Author Archives: Isabelle Torhus

Are Lectures Ineffective?

Coming to college, a lot of students are overwhelmed by the idea of large lectures. Some students go as far as to say that going to lectures are a waste of time, and they can just teach themselves. But what is it that makes lectures “a waste of time”? Is it because students aren’t putting in enough effort, or are lectures just setting a student up for failure?

An article from Science Magazine is claiming that “Lectures aren’t just boring, they’re ineffective too,” according to a study. Scott Freeman, a biologist from the University of Washington, Seattle challenged the “predominant form of teaching” that has been used since 1050 in Europe (Source 1). Seeing that Freeman was a biologist, I was wondering why the effects of active learning were of interest to him. Doing some research on Freeman, I discovered that he and his colleagues in the Biology department are doing this research in order to improve the quality of teaching of science courses, like the ones they teach.

Freeman and a group of colleagues performed a meta-analysis, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This meta-analysis tested “the hypothesis that lecturing maximizes learning and course performance” through 225 studies (Source 2). These studies reported data on failure rates and exam scores in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, under traditional lecturing versus active learning. Since there have been so many studies done to investigate how lecturing effects a student’s success rate, it is obvious that comparing all of these study’s results would be the best way to form a conclusion. The large number of studies being analyzed also adds to the validity of Freeman’s conclusion and shows that this is of interest to many researchers. They are drawing analyses from a multitude of sources, but, on the other hand, they are focused around STEM courses, which could affect the results a bit. Maybe there is a difference in lecturing in language or history courses, versus the STEM courses. Since Freeman is a lecturer in Biology, looking into language and history courses might not be of interest. Although this is a factor to consider, STEM courses do cover four different types of classes, so there is a variety to a certain extent. The conclusion made here can only be related to courses that fall under the STEM category.

Freeman and his team meta-analyzed 225 studies, which documented student performance, based off of it being an active learning class or traditional lecture, but the active learning classes “varied widely in intensity and implementation” (Source 2). They focused on the class sessions, and did not consider homework assignments, or labs during analysis. I believe that the different degrees of active learning in class have an impact on how well a student will do, in addition to the types of homework and labs a student must do. Without taking these two factors into consideration, the results might not be entirely accurate. Looking at the kinds of homework and labs given and the types of active learning would add another level to the study and make it more credible. Looking at SC 200, we do have the texting polls, which make the class participate and be active, but I would consider the course more of a traditional lecture than an active learning class. Difference in opinion on what qualifies as a lecture or an active learning class really does decide the outcome of this study.

Although this analysis fails to consider homework, labs, and uniformity of active learning, they are seen as credible because they “followed guidelines for best practice for quantitative reviews (SI Materials and Methods).” In this study, there were two outcome (dependent) variables that are as follows:


  • scores on identical or formally equivalent examinations, concept inventories, or other assessments;
  • failure rates, usually measured as a percentage of students receiving a D or F grade or withdrawing from course in question (DFW rate)

(Source 2).


These dependent variables were used to form data and an eventual conclusion.

So, what did they find out from looking at all these studies done? Freeman found an overall mean to assess the differences between lecture sessions and active learning sessions. He concluded, “on average, students in traditional lecture courses are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in courses with active learning” (Source 2). In addition, they found “that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections” (Source 2). The results “support active learning as the preferred, empirically validated teaching practice in regular classrooms” (Source 2). Overall, the research rejected the null hypothesis, and failed to reject the alternative, which is that lectures do not help.

Are Freeman’s observations a fluke? Are these stats completely credible? Like many other studies, there are a multitude of factors that go into what is being observed. It is hard to make a conclusion on active learning courses and lecture courses while people may have different views on what qualifies as each. Besides this factor, the study proves to be very credible. A large number of studies were being meta-analyzed, from four different course types (STEM courses). As Andrew has told us in class, meta-analyses guards against false positives, which happens 5% of the time.

A concern from this meta-analysis however, is that the researchers could have chosen to ignore the studies that failed to reject the null hypothesis, which is an example of the file-drawer problem.


To see if this could be an issue skewing Freemans results, I found another study that evaluates the effectiveness of active learning classes. A review of research done by Michael Prince at Bucknell University “examines the evidence for the effectiveness of active learning” since he has “found that there is a broad but uneven support for the core elements of active, collaborative, cooperative and problem-based learning” (Source 3). This study does a very good job at recognizing the problem that there is not a “universally accepted” definition for active learning, since it can be interpreted differently. Prince defines the vocabulary he uses within the paper and also recognizes common problems with interpreting active learning. This is a very important step in making the study accurate and understandable. The review lists evidence for active learning from numerous research studies. A study that stuck out to be very convincing was a done by Ruhl, who implemented the pause procedure in his lecture. The study involved “72 students over two coursers in each of two semesters,” and the researchers examined the effects of stopping the 45 minute class three times with two minute breaks so students could work in pairs to clarify notes (Source 3). Another group was being examined which were taught with straight lecture and tested their short and long-term retention of the material. In the end, they found that test scores were 89.4 with the pause procedure, and 72.6 with no pause in the other group. This is a significant difference in exam scores, which makes it seem like active learning and implementing student activity into a lecture greatly benefits a student.

