Author Archives: Arianna L Del Valle

Does Alcohol Actually Help Your Health?

alcoholContrary to my previous post, articles have been published dismissing the correlations between moderate alcohol consumption and increased health. There have been numerous studies claiming that there is a relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and increased health, but the results of these studies aren’t necessarily accurate.

A published finding done by a team of researchers found that these previous studies and meta-analyses were heavily manipulated in design and characteristics. The major problem was that the researchers had compared moderate drinkers with people who abstained from drinking alcohol without taking third variables into account. These third variables included health issues and previous brushings with substance abuse, meaning that the comparison between drinkers and non-drinkers was faulty, because they didn’t take into consideration the possibility that moderate drinkers were already healthier than non-drinkers. Not only this, but studies linking an increase in health and moderate drinking failed to account for the economic standings of the different groups of people. Moderate drinkers are more likely to belong to a higher economic class, meaning they probably have more access to health benefits than non-drinkers (of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all moderate drinkers belong to higher economic classes, they’re not mutually exclusive). In reality, researchers found that the people who had the best lifespan were people who only drank occasionally- meaning they consumed less than one drink per week.

With these findings, it’s easy to see that the claims that moderate alcohol consumption improves health are falsifiable. Mostly because these studies weren’t done correctly and didn’t take into consideration third variables, which makes me wonder how they were published in the first place if they were alcohollldone incorrectly. These studies show that if there actually is a correlation between moderate drinking and increased health, it’s probably due to something besides alcohol. Realistically, the best way to improve your health is through adopting a healthy lifestyle, preferably one that has little to no alcohol consumption.

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Can Alcohol Be Good for You?

Whilst doing research for a project in another class, I came across an article titled “7 Health wineBenefits of Drinking Alcohol.” It seemed ironic to me given that alcohol is most commonly associated with health consequences. But at the same time, I recalled reading about how people in France are healthier than Americans despite their higher intake of alcohol. Maybe alcohol consumption does have some benefits, and if so, does a direct link between alcohol consumption and increased health exist?

To clear things up, I am only referring to moderate alcohol consumption; do not fool yourself into thinking that excessive binge-drinking will be beneficial to your health, it will not. I am also referring to alcohol consumption amongst people who are at or past the legal drinking age, health benefits are not an incentive to partake in underage drinking. For people who meet these requirements, moderate consumption means, generally, about one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One moderate drinks refers to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, and 1.5 ounces of hard spirits. Apparently, health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption include lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, lengthening a person’s lifespan, and even lowering the chance of diabetes. However, the claim that most struck me was that alcohol can help moderate Alzheimer’s disease in patients.

Dr. Michael A. Collins, a professor in the Stritch School of Medicine in Loyola University, published a study explaining linkage between moderate alcohol consumption and a decrease in risks of acquiring Alzheimer’s in 143 studies from all over the world, including 365,000 participants. He found that people who moderately consumed alcohol were 23% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. However, the study might not account for third variables, such as a person’s predisposition to developing dementia. Or, the results could be due to chance, even though Dr. Collins looks at a relatively large amount of studies. Not only this, but his findings could suffer from the file-drawer problem or even the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. And, despite all of Dr. Collins research, this study seems to reject his hypothesis and support the null hypothesis instead. Dr. Suzanne L. Tyas, the researcher, explains biological mechanisms, cites other studies, and accounts for third variables, and ultimately concludes that the extent to which alcohol influences the development of Alzheimer’s is still unknown.

Although the validity of alcohol’s role in Alzheimer’s is still in the air, one thing is for sure: it’s best if you don’t excessively drink. Because studies have only shown correlations and no actualy linkage with scientific evidence between moderate drinking and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s, we can adopt the null hypothesis for now. And, if you consume one standard drink a day and develop Alzheimer’s in your older age, don’t be surprised.

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Why Can’t Chickens Fly?

As a little girl, I used to always be around chickens whenever I would visit my grandparents. My grandfather grew them and took care of them as a hobby, his entire backyard was full of chicken coops and even had a chicken shed. Because back home we live in a tropical island, there were also lots of trees in the backyard. In my childish deductions and observations, something struck me as particularly odd: the fact that chickens preferred to walk around the ground instead of flying and perching themselves on the trees. Well, I reasoned, chickens are the most useless birds ever, then. However, as I grew up and took interest in other things, I completely forgot about my chicken dilemma and accepted it as a fact that chickens cannot fly.

