Daily Archives: November 13, 2016

Are Energy Drinks Harmful to Our Body?

I am sure that some of you have read many posts or articles that show studies that either claim drinking energy drinks are safe or dangerous. Some studies say that drinking energy drinks is safe if you were exercising or making an effort. I do not consider to myself to be addicted to energy drinks. However, many of my friends are addicted to energy drinks and when I tell that it could be dangerous to their health, they claim that it is just a “normal nutrition’” that is put all together in a bottle. So, I decided to do a research about it to test the claim that energy drinks do no harm to our body.


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The null hypothesis: energy drinks do nothing harmful to our body

The alternative hypothesis: energy drinks do harm to our body.

Hypothesized causation: energy drinks cause health issues.

Reverse causation could be that people who suffer from health issues drink a lot of energy drinks.

While I was searching in Google, I found a recent study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says that energy drinks are harmful to our body and could cause serious heart issues. The article that showed the study was well-organized and detailed and has included all results and the way the experiment was done, which means that the study results do not suffer from the File Drawer Problem.

The researchers said that they used a commercial energy drink and a placebo drink for the participants as an independent (x) variable and suggested that the response (y) variable is the change in blood pressure, heart rate and mental and physical stress as hard points. They also measured soft point that could be associated with changes in the heart rate such as an increase in the cardiovascular risk. The researchers claim that they conducted a randomized double blind placebo control trial and that all the participants in the study were healthy adults.

The study showed that the Caffeine levels had significantly increased when participants drank energy drinks. On the other hand, the Caffeine levels for the participants who drank the placebo drink did not change. Additionally, the researchers did not notice any changes in heart rate on both groups. The researchers had also noticed that the blood pressure has gone up.

The research has studied 25 participants who were randomly selected and were all healthy. Not to mention that the study was experimental and the researchers had used a placebo drink, in which they made sure that it will not have any effect on the body by measuring the difference responses on each group when they drank the placebo drink. That being said, many third variable could be ruled out such as the difference in the effects that could result from differences in ages, or even health issues that could, for example, affect heart rate and the amount of energy drink one drinks.

In addition, I think that the study was well-conducted and could thus rule out reverse causation. However, as we learned in class, we need to be skeptical no matter how well the study is conducted or how strong the evidence is the results could still be due to chance. Not to mention that the sample size in the study was too small and that there was only one energy drink tested in the study, which could increase the probability that the study results are false positive.

Furthermore, the study might suffer from the Texas Shooter Problem because of the many hard and soft points measured in the study such as Physical stress and mental stress/ Not only does the study measure many things, it also uses method that may have a big chance of resulting in inaccurate results. For example, the study measures mental stress by asking participants to do mathematical tasks in a certain period of time. This could cause a variation in the results because of mathematical skills vary from one to another, especially, if the participants varied between educated and uneducated. An educated person, especially one whose major involves mathematics, might do, for example, three mathematical tasks in one minute, while an uneducated person might do them in three minutes.


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Moreover, the alpha value chosen in the study= 0.05, the p-value in the study’s results=0.003. And because the difference between alpha and the p-value is significant and the p-value is smaller than alpha, we will reject the null hypothesis and say that energy drinks are harmful to our body. However, the conclusion is based on only one study, so I still need to do further research.

Overall, the study was well-conducted and has ruled out any possible misinterpretations for the study’s results that could result from observational studies or inaccurate results from experiments that are poorly conducted. In addition, the probability that the study results were type 1 error (false positive) was relatively small and thus can be trusted. I think that the study results are convincing. Also, I found two meta-analysis studies (study1, study2 ) that studied more than one energy drink, such as Red Bull and Rockstar and  also well-done experiments, and used big sample sizes and have showed that drinking energy drinks can cause an increase in heart rate and caffeine in your body.

Bottom Line: many meta-analysis studies that were done on the danger of energy drinks say that energy drinks are harmful to our body, as they significantly increase levels of caffeine in the body, which can result in serious health. According to an article in Mayo Clinic, having high amounts of caffeine in your body can cause health issues like  insomnia,  nervousness, restlessness, and stomach upset. I am convinced that energy drinks are harmful to my body and I would personally try to drink less coffee and energy drinks in my every-day life; however, because the study did not show any serious heart diseases that could results from drinking a small amount of energy drinks, I would still drink energy drink when I am doing an exam in order to focus and do well on the exam, as I feel that energy drinks and coffee help me pay better attention to the task I am doing than when I do not drink them.

