NFL Concussion

Millions watched as the St. Louis Rams faced off against the Baltimore Ravens in what served as a showcase for the health drawbacks of repeated hits endured by football players throughout the season. Rams quarterback Case Keenum dropped back to pass in the fourth quarter before being slammed to the ground by a Raven defender. Moments later, as teammates tried to help their quarterback up off the ground, Keenum appeared visibly dizzy and unable to get to his feet. Obvious to everyone watching, Keenum had suffered a severe concussion. However, Keenum remained in the game for the remainder of the fourth quarter. The NFL has protocols for players with concussions, but all those protocols failed to protect the player from himself, knowing that exiting the game would be squandering an opportunity to prove that he can be a professional football player, something he has undoubtedly dreamed of since being a kid.

With social media highlighting player injuries more than ever, and a new movie being released next month starring Will Smith about the beginnings of concussion research, the issue is in the spotlight more than ever. So the question remains: how damaging are concussions?

One study conducted by Johns Hopkins University recruited nine former NFL players ranging in age from 50-80, with the same number of control people who never played football or sustained any head trauma. The researchers conducted brain scans of several types, as well as memory tests on the 18 subjects. The study found that not only did the players have serious abnormalities in their brains, they also suffered from having a worse memory than the control subjects.

Several other studies have been conducted to find similar alarming results, however, the research into the science behind concussions and how to better treat/prevent them is low.  As Phd Paul Comper puts it, “despite the proliferation of neuropsychological research on sports-related concussion over the past decade, the methodological quality of studies appears to be highly variable, with many lacking proper scientific rigour.” Concussion research is not nearly at the levels it needs to be to match the seriousness of the injury.

This is an example of a scientific topic not having enough research to be definitively understood, which is something that leads to harmful consequences for athletes.   

Demographics in Politics

Politicians are always looking for a way to gain the upperhand over their opponent, and demographics are a huge part of that. For example, people under the age of 40 lean democrat 60% of the time, and jewish people tend to lean democrat 70% of the time. These data points are incredibly important for the outcomes of elections.

Republicans in the upcoming election are asking questions like “what percentage of the Hispanic vote do we need to win to take the election?” and “how can we gain ground in the low income sector”. There is a science to these questions that can radically alter the outcome of an election.

This is an example of a science that has real applicable value in our world that many people do not think of as science. Data is becoming more and more prevalent in our society, and the best politicians and corporations are using it to their advantage.

Alien Megastructure Discovered! (Not Really)

As we learned in class, scientific misinformation can spread like wildfire. Often, the general public can sque a scientific conclusion, turning a true statement into a sensationalist headline, misrepresenting the truth.

That is exactly what happened last month when an astronomer at, none other than, Penn State concluded that the mysterious lighting around a distant star, KIC 8462852, which dimmed in a frequent fashion, may be caused by an ‘Alien Megastructure’. Within days, publications around the world published articles about the finding, social media was trending with the idea, and people were asking each other about the discovery, all of which left out a key word in the conclusion: may be.

Even as the conclusion was drawn, the astronomer pointed out that extraterrestrial involvement in the phenomenon was simply one of many possibilities. None the less, that didn’t stop the headlines. “Alien Megastructure Discovered!” was a common line across the internet, completely ignoring the lack of any conformation or hard evidence.

Luckily, this case of scientific misinformation was not harmful. There have been many cases in the past of people spreading ‘facts’ about important things, such as the effect of cigarettes and alcohol, which were untrue or simply misleading. These cases can lead to dangerous outcomes.

It is important in the scientific community to be responsible about the information you spread, and the case of the ‘alien megastructure’ is an example of what can happen when sensationalism comes before facts.   

Caffeine: Good or Bad?

Caffeine is either a miracle, capable of making an otherwise drowsy person into an awake and alert individual, or a toxin that should be avoided at all costs, depending on who you ask.

All college students know the feeling: having a test the next day and being too tired to study all night. It’s only natural that one would turn to a completely legal, widely used drink with the promise of alertness. But not everyone loves the stuff: many people find the caffeine-rich substance to make them jittery and incapable of really studying. So what is the deal?

Amazingly, the research around a widely used and highly polarizing drink such as coffee is still incomplete, with scientists discovering new information about the stuff all the time. As one researcher at Johns Hopkins puts it, coffee’s “particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans.”

Conducting a double-blind trial on people who had not previously been coffee drinkers, giving some a dose of caffeine and others a placebo, and studying their memory of a series of images.

The people who consumed the caffeine tablet were significantly better at remembering the images, leading the researches to conclude that Caffeine has a positive impact on human memory.

German scientists for Pub Med gathered different type of scientific research on the subject through a survey in which they compared grades among middle school students and their caffeine intake. They found that, in general, caffeine usage lead to higher grades.

These two examples of scientific research about caffeine usage relate to class, in that they showcase two types of ways in which scientists can make conclusions about a topic, the first being a double blind experiment and the other being a survey.  

Fighting Aging

Humans have become complacent with the idea of death. This is not surprising, considering that everyone born more than 150 years ago has since died. This is not to say that people have not wondered, longed or even attempted to achieve immortality.

The biggest obstacle to this, and one that seems insurmountable to most, is aging. Even by curing every disease and preventing any physical action that would otherwise end a human life, human genetics would still give way to cell loss, DNA damage, immune system decline and the various other factors that we group together and call “aging.” While preventing this can feel like a hopeless cause, dreamers throughout history, from Alexander the Great (and even before) have searched for the mythical fountain of youth in an attempt to beat nature and live forever.

The failures of past wealthy people to attain immortality has not, however, deterred today’s wealthy people from trying. And while their goals are the same, their approach is very different. Where Alexander searched for a fictitious fountain, today’s tech titans, such as Sergey Brin (Google), Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Peter Thiel (PayPal) are all attempting to transcend human biology through emerging sciences focused on improving human DNA.

This idea is far fetched, difficult and maybe even silly, but the same has been said in the past about several other technological/medical advances which have later become true.

Dolphins, our Guardians of the Sea?

