Daily Archives: October 17, 2016

Why Chinese people do not believe in Christianity

In class, we talked about does prayer work. However, I do not think it would work. I come from China, which most of people do not have religion. However after I came to America, everything about religion is new to me. People pray when they have dinner, people pray when they have disease, and people pray when they have trouble. I do not understand why people pray a lot, and I also do not understand their belief. It seems that God is the most important person in their lives. Why America people have a strong belief in Christianity, while Chinese people do not? Thus I do some research and try to figure out why Chinese people do not believe in Christianity.

First of all, not all Chinese do not have religion. Most of us do not have religion, but some people do have. There are many kinds of religions in China. Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. Buddhism came to China in Tang Dynasty, which has more than 2000 years history in China. It not only becomes a religion, but also becomes a culture in some part of China. Also, about 49 percent of people who have religion believe in Buddhism. Confucianism is not a actual religion. It is a philosophical system based on Confucius’ ideas. In ancient China, Confucius’ ideas were golden rules for Chinese people, so people built temple and workshop him. Islam was introduced into China in 7th century. It has a deep cultural influence in northwestern China, and most of people in that region are muslims. Christianity has the least effect in China. In year 635, Christianity came to China. However, in 845, Emperor Wuzong stopped the spread of Christianity. Later, it came to China again. But in 1800, Western countries tried to divide China and brought endless wars and pains to Chinese people. Thus Chinese people started to afraid of things related to Western countries. People did not want to accept Christianity because they thought Western people are malice and bad, and if they believe in Christianity, other people would leave them away.


CHART I Religion in China (CGSS’s average 2012)[130]

(red) No organized religion (87.2%)

(black) Taoism (0.2%)

(yellow)Buddhism (6.2%)

(blue)  Christianity (Protestant) (2.0%)

(green) Islam (1.7%)

(pink) Catholicism (0.3%)

(white) Folk religion (0.2%)

Different religions in China


What’s more, there was a rebellion called Taiping Rebellion in China. It was a movement that leads 14 years civil war and 20 million people’s death. The leader of the rebellion, Hong Xiuquan, claimed himself as the Heavenly King and younger brother of Jesus Christ. He was a scholar in China, and one day he dreamed that an angel brought him to Heaven to see an old man and a young man. They gave him a sword and magic seal, and told him to purge China of demons. Several years later, when he was introduced to Christianity, he interpreted that the old man was God, the young man was Jesus Christ, and the demons were the officials of Qing government. Thus he began to introduced Christianity to people around him, had some speeches in other villages and started the rebellion in South of China. It was one of the biggest rebellion in China, and later Christianity was banned again in China.



Hong Xiuquan

Video about Hong Xiuquan

Although now people in China have freedom to choose religion, not a lot of people show interests in religion. Because of several prevention of Christianity in China, not a lot of people have a chance to know Christianity. In conclusion, there are some Chinese people believe in Christianity, and most of them who have religion would believe in other religion.








Is The Great Barrier Reef Actually Dead?

Over the past week, the idea that the Great Barrier Reef has “died” has been circulating around the media.  Rowan Jacobsen of Outside Magazine wrote an article on October 11th in the form of an obituary for the Great Barrier Reef, that sparked this media frenzy.  Although, this is actually false as the reef is still alive in some areas, but regardless it is still in grave danger.

For several years the Great Barrier Reef has been subject to bleaching, which is the process that occurs when temperatures of the surrounding waters rise above, or fall below their averages and cause the symbiotic algae living inside of the coral to discharge from the corals tissue.  This causes the coral to lose color and turn very pale or white, hence why the process is called bleaching.  Bleaching does not kill the coral, rather it leaves the marine invertebrates very feeble and vulnerable to disease, which can lead to the corals eventual death.  Other confounding variables play into coral bleaching as well such as low salinity or pollution that runs-off into the ocean

In the Great Barrier Reef’s case, there have been several incidents in which mass coral bleaching has devastated the area.  Around 50% of the reefs within the Great Barrier Reef were bleached in 1998 when the waters around the reef were the highest ever recorded.  5% of the coral that was bleached was damaged beyond return.  Another mass bleaching occurred in 2002, this time leaving 60% of the reefs bleached and once again rendering 5% of the coral damaged permanently.  According to the reefs 2014 Outlook Report, the percent of hard coral covering has shrunken from to 28% in 1986 when the reef was first officially being monitored, down to 13.8% in 2014.  The reef is also not home to just coral, but is also a home for thousands of species and a complex ecosystem that has taken a toll from the destruction of the reef.  For example, as shown on the biodiversity page of the outlook, the sea grass abundance score has declined from a score of 60 in 2002, to a score of around 25 in 2013.  In turn this has caused a decline in the population of a certain species of manatee called the dugong, as well as other species who depend on the meadows for nutrition/protection.



So the reef is not completely dead contrary to popular belief, but the question that remains is can the reef ever return to a healthy state?

Currently according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s, “A Reef Managers Guide to Coral Bleaching” coral reefs are experiencing the highest water temperatures in over 400,000 years.  Global sea temperatures are predicted to rise by 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.  This in turn would create more coral bleaching epidemics as these temperatures would cause the symbiotic algae to dislodge from the coral even after an increase of a s little as .6 of a degree Celsius.  So, with rising temperatures evident in the near future, can the coral adapt?

The current hypothesis is the coral has the potential to adapt to rising temperatures and resist the bleaching effect.  For example the same species of coral could have different thresholds of bleaching.  According to the coral bleaching guide, one species of coral has a threshold of 28 degrees Celsius in the Galapagos, but can withstand temperatures of up to 34 degrees Celsius in the Persian Gulf without bleaching.  This shows that coral has the ability to create variability and adapt to different environments over time.  But its really a question of how fast the coral can adapt.



Like many other species, natural selection takes place and allows the coral with the most successful genotype to survive and create a new generation of coral with this genotype.  In this case, that genotype would be resistance to temperature, in order to allow the coral to have a higher bleaching threshold.  Coral has a special ability called acclimatisation, in which the coral can make biochemical changes at the cellular level which allows them to withstand higher temperatures (112).  This process usually takes place over several generations of coral so the only way this could save the coral is if it can adapt faster than sea temperatures rise.  Its all a race against the clock to save the reef.


Is swallowing Your Gum Actually Bad for You?

One time when I was younger and my mom told me to spit my gum out when we got into the doctors office we couldn’t find a trash can. I quickly exclaimed to my mom that i’d just swallow it. She then immediately screamed that I should never do that. “Swallowing your gum is bad for you, it’ll stay in your stomach forever”. I never thought to question my mom and from then on was scared of swallowing my gum. Some of my friends would swallow their gum around me and I would tell them its bad for them but they would tell me its not bad for you and they did it all the time. I’d never thought to do research on the subject and actually figure out the truth about swallowing gum. Does gum really stay in your stomach forever after you swallow it? If so, can this harm you? Or does it really not effect you at all?


(link to picture above)

What Really Happens When You Swallow Your Gum? 

While doing research I came across a common misconception many people have. In almost every article I read they debunked the idea that if you swallow gum it stays in your stomach for seven years. So, my mom was clearly wrong when she told me the gum I swallowed would stay in my stomach forever. As I read article I learned that the way the stomach breaks down food is different from the way it breaks down gum. According to a different article our digestive system doesn’t have the enzymes to be able to break down the gum resin. The part of the gum that our body can’t break down goes along the digestive tract until it gets to your colon. Then it simply passes out of your body with your next bowel movement and this happens within three days of ingestion of the gum. So, were my friends who told me swallowing gum isn’t harmful right?

Can swallowing Gum be Harmful? 

Yes, they were right. Swallowing gum every once in a while by accident will not harm you and your body will simply pass the gum within just three days. But, if you are swallowing your gum every single day this will become a problem. While reading an article I learned what happens when you swallow gum too much. What happens is the digestive tract can get blocked if you either swallow too much gum at once or a lot of normal pieces of gum over time. The other article talks about a rare case when swallowing gum caused harm. In 1998 two children needed medical attention because they swallowed gum many times every day for a length of time. Clearly this is not normal behavior and it makes sense these kids needed medical attention. With the research I did on this topic it’s safe to say that if you swallow your gum every once in awhile you’ll live!






Correct Way For Athletes To Hydrate

During sporting events growing up the 2 drinks that everyone would drink was either Gatorade or water. There has always been the curiosity whether Gatorade or water actually does the better job at getting you hydrated and ready to get back on the field.

According to Forbes.com, “Gatorade controls 46% of the worlds sports drink market” this is obviously a statistic that jumps out to us, but is it really the best drink for our bodies? Gatorade contains carbohydrates which is a dietary component who’s duty is to give your body energy which is much needed when competing in sports. Carbs in a very large amount such that Gatorade offers is not always the best, large intake of carbs can cause bloating and weight gain and that is absolutely not what us athletes need. Gatorade also is known for having electrolytes which is crucial for replenishing potassium and sodium. Potassium and sodium are depleted when sweating and working out for periods of time so having a large amount of electrolytes in an athletic drink is definitely an advantage for Gatorade over water. Gatorade has many pros for athletes but also has some cons, which spark the question on why not just drink water?

