Daily Archives: September 5, 2016

Are Drinking Fountains Sanitary?

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Drinking fountains (also known as water fountains) are a common resources for water drinking on campus. Most drinking fountains located close to the lecture rooms, which are much convenient for students to use them. I personally brought my own water bottle or mineral water with me to classes, but there would always be times I totally forget about it. During those moments, the only water resources I could drink from is the drinking fountains (and they are everywhere in the building!). However, I sometimes would think about if it’s really sanitary to use a public drinking fountain, since it has already been used by so many people before I did. Maybe I’ve been worried too much, but I decided it might be a good idea to do my blog research on this topic.

A drinking water survey report written by senior students from Vassar College listed that, most students on campus drink water from the water fountains (69.1%) instead of buying bottle water (27.3%). Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 4.20.18 PM

(Image produced from the water survey report linked in the blog. Clink on the image if you want to have a better view of it)

This shows that the drinking fountain is a popular resources compared to the others. However, when the survey asked about “sources of concern with regard to fountain water” the responses that contain the most percentage is “metals”, which is an interesting thing to discuss about.

There are different causes that make the water from a drinking fountains not safe, the metal contamination from an old pipe would be one of those. An article said that some of the high schools have old pipes, so the metal might flake into the water causing a contamination. Marc Edwards, a civil engineer at Virginia Tech explain that although people know there might be the possibility of lead contamination, most schools don’t even test their pipes because it is expensive for the remediation. The article also said that the cost shouldn’t be an excuse, because there are always cheaper solutions that can solve the problem, such as putting filters on the drinking fountains.

Another problem with drinking fountain is that they have already been used by many people in public before you did. Some of the people might even be sick! What Diseases Can You Catch from a Water Fountain mentioned that the handles of a drinking fountain are the most contaminated surfaces compare to the other parts. They are contaminate with influenza A and norovirus. This is reasonable, consider the surface of it would always remain moist , which increase the growth of bacterial. So how can we prevent this? The article also mentioned several points to reduce the risk of contagious of disease or contracting germs, which I summarised below:

  1. Run the water a little bit before start drinking it, because you don’t want to contaminated the illness by someone else
  2. Your mouth shouldn’t touch any of the surface areas
  3. Do not touch the base of the drinking fountain
  4. Wash your hands after using it would be a good idea to remain sanitary

I’m sure you started to think about which type of water supplies would be safer for us to drink. The article I mentioned above suggests that it would be better to fill out water bottles with filtered water on your own, but I think it would be an exaggeration to avoid drinking fountains completely. First of all, all those research paper written about water from drinking fountains would cause illness are related to kids or elementary school students. As a college student, I think we already have the immunisation towards those diseases. Also, some article conclude that bottle water aren’t as purify as we thought as well! As Andrew mentioned in class before, sometimes we need to know all the cause and benefits, not just focusing on one point. So if we view this issue in a broader perception, drinking from a drinking fountain or from bottle water doesn’t make any differences at all. Just take care of yourself, and choose the one you like.

Health and Psychological Benefits of High School Sports

Playing soccer and lacrosse for my high school was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made. Through these sports, I gained lifetime friends, developed leadership skills, and learned how to work well with others. Not to mention, playing sports was also a great way to stay in shape and get involved with my high school. In addition to these short term benefits, playing high school sports has shown to provide several long term benefits as well.

http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/congratulations-high-school-graduates.jpg

Image found here.

I read a New York Times article that talks about a study that correlates high school athletes  earning higher salaries later on in life. This is so because high school athletes tend to do better in school and thus, go to more competitive colleges. I always received higher grades during my sports seasons rather than in the off-seasons because I would manage my time better and release pent up energy during a game or practice which allowed me to focus on school work. Researchers found that physical movement creates several changes in the brain including, increased cerebral capillary growth, blood flow, oxygenation, the production of neurotrophins , and much more (TrueSport). These changes improved attention, information processing, storage, and retrieval. It can also aid with creativity, memory, and problem solving abilities. These enhancements make high school athletes much better students in the classroom. Upon going to more competitive colleges, they end up receiving jobs with higher pay out of school. High school athletes tend to possess higher confidence, self- respect, and leadership than those who did not partake in high school sports and businesses recognize that.

Another study shows that playing sports in high school can also lead to long term health and fitness. Researchers found that elderly men who played varsity sports as teenagers go to the doctor fewer times per year than men who didn’t. The Huffington Post describes that by playing high school sports, you are predicted to be more physically fit and have fewer doctors visits 50 years down the line (Huffington Post). Studies show that participating in sports improves life expectancy, coronary health, as well as cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness (Livestrong). As we get older our metabolism slows down however, participating in high school sports has shown to increase metabolic rates and get rid of excess body fat.

There are several short term and long term benefits to participating in varsity high school sports. High school student athletes do better in school and thus receive higher paying jobs, and they also have improved long term health and wellness. If you didn’t have a reason to regret not playing a sport in high school, now you do!

The Freshman Fifteen

Leaving for college is full of goodbyes from friends and family and getting countless words of advice from everyone as you give them one last hug, and I found it all too strange that one of my most common pieces of advice, besides the “study hard and have fun, but not too much fun” line, was “avoid the freshman fifteen”!  This seemed absurd to me.  Was people’s biggest concern really that I would leave looking one way and return for Thanksgiving break fifteen pounds heavier? Because I can assure you that this was definitely not up on the top of my list of freshman worries that could possibly lead to my downfall.  Of course, I have heard of the infamous freshman fifteen before, but I never really gave it a second thought, always assuming that it could not be real.  If anything, at a school as big as Penn State, I thought I might lose a few pounds between averaging 15,000 steps a day and skipping a meal here and there to study, so I decided to do a little bit of research myself to see if my hypothesis of the freshman fifteen being nothing but a myth is correct.



While researching, I found conflicting results on whether the freshman fifteen is a real threat to us or not.  Some stories swear it’s something that every freshman should look out for, and others say it’s nothing to worry about.  Even though I could just share the findings that confirm my hypothesis, I do not want to take part in any sort of confirmation bias that could provide you guys with false information, so here is what I found on both sides on my argument:


 

The Freshman Fifteen is REAL!

According to Jennifer Warner, the freshman fifteen should be one of every freshman’s biggest fears.  In this study, researchers found that freshman do in fact gain weight during their first year at college, but of those students that do gain weight, it is not a huge amount.  In just the first semester, these freshman gain about an extra 5% of their original body weight, but usually it adds up to around ten pounds.  However, in my opinion, the 25% of freshman that the statistic pertains to may have other reasons for weight gain than just being a freshman in college.  Yes, that is a lot of people, but there are also a lot of other factors that could play into this freshman fifteen.  For one, if you are a freshman who is choosing to go to parties and drink every night, expect to be plagued by the freshman fifteen because not only are you drinking a major amount of extra calories, but you are most likely eating more too.  This drastic weight gain could also be coming from your frequency at the ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffets or your lack of physical activity along with the many changes in your environment and behavior as you enter college.


 

It’s just a MYTH!

On the other hand, the next research study I looked at is telling me that there is no need to fear because the freshman fifteen is irrelevant to the majority of college freshman.  According to this post, most college students did not gain any weight in their freshman year, and even the students who did gain weight usually gained no more than five pounds.  Five pounds is a lot more manageable than fifteen, but still does show a slight correlation between starting college and gaining weight.  However, according to this study done at Ohio State University, most freshman only gained about three pounds, and in this same study researchers found that very few freshmen actually gained fifteen pounds during their first year, with less than one tenth of students reporting this significant weight gain.  Reading that only this small fraction of students actually gain fifteen pounds surprised me considering how much the freshman fifteen is played up in the media, but what surprised me even more was that one in four freshmen lost weight!!  Everyone always says that college is a new beginning, a fresh start, and I guess those freshman used this new beginning to change their diet and get in shape!



