Daily Archives: October 18, 2016

Is Sleeping With Contact Lenses OK?

For as long as I can remember, I have had bad eyesight. I have had glasses since the first grade and have been wearing contact lenses since fifth. My contact prescription is a -5.00. This means that I am nearsighted and have difficulty seeing far away objects. I prefer wearing contacts over my glasses. I always found glasses getting in the way of things and could easily fall off my face. Contacts are great in the way that its basically like having normal eyesight, until I have to go to sleep or want to take a nap. I have had a handful of situations where I either have fallen asleep with my contacts in and forgot to take them out or I just didn’t have anywhere to put them. Its a struggle because I would always hear from my mom and from my eye doctor to NEVER sleep with my contacts in. But I have and nothing bad has happened, so I wondered is falling asleep with your contacts actually that bad for you?


The answer is yes. Falling asleep with contacts in is actually very risky. Why are they so risky? What happens when you fall asleep with them in? There has been research done that shows a 10-15% increase in chance of getting an infection for people who sleep with contact lenses in. By not taking your contacts out, your eyes are not getting a chance to breathe. Wearing contact lenses lessens the oxygen supply to your eye and when you close your eyes the amount of oxygen lessens even more. So when you sleep with contacts there is a significant decrease in oxygen supply for your eyes.

Without a sufficient supply of oxygen, the cornea will swell up, causing a small opening between the eye’s surface. This small opening is where bacteria sneak in and cause infections. The eye is constantly exposed, causing less protection to the ocular immune system than the rest of the body’s immune system. The eye is also vulnerable to germs because of its moist mucosal surface.


Don’t give up hope just yet. Although sleeping with contacts in has a high risk of infection, a new   type of contact lenses allows for continuous wear, even while sleeping. These FDA approved contact lenses are called “extended wear lenses.”  Originally released and made available in the 1980s people wore wore contact lenses continuously without changing or cleaning them. This caused many people to develop eye infections. The FDA stepped in and shortened the amount of time recommended to keep contact lenses in. By the late 1990’s a new kind of extended wear lens was released. Made of silicone hydrogel, these extended wear lenses are made to be worn for up to 30 consecutive days during the day and night. The silicone hydrogel allows up to five times more oxygen transmitted through the lens to the cornea. Extended wear lenses are beneficial for people who are extremely active in life, have binocular vision abnormalities or just bad vision in general.

After reading about the risks of sleeping with non-extended wear lenses and learning about the extended wear lenses, I am more cautious about falling asleep wearing my lenses and am looking into investing in the extended wear lenses.








Sleep isn’t a priority in college.

Being a first year student in college and as the semester progresses I found out pretty quickly that sleep is not a first priority in college. Throughout my life I have also been someone who NEEDS his sleep. If I didn’t get enough sleep the night before anything I had to do that next day whether it was go to school, or play in basketball game, or go to work, I would not be the same person as my normal self with the right amount of sleep I need. I hear that on average you should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Preferably, when I was living at home and not in college I would try to get 9-10 hours of sleep per night for me to feel the most rejuvenated I possibly could the next day.

Unfortunately I would never frequently get those 10 hours of sleep due the jam packed schedule I had back in high school. I was a 3 sport student athlete so my life was based around going to school from 8-2 every day, then getting on a bus to go to my sporting event I was participating in directly after school. After my sporting event which usually started at 3:30 pm and went until 7 pm I would then travel back to the school on the bus to get my car to finally go home at night. By the time I got home it was already around 8:30 pm. I would get my self settled in maybe grab some food and start my homework hopefully around 9 pm. By the time I finish my homework it was around 10:30-11pm and I’m exhausted. It usually gets close to being a 12 hour day and I go to bed knowing I have the same routine tomorrow. Going to bed that late and waking up at 6 am every day never gave me enough time to get the appropriate amount of sleep I hoped for.


Now… that was only my high school story. College, so far has been like that except without the sports that take up half my day it’s now school work that takes up half my day along with going to class. High school and college, I learned very quickly are extremely different. I unfortunately, before realizing it, scheduled my classes all early thinking to myself I could just go to class in the morning and just get all my work done during the day.  Experiencing college for the first time, I have now understood how easy it is to slip up in your classes due to all the distractions you face, unavoidable or not. Going to class in the morning and getting the work load I have my life is all about time management. Yes… I’m human and do get distracted sometimes, which causes me to stay up until 3 am some nights writing papers that are due the next day but that seems to be a common theme with most college students here and everywhere throughout the country. Based on information  given in this article, students who don’t get enough sleep could be because of the night time computer or technology use that the majority of college students and young adults use. Bright light from computers, tv’s, and phones can affect melatonin levels which is a hormone which regulates the amount of light received through the retina in your eye causing problems in sleep patterns and loss of sleep.

So why am I ranting about my daily life in high school and now my daily life in college? It all relates back to the amount of sleep I have been getting and why I think sleep is not a priority to college students. According to this new article I found  studies from a UC Berkley student have shown that sleep not only refreshes you and your body keeping you healthy, but can actually make you smarter. Not sleeping or pulling an all nighter causes sleep deprivation and can lower the ability to learn information by 40%. Sleep also helps retain information you have previously learned and gives you energy for the next day to learn more information.

Another reason why I don’t think sleep is a priority for college students is because of the distractions such as partying with alcohol. Here at Penn State especially, being know as a party school, alcohol is used and abused here by many college students. According to the article alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, but disrupts sleep architecture which is the way our brain remembers sleep patterns and makes us feel refreshed the next day.


With large gaps in my day from class to class I find that taking a nap personally helps me a lot for my second half of the day. According to the article studies have shown that even short naps for only a few minutes help you recover and give you more energy for the rest of your day.


After reading these few articles about sleep patterns, deprivation, causes of sleep loss, and ways to improve sleeping patterns I feel confident that I can still continue to thrive in my classes, maintain a balanced and safe social life, and get enough sleep to keep my body fresh and my mind rejuvenated so I retain and learn new things each day.

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Makeup and Confidence

In a perfect world, I would wake up everyday looking refreshed and my eyebrows on fleek. Unfortunately, instead I spent approximately 10 minutes every day putting on my “no makeup” look. On special occasions, my routine can take up to 45 minutes. Yup that’s right, I waste 45 minutes of my life putting guck on my face.

You might be wondering why. Well for me that answer is simple. When I’m wearing makeup I tend to feel more confident. I walk a little taller, am more open to talking to new people, and feel unstoppable. Don’t get me wrong I’m not an introvert by any means without makeup, but makeup gives me a little extra boost. So I wondered, is this a natural occurrence? Do women wear makeup because they like the look or are the addicted to the rush of self-assurance that comes with the practice?


In the First Place

My first question is when and where makeup practices started?

Since 4000 BCE Egyptians have been using cosmetics to enhance and compliment their facial features. In fact when thinking of ancient makeup, people usually imagine Egyptian political forces such as King Tut and ancient-egyptian-makeupCleopatra. Is it because of these historical figures that there is an association to power/confidence and makeup?

However I do not know if you could really test if the association is due to the figures. As Andrew discussed in class, there are some topics that are either untestable or very difficult to test. I think that this specific correlation would fall under difficult to test.

I can see no way to experimentally or even observationally observe this occurrence, so that only leaves data such as surveys and anecdotal data to be recorded, which does not have strong credibility in the scientific world.

Cold, Hard Facts

Though historical association might not be able to answer our question of whether makeup means confidence, this topic has become a popular test subject in recent years.

A study conducted at Hanover University measured the differences in college women’s anxiety levels when wearing makeup in different situations. In this study, anxiety levels were utilized to measure confidence. It found that anxiety was lowest when women wore “going-out makeup” while out with friends. Therefore saying that confidence was highest when the women were wearing makeup and spending time with friends.

However there are problems concerning this particular study. The most discrediting feature is that there were only four participants regarded in the study. Four participants do not produce nearly enough data to make any amounting conclusions. Also, the study did not have a control. It did not measure women without makeup in different situations; it only compared different styles of makeup in different situations.

Hanover University redeemed itself though in an additional study. Participants were asked to rate their level of makeup usage and then rate their level of self-esteem. The two levels were then compared. The study concluded a significant correlation between physical self-esteem and participants’ current make-up.

Whether this positive correlation is indicating causation is unknown, but it does show evidence that make-up could have a measurable effect on someone’s confidence. In regards to the question of a third confounding variable, there is a possible one: appearance. Makeup influences appearance, and appearance could influence self-esteem. The lines get a little blurred here however because though the make-up and appearance are two separate entities there very closely related nature causes them to be one-in-the-same.

