Daily Archives: October 21, 2016

Does Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

You know it’s happened to you. You’re sitting in class, with a few minutes to go before dismissal, and you start getting antsy. You’re shaking your foot a bit, playing with your hair or your pencil, when suddenly, “crack!”. You start cracking knuckles. Of course, time and time again, you have been warned against this action. At least for me, I am constantly told never to crack my knuckles because cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. However, this is a common myth that is constantly debated. I decided to try and get to the bottom of it. So, through some research and investigating, my goal is to find out once and for all whether there is any truth to this myth.

What is Arthritis?

The first step in this process is to define arthritis, and how it is commonly caused. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is defined as not one disease, but a common way to diagnose overall joint pain or disease. In fact, there are, as the Arthritis Foundation points Image result for arthritisout, over 100 different types of arthritis that are commonly seen across all different people. Arthritis affects over 300,000 children and 50 million adults, most notably women, and is more common in older people as the leading cause of disability in the United States (arthritis.org).

The symptoms of arthritis are many and varied in severity. Most commonly, arthritic people suffer from pain, swelling, stiffness, and a decreased range of motion; a few of the most severe cases include chronic pain and a loss of capability to walk or do average activities (arthritis.org). According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is most often invisible except to a viewer of an x-ray, as the damage can also affect the eyes, kidneys, heart, skin, and lungs in addition to one’s joints. So, where does cracking knuckles come into play?

What Happens When a Knuckle Cracks?

According to one Harvard Health Publication, the cracking sound of a knuckle is the result of bubbles bursting in synovial fluid, the substance that is responsible for lubricating the area between bones in order to ease movement and joints. As Sean Hutchinson, contributing writer to Mentalfloss.com, describes, stretching or bending your fingers backwards expands Image result for cracking knucklesthe joint, causing a decreased pressure between the joints and ligaments that connect two bones. As pressure drops, gasses such as oxygen, CO2 and nitrogen are dissolved in the synovial fluid to create the small airbubbles that fill this area (Hutchinson). However, once the joints return to normal, the fluid replaces itself and pops the bubbles that temporarily replaced it, created the popping sound that comes with a cracked knuckle (Hutchinson). So, does this action cause arthritis? We have to turn to studies to find out.

The Studies

As I continued my research, I found one particular article that indicated a few key studies in this field that researched this question. In an article by writer Steve Mirsky for the Scientific American, he discussed one particular study by one scientist and author, Donald Unger. Unger won the Ig Prize for his work with this question. According to Mirsky, for 50 years, Unger cracked only the knuckles of his left hand for a minimum of two times a time, therefore keeping his right hand as the control, his left as the experimental. This totaled to a minimum of 36,500 knuckle cracks of his left hand over the course of five decades, with an occasional rare cracking of his right knuckle (Mirsky). After this 50 year period, Unger decided to check his results, and he found that there were no clear differences between his left and right hand, and he had not developed arthritis in either hand (Mirsky). Therefore, as Mirsky stated, he Image result for cracking knucklesconcluded that there was no clear relationship between the cracking of knuckles and the development of arthritis. However, one flaw in this study is that it was not blind, as he knew his left from his right and consciously decided his left would be the consistently cracke hand.

One additional study was conducted by David Kingsley, a Stanford University bone development expert, who decided to travel to an nursing home and ask each person their history of knuckle cracking, and then assess whether or not they had developed arthritis (Mirsky). As Mirsky summarized, after traveling to 28 nursing home and examining over 300 people, Kingsley also found no link between knuckle cracking and arthritis.


In conclusion, knuckle-cracking may not be the cause of arthritis, as no studies have yet found a link between the two. However, it is definitely annoying, and can even lead to swollen hands and struggling grip strength, as the Harvard publication indicated. Although there is no link, I am still going to try my best to avoid it.

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Does your eye color affect your vision?


Josh Hamilton

Have you ever been a situation where you needed to smile for a picture outdoors but just could not help but squint because of the sunlight? For the longest time, I accepted that this was just some sort of strange idiosyncrasy of mine that prevented me from being very photogenic outdoors, until a story about baseball player Josh Hamilton made me think otherwise. Hamilton, a former professional baseball outfielder, had far superior batting statistics when playing at night (a more than 100 point difference)- a disparity that he attributed to his blue eyes in the sun. Is there legitimacy to his claim? Is eye color a factor that affects properties of sight?


Admittedly, I am not the first person to raise this question, but it is rather difficult to find any enlightening scientific data on this topic. This study, however, provides strong experimental backing to show a relationship between macular pigment and visual performance in glare conditions. By studying reactions to light stimuli in 36 healthy adults, researchers were able to determine that higher macular pigment densities led to a greater handling of glare. These findings can be synthesized with another study that provides the link between macular pigmentblue-eyes density and eye color. Researchers were able to associate lower densities with lighter eye colors. The likely explanation for this is that people with lighter eye colors are more stressed in glare conditions, and that additional stress accelerates macular degeneration. These findings are consistent with the idea that light-eyed people might be at a disadvantage with regards to their vision clarity.


But what about other aspects of good vision? This is where the data ceases to support any kind of eye-color induced eyesight disparity. There are no studies that support the notion that people with a particular eye color have better vision. There is a study, however, that suggests that different eye colors might have advantages in certain areas of sight. For example, the study found that generally speaking, dark eyed individuals perform better at reactive tasks such as hitting a baseball while light eyed people slightly outperformed in self-paced activities such as hitting a gold ball. This subtle difference might support Josh Hamilton’s claims slightly, though the study ultimately concluded that there were no significant differences.

This issue can also be looked at with statistical analysis. In this article, the author attempts to demonstrate a statistical relationship between eye color and a night-day batting performance brown-eyesdisparity. He began by determining that on average for all players, there was no significant difference in batting numbers between day and night games. He proceeded to analyze whether this held true for batters of specific eye colors. The statistics show that if anything, dark eye color slightly hindered performance, not aiding it as Josh Hamilton would suspect. The data support the idea that vision is largely unaffected by eye color.

Take away- It is true that people with lightly colored eyes might experience a slight disadvantage due to glare, but other than that there is no reason to suspect that having a certain eye color will come with any kind of eyesight advantage or disadvantage.

Note: The pictures themselves are links to their sources.

Does Weather Effect Your Mood?

Whenever I look outside my window and it’s dark and rainy I always find myself wanting to curl up in my bed and have a Netflix marathon. The dreary weather always makes me feel dreary and lazy. I wanted to know if I was just like this when it was rainy by chance, or by some confounding variable, or if there was a real connection between the weather and my mood. First I established the null hypothesis: Weather and mood are not connected in any way. This is the hypothesis that we are looking to reject, we want to see that something is in fact going on.

