Daily Archives: October 19, 2016

What makes people attractive?

Introduction:

You can be nice and say that you are only interested in an individual if they have a good personality or you have a special connection but lets be real. You are looking for someone who is generally attractive physically. When we try to grasp our brains around that image of attractiveness, qualities run through our heads of what we prefer.  There is a special sort of bracket of attractiveness that our brains all look for. We might say that we prefer blondes over brunettes, or blue eyes over brown eyes. But in reality people tend to focus on what they prefer in their partner and lose sight of qualities that actually decide attractiveness. In reality, there is a more scientific reason to why we find people attractive rather than what we prefer or observe as individuals. The concept of of attractiveness can be broken up between of course physical features but also things that aren’t physical, for example, personality.  The science behind attractiveness is extremely unique and can be proved with factual information that I am about to supply.

Traits that prove to make more people attractive through data sets.

Traits that prove to make more people attractive through data sets.

Definition of attractiveness:

According to dictionary.com, the concept of attractiveness can be described as something or someone that provides a sort of pleasure especially in terms of physical attributes. Attractiveness as a definition and as a concept described by individuals are very far off. Both the definition and what the human brain defines as attractive focus on physical appearance.

Creepy picture that breaks down traits that the brain deems attractive

Creepy picture that breaks down traits that the brain deems attractive

The science of attractiveness and relation to class: 

The first thing we do when we meet a person we have never met nor seen before, without even sometimes noticing, is judging that individual on their attractiveness. It is just and instinct of the human brain. The brain processes the persons physical traits such as facial symmetry, voice, height, posture, and many other characteristics to immediately determine the level of attractiveness.

This video, posted by Brain Signal and used on psychologytoday.com, explains the science of attractiveness as a whole. It breaks down the reasons why and how people see others as attractive. The process starts as early as when a human is in the womb, where a chemical is released at different stages during pregnancy. The time at which the chemical is released determines traits and levels of attractiveness that the child will obtain as they grow and mature. The video featured on psychologytoday.com explains the science behind the traits that make people attractive.  It questions the process of which traits are developed to make someone attractive, which as just explained, starts as early as in the womb.

In class we learned in depth, what science means. We observed that science can be described as the want or desire to explain the world like it is through, “testing a hypothesis about what causes certain things.” (A. Read, What is Science?, V. 3.0) Andrew explained that data that is gathered is what is used to support the hypothesis. Even though it might seem obvious, there needs to be enough data to do so and thoroughly give support. In the case of understanding what traits make people attractive, there are studies that do just that.

When looking at the science behind what traits people find appealing, the world of business is one environment that very clearly supports the concept In business it is often thought that people who are in theory, more attractive, generate more sales and or revenue. The Association for Consumer Research defends this hypothesis by gathering data from past studies and observations.  Anne M. Brumbaugh of Duke University who is the coordinator of this study starts by developing the hypothesis as questioning whether there are other factors aside from physically attractive traits that can effect a buyer when presented with an attractive seller. The Null hypothesis of this study would be that there is no relation between people who have traits that the brain deems attractive selling more than people who are not viewed as attractive. The Alternate hypothesis is that the people with traits the brain processes as attractive indeed tend to produce more revenue than those who do not. The conclusion settles on the fact that sellers who are observed with attractive features are more apt to sell and generate more revenue. For examples, the study observes that people with traits such as facial symmetry, blue eyes, higher forward, tall and good stature, and blond hair, which are scientifically proven attractive traits, in fact sell more. This data is just one set that supports the scientific skepticism behind traits that make people attractive.

Universal example of an a person who holds attractive traits. Some being facial symmetry, high forehead, moderate facial hair (for men)

Universal example of an a person who holds attractive traits. Some being facial symmetry, high forehead, moderate facial hair (for men)

Conclusion:

Attractiveness as a science is a concept that when explained correctly and supported with data can be understood and accepted. Some people ignore the fact that there are traits that our brains immediately detect when meeting individuals and choose to believe that other factors are responsible for deeming people attractive. But with data and studies, certain physical traits can be understood as attractive features. Many studies have been conducted to support this theory, some more examples being the scienceofpeople.com article and the telegraph.co.uk post on the universal viewpoint and theories behind attractiveness which list traits such as finger length, height, physical stature, posture, hair color, and many other features. As learned from this post using various studies and examples, the term attractiveness can be summed up as a compilation of traits that the brain categorizes as physically appealing due to chemicals and other factors.

Here is one last example of a person with universally viewed attractive qualities.kate-upton

Citations:

telegraph.co.uk

scienceofpeople.com

elitedaily.com

huffingtonpost.com

businessinsider.com

acrwebsite.org

psychologytoday.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are you fidgeting, eh?

At some point in your life, have you ever: Tapped your foot? Spun your pencil? Flipped your hair? Bit your lip? These are all signs of what we call “fidgeting”. Fidgeting is defined as using toys or movements to help keep us focused on what we are seeing, hearing or reading. Especially those with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder), having an object that they can essentially “play with” can stimulate their brain and help them focus better. I am highly guilty of fidgeting and it may be linked to my excessive watching of Spongebob as a kid (a study had tried to prove that watching Spongebob increased ADD). Like I said, I have always fidgeted and there is no time like today to find out why this phenomenon occurs.

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Reading a lecture, typing a blog, or listening to someone talk for more than 5 minutes can create feelings of boredom or anxiety. This is one of the most common reasons of why we choose to fidget–anxiety creates a high amount of stress hormones, which gear your muscles for immediate activity. You probably aren’t the guy with a Go Pro cliff jumping right next to a Great White, so all of that energy that you have will need to go somewhere else and jiggling your leg. for example, is a good way to subdue that.

The authors, Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright, of Fidget To Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies For Living With ADHDgive another reason of why we fidget. In their book, they explain that fidgeting is a way of diverting the “bored” part of your brain so that the other parts can focus on the task at hand. They called this “floating attention” which could be tied back with prehistoric times. This occurs when fixating on one thing is not sensible because this could result in the “person missing the large ravenous beast behind the bushes”, as the authors wrote.

According to WhyWeFidget, there was a study conducted in 2005 explaining that fidgeting improved performance on memory tests. According to the researchers, this is because it lowers the level of cortisol (a stress hormone that has been known to interfere with learning).

There are also studies on how fidgeting effects our productivity. According to the Studies On Fidget Benefits, kids who are allowed to fidget in class rapidly absorb more than those who are not. There has been research done on the fact that handwriting notes increases creativity and memory while typing does not have such benefits and makes very annoying sounds. I have always hand written my notes and when exam time comes, I feel that I absorbed the material so much that studying is not as important as rewriting what I was taught over and over. This may be getting a little off subject, but I highly recommend handwriting notes because all the information in this blog supports the idea that “doodling” (which always always happens when handwriting) can boost memory and attention span.

In summary, fidgeting does many things: keeps us focused, exerts our anxious energy and improves our productivity. It also helps us who have ADD/ADHD learn because we can distract our brain with a mechanism of our choosing (toy, movement) and enhance learning opportunities. HOWEVER, by no means necessary, am I saying it is OK to: flip you hair a million times, click a pen top a million times, hit your knee on the under part of the desk a million times…you see what I’m saying. Fidget in moderation and do your best to not distract others.

Keep Calm and Fidget.

Sources:

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/add-adhd/5-types-of-fun-fidgets-for-kids-with-adhd#slide-2

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/a3/9e/3f/a39e3f99c4284f0e7c951d86e89b3472.gif

http://www.sciencefocus.com/qa/why-do-we-fidget

https://www.fastcompany.com/3044026/the-science-of-why-we-fidget-while-we-work

Does Birth Control Increase Your Risk for Certain Cancers?

Birth control pills are one of the most commons forms of birth control and have been widely used by females for decades.  A person’s reason for taking it often varies from the most obvious reason, to avoid pregnancy.  While that is a top reason, many females also take it to help with menstrual pains such as headache and cramps as well as to clear up acne.  Birth control has many advantages however it has been said that it may increase one’s risk of cancer.  In class we recently discussed cancer trails which got me wanting to research into the effects of birth control on cancer risk more closely.

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It is believed that birth control pills may increase one’s risk of having breast cancer.  In 1996 researchers reviewed 54 studies that examined birth control and breast cancer.  The review concluded that women who took birth control pills, specifically pills containing both progestin and estrogen, had an increased risk of breast cancer for as long as ten years going off of the pill.  However, after ten years the increased risk due to birth control went away and a women’s risk of having breast cancer went down to the level it was before using birth control. So while a women’s risk of breast cancer was increased while using birth control, it is hard to say if that was completely because of birth control.  There may have been other variables contributing, such as age and even smoking, as researchers have found smoking may increase one’s risk of breast cancer.