Image result for gatorade

Water, one of the necessities of life. There are many reasons for athletes to drink water while preforming. Water contains 0 sodium which helps the body hold onto the water in your body a lot better, Gatorade contains a lot of sodium and what your body will do with that is sweat is out a lot faster which will actually dehydrate yourself a lot quicker. Water is also a lot less filling and will not lead to as much of a bloated or full feeling in your stomach after drinking.

Image result for water bottle

The battle of Gatorade and water might not be as easy as just saying one is better for athletes than the other. According to David K. Spierer playing a sport or lifting for a shorter period of time water is the go to drink but after an extended long game or match the body starts to become depleted in sodium, potassium, and magnesium and what can help to replenish them is the Gatorade since it has more electrolytes and carbohydrates.

In conclusion, both water an Gatorade have their benefits in specific categories when it comes the the athletic world. Water is the better way to hydrate in a shorter period of time and Gatorade over a very long extended period of time playing a sport will be the better choice for your body. The shorter time period it would be a waste to have all the excess sugar and carbs sitting in your body when your body actually does not need them yet. Everyone’s body is different and everyone has their preferences when it comes to hydrating themselves during athletic events but clearly their is a smarter way to go about choosing Water or the Gatorade as your drink.




Are Redheads a Dying Breed?

I come from a family of redheads so it has been a topic at family gathering for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother is strawberry blonde and so is her daughter, who is my mother. My uncle, my mother’s brother, and his wife have 2 children with red hair. My cousin, on my father’s side, has auburn hair, which is reddish brown in color. She has a daughter with red hair. Needless to say, I have heard all the gene pool conversations since I was a little kid.

I should start by saying that, yes, my family has roots (no pun intended) in Scotland or Ireland. Most have been in America since the 1800s, but heredity is a critical factor. It has been stated that a variant of the red-hair gene originated in Europe 30,000 years ago. While up to 6% of northwestern Europeans have red hair, upwards of 13% of the population in Scotland claim fiery locks and over 30% carry the gene. The Scots beat the Irish, who have around 10% of their population as redheads but the Irish have the lead in carriers with nearly 50%!


My uncle was the first one I ever heard say that redheads would become extinct in the 21st century.  I honestly think he was obsessed by articles he read that were released in 2005 and 2007 because he was the proud father of two gingers.  He is blonde and his wife is brunette but the mutated gene, called the MC1R, scientifically named melanocortin-1 receptor, is a recessive trait and it takes both parents to pass it on.  In my aunt and uncle’s case, both of their mothers’ are redheads. Recessive genes can skip a generation, as it was for them. genepoolred

The human gene pool doesn’t include very many red hair genes.

So, are redheads really becoming extinct? The answer is NO! The answer is that simple but the math behind it isn’t. The calculations created by Dr. Barry Starr, from Stanford University, in 2014, could make any carrot top’s head spin! In short, the belief is that approximately 1% of the world’s population is a redhead. That puts the number of redheads at about 70 million, not a number likely to become extinct any time soon. According to the article, which uses the Hardy-Weinberg equation, carriers near the 300 million mark and will serve to procreate gingers for a long time to come.

Some believe the hype was started by companies who produce hair dye. Maybe the myth was started by people just jealous of those with the unique hair color or they wanted a nickname similar to ones the copper tops receive -something cool like Flame, Firecracker, Big Red, Rusty or Ginga. Regardless of where it originated, there is certainly enough scientific proof that redheads will be around for centuries to come. I know the topic won’t die around my family’s dinner table!


My cousins



CULVER CITY, CA - DECEMBER 04: Conan O'Brien attends Children's Defense Fund's 24th annual Beat The Odds Awards at The Book Bindery on December 4, 2014 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Conan O’Brienchuckie_finster

Chuckie Finster from “The Rugrats”


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Cousins: Family Pictures








Organic food isn’t really what we think it is

So just the other day I was having a conversation with my friend about what I was going to make for lunch that day. I was going to make white rice with red beans and chicken.  She thought that sounded amazing until I said yeah I have to go to the super market and grab a can of red beans. She then went on a rant about how canned foods aren’t the best for you and that she didn’t eat anything that wasn’t organic. According to her all food are processed and have preservatives except organic food. I wasn’t going to let that stop me; so I made the food and it came out great she ate some and thought it was delicious.

Anyways to get on track after this incident occurred I was curious to know more about organic food. From what I’ve heard most of the food that we eat on a daily basis has been processed in some way right? from Vegetables, to meats and all the fast food we eat.

So I’m curious, Is organic food really that good for you? and is it better than conventional food that have genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).

As I did research on the Organic food I came across this interesting article. I found out that Organic farmers have been using  animal manure as natural fertilizer but this has been causing health problems to children. Researchers found that beef cattle in north and south america contained E.Coli that causes health complications in humans. E.Coli can be found in hamburger meats. Be careful with beef burgers!. E.Coli has certain toxins that cause a very bad illness called HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) which results in bloody diarrhea and kidney damage.

As we can see Organic food isn’t as great at it is said to be. We have to make sure that we read the labels and make sure that ingredients contain what it says it contains. We don’t know what chemicals are in what we’re eating.  I believe that there is a lot more that we don’t know about organic food that isn’t being mentioned. Most people buy organic food because it is said that its better for you. But the food it isn’t that much better.

Site: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/09/organic-food-not-proven-healthier-or-safer-study-finds/#.WARY9vkrLIU

Image: http://fm.cnbc.com/applications/cnbc.com/resources/img/editorial/2014/06/20/101777330-180237079.530×298.jpg?v=1429558741

Would Drug Decriminalization Help?

Drug addiction in America represents a huge problem. Drug abuse costs American taxpayers millions of dollars in health care, tears apart families, and ruins the lives of countless people everyday. It is due to these harmful properties that illicit drugs are illegal in America. However, there are theories garnering significant traction that call for the decriminalization of all drugs in order to remedy the drug abuse problem in America. While this may seem counterintuitive, countries like Portugal and Switzerland have seen a correlation of decreased drug abuse after implementing drug decriminalization policies.

Ultimately, the only way to truly determine whether decriminalizing drugs in America would lead to a decrease in drug abuse would be to do a randomized experiment. However, the design of an experiment of this nature would be impossible to produce. It would involve randomizing groups of people into two different countries, one where drug use is completely legal and one where all drug use is illegal. This would be incredibly difficult to create, as it would involve uprooting people and moving them to a different country for an extended period of time, as well as implementing national policy in favor, or against legalization of drugs. Clearly, this is not an experiment that can be realistically conducted, however we can gather evidence for a hypothesis through observational studies of countries that have already implemented some sort of drug decriminalization within their borders.

When conducting these observational studies, there are three potential conclusions that could be reached. One, the null hypothesis- that decriminalizing drug use has no effect on drug abuse, could be deemed accurate and accepted. Alternatively, that null hypothesis could be rejected, leaving two remaining alternative hypotheses. One, that decriminalizing drug use reduces the ill effects of drug abuse, or two, that decriminalizing drug use increases the effects of drug abuse.

First, the country of Portugal can be used in an observational study due to their unique drug policy. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. Today, if a person is found with any drugs, they are sent to a committee made up of a lawyer, doctor and social worker called a Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. They are either given a fine, sent to a rehabilitation class, or, often sent home with no penalty at all. When examining the statistics, ill effects due to drug abuse: frequent drug use, drug-related deaths, HIV infections, and imprisonment on drug related charges have all decreased greatly following the decriminalization of drugs. However, Portugal may be an isolated case where decriminalization was effective, similar in scientific gravity to an anecdote. It does not necessarily create a strong correlation between decriminalization and decreased drug abuse.

Next, Switzerland can be included in the observational study due to their drug policy. Switzerland has long had a unique stance on drug use, recently decriminalized the use of marijuana as well as providing opiate substitutes and clean needles to heroin addicts. HIV infections, as well as death related to drug overdose have both been reduced by half, leading people to applaud Switzerland’s system. The opiate substitutes, issued by the government through health care facilities, are also successfully being used to wean people off of heroin addictions, with health care experts proclaiming Switzerland as a model to be used for the rest of the world, however they may be speaking prematurely.

It is impossible to tell if the decriminalization is actually leading to a decrease in drug abuse without a proper experimental trial, as there could be a number of confounding variables effecting the situations. Anything from geological location, to cultural factors, to relative access to illicit drugs are not being controlled in these observations and therefore could be affecting the observed results. Also, while several countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico, among others, have taken steps towards the decriminalization of drugs, yet still experience huge drug problems with no observable improvement. It is conflicting anecdotes like these that make the issue of the benefits or drawbacks of decriminalization of drugs so difficult to judge.

