Daily Archives: September 4, 2016

Are “Shade Balls” Shady?

As many of you might have read from a popular BuzzFeed article, Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti, has recently signed off on the release of 96 million “shade balls” into the Los Angeles Reservoir.

These shade balls are small, four inch black plastic balls made of black polyethylene, and costs 36 cents each according to Time Magazine. Initially, some researchers were confident that the shade balls could effectively save up to 300 million gallons of water every year, an especially prevalent feat against California’s drought.  According to NPR, 300 million gallons of water is a supply great enough to provide at least three weeks worth of drinking water for Los Angeles residents. In theory, these shade balls reduce the amount of water evaporated by dramatically reducing the surface area of the reservoir they cover.

Volunteers releasing shade balls into the Los Angeles Reservoir.

Volunteers releasing shade balls into the Los Angeles Reservoir. Photo taken from this site.

Unfortunately, new research is emerging describing the potential negative implications of the shade balls. One article from Tech Times written by Jill Arce, slams the shade balls, declaring flaws in the design and introduces a possible alternative motive for the Mayor to use this method.

Research the Mayor chose to cite from The Daily News claims that because the balls will completely cover the water- the average temperature of the water should drop due to less sunlight exposure. Water that is a cooler temperature will create an environment that is not as hospitable for algae and further bacterial growth.  However, Experts do not agree. According to The Grist, the shade balls actually increase the surface area for bacterial growth because the surface and sides of the balls will increase the area  bacteria and algae have to spawn and develop. Also, the black color of the balls will actually heat up the water, leading to an increased evaporation rate.  It is predicted that LA’s reservoir can expect skyrocketing microorganism growth.

It has recently been brought to the  LAWPD News Room‘s attention that EPA regulations state that large open reservoirs of water need to be covered to protect the water from chemical contamination.  City officials were slotted to purchase an actual shade to cover the reservoir, but the shade balls were much less expensive- raising eyebrows within the scientific community, seeing that the research behind the balls shows more negatives then positives for water quality and conservation. Some reports, such as this one from The Grist, suggest that the Councilmen only launched the shade balls in an attempt to save money while meeting the EPA’s standards- not because the balls are truly effective. While a shade would have been much more expensive, it would not have nearly as much controversy surrounding its effectiveness at water conservation and prevention of contamination.

When I first stumbled upon this article from BuzzFeed, I thought the shade balls were an incredibly unique and effective solution for keeping the drought in California at bay. However, now that I have given myself the opportunity to look into this report further, I am starting to realize that these shade balls are actually really shady.

mad shade.

mad shade from here.

This blog post ties into the main themes of SCI 200- when it comes to science, you need to be skeptical! I was so willing to buy into the idea of shade balls just because a funky BuzzFeed article made them sound cool and creative.  After reading multiple arguments for and against the shade balls, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that I do not believe the shade balls are useful, and that they were only adopted by the LA government in an attempt to save money. When it comes to science, it is important to look at both sides of the coin, and form your own opinion. Are these shade balls actually extraordinary, or are they just a cheaper alternative to a real solution? Please let me know what you think of these shade balls in the comments!

-Dana Pirrotta


 1. http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/08/balls
2. http://www.techtimes.com/articles/78087/20150822/la-black-ball-strategy-may-result-in-bacterial-nightmare.htm
3. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/13/shade-balls-protect-la-water-supply-during-drought.html
4. http://grist.org/article/why-shade-balls-arent-such-a-great-idea-after-all/
5. http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20160115/NEWS/160119829/los-angeles-removing-shade-balls-from-some-reservoirs
6. http://www.pslc.ws/macrog/pe.htm
7. https://www.buzzfeed.com/abagg/throwing-shade-balls?utm_term=.omDeY35kz#.taoXp30QR
8. http://www.dailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20150812/what-are-shade-balls-and-how-they-help-save-los-angeles-water
9. http://time.com/3998554/shade-balls-graphic/
10. http://www.latimes.com/local/cityhall/la-me-balls-first-and-spring-20150824-story.html
11. http://www.ladwpnews.com/go/doc/1475/2588938/Shade-Balls-Frequently-Asked-Questions
12. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/11/431670483/la-rolls-out-water-saving-shade-balls
13. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/11/431670483/la-rolls-out-water-saving-shade-balls

Staying Active and Out of Depression

I often find myself thinking of ways of fighting depression. I myself am not depressed, however  everyone has low points, and everyone has different ways of coping with them. I always found find my happy place in a wrestling room. Depression is a very treatable disorder. According to this article, depression can be approached and cured as a physical disorder. Think of it as a sickness with parasites, these parasites can be attacked and removed from your body. A good way to help remove these parasites and better your mental shape is to stay physically active. Specifically this article talks about eight ways to actively fight depression. One that stood out most to me was “Don’t isolate yourself”. There are so many things to do at PSU that’d it be hardly possible to be isolated.

