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The Calm Before the Storm?

The Calm Before the Storm

We’ve all heard it before, whether we were enjoying a day at the beach or waiting for our uncles to fire up the grill, and it goes something like this:

Mom: “Ah, what a beautiful day!”

Dad: “It’s a wonderful day for grilling up some dogs”

Grandpa: “Ah, yes, the dreaded calm before the storm, mother nature’s finest trickery.” (okay, I may have just turned your grandfather into Ahab from Moby Dick, but just roll with it please.)

image courtesy of: the culturegeist

My sister used the phrase throughout our vacation this year. Every day we were there, it was supposed to rain. Every day it didn’t rain. But the water was always calm (thank goodness, because I am a terrible swimmer with a fear of drowning and I still choose to venture into the ocean. But that’s for another time.) So every day when we went to the beach, she looked at the water and said “it’s the calm before the storm.” But it never stormed? Which lead me to wonder if there was actually such a thing as “the calm before the storm” or if it is just a myth?

According to The Discovery Channel1, “storms are caused by an updraft of moisture and heat.” But I’m sure that means absolutely nothing to you, because it sure isn’t doing anything for me. So I turned to a very helpful demonstration from how stuff works2.

There are 3 steps to this “updraft of moisture and heat”:

  1. Moisture and heat are sucked up toward the storm. Powerful updrafts pull some of this upward (to the top of the cloud)
  2. Some saturated air is removed due to the updraft. It spills out of the top of the highest storm clouds.
  3. While it descends, it is compressed, which makes it warmer and drier. Warmer and drier air is more stable. It also causes a reduction in cloud formation, thus creating the calm before the storm.

*you can watch this short clip here. The visuals are a tremendous help

According to the same article by howstuffworks, large storm systems often do not bare any warning. This is due to their complexity, as smaller storm only have 1 unified system and large storms have several2. So basically, it’s a 50/50 chance. Some storms provide a warning while others leave it up to the meteorologists to track.

Although not all storms have a “calm”, several natural disasters do. As I learned from the Thailand/Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, tsunamis are known for their rapidly receding tide. But the warning only gives you a few minutes to reach higher ground3. Tornados also have a “calm”, but it occurs during the storm in the center of the tornado (known as the eye). I’m not sure if this is a comforting place to be, but it is much better than being on the outside of the tornado.

In conclusion, the “calm before the storm” certainly does exist. Because it usually only occurs before a small storm, it should probably not be seen as a threatening situation (unless you’re terrified of getting wet. In which case, go inside, the barbeque can wait.) “The calm before the natural disaster” would be a much more terrifying metaphor, because it always means danger.


1. http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/why-there-calm-before-storm

2. http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/calm-before-storm.htm

3. http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/tsnms-bfr-eng.aspx

*all of the links (the ones above and the superscripts) open in new tabs. So feel free to explore!

Attraction RXN

Attraction Reaction

Wouldn’t it be nice if the girl in your science class thought you were as attractive as you think she is? Or what if the boy who dumped you last year suddenly had a burning desire to be your boyfriend again? Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone you find attractive found you attractive too? Science is not able to do this yet, but is it a possibility?

Image courtesy of: Austin Carty

The ingredients:

According to the BBC U.K., there are three stages to falling in love. These are lust, attraction, and attachment1. In order to examine the likelihood of a pill that increases attraction one feels toward another, we are only going to focus on the chemical reactions of the brain in the second stage. During the attraction stage of falling in love, several chemicals are released into the brain. They are: Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine1.

Last year in psychology, I learned that Dopamine is the reward/pleasure chemical of the brain. It is often stimulated by drug usage2 but can also be affected by the foods you consume, amount of sleep you get per night, and your exercise3. If chemists already produce artificial Dopamine for anti-depressants, and natural foods can increase Dopamine reception in the brain, then chemists should have no problem making artificial Dopamine strong enough to release sensations of attraction.

Serotonin is a neural transmitter that is in charge of keeping a balanced mood4. Like Dopamine, Serotonin can be substituted by different medications and increased by consuming certain foods and vitamins5. According to Chatelaine Magazine, being exposed to sunlight also increases Serotonin levels in the brain5. It is common knowledge that sunlight gives Vitamin D, so it should be possible for this attraction-pill to contain natural extracts from peppers, oranges, strawberries and other fruits3, as well as artificial vitamins B and D5, to help release these hormones in the brain.

Norepinephrine seems like a big sciency word, so just think of it like adrenaline. They both are hormones that initiate the fight-or-flight receptors in the brain6. Like adrenaline, norepinephrine causes an increase in heart rate. (This would be the nervous, pounding, butterfly sensation you get when you find someone really cute.) Norepinephrine can also be taken in dosages. It is used to treat people with low blood pressure6. If doctors are able to add a small amount of the dosage into our attraction potion, it should be complete!