These are just two studies showing the effects of active learning on a student, and there are hundreds more out there. These studies prove to be accurate and to show a convincing conclusion. As always, these studies could have been effected by chance and could have been a fluke, but since there are so many studies proving the same thing, it seems like active learning helps a students learning, while lectures give students a larger chance to fail. It is also important to consider the effects of the file drawer problem in these studies. Since Freeman’s study failed to reject the null hypothesis, there could have been studies not published, and therefore not equally representing all the possible results for this kind of study. In order to know for sure that lectures are ineffective, the file-drawer problem must be identified as a problem and solved.


Sources: Source 1Source 2Source 3Source 4Source 5

Are Acai Berries Any Different From Other Berries?

A super fruit that’s popularity has been growing over the past years in North America is the acai berry. It is a berry that comes from the acai palm, which is predominantly found in Brazil. The acai berry has been used for a very long time in the tropical zones of Brazil, since it is a heavily abundant fruit. This fruit has only become popular in America recently because of all its claimed health benefits. Is it all true though? How “super” is this super food actually?


As mentioned before, Brazilians have eaten acai for a very long time, and have noticed its health benefits, but there are a very limited amount of studies that have been done on this fruit. Brazilians use the fruit in many medicinal ways, and “many anecdotal reports suggest the beneficial medicinal use of acai juice” (Source 2). Brazilians have used acai juice to prevent the flu, fever, and pain. There is dark green oil that comes from the fruit, which has been used as an anti-diarrheal agent. There has been known treatment for skin ulcers by using the grated fruit rind. Fruit seeds have been prepared as liquid extract as well as toasted to treat fevers. In addition, acai berry has been used “to treat skin complications, digestive disorders and parasitic infections” by indigenous healers (Source 2). All of this anecdotal evidence shows that Brazilians have been heavily reliant on the acai berry, but anecdotal evidence is not enough to form any conclusions, so I wanted to look for more credible evidence.

In the assessment of Acai’s health claim by Michael Heinrich, Tasleem Dhanji, and Ivan Casselman, they are unable to form a solid conclusion. They believe that “there is insufficient and unconvincing scientific evidence to promote acai as an exceptional health supplement” (Source 2). This assessment was written in 2010, which means that there has been more studies done since then. To my surprise, I was unable to find a large amount of studies done to prove acai berry’s health benefits, but I was able to find a few which support the claim that acai berry’s are beneficial to one’s health. Even though there is not evidence found, that does not mean there is no evidence. These researchers were not able to form a solid conclusion, and therefore failed to reject the null hypothesis, and were not able to prove that there is something special with acai berries.

In 2010, a study was done to “investigate the antioxidant potential and hypocholesterolemic effects of acai pulp ingestion in rats fed a standard or hypercholesterolemic diet” (Source 3). They conducted this research by having a control group of female Fischer rats that were fed a diet containing 25% soy oil and 1% cholesterol. The test diet contained 2% acai pulp for control. They killed the rats after the six-week experimental period, to measure levels of protein in the blood and liver. The rats that were fed the hypercholesterolemic diet showed increased levels of total and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered the “bad” cholesterol, while high-density lipoproteins (HDL) is considered the “good” cholesterol. LDL contributes to plaque, which clogs arteries, and HDL helps remove LDL from arteries. So, the hypercholesterolemic diet showed an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), and a decrease in the good cholesterol, overall a negative effect on the rat’s health. LDL causes plaque to build up in the arteries. Reading these findings, I was unsure if plaque in the arteries was actually an extremely risky thing, or if it was a soft end point, a dependent variable that is not the main focus of the study, but seems to be related to what we care about. I was able to found that plaque build up in the arteries actually is a disease called atherosclerosis, and LDL is a major cause of this (Source 7). The wall of the artery thickens if you have atherosclerosis, and your arteries can begin to be clogged. It is obvious that this is actually a major health risk, and is not a soft end point in this case.

Supplementing the control group with acai caused decreased total and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This means that adding acai to the rat’s diet caused a decrease in the LDL, which causes plaque in the arteries. This is a positive effect on the rat’s health. From these results, the researchers came to the conclusion that “the consumption of acai improves antioxidant status and has a hypocholesterolemic effect in an animal model of dietary-induced hypercholesterolemia” (Source 3). This means that the rat’s antioxidants levels improved and their cholesterol was lowered.