Should we stop doing homework through the computer?

One adjustment I have had to make from high school to college has been homework. Sure, the numbers of hour I’ve had to study has increased, as well as my workload, but that has yet to be too great of a burden as of yet. No, I am talking about the way that I complete my homework. Six months ago, while in my high school classes, I never had to worry about submitting homework assignments online because it was all done through worksheets. Now I am doing Italian exercises online, creating my own website for my freshman seminar, taking an online class, and of course, posting on this blog. Now I purchase my textbooks online because they are cheaper and easier to access. The reliance on technology in college has made me wonder are there any learning benefits or detriments to using technology so much? I did some research to find out.

I came upon this article written by Rachel Grate. Grate lists three different reasons why reading print is better for you than reading through a screen. The first reason is that your reading comprehension is much improved when reading print (Grate 2014). Grate references an article from by Alison Flood about a study involving 50 people. All of the individuals were to read a short story from writer Elizabeth George, but half were to read through a Kindle and the other half by paper. The readers were then tested on what they had read.


Before I reveal the results of the study, it is important to note that it is difficult to say whether this study was a double blinded study. We do not know how the individuals were chosen to participate in this study. This means that confounding variables such as intelligence, level of higher education, and place of birth could still be at work in this study. We also do not know if the researchers conducting the study were blinded, meaning they can be biased in their findings. Lastly, truly great experiments usually have placebos. Unfortunately it would be impossible to have a placebo in this situation because you can not give somebody a fake Kindle or piece of print to read the story. Now, on to the results.

The readers who did not use print did not do as well as those who did read print when it came to placing 14 different plot points in the order that they occurred. The leader of the study, Anne Mangen, who represents Stavanger University located in Norway (Flood 2014), believes that a possible mechanism could be page flipping. When somebody is flipping through pages it helps them follow the story. If you are using a Kindle you swipe to flip the page, but it is not nearly the same as manually flipping a page yourself. home_bg_newPersonally I do not take much weight to this study. The reasons I listed above, as well as the fact that is only has 50 people makes me hesitant to use this study as evidence.

Flood also references another study. 72 students in tenth grade, all from Norway, were given texts to read. Some were given the text in PDF form on a computer, while others were given text. The students were then tested on what they read, similarly to the above study.  The results of this study were similar to the aforementioned study. The print readers performed better than the PDF readers. Now, just because this study shows a correlation between reading print rather than through a screen and grades does not mean this is a direct causation. As I said, all of the students were from Norway. Norway is a very, very smart country. They cannot represent the whole world due to their intelligence not representing the average Joe. In addition to that, there were only 72 students. The hypothesis that students do better reading print than computer simply cannot be backed up by these two studies.  I would ask for a meta-analysis to be done. Until this is done, we do not know if the results were a false positive or were correct. More studies leads to a lesser probability that chance is the reason for the results. Even the best studies, like the one Andrew showed us about prayer and healing, suffer from chance. However, it was revealed the conclusion that prayer does help with healing was revealed to be a false positive as a meta-analysis was done. When we get more and more studies done on this topic we will have a more clear idea of whether homework should be done or shouldn’t be done through a computer.

I do not like the way in which either of these studies were conducted. Because of this I have decided to make up my own experiment. My study would have at least 10,000 individuals, randomly selected from different places from around the world. Similarly to the above studies, they would be given the same texts, with half reading a computer format and half reading a print format. The texts they would read would be in their appropriate language. This study would be a single blind study. I would not let the researchers conducting the study know whose test results were whose to ensure there were no hidden biases. As I said, a placebo is not possible in this experiment. If this study was done multiple times and got the same result of print readers having better test scores than screen readers, I think the hypothesis that reading print is better for you would have a ton of merit. However, my study can’t be the definitive conclusion on this topic. I would have to publish it and have it readily available for peer review. This is how science works best to find answers. By allowing my study to be peer reviewed, other scientists can find faults in my study that I would not have seen without their expertise.