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In addition to increasing the risk of breast cancer, birth control pills have also been found to increase a women’s risk of having cervical cancer.  Researchers have found similarly to breast cancer, taking birth control pills for five to ten years makes a women form a higher risk for cervical cancer.  Data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2002 saw a four times higher risk in women who took birth control pills than women who never have.  However, similarly again to breast cancer, ten years after women stopped taking birth control their risk of having cervical cancer returned to their pre birth control levels.

Now I wonder, why is it that the increased risk of cancer goes away years after women stop taking birth control pills?  I found very little research on this so I am going to propose the hypothesis that the increased risk of cancer goes away because the additional progesterone and estrogen hormones are no longer entering the body. In addition to this, we must remember that there may be other variables that cause the increased risk of cancer in the first place, such as family history, age, weight, and other exposures.

Sources:

“Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/oral-contraceptives-fact-sheet>

Miller, By Kelli. “Birth Control & Cancer: Which Methods Raise, Lower Risk.” Birth Control & Cancer: Which Methods Raise, Lower Risk. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/birth-control-cancer-which-methods-raise-lower-risk>

“Cancer & Birth Control | Boulder | Denver | CU Ob/Gyn.” University of Colorado OBGYN Family Planning. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <https://obgyn.coloradowomenshealth.com/patients/medical-library/medical-conditions-and-birth-control/cancer/>

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Chinese Restaurant Syndrome!!

Does Chinese food cause headaches?  When my brother and I were younger, I can vividly remember eating at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants at the local mall with the bright yellow sign. (This helped me create a rule of thumb: Don’t trust the restaurants with the neon yellow signs) It was a tiny little joint with all the food sitting there, warmed buffet style under a light, right in front of you. This seems to be the setup of most of the lower end ones.  About an hour after chowing down our orange chicken and spring rolls, my brother would complain about a pretty nasty headache.  It almost happened like clockwork; it was uncanny. Even if we ate at a similar restaurant this would happen to him.  My mom made him stop, saying it was the MSG in the food causes the discomfort.  I had not the slightest clue what that was, but it turns out she may have been on to something.

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The Scoop on MSG

MSG or Monosodium Glutamate is a common food additive used to enhance flavor.  Glutamate alone is found in many common foods like cheese and fish, however MSG is fermented or extracted sort of like the process used to make beer. Like my anecdotal story above, it is commonly used in Chinese food and many other processed and canned goods.  MSG is not something new.  It has been used since just after World War II after its flavor potential was discovered in Japan, then patented when the scientist realized it could be a hit.  Through the 20th century, MSG has definitely been something discussed in regards to safety and how it affects those who consume it.  Many scientists have done animal and placebo tests to attempt to uncover if indeed it is harmful.  To date, the FDA only labels Monosodium Glutamate as generally recognized as safe.  We should believe the FDA, right? Are these trials and anecdotal stories enough to show there may be something to worry about or is this all a hoax?

The Tests

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome has been a term used since the 1960s referring to these supposed negative effects of MSG.  This controversy has been a real question stirring experimentation with scientists then, and even still today as the controversy continues.  There is also the people that merely think this syndrome is the power of suggestion which creates seemingly very real physical symptoms.  Some of the anecdotal symptoms, like by my brother reported, were headache, sweating, chest/head numbness, and nausea.  These symptoms are precisely what scientists were looking for while putting MSG to the test.

Two blind placebo studies were conducted.  Scientists Morselli and Garatini used a sample of 24 people and fed broth to them every 20 minutes.  The control group said they had no such symptoms while the participants who received MSG in their soup claimed they did.  Keep in mind this would probably result in a relatively high p-value that this was due to chance because of the small study.  However, also interestingly a scientist named Richard Kenney, MD, fed claimers of MSG sickness soda with MSG and soda with no MSG. They reacted the same way to both the drinks with and without the MSG. Other early experiments claimed that MSG made mice obese.  They suspected a correlation between the Monosodium and damage to the brain resulting in the weight gain.

Just Stories or Real Danger?

These small and somewhat conflicting studies seem no more convincing than the anecdotal stories.  The fact that the FDA has not done more extensive investigation or regulation of MSG probably hints it is a means of food sensitivity, rather than a real hazard to health.  If MSG was actually dangerous I think we would know it by now considering it has been used in commercially sold foods for almost 75 years.  If you seem to be experiencing some reaction to foods containing it, do yourself a favor and stay away from them. There is most likely something going on here even if it’s something minuscule.  It is probable from the volume of small studies and stories that MSG correlates to some kind of discomfort and reaction in certain people. Luckily many restaurants specify if they do not have MSG (Panda Express at the HUB) to help all those suffering from Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.

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MSG YouTube

Sources:

Harvard.edu

Georgetown Faculty.edu

Mayo Clinic

Truth in Labeling

FDA

Study Outlined on Science Direct

Photo Credits:

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Night Owl or Morning Person?

I think we can all agree that 8 am classes are the worst.  It’s probably safe to assume that a majority of college students would classify themselves as night owls as opposed to morning people.  But which type of lifestyle is better for you?

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It turns out that the difference between night owls and morning people isn’t just when they choose to go to bed.  In fact, the makeup of the brain differs between the people in each group. According to huffingtonpost.com, researchers from Aachen University in Germany have studied the brain composition of several people who claim to be night owls and morning people.  The study consisted of 59 people.  16 were classified as early risers, 23 were night owls, and 20 were “intermediate”.  The study found that relative to the morning people and intermediates, the night had significantly less white matter in the brain.  White matter is the tissue that helps communication among the nerve cells.  There is no clear mechanism yet, but the researchers think it has to do with “social jet lag”.  The term refers to the fact that night owls want to stay up all night and do things, but are forced to wake up early to societal obligations like work or school.

Some other differences the Aachen University scientists found were that people who stayed up later were at a higher risk for depression.  They were also more inclined for tobacco and alcohol use, or food consumption (may be attributed to midnight snacking).  On the bright side however, night owls also seemed to be more productive during the day than early birds.  According to rodalewellness.com,  researchers from Belgium and Switzerland conducted a study with 31 participants (16 morning people and 15 night owls).  The researchers had them sleep for 7 hours overnight and then perform several tasks related to sustained attention.  Both groups performed the tasks similarly, however, the difference showed later in the day.  About 10 hours after waking up, the night owls showed higher levels of activity in parts of the brain related to attention.  The morning people were also more tired and had slower reaction time.  So, unsurprisingly, night owls seemed to be better at having energy later on in the day and night.

Now the conclusions from these studies sound very logical and easy to follow.  However, they did extremely small sample sizes.  And it appears that the way they got the participants was from volunteers which also could have skewed the results and therefore render the conclusion not very representative of everyone.

Stress and College

 

 

For many students, coming to college and moving away can be very challenging. Adapting to a new routine each day, encountering different people, and of course harder academic work can cause some headaches for you. It is almost half way through the first semester here at Penn State,and everyday I hear either a friend or classmate, or myself complaining about the amount of work that they have to due. Oh, and the stress that it causes them. Stress can be defined as “Your body’s way of responding to a threat”, practically speaking. There are two separate and distinctive attributes while dealing with stress, while stress is the affects on your body, there is something called a stressor. A stressor is something that causes you to have this stress, for example a math test or a first date can be a stressor.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145855.php

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145855.php

We learned that stress is your body’s was of responding to a threat but what happens when a person experiences stress? Well one can look at stress in two opposite ways, positive or negative. Clearly we all know that stress affects one more on the negative side than the positive side. With a person that is dealing with stress, one would experience a rise in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as a lack of sleep or even tense muscles.
Those are the physical effects of what stress can do to you, those may even be what you consider symptoms of stress. There are others that include biting your nails or chest pain. Many college students experience stress during their tenures studying at the university, the statistics support it as well. 75% of people experience anxiety by the age of 22. Not just any simple headache, but an anxiety attack. 80% of people claim that they have experienced stress during college. That means for every 10 people, 8 of them are being affected negatively in some instance. The worst of all the statistics, 9% of students have considered suicide in the past year.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201206/dealing-the-stress-others

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201206/dealing-the-stress-others

There is some sort of positive reward of stress, in some sick way. While if you overcome it and make it through, you will be stronger mentally and also resilient. There are many ways that you can deal with stress. The best thing to do is to talk to someone about it, whether it be a friend, a professor, or a councilor even. Talking helps with stress tremendously. One way to deal with stress is through medicine, doctors offer “stress relief” or antidepressants although there are some problems with them.
Stress is common. Stress is natural, you will overcome whatever you are going through and you will come out a stronger person. It is the choices one makes each day that affects the stress or sometimes you cannot control it. Stress is inevitable but be strong, folks.