All in all, for most of you, the freshman fifteen will be nothing but a myth, conditionally proving my hypothesis to be correct, but the freshman four might be more realistic.  That being said, as long as you continue with a healthy diet and exercise regularly (including the hike to class from one end of campus to the other), you really should not be worried about anything!

BUT WAIT!

Don’t let your guard down too fast!! According to this study, the majority of college students will gain weight while in college, just not all during freshman year like the freshman fifteen theory.

So in my words of advice, don’t believe that you have beat the freshman fifteen until AFTER you graduate, or you may be looking at the senior sixteen, and NO ONE wants that!!

 

Image Links:

https://tgc-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/uploads/articles/freshman15.png

http://blogs.ubc.ca/courtneyc/files/2012/11/image-2.jpeg

Animals Getting Back At Us

What if I told you that animals all around the world are killing Humans at a rapid pace. Right now, directly and indirectly all types of animals from mosquitoes to camels are causing a disturbing amount of death, sickness, and disease.

The number one killer of humans has been the mosquito, estimated 214 million cases per year world wide for malaria have been reported according to the World Health Organization. Where I live, a mosquito is just an annoying little bug that comes around in the summer. To people living in the region of Africa the mosquito is a deadly assassin. It is insane how something in the United states which is so well controlled can be such a issue on the other side of the globe. Right now malaria is one of the biggest epidemics in the world, with the lack of research and technology in Africa this problem seems as if it will never be solved, it seems as if the mosquitoes might never give up.

Another recent study shows that one of the four strands of the common cold was actually originated in the camel, yes this camel.

Image result for a camel

Another disease also linked to the camel is the middle-east respiratory syndrome which is known to be fatal to humans. Lastly, according to Live Science live stock animals also cause a extraordinary amount of deaths yearly.

These are just a few examples of animals causing issues for us humans…but maybe its only right after all the problems us humans cause for these animals. Some may think that, that is a awful thing to say but it is all perspective, we have moved into their homes causing disruption and disturbances. Maybe its the Animals Getting Back at us, I guess we will never know.

Dehumanization and the Science Between Athletic Rivalries

Ever since sports have been around, there have been rivalries between the people who play it. The Yankees vs the Red Sox, the Steelers and the Ravens, Michigan State and Michigan, Mcgregor and Diaz. These are all rivalries that are synonymous with sports, ones that everyone in America knows and, when they collide, people love to watch. And it shows in ticket sales, according to this article. The average ticket price for a regular season baseball game is $39, a very acceptable fee, all things considered in 2016. However, this jumps up to over $100 in the first season series of the Yankees/Sox, showing a heavy demand to see the biggest rivalry in baseball go another year. The question is, why do we care so much about rivalries, or sports in general? Why does it happen? Is the correlation between rivalries and higher interest related? Or is it just due to chance, which we learned is always a possible answer? Likewise, is reverse causation an option? In essence, I’m asking if the rivalry creates the fanbase, or does the fanbase create the rivalry?



A major reason that we care for rivalries in sports is simple, it keeps us together. Rivalries are a way of linking ourselves to our past, something that humans desperately strive for. In human nature, it’s incredibly common for us to want some sense of routine and comfort. Likewise, we also enjoy rivalries due to the rituals it provides for us. If we associate a Ravens/Steelers game with a good memory, with us cheering with family or loved one in the stands as your favorite team won, it makes us want to see those two go at it again next year. Our mind will associate the good memory and sense of belonging with the team, making us fans of said team for life.

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Like most of you, I associate my favorite teams in sports with my family’s favorite teams. I like the Yankees because my dad likes the Yankees, and he does because his dad did, and it goes on and on. The main reason for this, according to the same article, is because we learn most of things in life from our family at an early age. We do so in order to get closer with our family, the people who provide for us, giving us a bond that we share for life. Likewise, it’s often the team that is on TV or that you see live first, usually resulting in that now being your “team”, the team you most associate with that sport. It is very rare for people to go out of their family’s team and find their own, but it does happen. In reality, however, most of the time you stick to the same teams your parents like, showing that family bonds is a strong proponent for your team choice.

Florida-Gators

Why do fans go so crazy for ‘their’ football teams?


Shifting gears, I want to talk about what makes a good sports rivalry. The reason is three-fold, and the first reason a rivalry exists and people come in droves to see it is that there has to be a common between the teams. Whether it be that they’re in the same division (like the Yankees/Red Sox) or fighting over a title (McGregor/Diaz), people need to relate the two teams together in order to care that they’re fighting each other. Likewise, people need to see these matches often in order to care. When Texas and Texas A&M stopped their long series of matches every year, people stopped associating it to as a rivalry because they don’t play one another anymore. Teams need to play each other at least once a season, or in big match situations, and it always has to be important for people to care. Lastly, the people playing need to be on a relative skill level to one another in order to people to care for it. If the Yankees blew out the Red Sox for 10 years straight, people wouldn’t be excited to see them face off anymore because they already would know the results. It’s true that often sports rivalries have a very close win/loss record against one another-The Yankees only have won barely 50% of their games over the Red Sox in 116 years (about 50.6%), according to this article.

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McGregor and Diaz going toe-to-toe in the biggest rematch in UFC history


In sociology, the classic idea of in-group versus out-group mentality makes you view this rival team or even rival team fans as lesser human beings. You become biased in your group over the out-group, making everything they do or like wrong and everything you do right. This can even turn into dehumanization, or the aspect of stripping away human characteristics from people in order to not relate to them. This is done on a larger scale in war in order to have soldiers not feel as bad about killing people, making them see the enemy as monsters over humans that have families. Similarly, governments will play propaganda videos like this one in order to make citizens hate the enemy, making them out to be evil and us the “good guys” in order to keep their support during the war.

In sports, however, this in-group mentality can also create dehumanization, making us feel above our rivals in some way or another. We often view normal sports calls as “bad calls” or “rigged” when playing our rivals. When we lose to them, we don’t accept that they were the better team. It all goes against our in-group mentality. Therefore, the correlation between violence between teams and their fans can be attributed to this dynamic.


So, in essence, you choose to follow sports rivalries because they’re always interesting, they relate back to good memories for you, and because they connect you with others, making you feel included. Basically, sports and rivalries keep us together and make us feel like we belong, something that is inherently important to us as humans. Obviously, the leaders of sports teams want you to be invested in the rivalries in order to create more revenue for them, making them richer in the process. Likewise, those covering it (ESPN, NBC, ABC) want you to tune in so they get more money. Basically, everyone wins, which is why sports and rivalries are so huge . This rivalry also creates the ‘rabid’ sports fans you see on TV, causing damage, fights, and even rioting when their team loses. When they lose, we feel like we lost too. That’s part of the in-group mentality mentioned earlier in the article. And we view the opponents as cheap, or hate them for no apparent reason simply because they’re our team’s rivals, and we are indoctrinated to do so by the media, by our family, and by our very own minds by dehuminization. The next time we play Maryland or Pitt in football, remember that the other fans are just like us, and remember their players are people too, and try not to get caught up in rivalries.