Others Perceptions

Third variables, such as in the second Hanover study, play a large factor in the question of causation between makeup and confidence.

Arnaud Aubert, experimental psychologist, has found links between wearing makeup and trust from others/likeability. Several other studies show perceptions of confidence and health to be elevated for regular cosmetic wearers. There are several others studies out in the scientific world that further reinforce these conclusions.

These conclusions cause me to question the actual causality behind cosmetics and confidence. Is it the actual makeup that causes the confidence, or the knowledge of others’ perceptions that cause people to feel more confident?

So what actually is happening?

My research, especially the second Hanover study, has led me to rephrase my initial statements. I think instead of saying make up causes confidence, I think it is actually the act of wearing makeup that causes confidence. When you wear makeup, you are able to cover your imperfections and change your insecurities; naturally this altering of appearance would elevate one’s self-esteem.


Whether this is actually good for society is an entirely separate question. Should we need to alter our appearance just to feel good about ourselves? Probably not, but in today’s perfection centered world, I think it acceptable. If waking up 5 minutes early to swipe on some mascara means that I will feel better about myself, I’m game.



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Does LSD Have Medical Benefits?

Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD and “Acid” is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic drug that was invented in 1943 by Albert Hofmann. The first person to do LSD and realize its powerful effects on the mind was Hofmann on April 19, 1943. This day is also known as “Bicycle Day” because Hofmann began to feel and notice the effects of the ingested LSD while he was riding his bike home. Upon his discovery Hofmann began to look for ways that LSD could be used for medicinal purposes. Other scientists began to do the same thing and there in fact over 1,000 scientific papers published studying the effects LSD can have on someone. Much research on LSD halted due to LSD becoming very popular in the 60’s due to the “hippie” and counterculture movement going on, particularly in America. Increased recreational use of the drug resulted in its prohibition. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency LSD is listed as a schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs and substances are said “to have no medical benefit and have a high potential of abuse” according to the DEA. 

Source – https://files.shroomery.org/avatars/www.shroomery.org/228672a1304342992-big.jpg

I personally believe that the DEA should not be the ones who decide what “schedule” level a drug should be. For example the DEA has also listed marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. This means that marijuana has “absolutely no medical value”, at least according to the federal government. This claim made by the DEA can be proven wrong very easily when it comes to marijuana. Just look at all of the states that have legalized medicinal marijuana, including Pennsylvania. Medicinal Marijuana has been proven to help with a multitude of health conditions such as cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, glaucoma and insomnia just to name a few.

Source – http://thefreethoughtproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/lsd-alcohol-anonymous.jpg

While there is no saying whether LSD has a high potential for abuse or not, the argument can be made that LSD does have some practical medical benefits. For example a study published Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2012, found that using LSD in combination with alcohol addiction programs helped decrease a person’s substance abuse. Another study, which was published in 2014 in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that when LSD was given to subjects under controlled conditions, over the course of two months, reduced the anxiety subjects had about terminal illness in the long term. All of the subjects in this study were facing advanced-stage terminal illness and decided to try this experiment to see if it could reduce their persistent anxiety. This experiment was a double-blind placebo trial in which the 12 subjects were either given a full dose of LSD (200 ug) or a placebo dose of LSD (20 ug) over the course of 30 sessions. In 22 of the sessions, subjects were given the full 200 ug dose of LSD and in 8 of the sessions the subjects were given the 20 ug Placebo dose. For reference, ~100 ug is the reported level of LSD needed to truly feel the effects but it varies from person to person. Even though it was small-scale the trial was a huge success in that ALL 12 patients reported feeling reduced levels of anxiety regarding their illnesses a full 12 months AFTER the trials had ended. This points to evidence that LSD may be very useful long term for an individual’s mental health.   

DEA Source – https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml


Marijuana Health Benefits Source – http://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4/#rijuana-can-help-people-trying-to-cut-back-on-drinking-23


First Study Source – http://jop.sagepub.com/content/26/7/994


Second Study Source – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4086777/


Parents and Allergies

This past weekend I decided to go home for parents’ weekend. When I got in the car I asked my mom what was new. Amongst other things, she told me that just this past week, after serving my little sister pasta in a marinara sauce she had broken out in hives. Because of this one time incident, my mom decided that our entire family was allergic to marinara sauce and no one else could have it anymore. Obviously I told her that this was irrational and that she must take into consideration other variables, such as the spices in the marinara. To briefly sum up this story, my mom now believes that the entire family is allergic to marinara sauce and wants us all to avoid it (which I can tell you right now is not going to happen, I love spaghetti). With this being said, this story brings to the light the fact that according to a new study, a majority of parents believe that when their child is allergic to something, they too are affected with that allergy. Is this logical reasoning or are parents coming to crass, irrational conclusions?



A recent study conducted by Dr. Rachel Robinson reveals that when parents state that they too have the same allergies as their children, they are incorrect. Robinson received 2,500 parents whose children have food allergies. Prior to the study, the parents were asked they had a food allergy and 14 percent of them said they did. After the study was complete, it was revealed that 28 percent of the parents actually had a food allergy.

This study did provide reliable results, but I think it could have been done better in order to produce even better results. In my opinion, I think that an even better study that could be done would be an observational study with a larger group of parents with different financial backgrounds. Financial backgrounds could potentially impact the results of this study as while one family can afford to cut out a specific type of food from their diet, another family may not be financially capable of doing this. Therefore, a study conducted from a more diverse and larger group could produce results that would be more reliable and applicable to a greater audience.

To conclude, Dr. Robinson’s findings are seemingly logical. I do not think that a second experiment is necessary, but rather another study could further affirm Dr. Robinson’s study. It is logical to think that parent and child will share the same allergies given that there is a 50 percent chance of the child inheriting the same allergies as one parent. With this being said, this is not always the case. All in all, it is probably best that if a child has an allergy the family stay away from that particular thing.

Notes by Hand or Laptop?

One of the most obvious changes and transitions we see today is in technology. Technology can be related to many things especially to school. In college, almost everybody here has a laptop to do their work on. Every class that I am in now (except Andrew’s) I see the majority of people are on their computers taking notes instead of the traditional way of writing notes down by hand. Overall technology is supposed to make things easier for us and to make what we do in life more efficient and time saving. However, is there actually a difference if we right the same notes down on either paper or our laptop?

A way to look at this is the Pros and Cons of taking notes by Laptop…hand-write-or-type

Pro – Laptops are mainly useful for quick note taking. It is so much easier to type everything up on the presentation instead of hand writing the notes and having the possibility of falling behind.

Con – One word. Distractions. There are distractions that are only a few clicks away from popping up on your screen for you and other people around you to see.

An advantage to hand writing notes is your brain learns more of what you are writing instead of when you are typing. When typing, people usually try to put down as much as they can instead of understanding what they are actually writing. This is thought to be true because of the encoding hypothesis. According to Joanna Penn from the article The pen is mightier than the keyboard, she describes the encoding process basically as the process of taking notes allows your brain to improve in learning and retention, increasing a greater level of cognitive process. Although you are able to get more information down while typing, I believe the most negative idea of typing notes is having the possibly of distraction where once you click to go on twitter or Facebook, you lose all focus on what you are learning and were previously typing down.

Study – A recent study performed by Wood et al. (2012), was designed to understand how, in a real university setting, the impact of technology like laptops would affect real time learning in lectures. This is an experimental study and is set up with 4 different groups either texting using a cell-phone, emailing, MSN messaging or Facebook, being compared to three control groups of hand writing notes, word-processing note taking, and note by laptop. Students were also given quizzes in order to check their comprehension of the information throughout the three lectures. Overall the results came out to be that the actual hand writing of notes outperformed those of the multitasking participants. In addition, those who were considered to be a non-multitasker overall did better on the quizzes than all of the multitasking participants. This shows no matter what the effect of multitasking, it’s better to not do it in order to perform better in class.

Mylivescribe personal preference is to hand write notes so I may be a little biased with this. However, I know it’s hard to persuade people to hand write notes instead of using laptops since today all we see is improvements in technology which leads people further and further away from hand writing. Instead, maybe we can look at this from a different point and incorporate handwriting into our technology. For example, a product called Livescribe, a smart pen that transfers the notes you write down on paper back onto your laptop. It also records everything allowing you to go back and replay it again in case you missed anything else important. More products like this can keep the idea of hand writing notes the same but connect the use of technology to make it even easier for you as well as help your performance in class.