Dolphins these days have attained a reputation of being naturally friendly animals, known for their advanced intelligence and their beauty and grace in the sea. For most people, the mention of dolphins either raises memories of trained dolphins jumping through hoops and splashing water, or the image of a school of dolphins swimming along just past the crashing waves of the beach, but how many people immediately think dolphin_hoopof a helping hand? The connection between humans and dolphins is one that goes back centuries, as far as the ancient Greeks. There is no shortage of Greek mythology showing dolphins helping humans lost at sea, whether its saving a drowning person, rescuing someone from a shark attack, or guiding a lost ship to safety, humans have always felt a kinship with dolphins, a kinship that dolphins appear to reciprocate. There is no shortage of stories of dolphins helping humanity, but do they mean to? According to research, they just might.

Following their research on dolphins and the dolphin brain, scientist at Emory University have concluded that behind humans, dolphins are the dolphin with graduation capsecond most intelligent animals on earth, behind humans. The study found that dolphins share many skills with humans, including being smart enough to recognize symbol based communication, their own identities and language, the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, the ability to pass information from parent to child, and even the ability to read each others actions and behaviors in order to work together. There have even been reports of wild dolphins in brazil that work with fishermen, trapping fish close to shore and signaling the fishermen when to drop their nets, allowing the dolphins to easily get a large mean and the fishermen to make a larger catch. Upon discovering how intelligent dolphins are, it was proposed that dolphins should have rights, describing them as “non-human persons“, and India has even taken measures to ensure the protection of dolphins rights.

In an experiment done by Jack Kassewitz in Miami, the dolphins sound based language was produced as silent pictures, and the dolphins could recognize it as what was originally said with 86% accuracy. Think about that, because it is amazing. Dolphins speak to each other in a a specialized language, which is so advanced that they can recognize it when written down. Researchers are currently working on deciphering this language, with growing success.

Knowing that dolphins are so intelligent, is it possible that when they help a swimmer from drowning or a shark attack, they know fully well what they are doing? In other words, do dolphins feel empathy? Though there is no hard evidence to assert this, time after time dolphins seem to come from the depths to help humankind for no apparent reason. Now, this isn’t to say that dolphins are perfect peaceful creatures, they are still wild animals after all. The difference is their heightened intelligence, which allows them to do good and do harm more efficiently. Many people assert that dolphins helping humans from sharks is actually a selfish act for dolphins, because dolphins seem to inertly hate sharks, and have been seen going out of their way for no reason simply to annoy sharks. Because they are smarter and faster than sharks, small groups of dolphins have been known to confidently harass sharks, including flipping them upside down and lifting them to the service, effectively killing many sharks. Male Bottlenose dolphins have even been found to form small groups and forcefully mate with a single female which they single out, aggressively forcing her to stay with verbal and physical abuse. They have also been known to attack babies of other species, carefully biting them directly on their vital organs.

So as far as being our guardians in the oceans, that may be a bit of an over exaggeration, but dolphins are definitely one of the best things to see if you ever find yourself lost at sea. In the end though, they are still wild animals, unpredictable and not to be underestimated.

Tu Yoyo—2015 Nobel Prize winner



Well, this blog might be the last one for this semester. I learned a lot from SCIENCE 200, and this class is really interesting. In the end of this period, I would like to talk about Tu Youyou, one of the 2015 Nobel Prize winner. I was born in Taiwan and grew up in China, and when I knew this news, I felt proud.

Tu Youyou, a Chinese female scientist, won the 2015 Nobel Prize of physiology or medicine was reporting. She spent 40 years of her life to research in anti-Malaria. Inspirited by the traditional Chinese medicine, She found an effective compound called Artemisia annua in the Chinese herb and an effective extraction method. It is so excited for Chinese cause she is the first female who win the Nobel Prize in science field in China. Moreover, she is also called “three noes” scientist in China because she has no medical degree, no experience aboard or no title of academician in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Though there are many people who critic the evaluation system of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it is the honor for the hardworking medical scientists. People should salute to the real scientists and the contribution they made for the human.

Treating Acne

Many teens revert to birth control in order to achieve clearer skin. Some also use antibiotics for treatment. But, which works better, if any?


It was found through research that both antibiotics and birth control worked equally effectively.

Dr. Kelly H. Tyler said, “Antibiotics have anti-inflammatory properties, and OCPs do not have those same properties, so the reduction of acne is going to be more gradual and less dramatic in the beginning.” The Office of Women’s Health claims that birth control “slows down overactive oil glands in the skin.”

Both antibiotics and birth control were found to effectively reduce acne. But with success, also comes failure. Both substances also have possible side effects. They can cause allergic reactions and blood clots. There are methods to take in order to prevent negative side effects such as caring for your skin with mild facial products.

In this scenario, is it worth the risk?

That depends on the individual. If someone has severely bad acne and has a strong desire to fix it then it may be worth it to risk possible complications that come wth taking birth control or antibiotics. On the other hand, if your acne is mild, it may be better treat it with a good face wash prescribed by a doctor rather than taking pills of birth control or antibiotics into your body.

The Mantis Shrimp

More specifically, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp.   This species of crustacean live in the warm waters of the indo-Pacific ocean, south of Japan, North of Australia, and East of Africa. There are many things that set these creaturedownloads apart from other ocean dwellers, be it their incredible coloration, (hence the peacock naming), their unparalleled eye sight, or their extremely advanced fighting and hunting
adaptations, these shrimp hold two world records. When looking into all the things that make these shallow water dwellers unique, i found that there was no shortage.  For starters, lets look at their fantastic eyesight and coloration.mantis-shrimp2

Actually, there isn’t much that needs to be said about their coloration, I think pictures do it proper justice that my words just couldn’t do. The males of this species are more brightly and flamboyantly colored, for mating reasons, with vibrant colors over a base olive or green color, red limbs, and leopard like spots. No doubt, these creatures are extremely brilliant to look at, but compared to mantis shrimp, we don’t even know what color is. One of the most incredible features of the Mantis shrimp is its eyes. As far as eye sight goes in the animal kingdom, humans are relatively basic. We have three photoreceptor cones, red, blue, and green, one more than dogs. It is no surprise that many animals have better eye sight than us, just think about birds of prey which utilize binocular like vision to be able to spot potential prey from up to three kilometers away, or even the butterfly, which has an extra photoreceptor cone, giving the ability to see in the ultraviolet spectrum. By having just one more cone, butterflies are able to see are far more brilliant spectrum of visual light than humans, so what about mantis shrimp? Holding the world record for the most advanced eyesight, the mantis shrimps eyes have 16 color receptive cones. Let that sink in. every single color that we can see all derive from 3 colors. With 16 base colors, our brains are unable to images (2)comprehend what seeing through the eyes of a mantis shrimp would be like. With each eye being individually controlled, the mantis shrimp can scan 360° at all times, allowing it to use these incredible eyes to seek prey and avoid predators. Though predators may want to watch out for the mantis shrimp more than the other way around.