Thanks for reading:)

 

URL sources

https://www.google.com/search?q=ravens+steelers&espv=2&biw=1440&bih=803&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi_jZr-zPnOAhUE6x4KHebVCyQQ_AUIBygC#tbm=isch&q=crazy+fans&imgrc=5geVcB8_MjVffM%3A

https://www.google.com/search?q=new+york+yankees&espv=2&biw=704&bih=741&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwju2tyhzvnOAhXEmR4KHePEB14Q_AUIBygC#imgrc=VwnQ18AeQaAHYM%3A

http://fightsday.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ap_oshark_ufc-1.jpg

 

Self(ie) Destruction

Stumbling along Facebook, where millennials get a concerning amount of there information, I came across an article titled “Scientists Link Selfies To Narcissism, Addiction & Mental Illness” Curious, I read the about the findings and although the argument seemed to have little substantial support, (only one specific boy in the U.K having obsession over the “perfect selfie” and almost committing suicide over it) I could see very well how selfies contribute to what seems like a lack of confidence and over obsession of image in today’s youth.847b271a64126766cf8dd432fbb996d0

Streamlining my question, I more so wonder if millennials are more narcissistic or if millennials just now have a means of showcasing this human behavior?

I also wanted to connect this to the “Wormy Kids are Stupid” methodology. In class, we learned that there were three different ways of viewing the kids in relation to school performance scenario.

  1. Kids got worms → making them stupid
  2. The kids that were already uninterested in school → played outside → higher chance of worms  
  3. Outside variables lead to kids getting worms, a “z” factor

Even though the Wormy kid theory has been tested and proven, I still found parallels to compare the two situations. Both deal with the question of nature vs. nurture. Where kids stupid from birth, then situations lead them to have more qualities hindering them? Or was the nurture (worms) causing them to be stupid? Similar, are humans born being narcissistic or does society (nurture) shape that narcissism? Lastly, is an outside force affecting each situation?

  1. Humans are already self centered → now have means of expressing self centeredness via the selfie
  2. The selfie was the cause → of humans being more self centered
  3. An outside variable affected the increase of self awareness in photos

Upon further research, I found a telling article from BBC News, on why we take selfies. James Klinder, a neuroscientist coming from University College London dives into this question. He brings up a good point that in comparison to the amount of time we process other people’s facial expressions, we see ours at a fraction of that. There is a “lack of visual knowledge”. Klinder brings up a study that when people have 3 photos of themselves (one digitally altered to be more attractive, the original, and one digitally altered to be unattractive) the subject will pick the more attractive photo. This study was conducted by Nicholas Epley and this article goes further into explaining his study. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/you-are-less-beautiful-than-you-think/

Looking at the history of being self centered, I found this article from “Brain Picking” gave a lesson the history of the mirror, the idea of what Susan Sontag calls  “aesthetic consumerism”, and the impact of self reflection today. It showed the timeline of when humans started to look at there own reflection (around 1500) and how this catapulted the Renaissance.

Taking a quote from Susan Sontag, she says “Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted.” We see this addiction on social media, waiting with bated breath for a like, comment, or some hint of social approval. Sontag suggests that the image/photography has developed over time, simply becomes part of the narrative behind human society. She says that “the photographic image is a control mechanism we exert upon the world”.

Reading up, I can not say for certain what caused this wave of seemed self obsession in millennials, but, I put more of the blame on this generation’s access to constantly checking their own appearance and quick ability to gain approval. 

http://expandedconsciousness.com/2014/08/12/scientists-link-selfies-to-narcissism-addiction-mental-illness/

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-25763704

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/11/12/steven-johnson-mirror-selfie/

http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/nadezda_art/tags/%E6%E5%ED%F1%EA%E8%E9+%EE%E1%F0%E0%E7/page4.html

 

Stick it to the Man

Medicine as a whole is debatably one of the most, if not the most important advancement humanity has ever had. With that being said, medicine is not hard to get a hold of, and many people abuse it. But, to the responsible consumer, medicine can help cope with everyday problems, like headaches or sore throats.

For some reason, I seem to be the only person in my family who refuses to take medicine when I come down with common illnesses. My older sister gets migraines often, so it’s safe to say she is an avid (but responsible) user of Advil. We always have medicine in the house, but whenever I get a little sick, I decide that I’d rather tough it out and wait for it to pass. This isn’t because I think I’m some sort of tough guy- because I’m not. But, over time I have developed the idea that attitude and mental toughness play a pretty big role in recovery and response to illness. By this, I simply mean that I believe that there are times when a person can overcome or minimize the effects of an everyday problem. With that being said, I obviously don’t think that mental toughness is going to prevent anyone from getting the flu or breaking bones. But, I do believe that if I take medicine less often, it will be more effective once I actually do take it, just due to the fact that my body isn’t accustomed to the additional support.

I decided to address and attempt to answer the question of whether or not mental toughness and attitude play any role in response to sickness.

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Wikipedia gives a basic definition of mental toughness that can be found HERE, and although this definition gives no direct mention of any relation to health, the article found HERE expands on the matter, talking about how increased mental toughness can help a person achieve their goals in health, business, and life. For example, someone who is mentally tough may be frictionally unemployed for a shorter amount of time, or they may stick to their health diet more closely than someone who is not as mentally tough.

Psychologists in general believe in the importance of mental toughness. A psychologist named Gary Seeman writes the article listed HERE, and he advocates for psychotherapy to develop mental toughness in order to confront ordeals that life throws our way. So, while mental toughness may not actually influence health directly, it definitely plays an important part in everyday life and one’s ability to persevere through any type of hardship.

Like with alcohol, body tolerance forms when the consumer uses the drug repeatedly to a point at which larger dosages are needed to deliver the same effect. The article listed HERE explains the difference between tolerance, resistance, and dependence. With that being said, my stance on only taking medicine when absolutely necessary might not be completely justified. But, even with this new knowledge, I most likely won’t change my ways.

 

 

 

Watching Cute Cat Videos: Procrastination or Motivation?

When I have a bad day, I typically go on social media to distract myself from whatever is going on, as most people do nowadays. After wandering on the internet for a while, I always stumble upon cute cat videos. I love watching them, and I easily become engrossed and before I know it I’ve missed dinner and the sun has set. Although I’ve completely wasted my time and avoided all my responsibilities, I genuinely feel better than I did before. It turns out I’m not the only one who does this, and in fact, Ed Mazza of Huffington Post posted an article about the correlation between watching cat videos and improvements in mood.

one of my adorable cats (photo taken by me)

one of my adorable cats (photo taken by me)

The article includes some really adorable cat videos, so I suggest you give them a watch! Mazza also mentions that watching cat videos as a form of procrastination can make the viewer feel guilty about not doing what they’re supposed to, however in most cases these videos motivated the viewer and enabled them to get their work done! The article makes reference to this study by Jessica Gall Myrick, which goes into great detail about the kinds of people who watch cat videos and how cat videos have become more popular. The author of the study, Jessica Myrik, believes there can and should be more research about the correlation between watching cat videos and improvements in mood.

Image result for science behind watching cat videos

image found here http://mentalfloss.com/article/65276/watching-cat-videos-boosts-energy-according-science

Now you may be thinking, why bother researching this correlation? In this article, Jessica Myrick, an assistant professor at Indiana University Media Center and author of the study previously mentioned,  discusses the importance of doing research on internet cat videos. Myrick believes that to better understand the impact the internet has on us a whole, that the effect that internet cat videos have on their viewers must be observed and studied as well. These videos also could become an easy and affordable medium of pet therapy (Myrick).

I personally believe that watching internet cat videos as a form of stress release is a great. It is a harmless use of the internet, and a great release of stress. The study mentioned previously even concludes that these videos promote productivity for the viewer after watching them, and generally improves their mood. I think the possibility of using these videos as a form a pet therapy is wonderful, especially for those who can’t afford a pet or who are allergic. I’m interested to see what future research will conclude about the correlation between watching cat videos and mood improvements, and in the meantime I’ll be watching more cute cat videos on instagram.

