Author Archives: Avery Elizabeth Holland

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

Being a typical teenager, I am on my phone A LOT. Between texting, calling, social media, and checking my email, I always find some reason to go on my phone. I realized just how much I use it during a sorority meeting last night when our phones were collected to make sure that we would pay attention. I subconsciously reached into my empty pocket multiple times to check the time or my messages, only to come up empty handed. It felt weird being detached from it for more than 5 minutes. As soon as they were given back to us, I knew I was not alone in this feeling as everyone else immediately put their head down and began texting and “snapping” away. Society’s frequent cell phone use has many people worried it may hinder social skills and relationship development, but were you also aware that many people believe frequent cell phone use could have potentially more dangerous effects such as cancer?

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Where does this concern come from? The amount of cell phone users has increased rapidly. As of 2014, there are 327.5 million cell phone subscribers just within the United States alone. Globally, this number is estimated to be 5 billion subscribers. Cell phones use radiofrequency (RF) energy that could potentially be absorbed by the body tissue closest to where the cell phone frequently sits.  This type of energy is is seen as dangerous because it is a type of electromagnetic radiation , found in x- rays and radon. However, energy used to power devices such as cell phones, televisions and radios is non-ionizing radiation meaning it is low frequency and therefore, low energy while x- rays use ionizing radiation which is high energy. While significant exposure to ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer, studies have found no increased risk of cancer from non- ionizing radiation (Cancer.gov).  Many different factors play a part in how much energy a person is exposed to when using a cell phone. These factors can include length of time on phone, whether it is close to the head or on speaker phone, distance to nearest cell tower, and type of phone being used. Cell phone producers are required to list the energy absorption rate of their models however, these numbers can many times be misleading. At extremely high levels radiofrequency waves can heat up body tissues however, researchers found that the levels found within cell phones are not high enough to cause any significant heating to body tissue. (American Cancer Society).

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Due to the frequency of people talking on the phone, meaning the phone is up to one’s head, many studies have been done to test whether this could possibly cause brain tumors. Since 2010, there have been 3 case-control studies which all came back positive in groups with the highest exposure. In 2/3 of those studies, the tumors were located on the same side the cell phone was frequently used however, this study could have been affected by “recall bias” meaning the patients exaggerated the amount of cell phone use. There have also been “Cohort” studies which follow people without tumors to test whether cell phones really do create a potential risk. All results in this study were found to be negative. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has ruled that the data shows no real risk of cancer/ tumors presented by frequent cell phone use. There is still a correlation between the two, but no evidence suggests that cell phone use is the cause meaning a confounding variable plays a role (Scientific American).

Should you throw away your cell phone? Probably not. Should you pay attention to the amount of time per day you use it? Maybe. Aside from there being a correlation to significant cellphone use and cancer, going on your cellphone all the time hinders social skills and relationship growth. Maybe once in a while, put your phone down and talk to someone in person. It could potentially save your life.

 

Are Exams the Best Form of Assessment?

I am not a good test taker. When it comes to exams, no matter how much I study or pay attention in class, nerves always seem to get the best of me and I freeze up, forgetting all the material. After several hours and hundreds of dollars spent on the best tutoring programs for SAT’s and ACT’s I still felt my scores did not accurately depict the type of student I am. I’m sure many other high school and college kids feel this way and would agree with me that other forms of assessment such as projects, presentations, and papers are better ways to test the understanding of the material.

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A test, by definition, is intended to measure and assess student’s knowledge on a specific subject. They are simply taken by students regurgitating facts they spent hours memorizing but not actually absorbing any of the concepts or understanding what they actually mean. Not only that, but exams don’t allow for any creativity or profound responses. Many times questions are looking for a single correct answer rather than a different outlook or idea on a certain concept. This causes students to only focus on specific exam questions rather than the topic as whole. Studies have found that in today’s society, students believe that good grades are more important than a firm understanding of the material. They have begun to study solely the information that will be tested and disregard any other information as unimportant (Brain Connection). How does this make for better learning? Memorization is not knowledge and if students cannot apply the material learned, what good it it? Simply put, exams are not true indicators of one’s intelligence and often times, limit students ability to actually comprehend the material rather than to just memorize it (Telegraph).

