Author Archives: Marni Leigh Silver

Going Nuts

fatty foodsWhile I was on a hiking trip with my uncle this past summer, the colder climate at the top of the Sierra Mountains began to bother me, especially when it got chillier at nights, for I’m really not a big fan of big weather.  My Uncle Jeff advised me to eat nuts before I went to bed, saying their natural fats would keep me warm.  Seemed weird, but I took his advice and ate the nuts anyways, and was able to fall into a deep, warm sleep.

Such weird advice, but it worked! Although my story serves as an anecdote, and provides no scientific evidence, there is a reason why fatty foods keep us warmer. How you may ask?  First of all, when our body digests food, it generates or produces heat, which helps keep us warm.  With fats being harder for one’s body to break down, it takes longer for these foods to be digested, hence keeping one’s body warmer for longer.  Nuts, and other fatty foods, contain healthy fats and a great source of omega-3s,  Characteristics such as these assist in regulating our body temperature, keeping us at a state of homeostasis, which can be useful in situations, such as being on a chilly mountainside.

Brown fat, or what is commonly referred to as “the good fat,” is one of three types of fat found in humans (the others being yellow and white fats) and is the form of fat who’s main purpose is to produce heat.  Dr. André C. Carpentier ofUniversite de Sherbrooke and his team attempted to find out what prompts the little levels of brown fat we humans have to produce heat, and cold seems to be the best cause.  The hypothesis that cold could ‘jump start’ brown fat’s production of heat was then reaffirmed with the conduction of Carpentier’s team’s research, an experiment that included six young males who ranged from normal to obese in weight, measuring the levels of brown fat contained by each before the experiment. The men were placed into cooling suits which lowered the temperature of their skin by 3.8 Celcius. The researchers found that it was once the men began to shiver that an increase of calories began to be burned, in turn generating more body heat than before.  Capabilities such as this demonstrate brown fat’s ability to not only keep one warm, but how it can assist in the burning of calories, conveying how it is good for one’s overall health as well.  This conclusion corresponds and fits the hypothesis stated by Carpentier and his research team, but it is necessary to notice the limitations of this experiment.  Only six males were included in this experiment, excluding the opportunity to see a greater pattern among a larger group, and also excluding the female gender.  However, more progress has been made to find how foods containing brown fat can assist in keeping one warm.

It is necessary for one to realize that indulging in fatty foods must be done properly, or with healthy fats, and in moderation to prevent weight gain.  People in our generation especially, tend to panic when hearing the word “fat,” but it is necessary to realize the benefits of adding healthy fats to one’s diets.  Lists such as those featured on <a href=””> Shape’s </a> website include fatty foods that one’s body can benefit from, especially during the winter months.  So eat in moderation, and go nuts!



“Brown Fat – Keeps You Warm And Keeps You Slim.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 25 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Suzanne, CTD. “The 12 Best Foods to Store That Will Keep You Warm.” The Shooters Log. The Shooters Log, 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.


My parents have always described me as one being too loud for my own good, and have tried to encourage the act of whispering.  I have not yet mastered the concept of whispering, I somehow manage to make it sound as if I were whispering through a bullhorn, but I couldn’t help but wonder-is whispering bad for your vocal cords?

Pursuing my curiosity online, I found some information concerning whether or not whispering is bad for your voice.  Anahad O’Connor states in his article, <a href=”″> “The Claim: Whispering Can Be Hazardous to Your Voice,” </a> that whispering “causes more trauma to the larynx than normal speech.”  Interesting.  This claim was soon contrasted with a counterargument by  Dr. Robert T. Sataloff who proclaimed that there was, and still is not, enough evidence to support this claim, that this idea is merely based on theory.  This then pursued  Dr. Sataloff to conduct his own experiment.  Completed with 100 participants, Dr. Sataloff measured the degree as to which the individual’s voices were strained when talking normally and whispering.  Turns out this experiment was the evidence needed to help substantiate that whispering may in fact put a strain on one’s vocal cords, or at least more so than when talking at a normal level.  Dr. Sataloff found that in 69 of the 100 subjects there was more of a strain placed on the vocal cords when whispering, while eighteen subjects showed no difference, and for 13, whispering was easier on their vocal cords.