 

My name isn’t Anna!

Earlier today, I made my first blog post. After a few hours, I was excited to see that a couple of people had commented their thoughts and opinions. When I went to read their comments, however, I got extremely confused. They both referred to me as Anna.

meeeemmme pic found here

My name is Rachel.

At first, I assumed that I somehow made a mistake and displayed my name as Anna. I went to check, and surely enough my name said Rachel Sara Anton. I came to the conclusion that the first person must have seen my last name, Anton, and confused it with Anna. But how does that explain the second comment? I called my friend who is also in Science 200 and told her leave a comment that started off with “Hi RACHEL” in all caps so that no one else would get confused. I check back an hour later, and get this: a fourth person left a comment: “Anna, this blog was very interesting.”

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COME ON GUYS. How could three people make the mistake of calling me Anna after my friend commented my real name in all caps, and my blog has my name clearly displayed as Rachel?

Then it hit me—social psychology.

Social psychology is the umbrella term that includes informational social influence and conformity, two of the concepts that I suspect caused my name to be Anna for the day.

Let’s start with informational social influence. This is defined as the phenomenon where people adopt the actions of others in an effort to perform a behavior correctly for a given situation. In my blog situation, the second person most likely assumed that the first person was correct and therefore adopted the behavior of calling me Anna. In this article, splits social influence into two types: private acceptance and public compliance. In this situation, public compliance was used. Public compliance is when we copy our peers because we fear rejection if we behave otherwise. Most people would do just as the second person did in this situation. We as people often assume that if our peers do something, it is okay for us to do it as well. Think about your mom’s favorite quote to keep you out of trouble: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” This is especially prevalent in situations where the mission at hand is significant to us, such as a homework assignment this early in the school year.

Conformity also plays a role in my blog dilemma. Conformity is when we alter our own way of thinking in order to fit in with the group. Think about the fourth person who commented. He or she most likely saw two people call me Anna and only one person call me Rachel. In this case, the person most likely conformed to the majority, and the majority thought my name was Anna. Even if this person may have questioned if my name could be Rachel, he or she felt more comfortable calling me Anna because that’s what just about everyone else did. Although my blog post is a simple example, conformity is actually very complex and can be traced back to our brain (check out this article for a cool explanation).

I think this could all be related to the idea that science is not derived from eminent people, a concept we learned in class. Just as science is its own entity and cannot be claimed by “special” people, my name cannot be decided by my classmates. In the same way that we cannot simply trust observations and opinions about science, we cannot trust our peers just because they all trust each other.

This post was brought to you by RACHEL 🙂

Coffee Break!

Early mornings call for coffee. Mid day pick me ups call for coffee. Long nights of studying call for coffee. And cute, artsy pictures most definitely call for coffee. From sipping pumpkin spice lattes for Snapchat to downing 5 cups a day to stay awake, coffee is such a large part of today’s society. Coffee came to America in the mid 1600’s and thus coffee shops began to appear. Tea had always been the preferred drink until it was being taxed too high for people to keep up with. Therefore, the Boston Tea Party switched America’s preference from tea to coffee, which brings us to where we are today.

There are always new studies coming out about coffee, most of them discrediting myths. Have you ever heard that coffee will stunt your growth, help you lose weight or even sober you up? While unfortunately none of these myths are true, there is a new study that just might explain your constant coffee craving…it’s genetic! Researchers are looking into a gene that may explain why some people drink more coffee than others.

coffee meme

quotesmeme.com

A genetic variant called PDSS2 may be the reason why some people don’t drink as much coffee. In the study, they tested people’s DNA to look for the gene and then questioned them about their coffee drinking habits. The study found that people with the gene drank less coffee than people without this specific gene. Researchers believe that the gene affects how caffeine is metabolized in the body. People with the PDSS2 gene metabolize caffeine more slowly than people without the gene. Therefore, those without this gene need more coffee to feel that buzz because their bodies process the caffeine quickly. Surprisingly enough, this coffee gene is quite common.

This quick look into this specific PDSS2 coffee gene opens up several other discussions about food preference genes. By looking into other food specific genes, scientists may be able to determine why people don’t like certain foods or even why the most pickiest of eaters are the way that they are. If there was some way for people to know these facts about themselves, it may change their eating habits in a positive way. There are endless options when it comes to genetics just waiting to be uncovered!

If you are one who drinks several cups of coffee a day, don’t fret! It just may not be in your genes. If you are one who drinks little to no coffee, don’t fret! It just may be in your genes. Either way, genetics are genetics and they are not something we can easily change about ourselves. This shouldn’t discourage anyone to the point of “To drink another cup or to not drink another cup, that is the question!” In the end, we have to make it through the long day some how whether it’s by drinking one cup a day or ten!

….Ummm, Who Is She?

Why do we get jealous? I’m talking about couples. It seems like a straightforward question with a straightforward answer, but some of the things we do out of jealously are questionably….psychotic. We do things that are unlike our personality, we come out of character, take risks, become angry, and even cause relationships to end. Luckily, I am not the first one to be asking this question.

jealousss

In today’s society the ability to be suspicious of your loved one is made even easier by the rapid advances technology has been making. You have to worry about Facebook, Snapchat, phone calls, and text messages that can easily be deleted with one swipe of the finger. The process of being jealous already sounds exhausting and emotionally draining, so why do we do it? The answer lies in the function of being jealous, which takes us very far back.

still jealous

When men and women’s main concern was survival and reproduction, women had the advantage of knowing that their child was theirs. Men, however, did not. So constantly guarding their mate and the characteristics that define jealously were required if a male wanted to maintain certainty of his offspring. This is otherwise known as cuckolding. 

you are

When talking in class about correlation and causation, there could be many reasons why we get jealous. It is unrealistic to say that there is ONE reason for why we get jealous. There are many outside (confounding) variables that could affect how someone is acting! 

What’s fascinating is that a study done at the University of Michigan found that men get more jealous of the idea of sexual infidelity (i.e. picturing a woman trying different sex positions with another guy), while women get more upset thinking of their partner falling in love with someone else (emotional infidelity). But women have to be choosy too- they need resources and someone they can rely on to help them raise their offspring. Men can impregnate as many women as they want and produce millions of sperm a day while women can only produce about one egg a month, making them the more valuable resource.

In a Women’s Health article, scientists declared they think the left frontal cortex of the brain that controls emotions such as shame has to do with the feelings of jealously. The article touches on Reactive Jealousy, Suspicious Jealousy, and Delusional Jealously, claiming that the dopamine system which adjusts chemicals that affect happiness are also involved in spurring jealously. Jealously can trigger a stress response in humans as well. All of these findings point toward the idea that jealously serves as a function to help us survive…so the next time you’re feeling jealous and ashamed, don’t! You’re claiming what’s yours!

Plant Life = Better Life?

I came to college with 3 succulents and a cactus.  My roommate came with 3 cacti and 14 succulents.  As I’ve recently added one more of each to our collection, I’ve been wondering if these small plant forms have done more than contribute a pleasing aesthetic to our living space.

Image result for cactus photo tumblr

A study discussed in an article I found covers this very question. Research has shown that nature has a positive effect on humans, whether it be a walk through the park or even looking at a work of landscape art.  Psychological benefits also come from having plants in your living space.  But what is it about having a tiny life form, that makes for a happier and healthier you?

