Author Archives: Audrey Elyse Sakhnovsky

How SC 200 Has Changed My Life

As a student who is a product of standardized testing and lessened recess time, I have anxiety problems. These tend to permeate in not only school, though, but also in (somewhat irrational) phobias and fears. The one that seems to perk up the most is my fear of flying. Being from the far away state of Georgia, I tend to have to fly quite often to get home and/or see family. The fear of dying on a plane only truly magnifies when I am on a small plane (thank you, State College airport) or on a plane experiencing a lot turbulence. I’ve only once gotten to the point of having an anxiety attack on a plane, and it was this August flying home by my lonesome from Chicago to Atlanta after visiting my brother. There was an immense amount of turbulence the whole two hour flight. After I landed safely on the ground and cursed the pilot, I vowed to never fly alone again. Sadly, this was a useless vow, because I attend college hundreds of miles away from any close family. Because of having had that most recent flying experience, I was a bit weary of having to once again fly alone on my way to Florida to see my cousins for Thanksgiving.

This is highly unsettling for me to look at.

When my connecting flight from State College to Philadelphia was delayed 30 min. for de-icing, I should have known I was in for a bumpy ride. Thankfully I had a slight amount of apathy in just wanting to get away from campus. As a nice metaphorical ‘have fun on break!’ sentiment from Penn State, I dealt with my two biggest causes of anxiety in flying: being a passenger of a small plane and constantly being rocked by turbulence on said small plane.

I was saved from another anxiety attack, though, by Andrew Read who had taught me and other SC 200 students about risk. The lesson truly applied to my life experiences, and so it changed the way I approached my fear of flying. In class the week before I learned to look at risk through the two components of exposure and hazard. In the review of the lesson, Andrew asked us a question about why the risk of dying in a plane crash in the U.S. is very very low. Plane crashes have a high hazard, it’s occurrence almost ensuring death, but a low exposure, because the likelihood of a plane crash, as stated in class, is extremely unlikely in America. There is a reason you rarely see a plane crash incident being reported on the evening news. 

As I was on this plane ride, flying alone, clutching my armrest and shutting my eyes to forget the icy/wintry mix clouds outside aggressively hinting at my death, I remembered risk. To keep myself from silently crying and having a muted anxiety attack on this small plane, I kept repeating in my mind what was taught in class. Being in a plane crash is highly unlikely with modern technology and it’s a statistic of 1 in some-odd-million. The likelihood of me being on the nightly news is close to nothing. I will be in Florida soon.

My plane is not going to crash. My plane is not going to crash. My plane is not going to crash.

Viewing my phobia in terms of risk helped me rationalize my experiences, and I will continue to use these thoughts to calm myself as I experience this phobia of flying. 

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

Having had a cell phone since age 11, I have gotten warnings from various friends that the more I use a cell phone, the more likely I will get brain cancer from the radiation. I figured it might be legitimate, so I started primarily using speaker phone in my tween years. Then I realized that my fear had no real basis other than some hullabaloo from some paranoid friends. Now, 8 years into the future, there have been a great number of research experiments looking into if these relatively essential devices are causing one of the worst diseases of our lifetime.

The American Cancer Society has an entire page on its website dedicated to cell phones and their presumed linkage to cancer, which is where I started my research. The mechanism established as the connection between cell phone usage and brain cancer is the radiofrequency waves, which fall on the electromagnetic energy spectrum between FM radio waves and microwaves ( The main concern arises from how close the antenna, which is where the waves stem from the strongest, gets to your head and how often you make phone calls. It was proposed that, because phones have become so heavily used since the 1990s, that this form of radiation from the phones would cause brain tumors to develop after heavy usage of cell phones ( The American Cancer Society states that the specific absorption rate (SAR) is what measures the amount of radiofrequency wave energy that the body absorbs; this rate varies across all cell phones (

It is explained on American Cancer Society webpage that lab studies have been done in which animals are exposed to these radiofrequency waves, but that there is an issue with the ability to truly generalize these results to humans. In studies done with humans, the amount of variations in cell phone use are difficult to facilitate, especially since creating a control group would mean having to find people who would limit their cell phone use or have to abstain completely (

Now, in 2016, multiple studies have been done to help build support in either proving or disproving this hypothesis that heavy phone usage increases the risk of brain cancer. Most studies are conflicting in their findings and so a consensus is yet to be made. For example, I found this 2011 article by John Timmer noting a 15-year-long study in Denmark that little to no correlation was found between cell phone use and rates of gliomas and meningiomas (types of brain cancers). It states, though, that the study is ongoing.