When someone is depressed they find themselves not doing things they once enjoyed. Doing less is not the answer. Doing more, even when you don’t feel like it is. A study conducted by Mack McMillen ( reviewed by Louise Chang, MD) allows us to see positive change from being active while being depressed. 30 minutes of moderate exercise can reduce symptoms by half in as little as 12 weeks.

We as students might find ourselves caught in the cycle above. Luckily there are many ways to stay active and involved around campus.  IM and club sports are a great way to stay active and motivated. It is important to stay inclusive, even though we’re adults we don’t have to go through college alone. There are many people to talk and interact with. there’s a lot more to being active than going to get a lift or run in. Staying included will above all prevent depression. I know this is a difficult subject to discuss but I’d love feedback, I’m not the best blogger and it really would help.

Does the usage of microwave affect our health?

As a freshman, everything in college is new to me. There are so many things to discover and so many things going on at the same time. The most thing I worried about before I came here was the condition of my dorm. So once I found out there is microwave oven in the dorm room, I was more than happy to use it as a resource for heating up my breakfast in the morning instead of going all the way to the dining hall. But after a couple of days, I started to concern about something else.


We all have heard of the legend some times during our life that standing too close to a microwave would cause cancer by absorbing the second-hand radiation. That really threatened me when I was a child. Now I have one right in my room, it levels up the anxiety sometimes. Are microwaves really a health hazard? In order to explore this topic, I decided to view this issue in two different angles: microwaves affect on food and affect on our body.

Before we went any depth into the discussion, it is better for us to understand what are microwaves first. The definition of Microwaves in Wikipedia basically summarised as it is a type of electromagnetic radiation which is similar to other types of waves on the electromagnetic spectrum, such as radio waves. The ranges and  wavelengths of a microwave are shown by the image below.

electromagnetic-spectrum (1)

(sources found on Google images)

From what I’ve learnt on a website, normally microwave oven works differently from a conventional oven. It allows the atoms of the food to vibrate much more frequently. In this way, it would heat up the molecules of the food through vibration so that the food is cooking evenly throughout instead of just the surface. This means that microwaves have the power to break down molecular and chemical bondings and rearrange them in the food. In this case, the body would digest the cells of the food differently, due to the chemical changes in the food cause by microwave. Because of this, people may concern about microwaves would be harmful to our food.

Articles such as Do Microwave Ovens Pose Health Risks said that microwaved food would lose nutrition. A study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2007) found that broccoli loses vitamin C when microwaved. However, vitamin C is volatile in heat, in this case this study couldn’t really prove that microwaved food really loss its nutrition, but in other cases, microwaved food contains lack of water which changes it taste. There are alsimageso worries about microwaved food would be radioactive, therefore do bad to our body. One article shows that food exposed to microwave radiation dose not transfer to human bodies. The article also concludes that any radiation that emitted from the microwaves contain much less strength that what you might thought it would be. So it won’t cause any harm to human. The article also gave out an interesting statement that the rays could kill bacterias from the food, which makes it safer to eat.

Besides of the potential damage to food caused by microwaves. There are many people also worry about the radiation emitted from the microwave would harm our body. After I read through a large number of different studies and websites, I would conclude that although microwaves do emit radiation, but it isn’t the that harmful to us. In other words, those radiations aren’t DNA-damaging. Peter Varberg’s study (1970) looked at the correlation between cancer and microwave radiation exposure. He found very little evidence to support the causal relationship between this two elements, therefore concluded that microwaves do not cause cancer. This also means that the amount of radiation created by microwave is below the threshold of harming human.

