Author Archives: Anna Josephine Wisniewski

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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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

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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The Science of Screaming

It’s that time of year again.  Halloween is fast approaching, which means haunted houses and scary pranks are right around the corner.  We will hear our fair share of shrieks and screams Halloweekend, but do we actually know why we do it.  What causes our bodies to let out these loud, piercing noises?  What do the screams mean to those around us?  Well, lucky for you guys, I did some research.woman-screaming

David Poeppel, a Professor of New York University, did tests on different types of screams, whether they be from movies, video clips, or actual people.  The sounds were measured in comparison to normal sounds made when simply talking.  In addition, and what seems to be thee key piece of this study, was how our brains interpreted these sounds.  Normally, sounds go through the cochlea and are sent to our auditory cortex in our brains for interpretation.  There, we decide gender, who is talking, and other important details to help us understand the sound.  With screams, these sounds are sent specifically to the amygdala to be interpreted.  The amygdala is responsible for emotions, specifically fear.  This shows that we scream to make the fear circuitry aware of what is going on.

So what does this mean for us?  If we were not able to scream, we would be caught in very dangerous situations.  When we scream, not only do we alert those around us that there is some sort of danger near, but it can also be a powerful weapon when facing someone trying to harm us.

While these are all good points, I feel as though the study could have gone more in depth as far as studying these screams.

I want to look at the types of screams and what they mean.  First, I would get a larger randomized sample of people.  I would forget the videos in total.  I would then randomly assign everyone in the sample to either something happy that they would scream about, or something scary.  For example: A happy thing could be telling them that they were receiving $100,000 for participating in this study.  A scary thing would be to attack them with people in costumes or do a pop out scare, or something similar to that.  I would then measure the responses in the brain to see if both types of screams went to the amygdala where fear is processed.  Are we even able to distinguish between them?

Another study I thought of, is whether gender plays a role in how much we scream.  I think it is generally known that girls let out a shriek more often than men, but why?  For this type of experiment, I would still get a large randomized sample.  My null hypothesis would be that gender has no affect on screaming.  I would then do the same type of action to all participants, and see who screams.  It seems simple enough, but I am very interested in what the results would entail.

Overall, the study done by Poeppel gave important information on where the screams go in the brain to be processed.  By the experiments I came up with, I would hope to understand more about what types of screams get processed in the amygdala, and whether or not gender plays a role in screaming.

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A Soda a Day…

I have a friend back home who has an addiction I really can’t reason with.  She drinks at least three Cokes every day, including one bright and early in the morning when most people would be having their coffee.  Personally I can’t even drink half a Coke without my teeth feeling grimy and/or getting a stomach ache.  Now, my friend seems to be doing just fine, but there have to be some long term effects of this constant soda consumption that are detrimental to her health.


My first thought was that this has to be decaying teeth in some sort of way.  What I found is that soda contains citric and or phosphoric acid, which is harmful to the enamel, or outer covering, of the tooth.  Soda will also cause an excess of plaque buildup on the teeth which ultimately leads to either cavities or other types of problems.

Another way soda, particularly diet soda, has been known to visibly affect you is through weight gain.  According to Time, this past May a study was conducted on 3,000 women who were pregnant.  When looking at the infants of mothers who regularly drank soda compared to those who did not, they were twice as likely to be extremely overweight at around one year old.

Now besides simply focusing on the physical downsides of soda consumption, I am also interested in ways our body could be affected without us even knowing.   According to WebMD, those who drink diet soda regularly are nearly 50% more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. With that being said, there is no know mechanism to directly link that diet coke causes strokes.  There have also been studies conducted at the University of Miami which back up this information further.  After controlling some confounding variables such as smoking, they found that in a study done on people ranging from about 59-79 years old, those who drank soda regularly were about 60% more likely to experience a stroke or heart attack than those who did not.

Overall, what seems to be the trend with these soda studies is the fact that there are many correlations between regular soda consumption and heath issues, but no real causations can be made.  It is important to keep these things in mind when filling up your glass with a sugary drink, but ultimately it won’t directly kill you.


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When in Doubt, Write it Out

When I walked into the Apple Store this summer to choose a new laptop for college, I didn’t really know what to get.  The guy told me to get something small and compact, so I could use it to take notes in class. 151103-vqa4-image10-memegenerator-notes I looked at him and said that I would be handwriting my notes, and I already bought about seven notebooks.  I could tell he was judging me, but I didn’t care.  I have ALWAYS taken handwritten notes, and plan to for the rest of college.