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Along with not fully grasping subject concepts, tests cause unnecessary stress in students that could hinder their learning. Many times students react to stress by not sleeping, not eating, and failing to concentrate which could mean they are not paying full attention in classes. Not only is their pressure from themselves to perform well, but teachers as well who are comparing them to their peers. To many teachers, a student’s success is only relevant if it is greater than that of it’s peers. Personally, I have experienced that while an “A-” on a test may be an outstanding grade for myself, it will not be the grade recognized by my teacher if it is not the best in the class. This causes me to put additional stress on myself to do better rather than focus on my own personal achievement (Brain Connection).

A final aspect to testing, is the fact that an exam assesses the student’s knowledge on that particular day, not taking into account external factors that may play a part in the student’s performance. Such factors could include sickness, injury, or family problems. Other forms of assessment such as projects, or presentations are done over a period of time rather than on a particular day in a specific time period giving the student more flexibility for other things to arise. Additionally, exams are evaluating a student’s individual attempt rather than their growth throughout the course as a whole. I believe that improvement is something to be accounted for rather than just a grade based on a single performance (Columbia University).

Various others forms of assessment to consider that could potentially replace testing, are sampling, stealth assessments and social and emotional skills surveys. Sampling is a way of evaluating students but less frequently. Instead of standardized tests for everybody, the district could administer tests to a “statistically representative” group of students rather than to every student annually. Hence the name, “sampling’. Stealth assessments diminish the time and anxiety of regular tests. They assess the students’ knowledge over a larger amount of time such as a semester or entire year rather than a single moment. Stealth assessments are administered online through a program which allows students to continuously practice math and english. Social and emotional skills surveys measures levels of hope, engagement, and well being which are good indicators of how well a student will perform on an assessment. This is to predict future scores and G.P.A.’s through the survey results (nprED).

Is it fair to say that for some students exams may not be the best form of assessment? Based on the information above I would say yes. Testing has shown to hinder creativity and original thinking, create stress among students and teachers, and fails to consider the growth/ improvement of the student as a whole. Overall, there are several other forms of assessments that could potentially be better suited to wider range of students that should be considered.

 

 

 

 

Does Sleep Affect Weight Gain?

Upon entering college, it’s been hard for me to get my usual 8 hours of sleep. Between studying, sorority meetings, and going out with friends I find that many times sleep falls at the bottom of my priority list. Because of my new habit of staying up late, I find that I tend to eat more since I’m awake for more hours of the day. This hunger then leads me to making some popcorn, eating some ice-cream, or even going as far as ordering Gumby’s famous pokey sticks with my roommate late at night. I’ve started to consider the idea that lack of sleep really does affect your weight gain because of it’s impact on our hunger and decided to look into it further.

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It is commonly said that a lack of sleep causes weight gain; but why? I found out that insufficient sleep affects our hunger and 2 hormones in our bodies called, ghrelin and leptin that affect our “fullness” sensation. The first hormone, ghrelin is responsible for releasing signals in our brains that says “it’s time to eat”. Insufficient sleep causes the body to produce more ghrelin. The second hormone, leptin is responsible for telling your brain when to stop eating. When you are sleep deprived the body produces less of this hormone and thus, you tend to eat more. Another hormone that is impacted from little sleep is the stress hormone, cortisol. The levels of this hormone spike which tells your body to conserve energy since you are awake for a longer amount of time. This then leads to your body holding on to more fat, causing weight gain (Web MD).

There have been many studies performed that help prove this hypothesis. One was conducted by the Nurses’ Health Study where researchers followed 60,000 women for 16 years recording different aspects of their lifestyles such as weight, sleep habits, and diet. It is important to know that at the beginning of the study, all women involved were healthy with no weight issues. At the end of the study, 16 years later, it was found that women who slept under 5 hours per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese in contrast with those who slept more than 7 hours per night. Results also showed that women who had insufficient sleep were at a 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study than those who slept 7 or more hours (Harvard School of Public Health).

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After many tests and studies, scientists and researchers conclude to reject the null hypothesis that lack of sleep has no negative effects on our health and/ or weight gain. There are several potential mechanisms behind this, one being that insufficient sleep directly causes over eating/ weight gain through the over/ under production of certain hormones in our bodies that control our hunger. Another regarding a third z variable that because people are awake for longer periods of time during the day, they eat more, which then causes weight gain. Another potential possibility could be that perhaps short sleepers are too tired to exercise or perform any physical activity and thus, end up sitting around or laying down more frequently causing weight gain. Further possibilities such as reverse causation, meaning that weight gain/ obesity causes a lack of sleep, are unlikely as I have not found any research that could provide possible causes for that. As always, chance is a possibility and it could be a coincidence that people who get a short amount of sleep tend to gain more weight than those who get 7+ hours.