Sources
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145855.php

https://www.adaa.org/finding-help/helping-others/college-students/facts

Walking on Water

Have you ever seen those bugs that just run across the water and you’re like…what the heck, how did they just do that? Well I have no idea, but that’s a question I decided to research and find the answer to. One of the most popular insects to walk on water are called Gerridaes, also water-striderknown as water striders. Apparently, scientists have struggled to figure out how these insects really walk on water, however they have an idea to explain this…

Before we look at what the insect is doing, we have to see how the water acts. Water is different at its surface than what is below. A term called surface tension plays a role because water molecules are attracted to each other. The water molecules have no other like molecules on all sides allowing them to cohere even stronger, creating tension, which is why when you see the water strider’s leg hit the surface, it doesn’t go into the water.

Now looking at the insect itself, the National Wildlife Federation describes water striders as about a half inch long with a thin body and three sets of legs. The most important feature to look at is their legs. The NWF explains that on their legs are tiny hairs that repel the water they walk on and capture air instead. By doing this, water striders have the ability to move quickly on the surface of water.

Scientists believe that when the tiny hairs on the legs repel the water, it should equal the flotation force. The flotation force goes back to Archimedes principal of buoyancy, commonly buoyancyseen in boats and why they can float. It basically says that any object that is partially or all the way in water is buoyed up by a force that’s equal to the weight of fluid displaced by the object.  According to the articleHow Do Insects Walk on Water? Shadows Reveal Their Secret, author Brooks Hays explains that a group of scientists at Tsinghua University tested their ideas by looking at the shadows created by the water strider’s legs. An experiment was done where they placed a white sheet of paper at the bottom of a water tank and added a light source above. Brooks Hays says that the curvature of the expelled water caused the leg shadows to be rounded. This is important because it allows the scientist to measure the amount of expelled water, which tells them the upward flotation force.

Overall these scientists found out what was happening with their legs and the water and about the different forces involved. This experiment’s results can now lead to an improvement in technology where, from the article Shadow Method Reveals Locomotion Secrets of Water Striders, the possibility to see advanced bionic robots based on these small insect principles can be created in the near future.

To me it’s interesting how simple research of insects could lead to the idea of new technology. Ways like this can be done through many different experiences so who knows what else we may be able to create out of these results.

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Am I Hungry or Bored?

For as long as I can remember I have been confusing boredom for hunger. I’ve always wondered why that is. Is it because I’m bored and eating gives me the satisfaction of something to do? Is it because boredom and hunger are both associated with negativity and snacking makes me happy? Whatever the reason, I want to find out how to put an end to it.

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One possible reason for eating when you’re bored is that your body is craving dopamine. If you had a positive experience eating a certain food (which I’m sure everyone has) then I’m sure we’ve all gone to eat that same delicious food even if we weren’t really that hungry. The same thing goes for hunger and boredom. If you’re bored and you go to get a snack even though you just ate dinner an hour ago, it’s probably because your body is craving the sort of pleasure that it felt before when you ate the food. Although the reason for going to get a snack when you’re bored may be because you want to feel the satisfaction of eating the food, it may not feel or taste as good as you’d hoped considering you were never hungry in the first place.

Man standing looking at contents of fridge

A study was done to test if people eat when they’re bored in order to escape the boredom or in order to experience the satisfaction of eating something delicious. There were 30 participants and during the first experiment they were given a bowl of M&Ms and forced to watch a documentary for an hour. In the second experiment they were allowed to give themselves a slightly painful electric shock while watching a documentary. Surprisingly, in both experiments the subjects not only ate the M&Ms, but also purposely shocked themselves multiple times. This shows that the reason people eat when they’re bored is most likely due to their want to escape their boredom.

Since the correlation between hunger and boredom does not have to do with the satisfaction of eating, if you have problems with eating when you’re bored like I do, try these tips.

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The United States of Sexism?

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where woman were strong-willed and outspoken. In fact the only real sexism I was exposed to was the one time my very Italian uncle told me to go get my father and him some sandwiches since I was the only girl in the room (I responded with a quick no). However when I got to college, I started to notice a shift in my observable world. Some men truly felt superior to women. This new outlook on life has made me question gender relations in our country, and if gender inequality can actually be scientifically proven.

Validating Sexism

Some argue that sexism isn’t even a real issue. However a study from DePaul University has rejected the null that sexism has no effect on gender inequality. By setting forth several controls and utilizing time to nullify reverse causation, the researchers were able to validate their results and claim that sexism leads to gender inequality.

This past summer Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky set a world record. However she was overshadowed by her male counterpart, Michael Phelps.

This past summer Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky set a world record. However she was overshadowed by her male counterpart, Michael Phelps.

A separate study questioned the presence of sexism in the college environment. This study found that though sexist acts towards both males and females were reported, there was a much higher number of reported sexist acts towards female students.

These incidents have very concerning effects on individuals. In her writings NYU’s Emma Rooney refers to several studies that support the claim that sexual objectification can have negative effects in women’s mental health and physical health, often bringing about depression, eating disorders, and anxiety.

Mansplaining

This video from ATTN: (originally accessed here) brings to light one of the largest aspects of sexism in our country, mansplaining.

Mansplaining encompasses many different things, two of which are:

  1. A man assuming he knows more about a certain topic than a woman solely based on his gender.
  2. The act of a man interrupting or talking over a woman to explain his views and opinions.

According to the video, studies show that men dominate the majority of conservations in groups. Other studies confirm that conversations in classrooms and meetings are also male-driven.

When regarding gender differences in a classroom setting, research collected in 1994 revealed that middle school boys were 8 times more likely than girls to call out an answer, yet they did so with little to no consequences. In contrast when girls called out answers they were reprimanded and told to raise their hands. If girls’ opinions are suppressed they could become less confident in sharing their opinions, falling into a pattern of allowing men to overpower them in conversation. This could be a possible mechanism behind the previous studies’ conclusions regarding male skewed conversations.

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Now what?

The science and facts show a clear sexism problem in society. Studies prove not only that sexism is present in the world and our country; they go further to show that sexist incidents and objectification can lead to harmful health effects in women.

It is difficult to deny well-conducted studies. Some might choose to ignore what doesn’t agree with their own views, but as discussed in class that is a matter of faith and not science. In this case the science doesn’t lie. There is a problem in our nation. It is up to us to create a better world for the next generation of women.

 

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What’s With All the Peanut Allergies?

I’ve always wondered why so many people seem to have a peanut allergy. According to this article by Robyn O’Brien, the number of people with a peanut allergy is four times higher than it was 13 years ago. Quite obviously, there must be something causing this immense increase. It just so happens that it may not be the actual peanuts causing the allergy, but the way they’re grown.

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Peanuts are not technically nuts; they are legumes and they grow underground in pods. Their shells are very absorbent; therefore, they take in great amounts of whatever chemicals are used in the soil on farms. Farmers stated that the peanut and cotton crops are rotated, therefore they are planted in the same soil. Cotton, they say, is given many doses of crop chemicals, including glyphosate, which is an herbicide that is used to kill weeds. The soil’s microorganisms are damaged by the glyphosate, which leads to unhealthy soil for the peanut crop. Insecticides and fungicides are then used every 8-10 days to treat the unhealthy soil of the peanut crop, but all the while, they are adding more chemicals to the crop. The USDA Pesticide Data Program not only found eight pesticides in peanut butter; they also found in it piperonyl butoxide, a component of pesticides. This chemical, which was found 30% of the time, is extremely toxic and cancer-causing. Several different amounts of aflatoxin, a harmful chemical produced by mold, have also been found in peanut butter.

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It would make a lot of sense that all these harmful chemicals could cause the body’s allergic reaction, but how can we know for sure that they are the cause? This article states that although this generation is already infested with peanut allergies, changing the way we grow peanuts now could decrease the amount of people who develop the allergy in the next generation. This could possibly lead to an answer on whether people are allergic to the peanut itself, or to the chemicals in it.

Here is a video of Robyn O’brien, the woman whose article I cited throughout this post, talking about how the global food system is affecting our health.

Would Uncanny Valley hypothesis affect the development of robots?