It seems to be common sense that when it’s sunny and warm you are happy and joyful, and when its dark and gloomy you are sad and tired, it’s just a common association. However, researchers are slow to accept this theory. In one study they took around 1,000 people and had them report their daily well-being, and then lined their testimony up with the weather report. Overall they found that th635850463340700169-96352109_seasonal-affective-disorder-depressionere was very little variance in their subject’s day-to-day mood that was dependent on the weather. What the research did show however was that there is a significant association between tiredness and sunlight. The less sunlight that people were exposed to, the more fatigued they felt. This could be because of the hormone melatonin. Less sunlight causes you brain to produce more melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy. This is just a small thing though and has little to do with a real substantial change in mood. Sunlight can also trigger the production of a hormone called serotonin which helps your body maintain mood balance. A lack of sunlight can lead to a reduction of serotonin which in turn can lead to feelings of sadness and depression. A lot of the articles that I read did however mention seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It is sometimes known as winter depression because the symptoms are most apparent and usually most severe during the winter months. Doctors have yet to find the exact cause of SAD, but it’s symptoms are often linked to the reduced exposure to sunlight and the overproduction of melatonin that I talked about earlier.

So my conclusion is while in extreme cases like diagnosis of SAD, weather can have a large effect on the mood. For the average person, a rainy day isn’t going to make you any sadder or more tired or happier than a sunny one. So next time you’re feeling tired or lazy try not to blame it on the weather, because there could be something else going on.

IMAGE: http://az616578.vo.msecnd.net/files/2015/12/07/635850463340700169-96352109_seasonal-affective-disorder-depression.jpg



Yes, I’m seriously still watching. And so are the 70 million other Netflix subscribers who aren’t paying monthly fees to be judged. We’ve all been there: our friend recommends a “life-changing” series on Netflix, we give it a shot, and watch it for what feels like 10 minutes until this little question pops up and we realize we’ve slabbed away the entire day and have been watching Netflix for 15+ hours. What is it about this website that sucks our souls in and basically turns us into mindless streaming zombie slaves? In other words, why do we binge-watch? This newly coined term stems from the recent availability of our favorite TV shows and movies at the palm of our hands… literally. The easy access we have nowadays to unlimited streaming through our phones, laptops, and TVs is scary and exhilarating. Although it’s a safe source of entertainment and can be used for beneficial purposes (like watching documentaries or educating yourself through certain shows), it can just as easily be detrimental to one’s lifestyle.

Binge-watching refers to the action of going prolonged amounts of time doing nothing but watching series on streaming services. Typically, watching 3+ episodes in a row in one sitting is considered binge-watching. These services make it extremely easy to binge-watch, seeing as they often have all the episodes and seasons of people’s favorite TV shows. Not only this, but the website layouts make it easy for users to lose track of time and stay glued to their screens all day. Features such as automatically playing the next episode of a show and the 15-second time span to click the “continue watching” button facilitate user experience and lead them to adopt a lazy attitude and bask in the comfort of their couch or bed. It’s easy to get swept up in the glory of unlimited streaming and ignore responsibilities. Furthermore, not only does excessive binge-watching lead to mental problems, but it can potentially lead to physical problems as well.

Logically, the extent of your slow but steady mental and physical deterioration depends on what kind of person you are. An article in The New York Times categorized binge-watchers into 3 distinct groups: The Very Fast Binger, The Fairly Quick Binger, and the Slightly More Relaxed Binger. I consider myself to be in between a sporadical Fairly Quick Binger and a Slightly More Relaxed Binger. Meaning I can go long periods of time without watching Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go, but as soon as I watch one episode of a good series, I’m latched and can’t stop watching until I’ve finished the entire season. However, I asked my friend which category she considered herself to be a part of, she said she identified with The Very Fast Binger group because she preferred TV shows with short running times and few episodes.

Many shows and movies speed our hearts up, trigger dopamine releases, and cause all sorts of physical responses on our bodies. Binge-watching can also be tied to procrastination, seeing as we prioritize things according to time constraints. For example, during my senior year in high school on Sunday nights, I would rather refresh the HBO Go homepage waiting for the newest episode of Game of Thrones to go live than do my third-period homework due the next day. streaming-services-usaStreaming services know this and make a profit out of it. They study our watching habits and tailor our accounts to match them, making us more likely to become addicted to something that is personalized. All in all, we binge-watch because, not only have streaming services have made it easy to, but we subconsciously take pleasure in the stimulating nature of watching shows and movies.

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Gummy Games

When I was in high school, I would get the same question every morning from my dad.  “Did you take your gummy vitamins yet?”  It eventually became part of my morning routine along with eating breakfast, pouring coffee, and brushing my teeth.  3145syuhotlFast forward to this summer before venturing to Happy Valley for my freshman year.  My family and I were strolling through the aisles of Sam’s Club, and I couldn’t believe it when my dad didn’t even glance at the gummy vitamins sold in bulk.  Of course I began questioning him as to why he wasn’t buying any, and he simply said, “Apparently, they don’t work”.

So of course this is going to be one of my blog topics, because I simply do not understand why such delicious little pieces of beneficial happiness could have been lying to me my whole life.  The first red flag that should have told me these weren’t all they are cracked up to be, is the taste.  Companies aim to pack the gummies with sweet flavors in order to have more people buy them to take each day.  There then rises the issue of balancing flavor with benefit.  If you compare them to chewable gummies, they have significantly less nutrients, including iron for example.imagesInterestingly enough, gummy vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.  So what exactly does that mean?  Unfortunately this means that no one is checking to see if the vitamins actually contain what they claim.  Therefore, they most likely contain fewer vitamins that the chewable tablets, which are regulated by the FDA.  Essentially, gummy vitamins are lying to us.

Another concern with these gummies is over consumption, which becomes quite easy when they don’t taste like your typical chalky vitamin.  Some of the fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D, are stored in fat tissues when over consumed.  This can have negative toxic effects on the body.

So are they really all they are cracked up to be?  In my opinion, no.  Since they are not FDA approved, do we really know if they are containing the right amount of essential vitamins that we need?  I think that chewable vitamins would be a better option, and possibly an experiment could be done to compare the two types of vitamins, and see which had a more positive impact on the health of the person taking it.

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a killer disease

nn_08ns_brain_130122Within the last few years Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has become a prominent issue found in National Football League players. This really became of great attention when NFL player, Junior Seau, shot himself in the chest unexpectedly. This behavior was so odd that scientists did research on his brain. This is when they finally came to a better understanding of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Primarily this chronic illness is caused by the intense bashing of heads against one another a repetitive amount of times in sports. Symptoms include blurred vision, memory loss, mood swings, paranoia, and shorter life span. I was talking to a friend about this over dinner and it sparked my interest to research this topic more and write a blog about it. Here is what I found:

small-cte-brain-wordsIn an oxford journal study, scientists performed an observational research study on football players with verified CTE at autopsy who died suddenly in their middle ages. All football players of this study played similar positions (offensive linemen, defensive lineman, and linebacker). The subjects also shared common symptoms including: depression, memory impairment, paranoia, poor impulse control, irritability, apathy, confusion, distraction, dementia, and suicidality. According to another study symptoms of CTE do not become present until years after the disease actually forms, and once the disease is detected, the systems usually have already ended.

In the figures below, you can see the phases a brain with CTE goes through:hoffman_ml_15i-1


Scientists have been trying to come to a conclusion on the mechanism behind CTE for many years now. At first they thought, is this a disease of chance? Most studies generally report the disease to have a correlation with intense contact sport athletes such as football, boxing, hockey, and others due to their high associations with concussions. When figuring out the mechanism, it was difficult at first because they knew it wasn’t caused from excessive concussions and head injuries alone. According to the study, exposure to head trauma, age of first exposure, and genetic predisposition, could be third confounding variables to take into consideration when researching the development of CTE.