To fulfil my curiosity, I did the research on two different angles, and now I have my answers. Microwave do not produce bad consequence to foods. Although it might changes its original taste, it’s already a nice option for people living in dorms like me to heat up their breakfast in a simple way. It won’t radioactive the food as well. Second, the amount of radiation produced by microwave isn’t strong enough to damage your DNA and your body. So if you be careful and follow the instructions when you are using the microwave oven, you’ll be fine.

Why do we love our pets?

I have two dogs at home who I love dearly so I have always been interested to learn why and how we came to keeping animals as pets. If you’re a pet owner, there’s no denying the giddy feeling you get when your dog wags its tail or your cat cuddles up to you. Many owners even treat their pets as another member of the family as mine does. They may cook their pets dinner or let them sleep on their beds. Why is it we love our furry friends so much? There are several possible answers. One being the history of the relationship between humans and animals. Hogenboom’s article for BBC explains that thousands of years ago humans kept wolves because they were useful for hunting and protection against predators. Over the years the wolves became tamed and the idea of keeping dogs as loving companions evolved. However, in some third-world countries such as Kenya, many animals are still kept solely for the purpose of protection and hunting. “Pets” isn’t even a word in their vocabulary. Hogenboom further explains that humans are social creatures, always seeking to form new relationships with others, even animals. A lack of social relationships may lead people to depression or vulnerability to disease and infections (Hogenboom).

But why do Americans see dogs and cats as pets and countries like South Korea or China see them as meals? Harold Herzog of the Western Carolina University explains that this is due to cultural differences. Americans see cats and dogs as pets because all Americans do and therefore it has become a social phenomenon. People in Asia see them as food because that is all they know and pet keeping is not a trend. Studies show that pet/ dog popularity fluctuates up and down about every 25 years or so (Hogenboom).

Image result for pet memes

Image found here.

Another reason we feel so deeply for our pets may be due to chemical reactions happening in our brains when we interact with them. When we look into their eyes a “happy” hormone, called oxytocin is released. MaryAnn Barone describes in her article that this hormone is the same hormone that is released when parents interact with their newborn babies. She goes on to describe a study where researchers combined 30 pairs of humans and dogs and had them look into eachother’s eyes. The levels of oxytocin were then measured and it was found that humans had a 300 percent increase while dogs only had a 130 percent increase (Barone). These results show that humans really do become happier upon interacting with their pets. It is also believed that keeping pets can help lower your cholesterol and boost you self confidence (Barone). This is why many universities bring in puppies for their students to relax and destress with them during midterms and finals week. Petting dogs or cats really does take away tension for many people and put them in better moods.

With all of these potential health benefits how can people not be “pet people”? I can attest to these articles studies in saying that relaxing with or petting my dogs does make me significantly happier and furthers my affection for them even more.

Dream Interpretation – Genuine meanings or deceitful fraud?

Ever since I was a little girl, I would run to my grandma after I had any sort of dream, whether it be good or bad, and have her read the meaning of it to me from her old dream dictionary. Throughout my life I’ve sort of accepted everything that I read in this “magic book” to be completely true. If I dreamt of fire, that meant that some sort of destruction or anger was brewing in my life. The time that I dreamt about living in a castle, the book assured me that meant that I was destined to a position of power, wealth, and prestige. What was even more strange was that these dreams and what the dictionary defined as their meaning came at the strangest, most non-coincidental times. Once, I kept having dreams about being an acrobat in a circus. They kept coming back over and over again and when I finally looked up what acrobats symbolized, the dream dictionary told me that it meant that I needed to better balance aspects of my life. It also meant that fears prevented you from achieving your goals. During this time of my life, I was extremely stressed out and dealing with school and family problems. This got me thinking; can it be true that the things that we dream have a meaning that predict and describe the events that are going on in our lives?

I became extremely skeptical about whether or not a book could actually tell me what my dreams meant. Even early civilizations of Greeks and Romans believed that dreams were special, going as far as to say that they were the medium between humans and the gods. They even believed that dreams could predict the future (dreams.co.uk).