Nowadays with the development of technology, robots are no longer a novelty in our life. It is easy to see flexible in our houses, SCARA robots in factories and even robot waiters in some restaurants.  I have a crazy prediction that in the next 30 years, robots would completely be an indispensable part of our life. Although robots give plenty of convenience to our work and life, they are not accepted by all people. Recently, I noticed the famous Uncanny Valley hypothesis, that is, a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot with an identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person’s view. Thus, would this hypothesis affect the development of robots?

jules-uncanny-valley  (human liked robot)

First of all, I do not think the Uncanny Valley hypothesis would still exist after 30 years. For our grandparents, they would show a cold feeling to robots because those strange machine seems smarter than them and enjoy a high position in a family. In addition, in many adults’ eyes, those smart human-like robots may to some extend threaten our human’s ability and control of the world. However, we are all used to the life with robots because they have been widely used in our generation. And for the next generation, they are born in a generation when robots are increasingly popular. When they grow up, robots to them are just like laptop to our generation. Thus I do not think this hypothesis would exist in the next 30 years.

However, there might be some people afraid of robots. And my first suggestion is to reduce the cost of robots’ production. Now robotic products are very expensive, most people could not afford them. We can find hat a regular robotic vacuum cleaner would be about 500$, and a pool cleaner is about 700$. If the market can lower the price, and most people could have them in their house. Later most people would be comfortable with the existence of robots in their lives. Moreover, robots would not likely to be human liked with less budget. Uncanny Valley hypothesis talks about that people would afraid human liked robots. If the robots are not human liked, people would be less likely to be afraid of them.

Secondly, good appearance of robots would also help. We are familiar with the robots in science fiction movies. For example, T-1000 in Terminator is terrifying while the child-like robot David in AI is friendly. Thus we could see that a good appearance is really important. Maybe one day, one of your colleagues is a robot, or your assistant is a robot. If they have amiable figures, good-looking faces and proper facial expressions, I believe you will be happy to work with them every day. Besides, adding some cartoon characteristics to robots’ appearance would make them more acceptable. Imagining that a pikachu would wake you up in the morning, and a tom cat can be your pet, I do not think you would be frightened by robots anymore?

From my point of view, lower the cost if production of robots and make a better appearance for robots would be really help. Thus I do not think Uncanny Valley hypothesis would affect the development of robots.

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(T 1000 from Terminator and David from A.I )

More about Uncanny Valley hypothesis

URL:

10 Creepy Examples of the Uncanny Valley

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

https://www.buzzfeed.com/danmeth/welcome-to-uncanny-valley?utm_term=.auJqWeoMN#.rvw5v4MoA

Does more body hair increase your intelligence?

So a few years ago my 11-year-old sister came to my mom asking why she had so much more hair on her arms than most girls in her grade did. My mom replied “it’s a good thing trust me; people who have more hair on their arms are smarter.” I was sitting there also, and that kind of got me thinking, like there’s no way that’s true, she just said that to make her feel better, but it definitely has something to do with genetics. For some reason that always stuck with me and I always thought about it time to time, in school if I would see someone with a lot of hair on their arms, I would think, “I wonder what their grades are like.” In public if I saw someone with a lot of body hair I would think, “I wonder what they do for a living, where did they go to college.” When I would go to the doctors I noticed my doctor had a lot of chest hair and so I was like, “well that makes sense, doctors are very smart people, so maybe a lot of body hair is correlated with intelligence.” I thought this would be a great opportunity to look into this subject since we learned about correlation and chance.

A study conducted by Dr. Aikarakudy Alias looked at men and the relationship of their education level and amount of body hair.

imagedeliveryHis study was mainly focused solely on chest hair. According to doctor Alias students had more body hair than men who worked inferior jobs. He also discovered that men who performed highly in their degree were hairier than men who performed poorly. His study was conducted among mostly men who were about 22-years-old. He also found that doctors had the most chest hair along with highly educated men compared to the population. Alias studied this experiment in America as well as India. The study he conducted in America was of medical student and he found that 45 percent of those men were hairier than the population of the study. In India he expanded his study by surveying engineers and labor workers along with the doctors. He concluded that the engineers and doctors had more body hair that the laborers. He found that, out of the sixteen engineering students, einsteinhairier men got better grades. On a statistical level, he discovered that the top six engineering students had more hair on their bodies than the bottom eight. A deeper survey of his study found that the more intelligent men had hair on their chest as well as their backs. To concluded his study Dr. Alias said that even though the men with an abundance of body hair are perceived to be more intelligent, there are men with a lack of body hair or none at all that are still highly intelligent.

 

A blog post on Quora, written by Pavan Kumar had an opposing view on this topic. He opened up his post by clearly stating his opinion, that the assumption of ecsessive hair increasing your intelligence is false. Unlike Dr. Alias, women were not involved in his study. Pavan’s observational study was solely based off of scientific facts alone. He stated that the number of hair follicles in males, females, and chimps are the same…only the thickness of the follicles alter.hair-anatomy-diagram  His post read that, although it may seem like men have more body hair than women and children and less body hair than chimps, looks can be deceiving. In his post he went on to discuss a simpler relationship not correlated to hair. He explained the relationship of growing 100 plants in two different areas. The first area was fertile, with good water supply. The second was less fertile with less water supply. Obviously over time the plants that were nourished well will look denser, although both of the areas have the same number of plants. In my opinion he is explaining a third variable that assists the plants into growing more densely. He then states that the third variable in men is testosterone, and how it affects the thickness of hair follicles. He compared the fertile area of the one test group of plants to testosterone and how they correlate to assist the grow of the variable they affect.

Sources:

Cooper, Glenda. “The Hirsute of Higher Intelligence | The Independent.” Independent, 11 July 1996, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-hirsute-of-higher-intelligence-1328285.html.

Kumar, Pavan. “Is Excessive Body Hair a Sign of Intelligence? – Quora.” Quora, 10 Aug. 2015, https://www.quora.com/is-excessive-body-hair-a-sign-of-intelligence.

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Do sunny days increase chance of suicide?

Everyone’s heard of “My Girl” by The Temptations and their famous lyric, “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day”. Words that are associated with sunshine are ones that tend to be brighter–pun intended–for example, radiate and glow. In comparison, words that are associated with overcast days are more gloomy, for example dull and somber. It makes sense that rainy, murky days increase depression within individuals; however, if weather is a huge factor in suicidal tendencies, then why do a large amount of suicides occur in the springtime?

Hey, Temptations, maybe you should reconsider having sunshine on that cloudy day…

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An important part before I continue is that the researchers removed the variation of the seasons from the data to get a more concise answer. In 2014,  a study  was published about the fact that sunshine and clear skies are motivating factors in numerous suicides.  Lead researcher Dr. Mattaus Willeit and his colleagues collected all data on confirmed suicides between January 1st, 1970 until May 6th, 2010. 69,462 suicides were compared to the average duration of sunshine per day through 87 meteorological stations. The results were highly correlated meaning that there was a relationship between hours of sunshine a day and the number of suicides.  However, this information supports day of suicide and 10 days prior. There was a negative correlation between the hours of sunshine and number of suicides if it was “14 to 60 days prior to the suicide”, according to the researchers of the study. In case anyone was wondering, they were measuring both violent (shooting or drowning) and nonviolent (poisoning) suicides, the effects were found in both cases.

 

In summary, the scientists concluded that a high amount of sunshine hours 10 days prior to day of suicide will aid a suicidal tendency; however, the amount of sunshine hours 14 to 60 days prior to day of suicide actually could potentially protect against suicide. I know that suicide is a very delicate topic to talk about but, I found this information very interesting and I wanted to share. I grew up in Florida and the suicidal rates there are little to those that are found in Washington. Naturally, I was baffled by the fact that being exposed to sunshine could assist a suicidal tendency, even if it’s a short window of 10 days prior.

Don’t let this blog post scare you. If you skimmed and missed what I said earlier, let me reiterate: Do not be afraid of being outside in the sun!! Vitamin D is a necessary component of your health (it helps you absorb calcium and promotes bone growth). The researchers reported that they found that more sunlight exposure (14 to 60 days prior) is linked with lower rates of suicide and that sunshine during this duration may protect against suicide. Being in the sun for long periods of time may help decrease suicidal tendencies but, then comes the question of skin cancer… that is another blog that will have to wait. Thanks for reading!

*Also, I wanted to make sure that I finished the blog correctly: If anyone is ever feeling unusually depressed or suicidal, do not hesitate to call the Suicide Hotline (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week): 1-800-643-5432. There’s always someone there for you!