This study comes off as a reliable source, although it only covers one aspect of acai berries health benefits. The researchers conclude that it helps with antioxidants and cholesterol, but there are many other angles that can be taken to further investigate acai’s health benefits. In addition, the researchers seem to be from South America, making it difficult to find more information on their experience in the science world. On their journal published on ScienceDirect, they were identified as having Masters in science or Ph.D, which is ultimately not important to prove their credibility, since this is an eminence-based argument. Lastly, their journal outlined specific details of each step taken in their study, including the exact materials they used, the specifics on the animals they tested on, including weight and origin, and how they analyzed the liver and blood.

While doing research, it was difficult to find studies done to find health benefits, although I found a pilot study which evaluated the effect of acai pulp for metabolic disorders in overweight people. A pilot study is done to “evaluate the feasibility, time, cost, adverse events, and effect size” of a study to improve the design of an eventual full-scale study (Source 4). The study was conducted on 10 overweight adults, all with a body mass index over 25 kg/m^2 and less than 30 kg/m^2. These subjects took 100 g of acai pulp twice daily for a month. After a month, “there were reductions in fasting glucose and insulin levels” and “a reduction in total cholesterol, as well as borderline significant reductions in LDL-cholesterol and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol” (Source 5). From these results, the researchers concluded “consumption of acai fruit pulp reduced levels of selected markers of metabolic disease risk in overweight adults, indicating that further studies are warranted” (Source 5). This pilot study obviously is not as reliable as a full-scale study, but it does show that there should be more time and money invested into finding the effects acai berries in metabolic disease.

These two studies are just the first steps in showing if acai berry is actually a special “super food”. There are so many claims being made about the wonders acai berries make, but where are the studies to prove it? I had trouble finding studies proving acai’s uniqueness, which makes me consider the file-drawer problem might be at hand. If studies have been done, but there has not been a significant result, or the results did not agree with the researcher, they might not have been published. This really could be the case for Brazilians who are trying to market their “super food”, or American’s trying to sell their “Acai bowls”. If there is a study showing that acai berries are not much more special than blueberries or raspberries, than people trying to sell acai will not want that study to be published. From the study on the rats and the pilot study, we can tell it is very likely there are health benefits from eating acai berries. But are these health benefits significantly better than any other berry already on the market, and selling for even cheaper? Researchers should evaluate the difference between acai berries from other berries, which will put in perspective if this “super fruit” really deserves the hype it has been getting.

Sources: Source 1Source 2Source 3Source 4Source 5,Source 6Source 7

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Cause Heart Disease

I think a large problem in society is the underestimated effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on our bodies. It has become very natural for some people to drink soda everyday. This is especially easy for us students who eat at the dinning commons and have access to soda for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are lots of studies showing the risks of drinking sugar-sweetened drinks. One of the claims being made is that these drinks are lined to increased risk of heart disease in men.

The study which was published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, compared men who drank sugar-sweetened beverages and men who did not. “Beginning in January 1986 and every two years until December 2008,” questionnaires were sent and completed by participants concerning their health and diets (Source 1). Midway through the survey they also gave blood samples. There were 42,883 men being studied, who were primarily Caucasian men between the ages of 40 and 75. In order to collect data and form conclusions, researchers “measured different lipids and proteins in the blood” which can indicate heart disease. Researchers controlled risk factors in this study, to avoid that the result are skewed by a third variable. These risk factors included “smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol use and family history of heart disease” (Source 1). Their research showed that “men who drank a 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage a day had a 20 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to men who didn’t drink any sugar-sweetened drinks” (Source 1).


Frank B. Hu, the study leader, thinks that these results adds to the already growing evidence showing that sugar-sweetened drinks are extremely harmful to ones health. “Certainly, it provides strong justification for reducing sugary beverage consumption among patients, and more importantly, in the general population” says Hu (Source 1).

This study is convincing, as it was conducted while taking into consideration risk factors, and had a very large sample size and covered a long span of time. Although the sample size was big, the study only applied to men, and heart disease is important for men and women to avoid. Learning how sugar-sweetened drinks affect women is very important as well, as it could educate women on how to make healthier decisions to avoid heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. Hu, the leader of the study, also seems like an experienced researcher, as he is a professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Harvard School of Public Health. An important thing to consider though is correlation versus causation. This is one thing we discussed in class with the topic of sugar-sweetened drinks causing weight gain. The confusion between correlation and causation can be caused by third variables. Since risk factors that can also cause heart disease were controlled, we know that those unhealthy habits that also could cause heart disease are not skewing the results. Even after controlling the risk factors, there was still an increase in risk of heart disease. Because the researchers took these into consideration, it can be said more confidently that this study shows causation between sugar-sweetened drinks and heart disease.