Ultimately, while we can conduct observations of countries in various stages of drug decriminalization, the combination of confounding variables as well as conflicting anecdotes makes it impossible to come to a strong conclusion, or even correlation, about the effect of drug decriminalization on drug abuse. The only way to come up with strong results would be to conduct a controlled experiment, however the design of this potential experiment would be nearly impossible to properly execute. Therefore, science is unable to come up with a substantial conclusion on this issue, and we are still left with the question, would decriminalization of drugs really help drug abuse?






How Latin America May Lead the World in Decriminalizing Drug Use

Why Red Solo Cup?

Ever since I can remember Solo cups have been used for any type of social event, from my family reunions, with my twelve 10 year old cousins, to the tailgates with Penn State Alumni’s. They serve one purpose–to hold your beverage– but, depending on your age and the social event happening, the functions behind the “red Solo cup” change. So, why is it that we always choose red Solo cups? Is there more to that red Solo cup that you don’t know about?


First, a bit of background history on where the brand comes from.  The actual name of this phenomenon is the Solo Cup Company . It was founded in the mid-1930’s but, wasn’t until the 1970’s that the red Solo cup came to America and changed the way we thought of disposable dishware. Solo has other products but, by far the red Solo cup remains the most distinguishable product that the company has yet to produce. Solo has no real reason of why they chose to make their cups red. However, it’s a nice color that has no bias towards women or men (which is always helpful now-a-days). They have alternative colors available as well, but on their website (above) they offer only red and blue Solo cups. As the cup became more popular, changes were made to the mechanics so that the user had full benefits. For example, the cup changed its bottom to a more square size for stability and they added more dimension to the outside so that there is more grip.

Back to the original question of: why do we chose Solo cups and not some other brand? Rebecca Bikoff, a brand manager at Solo, organized a focus group where participants were handed Solo cups and observed. The results were fascinating. Each individual was seen smiling or exempting positive behavior. The reason why this occurred is simple. People have been using Solo cups for events that usually celebrate a high point in life. Which means that there is an emotion attached to the cups. An association of celebration/making memories is something that the Solo company’s brand strives to be a part of. The plastic that the Solo uses is more eco-friendly than most other disposable dishware companies. There is also the psychological part that having red Solo cups at a party is a social norm. Having a red Solo cup in your hand also gives one a sense of belonging. By this, I mean that you were at this party and experienced the dancing, singing, laughing and all of the craziness that occurred.  Especially in this time of my life, Solo cups are used for numerous drinking games (flip cup, beer pong, etc.)  Another reason of why Solo cups are the bee’s knees is because of country star, Toby Keith.

The entirety of this song talks about Keith’s love for partying with red Solo cups. The song starts with how he uses them at a variety of events to how drinking from a glass is heinous. Then, the country star sings about how they are affordable and decomposable (after 14 years). The chorus restates his love for the cups and the need to party. Keith also talks about how he loves the shape of the cups but, dislikes the very flimsy material when it cracks and spills his drink. By the end of the song, you would think Keith and red Solo cup are best friends. His love and devotion to this party necessity is not only priceless but truly sincere. I have always wondered what his wife thought of all this…


If you are throwing any kind of get together and don’t have red Solo cups, you should probably reschedule until  you can run to the closest jiffy store and grab some (I paid $4 for a 12 pack the other night at Fresh-N-Fill). Give people the party they deserve by providing them with the cups they deserve.






(Youtube Video converts to the video instead of giving link)


A Good Cry a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

A good cry a day keeps the doctor away. Wait, I think I got the saying wrong, ,but is crying actually healthy for you? images-1

According to WebMD, crying is actually good for ones health. Some doctors even recommend it. Fun fact: In japan there are even crying clubs because it is believed to be very healthy and refreshing. Why is the science behind on the crying remedies?

Crying acts a stress reliever. Research proves that there are more stress hormones found in emotional tears rather the tears that come from something like dust for example being caught in ones eyes. Crying activates the parasympathetic system which is a part of the autonomic feel-better-after-cryingnervous system and acts as a stress reliever to calm the body down.

Aside from a form of calming however, crying also benefits help in other ways. Tears are actually salt water which contains antibodies, lubricate eyes, and prevent irritants. There are three types of tear produced by humans which are reflex- like when smoke gets in your eye, continuous- produced daily for lubrication, and emotional. According to biochemist Dr. William Frey, while reflex tears are mostly water, emotional tears exert stress hormones. Tears even travel to the nose keeping it clean and moist. Fun fact: Humans are the only species that shed emotional tears, while others only shed reflex.

So what’s is the rumor with girls crying more than boys? And if that’s the case, are women healthier than men?

A study tested if the rumor of women crying more was true, and if so, why? Biologically, testosterone found in men tend to block tears, while the hormone prolactin found in women, tends to encourage it. However, culture also plays a huge role in crying. The study tested over 35 countries. There was significant changes in crying between men and women in countries where social freedom for women was more accepted, such as the U.S, while in more controlled countries like Ghana, there was not a huge difference.

Therefore, while there is no direct causation or correlation between crying and women, many variables such as biology and surrounding environment affect the crying rate. In terms of health however, what does this mean? Men just like women regardless of emotional tears have reflex 595693-34220-46tears, giving them the same health antibody benefits as women. Men tend to be viewed as angrier and more aggressive than women because they do not use the emotional tears to activate their parasympathetic systems. However, because it is now more acceptable in modern society for men to cry, as social norms and gender roles continue to change, men also get the stress relief that come along with all three types of tears.
So to both males and females, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, or watching a really sad movie, don’t be afraid to cry, because it does in even the smallest ways, benefit your health.





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Fight or Flight?

Fear is a funny concept, and how our bodies process fear is a concept I’ve always pondered. What makes us instinctively step forward to fight, or to run in the opposite direction? What is it that makes me so afraid of spiders? Was I born with that fear trait or was it learned by my brain over the years?


The Theory

The “fight or flight” theory, also known as the acute stress response, was initially proposed by Walter Cannon, a Physiology professor at Harvard University, in 1915. Cannon was studying mice when he found his laboratory animals experienced change in their stomachs when afraid. This led him to further investigate the matter. His studies found that when threatened, the nervous systems partnered with the adrenaline in his animals, activating an instinctive nature to  either fight, or to flee.

How It Works (Scientifically)

So, in order to trigger this instinct, the hypothalamus (a portion of the brain), interacts with 2 separate systems in the body: the adrenaline system and the nervous system (as said above). The nervous system is your body’s active movements, and reactions; whereas, the adrenaline system sits within your bloodlines. So, when faced with fear, your body’s nervous system immediately kicks in, relaxing the muscles and activating two parts of adrenaline: epinephrine and norepinephrine. Together, these two heighten your blood pressure and muscle contractions. At the same time, your brain also releases CRF into your body, in which activates up to 30 hormones (yes, 30). All of these factors are active contributors to how you instinctively react to a tense situation.

Science How Stuff Works

Science How Stuff Works

According to Cannon, your body may react to this in various ways:

  • Heart Racing
  • Sweating
  • Heavy breathing
  • Bladder relaxation
  • Altered / compromised vision
  • Dry mouth


Why do we fear?

To me, it seems that every specie on this planet possesses some attribute of fear, and reacts to it differently. For instance, many animals run in the presence of humans because well, we are bigger (to many), and typically the predator. However, if you happen to cross the wrong animal (i.e. a mama), she might attack you in fear of her offspring being in danger. So, it’s pretty interesting to realize that every specie experiences the “fight or flight” theory.

Can we learn to fear?

A question I proposed earlier was whether or not I was born to naturally fear spiders, or if I had learned to fear them throughout experiences in my life. Well, a study conducted by John Watson, they tested an infant (Little Albert) and his fear for white rats. In this study, though perhaps not the most ethical, they conditioned the child to associate the rat with fear. They achieved this by playing a loud startling noise every time Little Albert reached to play with a rat. The conclusion of this testing found that not only did the infant become terrified of the rats, but he also went on to fear other things resembling rats throughout his childhood.

I think in many ways we are all influenced by fear. For instance, as a child my mom was bitten by two dogs: a pit bull and a husky. They dogs jumped the fence and latched onto her face, leaving her bloody, frightened, and needing surgery. To this day, my mom refuses to acknowledge those breeds of dogs. Though she knows not all dogs have similar temperaments, she still gets uneasy around a pit bull or a husky. Something similar happened to me as a child, though it was my arm, and I still love any kind of dog that crosses my path, I don’t think I will ever be conditioned to fear dogs, haha.


All in all, fear is a natural part of being alive. Whether you fear spiders or clowns, your body goes through the same reactions chemically as any other specie on this planet. You cannot predict how you will instinctively react until you are faced with fear, and that’s what is so interesting. Though we all experience the same chemical reactions in our brains, adrenaline, and bloodstreams, how our bodies cope with the stress of a frightening situation is always different. So stop being afraid to fear, you are human, embrace it.