After researching this topic I decided I should start prioritizing my sleep more if I want to avoid the “freshmen 15”. While I have yet to show any significant weight gain since my late night habits, it is reasonable to conclude that getting insufficient sleep long term can have some negative side effects such as weight gain. Although chance is still a possibility in terms of weight gain, it is still a good idea to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. With that being said, sweet dreams!

Are Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine?

If you’re anything like me, there is no such thing as eating simply one Oreo. You lift back the cover, eat a few cookies, and next thing you know, 2 sleeves are gone. Coming in various forms such as peanut butter flavored, “cakesters”, and “double stufed” there is no shortage of Oreo products. It’s as if the whole world, including myself, cannot get enough of the Oreo flavor. This had led many people to believe that Oreo products are addicting and question whether or not they may be even more or just as addicting as drugs like cocaine.

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Students at Connecticut College ran a study to test the addictiveness of foods high in sugar such as Oreos. The experiment was tested on lab rats with rats on one side of the maze given Oreos and the other, the control, rice cakes. They then recorded which side of the maze the rats chose to go to and how much time was spent on the Oreo side. (While it is not relevant to the results, I found it funny the study found that the rats broke the cookies apart to eat the cream in the middle just as many humans do). The results of this Oreo/ rice cake test were then compared with a second test. In the second test, rats on one side of the maze were injected with cocaine and morphine, while on the other side they were injected with saline (Conn. College).  After comparing the 2 test results, it was found that the rats spent just as much time on the Oreo side of the maze as they did on the cocaine/ morphine side of the maze. Students then tested the level of neuron activation in the area of the brain know as the “pleasure center” under both stimuli. They found that more neurons were activated “under the influence” of Oreos rather than cocaine or morphine (Conn. College). Even though this study was performed on rats, it is probable that these results could pertain to humans as well.

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In addition to Oreos, these results likely could have come from any high- fat/ sugary food suggesting why many people may have a problem over eating. Many researchers and nutritionists also suggest that these foods may even be more dangerous than addictive drugs because of their affordability and availability. It appears that lower income families tend to consume more foods high in fat and sugar, regardless of whether or not they are bad for them, because that is the only option they have.

With the many facts provided, one can see that Oreo addiction is a real matter. After recent studies, scientists have concluded that the chocolate creamy goodness is a mouthwatering treat that many people can’t resist. While there may not be any accounts of “Oreo overdoses” I’m sure if you ask any Oreo lover they will agree that Oreos are addicting and undeniable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?

Ever since I was a little kid, I have cracked my knuckles as a nervous habit. I’m not a nail biter, nor a hair twister; I push down on the joints of my fingers until I hear that satisfying “popping” sound that calms my nerves. Because of this habit, I have been told by everyone I know countless times that I will develop large knuckles or arthritis in my fingers later on in life. After several years of cracking my knuckles, I have yet to develop swollen fingers or any pain in my joints which leaves me to question whether there is a correlation between cracking your joints and developing arthritis.

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The “popping” sound we hear when we crack our knuckles comes from the bursting of gas bubbles located in the synovial fluid which surrounds our joints. This occurs when we press on the joints or pull and stretch the bones apart (Harvard Health Publications). Research shows that anywhere between 25 and 54 percent of the population cracks their knuckles, the habit being more common among males than females. Because of this phenomenon, several studies have been done to find out whether this habit creates any risks to our bodies (Medical News Today).

One experiment was published in 1998 by Dr. Donald Unger. He reported that he used his right hand as the control while he cracked the knuckles on his left hand twice a day for 50 years. It is estimated that his left knuckles were cracked up to 36,500 times. After the 50 years it was found that neither hand had arthritis nor were there any significant differences between the two hands. This study concluded that knuckle cracking did not cause arthritis (Medical New Today).

However, while cracking your knuckles may not lead to arthritis in your hands, it may correlate with swollen fingers and a weak hand grip. Further studies conclude that 84 percent of chronic knuckle crackers develop swollen joints later on in life compared to a mear 6 percent of non- crackers (Samuel Merritt). Now, does this mean that cracking your knuckles directly causes swollen joints and decreased hand strength? Or is there another variable that creates these harmful effects? Perhaps many knuckle crackers are often people who use their hands a lot such as manual laborers, typists, writers, or painters. This would therefore mean they feel the need to stretch or “relieve” their fingers more often and so, they crack their knuckles. This wouldn’t mean that the knuckle cracking directly causes the swelling or weakness, it would be due to the confounding variable such as their occupations.