This is not true, chickens can actually fly! Just not very high up like normal birds can. It is not like there is a select gene that is responsible for a chicken’s inability to properly fly. Moreover, it turns outred-jungle-fowl that domesticated chickens are not actually natural, and they are the result of selective breeding and the hybridization of a red junglefowl and a gray junglefowl, whose existences date back almost 4,000 years ago. Although junglefowls are a little bit more skilled in flying than chickens, they are better adapted to living on the ground; their wings are smaller, their beaks are made for pecking, and their feet are not necessarily made for perching on trees. Because of this, chickens inherited the physical structure of a junglefowl, give and take a few alterations.

Humans protect and breed chickens, therefore, the evolutionary line did not call for them to evolve into animals with bigger, stronger wings. Nor did it call for the elongation of their feet for perching purposes. So, in reality, domesticated chickens do not necessarily need to fly at high altitudes because they can scour for their food on the ground and generally do not need to protect themselves from predators (1). Furthermore, the disproportionality between their body and their wing size makes it incapable for their wings to support their body weight for a long amount of time. As mentioned before, chickens are also the result of selective breeding. Because of select breeding, chickens have bigger pectoral muscles than junglefowls, decreasing the chances of being able to fly at high altitudes for extended periods of time even more.

Human interference has literally created chickens and, ultimately, assigned their role as a means of providing food. Mainly, chickens are bred for laying eggs and consumption. This process has adverse negative side effects, including chickens losing the ability to walk and becoming lame, restriction on food intake, and brittle bones. These factors contribute to a chicken’s inability to fly, as well as intentionally forcing them to evolve less like birds and more like inanimate pieces of meat. This selective breeding and lack of evolution for survival, as well as their predecessors, are the reasons as to why chickens cannot fly. 

(1) However, in the case that they would need to, their wing structure would allow them to fly a short distance, far enough to reach safety in a tree’s lower branches.

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The Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory (Part II)

*This is a continuation of “The Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory (Part I),” which can be found here.

Because the United Nations banned the use of weather modification for warfare and the lack of scientific evidence found, we can discard the credibility of claims that the government is deliberately trying to poison people through the release of toxins in the air.  This leaves us with our second possible outcome: “chemtrails” are intentionally created for weather modification motives. The main purpose seems simple enough, increasing local water supplies in different regions across the United States; cloud seeding is thought to create rain in drought periods, thus helping areas and communities that are greatly affected by a dry environment.

To a normal person, this weather modification outcome seems like the most logical reason as to why the government would intentionally create “chemtrails.” However, some people have demonstrated concern and have outright accused the government of purposefully causing harm to people. To try and tackle the issue at hand, the United States Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation published a 740-page report (1) on weather modification. The report details the process of weather modification and its purpose, as well as the negative claims made against weather modification. Page 403 of the report includes statements from the Tri-State Weather Association, where in an article they argue that in regions of Pennsylvania, “When effects of seeding wear off, cloudbursts occur, causing floods, destroying crops, buildings, and drowning people as well as livestock.” This statement does not have any solid basis, and cloud seeding’s credibility is facing a decline.

This correlation between weather modification and negative consequences have caused some people to think that the government is conducting this practice for malicious reasons, such as drowning people and livestock (we also saw this with the lithium claims in Part I). But the uncertainty that surrounds weather modification have made these claims invalid. Scientists have not been able to prove that cloud seeding is as effective as was once thought. One study analysis-rainfallconducted by Dr. Noam Halfon, Prof. Pinhas Alpert, and Prof. Zev Levin of the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences of Tel Aviv University published new findings on the effectiveness of cloud seeding in Israel. After analyzing rainfall measurements after periods of cloud seeding in a specific spot of northern Israel (Sea of Galilee), they concluded that increases in rainfall were only due to chance. Because they found that more rainfall was only due to changing weather patterns, they could rule out the possibility of cloud seeding impacting rainfall.