Why this hasn’t been done yet:

There are several reasons why this science hasn’t been tested yet. First off, it is extremely dangerous to mess with chemical outputs of the brain. A major contribution to drug addiction is assumed to be Dopamine dependence. When drugs are introduced to the body, they greatly increase the production of Dopamine. As the drug abuser continues the use of the drug, the body becomes less able to naturally produce Dopamine2. This causes the drug user to become solely dependent on the drug to feel the beneficial effects of Dopamine. If we began to test an attraction pill, the subject may become addicted to the feeling of being infatuated with someone. This could cause the test subject to develop drug dependency. The test subject could also develop mood disorders such as depression and bipolar, because of the lack of Dopamine and Serotonin being released in their brain.

The other reason we cannot scientifically test an attraction pill is because it is unethical. A person has free will to choose whoever he or she wants to be infatuated with. If we begin to drug people in order to get them to like us, it would be an extreme violation of human rights.


  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/love/
  2. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/addiction-science/why-do-people-abuse-drugs/nearly-all-drugs-abuse-increase-dopamine-neurotransmission
  3. http://www.wikihow.com/Increase-Dopamine
  4. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248.php
  5. http://www.chatelaine.com/health/wellness/natural-ways-to-increase-your-serotonin-levels/
  6. http://www.caam.rice.edu/~cox/wrap/norepinephrine.pdf

these are also hyperlinked in the text and they open in a new window so feel free to explore!

To Ink or not to Ink, That is the Question


By Megan Butter

Tattoos are becoming more and more popular everyday. Almost every where you go see one person in the room with a tattoo or two. Tattoos tell a story, whether they’re honoring a loved one that passed away, or were a trip to the parlor at 2 A.M. after too much to drink. They also tell a lot about the person wearing them, and shed a glimpse of light into their life. The big debate today is if they are professional for the work place or not. I feel that as time goes on, tattoos are going to become more accepting and you will see a business man with his sleeves rolled up and tattoo on his forearm. It’s going to be the norm, and people are just going to have to accept it, because there is nothing wrong with it, it is a form of expression of oneself on their body.

A recent study shows that 15-38% of Americans have some form of body art on them (Karim, 2013). Another said that 1 in 5 Americans admitted to having a tattoo (Kelly, 2013). Tattoos are a means of expressing yourself, and usually the people that get them are more extroverted than introverted. Men and women that have tattoos were shown to, “…had higher body appreciation, higher self-esteem, and lower anxiety right after getting new tattoos,” (Karim, 2013). Tattoos can give people higher self esteem because they want to show off their new ink. They feel better about themselves because they are letting out their artistic freedom. My friend, Alexa, has 3 tattoos. All of them mainly covered (2 on her back and one on her thigh). All of her tattoos have meaning to them, and she always has a big smile on her face when she talks about them and why she got them. The one she recently got was the birth flowers of all the members of her family and she was so excited to show it off. She is proud of her ink and it shows that having tattoos can be a conversation starter and confidence booster for those who have them.

A graduate student at Yale University, Mark Celano wanted to study tattoos and how people react to them. He himself has 2 tattoos and wanted to conduct this experiment to see how people reacted to those with body ink. He had people in a lab some with tattoos visibly, some without any tattoos. He wanted to see if the people without tattoos treated the ones with them any different based on body language, etc. “The study is specifically designed to assess if and how the presence of visible body modifications affect interpersonal interactions,” (Celano, 2014). While his research is not done yet, he is hoping to get some answers on to how society views tattoos.

Tattoos don’t mean that someone is uneducated, an alcoholic, or anything like that. They are a form of self expression, and if someone wants one then they should be able to feel the freedom to get it . They shouldn’t be judged because a lot of successful people have tattoos you just might not know. They shouldn’t change your opinion of anyone and if they do, you need to look in the mirror and think that you yourself is the one that needs the change.






“Turn That Frown Upside Down”


By Megan Butter

When I was younger (and hey I still catch the reruns from time to time), like I’m sure many of you did, I watched Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. I remember one episode when Ned wanted to spread his positivity to the “negative charged” girl in class. While his efforts went unsuccessful because a positive and a negative makes a negative, I wondered is smiling contagious?

To answer this question, yes smiling is contagious. First we’ll take a look about what happens inside of you when you smile. Smiling releases neuropepdtides that fight off stress. So if you’re ever feeling that you wanna scream, just let out a smile and see how it feels. Dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are released when you whip that smile across your face. These neurotransmitters “relax your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure,” (Riggio, 2012).  The endorphins are a pain reliever and the serotonin is an anti depressant. Smiling is a cost effective way to lift your mood without messing with the chemical balance of your brain!

Want another good reason to smile? Smiling is scientifically proven to make you more attractive! “A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded,” (Riggio, 2012).   There was also a study done in Scotland where men and women hate to rate people based of their looks, and the people who were thought to be more attracted, were the ones that were smiling.

Finally science does prove that smiling is contagious. “The part of your brain…responsible for your facial expressions…resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area. When the picture of someone smiling was presented, the researchers asked the subjects to frown…It took conscious effort to turn that smile upside down,” (Riggio, 2012).

Now it’s your turn to try. Next time you go walking around campus, make sure you have a smile on your face and see how many people smile back at you in return. I bet you’ll make a lot of new friends that day too.