In an article written by Timothy J. Moynihan for the Mayo Clinic he notes that a study that was done with 420,000 participants over the span of 20 years found no evidence of cell phones causing brain tumors. He explains that cell phones cannot yet be labeled a carcinogen (Moynihan). In drawing a parallel to the research development that cigarette smoking causes cancer, Moynihan discusses how since this is a new technology being studied for causation of cancer, it will take many more years to be able to sufficiently be able to look for causation (Moynihan).

The bottom line, as stated in the explanatory American Cancer Society webpage and Moynihan’s article, is that due to the weighing of costs and benefits, if you would like to further limit the possibility that your phone will cause cancer, there are a number of things you can do. Some ideas include only using a headset/earbuds to talk on the phone, exclusively texting, or using a phone with a low specific absorption rate (SAR) value. There is a relatively thorough list of popular phones and their SAR values found on the linked webpage.


American Cancer Society webpage on cellphones

Article discussing 15-year-long Study by John Timmer 

MayoClinic-“Is there any link between cell phones and cancer?” by Timothy J. Moynihan

List of phones by varying SAR 



Are there real health benefits from eating placenta?

In today’s society, cultural trends spread fast while publicity figures have become news sources that go relatively undoubted by their followers. Its no surprise now that so many women are defending the presumed health benefits of placenta eating to help alleviate the difficulties of afterbirth. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian as well as Hollywood actors have spoken out in support of placenta eating, making it trend that everyone is willing to follow. Me being very in the know of pop culture, I wanted to look into how legitimate these health benefits are, since so many people follow these media figures for lifestyle tips without looking into scientific reasoning or even checking to see if media figures practice what they preach.

Stated in a Science News article by Laura Sanders, supporters of placenta-eating claim quickened healing in afterbirth, better mood, and helps lactation production, the alleged mechanism being the hormones and vitamins in the placenta. In most articles found, a woman named Jodi Selander was used as a source in discussing the supposed benefits of placenta consumption. Selander has a business based in Nevada in which she dehydrates womens’ placentas and puts them into pills for easier consumption (Sanders). Her website, which has an advertisement for a placenta emporium on its homepage, can be found here.

From researching this, I found in an article by Marla Paul that the lack of scientific support in the benefits of placenta-eating is still an issue, but that an even bigger issue is the newly publicized finding of its possible risks and dangers. Paul, writing an article for Northwestern University’s website, cites a major study published by the Archive of Women’s Mental Health. Researchers gathered information on studies done examining the benefits of placenta-eating and created this overview, which as of June 4th of 2015 seemed to be the only major scientific research looking into this new health-craze. The study found that research into the effects of placenta eating had only been evaluated with animals, which had statistically significant results, but which cannot carry over to human females (Coyle et al.). The study also makes note of the large issue that the placebo effect may have in these perceived benefits of the placenta consumption preventing postpartum depression; animal tests would not be able to validate these variables (Coyle et al.).

This publication prompted articles from Science News (referenced earlier) and NPR, amongst others, warning of the lack of support for the trend’s benefits and introducing the risks of the trend.

In the NPR article written by Tara Haelle, quotes and information are provided by supporter Daniel Benysheck, an anthology professor who has studied the benefits of placenta-eating. In this article written about the publication of the overview of studies, Beysheck stated that he would be wrapping up a random trial experiment in 2016 in which the placebo pills made by Selander would be administered (Haelle).

The experimental trial done by Beysheck was recently published just last month, which itself was originated in a conflict of interest, due to it being a research study done by both the study’s authors and Selander’s placenta pill business (Benyshek et al.). The study analyzed the composition of a daily dose placenta pill from 28 different women’s processed placenta (Benyshek et al.). 14 elements, including vitamins such as zinc and possible toxins such as mercury, were measured by part per million (ppm) in these 28 different women’s processed placenta pills (Benyshek et al.). The results show the amount of healthy vitamins/minerals found present were small percentages under 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lactating women. The toxins measured were seen to have even more minimal amounts in the placenta pills that were nowhere near harmful levels (Benyshek et al.). The only element of the 14 studied found to be higher than 1 PPM was the percentage of iron at just 24% RDA for lactating women. From this scientific study, there is provided evidence that the placenta pills are likely more of a placebo than its current status of an all-healing ailment.