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Are Teenagers Old Enough to Drive?

In Pennsylvania, 16 year-olds who pass a permit test are able to receive their driver’s permit. 6 months later, teens are eligible to take their driver’s test, and ultimately get their license. These rules vary slightly from state to state, but the overall rule is that drivers in the United States are eligible to get their driver’s license during their teenage years. Some people feel that this is appropriate, but other feel that 16 and 17 year-olds are much too young to be driving.  Are teenagers old enough to be driving? Are younger drivers more likely to get into accidents than older drivers? Does texting play a role in the number of crashes that teens get into?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,270 teenagers aged 16-19 were killed in car accidents in the year 2014. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for this age group. This is an extremely high amount of deaths related to an activity that many teens engage in every day. According to the IIHS, the rate of deaths by car accident is three times higher for the 16-19 age group than it is for drivers aged twenty years or older. This data suggests that younger drivers are not yet mature enough to have their licenses. If teenaged drivers are three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents, then maybe these drivers should not be driving on the roads after all. Now, this data could all be due to chance, but the data discovered by the IIHS shows that the younger the driver is, the more likely it is that he or she will be involved in a fatal crash. The data collected seems to be highly correlational.


It is possible that younger drivers are more likely to be involved in car crashes due to distracted driving. One observational study, conducted by the CDC, examined the distracted driving rates in the United States versus the rates in several other countries. The United States, by far, showed the highest rates of distracted driving. This is yet another reason why 16 might just be too young for drivers to get their license. One leading cause of distracted driving today is the use of cell phones while driving. Also according to the CDC, about 31% of teenage drivers reported using their phones to send text messages or emails while driving. This means that approximately one-third of teenagers on the road admit to not having their full attention on the road while driving. This does not make for safe driving conditions for anyone, not just teenagers.

Attractive woman in car showing her drivers license

More recently, a survey conducted by the AAA found that many teens seem to be waiting longer before they get their licenses. In fact, in a 2013 survey, only 54% of eighteen year-olds reported as having their driver’s license. This result is unexpected, due to the fact that most teens seem to want to get their licenses as soon as possible. According to the survey the reasons that teens are waiting include: the high price of gas, the fact that most teens are still able to get around without driving, and the fact that they did not own a car to drive even if they wanted to. Whatever the reasons may be, less teenage drivers on the road is an overall positive thing. It might be time for more teens to hold off on getting their licenses.

Are AI the future of Wall Street?

As a finance major, whenever news comes out that artificial intelligences are set to become the future of financial trading I get a little nervous.  Many people think that sure, we could eventually create a program that is able to make real time decisions based around the market. But a lot of other people say that while they would be able to analyze concrete data, there is still too much left to interpretation for that to truly happen.  So which side is right, and should I switch my major at this point?

In the world of trading, some tech startups have already begun to experiment with using AI’s as their only way of trading.  Back in January tech startup Aidyia turned on their full tie automated hedge fund program.  On it’s first day of operation they saw a 2% return on their investment.  ( source )  While this isn’t a significant return considering they could make more just investing into a safe S&P index, it does prove that we have the capabilities to make a positive return without human intervention.  According to Preqin nearly 10% of all operating hedge funds in the world make a majority of their trades using computer generated models.  By continuing to allow the computers to create more and more models, firms are hoping that the programs will begin to recognize patterns in the way that humans do and trade on what might happen in the future.

As AI continue to get smarter, their return on the investments will potentially be able to outgrow that of a conventional trader.  This article from August outlines the newest player in the AI trading game, a program called “Emma”.  What they say is different about this program is that it’s programmed to not only look at the securities market, but also what is happening on a global economic scale.  In the six months before they had unveiled the project they had it trading a set of stocks that it determined would be smart investments.  Since then, their portfolio size has grown by 30% and they are donating the extra proceeds that it makes to charity because for now they are just interested in seeing how far they can push this AI growth.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, Sept. 15, 2008 in New York. A stunning reshaping of the Wall Street landscape sent stocks down sharply Monday, but the pullback appeared relatively orderly _ perhaps because investors were unsurprised by the demise of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and relieved by a takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co. (AP Photo/Jin Lee)

Trading floor at the NYSE ( source )

This isn’t just something that is happening in the U.S. market either.  Later this year in Japan a new AI developed by Mizuho will work along side human traders in an effort to help them make more informed decisions.  Their goal with this system is to use the computer to show historical trends and interpret that into the future, and then use the actual trader as more of an evaluation of whether it’s actually worth their investment.

For now I don’t believe that traders and finance students should be worried about AI’s completely replacing them, as they are probably more useful for simply aiding in the job.  But it is an interesting future change in the way the industry operates and will become an important thing for anyone interested in the markets to know how to work with.


Why Do Ponytails Hurt so Much ?

There is no better hair-do than a ponytail. It keeps the hair off your face, you can just throw it up and not really care what it looks like, and it can hide some unwashed hair if you forgot to wash your hair one day. However, keep that ponytail in too long and you may experience a major headache. This got me wondering as to why this happens. Is it the way the hair pulls up on the scalp, or is it something more? Dr. Denise E Chou, neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center specializes in treating headaches and has figured out the mystery behind headaches and ponytails.

Chou claims that people who experience headaches while wearing ponytail are most likely already migraine-prone. Since migraines are rarely diagnosed, people (especially women who wear ponytails) often don’t realize this may be the source of their pain. Migraine prone people have more sensitivity around the face and scalp, and when pulled with the ponytail may lead to headaches. Ponytails are not meant to be painful, and therefore, this perception of pain due to an otherwise non-painful stimulus is called cutaneous allodynia. Putting your hair up shouldn’t be painful, but it can be perceived as painful when a migraine or headache happens while your hair is up.

Even those who aren’t migraine prone may still experience headaches while your hair is up. This is because when your hair is up or in a tight bun, the strain of the nerves around the face will pull, similarly to those who are migraine-prone, and cause pain.

In order to reduce the amount of ponytail headaches you may get, you can simply try taking it out and wearing your hair down, or doing a loose ponytail or bun which won’t pull of the nerves as much – like Beyonce.




Are spray tans that healthy for you?

We all know through many studies conducted that using indoor tanning beds is very unhealthy and have been shown through many leading studies that is can result in skin cancer. Because this is not a risk many people are willing to take, a lot of people now tend to lean towards the “healthier” version of tanning, spray tans. Spray tans have become widely popularized this pass decade for being a healthy alternative for indoor tanning. From the Kardashians, to girls getting a little glow before their prom, receiving a spray tan is not an odd thing to do in todays society. But have you ever wondered what is in this magical mist that can make you look like you went to a tropical island for a month, in just seconds.

sprayontanPicture from here

While searching for common chemicals found in spray tans, one chemical that kept reoccurring is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is a plant based chemical used in sunless tanning lotions, and is approved by the FDA for external use of the body. So what could be wrong with this chemical if the FDA says its okay and it is created through a natural process?

A study was conducted by six leading scientist, all in different fields to confirm their hypothesis of the chemical DHA in spray tans being harmful to living organisms. They thought that the harm DHA was possibly doing to organisms was altering the genes in their cells. The Scientist were concerned with this because of the fact that it is so easy to inhale spray tans. Inhaling the chemical DHA contained in the spray tans could get into your lungs and seep through to your blood stream. This is an easy way for the harmful chemical to alter the genes in your cells. This is a large concern because these altered cells could activate the development of cancer cells growing.

When DHA was tested in the lab, it was never tested on any human being cells. This is one downsides of this experiment because you cannot always infer in studies that the same effects will happen on different types of organisms. One of the reasons human cells were not tested on because if DHA is a harmful chemical to humans, that would not be ethical to do so.

So when DHA was tested on these cells, it was recorded that it did in fact alter the genes of some of the organisms cells being tested on. This was tested by multiple scientist and on multiple different organisms, and all found some sort of change to cells.

So what can we infer from these studies? Some say only time will tell, but mot scientist say we should be concerned. Though not many studies and test have been done on this problem yet, some scientist say that the data we have today is enough to say that DHA is harmful and should be refrained from putting on the body. This concern of DHA should defiantly be studied more, because of the recent popularity spike in spray tans.

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Courtesy of: sivasanta-blogspot-com

Courtesy of: sivasanta-blogspot-com

My genetics are interesting to say the least. I have naturally black hair, yet my body hair is blonde. I have skin so pale my foundation is called snow, yet both my parents tan without struggle. My eyes also change six different colors: green, hazel, brown, blue, grey, and yellow. I had always attributed this to being a co-dominance gene; given each parent has color changing eyes as well. However, I never contemplated that there could be a different reason as to why.