Another study confirms that a specific mechanism has yet to be completely distinguished but there is many research suggesting CTE is a product of continuous immunoexcitotoxicity and correlated with massive head injuries. Unfortunately however, there is not yet a direct treatment or no absolute cure for this disease.

So what does this mean for football players? Is there sufficient evidence that will convince football and other harsh contact sports players to stop playing the sport, have more regular brain checks, or encourage safer sports equipment? Probably not. I guess the take away message would be to be more careful in contact sports to avoid concussions, and if you do get a concussion, always get it checked out and taken care of as soon as possible.

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Many benefits of music

Music is something that everyone has in common, whether you play in installment or listen to music like its your religion. Music has a big impact on our lives. In this article it gives you many different reasons why playing an instrument can impact your life. I think the number one benefit of playing an instrument is that it increasing the capacity of your brain. I totally agree with that, just from observing throughout my high school the kids that played an instrument mainly had more knowledge and better grades than the kids that didn’t play instruments.

Some of the benefits include increased responsibility, boosting them skills, expansion to cultural history, promotes social skills, relives stress and the list goes on and on.

music brain pic science

Playing an instrument has so many benefits that its hard to see a reason why not to play one. Obviously now in our lives its harder to pick up and instrument and learn it but think out all the benefits that it could have on your children some day.

Mice have feelings, too.

Mice are friends. Mice have friends. Mice have feelings.
I must say again, I was attracted to an article due to the picture they featured. This time is was two mice snuggled up next to each other, and it was hard to resist.
Except this photograph then haunted me with everything I continued to read.
I’ve heard of the expression that goes along the lines of “They can smell the fear on you.” This probably has something to do with the pheromones that we give off. But I wasn’t aware that went for mice, too. Except they don’t smell fear. They smell pain. 
I was on Sciencemag.org when I stumbled upon the cute little mice, and upon doing further research, I found the same study published on Sciencenews.org. These are both legitimate websites, and after seeing what it takes for a scientific journal to be published, I have some level of faith in what I am reading. 
At the Oregon Science and Health University in Portland, a group of scientists found this out on accident. Andrey Ryabinin and her colleagues were studying the affects of alcohol withdrawal, which is apparently hard to test on mice. There experiment was a typical experimental/control setup. In the experimental group, mice had alcohol mixed in their water solution which was then taken away after a period of time. The control group was only given water. The results from this experiment were disappointing so they altered it, and decided to put the control mice in a different room. They also injected the mice in the experimental group with a molecule that induced pain.
The mice that were housed in a separate room experienced up to 68% higher pain sensitivity. The scientists thought that this might be due to stress, so they administered stress tests. The results from the stress tests made it clear that stress did not play an important role which lead them to smell. They took the bedding that was in the experimental group’s room and placed it in the control groups room, and a connection was made. The mice in the control room, who were not given alcohol and were not experiencing withdrawal felt the heightened pain sensitivity.
The really cool part about this accidental finding? It’s never been found before despite the clear extensive experimentation on mice. Furthermore, could humans also experience this same effect of shared pain? This is unclear, but this experiment will definitely spark more research into the question.
Reading this article also lead me to look into animal experimentation in general. I chose to live a vegetarian lifestyle for humane reasons. I don’t project my eating habits on others, but testing on animals is different. I used to think that the science that was being discovered was at least a strong enough pro that is relieved some of the darker aspects. However, upon taking this class, I wonder if that much science is being discovered. I also understand that some people will say that it is better to experiment on a mice than a human being, but I like to believe that all living creatures all equal and have equal value. 

Pretty Skies

I am a sucker for a good sunset. The pretty purple, pink and orange hues of the sky make me feel calm and peaceful. Looking up at dusk gives me a moment to release all negativity, my body relaxes, and I have my very own moment to just appreciate our Earth. How come the sky can change appearance like that? Any other time of the day, it is one solid color, whether that be bright blue or yucky gray. Then, slowly and magnificently I look up and see a blending of spectacular color prepare for the boring, solid colored nightfall.



Stephen Corfidi gets technical to describe how the colors in the sky appear based on light. According to Corfidi, scattering is the name of the process of how light and air work together to make the colors we see. As most people know, light consists of the colors of the rainbow, A.K.A. roygbiv. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Corfidi says that light takes longer to get to where it is going during the sunrise. Wherever you are during a sunset, you are in the same line of light where someone else has daytime. Before the light gets to you, it is giving off the daytime blue color somewhere else. There is not a lot of blue left by the time the light get to where you are, which leaves the beautiful colors we see. (Not that blue is not beautiful)

We have done a lot of harm to our planet in a short period of time, which also affects our sunsets. Our own aerosol pollution changes the way the colors appear at sunset according to Coco Ballantyne. Ballantyne says human pollution makes the sunset more red than it would be otherwise. Certain places have more pollution just based off of population, so that can alter what you see where. It does not matter whether you like red skies or not, we need to take notice how we are changing our environment. Even though the color of the sunset does not seem like a big deal, we need to preserve nature in the way it functions without our interference or else much worse effects will continue to occur.

Clouds are another feature that comes into play with sunsets. In the same article linked above, Corfidi says that high up clouds, cirrus and altocumulus, get the light that still has all of its color. He says those clouds can make amazing colors.

Knowing the science behind sunsets kind of takes the beauty out of it. Sometimes I just like to think beauty is naturally occurring with no explanation. I still will be able to enjoy sunsets, but I think with less fervor because I will just be thinking about the process light takes to make those pretty colors. I hope the awe of the beauty will outweigh the plain guidelines that make the sunsets what they are.

Why Are People So Scared of Clowns?

There are certain things in the world that give people “the creeps”. These things are usually dolls, masked figures, and (in light of recent events) clowns. But what makes these seemingly harmless objects so scary? After coming across a Vsauce video on Youtube about why people find certain things creepy, I decided to look further into it.

In light of the recent events that have been taking place across the nation, I wanted to look into why so many people suffer from coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns. In this article, professor of psychology at Knox College, IL, Frank McAndrew, explains that the feeling of creepiness tends to appear when people cannot completely determine if what they are experiencing is a threat or not.

According to this article, Dr. Steven Shlozman from Harvard Medical School, a big factor as to why people get creeped out by clowns due to their unnatural smiles. There is something about someone who is perpetually smiling that makes people uncomfortable. There is a phenomenon known as the “uncanny valley” which explains why things such as clowns, dolls, masks, and even human-like robots an frighten people and make them feel uneasy. The uncanny valley (show below) represents a sudden drop in familiarity and empathy for certain objects. This sudden drop is due to the fact that those objects that people fear are very close to being realistic, but they are just slightly “off”. This is especially visible in dolls, human masks, and human-like robots.

Going back to clowns, There are other reasons to why many people are uncomfortable around them. Dr Scholzman also mentions that people dislike clowns because of how they are portrayed in books and movies. The two most obvious examples of this are Stephen King’s killer clown character, Pennywise, from his book (and later movie) It, and also Batman’s nemesis, the Joker. Both of these characters are portrayed as evil, and this certainly instills the idea that clowns should be feared into the minds of many people. Of course, the recent clown activity across the country plays into this and further promotes this fear.