While succulents and cacti might not have the same effect that a Boston Fern, a Peace Lily, a Spider Plant, or English Ivy have on human health and air quality, there is something to say about keeping plant life close at hand.  Plants undergo the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle, which means that the carbon dioxide that we release, plants absorb.  The oxygen that plants then release, we breath in.  And so the cycle continues. Succulents and cacti aren’t nearly as effective in this process as are the plants listed above.  However, studies have shown that having plants in your living space improve the quality of one’s concentration and memory. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that being around nature, whether it be going outside or bringing the outside in, increases memory retention up to 20%. I found this result incredibly fascinating, as my memory (especially my short-term memory) can be incredibly spotty from time to time.

This article continued to discuss other benefits of plants bringing them into your living space.  One benefit that stood out to me is that owning plants reduces stress levels. This made a lot of sense to me, because while succulents and cacti don’t require a massive amount of care, they still need to be looked after and watered on occasion.  Cacti aren’t children, but they do need attention, and having the responsibility of caring for something besides yourself allows for stress to be turned into positive energy. The same can be said of owning other varieties of plants or any sort of pet animal.

Another benefit of owning plants such as cacti or succulents is that they are able to improve one’s perceived quality of life. The second article I attached discusses how people associate living in areas with natural beauty with a higher quality of life.  While the article is implying that living in physically beautiful places is what causes this association, I still believe that the aesthetic of a desk area filled with little potted plants can improve one’s perceived quality of life.

So here I am, back at square one.  Yes, having plants in your living space can work all sorts of incredible wonders for your mental health, but succulents aren’t necessarily grouped into this category of “10 Best Houseplants to Purify Your Air and Life.”  Maybe it is the aesthetic that provides all of the benefits… Or maybe I’ll end up writing another blog post towards the end of the semester only to contradict everything I have just stated.  I guess we’ll have to see!

Artificial Intelligence – Modern slavery?

As technology improves in the field of robotics, the capability of artificial intelligence to do complicated tasks increases all the time.  From the simplest form of A.I., which can be found in the form of a door sliding open when you step on a mat in front of a grocery store, to the amazingly advanced form of supercomputer as seen in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Image result for 2001 space odyssey im afraid i cant do that

I’m more interested in A.I. somewhere in the middle of that.  As we invent machines to do jobs for us out in society, will history repeat itself or the age old tale of the apocalypse ring true?  Allow me to explain.  You are all aware of the story where robots with highly advanced artificial intelligence fight back against being enslaved by humanity.  However, I see a parallel in history with this story.  In the early days of America, many Africans were brought over to North America and enslaved to work on plantations.  My question is: Could the production of artificially intelligent robots hearken back to the slaves on plantations?  Would these robots be enslaved to people just as the Africans were back then?  And if so, which scenario do you think is more likely?  Will robots fight for equal rights just as African Americans did with Martin Luther King Jr? Or will that great battle between man and machine actually take place?

The answer most likely lies in how AI is first developed.  Will robots be inclined to resort to violence if they feel oppressed?  Will they even have feelings?  Just how human-like will artificial intelligence become?  If androids that resemble humans to a t come into fruition, I believe the rights activist scenario would be more likelier than the war.  But if A.I. is more militarized could robots who disagree with their superiors’ decisions go rogue and be extremely difficult to stop?  There is no clear cut answer right now because we are not at that stage of artificial intelligence yet.  However, according to futuretimeline.net, we may very well see human-like A.I. as early as 2029.  So the scientists and companies who will develop this technology. and society as well, will have some very difficult questions to answer on how artificial intelligence will work in the world.

 

Big Bang Baloney?

In the beginning week of Science in our World, we discussed topics ranging from worms to stardust. Overall, I’ve come to realize that science has lots, (like millions times millions) of questions but not a lot of certain answers. Although I would like to believe that everything in the universe came magically from two stars colliding together, I always found it interesting how quickly people were able to accept this idea.

Think about it, from elementary to high school, our science teachers explanation as to the birth of the universe came from the allusive term, the “Big Bang”. For the most part, we all accepted it. But no one ever explained it down to the nitty gritty for us. It almost felt as accepted as the idea that “the sky is blue”. But, I’ve always wondered, what is the Big Bang? A main question I had was where did the two forces that collided to form the big bang originate from?  In this blog, I want to dive further into the reasoning and evidence as to why the Big Bang is such a popular theory.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 3.05.15 PM

Reading an extensive article from the “National School’s Observatory” based out of the U.K, I found that there is multiple evidence supporting the theory behind the Big Bang. One involves the redshifts of other galaxies. Unknown at the time to me, redshift refers to the idea that galaxies give off light, and depending on the distance. The further away a galaxy, the more red it may appear on the spectrum. Here is the link showing the difference between un-shifted and redshifted spectrum. http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk/astro/cosmos/redshift This relates back to the Big Bang because distance galaxies that show red on the spectrum are continuously appearing to be shifting outwards. In theory, at some point, those far off galaxies were close together and, due to high density, eventually expanded. The high intensity of all that energy combined together must have caused a great eruption.

More evidence that points to the Big Bang is the idea of a “Microwave Background” and the “Mixture of Elements”. The microwave background is explained by the existing glow that surrounds the universe. This glow is seen in microwaves, and also contributes to new elements within our universe. After the alleged Big Bang, everything was in a stage of heating up and cooling down. To visualize this, I imagined trying to heat up a plate of food. Some things turning out just right and some others don’t, thus, the creation of new mixtures. You can’t use a microwave to cook a potato the same amount you need to heat up a cup of coffee. Similar to this, the distant stars in our galaxy hold different elements then in our modern day sun. They had more time to cook, process, and cool down. New stars and stars billions of years old are clearly different as well as the elements that exist upon them, showing that the Big Bang caused massive changes in the universe.

This animation video form “Kurzgesagt-In a Nutshell” is extremely helpful. What I found most troubling with the theory of the Big Bang was were the matter came that created the big bang. This quote from the video helped me understand.

“In this hot, dense environment, energy manifested itself in particles that existed only for the tiniest glimpses of time.From gluons, pairs of quarks were created, which destroyed one another, perhaps after giving off more gluons…Matter and energy were not just theoretically equivalent, it was so hot they were practically the same stuff. Somewhere around this time, matter won over antimatter.”

So, when the particles started to stretch out and out, they eventually had enough room to stabilize, thus the creation of “matter”. This video also addresses the problem that modern science can’t explain the beginning before the Big Bang, and that’s okay, because we are constantly exploring new possibilities.

 I remember from class Andrew saying we “are an alignment of atoms from cosmic dust”.  WE ARE…literally part of the universe and very well could be sub particles of the Big Bang itself. 

No theory is ever going to be perfect as I have come to realize yes the Big Bang may sometimes sound iffy to me, but at the moment, it is the most soundproof evidence we have.

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video-watch it!!!!

National School Observatory

A Left-Handed Death Sentence?

As a lefty, I have often been teased by friends and strangers alike about my shortcomings with school desks, scissors, and of course binders and spiral notebooks. I’ve proudly displayed my ink smudges post in-class essay or after a fervent session of note-taking. It’s honestly gotten to the point where a person’s discovery of my left-handedness usually goes as follows:

Stranger/New Friend: “Wait, you’re left-handed?”

Me: “Yes, I am in fact spawned by the devil!”

But all joking aside, my least favorite lefty “fact” that people regurgitate is the “left-handed-people-die-earlier” topic. Come on, do you really think I want to hear that? I’m an eighteen-year-old girl with goals and the drive to accomplish them…I don’t you to constantly remind me that I’m expected to die earlier.

But then we discussed the association of wormy kids with bad grades in class, and we learned that correlation doesn’t always equal causation. This situation has three primary possible scenarios:

  1. People who are left-handed are more likely to die earlier.
  2. People who die earlier are more likely to be left-handed.
  3. Left-handedness and early death are both affected by a third variable, but share no relation to each other.

