Daily Archives: October 4, 2016

Is Time Travel Possible?

I have always thought of time travel as the Santa Claus of science; I want to believe it is real, but I know deep down, that I am terribly mistaken. Or am I? After watching movies like Back to the Future, Hot Tub Time Machine, Looper, Click, Men in Black 3, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Groundhog Day, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and Interstellar, I have trained myself to believe that time travel is too good to be true, but maybe these movies had some substance to them.

For about the last one hundred years, scientists have slowly realized what it would take to travel through time. To move forward in time, one would have to move faster than the speed of light, which is 299,792,458 m/s.  I know, such a large number can be hard to comprehend. In order to move as fast as the speed of light, one would need to go around the Earth 7.5 times in just one second. This is yet another example of how humans have terrible intuition, as it is impossible to even imagine being able to go around the Earth that many times in one second. Although scientists have many theories on the matter, the basic laws of science established many years ago support that objects traveling faster than the speed of light would be impossible.

In 1916, Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity claims that it would be impossible to move an object at the speed of light for two reasons. First of all, the faster an object goes, the more mass it accumulates. This is shown through Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc^2. C equals the speed of light and is therefore constant. Since an object must gain an enormous amount of energy to travel at the speed of light, the object’s mass must increase as well. As a result, an object would need infinite mass to travel at the speed of light, making the proposition impossible. Additionally, if an object were to go as fast as the speed of light, the warped length and time intervals would make the length of the object 0, which would also make this endeavor impossible.

However, numerous experiments have been conducted which suggest that time travel into the future might be possible. For instance, in 1975, Carol Allie used two synchronized atomic clocks, which are extremely accurate and precise, to show that time moves more slowly when you are moving faster. Allie repeatedly flew a plane around for hours with one atomic clock on the plane and the other on the ground. Consistently, the results showed that the clock on the plane was a fraction of a second slower. This slowing of time due to motion is called time dilation. Furthermore, scientists have placed atomic clocks on the top and bottom of skyscrapers to see if the mass of the earth would affect time. The results showed that the clocks on the ground, closer to the Earth’s mass, were slightly slower than the clocks placed at the top of the skyscraper.

Although there is evidence that traveling into the future is possible, traveling back in time is a completely different challenge. One way someone could accomplish this would be to travel faster than the speed of light, which is thought to be impossible. Even if it wasn’t, we don’t have the resources to build such a machine, or even anything somewhat close. Another way would be through a wormhole to use as a shortcut back in time, yet to this day, there is no proof that wormholes even exist. Furthermore, there are many problems with the idea of time travel into the past. The grandfather paradox, proposed by Nathaniel Shachner in 1933, wonders how someone could travel back in time and shoot their grandfather. How could this grandfather get killed by his grandchild if the grandchild should not be born since the grandfather had died before he could have kids.

Clearly, experiments, as of now, are impossible to perform at large scales that could actually provide evidence of significant time travel because we do not possess the resources or energy to do so. However, on minute scales, time travel into the future has been proven possible. In my opinion, not in my lifetime, not in my children’s lifetimes, but in a few hundred years, people might be able to create the technology and harness enough energy in order to travel a few minutes into the future. But hey, who knows? I bet people of the 1700s never could have imagined the technology that the 21st century possesses. Maybe humans will surprise themselves.

Crying:Its Not So Bad After-All

As a guy it is very rare when your eyes puff up and tears start to swarm down your cheeks. For me it is crazy to think how few times i have cried in my life. Even a painful, gruesome injury as a torn ACL, couldn’t coerce tears to drip down my face. For me, crying wouldn’t make anything the only this was a laud scream. When someone is seen crying they are perceived to be weak or emoionally unstable. It isn’t part of the daily norm to see a guy cry but more of something women do after a breakup, when they have witnessed something tragic, or when they are hurting emotionally and physically. The truth is big boys and girls can cry too, in fact humans are the only animals that can experience crying. This is a gift so you should use it because  it is extremely important to let your feeling out and experience a good cry and let those tears sprint down your face.                                                                                                               Image 1


Lacrimal glands produce tears which are composed of oil, mucus, and water. These tears originate from the outer corner of a persons eyes and as they blink the tear is spread into the inside corner of each eye. As crazy as it sounds there are actually 3 different types of tears that are produced every day whether a person cries or not. The first type of tear is the reflexive tear which protects and clears the eye from bacteria and harmful chemicals. The second tear that can be released is the continuous tear, which keep the eyes wet and moist as it  gets rid of any dust that can dry up the eye. The last tear is the emotional tear which responds with the mood of a person. This tear is triggered by the happiness and sadness of a person. The more these tears are released the more beneficial it is for the person.