Another reason as to why clowns are so scary to people is that the masks and makeup they use conceal their true facial expressions. This is related to the permanent smile. People’s inability to see someone’s true facial expressions makes them appear less human, and therefore further down into the uncanny valley. This not only applies to clowns but to any masked figure as well. This directly relates back to the concept of not being able to determine if something is a threat or not. The uneasiness you might experience while looking at a clown or a doll comes in because it seems like it is harmless but at the same time you cannot really tell.

Unfortunately, knowing this will not stop any clowns, but at least you understand why people are so scared of them.






Chess – A Waste of Time or Brain Booster?

Ever since I was little, I was enamored by the game of chess. From the intricate design of the pieces, to the simplicity and complexity every game can achieve individually, it truly is an interesting activity that I have enjoyed playing for many years. Although they are not video games by any standards, current games of any sort carry a social stigma to them that relates them to being a waste of time, especially in a society that encourages constant communication and being plugged in. Today, I wish to delve further into my love of chess and explore whether or not it is actually a waste of time, or an activity worth pursuing for further bettering over the course of my life.

Multi-level Chess! Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WbMEoG6aQY8/U2-AIUEz5uI/AAAAAAABg30/mzY1boktcIs/s640/12.jpg.

According to the Chess in Schools Organization, one of many inner-city groups that promote the playing of chess within educational communities, two studies conducted in the 1990s point towards the overall benefits that playing chess can have on children. One study measured how the lower and average scoring children who took standardized tests obtained an even higher score after being introduced to and playing chess regularly, as opposed to the unaffected group which score the second time around with little to no actual difference. The other highlighted the significant improvement in the measurement of emotional intelligence children gained as a direct result of playing chess. Since then, cities such as New York and other major metropolitan cities make it a point to integrate children and communities into the chess community.

Bobby Fischer, a Professional Chess Player Planning his Next Crucial Move. Source: http://www.afr.com/content/dam/images/g/j/r/w/1/2/image.related.afrArticleLead.620×350.gjrvu2.png/1442890866194.jpg.

Benjamin Franklin, a well renowned scientist and diplomat back in his day, also enjoyed playing chess in his off time, so much in fact that he wrote an essay about it titled The Morals of Chess, which was published in 1786. Franklin claimed that not only is chess an enjoyable activity, but he also claimed that important qualities in everyday life were exuded and practiced every game that was played on the eight by eight square board. These qualities included foresight, circumspection, and caution namely, along with the practice of respect, patience, and sportsmanship.

Fun Fact: Not only did he enjoy Chess, but Franklin also created the first Volunteer Fire Company, among many other ideas and objects throughout his lifetime! Source: http://a1.files.biography.com/image/upload/c_fit,cs_srgb,dpr_1.0,q_80,w_620/MTE1ODA0OTcxNjMyNzg5MDA1.jpg.

Overall, the idea that chess is attributed by some to be a waste of time is far from true. There are many documented examples of the benefits chess provides, including health benefits like preventing the onset of Alzheimer, according to a meta-analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine. On the other end of the spectrum, there is hardly any evidence or documented cases out there to support the notion that chess is detrimental or negative in any way, shape, or form. Of course, there are the third variables to consider, such as the established condition of a player before they begin playing chess, or even if individuals who already have those traits are allured to chess like a magnet to the refrigerator door. There is also the chance that chess is absolutely detrimental and I am completely off my rocker, but with the large amount of chess-related evidence in support of its benefits, I am hardly dismayed by the notion that it could be due to chance that chess is harmful. In closing, my hypothesis was found to be a null hypothesis given the lack of evidence to support how wasteful chess is, although if there is something more important that needs to be done, players should prioritize completing more important tasks first. Just like with everything, chess is good in moderation, so long as it does not consume someone’s life in a harmful manner.

Thanks for reading this post! Have a comment or question? Want to play a game sometime? Do you disagree with anything I laid out above? Feel free to leave a reply, and have a great day!

Is bad breath gettin ya down?

chewing-gum (taken from this site)

So you wake up, get out of bed, brush your tee-. Wait. You brush your teeth, right? And you brush your tongue too?

Brushing your teeth and tongue is just necessary good hygiene. It gets the bacteria out from in between your teeth and off of the surface of your tongue. The bacteria that lingers is what causes bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and couldn’t stand the smell of their breath? A conversation so long that you almost feel like your eyebrows are about to burn off just from the pure stink?

Well, I have and I am certain you have too. These conversations have lead to me my research on the effects of bad breath on the human mind. I mean, think about it. It can’t make a person feel too good when they know their breath smells. It has to make the feel at least a little self-conscious, right?

My findings have answered that very question. Yes, it can. According to Dr. Katz, bad breath can have a negative effect on a person’s self-esteem and can cause social anxiety. A study featured in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes revealed that several of its subjects with significantly bad breath experienced severe social anxiety even following their treatment. The psychologists in charge conducted anxiety measurement tests prior to the start of the experiment, as well as afterwards.


Pause. Now think about this.

Have you ever considered that the opposite may also be true? While bad breath can cause a person to experience symptoms of SAD, SAD can also cause bad breath to get worse. How is that? The psychological meets the physiological. If you know you have bad breath and suffer from social phobia, you’ll probably begin to feel sweaty and shaky and your mouth might begin to feel dry conversing with another person. Something to note about halitosis is that bad breath is commonly developed from a dry mouth, as determined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

So…this never ending cycle of smelling bad, feeling nervous about opening your mouth, and then smelling even worse as a result of anxiety is why people with bad breath ARE TYPICALLY NOT HAPPY.

Can you blame them?

So, here are some tips to avoid bad breath that I find one hundred percent effective:

Brush your teeth and tongue at least three times throughout the day.

Floss just as many times, and use mouthwash…

It also can’t hurt to carry around a pack of breath mints just in case you can’t run back to your place to brush your teeth. Remember, it’s not just you smelling your breath, it’s everyone you talk to. So, practice good hygiene people!



Does Eliminating Gluten From An Autistic Child’s Diet Improve Behavior?

As a teen who knows the bare minimum about Autism, I was interested in digging deep beyond the surface and obtaining more knowledge about those who have it, and how/if it can be cured. First and foremost, what is Autism? Autism is a mental condition present from early childhood characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. Autism does not run in my family in particularly, but I do have several friends that have relatives with Autism. From what I’ve discovered, many individuals believe that Autism is the result of the inability to properly break down peptides predominantly found in foods containing gluten and casein, causing rattling in the biochemical and neurological process. Biochemical evidence shows increased levels of peptides that have not been broken down after studying the urine of the individuals with Autism. Thus, the question arises. Can eliminating gluten from an Autistic child’s diet improve their behavior?