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 7.31.31 PM

Although there isn’t a 100% correct answer to this question, many theories have been proposed that correlate dreams and symbolism. Two psychriatrists at Harvard University, Robert McMarley and John Allan Hobson, proposed that dreams don’t actually mean anything, and that they are merely brain impulses that pull random thoughts and images from our memories. They state that the only reason we remember some of what we dreamed of is because our brain is trying to make sense of it all after we wake up. Professional Dream Analyst and author, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg. disagrees. Loewenberg says: ‘It’s easier to dismiss something as nonsense when you don’t understand it than it is to try and figure it out” (thedreamzone.com). She explains that dreaming is a continuation of your thoughts from the day, turning them into symbols and pictures that describe the feelings and emotions that you had felt that day. For example, if you got fired from your job you might dream of a storm, but if you got a bonus on your salary soft clouds or a rainbow is likely to appear in your sleep.

When it comes down to it, though, you really need to pay attention to credibility when reading about theories and opinions because neither of these things have been proven. With that being said, I would much rather trust the opinion of professors at Harvard University than a woman on the Internet who’s entire income comes from “analyzing dreams”. It’s just like psychics; we go to them because they claim that they can tell us our future, but we have no way of knowing or proving that they actually do. I found an interesting article, which you can read here, about one of America’s top psychics being a self-proclaimed fraud.

Although the idea of our dreams predicting our future or giving us some sort of message is incredibly enticing, it is most likely untrue, or at least hasn’t been proven yet. Still, though, I don’t think I’m going to be getting rid of my dream dictionary just yet. Sometimes it’s fun to believe that a book can tell you what that cool dream you had last night really means.


Sources –




Picture – http://laurentlazard.com/media/dream-meanings.html

Likes: Encouraging or Depressing?

Has Facebook lead to an increase in depression?

Americans spend hundreds of hours of their lives on social media and Penn State students are certainly no exception. Most people never think twice about pulling out their phone to see what’s going on with their friends and family, but maybe we should. While posting on your friends timeline or scrolling through your news feed seem like harmless activities, studies show they may be leading you to towards a state of depression.


For years scientists have seen this correlation, but a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology may have found the causality. They determined the link between social media and depression to be social comparison. The conclusion was that people make comparisons between the worst parts of themselves and the best of others, damaging their self confidence and leading them towards depression


Now the question is, what do we do? One could argue that not using social media anymore would be the best solution, but social media does have its perks. It keeps people connected, entertained, and makes events and pictures much easier to share. I believe the best thing to do is come to the understanding on you’re own that what you see on social media is not an accurate description of the lives of those around you. That way, you don’t compare the worst of yourself to the best of others. I think this approach would be much more effective than a ban on social media like the ones many school systems are using. If instead of blocking social media, schools educated students about how to approach it in a healthier manner, students might actually learn a lesson instead of just postponing their depression until they’re home from school.

There is much more to this debate about social media in school, more information about the pros and cons can be found here.

There is also another issue linking social media to depression.  Stephanie Mihalas, PhD, a psychologist and a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA  believes social media can trap people in a dangerous cycle. She has discovered that people often use Facebook and other social media to try and escape depression, but the constant surfing of social media often is the root of the unhealthy emotions. She argues that being on social media keeps those already struggling with depression secluded, remote, and less attuned to the real world around them.

cantina 80

Social media is not all bad, but next time you’re scrolling through your news feed, be sure it is bringing out heathy emotions, not damaging your self esteem.

Do Steroids Make You A Better Athlete ???

In Sports there is a big question that will always be debated over, Do steroids make you a better athlete? There is no answer to this question but both sides will be weighed against each other in this blog.

In professional sports when you hear one of the athletes have tested positive for Performance enhancing drugs(PED’s) a lot of the time they are using an anabolic steroid which is a synthetic drug that makes you produce muscle way faster than your average athlete. Many people say this does make you a better athlete, others take it with a grain of salt.

The people that say yes..                                                                                                                               “According Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor of exercise and sports science, he feels, Anabolic steroids allow the player to almost hit a second puberty”. A lot of people say that the strength gained from taking steroids is cheating, especially in sports like baseball, UFC, and football, the power and strength used in all of these sports adds another level to them which does in certain cases give the athlete who is taking the PED’s the advantage. In professional sports everyone should be on an even level of play until talent(something that cant be hindered) is what gives an advantage to the competitor.

The people who say no..                                                                                                                                  “According to professor Norman Fost of University of Wisconsin, if taking PED’s were unfair, then having certain coaches and trainers that are not available to everyone is also unfair.” This is a unique way to looks at it. What Fost said does hold significant truth to it, maybe the steroids are not really a advantage compared to great coaches and trainers.