A codominance gene is where both sets of genetics are equally as strong and neither hides the other; so in short they blend together. I was always told given that each of my parents have color changing eyes, and I got each of their colors, I had a codominance gene. Which seems logical enough.

However, an article from All About Vision gave me an answer I wasn’t too happy with. It says that human eye color is derived from three genes; which are accountable for brown, blue, and green eyes. However, colors such as grey and hazel (and of course combination color eyes) can’t fully be explained at this time. The article also said that a person’s eye color is never a mix of their parents. For example, a parent with blue eyes and a parent with green eyes won’t have a baby with a mixture of the two colors. Each parent has two sets of genes, and the child has a certain chance of getting any of the four genetic options.

The only possible explanation the article offers is pupil contractions and expansions. The pupil expands and contracts as a physical reaction to different levels of light. As well, your iris can expand as a physical reaction to certain emotions. This change in pupil size can change your eye color slightly; which explains why people often claim their eyes change color depending on what emotion they’re feeling.

Another article gives several other reasons why your eyes could appear to or do change color, as well as delving into hazel eyes a bit more. Besides the same answers of lighting and emotions, the article even mentions how you dress as a reason for a change of eye color. This would make a lot of sense given that certain eye colors are supposed to wear certain types of eye makeup and so on. This I have seen first hand with myself and several other people with hazel/multicolored eyes. Eye makeup meant for somebody with green eyes will make my eyes green, the same with blue, and so on.

The article also talks briefly about hazel eyes; which is what my license says my eye color is. Hazel eyes have always been believed to change color. They are also much more reflective than any other eye color. Which essentially means it could take on the color of something in my surroundings.

In a third article, they discuss the claim that eyes change color as you age. In short, it doesn’t. Once your eye color has fully matured, it does not not. They explain that it either has to be genetics or injury that causes change in eye color. Heterochromia, or two different colored eyes (think David Bowie or the scene from X-Men first class where Xavier hits on the blonde) are typically caused by traumatic injury. As a child, I hit my head on a ceramic tile kitchen floor and broke my nose. However, mine eyes are only sometimes two completely different colors.

Luckily there are several types of heterochromia . The one that seems to be closest to what I have is central heterochromia. Which means the outside of my iris is different from the inside. My outside is usually consistently blue or grey, with the inside seeming to change. Besides injury, heterochromia is also linked to several diseases; including diabetes, which I have.

So the conclusion? Well we have several plausible hypotheses. The answers that are most likely seems to be pupil contractions or central heterochromia; maybe even a mix of the two. However, it seems that we don’t have an exact answer.

Does Drinking A Glass of Red Wine Improve Your Health?



It has been said that drinking a glass of red wine a day can improve your health. I started to wonder why that is if people preach about how bad alcohol is for you. I was curious about if there was a direct correlation between drinking alcohol and being healthier, or if there was a third variable influencing this. It was easy to automatically eliminate the thought of a reverse correlation because of the issue with time: a healthy person today could not make themselves drink wine yesterday.

It is thought that red wine has more heart-healthy benefits than do other types of alcohol, because of the antioxidants found in the grapes. However, there is no clear evidence that red wine is better for your heart than other various forms of alcohol such as beer, liquor, or white wine, but for this post I’m going to focus merely on red wine and how it’s antioxidants may correlate with a person’s health.

As I was researching how red wine could be beneficial to one’s health, I came across the enzyme resveratrol. Resveratrol is an antioxidant produced naturally by several plants. The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine and can be found in other foods as well such as peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. The amount of resveratrol in different foods and drinks can vary, and is more significant in red wine than white wine because the grape skins used in red wine are fermented longer. Resveratrol in red wine may be the direct correlation between drinking wine and living a healthier life. This is due to the heart-healthy benefits that resveratrol has on the body.

The antioxidants in red wine, including resveratrol, may help prevent heart disease through its many positive effects on the body. Certain antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Resveratrol is a main polyphenol found in red wine that has been seen as very beneficial to it’s drinkers. Resveratrol has been known to increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol as well as decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is an increase in the “good” cholesterol in the body and a decrease in the “bad” cholesterol. These changes in levels help prevent damage to blood vessels as well as helps to prevent blood clots. Reducing the bad cholesterol in the body is vital, because it reduces the risk of inflammation to the blood vessels and blood clotting, which also reduces the risk of heart disease. In addition to the heart benefits red wine has, drinking red wine in moderation may help improve memory, help lose weight, boost immunity, and help prevent bone loss.

Studies have been done on mice to test resveratrol and its effects it has to make sure the research is correct. The study concluded that the mice given resveratrol were at a lesser risk for obesity and diabetes, both of which are factors for heart disease. This study shows how ingesting resveratrol has positive effects on the heart. Resveratrol can be seen as a third variable which explains why red wine is thought to be heart-healthy. Resveratrol helps reduce the risk of many diseases that can cause heart disease or failure, but the red wine itself is not reducing the risk of heart disease or failure. In fact, in order to obtain the same results as the mice in the study, a person would have to drink more than 1,000 liters of red wine everyday.

In addition to resveratrol being heart healthy, it is thought that alcohol itself, in moderation, can have heart benefits as well. For example, it is thought that alcohol raises the “good” cholesterol and reduced the “bad” cholesterol similarly to resveratrol, reduces the formation of blood clots, and produces changes in blood pressure. These benefits can only be found in drinking alcohol in moderation. While these benefits may seem great, you get to be healthy while drinking alcohol, alcohol has very serious negative side effects on the body as well because of it’s addictiveness. Drinking too much alcohol may increase the risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents and other problems. In addition, drinking too much alcohol regularly can cause weakened heart muscle, leading to symptoms of heart failure in some people. Additionally, the effects that resveratrol has on the body are only short term and may not give a person the same benefits in the future.

No doctor in their right mind would recommend drinking excessive amounts of red wine just to improve heart function. There are other ways to ingest resveratrol and get similar benefits as red wine. For example, simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice. Of course the amount of resveratrol in different foods and wines can vary, you will still be getting some of the benefits found in resveratrol. The American Heart Association  recommends that if you already drink red wine, do so in moderation in order to receive some of the benefits of red wine. 



Go to college… its worth it.

As I sit here with enormous amounts of work on my shoulders and deadlines that creep up on me everyday, multiple times a day I sometimes question my reasoning for being in college and if it is actually worth it and come to the same realization everytime. Yes. College is completely worth the struggle, stress, anxiety, and money.

According to this article I found, going to college and successfully completing and earning your degree, college graduates have higher employment rates, larger salaries, and more job opportunities than high school graduates. Sure, we all know college is ridiculously expensive but in the long run, pays off and makes the debt you have leaving college worth it. According to this other article I found about 7 in 10 student (69%) go into student loan debt averaging about $28,000 in debt. That is actually a very scary thought and makes me question this college education even more.


According  to the article college graduates, if they have a family later on in life, their kids are more likely to be healthy and more prepared for school in the future. Based on the statistics in the article from a Lancet Medical Journal showed that college graduate mothers had lower infant mortality rates than high school graduate mothers. Mothers, who are high school graduates are 31% more likely to birth a low-birth weight baby. Children with at least one college gradate parent, according to the statistics given in the article show that 59% of them participated in after school activities such as sports, preforming arts, and clubs. After reading that my kids will be better off in the long run really made me feel like I was getting an education here for something more than just myself. Raising a family and having your kids live a better life than you is what every parent wants and that is certainly what I want for my kids some day.

After reading more of the article according to the statistics they show, college graduates make on average $30,000 more per year than high school graduates. So, coming out of college with a degree and more job opportunities you could technically pay your student loan debt with just one year salary and still make just as much as a high school graduate for that one year. Granted I know most people don’t ever pay debts in full unless they’re making a lot of money and can afford to give a large sum of it up in bulk, but knowing that you make much more money and have more job opportunities entering the work force with a college degree is the reason why I keep working hard for my Penn State degree.


So what am I trying to say? College not only pays off for you money wise but also your health, job opportunities which makes it more of chance for you to be successful in life, and your kids future.

First picture found here.

Second picture found here.

How much sleep do we actually need?

I, like many other students, am up very late most nights. I constantly hear people talking about how our body needs about 8 hours of sleep a night. I rarely, if ever, get 8 hours of sleep, but I don’t believe this is a problem because I function perfectly fine on a lot less sleep.