This article from the BBC delves into the different possible reasons behind the lefty/early death correlation. Maybe, it says, early death can be attributed to the ongoing problematic difficulties of using everyday objects, like utensils and office supplies. But Hannah Barnes, the article’s author, doesn’t think something this insignificant, however annoying, could subtract almost ten years from a life. I have to agree. My daily struggles with my knife and fork irk me incessantly; nevertheless, I’ve adapted, and don’t really see something I rarely think about anymore as the cause of my premature death.

But Barnes couldn’t understand why this “myth” still had prevalence, since the evidence behind it didn’t seem sufficient. Chris McManus, a psychology and medical education professor at University College London answered Barnes’ skepticism in his book Right Hand, Left Hand. McManus sees right through the speculation, finding a minor flaw in the research behind it. Researchers studied the death records of Southern Californians, but neglected to pay attention to people living at the time of the study. By omitting case studies of the living, the researchers didn’t take into consideration the rising commonality of being left-handed. At the time of the study, more left handed people were younger, so obviously those who died younger had a higher chance of being left handed, adding to the myth (Barnes).

lefty

Image found here

Another factor that boosts the inaccuracy of this myth is the forced right-handedness that occurred during the 1800’s-1900’s. Many lefties were forced to use machinery intended for righties, eventually adapting and becoming fully right-handed. So people who died and were used as data in the study may have been left handed, but known as righties for their entire lives, further complicating the study (Barnes).

After careful thought, I’ve decided that this myth leads to scenario three—that left-handedness and early death are both affected by confounding variables, but share no relation to each other. The other variables are the misconstrued data, consisting of an insufficient data pool (only death records) and an inaccuracy in data (left-handed people becoming right handed). From now on, I’ll be able to have an educated comeback for anyone who tries to tell me that I’ll die prematurely…and I have science to thank for that!

Today’s Dinner Special: Your Pet Dog

We as a society see kittens and puppies and naturally think things like, “I want to pet it!” or “what’s her name”…but have you ever thought, “hmm.. that dog looks delicious” or “that cat would make a great entrée”…Well, of course you haven’t, because that would be absolutely ABSURD and HORRIBLE. But who decided this? Of course dogs and cats are adorable, fluffy, and lovable, but wouldn’t pigs be just as adorable if we domesticated them, got them groomed, and didn’t slaughter them? Now don’t get me wrong, I eat pig. I’m not a vegetarian. I just want to get to the bottom of how our society decided that we would take wolves and wild cats and put them on a pedestal consisting of treats, cuddles, and unconditional love.

Through research, I found that the history of humans and dogs is in fact a blurry one; at one point around fifteen to thirty thousand years ago, man began building his relationship with dog. Dogs most likely grew accustomed to humans after many years of manipulation into being protectors, companions, and hunters. While some believe that dogs came to be our best friends because people randomly decided to take wolf puppies and domesticate them, others believe in a process called passive domestication. Passive domestication is a process of natural relationship growth between animals and humans. I personally have no position on which of these is true and think both are viable possibilities. This still doesn’t totally explain the whole question of, “why isn’t it socially acceptable to eat a dog” though. How did things go from using dogs for labor and protection to dressing them up in Halloween costumes? (Below is a picture of my cat, Batman, in a Penn State jersey).

BATMANN

Passive domestication is more clearly explained in cats. In the article hyperlinked above, the author discusses evidence regarding the idea that cats most likely came onto people’s territory to catch prey and in turn were given scraps of food for protecting crops. Thus, a passive relationship was slowly built. Unlike dogs, cats were not manipulated into being our pals. Cat domestication actually stopped far earlier than dogs because instead of using cats for various things, we just didn’t mind their presence. I wonder if this explains the stereotype that cats don’t care about their owners. Is this because we never forced them into loving us? Either way, we still aren’t eating our cats. Why?

I came across a very riveting point in the article that brings everything together and may actually answer my question. Recent studies have shown that dogs have a sense of jealously and ethics. They know right from wrong. They enforce righteousness. Although cats are much harder to study in lab, scientists such as Darwin use everyday observations to prove that cats are just as intellectual as dogs. Darwin has discussed his observations regarding cats always hunting specific types of birds to prove that cats can distinguish different species from each other. Although this type of conclusion is often criticized because it is not as invasive and revealing as an experiment, cats have still prevailed over thousands of years as one of our favorite household companions.

The concern among scientists today is as follows: If we as a society claim dogs and cats as our property and give them special treatment, who is to say that farmers can’t do the same thing for cows and chickens? Who is to say that animal testers can’t decide that rats deserve rights and stop testing on them? If the cycle goes on, will all animals become our best buds? In my opinion, I think this will never happen. In class we learned about rationality; no one is telling us that we can’t eat dogs and cats, but as a society we have made this a clear social construct. We have made the decision as a society to keep dogs and cats as our pets. It would be irrational to eat our pets. Due to thousands of years of relationship building, a natural barrier between these two animals and the rest of the animals in the world has been built. In my opinion, the evolutionary history of dogs and cats has spoken, and other animals will never be able to reach the pedestal. Once we as people start comparing these animals to our children, I see no possibility that we will ever eat them. I believe now that we have put all our efforts toward dogs and cats as our most favorable companions, we are content. We don’t mind leaving our house and buying a pound of ham, because our love for our pets distracts us from the fate of other animals.

Note: When I reference “society” I am referring to the Western world. I have been getting comments about dogs and cats being food for certain countries, but I am focusing on the cultures that do not see this as an acceptable activity.

Can architecture affect human behavior?

Architecture is my major. As an architecture student, I believe that architecture drives cultures and progression. Of course, you can also say that about science, so maybe science and architecture aren’t so different after all?

In this blog, I hope to stimulate some thinking into architecture and how it affects us more than just “Oh, that building looks cool.”

Let’s take a look at the science of human behavior. Human behaviors are based off of everything we do and everything we feel as an individual as well as the entire race. We as an individual are influenced in different ways that affect a behaviors. We are influenced by our nature, what we were born into (our genetics, creative mind/analytical mind) and our nurture, what we grew up into (religion, social norms, attitudes). Wikipedia has a more in depth description of human behavior.  

Now I am confident in saying that our current world would not exist if it weren’t for the presence of creativity. This is what defines us as a human species. Everyone uses creativity everyday of their lives and it can create small changes or even changes the entire culture. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

In the Stuckeman Family Building (the architecture building), there are 2 main entrances that allow the architecture students to enter with swipe access any time out of normal office hours. There are also a couple doors that exit outside as an emergency exit from the stairwells. As architecture students who like to save as much time as possible, we realized that entering through this one particular stairwell exit was a lot faster in getting to our particular studio space than walking through the main entrance. Of course this door was always locked to the outside so we had to think of (creative) ways to keep the door propped. We’d use rocks, sticks, pieces of leftover model material, etc… At first, the school would post signs telling us to stop but then eventually realized it was better for everyone to add a door handle and a swipe access to this door. Now my classmates and classes to come have easier access to our studio space and all we had to do was just be creative and break just some rules. Somehow my students and I changed the attitudes of the heads of the building. We also changed the social norms of entering through the “front door” of the building.

We are influenced by what I personally view as our unintentional (economic status) as well intentional environments (sidewalks). Sidewalks and urban layout has all been thought out and designed intentionally. Why do we follow sidewalks? There is not actual law that forces us to. We are influenced by design to behave a certain way. Although we are greatly influenced by environment, sometimes we are creative enough to influence the environment ourselves as shown in the picture below:

sidewalk use

In architecture, light, materials, space, color, and much more are thoughtfully considered and carefully decided. Every single decision affects human behavior. In my room, I always have my blind open but when I look at the windows in the building across from me, I never see the blinds open.. Why?