 

Sources:

https://jenasol.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/sunlight.jpg

http://www.medicaldaily.com/sunshine-and-suicide-clear-skies-and-sunny-days-often-lead-more-suicide-deaths-302652

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/1901524

Can skipping class affect your school performance?

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Everyone has experienced that extremely conflicting moment where you can’t get out of bed, or just don’t want to get out of bed, but you have an important class coming up… so what do you do? While for some of us the answer is simple, to others this decision is so hard to make. I think we all know the answer to this question but I wanted to see just how much of a toll this can take on your grade. My hypothesis is that it’s relative. If you skip class but put in the work outside of class to make up for what you missed, then you should be fine. But, if you skip a class where the material taught you can’t easily teach yourself or find in a textbook, then you’re screwed (a.k.a SC 200). So, can skipping class affect your school performance?

Experiment

To understand the extent to which missing class can affect your grades, I searched for an experiment that tested this question. That is how I stumbled across an experiment in which three large economic classes were told that attendance was not mandatory until the day of their midterm exam and that after the midterm, the students that scored below the class’ average grade would have to attend class (see x). In addition, many third variables were measured, such as number of tutoring sessions attended, homework grades, gender, grade level, and more. (x)

Results

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-43-25-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-43-04-pmIn this study done on these courses, the average rate of attendance before the midterm exams was 78% (see x). The article claims that the attendance varied according to whether it was recorded before or after midterms (see x). As what can be observed from the graph, before midterms, 12% of students had a rate of attendance that was less than 50% and 35% had a rate of at least 90% (see x). As you can predict, the students that attended class more did better on their exams (see x). The study also concluded that students forced to attend class after taking the midterm significantly improved their grades (as can be seen on the second graph). Hence, this led to the idea that making attendance mandatory in a class can help students ensure that they do better on tests since they are forced to learn the class material. It only makes sense that student’s grades improved after the attendance became mandatory as those that did well before the midterm most likely continued to do well, and those that didn’t had room to do better. (x)

A correlation between attendance and class performance was found as a result of this experiment. There is no actual mechanism to say that causation equals correlation but, since the study was done on such a large group of people, it is safe to say that it is likely this conclusion is true. Furthermore, with a meta-analysis that show the same results as this study, then we would be able to decrease the possibility of chance being the case and the possibility that this might be a false positive.

So, what can you take home from this study? Next time you’re not feeling like getting out of bed for an important class, take a deep breath, think of the things you might miss by not going and the tuition money you’re wasting, and get up. The hardest part is always getting up. Going back to my hypothesis, while I still think this concept is relative, you can’t always guarantee that you will be able to teach yourself the material as well as your professor can, especially after knowing the results of this experiment, it is not worth the risk. Get up and go. You’ll be okay.

Does Smiling Have Positive Health Effects?

Smiling is something that everyone does and is often associated with happiness.  Yes, smiling is used to show our emotions, but it so much more than that.  The University of Kansas conducted a study involving 170 college students to test whether smiling has a positive impact on our mood and health.  The students were randomly assigned to three groups, all of which had the students mimic a research assistant holding chopsticks between their teeth, however each group was mimicking different actions.  Of the three groups, one had the students genuinely smile while the other two partook in fake smiles all while continuing to hold the chopsticks in between their teeth.  Next, the students were asked to perform stressful tasks while researchers monitored their heart rates from beginning to end.  In addition, the researchers asked the students to describe their mood before and after completing the tasks.  The researchers found that heart rate rose while completing the stressful tasks, however the heart rate of smilers went back down to normal faster than those who forced their smiles.  In addition, when the students reported their moods to the researchers, those who were smiling had a smaller decrease in mood than those who forced their smiles.  The conclusion of the study was that smiling genuinely reduces stress while performing stressful tasks as well as helps the body recover quickly after the event.

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Researchers have been continuously examining what makes smiling so good for you.  They believe it is good for your brain as smiling releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Endorphins can relieve pain and serotonin is thought to be a mood lifter.  In addition to smiling being good for your own health, it is also good for the health of others.  A Swedish study showed participants a picture of someone showing an emotion, such as joy and sadness.  The researchers then asked the participants to show the opposite emotion of what the picture shows.  For example, if the picture should someone frowning, they asked the participants to smile, and vice versa.  The researchers found that instead of doing the opposite of the picture, the subjects mimicked the images and then had to consciously correct their expression to be the opposite of the image.  This then lead researchers to the conclusion that if you smile at somebody they will most likely smile back.stock-photo-cartoon-illustration-of-a-smiling-head-with-rainbow-brain-and-a-sad-blue-face-head-with-dark-clouds-357527054

All in all, smiling makes you healthier, as well as those around you because they are likely to return a smile.  Also, it is believed that seeing somebody else smile activates the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain which actually makes people feel rewarded.  Furthermore, it can be concluded that smiling is good for our health and we should all try to smile more.

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Sources:

Kennelly, By Stacey. “Smile! It’s Good for Your Heart.” Greater Good. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/smile_its_good_for_your_heart

“There’s Magic In Your Smile.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile>

“Good Reasons to Smile.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. The Nemours Foundation, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/smiling.html>

The correlation between class attendance and academic performances

Image from http://www.smcoe.org/

Image from http://www.smcoe.org/

  Time really flies and now we are already half way through the semester. As I walked through my lecture classes, I found out that the amount of empty seats increased throughout the semester. There are even more than one-third of empty seats in my 8 am lecture. I know it is a common tendency, since most of the lecture classes are over 300 people and doesn’t take attendance that often. Also, the professor would post the slides on Canvas or Angle after class, so it would be much convenient for people who skipped classes to learn the content. However, personally I would never skip a class without any emergency or sever illness. I believe that attending to all classes would help me improve my academic performances, but sometimes I would still wonder if I might be wrong when I saw all those empty seats in class. Maybe the correlation between classes attendance and academic performance isn’t as strong as I suppose it would be? To answer my question, I decide to look into the topic.

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image from https://plus.google.com/+JoannaOlive/posts/3XqDqfqmdRM

  A study called “The relationship between lecture attendance and academic performance in an undergraduate psychology class” came up with the conclusion that students who attend their classes frequently are better in their academic performance than students who attend their classes with a limit number of times or never attend their classes at all. As it was mentioned in the title of the study, the study was based on the performances of students in a second-year cognitive psychology class. Registers were distributed randomly throughout the weeks, and nine registers were taken at the end of the semester over all 21 lecture slots. The data were categorised as four attendance group to simplify the calculation: never, seldom, frequently, always. Three academic assessments scores were compared between those four attendance groups. The finding showed that almost half of the students attended less than half the lecture. The “frequently” attended group had a higher score in general than the other groups. I read through the datas, and found out the p value was calculated in the study, shown a value less than 0.01. We talked about it in class that if the p value is less than 0.05, than the null hypothesis is rejected. So the datas in this study are significant enough to reject the null hypothesis, and also the result of this study is less likely to be caused by chance.

  The last study clearly stated that there is a strong correlation between the class attendance and the academic performances. However, new questions come into my mind. I wonder if there are any common reasons that influence the course attendance decision. To further investigate on the topic, I found out  another study called, “Factors Influencing Pharmacy Students’ Attendance Decisions in Large Lectures”. A survey was designed in the study and asked the second-year pharmacy student to rate on various reasons that affect their attendance for three courses. The study suggested that the reasons of course attendance were different and complex. There wasn’t a specific trend in it. However, the common excuses of not attending courses were “sickness”,“study for other courses” and “availability of the course content”. The study also tried to find out if there were any patterns for a particular type of student to attend the classes more frequently. After a number of analysis, the concluded there wasn’t a significant correlation between the student characteristic and absenteeism. As it was shown above, the study failed to reject the null hypothesis, concluded that there wasn’t any correlation between the demographic of students and the course attendance.

  As we discussed in class, the result of the second study might be a correct decision or a false negative. We don’t know if the conclusion is true or false. Also, the study was designed as an observational study instead of experimental study, so the possible third variables wasn’t well controlled. This also produced the opportunity that the conclusion might due to chance. To make the results more convincing and accurate, it might needed a meta-analyses to continue on this area of study.

  After analysing the two studies, I’ll go with the statement that class attendance does affect academic performance, since the first study has a larger probability to be a correct decision.

Got Cold Feet?

