding quite a bit. I think it also depends on the person and their genes. There is a lot we still don’t know about this subject and a lot of opinions on it. Personally I think hair loss is genetic and stress just quickens the process.



Are e-cigs harmful?


A huge debate in today’s society is the health effects of e-cigarettes. The popularity of this product is growing rapidly, especially in today’s youth. Smoking in general is starting at even younger ages and new looks to cigarettes make it even “cooler” in our society’s youth. The “coolness” of smoking was on a huge decrease from what is used to be in the 70s and 80s but with this new look it is back on the upscale again. The problem with health facts about the e-cigs is that they are to new to know about the long-term effects they have on people. The best article I read was the one I found on web md and you can read that here. The most dangerous part about smoking was the burning, and e-cigs don’t burn so can this mean that they are “healthier”? I personally think they are just as bad as smoking normal cigarettes because people still inhale them into their lungs. Their addictiveness still has to be their because they still contain nicotine. Some people use it as way to quit cigarettes and from what I have noticed most people smoke e-cigs for a little and go right back to normal cigarettes. I don’t think it would help someone at all if they are trying to quit even if it was healthier because there is no burning. I personally think e-cigs will cause smoking to become “cool” again for teenagers. The health effects we will know about e-cigs won’t be around for quite a few years yet and by then I think it’ll be too late.

Concussions and their effects


Concussions are a huge impact on many of today’s athletes. Research on concussions improve year after year. Concern for concussions has increased immensely over the past few years. Even mild concussions have been reportedly causing more problems than most people think. They have been proven to cause memory loss significantly up to 36 hours after the injury. More severe concussions can cause memory loss up to and over a week long. The article on web md did a study on high school athletes and you can read the article here. A single concussion can cause long lasting brain damage. Concussions can cause neurological and psychological problems even a year after the trauma. Head injuries in all sports are being researched more and more. New rules in sports are being placed to protect the players and prevent more injuries. Even the NFL have been handing out fines now for “head hunting” defenseless players and unnecessary hits. After getting one concussion you are more prone to sustaining another concussion. These types of injuries are forcing football players to end their careers or force them to retire. Here is a good article on the effects of just one concussion. Concussions can lead to much worse than just slight memory loss. Junior Seau for example became extremely depressed, starting abusing pills, made bad business decisions, and even stayed away from his family and friends. After his death, scientists discovered and believe that the effects of his concussions during his career led to his suicide. This article is depressing because of how a great man became so entrapped in his feelings to commit suicide because of a head trauma caused by a sport he loved. Concussions are no longer taken lightly today and are trying to prevented by rules and regulations.


Hi my name is Chris Vecchio and I took this class because it was a gen ed that looked interesting. Science is definitely not one of my best or favorite subjects so that’s why I am not a science major. I am big into sports so here is a live link to Espn.