Young, Sharon M., Laura Gryder K., Winnie David B., Yuanxin Teng, Shawn Gerstenberger, and Daniel Benyshek C. “Human Placenta Processed for Encapsulation Contains Modest Concentrations of 14 Trace Minerals and Elements.” Nutrition Research 36.8 (2016): 872-78. Web.

“Should You Eat Your Baby’s Placenta?” by Laura Sanders 


“Placentophagy: therapeutic miracle or myth?” study overview

How does music affect the way we view the world?

When walking to class, doing schoolwork, or simply hanging out, music works as a mediating background. I realized that on this campus, and probably most other college campuses, everyone is almost always using music to create their own personal buffer to the world. There is approximately an endless number of playlists designed around what you’re feeling and want to feel. Even in movies and tv, music is used as some sort of regulator for mood, used to evoke greater emotion from the audience. I decided I wanted to find out how much music truly impacts human emotion, thus affecting the way in which the world is perceived.

In finding out how perception may be impacted, I found a large overview, or meta-analysis, examining an array of experiments done to study the relationship between (no lyric) music and perception. Differing experiments were discussed, each one having slightly different variables. In most of these experiments, visual stimuli were used in combination with music to help evaluate the ways and situations in which music has an effect on perception (Hanser, Mark 305).

Authors Waldie Hanser and Ruth Mark stated that these experiments involved participants listening to happy or sad music while or before having to rate the emotionality of a picture of a person’s facial expression. The facial expressions were rated on a point scale. It was found in multiple experiments that participants listening to happy music while rating a picture would rate it more highly in mood, while participants listening to sad music while rating a picture would rate it lower in mood (Hanser, Mark).

Additionally, experiments were done in which music was played prior to the presentation of the visual stimuli to be rated by participants. In a specific study by Nidhya Logeswaran and Joydeep Bhattacharya, as explained by Hanser and Mark, a wider range of music was used than just happy and sad, measuring on the music and the person on the variable of arousal. Additionally, they had participants rate neutral visual stimuli (Hanser, Mark 314). In this specific study, the effects of the music seemed to be stronger when the stimuli (such as a picture of a person’s facial expression) was neutral or ambiguous (Hanser, Mark 313). This overview showed that there is a definite correlation between happy and sad music and the way in which people perceive visual stimuli.

Writing for Scientific American, sognitive science professor Mark Changizi has an argument in support of Hanser and Mark’s overview, specifically citing this Logeswaran and Bhattacharya study in discussing how music affects emotion. Changizi explains that the study shows a connection between auditory senses and the evoking of emotion, but clarifies that it is not clear why music has such an effect. In trying to deduce why music is so emotionally provoking, he hypothesizes that this is due to music’s relation to language, making it an abstract form of it (Changizi). Changizi’s other hypothesized reason for music’s emotional effect is its relation to the human movement of dancing, its auditory stimulation helping bringing it to the mind.

All in all, both Hanser and Mark’s meta-analysis and Changizi’s hypothesizing agree on the correlation between music and a person’s emotions and feelings having a possible causation in the auditory stimulation crossing over through the system of senses. While no causation has been established, Hanser and Mark concluded that in future studies there must be experiments in which a more direct relationship can be established (320).


Meta Analysis 2013

“Why Does Music Make Us Feel?” article by Mark Changizi


Spotify Link

To Science or Not to Science

HELLO ALL, my name is Audrey Sakhnovsky and I am from Atlanta, Georgia. I am a sophomore double majoring in Print Journalism and English with a minor in Psychology. I am in this SC 200 course because I needed another GN, this one fit into my schedule, and the course material actually looked exciting.

Although I have no intention of being a science major, I never truly disliked science. The issue was that science always seemed to be the class I had to try the hardest in, as it was difficult for me to wrap my head around it or feel that I would need it in my everyday life. I always liked my history and English classes more. The one time I felt that I was enjoying my science course was when I opted to take the Honors Human Anatomy and Physiology class and I loved it. For once I was motivated by the course itself mainly due to the large relevance of the content. Although I loved it, I knew I could never become a nurse or a doctor of any kind, so I opted for the other subject I was good at: writing.

What I imagine what being a doctor is like

In looking at the way this course is configured and seeing as how many people wanted to learn more about climate change (as exhibited from the first day of class), I wanted to bring up the topic of how rising sea levels could mean our cities will be underwater in the near future. Here is a link discussing the possible outcomes of global warming on our coastal cities. It’s something I definitely would want to learn more about in this class.