Julia Layton “How Fear Works” 13 September 2005.
HowStuffWorks.com. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/fear.htm> 21 October 2016

“Epinephrine and Norepinephrine – Boundless.” Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Brown, Theodore M., and Elizabeth Fee. “Walter Bradford Cannon.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., Oct. 2002. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

“Walter Cannon: Stress & Fight or Flight Theories – Video …” Study. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

What’s the deal with the Penn State Plague?


It is starting to be that time of year at Penn State when everyone is getting sick. Not a minute goes by in a lecture hall without hearing someone coughing or blowing their nose. But why is everyone getting sick at the same time? And how? Also, what are ways we can prevent this?

First, why do people get sick? People get sick when their immune system is weakened. This occurs when germs that contain the cold/flu virus get into our system. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine; when something infects our body- like viruses that causes the common cold- our body recognizes the antigens. Antigens are found on the surface of these cells, and our immune system recognizes that these are unfamiliar to our body. This then causes the immune system to react. The U.S. National Library of Medicine cites the first line of defense of the immune system- the innate/nonspecific immunity. The innate/nonspecific immunity includes coughing, tears, mucus, skin, fevers and stomach acid. This is the immune systems first line of defense as it is the body’s attempt to prevent antigens from further breaching one’s body. This causes what we think of as symptoms when we get a cold. A runny/stuffy nose, a cough, or fever. It causes what we constantly hear during lectures, people constantly coughing or blowing their nose. It’s the immune system’s first line of defense to these viruses entering our body.


But doesn’t it seem like everyone is getting sick at the same time? When I first got to school, I was in good health and felt fine. But then around mid-September is when I started to feel a cold coming on and when I began to notice the constant coughing occurring in classrooms. It seems that everyone at Penn State gets sick at the same time. When thinking about this, I thought of some common factors that affects every student: lack of sleep and stress-  these are both common factors that at one time or another affects students at Penn State. But how do they effect our immune system and make all Penn State students seem to get sick at the same time?

College students face a lot of stress. We all know it. There are weeks where you have multiple tests in a row on top of other organizations you’re involved in, and a job, and a social life. At times its overwhelming. In a meta-analysis, performed by Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller, of over 300 studies there is a link between stress and the strength of the immune system. Segerstrom and Miller categorized the type of stress that most plagues college students as brief naturalistic stressors. This meta-analysis found that these brief naturalistic stressors affect the student’s immune system by decreasing the number of natural killer cells which are used to fight off viruses- like the common cold. It was also consistent in the study that long term stress caused the reduction in function of a person’s immune system. This could explain why everyone at Penn State seems to get sick at the same time. It all seems to happen at the first rounds of exams are approaching- which also means lots of stress. However, I know that I do not seem to every fully recover from being sick until I go home for Thanksgiving Break or Christmas Break. This relates to the fact that the longer a person is stressed- the more of a negative impact on their immune system. The fact that everyone at Penn State gets sick around the same time can be related to their stress levels that are having a negative impact on their immune system.

Another of my proposed common factors of all students that could lead all students to getting sick at the same time was lack of sleep. As college students, we do not get the recommended eight to nine hours of sleep every night. It’s a good night if we get six hours. Why so much lack of sleep? Between studying and self inflicted lack of sleep- going to parties or binge watching Netflix- students do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. In a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers asked a sample of 153 people to self report: length of sleep, quality of sleep, and how rested they felt. The researchers put nasal drops containing the flu virus into the participants. The study then found that those with self reported poor sleep efficiency were more likely to contract the virus than other participants- it also controlled for multiple factors like BMI, age, race, sec, and other factors. However, there are no mechanism found in this experiment. However, from the class example of smoking and lung cancer- where there is still no known biological mechanism. It is thought that lack of sleep hurts your immune system as there are not as many natural killer cells- similar to the effect of stress on the immune system. And there is an increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines which is one of the producers of fever- a symptom of the common cold. As with the example of smoking and lung cancer, there are enough studies that link the immune system and quality of sleep together that one believes that they are connected even though we do not know the biological mechanism. I would say that it is safe to assume that if you want to maintain a healthy immune system, you would get an efficient and minimum of 8 hours of sleep, especially if you wanted to avoid the Penn State plague!


So what does this mean? It means that we can infer that the reason all Penn State students are getting sick at the same time is because of constant stress from exams and lack of sleep from being college students. This is my own conclusion made from personal experience (anecdote observation) but can also be proved through science. The effects of stress and sleep on student’s immune systems can be done through a meta-analysis of studies. Scientist conducted these studies for stress and concluded that the stress from tests has a negative impact on your immune system. I think there should be a meta-analysis of studies for lack of sleep on students as well. Also, there are enough students throughout the world that I propose a large sample study be conducted. I propose that it would be observational, participants would answer survey questions about their amount of sleep and their level of course work and also track the amount of times that they have gotten sick in the year. This study would be observational- therefore we would not be able to find a mechanism. However, like the observational studies done on the effect of smoking on people through their life time- this could potentially produce results that help us understand why students are so prone to things like ‘The Penn State Plague’ and why it effects the campus as a whole at the same times. I think that this is important because as someone who is year after year affected by the Penn State plague, I want to prevent it. Also, I think that everyone would benefit if we are not constantly hearing the coughing and sneezing throughout a lecture hall every 2 seconds.

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Can the Color Red Change Your Feelings?

What’s your favorite color? I’m going to prove to you why your favorite color is red. Psychologically your eye loves the color red. When you see it what do you think comes to mind? Love? Anger? Passion? On top of those it makes you feign for food. The majority of restaurants you see have red in their logo or somewhere on their sign. This is especially true in the fast food industry because of the small amount of time people may pass by and see their sign. They use it because it is known tImage result for wendys logoo have the longest wavelength making it jump out, among the other colors, at a person looking with the naked eye. With such boldness it has an effect much like a small energy drink, I that fact that it increases our energy and excitement. According to Psych2Go, with this sudden burst of energy it triggers your heart rate and metabolism to kick into overdrive. Which in turn makes your body crave fuel for that energy in the form of food.

Many marketers use this information to market to mass audiences, but don’t people act and think differently? Although this is widely believed to be true, as we learned from Andrew, correlation does not equal causation.  What if there is a third confounding variable that isn’t being tested. An extremely possible third variable that may play a factor in our decisions is:

  • Smell

It is possible that the color of a sign doesn’t have as big of an effect as we think? The smell of the food leaking through the car vents as we drive down the road could have an impact as well. As stated by the American Psychological Association, when a person is in the state of hunger it has the ability to heighten our sense of smell. It also stated that people who are overweight had a much larger reaction than their skinnier counterparts. On top of Image result for cow farmthat many people are triggered by a scent from their past. Many past farmers welcome the smell of cow dung because of the memories they have from the lively hood they used to or still have. To the average person that smell would be overwhelming and hard to bare, but it may show there is a link between someones surrounding causing them to make decisions.

Overall, the theory of red making us hungry has a lot of backing and science behind it to make it believable. This theory may suffer from the file-drawer problem if there were studies that confirmed the popular belief, making it unworthy of publishing. I would like to hear the opinions of our class. Have you ever caught yourself making an extra stop while getting a sudden and spontaneous urge for food?

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Icy Hot: Does It Actually Work

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In high school after a tough workout, long practice, or physical game my body would always feel sore and broken down. As busy as my schedule was, there was no time to take off and rest for a week or go to the doctor. Icy Hot turned into my best friend, and go-to treatment method because it was fast, easy and I believed  it worked. I started to use Icy Hot almost everyday and put it practically everywhere on my body. For example I used it my back, legs, shoulders and neck and I must admit it actually made me feel better at that moment.


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Icy Hot is a pain reliever in the form of a cream, gel, or spray which is used on arthritis pain, hurting muscles, and aching joints on the body. The chemical composition of Icy Hot is a combination of menthol, methyl salicylate, and capsaicin. This product is one of the most successful and popular muscle relief solutions sold in the world today as they have sold over $275 million just last year. So does this product actually work? The truth is, this product doesn’t actually help heal your bodies soreness. Icy Hot is an anesthetic which means its purpose is to block the nervous system and brain so you can’t feel your previous pain, the only thing you feel is the cream on your body. This is done because the methanol reveals a cooling sensation where as the capsaicin demonstrates a hot, burning feeling on the body. When it turns cold  the pain is dulled and when it is hot the muscles relax. Going from hot to cold actually distracts a person from feeling the pain because all they are so focused on the change in temperatures rather than any other injured body part. This treatment tricks the brain so a person doesn’t end up feeling the soreness in their muscles. Icy Hot seems effective but in reality it only causes short term pain relief. Rubbing the cream on your skin won’t heal your muscles or treat them. It seems Icy Hot has more of a placebo affect because when someone puts it on they seem to feel better automatically.