The other world record that the mantis shrimp holds is due to its attacking/defending mechanisms. See, there is a reason that it is very difficult to keep mantis shrimp in an aquaOs-female-striking-snail-b-medrium or a fish tank, and that is its club like arms it keeps folded below its body. These appendages are able to attack at an unbelievable speed, with the same acceleration as a .22 caliber bullet. This allows the mantis shrimp to smash the shells of its prey, such as clams or crabs, with ease. This, when added to its aggressive and territorial nature means that putting a mantis shrimp in an aquarium usually leads to dead fish, broken glass, and a wet floor. That’s right, this little guys punches have been known to shatter the glass of aquariums and fish tanks, meaning that this exotic beauty is almost impossible to keep for yourself. To further put the power of these punches into perspective, when the hammer like appendages make contact with prey, there is so much force that the air in the surrounding water is vaporized, causing a small implosion which produces heat, sound, and even light. Yeah, these things punch so hard that they create light. 61b89a5fa3405980b9ceb9f138021e74this has caught the attention of a lot of people, including the United States military. They have been studying what it is that makes these clubs able to withstand such incredible force, and in recreating this material, they have created materials stronger than any we had previously tried for things such as airplane shells and combat armor. Clearly these little shrimp have a lot to offer us in terms of their mechanics, having two of the most advanced mechanisms in the entire animals kingdom in one colorful package.


Should you be gluten free and not have Celiac disease?

1 in every 133 Americans” develop Celiac and 10 times as many people as that will not eat gluten or have gluten be part of their diet. Celiac disease “is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.” About five years ago my uncle found out that he has Celiac disease.  A good majority of his life he had lots of stomach problems and never went to go have it checked.  After he found out he had Celiac,  his way of eating was completely changed and now he has to be more conscious of what he puts into his body or else he will feel severe abdominal pains.  This led me to think about how there are so many people who are gluten free in America but do not have celiac to back up their reasoning to be on a gluten-free diet.  Before researching, I thought what could really be the problem going gluten free without having celiac, it seems like a healthy diet?

There are many people that go gluten free even if they have not been diagnosed with celiac. This reasoning, though, is not solely because they want to diet.  There are people who react more to “FODMAPs, or fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols, which are certain types of carbohydrates including wheat, lentils, and mushrooms that can draw water into the intestine and potentially ferment, causing digestive problems for some people.” This led to a study done in 2013.  A double-blind placebo trial of 37 individuals was conducted.  Two groups were randomly formed and for 2 weeks the individuals were given a small amount of FODMAPs and were either put on low or higher dosages of gluten or a placebo(the control group). A two week break period occurred where the scientists looked at the immune activity and symptoms of the patients to see if anything had changed.  The results showed that gastrointestinal symptoms improved when a lower dosage of FODMAPs was taken and got worse to a similar degree when gluten was taken and only 8% of the people tested were observed to have gluten-free effects.  No third variables could affect this study due to it being a double blind placebo trial and it affectively ruled out reverse causation. So these people who were on gluten-free diets without having Celiac, in reality were not being directly affected by the gluten but by the FODMAPs.  Those individuals thought that if they stopped eating gluten their problems would be fixed. Their experiences of “feeling better” when not eaten gluten are very real but in all actuality no changes occur to their bodies when gluten intake stops.  What is interesting is that when people think that something is suppose to help their body, they can make themselves believe that they are getting better.  Their mind is covering up the fact that no changes have occurred while their gastrointestinal problems are as great as ever before.  This was a very credible study that I think shared a lot of useful information.

celiac disease_0177ac66208d5826963c65f8b2c56426

This is the difference of what the inside lining of ones intestine should look like if not damaged by celiac verses damages by celiac.  

There is a difference in the symptoms of celiac verses ones who are affected by FODMAPs.  Some symptoms of celiac include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • numbness(legs,arms,feet)/balance problems


These are all the main symptoms of celiac and how much each of these symptoms are prevalent in one with celiac.  

FODMAPs patients can have gluten sensitivity, but to a much less degree than those with celiac disease. These individuals are usually sensitive to list of foods containing certain carbohydrates. When individuals who are not gluten sensitive or do not have Celiac, completely cut gluten out of their diet they have the chance of it actually backfiring on them.  Mark DeMeo, M.D., director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Adult Celiac Disease Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “there’s nothing magical about a gluten-free diet that’s going to help you lose weight.” What ends up happening is people will go gluten-free but eat the gluten-free snacks that are still high in calories and fat.  People think that going gluten-free means going on a healthy diet.  This is not the case unless you choose not to eat the “bad” gluten free foods as well.  This limits what foods you can eat, leading to overeating and possible weight gain; the opposite of what those individuals were looking for to occur.

Yes and No, to answer my hypothesis above. There are some people who need to go gluten-free because their body cannot tolerate the gluten intake. There are also being who go gluten-free because they think their body is affected by gluten in the same way as celiac disease when in reality has much less of an affect on the internal parts of the body. And then there are the other people who just decide to go gluten free because they think it will be a healthy diet for themselves. Going gluten-free can have both positive and negative effects. If you think that eating gluten is affecting how your stomach feels on an every day basis go get your blood taken, as a blood test is the only way to find out if one has celiac disease or not.