Many argue whether or not steroids aid you in athletics but one thing that can not be argued is that steroids are terrible for your body. Some side affects of steroids include high risk or heart attacks, shrinking of organs, and many more check out what steroids really do to your body HERE.

Image result for graph of steroids in baseball advantage(Evangelista 2010)


Above is a graph showing how many players per team had 40 home runs, the biggest spike on the graph is from 1994-2000, this is a time in baseball many like to call the “Steroid Era” many see this as a obvious point to show that steroids do affect the athletic ability.

I personally say that steroids give an unfair advantage in all sports. In baseball and football strength is a huge part of the game its the difference in a fly out or a home run, a tackle or a missed tackle. In mixed martial-arts and UFC fighting using PED’s in a sport like that is inexcusable, because someone else is putting their life on the line and you are cheating to make yourself stronger and faster. Steroid use is cowardly an athlete should be talented and pure, PED’s make him or her a cheater.


Steroids and Sports? Yes! An Interview with Norm Fost, MD


Running Versus Walking

By Molly M. Tompson

I LOVE to run. In high school I ran Cross-Country, and ran between 25-40 miles per week. Some days I would truck through the rain for ten miles, and other times I would jog lightly for only two or three. But no matter what, I loved to run.


cross-country-running-clipart-4ib4e7kRTImage Found here

I also noticed that I was always so much hungrier during the cross country season. I could put away seconds and sometimes even thirds of dinner after cross country practice. After the season ended, I took a little break from running. And ever since I got to Penn State, I have been walking around ten miles per day! I noticed that my appetite has increased a bit from all of the walking. But I want to know the differences in health benefits, metabolism, and calorie burning from walking and running.

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. It is good for your heart, maintaining a healthy weight, and even might brighten your mood. But which is better for you?

A study conducted that I found on the Greatist showed that runners were better at managing a healthy appetite than walkers; they were less likely to overeat. Interestingly, the study showed that running suppressed the appetites of the runners, and walking significantly increased the appetite of the walkers.  This is surprising to me, because I remember coming home from cross country and furiously raiding the cabinets for whatever I could get my hands on. I am a very small person, and running ten miles burns a lot of calories! The same website discussed a study in which walkers and runners had equal energy expenditure. The runners exercised for a shorter amount of time than the walkers, but they burned the same amount of calories and used up the same amount of energy. At the end of the study, the runners lost more weight. I actually did lose some weight during cross-country in high school, and so far, with all of my walking at Penn State, I have yet to lose a pound. The website concluded by saying that running burns more than two times the amount of calories that walking does. FitDay states that an average-sized person burns about 100 calories per mile while running.

The New York Times has supporting evidence to the first article. Running, according to the NY Times, is definitely better for weight loss than walking. This article alludes to a study conducted, though, that while running might be better for weight loss, walking is much better for disease prevention. The walkers had even lower risks for things like heart disease and high cholesterol.


HE_women-walking-02_s4x3_leadImage Found here!

There is a down side to running, however. According to FitDay, running is considered a more intense form of exercise than walking is. In other words, it puts a lot of stress on the body and is more likely cause injuries. FitDay says that running on grass is better for your legs than running on a treadmill or a track (thanks, Cross Country!).


So overall, running and walking each have their pros and cons. Walking is more associated with disease prevention and is less likely to cause injury. Running helps more with weight management and calorie-burning. I think that people should do whatever exercise suits them best. And no matter that exercise I personally do, I am always hungrier than if I did none at all!

compulsive-overeating1 Image Found here!


Sugar: Not So Sweet

Is there anything better than waking up in the morning to the smell of sweet, warm,sugary cinnamon rolls? Going out for a nice, cold, refreshing ice cream cone after a long, hot day? Or feeling flushed with nostalgia around Halloween time, ripping open a bunch of fun-sized trick-or-treated candies? Ever since we were little, we’ve constantly heard: “Don’t eat too many sweets! All that sugar and you’ll have a mouthful of cavities!” So, yes, we all know that sugar can cause tooth decay and cavities and similar dental problems.



Image Found Here

But what else is so bad about sugar?