The Study:

In this particular study, children’s diets were monitored over a 5-month period of time, using parent/ teacher conference sessions, elimination of gluten from the individual’s diet all together, and monitored urine profiling. With lack of knowledge of where Autism develops from, people grasp for straws to help their children dealing with such a disorder. Urine tracking, particularly in this study, added a great deal of value to the experiment, using liquid chromatography (which is used to separate a sample into individual parts), found high level of peptides in the urine samples, primarily in food containing high levels of gluten. A total of 31 children were tested during this experiment, falling somewhere between the age range of 5-7 years old, all having different disorders such as Autism, Asperger’s, and spectrum disorders.  The experiment consisted of straying participants away from gluten, and monitoring their diets consistently.


  1. Direct causation: Eliminating gluten from an Autistic child’s diet -> improvements in behavior
  2. Reverse causation: Eliminating gluten from an Autistic child’s diet <-  improvements in behavior  …. which doesn’t seem to be the correct solution here
  3. Third confounding variables: ?
  4. Chance…because chance is always a possibility 


Data from parental interviews and parental and teacher observations showed that some of the participants on the gluten free diet were reported as showing some improvement in autistic behaviors, after 3 months on the diet. When the 5-month experiment was completed, results showed an improvement in the vast majority of participants.

Bottom Line: Fixing the behavior of children with Autism is important, and is linked to a gluten free diet. The number of children being diagnosed with Autism is seemingly growing, therefore, more studies like the one analyzed in this blog need to conducted to test if the results are really just by chance, or if removing gluten from an Autistic child’s diet truly enhances behavior.


  1.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/peptide
  2. http://aut.sagepub.com/content/3/1/45.shor

Hold Your Breath

Ever go to get a manicure and walk in to see all the technicians with masks on? This leads me to believe something about the chemicals in nail polish or something must be dangerous to our health. The stench from nail polish and nail polish removal has always worried me. I try to open a window or door when doing my nails because the scent automatically makes me feel like there is something in nail polish I should not inhale too much of. Also, at one point, I read something on a bottle that said to use in a well ventilated area. Why?



Much to my surprise, a big concern is not about the inhalation. Anna Almendrala references a study in which diphenyl phosphate, DHPH, which is a result of the chemical triphenyl phosphate, TPHP, was higher in women who had nail polish put onto their natural nail in somparison with fake nails. Almendrala says this is bad because DHPH could have reproductive issues. Megan Friedman also says TPHP leads to weight gain. If this is the case, the problem is an easy fix. Just getting acrylic nails instead of your natural nails polished should solve all the issues because the chemical will not be absorbed, at least not according to the study Almendrala referenced. This is a good discovery, but I wonder what else there is to it.

There are many other chemicals used in nail polish that potentially have harmful risks. Wellness Mama lists risks from toulene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate ranging from cancer to reproductive and organ trouble. It is hard to imagine being in a profession that requires being around all of these chemicals on a day to day basis. The United States Department of Labor lists many health risks of acetone exposure, which is the main ingridient of nail polish remover. I have personally got light headed when removing nail polish, but it was a very small effect. Because this is so short term, I do not worry about it. I continue to use nail polish remover, so it obviously has not negatively impacted me on a large scale. Muirwood Adolescent and Family Services points out some kids use nail polish remover to get high. They say that over time, this can actually mess up normal breathing patterns. Clearly acetone can be dangerous if abused, but so can most chemicals.

After learning all this information, I do not think I will change my nail painting patterns. I do not go over board with nail polish, so I do not think I experience enough exposure for adverse side effects to occur in my body. If anyone is concerned about the harmfulness of nail polish and nail polish remover, there is a super easy solution. Thankfully, we can control, in most situations, whether we are exposed to nail polish. Make the choice based on an informed mind.

What creates a pet peeve?

If you should know one thing about me, I am queen of pet peeves. I have tens that I could tell you on the top of my head, some you might think are crazy, but what can I say, I can’t help the annoyance it causes me. The typical nails on a chalkboard, chewing with your mouth open, are the ones that arise on most occasions, but everyone has something that unique that gets under their skin, whether it is a sound, a social quirk, or a voice, we all a pet peeve. Although it is obvious there are things we as humans get annoyed at or can’t stand to hear or be around, but my wonder is, what causes this “pet peeve” to emanate, and where did it begin?

I thought up a few questions as I had this topic in my mind:


  1. Why do we have pet peeves?
  2. Why is it that some people have more than others?
  3. Can we get over pet peeves?


A study conducted by the Wellcome Institute and Newcastle University tested pet peeves on subjects brains, but having them listen to a series of sounds, one from a fork/knife scraping glass and one nails scraping a chalkboard. These probably being two of the most know unbearable sounds. The researchers monitored the participants brains while the sounds were playing to test what kind of activity would occur and how the brain would react to the horrible sounds. The amygdala, which is where a lot of negative emotions come from, was seen to be the most affected, and followed by uneasiness with the participants actions and expressions as well. They repeated several sounds and repeated the measuring for each one as well.

Another pet peeve example included was the sound of certain words. For example: moist is one of the most common hated words, tending to make some cringe. Apparently, humans associate gross or unpleasant things with negative or uncomfortable thoughts. Possibly a word a can bring on visions of illusions of disgusting things that deter individuals from using them. Once a word is connected or associates something of disgust, most individuals will always think of that when the word is brought up, thus creating a mental pet peeve. This also goes along with food textures or smells. If one dislikes it the first time and it reminds them of something vulgar or foul, most likely that individual will always associate the food negatively. . A 2005 study showed that even if that item is altered or the packaging varied from the original,the participants still disliked them or associated them negatively.

Humans create these pet peeves from experience or exposure to negative things, or dislikes. Once an experience harms or creates a bad connotation, most individuals store it in their mind as a grievance or pet peeve. It depends on what kind and how much exposure one has, determining how many things can create this deterring mindset. We all have them, some more than others, but once they are there, they are there to stay. It’s a good thing chalk boards have become a thing of the past!

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Should I work out when I have a cold?

Usually when I have a cold all I want to do is snuggle under my blankets and enjoy some warm chicken noodle soup. But for a slight few, exercising on a strict schedule is a must, even if it means they are dragging them selves to the gym with a runny nose and a loud cough. So I wondered, is going to the gym when you have a cold safe, or should you just stay in bed and continue watching another episode on Netflix.

sick-woman-in-bed-with-a-coldpicture from here

One new study that the American College of Sports Medicine completed was about if working out with a cold would heighten the illness’ effects on the patient. A common perception made, is that working out and staying healthy will prevent you from becoming sick. Though this is true, not many studies have been made about when you are already sick and what going to the gym during that period of illness will do to your body.

One study by American Journal of Medicine hypothesized that moderate activity, like walking can strengthen your immune system. This was because it was thought that the number of white blood cells in your body would increase. So the trials studied women who walked 30 minutes everyday compared to women who didn’t walk 3o minutes a day. This study showed that the women who walked everyday had half as many cold then the women who did not walk everyday.

Another study was conducted at Ball State University. In this study, researchers measured the symptoms of common colds of people who do and do not workout. This study was conducted with 50 healthy college students, who had to exercise 40 minutes everyday. After this study was finished, researchers saw that working out does not effect the symptoms of the person’s cold, while there where no significant differences between the testing group and the control group. The immune system was not impacted by the strenuous activity.