Why is our generations attention span so short?

I try my hardest to focus on my school work for the longest that I can before becoming side tracked and preoccupied on everything but my school work. After all, I am a teenager in today’s society, and my attention span is studied to be only 8 seconds! There are many reasons for this and promise me, it’s just as mind blowing as you think it will be.

Attention span is defined as the amount of concentrated time one can spend on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators such as psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. Having a long and developed attention span around the ages of 16-20 is very important. These are some of the most crucial time periods of one’s life and they must be spent making the best of the time that we have.

Attention span inevitably changes over time. During the pre school years, attention span is most commonly determined by age, gender, and type of activity. For young children their attention span is only extended when they are doing an activity that they thoroughly enjoy.  As children grow into teenagers attention span becomes even shorter. How is this possible? Two words, social media. Okay maybe 3, and technology. Teenagers are SO wrapped up in their phones and their social media that is hard for them to often stay focused on one thing for more than 8 seconds, without having the urge to constantly keep up on their social media. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. That’s right, goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds – 1 second more than you and I.

Did you know that 25% of teenagers report forgetting important details about their friends and family and that 7% of people forget their own birthdays from time to time, and the most astonishing, typical mobile users check their phones more than 150 times per day. Social media has had an immense impact on teenagers these days, and the sharing on social media has double from 2011 to 2013.

A study has been recently conducted by technology giant, Microsoft. The study surveyed 2,000 people and used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to monitor the brain activity of another 112 in the study, which worked to determine the effect that smartphones and the ability to be so closely attached to digital media and these devices, and the effect on our daily lives. One of the positives that emerged from this study is the ability for individuals to multi-task based on the availability of so much technology in their daily lives. Microsoft’s study was based on Canadians, that were surveyed and those who had more digital lifestyles or the early adapters of social media do in deed struggle to focus in certain environments where the attention of an individual is needed for long term reasons.  One can conclude from this study that smart phones and technology are the cause for the decrease in attention span, therefore, correlation does imply causation.

So the takeaway, stay off the phones and do school work before our attention span decreases to that of a peanut.



Why “Hello” is so popular

During Thanksgiving break, I saw this video. It is a really interesting video which shows the “power” of adele’s “Hello” in an exaggerate  way. But it can also reflect the popularity of this song. Incredibly,  “Hello,” was played more than one million times per hour in the two days following its release. Someone has said we cannot escape this song! I can’t help think why people are so interested in this song? And people may not only interested in “Hello” , but also the sad songs. It seems paradoxical, how do people feel when they listen to sad songs?

A recent study done by  researchers at the Freie Universitat Berlin in Germany shows that sadness is not the most frequent emotion evoked by sad songs. Nostalgia is. Sad songs will make people retrieving memories of valued past events.  Someone may think all kinds of music can make it, I was wondering this problem at first. So in this study, researchers also consider different kinds of music and investigate how different music evokes people’s emotion. The result here means that comparing to happy music  sad songs are more possible to take people back to that moment.

What’s more, the music-evoked sadness will have positive effects. Firstly, it affects emotional regulation. In this study, some people like to listen to sad music when being in a positive mood or emotional state, so sad music can help them to control their mood.But happy music is more powerful in this part.Secondly, sad music make them feel more empathy about other people.The stories you heard in songs help you understand other’s feeling better and makes you become more peaceful and tender. Happy music can not evoke empathy as much as sad songs do according to study’s result. So this reward of music-evoked sadness is important. Another important reward is that “sad music lets listeners experience sadness without the “real-life” implications”. Nobody really want to experience sad things, but this implication can let them release the real life pressure and relaxed in this “music world” for a little while. in the study this feeling is much more stronger when you listen to sad music than happy music. The forth reward is imagination. It is almost the same as you listen to happy music.


The study involved more than 700 people, including western and eastern. It also considered age and gender to make sure the subject is random and large. And the study not only focused on how people feel when they listen to sad music but also compare to happy music. It makes the study more critically. Without comparison, we can hardly say that the impact is because of music or only sad music. But the data is based on an online survey which was completely voluntary and anonymous. No financial compensation was provided. It makes this more objective.


How to improve your IQ

IQ or intelligence quotient is a score derived from one of several standardized tests which assess the human intelligence which is what the whole point of an IQ test is for.  Human intelligence is the intellectual capacity for of humans.  With intelligence, humans are able to learn new information, form concepts, apply logic, recognize patterns, problem solve, decision making, and using language to communicate.  Robert Sternberg is an American psychologist, psychometrician and professor at Cornell University.  Sternberg defines human intelligence as “your skill in achieving whatever it is you want to attain in your life within your sociocultural context by capitalizing on your strengths and compensating for, or correcting, your weaknesses”.

The abbreviation of IQ was first used by psychologist William Stern.  IQ scores are known to be associated to many factors in one life like mortality, parental status, a degree, and parents IQ.  So if you want to increase your IQ here are ways you can try to do so.  One way is to play new games or new activities in which you need to learn new skills.  When we continue start to become good at one skill our brain works not as hard.  Also playing strategy games helps raise someone IQ because it helps with problem solving, the ability to draw connections between things, and adapting.

Video games stimulate the brain, help you think differently and think quickly.  Scientific studies have shown that playing the popular game Tetris leads to more efficient brain activity; as players become more proficient at the game, their brains show a reduced consumption of glucose (the body’s main fuel).  Glucose consumption reduces when a person plays a games because when learning the brain burns glucose.  When the brain has leaned the skill well it will burn less glucose because the brain is now more intelligent and can complete the task with less energy.

So if you want to raise your IQ you should try new games and hobbies that require you to learn some new information about them.  Also doing logical puzzles like sudoku or cross word are good to raise your IQ.  Any activity that stimulates your brain’s thought processes using to quickly find solutions to logical puzzles help you brain get smarter.  Just doing a couple quick activities each day can help someone’s IQ increase and I recommend that everyone try to do so.  Your brain is just like any other muscle in your body and needs to be worked out to stay healthy, smart, and fast.