Overall, this study was conducted well and the conclusions seem to make sense. Obviously, there is always a possibility that these results were caused by chance. In order to make this study more accurate an approach could have been taken that is similar to the experiment done in Holland. The study in Holland, that we discussed in class, was a trial of sugar-free or sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight in children. It was a double-blind randomized control trial, so the subjects did not know what they were drinking. Blind trials provide stronger evidence, leading to this study’s clear results. This approach allows for people to make the same choices regardless of what they think they are drinking. If Hu took this approach, it would also allow the men to make the same food or health choices regardless of what type of drink they were drinking, because they would not know if it was sweetened or not. Subjects might be more inclined to eat healthier foods, maybe lessening the chance of heart disease, if they know they are drinking sweetened-drinks, compared to someone who knows they are not drinking a sweetened-drink.

Sources: Source 1Source 2Source 3

Do Nagging Mothers Lead to Successful Daughters?

Scrolling through Facebook, I found some people had shared a link titled “Study Finds Girls with Nagging Moms Grow Up to Be More Successful”. Reading this, I thought it made perfect sense, but wondered what sort of study was done to prove this.

The article published on Seventeen Magazine, and also numerous other online sources like, stated some basic information on the study that was done at the University of Essex. Finding that the article about this conclusion and study was published on tabloid sort of sources made me wonder how credible this conclusion was. The website articles always cited the study done at the University, but when clicking on the citation, it led me to the Institute for Social and Economic Research Page (iSER), with the name of the researcher, Ericka G. Rascon-Ramirez, and the publication date, 31 March 2015. There was no official scientific journal publication that was there, or possible to find on the Internet. The iSER website did leave a link to, where they also wrote an article about the study, and went into more depth than the American published articles. The study looked at the lives of schoolgirls aged 13 to 14 from a database of 15,500 pupils, and it was said that mothers appeared to be the parent with the greatest nagging power. In this study, the expectations of the daughter were measured by the “aspirations and beliefs about the likelihood of attending higher education reported by the main parent” (source 3). Next, the article takes a turn and suddenly talks about how “parents with high expectations can reduce a teenager’s chance of becoming pregnant by four per cent compared to parents with ‘middling aspirations’” (source 3).

Reading this article and the little information on how the study was conducted left me feeling confused. This article should not be a study that is cited in magazine articles to support the claim that nagging mothers lead to successful daughters. There is a lot of data missing from this article, which leads me to believe that this is an empty claim and that the study was not accurate. Although there was a large sample size, there was no explanation about how the researcher knew there was causation or correlation between the two variables. In addition, I did a Google search on the researcher, Ericka G. Rascon-Ramirez, and did not find this study published anywhere else in an academic journal, and only found information on Ramirez from the Middlesex University of London, where she recently joined after studying her PhD in Economics at University of Essex. In the biography it does discuss her interest in research of the role parents play in children development, but does not talk about the study on nagging mothers. There also was a reference to teen pregnancy, which was not originally mentioned in the articles. Since Ramirez has a PhD, it seems like she can be a credible source, but her PhD is in Economics, which is not directly related to mother daughter relationships. I am unsure why this study is of interest to her.


Although this study does not seem to have sufficient evidence to support its claim, there have been many other studies done to show the influences mothers have on their daughters. One aspect would be how a mother’s career choice or choice to not work effects what their daughter will do later in life. Diane Sholomskas and Rosalind Axelrod did this study from Adelphi University. They hypothesized “that women would enact roles similar to those of their mothers and that they would feel positively about themselves when the relationship with their mothers had been positive and their mothers were perceived as having been satisfied with their roles” (source 5). They had a sample size of 67 women from New York and New Haven metropolitan areas. The women were recruited from daycare centers and playgrounds. They had to follow a list of criteria. They used various methods to measure their self-esteem, including answering questions in an interview and using the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory. After this process, it was seen that contrary to belief, “there was no direct relationship between the women’s primary adult role choices and their mothers’ primary roles” (source 5). The results from this study can show that our intuition is lousy, as discussed in class, which is why we need science.

We need science to prove things right or wrong. As Andrew highlighted in class, we are very good at putting down other people’s views as wrong, but not seeing fault in our own beliefs. This is why doing research and conducting studies is so important, like Sholomskas and Axelrod did. In the first unreliable study, it was easy for Facebook users and people who skimmed through these magazines to believe this study was credible and that the headline was true, but that is just our intuition, and looking into it, the evidence was not completely convincing. Scientists work to find the truth. That is why it is important to question what may seem obvious, and consider if a study was done properly and actually shows real evidence.

Sources: Source 1Source 2Source 3Source 4Source 5

Gluten Free Diet to Decrease Effects of Autism

A topic mentioned in class one day was if a special diet could reduce the effects of autism in someone, which made me curious on the topic. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are terms that are used to represent “a group of complex disorders of brain development” (Autismspeaks). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 1 in 68 American children fall on the autism spectrum, and ultimately it “affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide” (Autismspeaks). There is no explanation to the increasing prevalence in autism, but different therapies and intervention has proven to help the effects of autism. Besides turning to therapy, some people approach autisms effects with what a person on the spectrum eats.