131216151Doing and reading homework online is an essential part of this generation’s college experience. It’s easier to administer, especially in huge lecture classes, as well as much more time efficient. I think the biggest takeaway from these two studies is that while there may be some merit to reading print rather than reading a screen, there needs to be more studies done with more people involved. Until then, I will continue to use my efficient computer to do my work.

Do Sexual Education Classes Decrease the Likelihood of Pregnancy and STD’s in Our Youth?

Growing up in a Catholic school, I never received Sexual Education classes like most of my public school counterparts. Instead, abstinence, or no sexual encounters before marriage, was the only thing preached. While it never got into the “if you have sex, you’ll go to hell” mentality that you see a lot in movies, it did heavily push for us not to sex in order to be right with God. This included things like uniforms with a certain length of skirts for girls, no PDA anywhere in school, no provocative dancing at prom, etc. So, after leaving that environment three years ago and entering into college, where the rules are obviously thrown out of the window, I always had this question: Does teaching abstinence or sexual education (and therefore safe sex practices) decrease things like teenage pregnancy and STD’s, or is it all pointless and kids will have unprotected sex regardless?

Looking at our two hypotheses, we have both the null hypothesis (sexual education does not change teen pregnancy reporting and teenage STD’s), and the alternate hypothesis (sexual education does decrease the amount of pregnancy reporting and teenage STD’s). Interestingly enough, we know that a lot of conservative, Christian families believe sexual education actually increases pregnancy reports and teenage STD’s, so although it’s seemingly unlikely, a second alternate hypothesis based off of this idea.

Looking at this topic on Google scholar, I found a (somewhat) observational study done in 2002 based off none-married, heterosexual adolescents aged 15-19 years of age (note, I had to put in my PSU email and password in order to be able to view the entire study for free. You may have to do the same). This study was meant to occur after the student’s first sexual encounter, but also after sexual education (which by itself is supposed to be conducted before the average student has sex). Because you can’t control if kids have sex and don’t, you cannot feasibly do an experimental study. Likewise, you cannot observe these kids 24/7 to see if they’re having sex and if they’re using protection, as that is incredibly unethical and practically improbable. Therefore, this study had to be done using a questionnaire. This, however, can make it less trustworthy because adolescents won’t want to report their sexual activity, even anonymously. Therefore, you can argue the students’ input may be withholding information or even not reporting true findings to the researchers (which isn’t quite the file drawer problem but is very similar.

Seeing the results, students who receive either sexual education teaching safe sex were about 4.95% less likely to report a teenage pregnancy than those who didn’t receive any education. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these teenage pregnancies didn’t happen, but they were reported far less. In abstinence-only education, there was no difference in sexual encounters and teenage pregnancy compared to sexual education. However, both offered no decrease in STD diagnoses among adolescents when compared to those who received no education. Therefore, it can be argued that these students were not practicing safe sex at a high percentage (which significantly decreases STD rates), and students were just likely getting lucky with teenage pregnancies or reporting them less than actually occurred. As you can see from the reporting, however, teaching about safe sex had no increase on reports of sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, or STD’s. Therefore, we can rule out alternate hypothesis #2.


Looking at the conclusion, I would have to say that alternate hypothesis #1, or that having sexual education reduces the amount of STD’s and pregnancies, is partially correct. Although STD’s seemingly didn’t change, pregnancies significantly went down (likewise, reports of vaginal intercourse also decreased). And while that may not be the what alternate hypothesis #1 set out to do, we can see that it did have some effect, and because of that cannot be the null hypothesis. However, I doubt the results. Being that this is not an experimental study, you can argue that third party variables like race, class, education levels and many other things can change the results even if there is sexual education.

In the study, caucasian people made up  73% of the study, while African Americans only made up 18%. No other race was measured. Likewise, the study was done more in metropolitan areas than rural or suburban areas. Thankfully, income levels did end up averaging out to about equal due to the high amount of participants. But with all of these differences, you can see that there are some areas that don’t contribute to third party variables, and thus you can take the results with a grain of sand. The p-value of the study was less than .05, making a false positive unlikely. Therefore, you can say that the first alternate hypothesis was all but confirmed, but you should take the results with a grain of salt. Meta-analysis is needed, preferably with doing it with low-income, low education areas in order to get the full picture. But we can all agree, logically we should want our future children to have sexual education classes in the future before their first encounters.