I consider myself a healthy eater, for the most part. I make sure every day to eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and everything else I’ve been told is good for me. Of course I eat ice cream and cookies and junk, too, but I do try to eat well most of the time. Sometimes, though, I’m confused. Fruit is really healthy, but some of it is loaded with sugar. Is that sugar okay, because it’s naturally occurring? Or is it equally as bad as eating a Hershey bar? That’s what I am planning to find out.


Image Found Here


Dr. Mercola, a NY Times Best Selling Author, seems to have a lot to say about sugar. He discussed an experimental study in rats that were fed fructose (another name for sugar) solutions. The rats fed fructose showed cognitive impairment. An infographic found on his website showed that sugar increases the risk of serious medical problems like heart attack, diabetes, arthritis, and more. It is also one of the main culprits and gateways to obesity, a growing problem in our world.

Americans definitely eat too much refined sugar in their diets. It is cheap and accessible, and delicious, too.

But what, again, is the difference between eating a sugary banana and a sugary twinkie?

According to Organics, there are two types of naturally occurring sugars, and a couple of times of refined sugars. Fructose and Glucose are the natural ones. High fructose corn syrup, table sugar, molasses, and many other types are refined sugars. They are processed types and are the kinds found in delicious treats we encounter every day. Glucose is essential in the human diet. Excess of any sugar is not good, but it is indeed healthier to eat natural sugars because they come from foods that contain many other nutrients, such as dietary fiber and vitamins and antioxidants.

So, essentially, there are more consequences than cavities from consuming too much sugar. Sugar is correlated with weight gain and obesity. Sugar is an addiction, actually. Obesity can lead to many other diseases, too, like heart disease. Sugar can also have damaging effects on all different parts of the body and increases risk of things like heart attack.



Graph Found Here

It is better to eat naturally occurring sugars from things like fruit, and glucose is absolutely necessary for energy. Naturally occurring sugars are better because they usually go hand-in-hand with lots of other nutrients.

In general, though, we should be conscious and cautious about consuming too much sugar. Too much of anything is not a good thing.




Texting and Driving: A Problem For Multi-taskers

By: Molly M. Tompson


Distracted driving happens every single day. And with advancements in science and the safety of driving and cars, it should seem like the number of fatalities and injuries caused by driving should be declining. As a young driver, I have always been absolutely terrified to even glance at my phone behind the wheel, and it has honestly never occurred to me to start texting behind the wheel. While walking or driving, I notice people every day with their noses buried in their phones and a hand simultaneously, yet absently on the steering wheel. In the past 50 years or so, the safety of motor vehicles has improved vastly; from a time where no one wore seat belts (and some cars didn’t even have any!) to now, where people have to pay fines for not wearing them, we were heading in the right direction for a long time.


Image Found Here

Some questions I had about distracted driving include:

  • Are cell phones reversing our progress in driving safety?
  • How well can humans actually multitask?
  • While teenagers are the main scapegoats in this mess, is there actually a correlation between age and tendency to text and drive?
  • Is texting while driving the most dangerous form of impaired driving?

My hypothesis is that, yes, cell phones are causing car crashes, injuries, and deaths to increase. And I do not think that teenagers are the only group that texts and drives, but that adults are equally as guilty of distracted driving as them. And I think that other means of impaired driving, like drunk driving, might be more dangerous.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, almost 3200 people were killed in 2014 due to distracted driving, and over 400,000 were injured. 34% of Americans admitted to texting while driving, according to This InfographicThis Infographic also shows that about half of all children have been in the car while a driver was texting, and almost 1/5 of them have seen their parents do it!

woman driving and texting on cell phone about to hit a man on a bicycle.

“woman driving and texting on cell phone about to hit a man on a bicycle.” Found Here

So can humans actually multitask?

Neuroscientist Earl Miller from MIT says that humans can’t actually focus on multiple things at once. They can actually just switch what they’re focusing on very quickly. At the University of Michigan (boo!) a study was conducted on a main and his brain responses were analyzed. He was simply overwhelmed and could not multitask. Multitasking is, plainly, not really do-able. We can immediately change what we are focusing on, but we can not focus on two things to once.