The experiment completed does not solidify the argument that whispering is damaging to one’s vocal cords, but it does push the argument/concept in the right direction.  The experiment demonstrated a wide variety of results with not too incredibly large of a sample, which prevents the experiment from being as persuasive or leading towards one answer as it could have been.  More experiments concerning this idea is likely the most popular and effective way to conclude whether or not whispering is in fact harmful to one’s pipes but, pssttt…between you and me, it won’t hurt you to whisper every once in a while.

O’connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Whispering Can Be Hazardous to Your Voice.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Feb. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Another Reason Not to Diet

sneezeI will use nearly any excuse not to diet, and the topic of this blog post is no exception.  Studies have shown that dieting constrains one’s ability to recover from illness, and how ingesting an appropriate amount of caloric intake is necessary in the recovery process.

A study conducted on mice in 2008 concluded that the mice who were designated to consume a lesser amount of calories while being exposed to the flu had an increased chance of not only contracting the illness, but also require an increased amount of time to recover from the flu as well.  Although conducted on mice instead of humans, this study has a valid point, demonstrating how limiting one’s intake can affect not only one’s weight, but their overall health and well-being.  This study could have been improved by being completed with humans rather than rats, but intentionally exposing humans to the flu could be considered unethical.

Consuming an adequate amount of calories and fluids are necessary in the recovery process, and for maintaining a good sense of overall health even when one is not necessarily ‘sick.’  Managing to stay healthy and ‘in shape’ can be achieved through a healthy, balanced-not restricted- diet, and is recommended to all.  I don’t know about anyone else, but doing soseems like a win-win solution for me!


“Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever.” – Most Common Myths About the Common Cold. Health, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Wet Hair, Should I Care?

wet hair

As a little girl, my mother never allowed me out of the house with wet hair when it was cold outside, for she was convinced I was going to get sick.  It has since become common sense to not go outside with wet hair, to prevent such an event.  But I couldn’t help but wonder, is this actually true, or just fallacy?  I decided to further investigate.

Colds are caused by virus, not by cold air, further encouraging me to doubt the validity of the statement that wet hair makes you sick.  According to <a href=”,,20306931_5,00.html”> </a> “[U]nless you are so cold that you get hypothermia, which could make you susceptible to infection, wet hair or clothes won’t increase your vulnerability.”  This statement persuades me that unless I am in Antarctic-like conditions (or sometimes even in Penn State like conditions)  simply having wet/damp hair will not cause one to become ill.

This myth has intrigued many scientists as well, in turn prompting the conduction of many experiments.  By putting the viruses contained in the common cold in the noses of two groups of people (one exposed to wet conditions, one being the control group), scientists were then able to see that there is in fact not a correlation between being wet and being more likely to become sick.  After all, correlation does not necessarily mean causation.  It is necessary to question the size of the two groups in this experiment, the wet conditions they were exposed to, and the degree of ethical guidelines followed when considering the validity of this experiment.

So was mother’s intuition right?  It is reasonable to say it is better to be safe than sorry, but there is not much need to be overly concerned of going out into the cold with wet hair.  Yes, it is possible there will be a little more discomfort and one may feel a little bit colder, but it is unlikely wet hair will be the main factor in causing you to become ill.

“A Wet Head Can Make You Sick.” – Most Common Myths About the Common Cold. Health, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Gelman, Lauren, and Megan Othersen Gormanprevention. “Cold and Flu Old Wives’ Tales, Debunked.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 06 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.