Another idea to consider would be the idea of reverse causation meaning that arthritis and swelling of the joints causes people to crack their knuckles. This idea obviously makes no sense and is impossible therefore, it can be ruled out. As always, chance is a possibility. It may be a complete coincidence that people who crack their knuckles do or don’t develop arthritis or swollen joints.

In conclusion, studies have reported that cracking your joints does not lead to the development of arthritis. It is still undecided whether it causes swelling and a weakness of grip in the hands but there is a correlation between the two. For now, I would say that cracking your knuckles creates no real harm to your body and may just be an annoyance to the people around you so, continue to “pop” away.

 

 

 

Is smoking pot really bad for you?

In today’s society, smoking marijuana has become almost as common as drinking alcohol. Many people from teenagers to middle- aged men and women use it for both recreational and medicinal purposes. The subject of pot legalization has been extremely controversial and debated among several politicians and state governments. This controversy surrounds all the negative side effects of using marijuana however, there are also many benefits.

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The first of many benefits being the prevention and treatment of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and can lead to a loss of vision or even blindness. This disease can create intense pressure inside the eyeball and smoking marijuana actually helps to decrease that pressure and prevent further loss of vision (Business Insider).

Another study found that marijuana may prevent cancer cells from spreading. Cancer cells replicate a gene called, Id-1, that helps them spread throughout the body more rapidly. Researchers found that smoking marijuana makes this gene inactive and thus, stops cancer cells from spreading. It may also be possible that the components of marijuana can eliminate cancer cells completely (Business Insider).

It is also suggested that smoking marijuana may aid in the treatment of Inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease occurs when the walls of the intestines are weak and “leaky” making it easier for bacteria to seep through and cause an inflammatory response within the intestines. Smoking pot creates tighter bonds between the cells within your gut and therefore, the walls are stronger and less likely to let bacteria through. Researchers at the Society of Cannabis Clinicians found that patients suffering from Inflammatory bowel disease that were treated with marijuana had improvements in hunger, nausea, and fatigue while also experiencing less symptoms. (Medical Marijuana).

An additional, but certainly not final, benefit to smoking cannabis is the relief of arthritis discomfort. Smoking marijuana can help treat arthritis by making pathways called, CB2 receptors, active which are extremely present in the joints of arthritis sufferers. By activating these receptors, inflammation in the joints is decreased and arthritis pain is lessened. Again, researchers found that arthritis sufferers had a significant decrease of pain upon taking Cannabis medicine (LeafScience.com).

Although I never have, and never plan to, use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, it is interesting for me to learn that there are several potential health benefits to using marijuana. It can help aid and prevent glaucoma, stop cancer cells from spreading, treat inflammatory bowel disease, and help decrease arthritis pain. While there may also be several negative side effects, marijuana may one day serve to be one of the biggest medical advances and help many people that suffer from various kinds of conditions and diseases. I hope to one day live in a world where nobody suffers, even if that means using what was once known as a “gateway drug”.

Sources:

Business Insider

Medical Marijuana

Leaf Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health and Psychological Benefits of High School Sports

Playing soccer and lacrosse for my high school was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made. Through these sports, I gained lifetime friends, developed leadership skills, and learned how to work well with others. Not to mention, playing sports was also a great way to stay in shape and get involved with my high school. In addition to these short term benefits, playing high school sports has shown to provide several long term benefits as well.

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I read a New York Times article that talks about a study that correlates high school athletes  earning higher salaries later on in life. This is so because high school athletes tend to do better in school and thus, go to more competitive colleges. I always received higher grades during my sports seasons rather than in the off-seasons because I would manage my time better and release pent up energy during a game or practice which allowed me to focus on school work. Researchers found that physical movement creates several changes in the brain including, increased cerebral capillary growth, blood flow, oxygenation, the production of neurotrophins , and much more (TrueSport). These changes improved attention, information processing, storage, and retrieval. It can also aid with creativity, memory, and problem solving abilities. These enhancements make high school athletes much better students in the classroom. Upon going to more competitive colleges, they end up receiving jobs with higher pay out of school. High school athletes tend to possess higher confidence, self- respect, and leadership than those who did not partake in high school sports and businesses recognize that.