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The conclusion on whether Icy-Hot is a scam or a effective product is very controversial. The null hypothesis  is there is nothing going on when Icy Hot is appropriately used and doesn’t benefit or help heal the body. Many people do accept the null hypothesis because in the long run there is no healing of the body. According to the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis there isn’t enough proof or evidence to prove Icy Hot even works. They believe the only scientific test to provide a link between Icy Hot and muscle, joint healing is a double blind placebo test. This would mean there would be two groups. The injured members of one group would be given a cream or gel that doesn’t contain the chemical composition of Icy Hot and the other group of sore individuals will be given the actual product. If members of the control group which used Icy Hot felt better then we would know it actually works. According to Steve Cagle, the president of a company who produces analgesics conducted a study in 2003 and discovered  the people who use this who have muscle pain are more relieved and feel better after using a muscle relieving gel.

After my research I do think Icy Hot is an effective product to relive pain because it can take your mind of the real injury as you just think about the cold to hot sensations going on. I don’t think the product can heal or prevent injuries because the chemical composition is only made up of anesthetics which trigger your brain into thinking about something else. I still will use Icy Hot because personally it has cleared up my aches and pains and has definitely had a positive effect on my body.









Sugar (a toxin)

Healthy living is on the rise! America has changed their so called slogan from the “Big Mac” to juice cleanses. Healthy foods and living styles are endorsed by many industries, spokes-perons, and universities. Since healthy foods are becoming so popular, many foods, even if not healthy, will claim the title of it. The following list are foods that claim to be “healthy” but aren’t:

  1. Granola
  2. Fruit Juices
  3. Veggie Chipsjuice-from-various-fruits-1024x640
  4. Gluten-Free Foods
  5. Frozen Yogurt

Granola– granola is a healthy snack alternative compared to eating pretzels or chips, but once a person eats more than the reccemended serving size, it could be a huge no-no. The good parts of granola are packed with fiber and iron, but the bad side is that the nuts lead to a high number in saturated fats. Making your 120-calorie bar contain 12g of fat. Granola bars contain lots of oils and artificial flavors. Don’t get me wrong, granola is a good food compared to most, but if you’re gonna eat it make it a meal replacer, since it does contain most of the ingredients a meal would give you.

frozen_yogurt_picFruit Juices– (the supermarket kinds) Most juices have small amounts of real fruit in them. They are filled with artificial flavors, A LOT of sugar, and water. Juice strips the healthy parts out of the fruit and leaves immense amounts of sugar. Fruit is high in sugar alone so by taking away everything else in it, it leads to one big sugary drink.

Veggie Chips– The only appeal to these are because they have the word veggie in them. These chips are still made of potatoes and many other ingredients that are used to make actual chips. The veggie taste people taste is from the pounds of artificial flavors they pack onto these CHIPS. There’s a reason they kept the title chip.

Gluten-Free Foods– Gluten-free always sounds healthier than the alternative. Many people have said that cutting gluten, which is found in grains, wheat, and rye, has made them loose a
lot of weight. That is true but eating a gluten-free muffin isn’t the same. Instead of using gluten, manufactures fill the foods up with potatoes or some sort of starch. They are loaded with artificial flavors and many other fake ingredients.

Frozen Yogurt– Frozen yogurt is healthier than traditional ice cream. It doesn’t have the same amount of calories or fat but it is loaded with sugar.


The foods listed above share one ingredient, SUGAR. Sugars new reputation is it’s considered to be a toxin. It creates fat, gives a higher chance to get diabetes, harms the heart, on top of many other non-beneficial effects. It is also extremely addictive. It is believed that the average person eats 32 teaspoons of sugatoo-much-sugarr a day. Even when looking at the nutrition facts, most people focus on the calories and fat when they should be focusing on the sugar as well!

Sugar is addictive because the energy it gives our bodies. Our bodies almost rely on the sugar in take we eat each day. Glucose must be regulated in the blood and our bodies do a great job of doing so by releasing insulin. This takes away any extra glucose floating around in the blood. By eating too many sugary foods, our bodies develop a tolerance and can’t break it down on it’s own anymore. This is also known as diabetes and people start to inject themselves with insulin.

A meta-analysis was performed by Sam Sun, a nutritionist scientist at Archer Daniels Midland (food corporation), where he analyzed the sugar consumption of more than 25,000 individuals. He found no correlation in positive attributes for the body from the ingredients found in sugar.

What to eat: 

cn1b01_oven-baked-salmon_s4x3-1-jpg-rend-sniipadlargeIf a person wants to be on a healthy diet they should stick to foods with not a lot of sugar. Fruits are okay in moderation. Salmon, chicken and all vegetables are the healthiest things that a person could eat. They are loaded with good fats and will give the body healthy and necessary nutrition instead of the toxin, sugar.


CAROLINE PRADERIO. “15 “Healthy” Foods That Aren’t.” Prevention. 17 Feb. 2015. Web.
Ferris Jabr. “Is Sugar Really Toxic? Sifting through the Evidence.” Scientific American Blog Network, 06 Jan. 2013. Web.
Dr. Mercola. “What Happens in Your Body When You Eat Too Much Sugar?” Marcela. 2013. Web.


Sleep and Studying



I’ve always thought that studying during the day was the best time to study—I’m awake and alert and can focus on my work pretty well. There have been studies, though, that prove night time studying—or studying right before you fall asleep—are the most beneficial times to study.

An article published by Dr. Jessica D. Payne in 2011 hypothesized that nighttime studying was the best time to study. The article explains that there are two steps towards remembering something: the encoding of the information in our memory and the consolidation of information in our memory. Encoding happens when a piece of information is constructed with the goal of being stored in our brain so we remember it and can recall it at a later point.  Memory consolidation, on the other hand, is the stabilization of new information in long-term memory and is essential to remembering facts in the long-term.

This is where sleep plays a crucial part in our memories. According to her research, Dr. Payne said that sleep helps to consolidate memories. In fact, it may be the best thing we can do to consolidate them. She said that learning new skills are learned slowly over time and not learned all at once during the studying period, and sleep helps with consolidating these new skills. You can’t just sit down and learn something that takes time and is complicated in one night. Your brain needs time to let all of the information sink in until you can really say you’ve learned it. As shown in the article, sleep can recreate and re-solidify these memories differently than when we learned them, which can help us remember them better in the long run.

A study published by Dr. Payne and six other scientists outline an experiment they did which supports the hypothesis that sleep helps consolidate memories.

The Study

The participants in this observational study were given word pairs to study and were tested 30 minutes, 12 hours and 24 hours later with several training and retesting intervals throughout that time. It looked like this:



It was found that participants who studied at 9pm and then went to sleep performed much better on the test they took twelve hours later than the other participants who either took the test directly after they studied, or studied a full 24 hours before they took the test.


The findings of this study agreed with the null hypothesis that sleeping right after studying helps consolidate memories and will therefore help you to do better on tests. According to the null hypothesis, the mechanism is pretty straight forward: sleep is what makes our memories consolidate.

If this hypothesis turned out the be wrong, the results might actually yield a false positive. If the results showed that studying at night proved to be no less beneficial or even less beneficial than studying during the day, the the null hypothesis would turn into an alternative hypothesis. This alternative hypothesis would state that studying at night has to positive effect on overall learning and memorization of the subject being studied.

Sleep is invaluable, not only because the health benefits it provides, but also because our brains need a rest to process everything that we are learning. Of course, this probably isn’t an excuse to stay up late to study and only get a few hours of sleep because of the sleep we actually need to help process what we just learned, but it’s amazing what our brains can actually do when we let them work.

Climate affecting life expectancy

I have always been curious if there is a relationship between climate and life expectancy. When I was younger what brought the thought upon me was that all my older relatives would move down to Florida right after they turned 70; I never really understood why so I just put the idea in my head that the warmer weather was better for the human body and would in the future help them live longer.

According to Josh Mitteldorf, in animals when exposed to cold temperatures their metabolism is slowed and they live longer. This sounds very interesting, the bodies of animals are very different than a human body so I can’t see this study or hypothesis holding up on any length for the human species. Another study preformed on a type of animal was done at the University of Michigan  with worms, exposing the worm to colder temperatures actually triggered a genetic change with in the worm which made them live longer. A recent study done at the University of California  proved that lowering the body temperature in mice extends their life up to “20%”.

Something that scientists may be looking passed in these studies are that humans life expectancy may have to do with something of a more industrialized topic such as wealth. In this article it talks about how neither cold or warm weather affect life expectancy and that other variables affect our lives way more.

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Even though I just stood against the topic on whether climate has an affect on life expectancy I was not able to find a specific study done with humans. An experiment that could  conducted that could possibly bring an answer forward would be very complicated. The best way to be able to begin on figuring out if there is a correlation between climate and longevity would be to look at average ages of death in cold weather compared to warmer weather. A big factor in how long someone lives is there genes and relatives so the study would have to be done with a very large group of people in order to clearly make out results.

In conclusion, climate may have a clear affect on certain animals in which cold weather helps them live longer but for humans its not clear at all. Humans are way more complex organisms that adapt and grow with and around certain changes which makes it tough to be able to put a finger on the correct answers behind hypotheses and the many unanswered questions we have.