Why It’s a Wet Winter Thanks to El Niño

If you haven’t noticed, the past couple of weeks and especially the past couple of days have been a wet start to the Winter season. We are already into the month of December and as much as I can recall we haven’t experienced any “real” snowfall yet, but I’ve had to break out my rain jacket on numerous occasions. I could of sworn that the first half of our home games this season were played in the rain which really ruined my tailgating experience. You might be wondering why it is that this Winter is so wet compared to the snow we got in October in 2013, or the even the snowfall we got before break last year. The answer according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a Strong El Niño setting the stage for 2015 winter and next year.

Rain penn state

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued the U.S. Winter Outlook today favoring cooler and wetter weather in Southern Tier states with above-average temperatures most likely in the West and across the Northern Tier. “A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player. As you can see it seems all to be El Niño’s fault, whoever he is.

El Niño’s is an irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region and beyond every few years, characterized by the appearance of unusually warm. A translation would be that an unpredictable climate change is making it warm. Other factors that often play a role in the winter weather include the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of arctic air masses that penetrate into the South and nor’easters.

precip noreaster

I’m not really sure how I feel about it now that we are into December but it doesn’t feel like Winter yet. Maybe we will all get used to the rain, but I for one was looking forward to the odd chance we get a snow day next semester. 

I was really looking forward to building a snowman but it might have to wait until well after break.


Plastic Salt?

Is salt even safe to cook with? Scientists have recently discovered micro-plastics in salt that has been sold in supermarkets all across China. They have found even larger amounts of plastic bits in sea salt and shellfish.

In 2011, clothes made of nylon showed scientists that pieces of plastic were shedding off of the clothes. When these clothes went in the washer machine the little pieces of plastic were rinsed off in the water and flushed back down in to the  ocean. This causes the pieces of plastic to not only contaminate the water but the marine life as well. There have been cases of even finding plastic in the air.

Lance Yonkos is an aquatic toxologist the University of Maryland. He studies chemicals and the affect they can have with the life of aquatic animals. Yonkos expresses his frustration with the consequences following human activity. He implies that the we now have a challenge to face after trusting the ocean to take care of our waste for years.

Adults are supposed to have around 5 grams of salt each day. However, most people eat more than that. Studies show that with the amount of salt consumed, people on average would be ingesting over 1,000 plastic particles a year. This number would only dramatically increase if you were to include all the salt you would get from Chinese shellfish. Try consuming over 100,000 particles of plastic!

The plastic contamination was most likely from when the salt was mine, milled, or packaged. Unfortunately scientist don’t know exactly were the contamination came from. Not only is consuming plastic not good for you, it can actually be pretty bad. Plastic can absorb other chemicals like hydrocarbons, pesticides and other solvents in to your daily diet. Even though this hasn’t been classified as a big problem, it can’t be ruled out yet. I hope teams continue to research this problem and to find a solution to it. I am not trying to gain weight in Chinese plastic and become a giant action figure!

Are ADHD medications linked to sleeping patterns and dietary issues?

According a peer reviewed study carried out by the Cochrane: Developmental, Psychosocial and Learning Problems Group, researchers are claiming that the drug Methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin is used to treat ADHD in children is linked to non-serious adverse effects, particularly problems with having an appetite and sleeping.  The study was a randomized control study that included 12, 245 children and or adolescent’s that had ADHD.  One confounding variable amongst these participant’s is that most came from a high socioeconomic status, which is very odd. I say that, because it’s people from low socioeconomic backgrounds who face prolonged health effects. This is especially true when we learned in class that kids who are infested with worms “wormy kids” come from poor countries from areas of Africa and south East Asia, because the livelihood of kids with worms living in third world countries is based on their low socioeconomic status. Saying this, you would think that these 12, 225 participants would refrain from continuing to use methylphenidate, but it could be that they can’t realize that for themselves since many of them are so young and that they associate sleeplessness and dietary problems as being a part of their lives just like the kids with worms in developing countries do unfortunately. However, in all of the 185 randomized control trials, researchers found that all of them were at high risk for bias. As we learned in class, bias studies are designed to spread a cause many times coming from the funder of a study. In this particular study, Copenhagen University Hospital was one funder along with Region New Zealand, and the University of Southern Denmark. One indication that the funders of this study had an impact in the level of bias in this study, is that it was impossible to assess the long-term effects of methylphenidate because those randomized trials were too small and of low quality.

However, primary and secondary outcomes were present in the study. Findings from the primary outcome of if Methylphenidate can improve ADHD symptoms from the prospective of a teacher show that Methylenidate can help to improve hyperactivity and impulsivity in ADHD children. Findings from the secondary outcome which were the group of children prescribed with Methylenidate show that Methphenidate doesn’t increase the risk of developing a life threatening disease only taking the drug for six months, but it’s linked to ADHD children developing sleeping problems and a deceased appetite.  I personally agree to this because I’ve seen my ex room-mate who had ADHD at times display a decrease in his appetite, and complain about sleeping patterns.


How High is Too High to Drive?

With marijuana becoming more and more popular and more states starting to legalize it, there is an important question to ask. How high is too high to drive? A recent study from the Huffington Post took 20 volunteers and tested their driving skills while high. All of the volunteers had smoked before and the driving simulator was at the University of Iowa in the National Advanced Driving Simulator.

Since the University of Iowa is a smoke-free campus, the volunteers got high by vaporized marijuana and sometimes given alcohol on top of the marijuana. The drivers were all given the same amount of marijuana; about one joint worth.

The volunteers were placed into many different driving simulations. Some included city simulators with people crossing the streets, others on highways, and some in rural settings with deer jumping out. All of the examples were challenging driving tests and the volunteers levels of intoxication were recorded throughout the study.

The current law is that 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood in the blood is the legal limit for driving. This study, however, found that THC levels don’t necessarily correlate with ability to drive. A different study talked about in this Huffington Post article mentions 6 out of 25 participants tested positive for THC 7 days after feeling the effects of the marijuana.

“In 2011, Denver marijuana reporter William Breathes memorably demonstratedTHC’s unpredictable effect on the body. After a night of sleep and not smoking pot for 15 hours, a sober Breathes still tested nearly three times higher than the proposed legal limit.”