So does this mean I can go out and run a marathon when I have a cold? Well, no not exactly. A big thing with this situation is moderation. While you have a cold, though you can workout and your symptoms will not increase, you should not push it. A light cardio session would be most ideal for your workout. Since working out increases the rate of your heart, working out while on cold medicine should not be done.





The Most Special Science Behind Creativity

Personal Allegory:

My whole life I lived directly across the street from two boys (fake names for privacy reasons of course), Rick and Matt. Our moms are best friends so they are basically my brothers. The younger of the two, Matt, is 15 and Rick is turning 18 on Halloween! Growing up, the two of them never failed to impress me. Even as a little twerp Matt was advanced in any sport you could think of. He was on every club sports team in the neighborhood and was one of those kids that you had to drag by the hoodie to get him to ditch his basketball and come inside for a 20 minute dinner. He was also one of those rare sporty tween boys that amazed you with his kindness, responsibility, honesty, and willingness to kiss his mother on the cheek in front of the whole baseball team! You don’t find those kids often. As big of a place in my heart that I have for Matt, Rick is outrageously special to me. This boy writes screenplays, builds lego castles, designs video games on computerized softwares, films clay stop motion short films, photographs landscapes and nature, writes original lyrics, can recite every single line from any Drake & Josh episode, knows the title and artist of every top hit song on the radio, makes perfectly timed witty jokes, and the list goes on and on. There’s one thing, however, that I forgot to mention, Rick is diagnosed with Autism.

Possible Correlation:

I know this intro is lengthy, but this topic means a lot to me and connecting this to something personal makes it much more comprehensive. I don’t need a scientific publication to tell me that Rick is one of a kind. Matt is above average in regards to athletic talent for his age, but he does not have a diagnosis of Autism. Rick is  above average in creativity and artistic talent, not necessarily for his age, but for having special needs. Both of these boys excel as individuals, but are there different causes behind their abilities? Fortunately, I found an article that links Autism to creativity.



Suggestive Correlations:

  1. Autism → Creativity (direct causality)….what is believed to be happening
  2. Autism ← Creativity (reverse causality)….this is definitely ruled out….creativity cannot make someone Autistic
  3. Autism ← Z → Creativity (Confounding/3rd variable)……because Rick is significantly less social than most kids his age, he spends a lot of time by himself…..his frequent alone time is usually when his creative antics take place; thus, it could be possible that Z= lack of social skills because that goes hand-in-hand with a common Autistic lifestyle and more time to be creative.
  4. Chance……can always be a possibility….Rick could be creative just like everybody else

The Study:

According to the University of Stirling and the University of East Anglia’s team of psychologists, when Autistically diagnosed individuals were asked questions that have no definite answer, their responses were thoroughly more imaginative and unique than those without a diagnosis. Rick exemplified this claim all the time. When we were much younger and the seasons would change from fall to winter, Rick and I used to try and catch the leaves. When I asked him why the leaves fall from the trees he replied that the weather gods are having a celebration for another successful autumn. Not only is that absolutely heart-warming, but it’s pure originality that not just anyone can have. The founded evidence of this was that people with autism tend to think more cognitively. This would mean that the more typical answer would be their first thought, but they would trail off into a sequence of word associations. For example in my previous leave-catching story, Rick may have thought to think of the answer in an order such as: wind, sky, clouds, heaven, god, christmas, celebration.


My Thoughts:

Considering the unique method of their thinking process, their abstract way of calculating an answer is evidence that people with Autism have an open highway to creativity when it comes to thought and imagination. For myself or others without a diagnosis, our minds are more likely to respond with a quicker and more logical answer that sounds common and rational….ugh boring.






Dinosaurs Extinction

Theories of extinctions of dinosaurs still remains competitive even though its central mystery appears to have been solved. Everyone can agree that the dinosaurs are extinct however the new fossils and data thats gathered everyday lies subject to new thoughts. Theories regarding dinosaurs intelligence and behavior have been changing rapidly and even held beliefs like dinosaurs are cold blooded are being challenged. It seems as though anything that has been proven is subject to defiance and a new idea is proposed. Sooo….

What Actually killed the dinosaurs?

Easy right? A asteroid. Well it is not that simple, although we were taught this not many people actually know the logistics. In hindsight, how could one asteroid wipe out all of the dinosaurs? That is ridiculous. It was not until the late 1900s did we find the evidence we can now feel confident about, in reviewing things from over 60 million years ago.


Asteroid hitting earth, artwork

Asteroid hitting earth, artwork


Knowing an asteroid was responsible for the extinction for almost all dinosaurs is too vague, the responsibility of the effects is what killed most of them off. The fact of the matter is this, the comet or asteroid that hit the earth ended up uplifting so much dust it practically covered the sun completely and made the world go into a deep freeze. This was concluded by the discovery of a massive impact crater off the coast of Mexico that was in the same vicinity of time as the extinction. However there are many theories to what else helped kill off the dinosaurs. 


I thought it was due to volcanoes?

On a second global scale catastrophe also came the conclusion of the impact of volcanoes. The lively volcanoes were so powerful we would not be able to perceive a thought of them erupting and spewing over 200,000 square miles. Volcanoes were able to put stress on ecosystems and ultimately could have possibly lead them to the final blow. Although scientists do not believe the dinosaurs extinction was solely because of the volcanos they can confirm that other species have been wiped out because of them in the past. The true discussion between scientists on whether this was a major impact on the dinosaurs or not was ‘when did the eruptions begin’ and ‘how long did they go on for’.


Long exposure of Tungurahua volcano with blue skyes



In December of 2013 a team consisted of MIT and Princeton researchers made an expedition to the Deccan Traps, east of Mumbai.

For two weeks they looked for data consisting of minerals that form shortly after an eruption. They also had to choose minerals that could be very precisely defined to tell the age of them. The researchers collected more than 50 samples from the region and they had found that some from the bottom and top contained zircon, which allowed the team to determine the timing of the Deccan Traps eruptions from start to finish.

Between the two schools they analyzed the rocks, the analysis was this: the region started erupting 250,000 years before the asteroid strike, and continued for another 500,000 years after the impact. Now where they have to go with the study says one of the researchers is that they have to figure out how long the splits are of magma or was it one continuous flow.


Another researcher also added in that they are getting better at dating mass extinctions but they have not taken a foot in the direction of solving what caused them.

Scientists also still dig into the Climate Theory- That being the gaseous volcanic plume might have initiated a global climate change that threatened the dinosaurs.

The conclusion is this, there is evidence that an asteroid played a roll in the extinction as well as the volcanoes however there is no true concrete answer yet. Science is all about challenging others ideas and with this topic it really comes into play. The more data and evidence that pops up the closer we will get to understand what happened. For now scientists will have to have an open mind, think creatively, and never let any theory be set in stone.





Bacon Bacon

Bacon… One of the most popular food choice in America it has hit main stream you see it everywhere clothes, video games, wallpaper you just can’t seem to get away from it. But whats the science behind it?


According to AICR eNews bacon is a processed meat so it has a lot of sodium, cholesterol and added chemicals. With all this in mind processed meat is linked to cancer and other heart diseases. Researchers have yet to find any hard evidence or “mechanism” to link it to cancer but when they do studies they know its not due to chance. Now this does not mean you have to give it up but try to make the healthy decision, if you eat processed meat like bacon in moderation or less then you’ll be fine.