With the research conducted and the evidence found, we can rule out the thought of the government intentionally producing biological warfare. On the contrary, most of the “chemtrails” we see in the sky are the result of weather modification (2). Although this process was created to benefit the public such as in cases of extreme drought, it is believed to have negative consequences on agricultural practices and human health. This leads people to link negative occurrences with cloud seeding, which has not even been proven 100% effective. Again, just as we saw with the lithium, this hypothesis is non-falsifiable. Ultimately, the “chemtrails” we see might be due to weather modification, but the negative outcomes associated with this practice do not have solid evidence; therefore, the claim that the government is using weather modification as a means to harm people is non-testable and, consequentially, just a theory.

TL;DR: The ice trail left behind by airplanes is called a contrail and it can either fade away or expand. The dispersed version, a “chemtrail,” is mainly used for weather modification. Although weather modification can have negative outcomes (such farmer income loss due to flooding), the government is probably not out to murder you.

(1) Read the text version here.
(2) Of course, we should always keep in mind that dispersed contrails can be caused by things other than biological warfare and weather modification; these thirdvariables* can include a plane’s altitude and humidity levels.

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The Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory (Part I)

Throughout my entire life, there is one thing that has never failed to puzzle me: the cloud-like trails airplanes leave in the sky. But, today, I found the answer. After some simple researching and the impending doom of the December 2nd blog period deadline, I finally know what that little trail is: contrails (or, if you want to get technical about it, condensation trails). These small trails form in the sky when water vapor from jet exhaust freezes in the cold air surrounding it; thus, leaving a visible icy trail. Contrails fade away with time, but, in some cases, they disperse and leave a cloud-like trail. I thought it simple enough, and was prepared to write a brief yet concise blog post on the science behind it. However, my research took me far beyond the basics of contrails.

Apparently, some people are terrified of dispersed contrails because of the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory (1). This theory suggests that “chemtrails” left behind by aircrafts were contrails manipulated by the government to disperse in order to reach 2 possible outcomes:
1. Government-induced biological warfare.
2. Weather modification!
Because of the abundance of information on this topic, it will be divided into 2 blog posts- a blog post per possible outcome- where Part I will focus on government-induced biological warfare and Part II will focus on weather modification.

People who believe in the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory seem to be convinced the government is purposefully harming people. Numerous claims have been made including “proof” that “chemtrails” are real. However, the “proof” presented is often anecdotal or lacks any real scientific basis and can be easily dismissed with logic and actual scientific research. Below are the three main points made by skeptics and the actual science behind them.

  1. patterns and gaps: Although they may seem it, these grid-like patterns are not a thoroughly thought-out mapping of where to spray toxins. In fact, these patterns are a
    result of winds spreading out and moving contrails towards highly-trafficked air travel lanes. Once in flight, a commercial aircraft’s altitude makes encountering winds surpassing 100 mph common. Because of this, the contrails left behind by airplanes in a moist environment will disperse and expand, often resembling a grid-like pattern visible from the ground and space. One thing that is easy to notice is that contrails are only seen once planes are high up in the atmosphere; you will never see them near areas of a plane’s take-off or landing because the low altitude is not an environment where contrails can steadily form (2). The visible T-shaped gaps left behind in trails are supposedly the work of the nozzle that sprays the toxins into the air on and off. In reality, this phenomena can be explained by humidity variations in the atmosphere. Because planes have a route to follow, they pass through different levels of humidity and moisture. This causes contrails to be broken up, oftentimes coinciding with one another and forming T-shaped and Z-shaped structures.
  2. “Spray planes” have been photographed: Facebook fanatics went into a frenzy when strange pictures of metal cylindrical tanks inside aircrafts surfaced. They reasoned they had to be solid proof of “chemtrail” aircrafts and took to spreading the news without checking the facts first (3). In reality, these are either firefighting planes or planes filled with ballast barrels, which are used to simulate passenger weight when testing out fb-chemtrailsaircrafts. These barrels are usually full of water, and can be pumped across the barrels to simulate different types of weight throughout the testing of the aircraft. Ballast tanks are also responsible for the submersion of submarines, which can be explained here.
  3. Chemtrail spraying is dumping lithium into our atmosphere: This is perhaps the only true claim made towards “chemtrails.” However, contrary to conspiracy theorists beliefs and their word choice, NASA is not dumping lithium into the air to sedate the American people (4). NASA is actually using lithium to study winds and atmospheric occurrences in the atmosphere. In some cases, lithium is part of a chemical combination used as a propellant for rockets. What the people arguing against lithium fail to acknowledge (which can be described by the Texas sharpshooter fallacy) is that lithium is naturally found in water, soil, lithiumand edible products. Because there is a correlation between the government using lithium for aerial testing and lithium being used to treat mental disorders, people have assumed the cause is the government wanting to control and sedate Americans so they will become more susceptible to propaganda. However, science tells us that correlation does not equal causation. Therefore, this “proof” is just speculation, and concrete evidence providing mutual exclusivity between the factors of this correlation still needs to be found. 