Usually when someone cries it is because something terrible happened to them or someone they care for or when they are  just too stressed to think and just need to let out their emotion. Holding in your tears doesn’t prove anything and isn’t going to help you get better. Crying  is scientifically proven to relieve stress. According to biochemist, William H. Frey II when a person is stressed there hormones and prolactin build up. He discovered that tears contain Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) which is renowned to be involved during high stress levels of the body. So when a person cries and tears come out these harmful chemicals (ACTH) are unleashed out of the body. When these stress hormones are released from tears a person will feel relieved and less stressed out. Releasing stress is so important because it prevent future problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. With less stress there is a decreased rate of a heart attack because blood pressure has gone down. Another reason it is so important to let those tears out and cry is because you will actually get into a better mood. In a Netherlands study  people who cried during a sad movie actually felt better and happier in the long run. See the people who held in their emotions continued to feel sad after watching such a heavyhearted film but the people who cried ended up feeling better as they released all their emotional tears out of their body. Crying is a positive action because it prevents a person from experiencing depression as well as brain problems and heart problems.             Image 2


Not all crying occurs because your emotions get in the way but sometimes it is to protect you eyes! Reflexitive tears have a greater amount of antibodies, which are released in order to wash harmful chemicals out of your eyes. For example have you ever teared up because its been very dusty in a room or if you cut an onion? The reason is because a chemical is transferred from the item into sulphuric acid which can create a burning sensation  or a dry feeling into the eye. Lysozyme which is present in tears contain glucose, antibacterials and antivirals which aid the eyeball and eyelids in order to keep vision as well as the eye healthy. This is important reason to cry because it suspends the eye from drying up and becoming dehydrated with no mucous. If there are no tears there is minimal mucous which can cause loss of vision.

Crying is inevitable and as much as you don’t like to do it you really should. Personally I don’t like to cry and after my research I don’t think it will influence me to cry anymore but it is definitely important. When you’re stressed out or scared take a deep breath weep , scream, and cry because its healthy for your body. Keeping those negative stress hormones compressed inside is poor for your health and can lead to several mental and physical problems.teardrop-falling-from-eye

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Does “Stop and Frisk” actually decrease crime?

I was watching the debate last Monday and one of the things that stuck out to me (besides Trump’s impeccable duck face) was the argument he made for resolving the racial tensions in America… Implementing ‘Stop and Frisk’. The segment of the debate Lester Holt asked bother candidates how they would fix the racial problems in the country. The entire segment is only about 15 minutes long.


Donald Trump states in the debate that America needs more law and order. The streets are dangerous and implementing the stop and frisk will decrease crime significantly like it did in NYC. Lester Holt goes on to say that ‘stop and frisk’ was ruled unconstitutional they way that New York did it because it was shown to have caused racial profiling. Trump denies that it is unconstitutional. Now, we can all agree that we need to improve the relationship between community and police. I am even trying to address the issue through my studio project (we are designing a police station/community center for the Hill District in Pittsburgh). I would like to use science to fact check Donald Trump in his argument that stop and frisk would actually reduce crime (or reduce the tensions between community and police).

First thing you need to know is what Stop and Frisk actually is. Stop and Frisk is the policing policy that was implemented by the New York Police Department which allows them the right to question and search a pedestrian if the police has “reasonable suspicion” that this person could be a potential danger.

Does ‘stop and frisk’ inherently promote racial profiling? YES

Does ‘stop and frisk’ decrease crime? NO

The idea of reasonable suspicion is not a new concept to police. The early 1980s, police were given the power to question someone if they had “reasonable suspicion” that there was a crime. Stop and Frisk was greatly implemented in 2002, with more than 97,000 stops. The stops increased even more in 2008. There were a lot of people that disagreed with this policy, saying that this program mostly targeted the African-American community. Mayor Bloomberg defended the program by calling out the African-American community as more violent (This is very untrue. Race has nothing to do with violent tendencies and only reinforces the idea that maybe this program does in fact cause racial profiling?). There were thousands of people that attended silent protests against ‘stop and frisk’ but it wasn’t until August 12, 2013, that the US Courts finally ruled that the way that NYPD was stopping specific pedestrians on the basis of “reasonable suspicion” was unconstitutional. 