According to WebMD they say about an ounce should satisfy your body. There are also other choices you can choose beside fruits and vegetables. Turkey bacon is usually the go to the only thing they don’t recommend is sausage cause that is really bad for you even worst then bacon. The calories that come from bacon is mostly from the fatty portion.

Heres a video talking about the smell of bacon saying why people love the smell its these organic compounds that makes bacon smell good. I just thought this was interesting on how much is put into bacon to get the smell and causes a joy to your brain.


Can You Train Your Body to Sleep Less?

In high school I consistently went to bed around 3am and woke up for school at 7am. None of my friends understood how I could get so little sleep and yet still function normally in the day. After a summer of changing up my sleep patterns, I can no longer keep my eyes open after getting the amount of sleep that I used to get just a few months ago. What did I do to require so little sleep before? Can we train ourselves to need less sleep?

This image came from http://www.chatelaine.com/the-happiness-plan/be-happier-at-home-with-five-easy-tips/

This image came from http://www.chatelaine.com/the-happiness-plan/be-happier-at-home-with-five-easy-tips/

According to Karen Weintraub of The New York Times, I’m completely wrong about my own ability to function with minimal sleep. Dr. Sigrid Veasy, a professor at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, claims that teenagers don’t function normally with less than the 8 to 10 hour sleep recommendation. She explains that one effect of being deprived of sleep is misjudgment of the amount of sleep we need at the time. Because many students don’t understand how a lack of sleep really affects the mind and body, they are convinced that running on minimal sleep is acceptable. Some benefits of sleep and the drawbacks of sleep deprivation are explained in blogs like The TRUTH Behind Sleep and How much do we really need sleep?, which explain that the closer someone gets to reaching the recommended amount of sleep, the healthier they will be.

However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is possible to alter your own natural rhythm of sleep, without experiencing the downfalls of sleep deprivation that are discussed in these blog posts. Personally, in the short time that I used to sleep, I slept very well. According to Christie Nicholson from Scientific American, we sleep with greater intensity when we are sleep deprived. Therefore, my sleep deprivation may have caused me to sleep better than if I had consistently slept longer, but it still does not compensate for the lack of sleep. There is no evidence that proves that altering the amount of time that is necessary to sleep for is possible, but evidence does show that it is possible to alter the time of day or night that you feel tired. The National Sleep Foundation explains that our internal circadian biological clocks are responsible for controlling the signals in our brain that determine when we should be awake, and when we should be asleep. In addition, it is also responsible for making us feel more alert during the day even when we are sleep deprived. This effect could factor in to why people feel like they need less sleep than they actually need.

This image came from http://a2levelpsychology.blogspot.com/2015/06/a2-level-circadian-rhythm.html

This image came from http://a2levelpsychology.blogspot.com/2015/06/a2-level-circadian-rhythm.html

There are no published studies that specifically examine what happens when people try to beneficially alter the amount of sleep they get. This could mean that if studies were conducted, the researches probably accepted the null hypothesis, which in this case is that it is not possible to train yourself to function normally with less sleep. Therefore, the study might not have escaped the file drawer since these results are not exciting. The lack of specific studies for this topic could also be due to the fact that people accept that knowledge about sleep is enough to determine that the closer to 8 to 10 hours of sleep a teenager gets the better, because there is no way to dodge sleep deprivation. Based on these results, I’m glad that I no longer get such an insufficient amount of sleep. Even though I was not aware of it, I was less productive, as my body was not as charged up as necessary. Although I trained myself to learn to stay awake longer and cope with sleep deprivation, I did not alter the amount of sleep that is necessary for myself to get.


The TRUTH Behind Sleep

How much do we really need sleep?




Fluoride Sucks

This may sound weird, but I have many skepticisms when it comes to the government and public health. After all, more sick people means more money. The healthier everyone is, the less medications need to be bought, and the longer people live, the more social security that has to be given out. A big controversy that I have seen a lot is on our water supply. A lot of people I know turn to distilled water for a lot of reasons and I want to know if chemicals like fluoride that are put into our water have so many benefits that the good outweigh the bad.



Our teeth are the main reason for fluoride. According to Mike Stobe, in 1945 the first city starting adding flouride and had positive results in children. My issue begins here because children and adults are very different. The bones in kids are still developing and growing in a much different way than the bones of adults. A generalization was made because fluoride had such a positive impact in children, it would do the same for adults. Also there have been recent studies that make me question how much science really know about our teeth. For instance, my whole life I’ve been told to floss my teeth and I have just blindly believed because I believe professionals such as my dentist. Christine Birak explains how the government has no real basis for the encouragement of teeth flossing. So is this all a ploy in favor of floss companies? I have learned that science is largely about questioning the work and validity of the work of other people. At least i this case, fluoride does have little positive effect, at least is seems as though it does, on children.

Many factors lead to my questioning the necessity of fluoride in our water. Back to my doubts about the government and our health, I do not really trust the FDA either because the healthier we as a country are, the more money they lose. Even the, in my eyes, corrupt FDA has not backed fluoride supplements according to Dr. Mercola. My mother is a teacher and always brings up the high levels of kids with mental disorders. Sarah Landers says conditions such as ADHD are a side effect of too much flouride. Fluoride is supposed to help our bones, but the American Cancer Society speaks of a study that shows evidence of fluoride being so dangerous cancer in bones can come from it. Most people I know also know someone who has been affected by cancer. We have to start really examining what we are putting into our bodies.

All in all, I believe there is too much evidence against the health of fluoride for it to continue to be pumped into our water. Unfortunately, I would have to take drastic and expensive measures to avoid fluoridated water, but I am aware. I will not have to wonder anymore, but I do not know if that is necessary a good thing because of how scary the truth is.

Does Exercise Make You Happy

A lot of times I struggle to find the energy to get myself up and to the gym.  Either I’m having a bad day, it’s muggy outside, or I’m just a little bit too tired.  What I’ve noticed, is that on those days, if I do manage to exercise, I feel a little bit better after.  Once I looked at some information online, I understood that going to the gym is very beneficial in changing your mood and making you feel energized.20140115-171431

The main factor here is your endorphins.  They come from the pituitary gland and central nervous system, and tell us either when we are in pain, or when we are happy.  The endorphins are what are known to give someone a runner’s high when they get into your bloodstream.  Along with endorphins, another chemical released is dopamine.  Studies have shown that with age, the levels of dopamine in the body begin to decrease.  Exercise is the best way to stimulate this neurotransmitter, and get your body feeling good and energized.

Exercise not only releases these chemicals which make you feel good, but it also will help you decrease your stress levels.  It is interesting how this works: When you exercise, you are stressing your body, but at a low rate.  The more you do this, the better your body becomes at handling this low level stress, and the better it will be at handling other stressors in your life.  As a person who stresses about everything, this is very good to know.one-workout-away-from-a-good-mood

Here at Penn State, a study was conducted with 190 students.  They were asked to keep a journal for eight days, and report on their physical activity and daily experiences.  When noting their physical activity, they rated it based on how intense it was.  The results were published and showed what they had expected.  Those who engaged in more physical activity were reporting more pleasant experiences than those who were not exercising as much.