This ~text~ message will explode in 3…2…1…!

“Please buckle your seat belts and prepare for takeoff, but I’m sorry- you’re going to have to dispose of your Samsung Galaxy Note7 before this aircraft takes flight due to the recent reports of the device exploding.” This is what many travelers have been hearing as they approach their seats on an airplane before their flight. Some people are even prevented from getting onto the plane due to their choice in phone.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), they are taking this precaution to prevent in-flight fires and to keep the most amount of personnel safe, even though this new ban is an inconvenience for people with the Samsung Galaxy Note7.

So what is actually going on scientifically with the Samsung Galaxy Note7? The DOT has reports from Samsung customers saying they experienced what they called an ‘evolution of heat’ and an explosive battery. Due to the specific type of battery the Samsung Galaxy S7 has been using, a Lithium Ion Battery, the battery’s cell has a tendency to fail while charging which is what leads to the explosive incidents and burnt phones, according to Science Alert. Since people with Samsung Galaxy S7s are constantly using them for phone calls, texts, and notes, the battery ends are being over used, causing the electrolytes to boil, rupturing the battery cell casing and burn the phones exterior, which could lead to a fire if the boiling is bad enough.

Due to this intensive electrical malfunction on such a commonly used device, there have been recalls twice on the product, and now a public ban on the S7 on airplanes. Many unhappy customers are also returning their phones due to their incapability to function after being engulfed in an electrical flame.

This is a problem for people who fly on airplanes because the ban on the Galaxy S7 considers the phone to be hazardous under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations which doesn’t allow people to travel with lithium battery cells or electronic devices that may be known to start fires. These Lithium Ion batteries are not a foreign concept to the technological world, says the Chicago Tribune. In fact, they are in most of your laptops, phones, and other commonly used rechargeable items, it is just the overheating of the Galaxy S7 that makes the battery too dangerous to keep on airplanes for too long.

Sun Tanning


Naturally, everyone desires to look tan because it makes us feel better about ourselves and our appearance. We look healthier, skinnier, and overall just less pale. Besides the obviousness of race making a person darker or lighter, why is it that some people are just so much tanner than others?

After researching this topic I came across a website providing information about sun exposure to the skin. Some people have skin that simply does not tan and just burns when exposed to the sun, some have skin that takes three hours to tan to get to the same level of someone that might just sit in the sun for twenty minutes. The color we get on our skin when it is in the sunlight whether it be a golden brown or just straight red is caused by different types of UV light that has made it past the ozone layer to our skin. Every person has melanin in their bodies, which is produced by our cells and it absorbs all UV light and transform it to heat in our bodies. This protects us from having damage to our cells. So how does the tan vary from person to person? Each body has a different amount of melanin, usually naturally darker skinned people have more melanin allowing them to be protected from the UV rays from the sun compared to paler people who have much less melanin creating them to burn with the small amount of protection. Pale people tend to burn with the lack of protection from their cells so when the UV rays hit your skin it confuses the DNA making it go through a process called apoptosis in which the cells die and in reaction to that blood goes to that area, making the skin turn red and burnt. When the skin is burnt badly, blisters can form in its way to protect the skin with an extra layer. If a tan forms after a burn (which can most likely occur) it is because the lower layers of the skin begin to make more melanin in response to to light on the skin.

There can be some confounding variables with the bodies process of tanning such as sun block and tanning oil being used. Sun block has specific ingredients in it like zinc oxide and titanium oxide that reflects the UV light from the sun blocking it from getting to our cells. Tanning oil on the other hand, depending on the brand produces the opposite effect for the skin. The point of applying tanning oil is to produce extra melanin in our skin, which is the main ingredient in most of these oils. There are also tanning oils with SPF ( sun protection factor) in it, which is beneficial if you are trying to get tan but not burnt. The higher the SPF in sun block and tanning oils is the more protection the cells in our bodies get from the UV light rays in the sun. Overtime, your body can technically build up melatonin from small doses of sunlight triggering the cells.