Numerous studies have been done to investigate if having a selective diet is helpful to a person with autism. One was a preliminary double blind clinical trial done in 2006. Previously, there had been testimonials that supported the efficacy of the gluten-free and casein-free diet, and there were numerous parental and teacher reports, saying after an autistic child was placed on a restricted diet, they were “cured” of their autism. Before this study was done, there was “insufficient empirical data supporting these claims,” meaning these “conclusions” and ideas that a special diet would help people with Autism, were only based on theory or pure logic (source 2). This study’s credible evidence to prove this idea came at the perfect time.

This study had a total of 15 children, average age being 7 years, with ASD. 12 of them were boys, and 3 of them were girls. The sample size and boy to girl ratio are concerning. The fact that there are only 15 children being tested could skew the results. In addition, more than half of the small sample are boys. Boys and girls could react to a restricted diet differently, and therefore should be represented equally to avoid any negative effects on the results. Besides this, the study does take note of the sample’s race and any major medical problems. One child was Asian, and the rest were Caucasian. Although they acknowledge their race, they fail to look at a diverse group of children, since only one child is a different race than the others. This could affect the results, and make it questionable if they can conclude anything for children in general, and not just Caucasian children. Any child who had celiac disease or physical or sensory-impairments were excluded from the study, thus not skewing the results. The children completed a 12-week protocol.

There were many instruments for measuring the progress of the children. Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) were used to describe the subjects, or judge autistic features. These are very detailed tests, which should have contributed to the accuracy in this study. CARS assessment followed their behavior with relationships with others, imitation, emotional expression, body use, peculiarities and many others. CARS validity “has been assessed as good under various conditions” (source 2). ADI-R “is a semi structured interview for caregivers of individuals with autism,” which studies “impairment in reciprocal social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors and stereotyped patterns” (source 2). The researchers also took into consideration the dependent variables, and used CARS, Urinary Peptide Levels (UPL), Ecological Communication Orientation (ECO) Language Sampling Summary, and in-home observations to do that.

Only the data manager and dietician knew who received a placebo diet and who received a gluten free diet. Making the trial a double-blind placebo trial can lead to more accurate results. All the participants received meals from the GCRC’s Metabolic Kitchen during the 12-week period. Ultimately, the design of this study was to compare a regular diet and the gluten-free and casein-free diet “in terms of autism symptoms as measured by” the instruments listed above (source 2). This let researchers see their “social initiating, social responding, intelligible words spoken, and non-speech vocalizations” (source 2). Looking at the results of the study, “group analysis results indicated no significant differences with CARS and ECOS, or behavioral frequencies grouped data for urinary peptide levels of gluten and casein” (source 2). In other words, there weren’t significant differences in the instruments to measure progress, including CARS, ECOS, and urinary peptide levels.

So, why does the double-blind placebo trial show a lack of results, while testimonials swear diet decreased autistic traits? One reason might be the unreliability of anecdotes. Although the parents of an autistic child may have seen a decrease in autistic traits at one point, this could have been caused by a confounding variable, not just the change to a gluten-free diet. For example, it is important to note any changes in physical activity, change in environment around the child, and anything else that could have an affect on an autistic child’s behavior. On the other hand, parents could claim seeing a decrease in autistic behavior when, in fact, it did not actually happen. They could have so strongly wanted to see a change that they convinced themselves there was a change. Anecdotes are not reliable enough to draw conclusions on. The observation could be a one-time change that was due to chance, so by conducting a study, the results could be more accurate, although still having the ability to be effected by chance. Since the anecdotes only happened one time, there is not evidence that if they tried it again, they would be successful.

The double blind clinical trial is not flawless either. The conclusion they made that there was “no significant differences with CARS and ECOS, or behavioral frequencies grouped data for urinary peptide levels of gluten and casein” could be a false negative. This would mean that they conclude there was no effect from a gluten free diet, while there actually is one. There have been many other studies done to try to prove the same thing, one being done in the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom. By using Meta analyses, researchers could possibly figure out if this is actually a false negative or not, and how the studies differed procedurally and with its results. Lastly, there could be a null hypothesis. Although researches thought they saw results, it could have been no significant changes in the children’s behavior. This is especially possible for parents who tested a gluten free diet at home.

Source 1Source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5

Does Sitting too Close to the TV Actually Ruin Your Eyes?

I am sure your parents have said to you a million times when you were a child, “do not sit so close to the TV, it will ruin your eyes!” Of course you had to accept your parents demand, but is this common claim actually true?

When the TV was first invented and became a regular household item, parents were concerned for their children’s eyesight, and that was actually for good reason. These television sets emitted levels of radiation, which, over extended exposure, could increase the risk of eye problems. Now a day, televisions are built to avoid any radiation, so this is no longer a problem. So why are parents still saying that sitting close to a TV can cause eye problems?