Here are a few things I learned Here and in a couple of other places cited below:

  • Teenagers are actually the #1 culprit of texting while driving. Thanks for the bad reputation, everyone.
  • Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while drunk. That is really, really scary.
  • Texting and driving is actually like driving while blind.
  • It is not just texting that distracts people who are driving. People scroll through their facebook, instagram, snapchat and twitter feeds, play games, check their emails, and browse the web while behind the wheel (information found on CNN)
  • Psychological studies have shown that the people who think they’re good at multitasking are actually the worst at it, according to Fox News. And there is actually a neurochemical in our brains that makes us feel good when we check our phones, even though we know it’s dangerous while we’re driving. It is like an addiction.

I was a little bit right in my notions, but mostly wrong. I was right, obviously, in thinking that distracted driving increases injury and death. However, I didn’t know that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. I thought humans might be able to multitask a bit, and that teens were not actually the worst in terms of texting and driving. But I was wrong about all of the above.

So, moral of the story is, no one–teens, young adults,  or even those who remember life before the cell phone should not be on the phone at all while they drive. These distractions are doing nothing but harm to us. With people dying daily in fatal car crashes caused by texting and driving, it is an epidemic that must stop. Perhaps stricter laws or ways to monitor this should be established. This is a very, very serious issue.


distracted-driving Photo Found Here

Coffee: A Booster or Buster of Health?


(photo credit: Pinterest)

          Coffee. That wonderfully caffeinated drink that instantly wakes you up the second its full-bodied aroma diffuses into the air and calls your senses to attention. Dramatic description? Maybe for some. However, I cannot start my morning without drinking at least three cups of coffee. As you walk through the HUB, you’re more than likely to see me standing in the never-ending line that leads to the promise land: the Starbucks counter. I drink it firstly for its taste, but a little caffeine boost can’t hurt (or can it?). There have been numerous experiments conducted studying the effects that drinking coffee can have on our bodies.

        According to an AARP article, caffeine has been said to raise blood pressure, increase anxiety, disrupt sleep patterns, and irritate your stomach (due to its high acidity). It’s also been speculated that coffee is technically a drug because drinkers become dependent/addicted to the caffeine in the drink. Studies conducted at Harvard University dispelled the belief that coffee increases blood pressure. Actually, the experiment proved that caffeine (slightly) improves higher blood pressure. Other studies at Harvard concluded that consuming coffee lowers the risk of prostrate cancer and diabetes. Can the beverage completely prevent cancers or other diseases? No. But it’s comforting to debunk the theories that claim the caffeine in coffee is harmful to the consumer. But even Harvard’s findings can’t be considered the final word on the coffee debate. Assertions of coffee being linked to this disease or that disease have been ongoing for quite some time. Each new finding seems to contradict a previously executed study and experiment. What is behind this clashing of coffee “truths”?

         A recent New York Times article proposed that our genes could be responsible for our reaction to drinking coffee. Dr. El-Sohemy (professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto) conducted a study analyzing how genes and coffee consumption can affect the heart. The study used a group of 4,000 adults (2,000 of which had experienced a heart attack). After testing, the scientists found that drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day yielded a 36% increased risk of having a heart attack. Analyzing that percentage more closely, Dr. El-Sohemy found that “slow” metabolizers made up the entire 36%, and “fast” metabolizers showed no increased risk of having a heart attack. What does a slow or fast metabolizer mean? Well, each of us possesses a gene called CYP1A2 that controls an enzyme of the same name (CYP1A2). This gene enables our bodies to break down caffeine that we ingest. We inherit this from each of our parents, and there are two variations; dictated as slow and fast. The slow variant takes a longer period of time to break down the caffeine. The fast variant quickly breaks down and absorbs the caffeine. The slow metabolizers have an increased risk in experiencing a heart attack, Dr. El-Sohemy believes, because the caffeine lingers for a considerable amount of time, which can act as an instigator of an attack. The relationship here is that of a confounding correlation. Coffee does not directly cause heart attacks. The amount of coffee consumed is the third variable that plays into this correlation. Conversely, fast metabolizers actually had a reduced risk of experiencing a heart attack if they drank at least 3 cups of joe a day. However, it is interesting to note that both fast and slow metabolizers both had an increased performance in physical tasks with the consumption of coffee. Fast metabolizers excelled in the task more so than slow metabolizers. The reason behind this result was that fast metabolizers can actually absorb the antioxidants and other beneficial compounds found in coffee because they metabolize the caffeine in a timely period. The takeaway is that everyone can reap the benefits of ingesting caffeine, but some people are just predisposed to benefit more than others.