So how does politics relate to science? Science is used to determine whether correlation equals causation. Does Stop and frisk lower crime rates? When Stop and frisk was implemented in NYC, the crime rates went down. Does this necessarily mean that this is a causation? If we were to do an experiment on this, we could take away stop and frisk and if the crime rises, we know that the correlation does equal causation. Luckily NYC found stop and frisk to be unconstitutional and we’re able to look at the statistics of crime and police stops. Let’s see what happened….


Even though the number of stops decreased substantially in 2015 from 2011 (by more than 650,000) the amount of total crime that year was lower in 2015. This is one “experiment” that shows that the correlation between the stop and frisks and crime was not a causation.

Trump may have told America in the debate that murder rates are up since they have ended ‘stop and frisk’ in New York but *Fact check* this is a lie. Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about, especially when it comes to race relations. Not only does this not work but it also has been proven to cause racial profiling. I do not wish that this posts will try to sway you to vote a certain way; I am simply here to keep everyone informed on what policies will work for the country and what policies will definitely not, regardless of which one of these people we put in the White House.


HPV Vaccine. Helpful or Harmful?


What is Human Papillomavirus? 

The National Cancer Institute  defines the Human Papillomaviruses by dividing them into two different types of viruses. These include low-risk strains and high-risk strains. Out of the over 200 different strains of the virus that one could come in contact with, the majority fall into the category of low-risk. However, about twelve fall into the category of high-risk, which is a cancer causing strain of HPV. Typically, HPV causes warts and lumps to grow, which can be benign or malignant. The scariest part of HPV is that you never know what strain you may or may not have, and you’re more likely to get HPV than any other STI (sexually transmitted infection). Not only that, but a lot of the time the high-risk strains of HPV don’t present with any symptoms. The longer a high-risk HPV strain stays in your body, the greater your chance of developing one of these types of cancer:

  1. Cervical Cancer
  2. Anal Cancer
  3. Throat Cancer


HPV Cell Structure

This isn’t a fun topic to talk about, but in the world of college partying, drinking, and bad decisions, it’s important to know all the facts about how common (and devastating) this virus is. Basically, if you’re sexually active, you will most likely come in contact with some strain of HPV within your lifetime. So one would reason that it’s important to do everything to protect yourself against HPV, right?

What is the HPV Vaccine? 

The CDC  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) put out an article for clinicians in which they give more numbers and information about the HPV vaccine. There are three different types of of the vaccine: Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. It is recommended for girls and boys as early as age 11, up through the early twenties. They report that HPV infections in teens has gone down by 56% since 2006, which makes it seem like the drug is effective in doing what it is meant to do.

The CDC ensures that the drug is safe and effective. The listed side effects on the CDC website are:

  • Pain and or redness at the site of injection
  • Fever
  • Headache and tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

They also list three different sources where patients and clinicians can report any problems that are seemingly related to the vaccine, one of them being VAERS. These sites serve to monitor drug use in order to keep the public safe.

So far my research has led me to believe the vaccine is safe. However, when I thought about what a vaccine does, it got me thinking. The vaccine is meant to mimic the virus so that the body can learn to fight it. That way when (if) the real virus was to present itself, the body would be prepared. If the vaccine is made from living things, could that also cause some sort of cancer if it was present in the body? However, since the vaccine is made of ONLY protein it won’t cause the the HPV which in turn causes cancer.

After feeling relieved at finding this information, I still felt skeptical of this vaccine on the grounds that I just couldn’t seem to find any substantial research against it. Finally, I ran into an article discussing The American College of Pediatricians research on the Gardasil vaccine. They report that this vaccine could be causing women (and girls) to experience somewhat of an early menopause. They go on to say that 213 cases have been reported to VAERS (the organization which I mentioned earlier) and that they have reason to believe that Gardasil is the culprit.