Well, some people are skeptic over harmful emissions still coming from the TV. Another perspective is from a controversial study of Alaskan Eskimos done in the 1960s. This study showed that nearsightedness was more common in the younger generations of Eskimos, or the generations who had been exposed to modern civilization. This led many experts to claim that environmental factors affect our vision, like watching too much television, staring at a computer or cell phone screen.

This is just one study that not everyone believes, but more recently there have been more studies done. “Results from a survey done by Chinese health officials show that almost 60 percent of students in primary and middle school are nearsighted”(source 1). Studies like this have shown the cases of myopia, or nearsightedness, higher in Asia, but experts have noticed that there has been an increase in kids worldwide becoming nearsighted, although unsure of the cause. According to Dr. Roy S. Chuck, “published National Institutes of Health data for the past 30 years find that the incidence of myopia in the U.S. has almost doubled from 24 percent to 42 percent.” Although there are many factors pointing to the correlation of increased electronic use and increased population with nearsightedness, there has been no concrete evidence of the relationship being causal. Chuck says, “although there is no direct evidence, there does exist highly suggestive laboratory and clinical data, and it just makes sense.”


So, there is no connection between TV and permanent eye damage or nearsightedness yet, but it is proven that staring at screens does cause eyestrain. Eyestrain is only a temporary condition, and can be fixed easily. Eyestrain can cause headaches, tearing, dry eyes, light sensitivity, and many others symptoms. To get rid of the strain and fatigue, simply just rest you eyes. To avoid straining your eyes from screens, give your eyes a few minutes of a break every once and a while, by taking them off any TV, phone, or laptop screen.

After researching, I was surprised to find a lack of information on if technology has really caused nearsightedness to increase, but in a few years, I am sure this will be possible to prove. Kids begin using electronics earlier and earlier, and this might be the proof scientists need in order to figure out technology’s affects on eyesight.

Sources: Source 1Source 2Source 3Source 4Source 5

Morning Person vs. Night Owl

At this point in your life, you should know if you are a morning or a night person. Although you know what you are now, your circadian rhythm, or biological internal clock, changes throughout your life. Generally “school-age children are early birds, while teenagers tend to be night owls, and then as they age, adults gradually transition back into morning people” says MD, PhD Katherine Sharkey. The interesting thing about your sleep pattern is that it says a lot about you, and each has their advantages and disadvantages.

good morningmornings

Being a “night owl” means that you are most awake late at night, and tend to go to bed later. Being a morning person, or a “lark”, means you are up early and go to bed early. There have been many studies to show which type of sleeping pattern is in fact best. Two epidemiologists at Southampton University in England did one of them. They analyzed a national sample of men and women, 356 of them being larks, (in bed before 11 pm and up before 8 am), and 318 being owls, (in bed after 11 and up after 8am). The group was surveyed on sleep patterns as well as measures related to health, wealth, and wisdom. After some analyzing, they saw that night owls had larger incomes and more access to cars than morning larks did. Additionally, the two groups scored roughly the same on a cognitive test and showed no self or doctor reported health differences.

Another test done in 1999 showed that “evening-types are more likely to have higher intelligence scores”(source 2). Psychologist Richard D. Roberts of the University of Sydney and Patrick C. Kyllonen of the Air Force Research Lab came to this conclusion after testing 420 participants with two intelligence tests. These two tests measured “vocational knowledge (e.g. mechanics and engineering), general math and reading comprehension, and working memory and processing speed”(source 2). The results were not overwhelming, but did fall to the side of the night owls. They were significantly better on working memory and processing speed, even holding up when the tests were taken in the morning. This study shows that night owls are more likely to have higher intelligence scores, contrary to common belief.

Despite these two studies that put night owls in good light, there is some evidence that they have worse habits. An analysis done in Finland with 676 adults discovered that night owls were “more likely to be current or lifelong smokers, much less likely to stop smoking, and at a much higher risk for nicotine dependence as per diagnostic criteria, compared with morning folks”(source 2). A different study of 536 people showed that night owls consume more alcohol than morning persons. This is not really surprising, since nightlight is paired with drinking and smoking. Researchers are trying to figure out if night owls do these activities because they are out late, or if these activities are what keep them up longer. Lastly, Sharkley says “night owls tend to be more depressed. . . [and] have a higher dependence on caffeine.” While this is the case for night owls, morning people have proven to be more persistent and cooperative. Research done by Randler and Heidelberg on 346 test participants of both sleep patterns done showed these positive traits, in addition to agreeability and conscientiousness. In addition, a study done in 1997 by Joseph Ferrari found that morning people procrastinate less than night owls. He recorded six days of daily tasks, which led him to believe that procrastination behaviors tended to happen with people who did things in the evening.