Hearing the Truth

cell phone talker





It used to be that dogs were a man’s best friend. Nowadays, it seems as if our everyday companions have taken more of a rectangular, electronic phones. Our cell phones seem to constantly be with us, whether it be next to us while we sleep, in our pockets, or pressed to our heads in the midst of conversation. This has raised much concern and debate as to whether or not cell phones can potentially cause cancer.

According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association , the number of cell phone users has increased rapidly, with more than 303 million subscribers to cell phone services in the United States 2010, so let’s hope that the risk of developing cancer due to the usage of cell phones is minute. Concerns are derived from knowing that cell phones emit a variation of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which is able to be absorbed by the tissues surrounding the area closest to the device. Also, the amount of radiofrequency emitted is dependent upon the form of phone, the distance between the device and the user, and the distance from cell phone towers and the user. These are all variables that can differ greatly, offering little consistency or reliability of data for researchers to work with.

Large studies, such as the <a href=”” >Million Women Study </a>, with up to 790,000 participants have been conducted to see if a correlation between cell phone usage and cancer development exists. With a rather large sample size, the results of this experiment should be relatively reliable, but the fact that only women were tested should be accounted for as well. The results of this study concluded that there was only an increased chance of developing acoustic neuroma, a certain type of brain tumor, a pattern that was found to decrease again in later years. It is likely that this outlier in results was due to a confounding variable.

Although cell phones have been unproven to cause cancer thus far, the vast difference in fluctuations of variables such as those mentioned above allow for nearly anything to occur-cancer or not. One is merely able to try to protect themselves from the possibility of developing cancerous cells from using their cell phones. Preventative measures include putting your phone on speaker as much as possible, limited usage of one’s phone, and keeping your phone as far away from you as possible.

“Cell Phones and Cancer Risk.” National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.

“Mobile Phones and Cancer.” Cancer Research UK. Cancer Research UK, 25 July 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.

To Caffeinate or Not to Caffeinate?

coffee beansA fellow caffeine addict myself, the way I see it, the more caffeine the better, and the idea of using it to supplement my workouts is no exception.  Being on the track team for all four years of high school eventually took its toll on me, mentally and physically.  Caffeine, in nearly any form, became my strongest supporter, assisting me in not only staying awake for workouts, but thriving in their duration.

Not surprisingly, I am no exception to the positive effects of caffeine.  A recent Canadian study supports the claim of caffeine being a beneficial addition to one’s fitness regimen, with comparing running times and levels of exhaustion between those who did and did not take caffeine pills previous to exercise. Nine men participated in five trials, with each ingesting either a placebo, caffeine capsules, de-caffeinated coffee with caffeine added,  or regular coffee one hour before exercise. The study resulted in demonstrating that the men that took the caffeine capsules increased their performance by up to 10 times, with more information concerning the results of this study being located in the article <a href=”“> “The Effects of Caffeine on Exercise Performance.” </a>

Although the experiment supports my claim, it does not automatically ensure that it is correct.  A small sample size of nine men was mentioned in the experiment, limiting the experiment both in number and gender.  Also, there seems to only have been one given instance of the experiment, with no given suggestion of any replications having been made.  Although seemingly effective in supporting one’s hypothesis, realizing such limitations and conditions in an experiment are necessary.

Though I have personally benefitted from consuming caffeine before many variations of workouts, there are still many more advancements and conclusions that can be made on this subject.  Such conclusions can be derived through the implementation of more research, conducting of experiments and so on.



Olsen, Kelly. “The Effects of Caffeine on Exercise Performance.” Caffeine and Exercise Performance. Weight Loss Resources, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.

Which is worse-drugs or cupcakes?