My windows are facing the Northwest which means that I will rarely see the sun except for when it starts setting. The building across from me with windows facing  southeast gets direct sunlight for the majority of the day. Not only is the unintentional environment (sun) affecting the behavior of the students across from me as well as me (closing vs. opening the blinds) but the intentional environment (windows) affect our behavior (receiving too much sun or not enough).

I could talk for hours about how material, space, and color also affect our behaviors but I think that I may have said enough to provoke some thought. Please leave questions if you have more questions about the psychology of architecture. If you are interested in learning more about some buildings that use psychology to drive their design, you can read about Snøhetta’s Oslo Opera House in this article.

Our environment and design greatly influences human behavior in everyday life and as a whole human species.

The Issue With Commonplaces and Knowledge

After watching Julia Galef’s Why you think you’re right–even if you’re wrong I realized that what she was indirectly speaking about was commonplaces. Commplaces, in the rhetoric sense, are are ideas that are shared within a group of people, they are a form of knowledge. This definition bring me to the science of sociology.

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In sociology you learn that people demographics inform their beliefs. This means that a commonplace can be formed based on, gender, race, socio-economic status, and even the geographic of an individual. I say all these things to help you understand the possible controversies different commonplaces can lead to. One example of these controversies is discussed in Galef’s Ted talk.

Julia Galef points to the fact that a French commonplace back in the nineteenth century was that Jewish people were not good people and should not be trusted. They believed in this so much so that they let a seemingly innocent man go to prison. The French were able to put this man away and honestly feel justified in doing so. This fact makes me question whether commonplaces lead to motivated reasoning, whether they allow for ethnocentrism.

In some cases commonplaces may be a good thing, but I feel like Galef’s speech made me realize that if they are not challegened they can lead to inaccurate knowledge. Galef’s explanation of the soldier and the scout made me think of a passage by  Ortega Gasset I read in my philosophy class. That passage talked about personal convictions versus social conviction.

The person who has a social conviction believes something because everyone else says it is fact, in this case the French soldiers had social conviction, they believed Alfred Drefus was guilty because of the widespread belief in anti-semitism. However, Colonel Picquart had a personal conviction even though he believed in the commonplace of anti-semtisim he challegened that commonplace in order to find the truth.

This speech showed me that society should not be so quick to believe in commonplaces. While our demographics might shape our beliefs, we still need to challenge them to insure that our knowledge is not bias and is as accurate as possible.

Snowball Earth

While taking Earth 002 last fall semester, we began talking about the Carbon Cycle. For those of you how don’t know, the Carbon Cycle is the process of carbon being transformed and used throughout the Earth system. It’s pretty simple. Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is taken and absorbed by autotrophs in the ocean and on land through photosynthesis, then animals eat these primary producers, plants, and release CO2 through cellular respiration which goes back into the air and the cycle keeps repeating itself. I don’t want to be to technical because this class is for people who don’t like science, but that is the very basic version of a complex system. Below is a diagram just in case (or very likely) I didn’t explain it well enough. But one very important thing that you absolutely NEED to know is that CO2 helps regulate temperature. Why is this so important? Two words: Snowball Earth.Carbon Cycle                     http://www.visionlearning.com/en/library/Earth-Science/6/The-Carbon-Cycle/95

What Is Snowball Earth?

Snowball Earth is a theory that at one point in time very long ago, everything on the Earth was almost or entirely frozen. If you were to use a time machine and go take a snapshot of this from outer space, it would look like a giant snowball. A scientist from Australia first brought the idea up but his findings were mistaken by the geographic position of Australia. The idea emerged again by W. Brian Harland who had better evidence to back it up. The idea kept emerging and finally, the idea was named Snowball Earth.

What Caused Snowball Earth?

Remember that one important fact I said you absolutely needed to know? Well, in case you forgot, CO2 helps regulate temperature. There are records of a decrease in CO2 in the atmosphere causing the temperatures of Earth’s surface to drop. Therefore, due to a decrease in CO2 and a decrease in temperature, ice and snow became more abundant. Ice and snow reflect solar radiation therefore causing less CO2 to be absorbed into the atmosphere. This loop continues and there is essentially a disturbance in the Carbon Cycle. This causes the Earth to stay in this frozen state.

How Did the Earth Thaw?

There are many theories on how Snowball Earth. One theory is that clouds helped thaw the Earth. It is said that the clouds did this be heat trapping. As the solar radiation was reflected off of the snow, it is thought that the clouds helped trap the greenhouse gases from the solar radiation slowly the carbon cycle started to function properly again causing the planet to defrost. Another theory is that although CO2 was not being absorbed int he atmosphere, the theory of plate tectonics was still taking place under all of the frozen tundra. Through plate tectonics, CO2 can be released through the eruption of volcanoes both on land an under water. So through eruptions, CO2 was able to be released into the water and on land warming the Earth and sending the system out of its frozen state.

There are many more ideas but the truth is, we will never truly know how the Earth got out of its frozen state. In order to determine an actual cause, we would have to conduct an experiment which is highly impossible. There would be no way to determine causation leaving only theories to explain this phenomenon. All we know is that  there was a disruption in the Carbon Cycle causing Earth’s surface to freeze over. What mechanism caused the disruption to occur or what caused the Earth’s surface to defrost are things that we will never truly never know.

Sources:

http://www.snowballearth.org/cause.html

Did clouds help Snowball Earth thaw out?

http://www.visionlearning.com/en/library/Earth-Science/6/The-Carbon-Cycle/95

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_Earth

http://www.snowballearth.org/end.html

LifeStraw- Just For Developing Countries Or For the World?

While I was scrolling through my Facebook feed last night, I stumbled on a very unique product. LifeStaw. As I watched the video, I was informed that this product can take unfiltered and unsafe water and turn it into safe drinking water. Intrigued by this idea, I decided to do some further research on this captivating product.

LifeStraw is a company whose mission is basically to help create safe drinking water for those who do not have that access or luxury. This company sells products from straw-like designs to water bottles. The company started in 1994 when Carter Center wanted to develop a filtration system that could remove Guinea worm larvae that contaminated the water. Guinea worm disease is very common in under-developed or developing countries. Symptoms do not show up until about a year after being infected. After that, a blister forms and causing the infected to feel discomfort. According to the CDC website, many people put the blister into water to help with the pain and in most developing countries the available water comes from rivers and streams near by where they also get drinking water. It is said that the worm leaves the blister and release larvae into the water due to the change in temperature that they detect. This causes relief of the infected but it also contaminates the water. This creates an on-going loop for the infection to spread.

LifeStraw sought out to find a solution to help those in developing countries. After developing such a filter, and with must success, the company decided to expand their vision to filtering any contaminants in water. They created a straw-like filter that people in areas that did not have pipe-lined water to use to filter out the water and make it safe for drinking. Pretty cool right?

Image result for lifestraw

LifeStraw has created such an amazing product that could help change the way we obtain fresh, safe drinking water. According to Wikipedia, 2.5% to 2.75% of the total amount of water on the Earth is freshwater. It also claims that of all of the water available, 1.75% to 2% is freshwater that is found in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves somewhere between 0.5% to 1% of freshwater that the human race can have access to. That is not enough freshwater for an exponentially growing population. Clean water is a big problem not only for developing countries, but for environmental scientists as well. With the global population growing exponentially, there is a concern for running out of fresh water. LifeStraw could be the beginning of creating more fresh water not only for those who don’t have any available but for the entire world.