Lastly, an argument put forth by two University of Toronto psychologists suggests that morning types may be happier. They assessed a sample of 435 young adults, ages 17 to 38, and 297 older adults, aged 59 to 79, on their sleep patterns and their current moods. This research showed that morning people “had higher positive affect across the board, compared with night people.” Sharkey says that morning people tend to sleep better, and have a more regular sleep pattern. This can lead to them being happier and feeling healthier than a night owl might.

So, after reading about all this research done about morning people and night owls, which one, do you think, is best? It is hard to tell, because each has its own benefits and each has its own negative effects. Personally, I change between being a night owl and a morning pretty often, depending on the busyness of my schedule. Being a night owl has proven to work pretty well for me, and it seems to be working for a lot of others as well.


Sources: Source 1Source 2,Picture Source

Which is Better – Coffee or Tea?

As I have gotten older, I have formed a dependence on caffeine, and have noticed that many adults do as well. Coffee is usually what comes to mind when you think of getting some energy in the morning, but tea is also a solid option. One is healthier, one gives more energy, and one benefits your health in other ways. Which drink is overall better? Well, it depends what you want to get out of it.

Typically, coffee is seen as less healthy than tea, but is that actually true? Coffee in fact has lots of antioxidants, such as quinines, trigonelline, and chlorogenic acid. In addition, research has suggested that coffee may lower the rise of liver cancer, colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, type II diabetes, and gout. When it comes to caffeine content, coffee has more of it than tea. So, if you want to drink tea or coffee to get a caffeine boost, coffee would be the best bet.

On the other hand, there are some negatives to coffee as well. As you have probably heard from your parents or seen first hand, drinking a large amount of coffee can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and just overall a dependence on caffeine. Some people get headaches when they do not have their regular cups of coffee during the day. Higher levels of bad cholesterol have been linked to a person drinking lots of unfiltered coffee, but research is still being done to see if drinking coffee raises the risk of heart disease in some people, since results have been conflicting thus far.

Tea has a more positive connotation. Tea and tea extracts were tested on rats, mice, and human cells in laboratory studies, showing promising positive results. Like coffee, research has suggested that tea lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease. It also lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, reduces cholesterol levels, helps prevent blood clotting, fight inflammation, cancer, and seasonal allergies. In addition to all these health benefits, different types of tea have possible health benefits, too. Black and green tea may lower risk for ovarian cancer, green tea may reduce breast cancer risk and decrease death rates from heart disease. When it comes to caffeine, it seems like coffee has more. This is because the high comes faster, but will also drop quicker, while tea will keep you going for longer. Tea also contains many more antioxidants than coffee. The National Cancer Institute at the NIH says that tea contains polyphenol compounds, which are antioxidants that might aid in cancer prevention.

Some cons to drinking tea would, of course, be the fact that it contains caffeine, which can become addictive when consumed too often. Tea also contains fluoride, which is good for your dental health, but can also increase risk of brittle bones.


After collecting this information, it is not easy to decide which is best. If you are someone who needs energy, and fast, coffee is a good pick. Although there are cons to drinking coffee, Harvard School of Public Health analyzed coffees affect on health and came to the conclusion that it did not cause any serious health problems, while also not providing any specific health benefits, either, making coffee a pretty neutral drink. So, if you enjoy drinking coffee, there is nothing to worry about. If you are a woman concerned about your health, tea might be a beneficial choice, because of its possible benefits and plenty of antioxidants. For my sake, I think I will continue to enjoy my regular cups of coffee and try to increase the amount of tea I drink.

Sources: Source 1Source 2Source 3Picture source

Are Cell Phones Making People Stupid?

Cell phones have become a necessity to people in our day and age. I personally would not know what to do with myself if I did not have my phone for a day. Whether phones have affected us mentally in a positive or negative way is debatable. When we think about our daily lives, and how much we use our phones or how much we see others use their phones, we can pick up on some pretty obvious affects that our phones have on us.

Our phones can influence our lives pretty negatively. One, people try to text and drive, and kill innocent people in their attempt at multitasking. Another is our lack of concentration. Just while writing this blog post, I must have looked at my phone and gone on Facebook in another tab in Safari maybe 15 times total. We are also relying on our phones way too much. If I did not have a phone, I would get lost all the time without the Google Maps app, because I never learned how to read a regular map. I often use auto-correct on my phone to check the spelling of things, or just assume it will always correct my errors. Lastly, professionals have seen a decrease in communications skills. According to Jonathan Alpert, “phones have become a pacifier of sorts, a security blanket, and a source of comfort to many.”

Although there are some negative affects to having a phone, there are also some perks to having a phone. Everything is at your fingertips, so you can instantly reply to emails, send texts, and call anyone around the world. In addition, with all the new apps being created everyday, the options of what to do on your phone are almost limitless. For example just at Penn State, we have an app to check the amount of people in the gyms around campus, where the busses are in comparison to where you are, and what is for dinner at Pollock tonight. Cell phones really make life so easy.