Studying The Beat


By Megan Butter

Music surrounds us all the time, and I can’t name one single person that doesn’t listen to it. It is  a part of our culture and everyone can relate to it some way or another. Recently studies have been conducted to see how exactly music effects our bodies.

Music stimulates our brain, and has a positive effect on our bodies. According to an article on CNN there was a study done with people who were about to undergo surgery, some were given a pill to calm their nerves, while others were told to listen to music. “The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs,” (Landau, 2013). Music has a calming effect on the body and if some patients can be treated with music rather than drugs before surgery, then that is a great new cost effective way to help patients cope with the anxiety before surgery.

Also for some people music can give them chills. I know for me when I am in the zone and listening to a really good song by Eminem, I can feel chills, but I also feel that is because I can relate to the words that he is speaking in his rap.  According to Silvia and Nusbaum, “openness to experience was the strongest predictor of the typical experience of chills during music….Several markers of people’s experience and engagement with music in everyday life…did mediate openness’s effects,” (Silvia, Nusbaum, 2014). Hearing your life experiences in songs is incredible and can cause an overwhelming feeling to just come over you.

Finally, music can make miracles happen. There was an experiment conducted with stroke patients whose vision became impaired. The study happened in the UN and they used 16 stroke patients who had recently suffered their stroke (within a week). They had the patients either listen to classical music, white noise, or nothing. And surprise, surprise, the group with the highest score during the Behavioral InAttention Test were the patients who listened to classical music. The scientists concluded that, “listening to classical music may improve visual attention in stroke patients” (AJOT, 2013).  That is an amazing find! They want to do more studies to solidify their findings, but it is promising for all stroke patients, since majority of them suffer some sort of vision problems.

Music is universal and brings all different kinds of people together. It also has a huge influence on our health, and can change our mood in an instant. Next time you’re feeling blue you can either turn on a sad song and relate or you can turn on an upbeat jam to pump you up. Music is endless and is always changing and it will interesting to see what else scientists find it can do to our bodies and mind.








The Aftermath of Divorce on the Kids

By Megan Butter

blogWhen I was 4, my parents divorced. I don’t have any memories of them, my brother and me together as a family, but I do remember what was my “normal,” which was living with my brother and my mom and seeing my dad on the weekends. 89.4% of children live with primary live with their mother (Bowles III) My parents never talked about their divorce nor did they bad mouth each other in front of my brother and me, in fact they usually only talked about the good times with us. They would come together on Sundays for soccer games, and for holidays and some birthdays, but other than that my parents didn’t speak or see each other. I decided for this blog post to research the affects that divorce has on children, after watching the movie “A.C.O.D. Adult Children of Divorce”, starring Adam West Scott.

The divorce rate in America is 50%, and in many of those failed marriages, children are involved. First I want to take a look at Bowles III’s work because he had an interesting take on how children are affected by their parent’s divorce. For me when I see marriage, I see it as just a piece of paper. If you love somebody and are happy then who cares if you have a certificate saying that you’re mr. and mrs. so and so, that doesn’t matter, what does matter is how you feel about each and a piece of paper doesn’t determine that. Hell I could rip that piece of paper up easily and nothing would change, the feelings are still the same. Bowles III’s research seems to agree with my statement because he says that most children whose parents have divorced are a bit weary towards marriage themselves. Also according to Bowles III, we don’t fear of having successful relationship, we just fear about having successful marriages. We don’t want to follow in our parents’ footsteps. He says that we have gaps in our “relationship template” which is true since the only marriage we would be able to compare our own relationship too, would have been a failure, and who wants that. Children whose parents have divorced can also have trust issues, especially if one of the parents had completely vanished from the picture. I know from my own personal stand point that I have a closer relationship with my mother because she was the primary custodian of me and my brother. As I got older and got into relationships of my own, I noticed that I didn’t  have trust issues my with partner but I wouldn’t take him home and introduce him to the family. The only person to ever meet any one that I dated was my cousin and I feel I did that because I may not have felt secure in those relationships, as Bowles III has pointed out children of divorce parents don’t have a “relationship template.” A lot of the marriages in my family, expect my cousin’s have mainly ended in divorce. Which that could be why I only introduced my boyfriend at the time to my cousin because she has a successful relationship, one that  I can look up too and have an example of, one that I was lacking as child.  Bowles III goes on to say in his research that sons are more likely to resonate their absentee father and daughters are more likely to have “daddy issues.” Speaking from personal life, my brother does hold a grudge against our father for leaving and making promise that he couldn’t keep. I on the other hand did not hold a grudge over my father but I did do things that I knew he wouldn’t like to get a rise out of me. Children in divorced families tend to show more feelings than other kids and are more attached to their primary parent (Bowles III).  Now while all this research may seem daunting, it doesn’t mean that children of divorced parents are any less successful than those who come from intact families.Divorce mainly effects kids in the short term but in the long run they’ll be okay and can/will find someone were there not afraid they will become just another statistic with.