To simply summarize the information, yes, exercise will make you sore, but it will also make you feel better overall.  By releasing certain chemicals during a workout, we are able to feel energized and more positive.


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Crack is not so bad.

Forcefully pushing valuable bones in your body until you hear and feel a ‘pop’ sound does not sound too healthy. Unfortunately, I am a knuckle cracker. Honestly, before I began to type I had to crack my knuckles just from the thought of it. I recently made a knew friend who cracks his knuckles even more than I do, which led me to this topic. Advice and common sense tells me that this is probably a terrible habit to continue, but I still do it every day, several times a day.



Scientific processes within the body lead to the cracking. Tina Saey refers to the process as cavitation, where as Every Day Health call it tribonucleatioin, but the name is not too important for the sake of this argument. According to Saey and Every Day Health, when you make your bones separate, it makes a space and then you hear the crack. I achieve this by sticking my finger out and pushing it towards my wrist until it cracks. I’ve seen people pull their finger straight out, or curl their finger and push down on the joint.

There are many different claims of the long term side effects cracking your knuckles can have. Perhaps the most trivial supposed side effect is enlarging your knuckles leading to an unpleasant appearance of your hands. Allie Firestone references a study that proves this to be true. She says that over time, people who crack their knuckles have a higher chance of having bigger hands. A minor impact cracking knuckles has been proven to have by Jorge Castellanos and David Axelrod is reducing grip strength. A link to the pdf of their full study can be found here . Arthritis is the other claim that is a lot more scary. One study by Kevin DeWeber  surveyed people 50-89 years old and did not find a causal link between cracking knuckles and causing arthritis. Unless this result is a false positive, this is great new for me because I can continue to crack my knuckles without fear of it catching up with me later in life in the form of a painful disease. Cracking my knuckles is not as bad as it seems.

For some people, cracking knuckles may need to be a habit worth kicking. Cracking my knuckles is mentally satisfying, so it is worth the minor risks. Over time, I probably will not even notice if my hands get bigger, and it is not 100% that they will increase in size. I do not think my grip strength needs to be extremely high in everyday life, but of course I would not want to lose it all together. I imagine I will still be able to function perfectly fine with a slightly lower grip strength that I once again, may not even notice. Knuckle cracking is an overall okay habit.

Does Playing an Instrument Improve Brain Function?

Through elementary and middle school I used to play three instruments. The idea that people who play musical instruments have better cognitive function compared to those who don’t interested me. I read an article that explains that playing an instrument involves both your central and peripheral nervous systems and makes brain precisely process auditory, sensory, visual, and emotional information. The ability for the brain to process this information depends on neurons which communicate to each other by firing electrical impulses, also known as brainwaves. Nina Kraus, a neurobiologist, describes how these brainwaves can be used to evaluate how the brain processes pitch, timing and timbre(components of music).

In two studies MRI’s were able to show how the structure of people’s brains who play an instrument change. In the first study an MRI was taken of people who practice piano on a regular basis in comparison to those who don’t. The MRI showed that the musicians had a greater structure of white matter; this is interesting because people who have amusia (tone deaf) lack a consistent structure of white matter. In anotherstudy conducted in 2003 by Gottfried Schlaug and Christian Gaser it was found that the amount of gray matter in auditory, motor, and visual regions of the brain was different between high- practicing musicians, low-practicing musicians, and people who have never played an instrument. The differences had a p value of less than 0.05, therefore, the results show that something is going on. The researchers also found that there was a greater volume of grey matter in the cerebellar cortex of high-practicing musicians, which is important in cognitive learning and music processing. This difference also had a p value of less than 0.05, so the null hypothesis can rejected. The researchers discuss that since they were able to find multiple structural changes it is not likely that they occurred naturally and that more studies are needed.

In 2012, a study performed by Hanna Pladdy evaluated how practicing a musical instrument, for more than 10 years, could improve cognitive function later in life. Pladdy describes that since it was impossible to control the participant’s daily activities it was hard to differentiate if the cognitive changes were due entirely to musical training. There were 70 participants (59-80 years old) divided into musicians who had 10+ years of musical training and non-musicians. She found the musicians scored higher in tests that involve verbal harmony-project-36_custom-063b0022540e87e864cd6aa450e379e1766a762e-s700-c85and motor skills. Additionally, Pladdy found that those who started practicing before the age of 9 had increased verbal <a href=”http://www.wisegeekhealth.com/what-is-verbal-working-memory.htm#didyouknowout”>working memory</a>in adulthood. She also suggests that beginning training at a young age and practicing for at least 10 years could make up for less education; the participants who showed the greatest differences had received less education. The study had a low number of participants so the results are not that reliable, however, they provide evidence that something is going on.

A subsequent experiment, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, conducted by Nina Kraus in Los angeles evaluated the effect of the Harmony Project (a non-profit organization that provides music lessons in low-income areas). Kraus explained that, in general, children in low-income areas have a harder time discriminating consonants because statistically by the age of five they are exposed to fewer words than other children. Kraus conducted a randomized unblinded controlled trial by randomly dividing the kids on the waitlist for the program into two groups. The first group would be tested after taking 1 year of lessons and the second group would be tested after two years of lessons. The results showed that the brain processing for children in the second group became more precise and the brain was able to process consonants faster and more efficiently;therefore school and daily life would become easier. Kraus acknowledges the problems with this study since only children ages 6-9 were used and it was not performed in a control lab setting(no way to know if outside activities the kids were engaged in were the reason for their improved cognition).

Although the studies some flaws whether it be small participant groups or an inability to evaluate confounding variables, I think that the results show evidence that this question should be evaluated further. None of the studies were able to reach a clear conclusion, however they were all published which shows that the researchers believe that the findings are big enough to be studied further. So do people who play instruments have a better cognitive ability? I can’t say yes or no, but it can’t hurt to start up a new hobby.

Cell Phones & Cancer

In today’s world I would say almost every college student has some sort of cell phone. We all use them, and with the advancements in smartphone technology, phones are becoming more a part of our daily lives. But there are many speculations about the possible dangers cell phones may have on the human body.

There have been many studies that try and determine if there are any effects of radio waves coming from cell phones, one of which being a recent study carried out by the National Toxicology Program. They preformed an experimental trial in which rats were exposed to different amounts of radio waves. Over the course of the two year study, groups of rats were given doses of radio wave radiation, in addition to a control group which did receive any doses. What the scientists hypothesized was that the more radio waves the rats were exposed to , the higher their chance of developing cancerous cells. The typical rate of brain tumors in rats is about 2%, and the group given the most exposure had a rate of about 2.2%, which is very close to the control rate. In the heart however, the outcome was much more clear. The control rate of tumors in the hearts of rats is 1.3%, and throughout the groups that received radiation doses, the rate ranged from 5.5% to 6.6%, a significant increase in the rate of heart tumor.

Even with clear results from this study, it is still hard to understand what the effects are like on humans. Obviously we are very different from rats, so our bodies may react differently. Also, it is difficult to replicate the amount of radiation we are in contact with because of our phones, and where it is mostly concentrated. For now I wouldn’t be too concerned until a more specific study is published, but it certainly wouldn’t be bad to separate yourself from your phone when you are able to.