This specific instance shocked me. William actually got tested, was sober, and still was way above the legal limit. This shows that the current law about the 5 nanograms of active THC is not the best law. Different people could drive completely fine with this level or more while others may not be able to drive at all with a level that high. This seems like THC affects each person differently or the affects wear off after awhile but the THC is still present. This topic clearly needs more research done on this as marijuana starts to become legalized in more places.

Something interesting I found was an app called My Canary which lets a smoker play “games” to see if they are too high to drive. The app tests reaction times, balance, memory, and other things to determine the level of intoxication and see if the person is okay. This is definitely a step in the right direction and this is the best way to tell if someone is intoxicated that anyone has come up with yet. This should be required for everyone driving after smoking marijuana. If the app could save scores, then the driver could prove that they are sober enough to drive.

Obviously, a lot of research needs to be done on this topic. I don’t think it is fair to send people to jail for having a high THC level if that clearly does not correlate with level of intoxication. This is a prime example of correlation does not equal causation. As these studies have shown, THC does not cause inability to drive in all cases. Much more research needs to be done to find the appropriate way of determining ability to drive after smoking marijuana. It may be difficult with it being illegal so many places but if an answer cannot be found then it may not be safe to have it be legal. But thats a whole other discussion.

Birth Control isn’t always the best option

Birth control is the practice of preventing unwanted pregnancies, typically by use of contraception. Different types of birth control contraceptions have became extremely common among young women in their hopes to prevent pregnancy. The most effective type of birth control is abstinence, of course.

Did you know that the odds of becoming a teen mother are twice as high for teenagers who do not use a contraceptive method at first sex as for those who do use a method. Over the years, these so-called ‘methods’ have evolved. The method of abstinence seemed to have failed among those who practiced it in the past. Around 3000 B.C. Condoms made from such materials as fish bladders, linen sheaths, and animal intestines. Given the description, there is no way that these condoms could have been effective in preventing pregnancy. As time went on, individuals adapted ‘the pill’, IUD’s, and Nuva Ring etc. Birth control has become more advantageous and complex. Considering the age of young teens being sexually active has decreased dramatically, many parents and guardians are suggesting that their children be put on a type of birth control for whatever duration of time is necessary.

There has been many questions and studies as to which birth control is most effective, and if there are greater effects of using it in the long run. On the Susan G Komen national Breast Cancer website, it states that current or recent use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) slightly increases the risk of breast cancer. This statement is something that will turn women away from using birth control. In large sample size studies showing the effects of birth control, they state that women who have taken or are taking birth control pills, in particular, have a 20-30% higher risk of contracting breast cancer, than those who do not take the pill. Although the rates for contracting breast cancer as a teenager is low, this statement should still be a shocker for those who have been on the pill for long duration of times.

Is seems as if today everything ’causes cancer,’ however, there have been many websites and data bases talking about the increased risks of getting cancer as a result of taking the pill. The results of population studies to examine associations between oral contraceptive use and cancer risk have not always been consistent. Overall, however, the risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer appear to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of breast, cervical, and live cancer appear to be increased.

As previously stated, the most commonly prescribed birth control method is the pill. When my parents were deciding which birth control to put me on they were deciding between a couple different options, but resulted in the pill because it is proven and shown through data and studies to be effective. The pill is extremely effective if it is used by the ‘perfect user.’ I like to think that I keep up on it, but it can be a hassle at times when young adults my age forget to take their pill. No matter how many alarms are set, and how often I tell myself throughout the day I must take it, it can be difficult to stay on top of. That is why, birth control pills can have very positive effects, but also very negative if not executed properly.

Of course, there is always a contrasting opinion when it comes to medical issues and methods to prevent bad situations in today’s society. An individual participant meta-analysis of 27 276 women with endometrial cancer from 36 epidemiological studies concerning endometrial cancer and oral contraceptives was conducted, and held different results than the fact that these oral contraceptives can in fact cause cancer of some type. The background of this study states, “Oral contraceptives are known to reduce the incidence rate of endometrial cancer, but it is uncertain how long this effect lasts after use ceases, or whether it is modified by other factors.” The findings of this study are that the use of the oral contraceptives (pill) in the a long term period of time can actually cause protection against endometrial cancer. The study shoes that in well developed countries around the world, about 400,000 cases of contracting endometrial cancer before the age of 75 years has been prevented by the use of this birth control method.

As a result, it is hard to determine if these methods of birth control do in fact cause cancer. In the mean time, birth control methods are evolving and they are changing as society changes. With the implementation of new methods and ideas from doctors, women will experiment and see what works best for their bodies. It is interesting to see the evolution unfold and affect so many women. If worried, just remember abstinence is key!

The graph below shows the most effective contraceptive methods in the year of 2012.


Why Does Goldschläger Get You So Turnt?

What is it?

Goldschläger is a Swedish cinnamon schnapps that contains little pieces of gold. The little pieces of 24- carat gold add up to be about 1/10th of a gram which is less then 4 dollars on todays market.


A general consensus about Goldschläger is that the pieces of gold cut your throat, making allowing the alcohol to go directly into your blood stream, making you incredibly drunk, incredibly fast. Unfortunaltey for those who like to blame how shit-faced they were on this- it isn’t true.

The Truth:

The truth is that if you cant drink without having to blame your bad human decisions on gold flakes, then you probably should not be drinking.

The truth about the 24 karat gold sheets, is that precious metal in that concentration do not have sharp edges and are not able to cut anything. One of the special properties of that precious metal is its softness .

More About Goldschläger

It originated in Sweden but is now manufactured in Italy. The originally put more flakes of gold into the bottle, but since the human body wasn’t made to digest precious metals, the company reduced the amount in the bottle. It is 43.5% alcohol which is 87 proof.


Here, you can see the tiny golf flakes in the shot.