An anecdote was recently published in the New York Times about Rodney Zimmers, a 21 year old who had recently become sober from hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.  Three years later, he realized he had developed a different addiction-to sugar.  Zimmers had gained roughly 115 pounds, increasing from 135 pounds after rehab to 250 pounds.  According to the New York Times it is not uncommon to gain weight after gaining sobriety due to the main focus being held on getting off the drugs themselves.  However, a recent hypothesis or reasoning for relying on sugar and junk food has been developed.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and writer of “The Hunger Fix,” suggests that “once off the drugs, the brain craves the uber rewards of the hyperpalatables — Mint Milanos, Oreos, any sugar. An apple’s reward doesn’t cut it,” this change has become known as a “transfer addiction.”  There have been recent findings by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that sugar causes cravings, and how food, junk food in particular, and drugs cause similar consequences on the reward center of the brain.

Recognizing the reasoning behind the development of a new addiction could potentially help psychologists and those who have recently become sober prevent new addictions to substances such as sugar.   Proactively fixing issues such as this could help promote an overall healthy lifestyle, and demonstrate how it is not only drugs can harm your body.  I guess sweets aren’t so sweet after all!

Ellin, Abby. “Off the Drugs, Onto the Cupcakes.” Well Off the Drugs Onto the Cupcakes Comments. New York Times, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.


Sweet News Guys!

I love chocolate as much as the next person, but that does not necessarily mean I should be eating it on a daily basis.  Or does it?  The New York Times recently reported on a study completed by Louisiana State in which researchers mocked a human digestive system in glass containers, one containing an imitation of the stomach and small intestine, the other resembling the large intestine.  When cocoa powder was added to the “digestive system,” with the stomach and small intestine, some of the flavonols, or supposedly natural reducers of disease,  were digested, while a significant amount were not.

Following the stomach and small intestine process, the “colon” digested the remnants of cocoa into metabolites that could then be soaked up into the bloodstream, and potentially reduce heart or cardiac inflammation.  The remaining undigested cocoa powder then began to ferment, a process that discharges materials that help in lowering or improving cholesterol levels.

The main point to be seen here is that cocoa powder was used in place of chocolate, or an actual chocolate bar.  Andrew Neilson, a professor at Virginia Tech, advises not to eat a chocolate bar a day, that the chocolate myth does not give us an excuse to do so.  To my, and much of society’s dismay, apparently an allotment of chocolate a day does not keep the pounds away.

Reynolds, Gretchen. “Why Chocolate Is Good for Us.” Well Why Chocolate Is Good for Us Comments. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.



With the seemingly endless pressure of conforming to societal beauty standards, there has been an increase in the mannerisms in which one is able to improve their physical attractiveness.  With the introduction of LaserSculpt, a less invasive version of Liposuction, there has been an increased sense of interest in the process of removing body fat.

Liposuction was first invented, and presented in Italy in the 1970’s as a way to remove body fat without dieting.  Even though Liposuction soon became the most popular and requested procedure in America, the surgery required long recovery time periods, and was often painful and quite expensive.  LaserSculpt, contrarily, offers interested individuals in a much less painful procedure, a process that is not only safer and more wallet-friendly, but also results in less downtime and less loose or saggy skin, a consequence of the procedure that often requires additional attention and/or fixing.

The usage of laser technology with LaserSculpt allows the operator to have an increase in precision, and often “melts” fat immediately, with an increasing, or more noticeable results after the procedure.  According to LaserSculpt‘s website, a LaserSculpt procedure costs up to 30% less than that of an original Liposuction surgery, costing roughly $4,000 rather than the initial $6,500.

The creation of a less invasive operation is rather interesting, and shows how far technology and the usage of lasers has advanced in recent years.  However, I am afraid that with the invention of processes such as LaserSculpt, people will begin to rely on immediate fixngs such as forms of Liposuction, rather than healthy eating and exercise.  Also, with the more pressure than ever to conform to society’s beauty ideals, I feel as if there is a greater need for regulations concerning teenagers and young adults, girls particularly, before ensuing the process of receiving treatments such as LipoSculpt.