The other day my boyfriend texted me asking if I wore socks to bed. I quickly responded with “Absolutely not!! Why?”. I really thought he had asked this as a joke. He answered back telling me that he does indeed sleep with socks on. I was mind blown. I get way too overheated when I attempt to sleep with socks on, even in the dead of winter but my boyfriend can sleep with them every night, even in the summer?! I figured one of us had to be the crazy one so I did my research.

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Upon researching how and why someone is able to sleep with socks on at night, I came across some strange benefits. Apparently, found on this health site , socks are good to wear for a number of reasons. First off, it supposedly prevents night sweats and hot flashes from occurring in your sleep (I would have a heat stroke anyway I think). This is because it helps regulate your body temperature and putting you into a deeper night’s sleep. It also helps prevent dry skin on your feet and ankles. By applying moisturizer on your feet (or not!) it can prevent cracking or severe drying of the feet during the frigid winter months. And if you’re anything like my mom who has Raynaud’s Disease (where your fingers and toes turn white from being so cold/not getting enough circulation), get some socks on ASAP to prevent a Raynaud’s breakout in the middle of the night or the morning. There are even some other tips of things to put in your socks that can help throughout the night. For example, just to name a few, by putting hot peppers in your socks it can keep your feet warmer or by putting cotton balls previously soaked in apple cider vinegar, you can bring a fever down (I don’t know who would go that far though). Also, if your feet are cold at night, wearing socks is the best bet. It triggers vasodilation which means “dilation of the blood vessels”. This gives the body the mindset that it’s bed time and helps you sleep better.

In my research I also came across an interesting study about socks in correlation to sex life. A poll done at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) revealed that 50% of women said their sex life could be better. They performed a study in which they gave one group of women socks to wear during sex and another group went barefoot. The sock group had 80% reach an orgasm where the barefoot group only had 50%. This proves that socks have a positive effect on relationships as well as sleep.

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At this point I was starting to worry.. Was I the crazy one? I looked further into the depths of the internet and could not find a single article about the benefits of sleeping with socks off. I know I can’t be alone. But are there such major drawbacks for not being able to sleep with socks? I didn’t find anything about it being bad per say, but there was definitely no benefits I found. What do you guys do?

 

Does Chicken Noodle Soup Cure a Cold?

It is that time of year when seemingly everyone is sick. A few weekends ago, I woke up on Sunday morning and immediately knew I had been hit by the “Penn State Plaque” that I had been warned about. I was too weak to do anything other than sleep, which was a big problem being that I had about 4 hours worth of homework. After taking an absurdly long nap, my roommate convinced me to get food with her because I had not eaten all day. We went into Good 2 Go (a mini mart in Findlay Commons) where I bought cheddar and broccoli soup along with Nyquil. I had never taken Nyquil before so I was not sure it was going to help me or not but I was desperate to feel better. On Monday morning I woke up feeling slightly better but still very sick. My dad called me to check on how I was, after I told him I still did not feel that well he said that I needed to eat chicken noodle soup. For dinner that night I went to Good 2 Go again and got what my dad insisted on me eating, chicken noodle soup. That night I did not take any Nyquil. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling completely better, was it the soup? My null hypothesis for this would be that the chicken noodle soup does not help you feel better. My alternative hypothesis would be that the chicken noodle soup does in fact help you feel better.

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I primarily used a study called,“Effect of sodium in a rehydration beverage when consumed as a fluid or meal” conducted by Ray, Melinda L., Mark W. Bryan, Timothy M. Ruden, Shawn M. Baier, Rick L. Sharp, and Douglas S. King. I thought this study would be helpful because their goal was to see which fluid or fluids rehydrated people the most. When someone has a cold or flu, whether they realize it or not, they are dehydrated. The study tested fluids like: water, chicken broth, electrolyte drinks, and chicken noodle soup.

The study used 30 subjects- 15 male and 15 female. To conduct this experiment successfully, the subjects first had to become dehydrated. Once dehydrated the subjects were randomly assigned 175 ml of the previously listed fluids that they had to drink followed by drinking water twenty minutes later. After the rehydration period ended, the study found that plasma amounts were similar in chicken broth and the chicken noodle soup, they both had gone up. Hydration levels for the subjects that drank water and the electrolyte drink had stayed below the prehydration period.

Comparing these results gives us the indication that fluids high in sodium, like chicken broth and chicken noodle soup, help to increase fluid retention that can cause plasma restoration- aiding in your recovery from a sickness. 

In another study I looked at, it aimed to prove that chicken noodle soup can make you feel better. When I say better I do not mean recovering from a sickness, but the feeling of loneliness. This study considered chicken noodle soup as a comfort food and was able to prove that indeed when people eat chicken noodle soup they feel better, it is a comfort. It resonates with things that make you feel happier or more at ease.

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To revisit my hypothesis, I can reject the null hypothesis because chicken noodle soup does indeed help people feel better by helping to increase plasma volume via sodium and because it is a comfort food. To anyone who is feeling under the weather or a little blue, chicken soup is right for you!

Sources:

Article #1

By, It Was Observed. Effect of Sodium in a Rehydration Beverage When Consumed as a Fluid or Meal (n.d.): n. pag. Journal of Applied Physiology. American Physiological Society, 1 Oct. 1998. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

http://jap.physiology.org/content/jap/85/4/1329.full.pdf 

Article #2

Troisi, Jordan D., and Shira Gabriel. “Chicken Soup Really Is Good for the Soul: Comfort Food Fulfills the Need to Belong.” PsycEXTRA Dataset(n.d.): n. pag. Web.

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/6/747.full.pdf+html

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How do people wiggle their ears?

This question has been bugging me for probably all 18 years of my existence. Ive always known some people can wiggle their ears and some can’t (with me being in the latter category) but I never figured out why. This question brought new passion to me when this past weekend, while me and some friends were at dinner, my friend started wiggling his ears. Now it’s time to find out: how do people wiggle their ears?

Using my basic knowledge of science, I can generally assume that some people can wiggle their ears because the muscles in that area are somehow active and the nerve responses can travel to the brain, allowing the person to wiggle them, like how they would scrunch up their nose or wag their finger. According to The Tech, people are able to wiggle their ears through the muscles that surround your ear behind your earlobe, from above to behind your earlobe. These muscles are commonly used in animals that rely a lot on hearing, such as rabbits, dogs, and horses.

So why can (some) humans wiggle their ears? It’s uncertain.

Also according to The Tech, it is possible that their is a hereditary link to ear wiggling, similar to the way that if one or both parents have blue eyes, the odds of their child having blue eyes would be greatly increased. When applied to ear wiggling, if one or both parents can wiggle their ears, the chances of their child being able to wiggle his/her ears is greatly increased.

But what about the people who don’t have parents that can wiggle their ears?

The Tech mentions that while having the possible hereditary link can help people learn how to wiggle their ears, it is possible that anyone can learn how to do so. With the help of various online tutorials, it is likely that anyone willing to try can learn how. That being said, there is a lot of controversy and uncertainty as to how exactly the talent is carried on/presented.

Why would people need to wiggle their ears in the first place?

Studies show that our ancestors might have had to wiggle their ears at one point, but as evolution occurred and time passed, the trait became futile. An example of this would be the appendix – it might’ve had important use in the past, but now it’s no longer needed.

I hope this helped anyone that has been asking the same question I’e been asking for most of my life. In the end, if you really want to figure out how to wiggle your ears, chances are a wikihow tutorial could be the most helpful option.

Photo source: here

Web source: here

Vaccines Cause Autism: Fact or Myth?

Recently in class we discussed the topic of doctors making claims off of intuition rather than having science based evidence to support their claims.  Some examples of this were sudden infant death syndrome, Thalidomide, and brain stents.  An example similar to these cases is the question of whether vaccines lead to autism?  This question was brought about in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield published a study following eight children who received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine as well as several other types of vaccines.  He found that all eight of the children had symptoms of autism appear shortly after receiving the vaccinations.  He then went on to conclude that there was a link between vaccines and autism.  Shortly after the paper was published, vaccination rates, particularly rubella vaccines, began to drop due to the concerns of parents that were brought about by the content in Wakefield’s paper.  Although the publication had parents worried, scientist doubted the credibility of the paper as several studies had been conducted that contracted its data.  In addition, further investigation determined that the publication suffered from the Texas Sharp Shooter Problem as Wakefield only published the data that specifically suited his hypothesis.  Finally, it was established that Wakefield had failed to provide a causal link that showed that vaccines have any contribution to autism in children.  After further research, it was determined that Wakefield’s finding were false and misleading, as vaccines do NOT cause autism or increase a person’s chances of having autism. Since 1998, multiple studies have been conducted to provide evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism.  Recently in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka CDC) conducted a study that analyzed numerous different substances, or antigens, used in vaccines from birth to age two.  The results found that those children who had autism and those who did not have autism received the same amount of antigens over the first two years of life, thus providing evidence to the claim that vaccines do not cause autism.vaccines-fb

Although there is a strong consensus among scientists that vaccines do not cause or increase one’s risk of having autism, many parents still are not convinced.  Since the publication of Wakefield’s study, the idea that autism and vaccines are linked has never gone away.  A survey conducted by the National Consumers League (NCL) in 2014 found that every one in three parents believe that vaccines and autism are linked. In addition, the survey also found that nearly half of parents are aware of Wakefield’s paper, and of those parents only half of them have been informed that Wakefield’s paper was not credible and the findings have been found false.  Since 1998, as a result of Wakefield’s study, many children have not received vaccines, some of which are our classmates.  The case of Wakefield’s false claim of vaccines causing autism is a prime example of how doctors make claims without science based evidence, which in return has lasting affects for years to come.