Does sugar make us happy?

Whenever I have had a bad day, or am feeling down I tend to treat myself with some sort of sugar; whether that’s eating a bag of sour patch, a carton of ice cream or a box of cookies. I’m not sure why I always crave bad food when feeling sad or stressed, but it tends to do the job. Although candy and junk food may not be the healthiest solution to happiness, they can be the best remedy for a quick fix. I am curious to know whether sugar and junk food are actually making me feel happy or do they lead me to be more depressed?

As I was researching about sugar, I found out that sugar can actually cause depression. Some people are allergic to sugar and goods like white flour that the human body processes like, yet they are causing people to suffer from chronic severe depression and anxiety. Scientists refer to this depression as “metabolic syndrome Type II” where people’s brains become swollen, causing them to feel depressed.

Unlike how sugar causes my stressed and depressed behavior into happiness, sugar can actually cause people aggressive behavior, anxiety, and fatigue. Specialists at the Brain Bio Center, have found that poor blood sugar is one of the biggest factors in mood disorders. The brain depends on an even supply of glucose, so when one eats a great amount of sugar there becomes sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood causing symptoms of depression, irritability, and even poor concentration and forgetfulness.


What I have found quite ironic when researching about whether sugar makes people happy, is that sugar and junk food actually cause people to feel depressed the next day. When you think about it, if I were to eat a chocolate bar after completing my math homework because I felt stressed, my initial response would lead me to feeling content while eating it. But then, the next day I might have the same feeling of stress and if I were to eat another piece of junk food, the cycle would continue. I would never actually be healthy and feel relieved, since I would only get quick fixes, but long term effects of a unhealthy diet, and mood.

James E. Ganwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Colombia University noticed for himself that he would fall into this cycle of finding himself feeling down the day after consuming a lot of sugar. He, along with a team of researchers, decided to experiment to find out whether foods with a higher glycemic index (GI) would be associated with greater odds of depression. After observing roughly 70,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study and their diets, they found that adding sugars were strongly associated with depression.

Who doesn’t love chocolate, whether its a hershey bar or kit-kat. I could eat chocolate at any time of the day if someone offered it to me, except now I’m going to start second guessing whether a chocolate bar is what I need when I’m feeling down after reading this study. Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, conducted a study to determine the link between chocolate and depression. In the study she and her colleagues surveyed more than 900 people and their weekly chocolate consumption and their overall diet. They explored the question of whether depressed people eat more chocolate simply because they crave it, or if the consumption of chocolate itself causes depression. After observing the participants they found that the people who ate more chocolate were more depressed than those who ate less.

After researching about the link between eating sugar and depression, I have concluded that I will no longer turn to eating a bag of sour patch or eating a chocolate bar and instead will turn to foods with a low amount of sugar so that I won’t find myself feeling down the next day or causing myself depression.






picture: https://metabolicmemory.wordpress.com/tag/diabetic-eating-timing-2/

Yawn Contagion

Why is yawning contagious?

As a college student at a university as huge as Penn State, both mental and physical fatigue are all too familiar. Waking up for my 8:00 AM is probably the hardest thing I do in any given day. Remaining attentive in a gigantic lecture hall filled with 300 people while listening to one professor talk about the definition of a derivative, and other dull topics all but puts me to sleep. It seems, however, that it is not just boring or tiring to me, as many students yawn around me in each of my classes. From these observations, I have noticed that whenever someone yawns, it initiates a chain reaction, and either myself or someone else near me will yawn as well. So, is this because yawning is contagious, or because we are all just tired, and is there a correlation?


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Contagious yawning is something that happens when we react to another person’s senses, as we respond to their yawn with our own yawn. It comes as a response to hearing or sighting another yawn. So is it contagious? In a recent study conducted by Duke Health, 328 participants (similar size to our class!) were followed and tested to see the effect that visualizing and hearing yawns had on their own yawn response. They conducted background surveys and question based tests to determine if yawning was in fact, contagious from similar levels of energy, tiredness, and actually empathy. Empathy is the ability to relate to another, and it was thought that maybe the relation made the yawns contagious. Subjects were to watch a video of yawning, and during this period, 222 subjects yawned. With respect to the background surveys and questions, the most significant information, or correlation they could gather rather, was that each of the 222 subjects who yawned, reigned from a similar age group. It was thus concluded that as age increased yawning decreased.

This could explain the current college lecture situation, as yawning spreads like a virus within the lecture hall. We are all relatively young, as well as within the same age group, and therefore can relate through interests and similar aspects of learning, as we all listen to the same lecture.

There is also the theory that we humans have traits of herding behavior. We all flock together and follow each other’s actions, such as yawning. As we are within the animal kingdom, yawning is a communication action initiated by instinct, to communicate the group’s set time or need to sleep, which could explain why we all yawn during my 8:00AM lecture.


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But we must ask, why do we yawn in the first place?

To find the origin of the contagion, we must dig deep in research to determine the proximate cause of a human’s yawning mechanism, and in turn examine how it becomes “contagious.” We yawn, according to WebMD, to apparently cool the brain and increase blood flow. To support this data, there was also a study conducted by the University of Vienna, to see if yawning was a cooling mechanism. They followed 120 participants during the winter and summer, and concluded that yawning was significantly higher during the summer, as subjects apparently needed yawning to cool their brain’s temperature during the hotter months. But how can that explain how yawning may be contagious?

In the present time, there are still ongoing studies to figure out why exactly yawning occurs, and for what reasons it seems to be contagious. Although cooling the brain and increasing blood flow may be the answer to the reason behind why we yawn, it cannot explain how this necessary action can be considered contagious. The current studies could suffer from the file-drawer problem, as there is a lack of significant information within the science world to explain and conclude a significant reason for why we yawn for certain and why it spreads.

Even though we cannot conclude anything just yet, as chance is always prevalent, I believe that yawning is contagious. Though personal anecdotes cannot be taken as significant information or conclusions, the observation of many yawns throughout the lecture hall leads me to believe that yawning is contagious, and for one, makes us all want to go back to bed.


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Black Holes

The idea of space fascinates me. The fact that Earth is just one minuscule part of a much bigger solar system, which is a small part of the galaxy,  blows my mind. The Earth seems so big to all its inhabitants, yet is miniature compared to the sun. And our sun is much smaller than some other stars. The point is; there are so many things in the universe that dwarf anything in our solar system. One of these things is a black hole. The potential power of a black hole is unlike anything else known to man.

A black hole is just a piece of space with gravitational pulls so strong that nothing can escape the force. The gravitational force in the black hole keeps everything inside, including light. Because light can not escape the gravitational force, the black hole is essentially invisible. This amount of gravitational pull is caused from a high amount of matter clustered in a small space. The black hole is caused from a star being unable to produce energy from its core, as explained in this article by Black Hole Encyclopedia.

Black holes come in many sizes. Most black holes are considered to be stellar black holes. There are black holes that are a million times bigger than stellar black holes, and those are referred to super massive black holes. There is not too much data known of super massive black holes, since it is estimated that only a dozen or so exist. The theory is, though, that super massive black holes are located in the center of galaxies. As I mentioned earlier, stellar black holes are formed when stars reach the end of their lives. However, the formation of super massive black holes is less certain.

There are a few theories about how super massive black holes are formed. The two main theories are: the theory that a massive star explodes and the black hole sucks in the surrounding matter and grows over time. The other theory is that a massive cloud of glass explodes and that forms a super massive black hole. Out of these two theories, I tend to believe that the black hole grows over time by sucking in the surrounding matter.

I would like to pose a different idea, though. After researching super massive black holes, I learned that they are often the center of galaxies, even the Milky Way. My theory is that the super massive black holes may be located in the center of galaxies because they are caused by an explosion much like the Big Bang, which some believe started our galaxy. My idea is that the explosion happens, the matter is trapped in a tight area causing the black hole, and the things that escape the initial explosion are what makes up the galaxy (stars, planets, etc.).

I am far from an expert on the topic of black holes, but they still peak my curiosity. The power and size of black holes is unlike anything we can imagine, and this is what interests me so much about them.

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Sources: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-a-black-hole-k4.html




Is marijuana bad for your health?

Ahhhh, my favorite plant. But in all seriousness, after thinking about the tobacco studies we did in class, I started to think about the same concept, but with cannabis. Just as in the 1950’s people refused to believe anything negative about tobacco, this era may reflect the same thing about marijuana. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of marijuana, so my question is simple; is marijuana bad for your health?


What is marijuana?