This photo is from http://www.bc.edu

This is a topic that I feel students aren’t very educated about. Most students have also heard of this “8 hour rule”, but I’m sure many don’t follow it either. It is hard to get an adequate amount of sleep for students between classes, homework, jobs, studying, friends, and clubs. Students that get overwhelmed will start to look to places to save time. Students shouldn’t cut out essential things to save time such as eating, showering, or having friends. Instead a student should work on there time management like we have learned in class.

Time management is a great idea for getting more sleep. but how do we know if we need more sleep? Most students in college sleep about 6-7 hours each night. Is that enough? The answer isn’t as black and white as it seems because everyone is different. For some people that is enough, but for others it isn’t. We all need to find our own amount of sleep we need each night.

The issue with not knowing how much sleep you need at night is that you can be building up a sleep debt. This is not good because it can cause many problems for a person. A way to realize if you are adding on to a sleep debt every night is to pay attention to your sleep schedule. An easy indicator is to compare the amount of hours you sleep a night during the week compared to the weekend. People that are accruing a sleep debt generally sleep a lot more on the weekends than they do during the week. Now this might be as good of an indicator because a lot of students don’t sleep much on weekends especially during football season. Another thing to look for would be to notice if you are tired a lot during the day. This is a sign that more sleep is needed.

This photo is from http://onwardstate.com

Many students resort to napping, but naps may be counterproductive at times. Naps can be used to help get you through the day after a long night, but naps should be short in nature to feel the most refreshed. Longer naps put you into a deep sleep, which can mess up your sleep schedule at night, and leave you not feeling rejuvenated. Naps are useful, if correctly used.

How much sleep do we actually need? We need enough for us to function properly. Some of us need closer to 6 hours a night, while some need closer to 10 hours a night. A person just needs to find their amount that they need in order to not build up a sleep debt each night. Naps can also help this if they are used the right way.

Why Are Dogs “Man’s Best Friend”?


Depending on the type of person you are when the word domestic pet comes up the first thing usually thought of is dog. Dogs are loyal animals that if treated properly love their owners unconditionally. But why do we consider them “Man’s Best Friend” when they’re just animals?  PBS states that the heritage of dogs traces directly to that of the gray wolf, meaning that many of the biological behaviors exhibited in wolfs are transferred directly to dogs, for example wolfs are primarily pack animals meaning they hunt in packs and are extremely loyal to each other. They use their numbers to survive in the wild and are very feral because it is necessary for their survival, however dogs are also pack animals that have been domesticated, so while they do not have a need for that kill or be killed instinct that is so common in wolves they are still fiercely loyal to those they consider part of their pack i.e. humans.

Likewise according to Psychology Today a study published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal stated that dogs seem to have similar personality traits to their owners. The study was conducted on five major personality traits:

1) Neuroticism- a persons innate disposition towards sensitivity or confidence

2) Extraversion- whether a person is open and social, usually associated with bubbly personalities

3) Agreeableness- how kind or socially inclusive someone is, whether they have a nice/friendly personality

4) Conscientiousness- which determines how proactive a person is in all aspects of life

5) Openness- this refers to the subjects willingness to try new things but according to the journal it also refers to the subjects level of intelligence.


These were all measured in the study by having the dog owners rate themselves in each of these categories and then rate their pets in the same categories. What the study found was each owner rated their pet very similarly to their own personality but researchers understood that there could potentially be some bias involved in what they referred to as “Projection” or the owners translating their own personality traits on their dogs. So to account for this bias the study also took data from other family members having them perform the same procedure in order to get a better estimate of whether or not these dogs really did manifest the same personality traits as their owners. They were shocked to find that in 4 out of the 5 personality traits even the other family members saw similar characteristics in both the dog and its owner meaning that dogs did in fact inhabit their owner’s personality traits. This is another good indicator of why dogs are our best friends, if our dogs inherit our personality traits then we are prone to loving and caring for our animal companions as they are an animal representation of ourselves.

Ibeyi, a Siberian Husky dog waits to be groomed before competing at El Salvador Kennel show in San Salvador, on February 24, 2008. Over 200 breeders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica participate in the canine beauty contest organized by El Salvador Kennel Club. AFP PHOTO/Jose CABEZAS. (Photo credit should read Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Not only that but a recent study by NPR shows that dogs understand the human language much better than we previously thought. According to MRI scans of dogs brains they get a surge of dopamine every time a praise is said with positive intonation. Scientists have recently studied dogs brains and have come to the conclusion that dogs process language in the same way that humans do, their left hemisphere processes words while their right hemisphere processes intonation so dogs are actually rewarded by their pleasure pathway every time they are praised by their owners. They only respond to praise with proper intonation though meaning that dogs can actually pick up when their owner doesn’t mean something he/she is saying. For example if the owner said “Good Boy” with a flat tone the pleasure pathway would not respond and there would be no rewarding feeling for the dog. We can conclude from this study that the way we speak to our dogs has a big impact on their levels of happiness and that when we praise our dogs properly they respond in a way that is similar to a human if we were being praised for a job well done. So all in all the take away message should be, treat your dogs right because if you do they will always have your back and they are smarter than you think.



An Advancement in the Fight against HIV/AIDS

Of all the infamous diseases, the one seemingly most feared and warned against across the country is HIV/AIDS. I can remember one of the first health classes I ever had discussing AIDS and its devastating consequences. A major focus on the disease was techniques for prevention, especially because there was no cure. Now, there may be a new insight into a special human make-up that is immune to the deadly disease.

According to The Aids Institute, the disease was discovered in 1983, where it was found that it depletes the human immune system, leaving the host completely vulnerable. Interestingly enough, AIDS does not directly kill the person it infects; rather it eliminates the human’s defense mechanism developed to protect against other deadly diseases.

However, a new study has developed enlightening the world to a group of young children in Africa who are immune to HIV/AIDS. According to CNN, an observational study following African mothers infected with the disease showed that their babies are immune. The article discusses a study done by a professor at the University of Oxford who looked at over 100 kids that were seemingly immune to the disease. After numerous blood tests, the study concluded that their immune systems were operating enough for HIV to claim its stake.

Within the study, a point of emphasis was ethics. It was decided that within the kids chosen to observe that if one of them was discovered to be HIV positive, they had to continue to give them proper treatment. Thus, even if one of the children correlated with the null hypothesis and were not immune to the virus, they must still receive medical treatment. Much like the ethics discussed in class, it is just not right to abandon a kid who has tested positive for the virus solely because he or she did not have the results that the study was hoping to find.

Observing the study discussed in the article, some of its aspects are highly credible yet others are questionable in my eye. As for what I found most impressive, the study was able to conclude a mechanism as to how the biological makeup of these kids prevented themselves from the disease, the mechanism being that the kids had too low of a working immune system for HIV to attack. On the contrary, the small size of the study makes me question the credibility of the study and whether or not it took in to account confounding third variables such as genetic makeup and family health history.

aidsOverall, there is hope in this small study in that these young kids will never be afflicted with the horrific ramification of HIV/AIDS. Maybe, further examination of the children will offer a lead into a potential cure. The possibilities are endless with this finding, I am hoping that larger and more in-depth studies will lead to more concrete findings.

Image found here

Is Home Field Advantage really an advantage?

Sports are a very large part of my life.  As great as it is to play sports, there is no greater feeling than a team you are a fan of doing well.  As a fan of a team in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NCAA basketball, and NCAA football, I am watching sports year round.  Whenever your team is playing a home game, you feel a lot better about your chances.  I’ve always wondered why this is, though. Whether your team is home or away, it is still the same game, played the exact same way.  The field/court’s have the exact same dimensions.  The same amount of people are playing on both teams.  The only difference is who the crowd is rooting for.  This leads me to the question, “Is home field advantage really an advantage”.  I am also interested in finding out why (if proven that it is an advantage) and which of the major sports home field advantage is most apparent.