Another study shows that playing sports in high school can also lead to long term health and fitness. Researchers found that elderly men who played varsity sports as teenagers go to the doctor fewer times per year than men who didn’t. The Huffington Post describes that by playing high school sports, you are predicted to be more physically fit and have fewer doctors visits 50 years down the line (Huffington Post). Studies show that participating in sports improves life expectancy, coronary health, as well as cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness (Livestrong). As we get older our metabolism slows down however, participating in high school sports has shown to increase metabolic rates and get rid of excess body fat.

There are several short term and long term benefits to participating in varsity high school sports. High school student athletes do better in school and thus receive higher paying jobs, and they also have improved long term health and wellness. If you didn’t have a reason to regret not playing a sport in high school, now you do!

Why do we love our pets?

I have two dogs at home who I love dearly so I have always been interested to learn why and how we came to keeping animals as pets. If you’re a pet owner, there’s no denying the giddy feeling you get when your dog wags its tail or your cat cuddles up to you. Many owners even treat their pets as another member of the family as mine does. They may cook their pets dinner or let them sleep on their beds. Why is it we love our furry friends so much? There are several possible answers. One being the history of the relationship between humans and animals. Hogenboom’s article for BBC explains that thousands of years ago humans kept wolves because they were useful for hunting and protection against predators. Over the years the wolves became tamed and the idea of keeping dogs as loving companions evolved. However, in some third-world countries such as Kenya, many animals are still kept solely for the purpose of protection and hunting. “Pets” isn’t even a word in their vocabulary. Hogenboom further explains that humans are social creatures, always seeking to form new relationships with others, even animals. A lack of social relationships may lead people to depression or vulnerability to disease and infections (Hogenboom).

But why do Americans see dogs and cats as pets and countries like South Korea or China see them as meals? Harold Herzog of the Western Carolina University explains that this is due to cultural differences. Americans see cats and dogs as pets because all Americans do and therefore it has become a social phenomenon. People in Asia see them as food because that is all they know and pet keeping is not a trend. Studies show that pet/ dog popularity fluctuates up and down about every 25 years or so (Hogenboom).

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Another reason we feel so deeply for our pets may be due to chemical reactions happening in our brains when we interact with them. When we look into their eyes a “happy” hormone, called oxytocin is released. MaryAnn Barone describes in her article that this hormone is the same hormone that is released when parents interact with their newborn babies. She goes on to describe a study where researchers combined 30 pairs of humans and dogs and had them look into eachother’s eyes. The levels of oxytocin were then measured and it was found that humans had a 300 percent increase while dogs only had a 130 percent increase (Barone). These results show that humans really do become happier upon interacting with their pets. It is also believed that keeping pets can help lower your cholesterol and boost you self confidence (Barone). This is why many universities bring in puppies for their students to relax and destress with them during midterms and finals week. Petting dogs or cats really does take away tension for many people and put them in better moods.

With all of these potential health benefits how can people not be “pet people”? I can attest to these articles studies in saying that relaxing with or petting my dogs does make me significantly happier and furthers my affection for them even more.

Science Is Everywhere

Hi everyone! My name is Avery Holland and I am from Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. I am currently a freshman in the College of Communications and I plan on majoring in Advertising/ PR. I have never been at good at Science or Math so majoring in either of those was never a consideration for me. I struggled with both of those subjects throughout high school so I knew being a Chemist or Physicist was not likely. I liked writing and English class so I decided to look into English or Communications. After researching majors in the College of Communications at Penn State, I liked the idea of Advertising/ PR since my mom used to work in that field. She advertised for Trident gum and would often give me little tips on how the advertising and branding of a product can attract a certain market of people.I found this idea interesting and so, decided to follow in her footsteps.

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I had to take a science Gen Ed and while science is not my favorite subject, I was interested in taking this class to learn how it is apparent and relevant in our everyday world. Science has brought us so many technological and medical advancements as can be seen here http://http://www.importantindia.com/15495/importance-of-science-in-our-daily-life/ .

One of the biggest questions that I am looking forward to discussing in class is the uncertainty behind how long the human race will exist. It is said to be inevitable that all living organisms will die eventually but the questions of when or how they die are unanswered. Many have tried to come up with causes or events that could lead to the sixth extinction but no one is certain. While this extinction may happen anywhere between thousands to millions to billions years away, it is still an eerie thought to think that one day the human race will no longer exist.

I am excited to have this and many more potential questions discussed in class and I’m looking forward to understanding a little more about the world we live in today.