Nail biting leads to heart attack

imgres  A common stress reliever you see people use is biting their nails. But who knew biting your nails could do more than just relieve your stress, the addicting habit could kill you.

imgres John Gardener, 40-year-old British man died in 2014 from biting his The actually act of biting did not kill but he contracted a septicemia due to the fact that the skin around his fingernails were always cut open and exposed to the outside. This blood infection caused John to have a heart attack. Now if you knew your childish habit of biting your nails could cause a heart attack wouldn’t you make it apparent to stop?

So exactly are you biting?A study was conducted by Dr. Anthony Hilton at Birmingham’s’ Aston University and it consisted of 100 men and women nail clippings. Through the research conducted it was found that on 24% of the nail clippings contained harmful bacteria.  Dr. Anthony Hilton said that the bacteria found on the nail clippings was very concerning to him because these are the same bacteria that live in the gut of animals and humans. When people are ingesting these bacteria’s they are likely to cause gastroenteritis. I think that this study is beneficial for people who bite their nails because it is truly showing them what they potentially could be biting. I think a larger randomized controlled study should be done to further explore the bacteria found under people’s finger nails.


More than just a habit?

As the habit of nail biting spreads from person to person researchers are now taking a closer look at the science behind biting. Nail biting is now classified as “not otherwise classified” but soon the American Psychiatric Association is changing it to “obsessive compulsive disorder”.  Obsessive compulsive disorder is found to be associated with stress and anxiety and nail biting seems to co-inside with both.

With finals just around the corner do not let yourself use that as an excuse to bite your nails. Nail biting can lead to cuts and sore or even worse a heart attack.


How to Ace Your Finals

Finals week is a stressful time for any college student; it seems that all the procrastination and work that you were supposed to do piles up on the couple of weeks that you have to complete and study for your exams. On top of exams, there are projects that need completing with group members that never seem to pull their weight and a load of other responsibilities that need fulfilling just when the weather either starts to get terrible in the Fall where all you want to do is watch Netflix in your comfortable bed, or in the Spring when the weather finally climbs out in the 40’s and you can go outside without four layers of clothing on.

Us Penn Stater’s have our work cut out for us and many of us don’t have the luxury for sleep or find it hard to find a good seven hours or so to really be ready and prepared to tackle the day and all of its battles especially when you might need to hit the gym after the Thanksgiving turkey helped put a few extra pounds on you. Fortunately enough there are tips and tricks in order to help you get a good night’s rest so you can obtain all the information you need to ace your exams.


Students studying

First thing is first, do not oversleep on the weekend to make up for time you missed out on during your busy week. Not only does oversleeping on weekends not help gain cognitive memory or REM sleep you missed out on in your sleep deprived school week, but according to a new study, sleeping late on weekends can be bad for health as it disrupts the regular sleeping patterns of a person. Although it is unclear if there are long term effects from oversleeping the metabolic changes brought on by oversleeping can contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in case ruining your sleep schedule wasn’t enough.

Secondly, get seven hours of sleep and you will outperform those in your class that do not by almost a full letter grade. Students with confidence of scoring well will do better than those of us who procrastinate and cram. If it isn’t in your head by bed time then just give up and hope to get a good night’s rest so you can do your best or study with a complete mind in the morning. Cram for your final two days ahead of time. (If you must). Then relax and sleep the day before. You will score higher. The brain needs time to digest and integrate.

And finally, drink water. Bring a bottle of water with you to your next exam and you may boost your test score, according to a new study from the University of East London. The study with almost 500 undergraduates tested this and gained evidence on water helping you on your exams, prior grades were used so it’s not just a matter of smarter students being more likely to bring a bottle of water but an experiment that showed water does indeed help.

If you follow these tips I can’t guarantee you get a 4.00 this semester but there is significant scientific evidence that supports that these sleeping habits and drinking water should help improve your scores so that we all finish the semester with better grades and healthier minds and bodies.

Do Cough Drops Actually Work?

It’s that time of the year again, where everyone, especially college students seem to have the classic runny nose, sore throat and most importantly the cough. Naturally all students freak out over how they can’t be sick because they have to focus on their school work and be active enough to go out and enjoy themselves in such a fast paced environment. Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done regarding having the common cold as it is a virus. Students resort to taking as many over the counter medications as possible to alleviate any and all pain. One of the biggest culprits in this instance are cough drops. Some people hate  the taste of cough drops, some people love it. Personally, I follow a rule with the better the taste, the least effective it is. This led me to wonder: Do cough drops really work? Will they actually remove or at least help get rid of my cough? Or is it a complete placebo effect where the user feels as though taking the cough drops will actually do something beneficial to them.

Cough drops are a medicated lozenge sucked to relieve a cough and/or sore throat. The medication within these drops are used to help soothe and lubricate any irritated throat tissue. Now, cough drops have become  more widely popular as a result of the good taste associated with them, which unfortunately has led most cough drops to consist of mostly sugar. Cough drops based on the company drastically vary based on what’s inside of them and cough drops with methanol are best since the methanol acts as an agent that temporarily “numbs” the nerves in your throat which get irritated from the symptoms of the cold. Although it seems that even these “best” type of cough drops aren’t that great (ZocDoc 2015).
The Monell Chemical Senses Center suggests that sucrose and menthol, two common ingredients in cough drops reduce coughing. In June 2012 there was a study issued in Pulmonary Pharmacology and Therapeutics where 12 healthy adults inhaled the burning ingredient in chill peppers after each inhalation, and the more they inhaled the more they coughed. Both Sucrose and menthol increased the amount of coughing needed to relieve a cough that would clear their throats, which is the role of cough drops. Sucrose was able to increase the cough threshold by about 45% whole menthol increased it by approximately 25%. This study not only supports that cough drops work, but it shows that sweet flavorings improve our coughs. Therefore, sweeter cough drops could be better, which many people claim are the least effective flavors (Monell 2012).

According to the new guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) there is little medical evidence that supports the use of cough drops. They continue to suggest that for an acute cough the best alternatives are antihistamine with a decongestant like Robitussin Allergy or Vicks NyQuil (ABC News 2006). Personally speaking, I know whenever I take cough drops I need to continuously be using them or else immediately my symptoms of a sore throat and cough come back.
Whether or not cough drops works remains unknown. Personally, I think more research needs to be conducted for a clearer answer, but it seems as though cough drops definitely do more of a benefit to a sore throat and cough than a disadvantage. Cough drops certainly aren’t the best option to relieve the pain, there are better medications, but based on what we know about them there is no harm with trying to use cough drops.