First we will look the the National Football League (NFL) from 1978-2013 (8,472 games).  On average, the home team scores 22.26 points per game, while the visiting team scores 19.52 points per game, which shows that the home team outscores the road team by an average of 2,74 points per game.  In this span of games, the home team has won roughly 57% of all games.  When looking back to the past in the four major sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey), we observe every league’s winning percentage of home games.  Going back to 1903, home teams in the MLB have won 53.9% of all games played.  In the NHL, home teams have won 55.7 of their games.  In the NFL, 57.3% of all games were won by the home team.  In the NBA, the home team won 60.5% of all games played.  All of these sports, some more than others, show an advantage of playing on home soil.  Now let’s look at a different statistic.    Sbnation.com formulated a statistic showing the additional percentage of games a team could have won if every game they played was a home game.  The NBA leads all of the major sports, with a percentage of 10.11.  The next closest is the NFL, where they would have won 6.1% of extra games had they all been at home.  Following the NFL is the MLB at 5.46, which is then followed by the NHL at 5.22.  All of these percentages are positive, meaning that every team would have won more games had they played all of their games on their home field.


As much of an impact as home field advantage has on pro sports, the impact it has on college sports are even more.  In NCAA basketball, the median winning percentage for teams at home is a staggering 67.62%.  This means that half of the 351 college basketball teams had a win percentage higher than this value, and half had a win percentage lower than this value.  When we look at the 2010 and 2011 college football seasons, we see that home teams won 62.8% of their games.  College football and college basketball are the two main NCAA sports watched by fans across the country, and both of these sports have higher win percentages at home than any pro sports.


So, after reviewing statistics of six major US sports leagues, it is evident that home field advantage is, in fact, a legitimate thing.  In every league, the win percentage at home is above .500, while the winning percentage on the road is below 500.

Why is home field advantage real, though?

There are many reasons why home field advantage is though of as being a real advantage. The obvious reason is the fan support.  When playing at home, you have an entire stadium cheering for you.  This provides a lot of confidence for the home team, and a lot of nerves for the away team.  Look at Penn State football for an example.  When we host Ohio State this weekend, the stadium will be filled with 107,000 people, all wearing white supporting penn state.  As a visiting team, winning in an environment like this is not an easy thing to do.  When the stadium is roaring, the visiting team can often not hear each other talk, which hurts their ability to call plays.  There are many other effects off the field that help out a team’s performance.  One is just the comfort of your own home.  When you are playing at home, you live in your own house, with your family, and get to sleep in your own bed.  On the road, you have to stay in a hotel.  Also, road teams often have to fly to the game which tires them out, while the home team does not have to go anywhere.  The last major advantage of home field is the officiating.  Although this is not supposed to happen, there is often a home field bias.  If the referee has a difficult decision to make, they will often make it where it benefits the home team.


Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

In any sport, coaches talk about it all the time. “Practice how you play, practice makes perfect, to become a master at something, you must practice 10,000 hours at it.” But is that always the case? To the contrary, a recent study said the opposite. A Case Western Reserve University study claims that practice only accounts for 1 percent difference in individual performance and even that starting sports at an earlier age does not necessarily equal success in the sport, contrary to the belief of many soccer moms and obsessive parents across the United States. So how were scientists able to come to this conclusion?

According to the study, the researchers were able to reach this conclusion based on analysis of 52 different data sets looking at how practice translates to performance. While this study would be monumental if true, it seems a bit unrealistic at first. And even if it were proved correct, would it change the culture around youth sports in the US? There is no doubt that many parents would still continue to push their children to be the best at their respective sports, having them “specialize” in a specific sport and pressuring them into joining AAU teams and practicing 7 days a week, year-round.

In general, the study estimated that only 18% of why athletes preform better than others is due to practice. The other 82% can apparently be attributed to other reasons that were not specified. Brooke Macnamara was the lead author of the study and she spoke about a limitation of the study. “The concept of 10,000 hours taps into the American ideal of hard work and dedication leading naturally to excellence. But it does not account for the inherent differences across people and across sports.” So where do these differences come from? According to ScienceAlert, it could come from various intellectual, psychological and genetic factors like muscle mass and memory capacity.

The second main idea from the study was the finding that beginning to play sports at a younger age does not necessarily have an impact on being a higher-skilled athlete further down the road. The findings do contradict prior research by others in the field that say starting sports at a younger age does help athletes. The argument from the CWRU study stated that the mantra of starting youth sports earlier can lead to a burnout as parents are unsure of whether their child even likes the sport. So is there a way to determine whether any of these findings have basis?

The main limitation of Macnamara’s study and the field as a whole is the absence of a mechanism to measure the accuracy of any findings. While parents who are sport-obsessed and want their kids practicing constantly might be unethical, they could still be making the right decisions if they want their child to become an elite athlete in a given sport. While Macnamara thinks that more effort could be put into this research, she admits that there will never be complete certainty as to predicting the future of an athlete, whether it spells failure or success.


They congregate in large numbers at youth sporting events. Link: https://media.makeameme.org/created/crazy-parents-crazy.jpg


Hrala, Josh. “Sorry Guys, Practice Alone Won’t Make You Good at Sports.” ScienceAlert. ScienceAlert, 17 June 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.

“Sports Practice Accounts for Just One Percent of the Performance Differences among Elite Athletes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.

Picture Link:


Oysters: Nature’s Brita Filter?

I was browsing through the front page of reddit, a popular content gathering site, looking through interesting articles and pictures when suddenly I came upon this picture that was posted:

The title of the post claimed that both tanks had been filled with water from the exact same source and time, the only difference is that the tank on the right has oysters placed in it. Being on the very front page of reddit meant that a lot of people were wondering the same thing that I was: are these oysters actually filtering the water? As it turns out, the answer is yes!

Much to my disbelief, there was no fluke going on with this image. No other process was going on in order to make the water appear clearer. The oysters were actually filtering the tank, and they were doing it for their food source! The mechanism is through the process of “filter feeding,” a task typically performed by bi-valve mollusks. According to In A Half Shell, oysters’ primary diet consists of small plankton and algae that is floating around the water. “Bi-valve” indicates two valves for the animal; one to suck in water, and one to expel water. Once sucked in, the water is filtered through the gills of the oyster. Plant material, plankton, and other particles are trapped along the mucousy portion of the gills and taken to the stomach for digestion. Digested food is excreted as feces, and the remaining undigested particles are then expelled back as pseudofeces, undigested food particles covered in mucous. To add for clarification: the feces and pseudofeces are not expelled out through the second valve, but out of the oyster’s anus. The second valve spits out filtered water after it has been taken in through the first valve and has gone through the filtering process. Through this mechanism oysters get fed and the waters get cleaned up: a real win-win scenario.

The post had a picture of oysters, however I thought to myself, “can other bi-valves do this?” Can clams, mussels, and scallops clean up our waters as well? After some digging online, I found that the answer is a yes. All bi-valve mollusks are capable of filtering water using the same type of digestion system, oysters are no special exception. However, oysters apparently do the best job at it. When fully grown, Eastern oysters are able to filter as much as 50 gallons per day (In A Half Shell). To put that in perspective, that is about as much water as you can fit in a modern bathtub being filtered by an organism the size of your wallet!

Well if the ocean is full of oysters, many of which are capable of filtering large quantities of water, then why is our coastline still full of dirty water? Unfortunately, there may not be as many oysters as we think. Due to overfishing of these mollusks (overclamming?) as well as drastic changes in the water of the East Coast, oyster and other mollusk populations have been whittled down dramatically. In particular, the Chesapeake Bay region near Virginia and Maryland has been hit very hard by this problem. According to an article from baybackpack, the oyster population used to be able to filter the entirety of Chesapeake Bay in less than a week’s time. The oyster population now stands at only 1% of that former glory, and it is estimated that it would take about a year to filter the entirety of the bay. With mollusk populations down, the waters of the Chesapeake do not get the typical filtration that they need, leaving very dirty water with high algae count.

Taken from the Chesapeake Bay Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (http://chesapeakebay.noaa.gov/fish-facts/oysters)

Taken from the Chesapeake Bay Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (http://chesapeakebay.noaa.gov/fish-facts/oysters)

Hope appears to be on the horizon, however. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been working hard in attempting to restore oyster populations back to their former glory. Although it will be a very long time to recover from this low, they believe that increasing the oyster populations will be key in increasing the quality of our ecosystems on the East Coast. NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office has been working since 1997 in an effort to accomplish this around the Virginia and Maryland area. From then until 2009, NOAA spent over $30,000,000 on this project, and the efforts still continue today. They have created “harvest” areas for which it is okay to clam there, and “sanctuary” areas for the oyster populations to grow and develop. They have also created better environments for the oysters to flourish, so that they can live in homes better than the ones destroyed by overfishing during the 19th and 20th centuries.

They may be oysters, but with progress getting better and better for them, you could say that they’re happy as a clam.



How deep below the Earth’s surface do earthquakes start?