However, perhaps the biggest factor showing that these dispersed contrails are not actually “chemtrails” lies with the United States’ banning of biological warfare through environmental modification in 1972 (with global ratification entering to force in 1978). It seems like the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory supporters’ “proofs” rely solely on anecdotal evidence. There are many factors that contribute to the validity of an anecdotal evidence, including bias, manipulation, and confusion. Because this hypothesis non-falsifiable, it can only currently remain a conspiracy theory. Therefore, unless indisputable scientific evidence is found linking “chemtrails” and government genocide, we can safely say that the government is not trying to induce biological warfare on United States citizens.

Part II

(1) In where a “chemtrail” refers to the dispersed version of a contrail.
(2) This leads us to reason that if the government wanted to spray toxins through contrails, they probably would not choose an airplane to do so, but rather an agricultural aircraft because its low fly-range would be ideal.
(3) Clicking on the image will take you to a thread where you can see the picture more clearly. Read the comments, they are absurd.
(4) Lithium is used to help treat symptoms of manic and bipolar disorders through lithium salts.

Source 1  Source 2  Source 3  Source 4  Source 5  Source 6  Source 7  Source 8



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

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

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

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

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Is Marijuana Usage Detrimental?

I mention marijuana and what do you picture? The typical image of a stoner with heavy lids and a sly smile, unsure of whether the words coming out of your mouth are visual or auditory. Up until recently marijuana was illegal in many places, but with the recent surfacing of marijuana legalization  in different states, there must be some sort of scientific evidence to condone the use of this drug. It’s been told time and time again that used recreationally, it won’t have any negative consequences on the body. The only effect it has is a momentary state marijuanaof bliss. Given that the purpose of drugs is to alter the body in some sort of way, it doesn’t make sense that marijuana won’t have any long-term effects on the body. In a setting such as a college campus, where almost everyone partakes in this recreational activity, is marijuana detrimental to learning?

The main ingredient in a weed concoction is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has been proven to impair a person’s physical abilities and their memory. THC can affect the creation of short-term memories and it alters the ability to recollect thoughts. Meaning, if you’re high, chances are you won’t remember what happened during that time. Also meaning, “I’m so high I can’t remember my name” is a lie. Marijuana DOES NOT induce memory loss. In an academic setting, this would mean that getting high after an intense night of studying won’t make you forget everything you studied. Studying while high, on the other hand, isn’t a very smart thing to do.

Because marijuana stimulates the release of dopamine, it can be easy to see why smoking can go from a once in a while thing to a heavy dependence. Scientists at Columbia University conducted a study with 11 cannabis-dependent adults aged 21-40 (experimental group) and 12 healthy participants (control group). These people were given an oral amphetamine to stimulate dopamine release, which scientists then tracked using a positron emission tomography (PET, tool that scans and tracks a molecule that binds to dopamine receptors) throughout different parts of the brain such as the thalamus and striatum.* After conducting the experiment and analyzing the results, scientists found that marijuana users had lower dopamine release in the striatum, which is important for learning. 

Furthermore, one of the consequences of partaking in the recreational usage of smoking marijuana is that marijuana can be considered a gateway drug to more harmful substances (just like alcohol and cigarettes). This is extremely dangerous in college, where people are in their experimental phase and are susceptible to making harmful choices that mrjna-memeaffect their future professional careers and personal lives. If you’re stressed out over a big assignment, don’t turn to marijuana to soothe your nerves. Chances are you’ll sabotage yourself and mess up that important group presentation that accounted for 30% of your grade. Furthermore, if you plan on learning things for the long-run, frequent usage of marijuana can eventually lead to long-term memory loss. In the end, frequent marijuana usage can lead to addiction and potentially be detrimental to your learning abilities.