Sources:

“Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html >

“Survey: One Third of American Parents Mistakenly Link Vaccines to Autism.” National Consumers League. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.nclnet.org/survey_one_third_of_american_parents_mistakenly_link_vaccines_to_autism>

Rao, T. S. Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade. “The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation, Refutation, Retraction, and Fraud.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Medknow Publications, 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136032/>

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Coffee? Nap? Or a coffee nap?

Everyone tells you that you will become addicted to coffee once you get to college. Whether this is true for you or not, you probably still enjoy a good nap. If you are like me, and enjoy both, then you often face the question, do I take a nap or do I drink a cup of coffee? With the time crunch here at school I usually end up choosing coffee, but is it the better option?

Image from: https://blog.bulletproof.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/iStock_000033211208_Medium-300x205.jpg

Image from: https://blog.bulletproof.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/iStock_000033211208_Medium-300×205.jpg

While I was doing my research, I found that both have their own benefits and downfalls. In one article, the author discusses how naps don’t have a crash. They increase your cognitive abilities and give your brain a boost (IF you get the full 60-90 minutes). If you only take a 20 minute nap, this will reverse the effects and make you even groggier. Coffee on the other hand almost immediately wakes you up and increases your focus, but it does make you eventually crash. A study done at the University of California San Diego directly tested the effects coffee and napping on your memory. They created 3 different groups: a nap group, a drug group (caffeine pill), and a placebo group (fake coffee pill). They first spent time training them all on motor skills, verbal learning, and perceptual learning. They all had to do activities such as memorizing a specific sequence on a key board or memorizing a long list of words. The nap group then took a nap while the pill group waited by watching a nature video. After the nappers woke up, half of the pill group took a placebo pill and the other half a 200mg caffeine pill. Everyone was then tested again on the tasks they had memorized before. The results showed that the nappers did significantly better than the pill group on both the motor skills and perceptual learning, but there was no significant difference in the verbal learning session. These findings show how although coffee makes you feel physically awake, napping is a better option if you need to cognitively perform well. The study does discuss some third variables that could alter their results. They first talk about how different amounts of caffeine (not just 200mg) could increase the performance. Likewise, the different durations of a nap could also  alter the performance as well.

I concluded from reading this study that if you are in a rush, coffee is a great alternative to increase focus and to wake your body up. BUT if you have the time, napping is always the better option, not only for your body, but also for your brain’s performance.

As I continued reading the first article I mentioned, the author states that there was such a thing as a coffee nap. Essentially, you drink a cup of coffee and then take a nap. When you wake up, you feel the effects of the coffee plus the effects of the nap, thus giving you double the benefits of just doing one. According to this Japanese study, a coffee nap is significantly better than just a single nap or single cup of coffee. Their objective was to see whether a coffee nap is better than taking a normal nap, or a normal nap combined with face washing or bright lights. They had ten healthy young adults either take a nap, take a coffee nap, take a nap followed with bright lights, take a nap followed by washing your face, or take no nap at all. Their data shows that the coffee nap was the most successful. Although, I realized they did not have a group that just drank coffee with no nap. Since they didn’t include this in their study, I cant conclude that a coffee nap is better than just drinking a cup of coffee or taking a nap by itself. Also, the group was not randomized enough. They were all 20-23 years of age and were healthy. There are many other variables that could come into play. Health, age, and caffeine tolerance are just a few. However, this is a very interesting and relatively new trend that I would love to hear more about. Personally, I have never tried doing this or ever heard of anyone doing this. Would you ever try taking a coffee nap? If you have so already, does it work?

Here is an interesting video that explains into further detail of how a coffee nap really works.

 

Are Electric Toothbrushes Actually Better?

Time and time again there are always a plethora of TV commercials, magazine ads, radio station ads, etc constantly promoting the next best thing.  This is especially true when it comes to toothbrushes or toothpastes.  I for one am a normal toothbrush kind of gal, but I have seen a lot of people who use electric toothbrushes.  It always seemed like the electric toothbrush would be more detrimental to your oral health because it is essentially grinding off all your enamel, at least that is what thought pops into my head when I think about it, but what if using an electric toothbrush actually proves to increase your oral health more than a regular toothbrush?  I am all about oral hygiene therefore I wanted to do some research.

shinyteeth-366 image

The initial post I found was from consumerreports.org which is basically consumer reports and opinions of a wide array of products.  This website itself provided some information, but ultimately led me to my most factual and engaging article from cochrane.org  where a study was conducted to compare the two.  The Cochrane Oral Health Group was the organization to run all these studies which in total included not one study, but over 50 studies, generating a total involvement of around 5,000 participants which is a pretty substantial amount of people thus insinuating that whatever the outcome they deduce from their experiments always could be do to chance, but is it very unlikely considering the amount of people involved and the fact that this is a randomized control trial.  The Cochrane Oral Health Group gave half of the participants a normal toothbrush and the other half an electric toothbrush which successfully creates a control group (participants using the normal toothbrushes) and an experimental group (participants using the electric toothbrush).  The null hypothesis proposed here would be that neither the electric or the normal toothbrush has more of an advantage than the other when it comes to oral hygiene and health.  On the other hand, the alternative hypothesis would be that the electric toothbrush does have an edge over the normal tooth brush.  Ultimately, through their multitude of studies, The Cochrane Oral Health Group seemed to side with the alternative hypothesis due to their results exclaiming a 21% decline in the amount of plaque present on teeth and gums when using an electric toothbrush rather than a normal one for a few months.  Although this may seem like substantial evidence to ditch your normal average joe toothbrush for a brand spanking new electric one, you may want to think twice before doing so.  There are a variety of confounding third variables that could be playing a part in the results The Cochrane Oral Health Group found.  For instance, they clearly state that more than half of the experiments were done with adults and with a very specific electric toothbrush.  These results remind me a lot of the example Andrew talked about in class regarding if sugary drinks, like soda, cause weight gain.  The study for that hypothesis was done exceptionally well and involved a high volume of participants, but the results were extremely specific to dutch children.  Just because it made dutch children gain weight does not mean it makes everyone gain weight much like here.  Just because this specific electric toothbrush reduces plaque buildup for adults after a few months does not mean it reduce plaque for everybody.  Electric toothbrushes as well as normal toothbrushes, like I thought as one of my first statements in this blog, can cause an immense amount of damage to the enamel of your teeth when to aggressively or excessively brushing.

shinyteeth-400 image

Sure there are some benefits when it comes to using an electric toothbrush rather than a normal toothbrush, but when put in perspective with the shared cons electric toothbrushes and normal toothbrushes produce, in my opinion their effectiveness becomes equal. There is not enough evidence to say for sure which exceeds the other, but it is safe to say there is definitely something going on here.  Although there are some confound third variables to take into account when focusing on the results of the study, the numbers are pretty substantial. Therefore,if you are someone who is extremely focused on oral health and hygiene, it may not be a bad idea to go out and get yourself an electric toothbrush, the worst it can do is work just as well as a normal toothbrush.

 

Is Your Face Wash More Harmful Than You Think?

Like many Freshman here at Penn State I am currently enrolled in CAS 100A, also known as speech class.  For my upcoming speech assignment, my class was instructed to select a social issue that we would then explain to a class as well as come up with a policy to correct the issue.  I wanted to select a unique topic other than the typical topics of why texting while driving is bad or why marijuana should be legalized.  After several hours of researching, I came across the issue of microbeads being used in cosmetic products and why they are extremely harmful.