The western coast of the United States is one of the most earthquake-vulnerable areas in the world. Throughout the 20th century, several earthquakes have ravaged the area, including a 2.9 magnitude quake that happened this past Monday in Truckee, a small town which is along California’s eastern border near Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately for residents of California, not every earthquake was as harmless or insignifcant as the one on Monday. According to conservation.ca.gov, California has fallen victim to two 7.9 magnitude earthquakes in 1857 and 1906. An earthquake even postponed game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics; as both teams prepared for the big game a 6.9 earthquake rattled Candlestick Park and the surrounding areas.

Image result for giants athletics earthquake

The scene at Candlestick Park after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rattled California’s Bay Area prior to Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics & the San Francisco Giants (FOX Sports)

A new study by the California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech, shows that earthquakes originate deeper below the earth’s surface than we thought. For years, seismologists believed that earthquakes originated anywhere between 12-15 feet below the Earth’s surface, but this study found that earthquakes can originate well deeper than 15 feet below the surface. Three scientists from Caltech studied the Newport-Inglewood Fault Zone, one of the most dangerous in Southern California. According to the LA Times, this particular fault zone is responsible for the 6.4 magnitude Long Beach earthquake of 1933, which caused $40 million in property damage and 115 deaths, according to the US Geological Survey. The findings of Caltech’s study were found based on six months worth of data from over 5000 sensors installed underground in Long Beach, CA. It studied each earthquakes’ density, seismicity and helium ratios, and also looked at the earthquakes’ size distribution in Long Beach only.

The Earthquakes’ size distribution in Long Beach (Asaf Inbal, Jean Paul Ampuero, Robert W. Clayton, California Institute of Technology)

So what does this mean? Why is it important that earthquakes originate below 15 feet under the Earth’s surface? Earthquakes on the surface of the Earth can now travel much deeper below the Earth’s surface, which means that they will be bigger, more violent and cause more damage and fatalities. While there is almost no way to stop earthquakes from happening, this leads to many other questions about the state of our planet. Why do earthquakes travel so deep below the Earth’s surface? What else could earthquakes traveling deeper below the surface cause?

Jean Paul Ampuero, one of the three authors of the study by Caltech, first got the idea that something was wrong when an 8.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Indian Ocean. The current belief of earthquakes originating 12-15 feet below the surface wasn’t consistent with an earthquake as strong as that. As a result, Ampuero, Asaf Inbal and Robert W. Clayton all got to work, and found that the belief that earthquakes originated 12-15 feet below the surface of the Earth was wrong, which shows that, as seen multiple times in class, scientists are wrong most of the time.

Does having a pet increase happiness?

I am an animal lover who has two dogs at my home away from State College. I miss my two dogs very much as I’m sure many of you miss your pets when you leave for school. I would take my dogs to school with me if I could, but sadly I cannot. My dogs always cheer me up whenever I am having a bad day, which is great while I am at home but not so great when I am 3 hours away from them at Penn State. This observation lead me to believe that there may be a positive correlation between owning a pet and increased happiness.

Source – http://bestdogfood-review.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/happydog.jpg

Psychology Today conducted three different studies which focused on the positive effects having a pet can do for someone. In one study 56 dog owners reported that their dog fulfilled social needs more than other people did. Social needs include but are not limited to a sense of belonging, control and self-esteem. It was also found that these 56 dog owners were happier and healthier than non-owners meaning that the owners were overall less-depressed, have greater self-esteem, are less lonely and less stressed. In another study which involved 217 community members, “pet owners were more physically fit, more conscientious, were more socially outgoing and had healthier relationship styles than people who did not own pets” (McConnell, 2011). While these two studies point to a positive effect between owning a pet and overall health and happiness, they are not experiments conducted in a controlled environment. The third experiment conducted by Psychology today was conducted in a controlled environment however, a laboratory.  For this controlled experiment 97 pet owners were made to either feel socially accepted or socially rejected. Those who were socially rejected either wrote about their pet, write about their best friend, or draw a map of campus (control). Those in the control group, who drew a map, reported that they felt worse after being socially rejected. The control group demonstrates that the social rejection that was manipulated was successful. The same social rejection techniques were applied to other two groups of people as well and the other two groups were equally as happy even though one group wrote about their dog and one group wrote about their best (human) friend. This shows that people can find happiness from their dogs as much as people find happiness from their best friends. This is a correlation that equates with dogs giving people happiness.

Source – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/e5/91/5f/e5915fbb99f92d8b8609e16820245059.jpg

While these three studies point to evidence that dogs increase people’s happiness I wanted to find another source in order to have more than one site as my source of information about this topic. According to Humana.com a study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that owning   a pet leads to lower stress and depression levels. In another study sponsored by the National Health Institute which followed 2,500 adults from ages 71 to 82 years old. The study found that those who owned dogs had higher stamina, walked faster and for longer periods of time, and were more mobile within their own homes. This study did not directly track the amount of happiness that these people received from their pets but I believe that the factors that this study did track can also correlate with happiness. I believe that the people who own dogs are happier than those who don’t because they are more active and lead a healthier lifestyle. This means they are less likely to be sick and/ or practically stuck in their homes because it is too hard for them to move for an extended period of time. This last part is purely speculation on my part but I do believe that owning a pet increases a person’s happiness and quality of life.


Psychology Today Source – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-self/201107/friends-benefits-pets-make-us-happier-healthier


Humana Source – https://www.humana.com/learning-center/health-and-wellbeing/mental-health/pets

Placebos are more powerful than we thought

The placebo has always been a vital part to experiments- making patients believe they are receiving a treatment but in reality they are really not having any medication. This creates a control group which allows experimenters to compare with the experiment group. This all works behind the idea that the placebo does not affect the subject. However, placebos are very powerful and the ‘placebo effect’ is a real thing. The placebo effect is when your body thinks you are taking the real the drug or treatment and reacts almost as if you had the real drug or treatment. Placebos are so powerful that people have even become addicted to them (Keogh 2011). This video  goes much deeper into the effects of placebos and I would suggest watching it.

Image result for placebo effect

image via viralthread.com

The ‘placebo effect’ lives on the fact that subjects believe they are actually receiving the real treatment. So what happens if you tell them that they are taking a pill full of sugar? You think that nothing would happen, but could the placebo be powerful enough to do the opposite? The study titled Open-label placebo treatment in chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial showed that placebos can even cause a change when the subject knows it is a placebo. The published abstract can be found here. The Science Explorer, thankfully, published an understandable non-scientist version. 97 individuals who all suffer from lower back pain were taken and entered into this 3 week study. The individuals were allowed to continue taking their pain medication, but they could not change their medication (or dosage) or make any lifestyle changes. Thus, the placebo group should have had no change in their level of pain. Before the experiment began, every individual involved had the placebo effect explained to them so they knew how it worked. The subjects knowing how the placebo effect worked should have helped to avoid the placebo effect happening even when patients knew they had a placebo. From this point, the 97 individuals were randomized into  treatment-as-usual (TAU) and open-label placebo (OLP). The subjects in the OLP group were given a bottle of pills labeled “placebo pills” and instructed to take two pills twice everyday. On the pill bottle it was explicitly clear that there were no active ingredients and the pills only contained microcrystalline cellulose.

3-weeks later, the experimenters had very interesting data. Subjects in the OLP group showed a 30% decrease in both usual and maximum pain. In the TAU group there was only a 9% decrease in usual pain and a 16% decrease in maximum pain.

What could have possible made a group taking a fake pill, that they knew was fake, have significant differences in pain levels. Ted Kaptchuk, one of the primary researches in the experiment, believes that participants were so involved in a treatment process, even though they knew nothing was being done, that they were able to show improvements. He believes that the process of going through treatment, even when none is being done, is influential enough to make the brain think that something is better. While it will never be possible to use a placebo to cure cancer or actually fix a problem, it does have the ability to make patients feel better- and that is a huge positive.

The data shows that the subjects taking the placebo had improvements and the researchers believe they have a mechanism to explain why this happens, so should people take placebos? I believe it really depends on the situation, and there is a situation that this could be extremely beneficial. For instance if a patient has an allergy to a medication (one that is not necessary for their survival but helps improve their symptoms) they could take the placebo and by the findings of this study, feel better. Of course more research needs to be done for a better conclusion to this subject, but there is really no negatives to putting it into practice. There is nothing lost, besides time and minimal money compared to other treatment methods, from implementing a placebo treatment. More research should be done, but in the meantime, it can be assumed that people will show improvements in certain areas if they go through a open-label placebo treatment.