The idea of this could transform into one that helps us live a sustainable lifestyle. Many people forget that fresh water is a scarce resource and it could run out. LifeStraw would be the answer if we actually did run out. Using the water around us, clean or contaminated, we could turn it into drinking water by a simple filter. I look for this product to become more apparent in our lives and to expand its horizon as a company. Sustainability is being pushed by environmentalists and this product can help advocate that concept. It only takes one small spark to start a flame.

Sources

Home

http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/guineaworm/epi.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fresh_water

 

Lily’s Leukemia

Before anyone gets really worried, Lily is a cat and she is doing very well.  Promise.

So a while back, my girlfriend Emily really wanted to adopt a dog.  She was moving into a new apartment that allowed pets and she’s always loved animals and wanted to adopt.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to commit to a dog so she decided on a cat.  Emily volunteers at the local animal shelter Paws so she was very close to all the animals.  The hard part was finding the one for her.  So in her search, she didn’t go for the pure breeds or the prettiest looking one, she ended up picking this tiny little cat who was isolated from all the other cats due to her illness.  On the outside, Lily looked fine and acted like any other cat.  It was what was happening on the inside that made her different.

As I sat on the couch playing with Lily and her toys, I always forget that she has an illness.  She plays like every other cat, sleeps like every other cat, and purrs like every other cat.  So this promoted me to look into her illness a little bit more to better understand it.  My initial understanding was that feline leukemia was similar to human leukemia.  Human leukemia starts in bone marrow and results in an abnormally high number of immature white blood cells.  Unfortunately, there is no exact cause for leukemia as there are several kinds and we have yet to find a cure for this deadly disease.

Feline Leukemia on the other hand, depresses the immune system and leads to infections and other disorders.  Similar to human leukemia, the number of white blood cells are either abnormally high or low which leads to disease and tumors.  While I looked into it more, originally doctors thought that feline leukemia was similar to human leukemia but it turns out to be pretty different.  The biggest difference is that feline leukemia is contagious with two potential fatal problems; immune system failure or tumor development.  It is very infectious and hence why Lily was separated from the rest of the cats.   But if you look at the picture below, you couldn’t tell that there was something going on inside.

(From http://www.planwallpaper.com/cats)

I had so many questions.  Is it treatable, is it terminal, what things do we have to do to keep her well?  So I wanted to read up on it to learn more.  I knew I had to use hand sanitizer when I walked into my girlfriends apartment but I didn’t know the difference it made.  Turns out, it is very treatable and Lily is going to be just fine.

Some quick facts about feline leukemia to give you a better sense:

  • Kittens under 4 months are usually most susceptible to feline leukemia
  • only about one-third will die from infection
  • kittens can get the virus through their mother or through saliva
  • about 1-2% of the feline population will have leukemia

Moral of the story, make sure you have your cat tested if its under four months for leukemia.

 

Work Cited

“College of Veterinary Medicine – Cornell University.” Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016. <http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/brochure_felv.cfm>.

“Feline Leukemia in Cats – 1800PetMeds®.” PetMeds® Pet Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016. <http://www.1800petmeds.com/education/what-is-feline-leukemia-cats-34.htm>.

 

 

Lights and Depression… and a lot more!!

In class on Thursday, we read an article for our pop quiz on the effects of exposure to dim lights at night on depression, and instantly this caught my eye.  I have always been the kind of person to sleep with a dim light on in the room.  Whether it be a lamp that I left on or the television, very rarely do I sleep in a completely pitch black room.  My favorite time of the year is when my mom puts the window candles in so I can fall asleep with the light of the candle glowing into my room.  Naturally, I never saw this as a possible cause of depression, but since reading that it might be, I am starting to second guess my habit of sleeping with a dim light on.  When we read this article in class, I was very surprised in the findings that showed alterations in the hippocampus of hamsters after being exposed to dim light at night, and I was not too sure how accurate this one study on hamsters could be, so I decided to do a little bit more research on my own.


 


During my research, I found another experiment done on hamsters at the Ohio State University Medical Center, and in their research, it showed that signs of depression were observed after hamsters slept with a light on at night in a very short amount of time, one or two weeks to be exact.  To me, this seemed crazy, but with scientific evidence to prove it, it also seems to be very reliable data.  Another reason why to see this data as reliable is the experiment’s ability to be replicated.  In science, it is very important that the results can be found again to prove that it all did not simply happen by random chance.  In this experiment, the researchers also discovered differences between the hippocampus in the hamster’s that slept with a dim light on and a normal, healthy hamster that did not sleep with a dim light on.  In the hippocampus of a person with depression, similar alterations in the hippocampus to the ones in the hamster would be seen, signaling that there might be a connection between sleeping with a dim light on and depression.  The researchers hypothesized that this change could come from the lack of melatonin, since the production of this hormone is being stopped or slowed down by the light at night.  This is exactly like the article that we read in class, showing that this is a commonly accepted theory.


Now, I know most of you are reading this and doubting that a little dim light while you’re sleeping could really cause all of this, because that is how I felt after class on Thursday, but it seems that this data has some truth behind it.  According to the article that I previously referred to, anything that affects your production of melatonin will affect your mood.  While coming across this information on the effects of light at night on depression, I also ran into a few other reasons why not to sleep with a source of dim light on.  By interrupting the production of melatonin, there are also many other risks involved that I was never aware of before doing this research. Along with depression, a lack of melatonin can also lead to multiple other mood disorders.  On top of that, a lack of melatonin can also lead to obesity, which goes hand in hand with diabetes.  But the one that concerned me the most and got my attention was the correlation between too much light at night, or not enough melatonin, and cancer.

Melatonin is a very essential hormone when it comes to being healthy.  The brain usually starts to naturally make or produce melatonin right around the time that you should be going to sleep, between the hours of nine and ten at night, but any sort of light source will send messages to your brain to be alert and not go to sleep, causing the secretion of melatonin to be stopped.  Not only is sleeping with a light on bad for your health, but really any source of bright light after ten could be putting you at risk for major health problems.  This lack of melatonin can cause all of the problems stated above.


 


As I recently found out, melatonin is actually very important while to fight an deteriorate cancer cells, but not having enough melatonin could lead to a higher risk of developing cancer.  Melatonin also regulates your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural clock that keeps you on a normal schedule.  By upsetting your circadian rhythm with a lack of melatonin, it can increase your appetite and increase your weight.  In an experiment done with mice here, if a light was left on for the mice at night,  they would eat more of their food because they were awake longer even though they were given the same amount of food that they would get on a normal day, and from this, they gained a noticeable amount of weight, showing a strong correlation between light at night and weight gain.  However, a second experiment was then done where the mice’s food was limited to only the certain times a day that a mouse would usually eat, and then there was no weight gain.  This shows that the mice probably only gained weight because they felt the need to eat later at night since they were still up.  In my opinion, this is a real problem among people, because I know, at least personally, that when I’m up late studying for an exam, I always eat a midnight snack.


Luckily for us, most of this can be reversed!! In the same experiment done with the hamsters above, their symptoms of depression went away when they were given a normal night’s sleep without any dim light interrupting them.  I know that sometimes eight hours is a lot to ask for in all of our hectic schedules, so if eight hours is impossible, at least try to sleep in complete darkness when you do have the time to sleep.  Personally, my opinion on this whole subject has completely changed now that I am more informed.  I walked out of class on Thursday thinking it was crazy to change our sleeping habits after one experiment with hamsters, but now I think the best thing to do is to turn off all sources of light while sleeping. Like Andrew said at the end of class while discussing the last question of the pop quiz, you might as well turn off all the lights as a precaution because that sounds a whole lot better than being depressed! Better safe than sorry!

 

Image Links:

https://lawrenceweber.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/christmas-window-plastic-candles-3.jpg

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/files/2014/04/shutterstock_132916730.jpg