*The striatum is a region of the brain associated with movements, behaviors, and learning abilities (memory and attention).

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Can Music Heal?

I grew up in a very musical household. My dad is a musician, specifically a drummer and a singer, so my house was never really quiet. As a young girl, we’d listen to everything from The Beatles to Frank Sinatra. It had a very big influence over my life and even though I tried learning to play an instrument, I wasn’t as musically adept as my father was. However, even though I couldn’t actually compose anything, I did apply music to other aspects of my life. For example, my fourth grade science fair. My hypothesis was that music could affect the development of plants- whether it be negatively or positively. It was a controlled experiment with 3 groups of the same type of plant receiving music therapy from 3 different genres of music: classical, rock, and reggaeton. After a week of playing out the experiment, from my results I concluded that the plant with most growth was the plant who was played classical music everyday (the least was reggaeton). This process of growth and flourishing in plants stemming from music made me wonder if music goes farther than that; what if music can actually heal people?

This photo was made at the man's home, where he was participating in a music session with a staff member.

This photo was taken at the patient’s home whilst participating in a music session.

Music therapy was created by The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), whose goal is to bring patients an advanced form of therapy through music and make this accessible throughout the world. Music therapists are professional musicians who play music with patients and, sometimes, even teach them how to play certain instruments in places like hospitals, psychiatric centers, and nursing homes, among many other places. They are people who have earned bachelor’s degrees in one of more than 70 approved academic institutions. Besides a bachelor’s degree, in order to be certified as a musical therapist, they must obtain a MT-BC credential (Music Therapist-Board Certified). Music therapists’ and the AMTA’s goals are to improve patients’ lives by helping them manage stress, soothe pain, and enhance communication skills through the incorporation of music in their daily lives.

Music therapy is evidence-based, with lots of cases showing patient recovery and reported findings. Even so, a person doesn’t necessarily have to be a certified doctor to practice music therapy; people like parents can do so as well. In a study conducted by Joanne Loewy, Director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine, researchers studied the behaviors of 272 premature babies at neonatal intensive care units after being exposed to music therapy. At random intervals throughout 2 weeks, parents and music therapists would expose the babies to music (by either singing a lullaby or simulating a mother’s heartbeat) and found that babies’ heartbeats would drop after 2 minutes of listening to the music. However, because there was no control group (in other words, a group of babies that wasn’t exposed to music), researchers didn’t have complete evidence and couldn’t compare the 2 groups.img_9831

Nevertheless, we don’t need an experiment to tell us that music does influence our body and how we behave. Listening to a heavy-metal song will pick up your heart rate and stimulate all your senses, whereas listening to the slow lull of classical music will calm you down and lead you to a state of relaxation. This isn’t just based on anecdotal evidence, it’s based on studies and experiments conducted by scientists. The AMTA conducted an experiment and found that patients with schizophrenia who had been exposed to music therapy showed advanced improvement over patients who had received standard care. Thus, leading to conclude that music therapy is superior than standard care. 

You don’t necessarily need to have a music therapist in order for music to heal you, it’s not mutually exclusive. Music therapy is used in places outside of hospitals and care facilities. It can be used in many different environments and situations; for example, in schools to stimulate the development of children in a learning environment or in a yoga session to relax the body and erase some of the effects stress has in our daily lives. From experiments conducted, we have evidence to say that music can potentially heal people physically and mentally. 


*If you’re interested in music therapy, visit the AMTA website to learn more!

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Does Taste Help Us Recall Things More Easily?

During my freshman year of high school, students in my school would eat a certain flavor gum while studying and then eat it again when taking a test because it was said to help recall or learn things easily. It was typically gum because it was easier to hide than a bag of chips and it was easily accessible. It’s common knowledge that we have strong ties and associations to specific scents or sounds. For example, if you had a childhood blanket with a particular smell, it wouldn’t be hard to associate it with a specific memory if you smelled it now. Certain stimuli bring back certain memories or images. Does this work when we don’t have emotional ties to something? In other words, information that isn’t easily retained in the brain, such as concepts learned in class?