First you may ask, what exactly are microbeads.  Microbeads are micro sized balls of plastic that are used in everyday cosmetic products such as soap, facewash, and toothpaste.  While these small little beads may not seem come across as harmless, they actually are not.  Microbeads are made out of plastic which means that they do not dissolve while a personal care product is being used.  Because they do not dissolve, they end up being flushed down the drains.  Although we have filtration systems in place with the purpose of filtering what is flushed down the drains, the miniscule size of the microbeads makes it nearly impossible for them to be filtered, thus allowing them to enter into our oceans and lakes.4928

Microbeads are estimated to enter our oceans and lakes by the thousands every time we use a product, which results in hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic being flushed into our waters daily.  Researcher Sherri Mason wanted to find out for herself just how inflected our waters are with microbeads, so she went to the great lakes to collect data.  Her findings were startling.  She found that on average the lakes contained about 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer.  Even more startling results found that Lake Ontario contains 1.1 million microbeads per square kilometer.

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In addition to polluting our lakes and oceans, microbeads have other costly effects.  Many marine animals mistake the microbeads for fish eggs as they have a similar resemblance, and end up eating the tiny pieces of plastic.  Not only does this harm the fish as they have plastic in their bodies, but it harms us as humans as well.  The food chain is alive and well.  Fish eat food, and we then eat fish.  But if these fish are eating microbeads, that means that we as humans are also eating the microbeads when we consume the fish.  So now I wonder, when people become sick from eating fish, are they sick because it was undercooked or sick because they ate plastic microbeads? Researches have not yet been able to prove that microbeads are making people sick however it could be a cofounding variable.

Now knowing what we know, would a rational person stop using personal care products that contain microbeads in them?  I personally would stop using them, as it takes little effort for me to switch to a different brand that does not use microbeads in their products.  However, everybody is different and some people may not see it as a problem.  Researchers and myself are in agreement that microbeads are terrible for the environment and in fact are more harmful than people think.

Sources:

Zimmer, Russ. “Microbeads and the Ocean’s Plastic Smog.” TCA Regional NewsDec 29 2015. ProQuest. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.

Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.

Altavilla, Nicole. “Banning the Bead.” American Spa 01 2016: 1. ProQuest. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.

 

 

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What causes hangovers?

Getting a hangover is no fun, but why does it happen? I have always thought that it was related to dehydration, but that might not be the case. Since I am usually dealing with a hangover on Sunday, I thought I’d look into what actually causes a hangover. What I found was quite surprising. There is currently no definite cause for a hangover and scientists are still trying to figure it out. From what I gathered, it seems that a lot of different things are involved with a hangover and its severity.

collegehumor.com

collegehumor.com

Causes

One of the most most common explanations for hangovers is dehydration. According to Joseph Stromburg, alcohol is a diuretic which means it causes you to urinate more frequently. Along with that, people usually don’t drink enough water while they are drinking alcohol. Sant P. Singh, a professor at the Chicago Medical school, says that dehydration makes the symptoms of a hangover more prominent. On the other hand, one study didn’t find a correlation between dehydration and a hangover’s severity. Although they did not find a link, many people think that dehydration does play a part in hangovers.

Another reason we might feel hungover is from something called acetaldehyde. According to Stromburg, acetaldehyde is the first byproduct our body puts off while processing alcohol. It is 10 to 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. There is a possibility that hangovers are a result from a buildup from acetaldehyde in our bodies.

Another possible explanation for a hangover is the way alcohol affects your immune system. Stromburg explains that the immune system uses a molecule called cytokines as a signaling method. Cytokines usually do things like cause a fever to help fight off an infection. It is possible that the body can release cytokines when someone drinks too much alcohol. This could cause some of the usual symptoms such as headaches and nausea.

Congeners are another possible explanation for hangovers. Singh explains that liquors that are high in congeners tend to give worse hangovers than ones that have less. Darker liquors tend to have more congeners than light liquors so they tend to give worse hangovers. I know from personal experience that certain drinks give me a worse hangover. A lot of other factors play into hangovers as well. Factors such as how much you drank, how fast you drank, the amount of food you had, mixing drinks, etc. These all help determine your hangover and its severity. Since I just talked about what causes hangovers, lets talk about some strategies to reduce them.

cheezburger.com

cheezburger.com

Remedies

There is one definite way to not get a hangover and that is not drinking at all. If you do decide to drink though, there are some ways you can go about reducing and curing your hangover. Stromburg says that having a full stomach, drinking at a moderate rate and staying hydrated will help you reduce your hangover. I know that when I do those things, my hangover is usually not as bad the next day. The kind of drink can also play a part in your hangover. As I mentioned earlier, drink with higher congeners tend to give worse hangover. Staying away from dark liquors such as brandy and red wine can help minimize your hangover.

You might of heard that taking anti-inflammatories might help your hangover. Anti-inflammatories can help with the headaches and other aches that are associated with hangovers. They might help you but Singh says that they should be used cautiously. There is a chance that it could upset your stomach and it isn’t good for your liver. Stromburg states that if you are looking to reduce nausea, taking Tums or Pepto-Bismol can help. There are also a ton of urban legends and even some drugs that claim to cure hangovers but none have much evidence to support them.

thethingswesay.com

thethingswesay.com

After looking into what causes a hangover, I was surprised at what I found. There are a lot more things that go into it than I initially imagined. I always try to keep my self hydrated and drink on a full stomach but i learned there is a lot more I can do to try and reduce my Sunday hangover. Even though scientists are still looking into causes and remedies, one thing that can definitely heal a hangover is time. Rest, food and water are currently your best bet and will be what I am using this Sunday after the Ohio State game. Let’s go Penn State!

Sources:

Why do hangovers occur?. (2016).Scientific American. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-hangovers-occur/

Stromberg, J. (2013). Your Complete Guide to the Science of Hangovers.Smithsonian. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/your-complete-guide-to-the-science-of-hangovers-180948074/?no-ist

The Pathology of Alcohol Hangover. (2016). http://www.eurekaselect.com. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from http://www.eurekaselect.com/94052/article

 

 

The Effects of Eating Sugary Cereals

Everyone has heard the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. However, could what you actually eat for breakfast have an influence on this? Today, many kids eat sugar laden cereals for breakfast. Could this excessive sugar consumption be counteracting the health benefits of breakfast and instead turning it into a detriment?

In a study done by the Environmental Working Group, it was found that sugary cereals, packaged as a part of a “healthy breakfast”, can contain upwards of 50% sugar by weight. This is more sugar per serving than Twinkies or 3 chocolate chip cookies. This high level of sugar can be detrimental to the biology of your body, especially at breakfast. When you consume this much sugar in your first meal, blood sugar spikes, then drops, signaling your brain that you need more sugar. This can lead to a vicious cycle throughout the day of blood sugar highs and lows, which effect energy levels, concentration, and lead to the consumption of other sugary foods.

From 1970-2005, American sugar consumption increased by 19%. This increase has show correlation to increased weight gain, heart disease, and other adverse health effects. This increase in sugar can be attributed to the rise of sugary cereals, among other things. These added sugars add up to an additional 355 calories per day in a person’s diet, while the American Heart Association reports additional calories due to sugar should not exceed 100-150 calories per day.

Furthermore, a study done in 2010 reported that kids, on average consume more sugary cereal than nutritional cereal, further increasing the negative results. However, the silver lining on this report was the fact that they found children were just as likely to report satisfaction with nutritional cereal as they were with sugary cereal. In addition, they were more likely to put fresh fruit on nutritional cereal, further benefiting the nutritional value. The conclusion the report came to is that children will consume low-sugar cereals when they are provided them, and the health benefits of these cereals when compared to consumption of high sugar cereals was immense.

In conclusion, it is clear that having sugary cereal, especially for breakfast has hugely negative health implication. It causes an unstable fluctuation in blood sugar levels, and is correlated with weight gain and other inverse health effects. Furthermore, there is no reason to serve children these sugary cereals. Children have reported equal satisfaction with low-sugar cereals, all while consuming less cereal and adding fresh fruit, only furthering the health benefits. With all of these taken into consideration, there is really no reason to further the trend of sugary cereal consumption, as it only provides negative health implication and Americans should take steps to avoid providing these cereals to their children if they truly value their children’s health.

Sources:

http://www.ewg.org/research/sugar_in_childrens_cereals/more_sugar

http://www.ewg.org/research/sugar_in_childrens_cereals/more_sugar

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sugared-cereals-should-kids-avoid-at-all-costs/

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/120/11/1011.short

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/127/1/71.full.pdf