What Baseball’s Decline says about our Attention Spans

Is baseball no longer America’s pastime?  Why does it seem that this traditional American sport is losing more and more popularity by the year?  The sport originated before the Civil War, and the first league was created in 1876. It is a classic.  I have certainly loved every second of playing baseball when I was younger and I know many feel the same way.  It is a sad reality to see a possible decline of the sport but why is this in the first place? Why does it seem like this respectable sport cannot keep up with professional football, basketball or even hockey in regard to television ratings?  Attendance is down for 18 ball clubs, and television ratings for several networks like Fox and ESPN are at lows.  Can this correlation be explained using science?


Attendance decline since 2007 around the same time the first iPhone was released

The Question?

We live in a fast-paced internet world.  Information and highlights are viewed and shared at the click of the mouse, or touch of a screen.  It seems logical that a faced-paced internet generation led by video games and twitter would more likely enjoy faced paced action packed sports like football and basketball, right?  Attention spans are rapidly decreasing and this is not fairing to the slow, more thought out game of baseball.  This definitely seems to be showing as ratings and attendance take a hit for the sport.  The Huffington Post shared an eye-opening statistic about the MLB, 50 percent of baseball viewers are 50 or older.  This speaks volumes to the younger generation maybe giving a hint into the attention span claim.


Attention Span Study

Perhaps the most talked about and impressive study on attention span was done by Microsoft which stated human attention spans had dropped from 12 seconds in 2000, to 8 seconds.  The news grabbing headline for this study was that this proclaimed the human attention span is less than that of a goldfish.  The trial surveyed 2,000 Canadian participants in an observational study, and scanned the brains of 112 of them to conclude the attention span decline over the decade.  The recent excessive smart phone use seemed to be the clear culprit.  The survey showed signs of constantly checking social media created a lack of focus as 19% of tech users switch to the next task or new thing within 10 seconds.  According to the study, since there is so many opportunities to find rewarding information on the internet or on a social media site, the users are constantly searching for that release of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter for a good feeling in the brain.  Something Is definitely going on here but does it relate to our initial question?

Does this correlate? It’s no wonder the slow-moving strategic sport of baseball is losing interest.  How can a game of waiting and long observation, connect to a generation raised on information given to them in an instant?  It seems for the ones who aren’t patient enough there will never be a solution.  It is highly unlikely for baseball to tweak its rules or play style to accommodate a new generation.  Will the sport survive?

Will it Survive?

Even though it seems like the attention span is a direct correlation to the recent lessened popularity of baseball, there are so many third variables needing to be considered in this observation.  Correlation does not always equal causation, and while it is very probable that the lowered attention spans due to social media and technology (courtesy of the Microsoft Study) contribute to the decrease ratings, youth involvement in the sport, etc., it’s not the only thing to blame.   Many things like a select few MLB power houses, bad televised matchups, and the rise of other new televised events all can create a seeming decline.  We also have to take into account that all professional sports experience high and lows (the baseball ratings now are beating those from the 80s).  Even though it seems like baseball is in worse shape, I think the sport will definitely have a place even with this new more distracted generation.

MLB’s Best Playoff Moments


The Telegraph

Microsoft Study

Huffington Post

SB Nation

History Channel

Another SB Nation Article

Photo Credit:



The real reason we lose our hair

There’s this myth that has been going around I’m assuming for a long time now that says that wearing hats is the reason why men lose their hair. I have a lot of uncles and cousins who wear hats and over the years they have lost their hair. I’m wondering If I’m up next since I wear hats very often. With that being said Is there an actual correlation between wearing hats and hair loss or is it just a myth.

I did some research on the topic and was able to find out that wearing hats isn’t a cause of hair loss. According to this really cool article written by Angel Haupt of the U.S. News that focuses on myths on hair loss. She debunks the myth of wearing hats and losing hair. It does say that the most common types of hair loss and baldness patterns are in reality due to damaged hair-making progenitor cells. In this same article it says that wearing hats doesn’t cause hair loss but it does mention that you shouldn’t wear the same hat frequently because wearing hats that are dirty can cause infections to your scalp and in turn speed up hair loss.

I searched around some more and here I was able to find more information on hair loss. There is a condition called Androgenetic Alopecia which is thinning of hair hair due to hereditary by androgens in genetically susceptible individuals Male or female. It is found that thinning of hair begins within the ages of 12 and 40 years old and about half of the population suffers from this by the age of 50.

So we now know that there is some correlation between hats and hair loss but hats of themselves don’t cause hair loss. There are other factors that cause hair loss and even a condition that causes thinning of hair. At the end of the day you can wear hats and not fear that it will cause your hair to fall out; but make sure you don’t wear dirty hats because that can speed up the process!

Sites: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/mens-health/articles/2011/02/22/what-causes-hair-loss-9-myths-about-baldness

Rushton, D. H., et al. “Causes of hair loss and the developments in hair rejuvenation.” International journal of cosmetic science 24.1 (2002): 17-23.

Image: http://images.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/1324328988_hair-loss-stats-every-man-should-know_6.jpg

Does Drinking Water Prevent Hangovers?

One of the distinct pieces of advice I walked out of New Student Orientation with was to drink a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage you drink in order to prevent feeling hungover the next day. The logic behind this is that you’d be combating dehydration caused by alcohol (either by excess urination or vomiting) by hydrating your body with waterAccording to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms associated with the overconsumption of alcohol include: mood swings, headaches, increased sensitivity, disorientation, and vomiting, among many other hangover-dogeffects. After seeing so many people wearing sunglasses and buying bottles of coconut water Saturday and Sunday evenings at work, I began to wonder if this method of preventing dehydration was actually true. And if it was, maybe I could save a life and tell the next hungover person I saw: “Hey, I don’t know if you know this, but drinking water after consuming alcohol will make you feel less like a walking zombie and more like a semi-conscious human being the day after partying; it’s scientifically proven.” However, this statement hasn’t been proven, and there are two sides to the question: drinking water prevents hangovers and drinking water doesn’t prevent hangovers.

I came across this article titled “7 Evidence-Based Ways to Prevent Hangovers”, which seems ironic because the actual content of the article presents no evidence whatsoever. This was a recurring pattern prevalent in the research I conducted; articles would claim that drinking water cured hangovers, yet they didn’t really show any concrete evidence confirming this. Scientists have even published that they do not necessarily understand the causes of hangovers. If scientists themselves can’t really prove anything, then where are all these people getting this information from? It seems like these claims that water prevents hangovers are heavily reliant on anecdotal evidence, but we already know that storytelling isn’t concrete evidence. In the same manner, there are a lot of third variables woven in between this statement. For example, a person’s level of resistance to alcohol, if the person ate throughout the night, or the amount of alcohol consumed can affect whether the person will be hungover the next day.

Some studies argued that drinking water alone won’t prevent your hangover, but it can help minimize the effects associated with hangovers. After having over 25% of people in a study report that they are immune to hangovers, Canadian and Dutch scientists in the Utrecht University conducted a controlled experiment with over 789 Canadian students to understand drinking habits. They took into consideration students’ alcohol consumption, the time span during the consumption of these beverages, and how severe their hangover symptoms were the next day. With these surveys, scientists found that students were drinking too little to experience hangover symptoms the next day– students that reported hangover immunity had blood alcohol levels of less than 0.10% (third variable). To further investigate the effects of hangovers, the scientists asked 826 Dutch students if they succeeded in preventing being hungover by drinking water/eating fatty foods during and after a night of drinking. About 54% of students surveyed reported eating or drinking water after consuming alcohol. Nevertheless, students also reported that although they felt slightly better than if they had not consumed food and water, these methods didn’t prevent them from being hungover.*

When I started researching if water was actually effective for reducing the effects of alcohol, I expected to find articles confirming the statement. To my surprise, some articles surfaced negating the “myth” that water is a hangover remedy. I always thought that this statement was a fact. I figured that not only does drinking lots of water throughout the night help keep you hydrated and less thirsty, it also makes you less likely to excessively consume alcohol if you have a full bladder. In this case, although there were a lot of articles “confirming” that water helps cure hangovers, the only evidence presented was that drinking water doesn’t prevent hangovers. Therefore, even though it might lessen hangover symptoms such as thirst, it is not a proven scientific fact that drinking a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage consumed can prevent hangovers from occurring.

*If you’re looking for a way to prevent hangovers, the best way to do this is by abstaining from alcohol consumption.

**Click on the meme for a relatable Buzzfeed post!

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