Taste is actually a combination of smell and flavor (salty, sweet, umami, bitter, sour). As a matter of fact, our brain and taste receptors are directly linked. When our taste buds are tastesmellstimulated, their nerve endings activate and send signals to the brain stem, which then relay the information accumulated to the brain- specifically the thalamus and the cerebral cortex- and make us conscious of taste. Not only are nerve endings in your mouth being stimulated, but your brain is as well once it receives this information. In the same manner, taking into account the proximity of a person’s olfactory bulb to the amygdala and hippocampus, it’s not hard to see why certain smells can trigger certain emotions or memories.

It’s been shown that there’s an association between the sense of taste and memory. One of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is loss of taste. In an experiment conducted published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, scientists found a slight connection between people with Parkinson’s and altered senses of taste. Scientists accounted for third variables such as subjects’ levels of cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and caffeine intake, among other things. In this experiment specifically, although the results were overall slight, we can say that there is an association between sense of smell and memory– whether it be due to correlations or third variables.

In a study conducted in 2006, scientists asked a group of ninety-three adults to recollect memories with one of three cues: a word, picture, or odor. Their study revealed that these people had a strong association to childhood memories with odors, whereas they attributed early adulthood memories to sights and sounds. Given that there is a link between the senses of smell and taste, we can correlate these with memories. However, this experiment shows us that the memories associated with taste and smell were childhood ones, which doesn’t really contribute to the statement that eating a particular food will help you retain memory better when studying for tests.

Ultimately, even though there is a strong relation between scents and memories, I don’t think that trying to temporarily memorize something with a certain taste works. This link between girl-studyingtastes, scents, and memories only works with either childhood memories or life-changing events. There are also a lot of third variables involved in this experiment. A person’s ability to retain information, how strong the flavors are, or any other underlying factors could easily influence it. However, if you’re someone that has tried this method before and succeeded, you’re probably an anomaly. If you’re someone who’s interested in this and would like to try it out, go ahead! Maybe you could write a blog post about it and publish your findings. Next time you have a test, chew a certain flavor of gum during studying and when you actually take the test. Make your own controlled experiment!

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Does Drinking Water Prevent Hangovers?

One of the distinct pieces of advice I walked out of New Student Orientation with was to drink a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage you drink in order to prevent feeling hungover the next day. The logic behind this is that you’d be combating dehydration caused by alcohol (either by excess urination or vomiting) by hydrating your body with waterAccording to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms associated with the overconsumption of alcohol include: mood swings, headaches, increased sensitivity, disorientation, and vomiting, among many other hangover-dogeffects. After seeing so many people wearing sunglasses and buying bottles of coconut water Saturday and Sunday evenings at work, I began to wonder if this method of preventing dehydration was actually true. And if it was, maybe I could save a life and tell the next hungover person I saw: “Hey, I don’t know if you know this, but drinking water after consuming alcohol will make you feel less like a walking zombie and more like a semi-conscious human being the day after partying; it’s scientifically proven.” However, this statement hasn’t been proven, and there are two sides to the question: drinking water prevents hangovers and drinking water doesn’t prevent hangovers.

I came across this article titled “7 Evidence-Based Ways to Prevent Hangovers”, which seems ironic because the actual content of the article presents no evidence whatsoever. This was a recurring pattern prevalent in the research I conducted; articles would claim that drinking water cured hangovers, yet they didn’t really show any concrete evidence confirming this. Scientists have even published that they do not necessarily understand the causes of hangovers. If scientists themselves can’t really prove anything, then where are all these people getting this information from? It seems like these claims that water prevents hangovers are heavily reliant on anecdotal evidence, but we already know that storytelling isn’t concrete evidence. In the same manner, there are a lot of third variables woven in between this statement. For example, a person’s level of resistance to alcohol, if the person ate throughout the night, or the amount of alcohol consumed can affect whether the person will be hungover the next day.

Some studies argued that drinking water alone won’t prevent your hangover, but it can help minimize the effects associated with hangovers. After having over 25% of people in a study report that they are immune to hangovers, Canadian and Dutch scientists in the Utrecht University conducted a controlled experiment with over 789 Canadian students to understand drinking habits. They took into consideration students’ alcohol consumption, the time span during the consumption of these beverages, and how severe their hangover symptoms were the next day. With these surveys, scientists found that students were drinking too little to experience hangover symptoms the next day– students that reported hangover immunity had blood alcohol levels of less than 0.10% (third variable). To further investigate the effects of hangovers, the scientists asked 826 Dutch students if they succeeded in preventing being hungover by drinking water/eating fatty foods during and after a night of drinking. About 54% of students surveyed reported eating or drinking water after consuming alcohol. Nevertheless, students also reported that although they felt slightly better than if they had not consumed food and water, these methods didn’t prevent them from being hungover.*