This is because of an ingredient called Polysorbate 80. This website linked me to their info on this particular part of the Gardasil vaccine, however I wanted to look elsewhere to make sure I could find more sources to confirm that Polysorbate 80 was causing problems with infertility.

I found a (presumably) blinded experiment by the National Toxicology Program that gave different levels of Polysorbate 80 to mice and rats for different durations. Although the studies couldn’t conclude that the chemical was directly causing cancer, there didn’t seem to be enough evidence to refute that some damage was being done. If the null hypothesis of this study was that Polysorbate 80 does nothing, then these scientists would have failed to reject the null in this case.

My Conclusion:

Today in class we discussed the file drawer issue in scientific research. Has this drugs testing process and research been subject to this issue? The HPV vaccine has been administered legally since 2006. My question is, what are the LONG TERM effects of these drugs? The children who received this drug originally will only be in their twenties or thirties at this point. When we were in class the other day discussing the effects of Thalidomide it made me think of the HPV vaccine because although the CDC assures us that it’s safe, and it has been “safety tested” by the FDA, does that mean that it will be safe in the long run? In the case of Thalidomide, the results were obvious when the mother’s gave birth. Cost benefit analysis comes into play. Are you willing to risk the possible dangers of this relatively new drug in the long run to help fight off cancer (which has been linked to certain strains of HPV that the vaccine fights)? Right now, it seems that there is not enough evidence to risk cancer but only time will tell.

HPV image 1


Does the Change in Weather Affect Our Health?

The second week I arrived on campus, I got sick along with the entire State College population. I was sick for about 3 weeks, wondering how can anyone ever be healthy when we’re around so many sick people 24/7? While we may all be passing around this sickness, could we also be getting sick because of the change in weather? I couldn’t help but wonder, does the weather situations and change in weather affect our health? When we first got here, it was extremely hot but now the weather has drastically changed and is fairly cold. People have always said that if you’re out in the rain and cold weather you can in fact catch a cold or going from freezing cold temperatures to extremely heated classrooms is not good for you. I wanted to find out if weather does can affect one’s health (alternative hypothesis) or if weather does not affect your health (null hypothesis).


While i found weather itself cannot make us sick, it can affect our body in different ways. Blood-pressure is said to drop when atmospheric pressure goes up, meaning in the summer, blood-pressure is the lowest. Also, as barometric pressure changes, some people experience more pressure in their sinuses. Warmer weather and the change in seasons increase allergy symptoms in some people. This explains why so many people get have bad allergies in the fall and spring. People who suffer from asthma may also be greatly affected by cold weather in particular because the air that they are breathing in takes longer to become warm. Thunderstorms also allow pollen to be carried with help from the wind, making people with asthma get attacks. Migraines can also be triggered from a quick drop in the temperature, quick humidity increase, and the barometric pressure falling. I am someone who suffers from migraines, but I have never thought that they could be due to the change in seasons. Richard a Director at a health care center in New York noticed that when his patient moved from NY to Arizona, she did not get migraines nearly as much. A survey showed that for 53% of respondents, weather was a trigger for their migraines. Some of these weather changes  can trigger migraines.


The graph above shows how as greenhouse gas concentrations increase, it will lead to more extreme temperatures and as this happens, there is an expectance of more deaths and illnesses. Children, and the elderly are the most vulnerable to these changes. The body has a harder time regulating its temperature which leads to more health complications. Whether this prediction is true or not is unknown. It is only a hypothesis: The more extreme temperatures get, the more deaths and illnesses there will be. In this example, the null hypothesis is that extreme temperatures do not affect death and illness and the alternative hypothesis is that extreme temperatures do lead to more deaths and illnesses.

While weather does not evidently make an individual sick, it can affect the human body and health in different ways. You’re not going to catch a cold from going out in cold and rainy weather, and you’re not going to automatically get sick just because the seasons are changing. Even though this may seem the case especially at State College, there are many other confounding variables that play into the reasons why we get sick. It is not proven that weather makes us sick even though it affects all of our bodies in different ways.