To investigate the effects of marijuana, I wanted to start off by clarifying what the drug actually is. Marijuana is a green, leafy substance that is usually smoked out of cigars, joint papers, or other glass pipes (see x). One of the main ingredients in cannabis is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol which essentially gives its users the “high” that they seek when smoking it (see x). While it is usually smoked, marijuana can be made into tea or can even be drained of its oil to be made into edibles that people can simply eat. (x)

Marijuana use and its effects

According to an article by Daniel Cressey, the only thing that scientists are sure about when it comes to marijuana use is its short-term effects (see x). The drug can impair your memory and coordination while also causing you to feel paranoid (see x). When smoked, cannabis can also increase your chances of respiratory problems and lung cancer (see x). While scientists have found many correlations surrounding the use of cannabis and health problems, they have no concrete evidence of the drug negatively effecting anyone’s body in the long-run. In other words, there is no evidence that correlation equals causation as they have been unable to find any evidence of a mechanism. (see x)

A study done in New Zealand in 2008 found that smoking marijuana can increase your chances of having lung cancer by 8% (see x). But after a meta-analysis, Cressey concluded that no other studies have found similar results, so this study stands alone (see x). This hence means that the study’s conclusion is wrong since other scientists failed to replicate the results (just like Leibovici’s study in his British Medical Journal paper regarding the fact that prayer shortens hospital stays that we studied in class).

The article goes on to say that researchers have found correlations between the use of marijuana and doing poorly in school or having altered brain development, but these are soft endpoints and it is therefore hard to blame marijuana for these things (see x). After reading this article I was able to conclude that there is no way to tell that these studies haven’t suffered the Texas sharpshooter problem since these scientists are so desperate to find any links between marijuana and negative health outcomes. There can be any third variables that contribute to these negative results. (x)


As marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, scientists will be able to conduct more experiments and produce more accurate results surrounding this controversial topic but for now it is safe to say that marijuana doesn’t have any detrimental effects on anyone’s health. The only thing we are sure about, is that it can impair your memory and coordination while also causing you to feel paranoid, as these are known effects of smoking weed. Ultimately, it is your decision whether you want to participate in using the drug and one thing is clear; even though scientists found concrete evidence that tobacco is bad for you and can have detrimental long-term effects, some people continue to smoke it and the same may be true for cannabis, even though it is not nearly as detrimental (yet anyway).




We all have different things that we are afraid of; Whether it be heights, spiders, or even the dark, there is something out there that scares you. However, if there is one fear we all have in common it is most definitely FOMO. Also known as the Fear Of Missing Out, we have all experienced this at some point in our lives. It is the simple, yet painfully aggravating idea that there are better, more exciting plans occurring elsewhere. As I sit here, packing for my weekend trip home, though I am immensely excited, I can’t help but feel that I will be missing out on yet another crazy weekend here. I, too, have suffered with this awful fear.


Social Media

At a time when we are constantly connected to our phones, it is no surprise that social media would contribute so largely to this issue. We are being exposed to posts and pictures of what everyone else is doing. Thus inevitably producing the feeling that we are missing out. In the article, “Social Media addiction is a Bigger Problem Than You Think”, it discusses a study that was done through 99DaysofFreedom.com  attempting to get people to give up Facebook for 99 days. It turns out that most people dropped out after just a couple of days after starting. Society has become so hooked on social media and the continuous persistence to post their every move. Based on that article, it does not seem like this is going to die down any time soon.


Our Brain

Inside our brains we have the Amygdala which is basically responsible for emotions and reactions. This article, explains how the Amygdala can sense when there is a risk to our well-being. To sum this up, when we feel left out as though we are not a part of something (or at a certain party), we begin to stress or feel as though we are missing out. Although we know this information, there does not seem to currently be an antidote or solution to FOMO, other than taking breaks from social media. Many issues dealing with psychology have pills that patients can take to help with this issue, for example Depression. However, after researching I was unable to find anything like that for this case.


The Result

What happens as a result of all of this is that we allow this fear to get in the way of our own lives. We spend so much time worrying over what we are missing out on that we fail to appreciate what’s right in front of us. It needs to be realized that one is not missing out on as much as they think they are. The article, “This is the Best Way to Overcome the Fear of Missing Out”, discusses “The Facebook Illusion” which is the idea that events look better online than they actually are. Parties and plans seem so much more fun on social media than they may actually be in reality. Tying in what we’ve learned in class, it is kind of like a false positive. This is when we think something is occurring when it is actually not. This amazing party that you’ve made it out to be that you’re missing out on is not actually real—nor is it worth the stress.











Does Meditation Work?

I have been participating in the free yoga classes offered at the UHS building every Wednesday at 4pm (if you’re interested in giving that a go). I enjoy this routine mainly because it is an easy, yet effective workout, and also because it gives me a chance to feel at peace amid my somewhat chaotic weekly routine. I consider this to be essentially the same as meditation, which has been particularly useful to me lately. I take 5-10 minutes out of my day to be completely thoughtless and at peace with my conscious. I know that sounds like mumbo-jumbo to all you skeptics, but in reality, many have attributed meditation to various physical and mental health improvements. Don’t just take my word for it–here’s one man’s story about his journey to happiness through meditation.

About a decade ago, ABC news anchor Dan Harris had a panic attack on live television in front of one million viewers. He had accumulated significant stress from, what he attributes to, an incessant drive for success in his field, as well as his experience in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Because of this intense stress, he decided to self-medicate with cocaine and ecstasy–a habit which skyrocketed the adrenaline levels in his brain and ultimately led to that infamous mental breakdown on the morning news. Despite his reluctancy to do so, Harris was assigned to cover religion during his period of recuperation.

His new job led him to discover the work of self-help guru Eckhart Tolle, and Dr. Mark Epstein. The latter scholar talks about the connection between psychiatry and Buddhist meditation. These works led the ambitious Harris to research Buddhist philosophy, which provided actionable advice for introspection and emotional regulation. Meditation is in fact supported by a wealth of scientific evidence which supports the notion that such an action has enormous benefits to the brain and body. These benefits include lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and increasing self-awareness just to name a few. While he maintains that meditation will not solve all your problems, author Dan Harris publicly advocates the hobby as it can cultivate positive thinking. So let’s look at the evidence behind Harris’s claim that meditation can make you “10% happier.”

Dan Harris

Consider the null: meditation does absolutely nothing to improve mental and physical health, which certain skeptics claim, and the alternative: meditation indeed improves mental and physical health, and contributes to a better sense of well-being to the individual (as Harris would assert). It is possible that meditation alone does not improve well-being, as an increase in meditative habits could be correlated with an increase in motivational and organizational behaviors, which would be one confounding variable.

In 2011, the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy published results of a study entitled “The Effect of Meditation on Self-Reported Measures of Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Perfectionism in a College Population.” Researchers conducted the study on a group of 43 participants, all undergraduate students. Students themselves assessed their levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and perfectionism prior to the study. They were then trained in the art of “transcendental meditation” (putative causal) which they routinely practiced throughout the length of two semesters. At the conclusion of the semester, the response variables were reassessed by the researchers, who concluded that all levels of the four variables had significantly decreased. As the meditation showed noteworthy results, the team suggested that the use of meditation should be discussed further. However, they were not able to substantially assert that meditation was PROVEN to alleviate these symptoms in college students.

Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, evaluated the results of 47 randomly assigned clinical trials on meditation in 2012 . Each of these studies involved subjects participating in either mindfulness meditation, which stresses being in “the present,” or some other psychotherapy technique. (The psychotherapy control group was implemented in order to compare the effects of meditation practices to non-meditation practices–both which have the same goal of improving overall well-being). Goyal and his team of researchers took a meta-analyses of these 47 studies and found evidence which suggests that meditation lessened feelings of stress and anxiety in subjects. However, Goyal did not come up with the data needed to corroborate stereotypical claims about meditation such as its effect on human emotion or attentiveness.

Although scientists were unable to come up with concrete evidence for the mental and physical health benefits of meditation, Goyal speculates that there is still room for discovery. “The trials we’re seeing have relatively small sample sizes,” he notes, “and many of them have problems with their quality.” The latter assertion he attributes to insufficient funding. Some even speculate that meditation could have such varied uses as to treat disease. Scientists like Goyal suggest a need for further studies in this area. (Moyer)

What can meditation do for you?

So what should you think of all this? Does meditation work? Although it cannot completely be proven through scientific evidence, I think everyone ought to try the practice. My best friend overcame Major Depressive Disorder with the help of Buddhist meditation and his therapist who prompted him to try it. Now when I say “Buddhist Meditation,” I don’t mean that this is a practice designed solely for Himalayan monks, rather, anyone can do it. Just ask Dan Harris. All it takes is just a few minutes each day to focus on the ‘present moment’ to see a significant impact on your mental and physical well-being. While science cannot guarantee that this works, the opportunity cost is not very lofty at all. Even if you consider yourself to be a generally happy or stable person, meditation could affect your life in ways your never thought possible–especially if you are not a religious person, such as myself. Who knows, it might even give you the tools you need to power through weekly blogs!…And get an ‘A’ 🙂

Works Cited:

Moyer, M. W. (2014). Is Meditation Overrated? Retrieved October 17, 2016, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-meditation-overrated/
Dan Harris interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywp4vaFJASE
Dan Harris image: http://cdn.abclocal.go.com/content/ktrk/images/cms/automation/vod/392612_630x354.jpg
Peace of mind image: http://static.wixstatic.com/media/22b8d6_f071d697a718458680a7e4929f91705f.jpg_srz_341_240_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz
Scientific research: MEDITATION, DEPRESSION and PERFECTIONISM. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from http://tmhome.com/benefits/study-on-depression-and-perfectionism-in-college/

Long-Term Effects of Using Antidepressants

I’ve seen many interesting posts on our site discussing depression, such as the correlation between sleep and depression, how school work can affect depression, and so on and so forth. While I think these are worthwhile topics, I am going to take a different approach to looking at depression. I am going to examine some of the long-term effects of using antidepressants, and whether these effects are harmful, beneficial, or are evened-out in the long run.