The real question is whether or not handwriting notes affects the way we process and learn the information being taught.  One of the first arguments is that those who type their notes write down way to much, sometimes word for word what is being said.  It makes sense though, because typing is faster than handwriting.  Those who write out their notes, on the other hand, do not have as much time, therefore they process what is being said and are able to quickly paraphrase important information.


According to NPR, a study was conduction by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer on the topic, and was published in Psychological Science.  A group of university students were to take notes on different TED Talks, and then be tested on the information afterwards.  The laptop students wrote down way more, as expected.  When asked about specific facts, both groups did well.  The main point of distinction was when the students were asked more conceptual questions.  The written notes students did much better.

Another point made about using a laptop for your notes goes along with what Andrew always says…It’s a distraction to those around you and to yourself.  We get it, lecture is boring college-laptops-meme-generator-boring-class-everyone-takes-notes-with-laptop-4d1800sometimes, but as soon as you click over to Netflix or Amazon, everyone around you suddenly “clicks over” too.

I only found the one study mentioned above on this topic, so I have a few ideas of how this could be further tested.  First, I would study a larger group, like 500 students instead of only 67.  Unlike in the study Mueller and Oppenheimer did, I would control whether or not the randomized group of students had a laptop or a notebook.  That would be the independent variable and test results would be the dependent variable.  Since it is randomized, that would eliminate possible confounding variables such as typing capabilities and speed of writing.  After giving them a topic to take notes on, I would then give them the quiz similar to how the other study did.

Another option could be to purposely place students with laptops in a lecture hall and have them on different sites being a distraction.  After class, give a pop quiz and see how those around them did compared to those with no distraction around.  This is something very simple, but could still give a good insight into the power of distractions in the classroom.

Don’t get me wrong here, laptops are a great resource for college students, and I would never expect students to immediately switch over to handwriting notes after hearing about this study.  Everyone learns in different ways.  It is simply important to keep in mind that handwriting your notes, according to the study, could potentially benefit you on the next exam or quiz.





Namast’ay in Bed?

This past summer, I had a close friend spend hours of her life each week in yoga teacher training.  She decided to use us, her closest friends, as students so she could practice teaching a class.  Myself and 9 other non-yoga, inflexible people went to TJ Maxx, bought matts, and went to her unofficial class.  It was a bonding experience to say the least.  The guys could barely touch their toes, and us girls just wanted to take snapchats of the whole event.  To say the least, we didn’t take it seriously at first.


Before I knew it, after taking more of her classes, I fell in love with it.  I joined the local hot yoga studio with a few of the girls, and went every single day.  In these classes, it was 90% women, and I don’t find that surprising.  But why?  Why is it weird for guys to do yoga?

There are so many benefits of yoga that are hidden behind the yoga stereotypes of incense, hippie clothes, and peace.  Yoga most obviously will help with flexibility.  This can be beneficial to athletes in order to prevent injury in whatever sport they play.  Yoga is also beneficial to those looking to lose weight and cleanse their bodies.  In a hot yoga class, the temperature is upwards of one hundred degrees, therefore you are going to sweat.a55907a5e5686477a5c71ab08b1a40da Another area targeted is you blood flow.  Due to the many twists, bends and stretches involved, the amount of oxygenated blood that flows throughout your body is increased.  On top of that, these crazy poses are enough to increase relaxation of your insides, and promote the movement of your food through the digestive system.  Yoga is also very important when it comes to balance.  This was extremely beneficial for me, because by improving my balance, I improved my posture, which overall helped ease back pains I was struggling with.  Finally, and I think most importantly, are the mental benefits of yoga.  Yoga helps you become more self aware and appreciative of where you are in your life right now.  Through meditation practices, you are able to eliminate all of the noise of the life around you, and be more thankful for your life in general.  When overwhelmed with the stress of going away to college, yoga helped me to relax  I encourage everyone to at least TRY a yoga class, whether it be down town at the studio, or in the White Building with your friends!

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Are you Color Blind?

One of the most bizarre movies I have every seen is called “Little Miss Sunshine”.  It is a bout a little girl who does not fit the stereotypical pageant persona, but nevertheless wants to compete.  On this road trip, like most families, they do things to pass the time.  One of the odd activities they do is a colorblind test.  Olive’s older brother, who really doesn’t speak, is found to be colorblind, meaning he can’t accomplish his dream of flying jets.  The reason I bring this up is because I was watching this movie the other day, and it is basically what inspired this post.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, most people are born colorblind.  In our eyes, we have certain cells to detect light.  The rods are what determine light from dark, and the cones determine color.  There are three main cones which detect colors.  There are red cones, green cones, and blue cones.  If any of these cones are missing or not functioning properly, this could cause the color blindness.  There are also different levels of being colorblind.  Mild means you have difficulty deciphering some colors in low lighting.  One step worse means you really can’t see the colors in any lighting.  Finally the most severe case, which is more uncommon, is when you really only see shades of grey. (AAO, 2013)

So what?  You can’t match your clothes or do those little color tests.  No big deal.  Well, actually it can become a problem depending on what career you wish to pursue.  Like her brother found out in the movie, you cannot get your pilot’s license.  Along with that, you cannot be an electrician, firefighter, police officer, and even a baggage handler.  One thing these professions all have in common is the fact that you are required to decipher messages through colors.  (Rich, 2012)

Below are some common tests used to determine if someone is color blind or not.  Give them a try and see if you can see the numbers.