Johnson, Susan. “5 Common Sense Steps for Easy Weight Loss.” Susan J Sohn 5 Common Sense Steps for Easy Weight Loss Comments. N.p., 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

“Traditional Liposuction vs LaserSculpt.” Traditional Liposuction vs LaserSculpt. LaserSculpt Network, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

Move it or Lose it

Sometimes if I need to get my thoughts going, going out for a run or completing a quick workout is the best way to get thinking. This seems to be a rather common solution, Science Mag recently reported the possible existence of a positive correlation, or link, between exercise and brain functioning. In exercising and the building up of muscle tissue, a protein named FNDC5 is released into the bloodstream.   Bruce Spiegelman came across the presence of FNDC5 and another related protein, PGC-1α, and concluded the possibility that these two substances are involved in the development of neurons.

While in the midst of his research, Spiegelmancompleted an experiment where he and his coworkers cultivated mice brain cells and had the mice complete a thirty day exercise program. With the conclusion of this study, Spiegelman discovered that mice who were not producers of the PGC- α substance had holes in parts of their brains. This discovery leads one to conclude that lack or deficiency of exercise could in turn affect one’s neural activity or academic performance.

In my personal opinion, I completely agree with the idea that exercise helps improve focus and mental activity. Having ADHD, I rely on exercise to wear me out a bit, or to release some energy so I am in turn able to sit down and focus on the task at hand. There have been many studies, such as the one posted on Global Post  by Fitzalan Gorman, that demonstrate how student athletes have a better academic performance, and with being on the track team in high school I was able to witness and experience the benefit of exercising daily firsthand.

Servick, Kelly. “How Exercise Beefs Up the Brain.” AAAS. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

Twinkle twinkle little flare?

solar flare

Often times, the sky is the limit, but for NASA, that’s not the case.  Since its establishment on July 29, 1958, NASA has continuously led the United States, and the rest of the world to believe there is more to life than we can see-literally.  NASA’s philosophy is once again fulfilled with the recent capturing of the “one-two punch” solar flare, as described by Becky Oskin, on video.  A “one-two punch” solar flare is a solar flare, or a high-energy eruption on the surface of the sun, quickly followed by another. These solar flares can often result in geomagnetic storms on the sun which can compete with or create electromagnetic disruptions on Earth or with our satellites. Erupting at 1:46 pm on September 11, 2014, a X1.6 class solar flare occurred from sunspot AR2158, following another solar flare that had occurred the previous Monday, September 7, 2014.

The rareness of the “one-two punch” solar flare was noted by Tom Berger, the director of the Space Weather Prediction Center, a comment that could have possibly been drawn on how solar flares occur more at certain points during the eleven year cycle of the sun. It has been concluded that geomagnetic storms are caused by CME’s, or coronal mass ejections. There is not necessarily a need for excess concern due to having two solar flares occur at relatively close times, except for people to be aware of their potential consequences/effects. As people, we are not directly affected by these solar flares thanks to the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere; however, solar flares do have the potential to interrupt human created systems such as global positioning systems and satellites. This then denotes the fact that most new, GPS relying drivers are the only ones that need to fear the occurrence of a solar flare.


Holman, Gordon D. “Space Weather.” Space Weather. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

NOAA Scientist Finds Clue to Predicting Solar Flares. Digital image. NOAA. NOAA, 19 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

Oskin, By Becky. “Solar Flares to Hit Earth in Rare One-Two Punch.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Plumer, Brad. “Two Big Solar Storms Have Hit Earth – Creating Stunning Auroras and a Few Disruptions.” Vox. Vox Media Inc., 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

First Post

I decided to take this course rather than a specific science class due to my lack of superb scientific ability.  Also, during class registration at orientation I was a bit overwhelmed and couldn’t quite think of a certain science class I would like to take, so the generic, broad class description of this course appealed to me.  Even though I did dream of being an astronaut when I was much younger, I am not a science major mostly due to math being my weakest subject.  This limits me in the majority of the science classes/opportunities, or careers available.SC blogpost