Author Archives: Corbin Kennedy Miller

Could Santa Actually Exist

Leaving cookies and milk out for Santa is one of my fondest memories from my childhood. And we see in pop culture today that he is still a very iconic figure to many people around the world. But is it possible that someone like Santa could exist, traveling around the globe in one night and leaving in the arctic?


We first must look into if it is possible for him to travel around the world in only one night. There has yet to be a species of reindeer that fly, let alone any species in general that could fly that quickly. Taking into consideration that Santa is largely christian based and that there will be some ‘naughty’ children on Christmas, that leaves him with roughly over 90 million houses to hit  in one night. That means that for every second that he can be delivering, he would need to deliver to over 820 houses. Even if he could somehow fashion a machine that could travel that fast, he himself would have to move extremely fast.


This is also taking into consideration that he has to have a large industrial-sized building to create all of the presents, that wouldn’t have been able to produce enough presents for what he has to produce because of the relationship of arctic settlers and the natural land.


Do babies save marriages?

It is a commonly held belief that babies bring people together, but is that necessarily true. The null hypothesis of this study is that there is no relationship between having children and well-being. On one hand, people view children as a way to bring people together over the celebration of new life. But on the other half, some people view that the stress of being in charge of a child can put too much strain on a relationship for it to last.

In a European study from 2011, researchers did a two-fold research study that looked into both the relationship of happiness and childbearing in different countries as well as childbearing and relationship status. The two went together because you could look at the difference in relationship status as a confounding variable if it was found that it makes a significant difference in someones happiness. Using the European Social Survey, the researchers were able to get accurate statistics of the relationship, although it was limited in some capacity becasue it was originally for comparisons of different countries and not relationship status.

parents and their children reading the bible

In another study done by a team at TIMES magazine, they found that the major factor in differing levels of happiness was the age of the parents. Sighting that the parents between the ages of 17-25 were less happy than their counterparts. But they also found that parents found their lives more rewarding, so it shows that there are obvious positives and negatives when it comes to having a child.


There are also many reasons why the two studies could have found differing results. One is reverse causation, which in this scenario, would be that the child bearing is caused by a persons happiness. This would be plausible becasue you have someone who is happy where their life is and the might decide it is a good time to have a child. There’s also the possibility that there is a third confounding variable that could be playing a role in the relationship between childbearing and happiness. The third variable could be anything from places surveyed to the social-economic well being and other things.


Do Children Bring Happiness—or Misery?

Should we actually be afraid of sharks?

I was recently watching the blockbuster-hit “Jaws” the other day and it got me thinking about just how scary they actually are. The idea of the shark makes you tremble in your boots,  but are we over reacting to them?


The null hypothesis of this post is that sharks are no more dangerous than any other creature, either on land or in water. And the alternative hypothesis is that sharks are far more dangerous than your average creature. If we are to reject the null hypothesis, we would need to find significant proof that the sharks pose a larger threat than that of any other creature or object that might pose an immediate threat to a persons life.

A good indicator of threat level is how much a person is attacked/put in harms way because of the creatures, because even attacking a person 1 time is a lot different than attacking people 50 times. On average, in the United States, sharks injure 13 people. If you take the entire population of the United States which is over 323 million people, sharks roughly injure .000003% of the United States population. Compare that to the number of people hurt by toilets per year, which is roughly 43,000 people, which is about .013% of the population of the United States.


There are also different factors that you have to take into consideration when you look to compare these statistics though, and looking to reject the null hypothesis in general. For one, reverse causation doesn’t really apply to this situation because the danger is a by-product of the attacks. But there could also be confounding variables at play, the most noticeable would be opportunity. Everyone uses the toilet, which increases likelihood of injury, compared to sharks who are confined to certain bodies of water.


The Great Barrier Reef Problem

Recently this year, scientist informed the public that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger of completely dying out if some major changes aren’t implemented soon. The  biggest threat is the bleaching of the reef due to chemical pollutants.