On the left you should be seeing a green 42, and on the right should be a red 57.

If you are color blind, there is a good chance you are a guy.  Men are nearly 16 times more likely to be color blind than women.The genes for color blindness are on the x-chromosome, meaning it is an x-linked gene.  I know we aren’t all science lovers, but I’m sure a few of you remember that from biology class.  If you want to read up more on the gene aspect of this concept, check out this website!

Pinch me! I must be dreaming!

We’ve all been there.  You’re in a dream, loving life, stress free, when suddenly someone pushes you into a pool, or you fall off of the sidewalk, or in extreme cases like my dream last night, you fall out of a window.  Immediately we wake up, sweating, heart pounding, and realize it was all a dream.  Well, what if we knew it was a dream all along.  Then, we wouldn’t wake up in fear because we knew it was fake.  Or, we just wouldn’t let the event occur in the dream in the first place.  This concept of lucid dreaming dates back to Aristotle.  Over the years, many philosophers have contributed their own personal incidents of these dreams.

Let’s get down to how and why this happens to certain people and not others.  The most important part of lucid dreaming is the point when you realize that something in the dream does not match up to real life.  Whether that be the time, date, or any other nuanced detail you can notice.  There are different intensities of this type of dreaming as well.  Some people, once they realize what is happening, can control their dreams and make certain events happen to themselves.  Now to clear things up really quickly.  Lucid dreaming and dream control are not the same.  You can control your dream without knowing, and you can lucid dream and choose not to control things.

According to Ryan Hurd in an article done on this concept, it is extremely important to have an intention of lucid dreaming. It will not happen overnight.  You must become more aware of actual reality each day.  There will also be signs popping up in your dreams that could be indicators to let you know you are in a dream.  Examples of this could be bizarre things you notice about your own appearance.  It is also important to record your dreams.   Whether that be waking up and verbally recalling what happened, or writing it down somewhere. (Hurd 2016)

Another method is to catch yourself while in REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement.  This image helps to explain what REM sleep is, and how it cycles.circadian_rhythm_pie_chart_vertical_reduced_260  This is the point when lucid dreams are most likely to occur, so if you can wake up and fall back asleep during this time, you will have a good chance of lucid dreaming.  Also, REM sleep is usually in full swing during naps!

Amongst these methods are many more which are discussed here in this video on lucid dreaming.  Yes, I have tried to make this happen, and I simply can’t.  I would love to know if any of you know how to do this, or have had it happen to you before!


The Better Option for Me

Hello Science 200 classmates!

My name is Anna Wisniewski, and I’m from the beautiful city of Pittsburgh.  We are known for our bridges, so HERE is a link to an article about them.  I am a freshman here at Penn State, and my intended major is public relations.  

Why am I taking this course?  Well, I need a general science class.  It’s not that I don’t like biology, chemistry, or even physics.  I actually love science, and did pretty well honestly.  It’s more the fact that I know those classes are especially challenging, and I need to keep a 3.3 GPA to get into my major.  Maybe I’ll explore  those classes later on!

Surprisingly enough, all through high school I had my heart set on becoming  a pediatrician.  Sooner or later I decided that just was not for me.  I am not a science major because I love talking with people so much!  Now before you say anything, I know that a pediatrician talks to patients all day.  Thats why I thought it would be the perfect mix of medical and interactions.  I just feel communications is a better fit for me and my talkative, outgoing, (sometimes crazy) personality.  Although you never know, I could switch majors and end up doing research the rest of my life.  I’m very open to exploring what Penn State has to offer, so I am willing to be flexible and try new things.  Speaking of flexibility, I really love yoga.  That was maybe an awkward way to transition between subjects but let’s just go with it!  Here’s a meme of a dog doing yoga that basically sums up how I feel sometimes when I’m in a science class

.  yoga dog

I hope that I can get to know some of you guys, maybe form a solid study group, or just find some people who love Game of Thrones as much as I do and have viewing party.  Whatever floats your boat!  I’m excited to continue through this course and read all of your ideas about the science around us!