Image result for ssris

image source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/jn6S0KbzLSw/maxresdefault.jpg

So, what are antidepressants used for? Antidepressants, specifically SSRI’s, are prescribed to people with depression or anxiety. To simply put it, these medications help to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that many depressed and other mentally ill people lack. These SSRI’s prevent the excess re-absorption that typically occurs in depressed brains and causes people to be depressed, as seen in the picture on the left.

As with any medication, the list of potential side effects is never ending. To name a few side effects of SSRI’s, there can be insomnia, dry mouth, drowsiness, and diarrhea (Mayo Clinic). Generally, these side affects subside after the first few weeks as you regularly take the medication. But what about some of the long-term side affects? Personally, I found that after being on an SSRI for a long period of time, I didn’t feel depressed, but I didn’t feel happy either. I just felt nothing. This made me curious to see if others experienced the same feelings I did, or experienced other consequences of taking a SSRI for a long period of time.

So my hypothesis test would then be:

Null hypothesis: Long-term use of antidepressants has no effect on the antidepressant’s ability to function.

Alternative hypothesis: Long-term use of antidepressants has an effect on the antidepressant’s ability to function.

It turns out that other people experienced the same effect of taking a SSRI for a long time as I did. Harvard Health Publications states that there can be a loss of effectiveness for SSRI’S when taken for long periods of time, such as for a few months or a year. This is believed to be due to the fact that the brain develops a tolerance for the drug, so it is no longer as effective as it used to be.

In a study published the the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, people who were on SSRI’s for MDD, or Major Depressive Disorder, and considered to be relieved of their depressive symptoms, were followed for three months. The subjects of the study were interviewed frequently throughout the three months of taking SSRI’s and asked about their mental health. The results showed that the longer the people were on the medication, the more likely they were to have physical and cognitive symptoms of depression again, with a reported p-value=.0002. This supports the alternative hypothesis that long-term use of antidepressants affects SSRI’s ability to function, specifically in a negative manner.

This study suggests a negative relationship, meaning the longer you use the antidepressant, the less effective it will be. However, since the study is an observational study, it is hard to rule out confounding variables that could cause someone to be depressed, such as the loss of a family member, the loss of a job, etc.

Now there is a possibility that this issue suffers from the file-drawer problem, because if a study found that the long-term use of antidepressants does not cause a loss of effectiveness of the drug, that would support the null hypothesis and be considered boring.

Overall, I think there should be more studies done to test these hypotheses, especially because SSRI’s are being prescribed more and more. If SSRI’s become ineffective after so much time, research should be done to find more effective ways of medically treating depression.

Is Daycare Unhealthy?

Who else went to a daycare as a kid? I went to daycare and loved it! I loved running around and playing with my friends. When I reflect on my daycare experience I never think of the meals I ate, rather the creative games my friends and I would create. With this being said, daycare was definitely a good childhood experience. For this reason, it surprises me that today, claims have been made stating that daycare encourages weight gain in kids due to the lack of strict regulations by states regarding diet and exercise at child care facilities. Without thinking too much about this, I initially thought how is this so? While at daycare, a child spends most of the day remaining active and running around chasing one another. If anything, I think that daycare actually assists in keeping kids in good shape. Therefore I decided to research more into this topic1792.

Dr. Inyang Isong performed a study with approximately 10,700 U.S. children who all have diverse backgrounds. Isong stated that she and her associates tried to control the different factors that might act as confounding variables in this observational study in order to produce the most reliable results. Such variables included: child’s race and gender, parents’ financial status, etc. The null hypothesis of this study is that daycare does not encourage weight gain in children. On the contrary, the alternative hypothesis is that after studying the children, there was a weight gain amongst children who attended daycare in comparison to those children who did not attend daycare. Isong and her colleagues found that the null hypothesis proved to be correct. With this being said, this observational study is not definitive and for better results, a double-blind, controlled experiment could randomly assign groups of children to daycare or to home care.

Based on this study, one could argue that the study did not necessarily put the thought that child obesity is furthered when children attend daycare to rest. A rational person could conclude that children exert a great deal of physical activity at day care through being surrounded by other kids. In addition, children do not spend a lot of time eating while at daycare, as they are typically more eager to play with their friends, which promotes healthy social development. While this is obviously not the case for all children, and it is likely that some kids are becoming obese through attending day care, but this same argument can be made for children who receive home care as they are not interacting with other children. All in all, one can conclude based on this study and rationalization, there is not a causal relationship between daycare and weight gain children, rather it is situational and will vary amongst different children. I personally think that daycare assists in ensuring that children are socially and physically fit, but what do you think?


White Lies

Has your friend ever gotten a bad haircut and they ask you if you like it? If you tell them you like it when you really don’t, you are telling a “white lie.” A “white lie” is a name people give to small lies. People tell white lies for a lot of different reasons, whether it is it spare your friend’s feelings or get a day off of work, white lies are commonplace in today’s society. For this blog post I am doing something a little different by not presenting a hypothesis, My sole intention is to gain knowledge on white lies and find out a little more about them. Some initial questions I can think of would be, how does a white lie differ from a normal/big lie? Why do people tell white lies? How often do people tell white lies?



The first study I found examined the difference between altruistic white lies and Pareto white lies. The study describes altruistic white lies as lies that may hurt the teller of the lie, but benefit the receiver. For example, if I said I spray painted graffiti on a wall when in reality my friend did it, I would be hurting myself so my friend would get the benefit of not getting in trouble. It then describes Pareto white lies as lies that benefit the teller and the receiver. For example, let’s say my girlfriend asks me if her new jeans looks good. I say they look fantastic when they really look mediocre. This lie benefits both me and her because she is more confident in her appearance and I don’t get yelled at for telling her they look mediocre. The findings of the study concluded that 76% of people were willing to tell a Pareto white lie, but only 43% were willing to tell an altruistic white lie. It also found that women were more likely to tell an altruistic white lie while men were more likely to tell a Pareto white lie (Erat). The study does not provide an explanation as to why that is, but I wonder if it has something to do with their consciouses. Maybe women are more likely to tell an altruistic white lie because they would want somebody to tell them the truth if the situation was reversed. As for men, maybe they are more willing to tell white lies on the whole, but are less willing to display themselves in a negative light. An experimental study conducted by Dr. Warneken set out to find if children would tell lies to make others feel better. This study had children show their artwork to another child and ask them if they like it. The study found that children were more likely to tell a white lie  by saying they liked the artwork to visibly sad children, while they would tell the truth to a neutral or happy looking child (Warneken). This result is very heartwarming because even as children, we see people telling lies for the pure benefit of others. From a scientific perspective, I wonder if you could infer that humans are, at least somewhat, innately considerate of other peoples’ feelings.



A third study also conducted a study on the white lies of children. The study had children take a picture with a man that had an obvious mark on his nose and ask “do I look okay?” Fifty-five out of the sixty-five children (ages 3-7) confirmed he looked fine. Like the previous study, this study also found that a majority of children will tell a white lie to spare a person’s feelings (Talwar). This again provides further evidence that children are innately sensitive to people’s feelings and are willing to tell a white lie to avoid making another feel bad.


After deciding to not rely on a specific hypothesis, I went into my research looking for general “truths” about white lies. I found that there are different sorts of white lies (altruistic and Pareto), men generally lie more often than women, and children do not have an issue lying if it is to increase/maintain the happiness of someone else. Maybe white lies are not as bad as I initially thought.

Works Cited:

Erat, S., and U. Gneezy. “White Lies.” Management Science, vol. 58, no. 4, 2012, pp. 723-733. doi:10.1287/mnsc.1110.1449.

Warneken, Felix, and Emily Orlins. “Children Tell White Lies to make Others Feel Better.”British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol. 33, no. 3, 2015., pp. 259-270doi:10.1111/bjdp.12083.

Talwar, Victoria, and Kang Lee. “Emergence of White-Lie Telling in Children between 3 and 7 Years of Age.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 2, 2002., pp. 160-181doi:10.1353/mpq.2002.0009.

Pictures (in order of appearance):


The Wall Street Journal’s willful climate lies