So, do the negative affects outweigh the positive affects? It is hard to tell, but in a recent comparison of statistics by Jess Bolluyt, it seems as though teens are becoming less intelligent from cell phones. The Pew Research Center has been gathering data on teen’s ownership of cell phones. In 2004, 45% of teen’s aged 12 to 17 had a cell phone. In 2013, 78% of teens between those ages owned a cell phone, showing a 33% increase in only 9 years. When you look at the SAT scores from the same nine years (2004 to 2013), the mean score from the Math, Critical Reading and Writing sections have declined. When putting these two factors together, it can seem like students are getting dumber due to the increase in cell phone ownership, but there can be many other factors leading to these results. This can mean that students are growing a dependence on technology, or that cell phones are affecting students reading abilities. The SAT measures student’s readiness for college, so there could be a better resource to measure a student’s intelligence, since socioeconomics also affects how a student will do on their SATs.

SAT vs. Phone chart


On the other hand, Daniel T. Willingham argues that phones are not making us dumber, but are just a huge distraction. “Research shows that our intuition is wrong. We can focus. But our sense that we can’t may not be a phantom. Paying attention requires not just ability but desire. Technology may snuff out our desire to focus,” says Willingham. The problem with technology is that it offers us constant entertainment, which can distract us from other more boring tasks, like learning. Now that we are such constant users of technology including cell phones, we have the question “Isn’t there something better to do than what I’m doing?” is always sitting in the back of our minds. This is a good way to look at your cell phone addiction as something you are actually in control of.

It is obvious that there are good and bad things to having a cell phone. Based on the SAT score decline while the cell phone ownership increased, it seems likely that cell phones are having a large effect on teens capabilities in the classrooms and on tests, but if you believe Willingham, this can all be controlled if you recognize when you need to properly concentrate.


Sources: Source 1Source 2 (image)Source 3

Protein Bars – Good or Bad?

I think there has been a general misunderstanding with protein bars and how healthy they actually are. Any person trying to be healthy might try to eat a protein bar as a healthy snack choice in their day, but protein bars are not all that good for you. Protein bars usually contain 6-10 grams of protein in them, but can also contain many other ingredients that are not so good for you. It’s important to check the ingredients list and how much sugar the bars contain. Some can contain even more than a candy bar would, so the healthy looking label that makes all sorts of health claims can be a little deceiving. As a person that enjoys working out, I have always wondered when the best time is to eat a protein bar- before or after a workout?

Not all protein bars are good for you

Some people have different opinions on when to eat protein bars, due to what they personally want to get out of their workouts. In “Nutrition Journal”, there was a study done in 2004, where one group ate protein bars daily and participated in resistance training and another trained without eating protein bars. This was done over a nine-week period, and it was proven that the group who ate protein bars gained lean muscle mass, while the other group did not.

Furthermore, we can look into the effects of protein bars when eaten appropriately. Eating a protein bar before a workout can give you energy throughout your workout to keep you going the entire time. Although this sounds like a good thing, you will burn more fat during a workout if you eat a protein bar after your workout.

This is because the energy from the bars is stored in your Glycogen stores, and while you are working out, your body will be taking energy from this rather than your fat stores. In this case, it proves to be more effective to have a protein bar after a workout, if you want to burn fat. There are other positive effects as well. Glycogen is actually necessary for the brain and nervous system to keep functioning normally. So, when eating a protein bar after a workout, you are giving your brain and nervous system the Glycogen they need. Lastly, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, “having protein post-workout encourages muscle gain, reduces soreness and accelerates training recovery.”

It is clear that protein bars are a good source of energy before or after a workout, if you choose the right kind of bar that is not filled with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Depending on the body you want to build, eating extra protein before or after a workout is a choice you will need to make. Some choose it as a pre-workout energy boost, and some choose it as a post-workout meal replacement. After some research, I have seen clear evidence to it being more useful and effective being eaten after a workout.

Sources: Source 1 , Source 2 , Source 3 , Picture Source


Initial Blog Post – Isabelle Torhus

Hi, I am Isabelle Torhus. I am in Smeal College of Business, and my intended major is Supply Chain Management. Last year I did a gap year and spent my time going to school on an island on the west coast of Norway. My family is norwegian and I am now fluent in Norwegian. It was an awesome experience but I am happy to be back in America studying again. Here is a link to see all the amazing things Norway has to offer:


Science is not really my best subject, although I find it very interesting and wish I was better at it. I took this course simply to fill my Gen. Ed. requirements, and because there is a very small chance that I would do well in a Physics or Chem class.

As I said before, I am not very good in science, which is the main reason why I am not a science major. Although science is interesting, I think that business is very interesting as well and is something I want to pursue a career in.




word cloud - supply chain