Works Cited:

Do Cough Drops Work? (2015 ). In Zoc Doc. Retrieved from

Stein, L. (2012 ). Sweet Minty Relief for Cough. In Monell Chemical Senses Center . Retrieved

Victory, J. (2006). Throw Out Those Cough Drops, Group Says. In ABC News . Retrieved from


how music influences living organisms?

I want to begin my blog by stating with great philosopher Plato’s quote: “Music is a moral low. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. ”


Indeed, music, its rhythm and melody works emotionally on all living creatures. Music can appease and energize, mollify and embitter, be evocative or cause aggression. Music has another important feature- it reacts physiologically upon the brain.

Here are some examples of how classical and rock music influence humans and other living organisms

Scientists in the US and Bulgaria independently have discovered that music of Mozart is enhancing mental activity and developing intellectual level. In 1995 neurobiologist- Gordon Shaw and his colleague- psychologist Frances Rauscher from the California University, experimented with 79 college students in Irvin.


Students were divided into three groups. First group students were kept in silence for 10 minutes, second group students were listening to some audio book and students in the third group were listening to piano sonata of Mozart. Students were tested before and after the audio sessions. And results were as following:

The first group students improved their results by 14%, the second group by 11% and the third group results were improved by 62%. Within 10 minutes students by listening the Mozart music increased their IQ by 8-10 points.


All independent researches show that rock music has strong negative influence on human mentality. Bob Larsen studied such influence and according to his study the low frequency oscillation generated by loud rock musician affects the spinal fluid. Listening to heavy metal disturbs balance of several glands which leads to unstable hormonal area.


Another interesting experiment conducted by scientist David Elkin, through which proved that the poignant music provokes folding of the eggwhite. On a rock concert in front of the loudspeaker Elkin put a raw egg. By the end of the concert, three hours later the egg was “cooked” .


It turns out that animals and plants can also “hear” music, actively responding to it.

Even in the nineteenth century in the famous monastery –Brittany, nuns performed classical music especially for domesticated animals; and noticed that after “listening” to Mozart’s serenades cows give milk 2 times more.

The first experiments on the effect of music on plants in 1973 was held by a student-  of the Colorado university-Dorothy Retallack. She gave plants to listen to the music of two different radio stations. In the first room, three hours a day sounded Rock. In the second – the radio for three hours a day to play an easy music.

Under the influence of light music plants grew healthy, their stems were drawn to radio. Heavy music, on the other hand, suppressed them, the leaves grew small, turning away from the speakers and 16 days later plants died!


Summarizing all examples from the above, I can say that I did lots of research on this topic and looked up on many various experiments. I consider the data for each conclusion was somewhat valid as mostly the studies were designed in experimental way. I also believe that Shaw’s and Rauscher’s study could’ve been more precise.  To begin with their study was randomized, so they didn’t know whether most of smart people were placed in the “Mozart” room and vice-versa. Also small sample size means that there could be a third variables affecting the conclusion of the study.



Does putting plastic in the microwave cause cancer?

One can imagine my disbelief when my aunt yelled at me a few years ago for heating up my chocolate in the microwave with a plastic container, something I did everyday without anyone stopping me. She told me that she recently read an article that said microwaving your food and drinks up in a plastic container can cause cancer because certain chemicals from the plastic seep into the food or drink when heated up.I was shocked to hear this information and vowed to never put plastic in the microwave again, was that for good reason? Does it really cause cancer?


A team from Harvard Medical School seem to think there is some truth to this claim but there is more myth to it. For example, the feared chemicals that were in plastics are called dioxins, which are carcinogens and people believed that while plastic was in the microwave these dioxins would seep into your food and then you would later eat them. Although it seems probable, plastics, along with other substances such as metals and woods, only release dioxins when burned so if you don’t burn your food in the microwave you should be fine because no carcinogens have been released. Also, the FDA plays a huge role in whether or not plastic should go in the microwave. A long time ago, the FDA realized the concern of small amounts of plastic chemicals permeating into food when put in the microwave so they chose to regulate  the type of plastic containers being sold that would come in contact with food.  They require factories to test the containers and they must uphold the FDA’s standards in order to be sold and be approved for microwave use. Although some types of plastic are dangerous in the microwave, the Harvard Medical group tends to think that despite the little probability of carcinogens getting into your food, it is safe to put plastic in the microwave.

In 2010, another study was done regarding this topic by C. Nerin, D. Acosta, and C. Rubio and the results were published in the journal,   “Potential migration release of volatile comUnknownpounds from plastic containers destined for food use in microwave ovens.” In this study they constructed plastic containers with specific percentages of chemicals, such as polypropylene and copolymer, and then they were heated up in a special machine at 100 degrees Celsius. After heating it up, scientist then tested for chemicals that flooded the container and found that multiple chemicals, and carcinogens, were found in the container, therefore the heating up of this plastic caused the chemicals to seep from the plastic walls and if there were food in there it would effect that as well.

Overall, it seems as if there are some plastics  out there that are safe to use in the microwave thanks to the FDA but besides those, people should avoid putting other plastics in the microwave because it can yes indeed cause cancer.

Soporific Turkey

After a great holiday, and an even better meal, what better way is there to show your thanks than to hop right up and do the dishes.  But an overwhelming feeling of sleepiness stands in your way.  It’s not something in the water, it’s something in the turkey.


The amino acid L-tryptophan breaks down into the sleep-inducing neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin.  However, L-tryptophan is far more effective on an empty stomach, and nobody at my table has any room left over.  Instead, it is likely just the effect of eating so much that blood is diverted to the stomach do help digest these mass quantities.  The original idea of L-tryptophan is a false-positive because the amino acids would be absorbed into the fatty foods and thus be rendered ineffective.  There goes the classic excuse of why you can’t help clean up.