Cheating: The Unresolved Problem

Whether or not you want to admit it, almost all of us have cheated on a test or school related assignment at least once in our life. Cheating gets the best of all of us. Uncertainty, procrastination, nervousness, and simply not understanding the material are all big factors in why students cheat. To many kids, it’s the easy way out. Why take drastically long periods out of your day to study and review notes when you can simply just copy information down from a friend? College withholds increasing amounts of cheating environments for students and it continues to be a problem today.

In a series of three articles, James M. Lang discusses the reasons for which why students are inclined to cheat and discusses various strategies in how to decrease cheating environments within the classroom.

To start off, Lang explores why students cheat in the first place. He references several experiments led by a behavioral researcher named Dan Ariely that were set up to see how humans would react in a cheating induced environment. At first Ariely hypothesized that demographics had a large role in why kids cheated, and he might be true, but he decided, instead to alter the environments in which students were to do the task on hand.  Ariely would split his sample size into sub groups and have them complete their task in different environments. Some of the environments made it easier for the students to cheat, while other settings made it more risky or stressful to cheat. The results were expected…the kids in the cheating encouraged environments scored better or were more efficient than the other groups. There’s really no surprise to these experiments at all. Another way of putting it would be to put a group of students in a room with no supervision to complete their exam vs putting students in a room with proctors roaming and have them take the same test. Of course the kids with no supervision will score higher because the environment encourages them to do so. Arielly called this the “Fudge Factor,” summing up that kids will consistently cheat at a higher pace when put in a less risk-filled situation.

To continue his study, in his second article, Lang decides to research the demographics of cheating within different parts of the globe. Throughout this article, Lang explains a study led by George M. Diekhoff that explores the differences in cheating between college students in Texas and college students from Japan. In order for Diekhoff to compare the rates of cheating between these two cultures, he sent out surveys to a large group of students at each location with questions asking students to admit if they have been academically dishonest during their college careers. The results came out to be shocking as the Japanese students had 55% admit they cheated on at least one exam while 26% of the American students admitted to cheating. Rattled by these results, Diekhoff decided to further research the two learning environments and compare their differences. In the end it made total sense. Diekhoff found that most of the universities in Japan focused most of their grade on one final exam as opposed to multiple exams spread out throughout the course. No wonder these students were more inclined to cheat than the students from America. Having most of your course grade depend on one test is just insanity, I can’t imagine having all that pressure fall into my lap and having to study the heck out of my course notes for something like that, anyone would feel more pressured to cheat in a situation like that. This occurrence brought a glimpse of light to Lang’s study; the less pressured a student is within their studies, the less likely he/she will be to cheat. I can definitely relate to that statement. I feel like the more tests/quizzes I take throughout the course helps me realize where i’m at in the class. The situation lets me know as a student if I know the material or not, and helps guide me to the end goal. Homework, quizzes, and multiple tests help students learn the information they need to know so that in the end there will be no reason to cheat because the way the class is set up, you will have already been prepared.

In Lang’s final article, he decides to read up on how cheating has changed throughout history. He looks at a study reported in 1963 that entails responses about cheating from over 100,000 college students across the United States. This study concluded with a rate of 75% of college students admitting to cheating. So with 75% of students perhaps cheating 50 years ago, Lang decides to research a similar study during a more recent date. He finds a report questioning students about their cheating habits from 2002-2010. This report shows that 60-70% of students admitted to cheating. Through history Lang and others concluded that not much has changed over history: cheating is still a problem. Noticing that the students weren’t going to be the ones to correct themselves and fix the issue of cheating, Lang concluded that the teaching methods must change and put the emphasis on the teaching staff to do that.

Cheating has been a problem and still continues to be a problem. In the end cheating does no good for a student, sure it might help you pass an exam that you thought you were screwed on, but in reality, you still don’t know the material. You can’t cheat your way through school, and if you do then life after college will be miserable because you will not have gained a sense of knowledge or character. Lang found that the way to eliminate cheating is to create an environment that makes it easier for the students to learn. Things like handing out quizzes before leaving each class will influence students to try to pay attention harder during class and formulate the concepts in their head. In fact, things that Andrew does within this very own class would tie well into Lang’s conclusion. The fact that only our best blog period out of the three that we have is graded brings a sense of less pressure to do well on each one. This very concept helps to reduce the rate in cheating among students. All in all, if it is possible to stop cheating, this is the way to do it. The basics of cheating are simple, stopping it is the hard part.