When I started researching if water was actually effective for reducing the effects of alcohol, I expected to find articles confirming the statement. To my surprise, some articles surfaced negating the “myth” that water is a hangover remedy. I always thought that this statement was a fact. I figured that not only does drinking lots of water throughout the night help keep you hydrated and less thirsty, it also makes you less likely to excessively consume alcohol if you have a full bladder. In this case, although there were a lot of articles “confirming” that water helps cure hangovers, the only evidence presented was that drinking water doesn’t prevent hangovers. Therefore, even though it might lessen hangover symptoms such as thirst, it is not a proven scientific fact that drinking a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage consumed can prevent hangovers from occurring.

*If you’re looking for a way to prevent hangovers, the best way to do this is by abstaining from alcohol consumption.

**Click on the meme for a relatable Buzzfeed post!

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Procrastination Nation

I’ll be honest with you, it’s 2:37 a.m. and I have yet to write my third and last blog post for the week. Procrastination has gotten the best of me (as it usually does). Why is it so easy to put things off for the last minute? For a student who loves studying and getting good grades, I suck. I constantly seem to be stuck in this never-ending loop of 1. getting homework, 2. ignoring my homework, 3. internally screaming at 11:00 p.m. because my homework is due at 11:59 p.m. and I can’t outwardly express my stress because my roommate is sleeping and I don’t want to wake her up. procrastination

That being said, I think I work best when I’m under a lot of pressure. The sense of urgency pushes me to complete my task at a superhuman speed- even though I feel like absolute death afterwards. But, hey, it gets the job done. But seriously, why do we do this to ourselves? There’s many reasons, but I think the main one is because of our indifference towards taking action.

It’s so easy to get distracted from your tasks these days. Suddenly, your TV, laptop, phone, anything in close proximity when you’re doing work is your worst enemy. Ultimately, the question is: how do we beat procrastination? I’ve found that the best option is to just do it. Whatever it is you’re burdened with becomes so much easier once you actually take the initiative to do it. It’s kind of like jumping into a pool for the first time: you’re terrified at first because the water is extremely cold, but once you jump in, you get it over with and actually enjoy it!

just-do-itIn the end, the next time you have something you have to do but really don’t want to, just suck it up. Get up, grab that homework and absolutely smash it. It’s better to get it over with sooner rather than later; don’t let procrastination sneak up on you like the ugly little troll it is. You’ll love yourself more in the long run once you stop torturing and stressing yourself out. Just. Do. It.

P.S.- If you want to read something that wasn’t written at 3:00 a.m. by a rapidly mentally declining college student, check out this article (it’s got doodles).

Why Is “Moist” So Gross?

‘Hot chocolate’, ‘bubbly’, and ‘crinkle’ are all words that illicit warm, fuzzy feelings inside. On the other hand, the words ‘moist’, ‘pus’, and ‘curdle’ might completely gross us out. Why does this happen? Is it something about the composition of the word that’s disgusting, or does it have to do with the meanings or connotations they convey? Although there’s many words that are unpleasant, we’ll focus on the word “moist.”

Ah, the great “moist” debate. As nasty as that sounds, it’s a real thing. On one side, we have the people who are absolutely disgusted– myself included- with this word, and on the other side we have nasty people who think it’s beautiful… gross.

Many studies have been realized to try to understand why people loathe the word “moist.” The mo(i)st extensive and comprehensive one is a study done by researches Paul H. Thibodeau and Christopher Bromberg from Oberlin University, and Robby Hernandez and Zachary Wilson from Trinity University (both pairs from their respective university’s Department of Psychology). “An Exploratory Investigation of Word Aversion”  explains that there are two main reasons as to why people loathe this word. The first is that many people have a phonological dislike to “moist.” The researchers argue that the literal pronunciation of “moist” is off-putting, mainly because when we say the word, our facial muscles contract and form a similar expression to that of disgust (the end of the word, moist, requires us to grimace).

Secondly, the word’s relation to bodily fluids is another reason as to why people find it so unpleasant. In this case, it’s the word’s relation to sexual activity that makes people feel uncomfortable when saying or hearing it. The ties it has to wetness and warmth (say, like the inside of your mouth) triggers an involuntary repulsive reaction in many people. The research found that the group of people who avoided the word moist were mainly youthful females. So, next time you casually throw around “moist,” take notice of who’s more grossed out by it- you might find out some interesting things.

P.S.- If you’ve made it through this post without wanting to vomit, here, I hope you can forgive me. Please enjoy these 30 seconds of pure glory/repulsiveness as much as I did.

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The Science of States

During the time I took Puerto Rican History class in high school, my teacher would always remind us that the imposition of the word “America” as a way to refer to the United States was wrong. He argued that America is a continent, not a country; therefore, it seems egocentric that we would adopt the name of a continent as if no other countries besides ours make it up. I always thought it was a valid point. But if we’re not America, then what exactly is the United States of America? Well, it’s just that. A bordering group of states sheltered under the umbrella of a democratic government. The definition of a state is a territory, nation, or organized political entity ruled by one unified government. Summarized: a state is any piece of land with some sort of authoritative figure.

Our country is made up of 51 federally dependent but locally independent states; each state has its own individual government, but shares a single federal government. Each of these local governments holds a certain amount of power over the federal government, making both bodies mutually dependent. However, what would happen if the one central government was abolished? Would each of the 51 states that compose our country be economically, socially, and politically stable enough to withstand the implications of being their own country? This is the science of states.

If we follow the steps of the scientific method, we will find ourselves at a standstill. Because there is no realistic way to scientifically test our theory of the states, we are stuck with our hypothesis. We could, however, apply this theory to scenarios where the government of the United States isn’t necessarily or directly involved- a smaller-scale situation. Let’s apply it to something we’re all familiar with: the Pennsylvania State University. Our university is split into 24 different campuses– much like our country is split into 51 states. Following this analogy, we could also think of the colleges that make up the campuses as the towns that make up a state. Now that we’ve drawn parallel lines, imagine that the collective entity that is Penn State dissolved and instead turned into separate academic institutions based on what were once campuses. Will these newly-formed institutions be stable enough to reach self-sufficiency?

I find this an interesting concept, seeing as something that does not necessarily have to do with biology, chemistry, or physics can still be considered science. One might even be able to apply the scientific method by creating a hypothesis (“Yes, if the federal government were to vanish, the states that make up the United States of America are stable enough to be their own countries” or the opposite). Carrying out an experiment would be very interesting, but it is highly unlikely that we will ever see it happen; the closest we can get is by applying different political science concepts and creating a model. Ultimately, I don’t think it can ever be proven; the actual testing of this statement would require the eradication of our government, and although some people would love to see it happen, it’s not the greatest idea.


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Science? Eh. Political Science? Yes.

Hi guys! My name is Arianna Del Valle and I’m from Puerto Rico. I chose to study at Penn State because I wanted a big school with a great academic program, which is not something commonly found where I come from. I’m majoring in Political Science, which is a science… Does that make me a scientist?  Let’s pretend it does, I feel cool.

Even though I’m not a proper science major, I actually do like science. It was one of my favorite subjects at school because it was always changing. There were many different things to learn about, each day brought a new discovery from some corner of our planet and galaxy.  However, even though I liked science, I never really felt a passion towards it.

Biology and chemistry were fun classes, but I found that the type of science I liked was the one that directly involved the study of things in our world today. That being said, I still find things like Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Darwinism interesting. We see examples of these monumental discoveries in our everyday life; for example, Dwight from The Office, explaining how survival of the fittest works… kind of.

Dwight Survival of the Fittest

However, I was far more engrossed in the science that answers every-day questions; which is where this course comes in. Instead of studying things that we already know- like our solar system or the Earth’s layers-, we’re combining current scientific events and critical thinking skills.

All in all, I’m taking this course because I love science- even though I’m not technically a science major- and it covers topics I’m genuinely interested in. I mean, just check out this article on jellyfish lasers (yes, jellyfish lasers, I know); it seems like the type of topic we’d cover in SC 200 and not in a regular science course. Let’s be real, this class is gonna be bomb and I’m extremely excited to learn mind-blowing facts I can whip out in my next conversation. Plus, Andrew’s accent makes it all the more interesting.