When this issue first made itself apparent, scientist came up with the null hypothesis that the pollutants would have no effect on the health of the reef, with the alternative hypothesis being that the pollutants would in fact have an effect on the reef’s health. Although there a some skeptics of the reef’s actual health, scientists have been able to reject the null hypothesis, meaning that the reef is in danger.

To ensure that the reef doesn’t completely die off, scientists from NASA and even Penn State have begun to research the problem and look into possible counter-measures to combat the issue.  Researchers from NASA have begun a 3 year observational study and ecological survey in Australia as the first step in preparing the reef. Using new state of the art technology, NASA researchers are taking aerial surveys of the reef as well as surveys of 6 different areas of the reef to compare the health in the different areas as well as the conditions of their surroundings. In order to carry out these tests, scientists are using airborne imaging spectrometers and 6 separate teams of scientists that are designated to the 6 sections of the reef that are being observed.


Students of Penn State have also been doing research of reefs, specifically the reefs located in the Caribbean. The main objective of their research is looking at the genome of each reef and   how they are able to survive multiple environmental catastrophes. This research is very important for the Great Barrier Reef because, although it isn’t a test of the Great Barrier Reef’s genome, if they are able to find what helps the Caribbean reefs, it could help in the efforts to save the great Barrier reef.

We can be almost certain that the pollutants in the water cause the dying off of the reef. Although we can never rule out chance, its highly unlikely that the reef began to die off at such a rate that just-so-happens to match up with increase of pollutants found in the surrounding ocean. It’s also highly unlikely that reverse causation is to blame in this situation, becasue if that was the case, the dying of the reef would be the cause of humans polluting the water which doesn’t make sense.

In conclusion, the possibility that the Great Barrier Reef dies off if very real; however, with the efforts of scientists and if they correctly carry out the scientific process, we might be able to save the reef after-all.

Other Sources:

Does height make you more attractive?

As the token short guy in most social settings, I seem to have a hard time getting women to notice me when I’m surrounded by guys that are at lest 6 feet tall. So the question remains, does height affect your attractiveness? The null hypothesis in this situation is that height has no effect on attractiveness. And the alternative hypothesis is that height, wither positive or negative, has an effect on how attractive you are.


In a team up between Rice University and the University of North Texas, researchers conducted a two part study on different genders preferences in relation to partners. The first section of the study was data taken from different dating profiles around the us, average male height was 5 feet 8 inches and female was 5 feet 4 inches. After compiling data from 455 males and 470 females, they found that only 13.5% of men wanted to date only women that were shorter than they are, but almost half of the women wanted to date only men that were taller than they were. The second part of the study was an online survey at the two universities where the study was taking place. In this portion of the study, 37% of men that participated wanted to date only women shorter than they are, a significant increase from the previous study. There was also an increase in women who wanted to date only men taller than they are, going from 48.9% in the first part to 55% in the second trial.


In another study, it was found that there is a point in which people view the opposite gender as too tall or too short. The findings show that on average, people look for the male to be no more than 17% taller than the female. They also found a correlation between the height of the person and their preference of height, with tall women and short men looking for less of a height difference with their partner than  either taller men and shorter women.

With these findings, as well as personal experience, we are able to reject the null hypothesis. this means that height actually does have an effect on a persons attractiveness no matter what their gender. And unfortunately that means for guys like me, we are goig to have to start buying platform shoes.


New Research Analyzes Height, Weight, Income and More In Regards to Sex and Dating


Deflategate: Does temperature actually effect PSI?

During an AFC championship game in 2015, it was found that 11 of the 12 footballs being used were under-inflated compared to the league rules. During the NFL’s investigation, it was found that Tom Brady had a connection to the incident, and he was subsequently suspended for 4 games the following season. But this got me thinking, could the balls have actually just deflated on their own due to the poor weather conditions or was there a malicious act carried out  by the Patriots and their quarterback.


The ESPN show Sports Science dove into this issue. They found that, if exposed to 10 degree temperatures for a hour, the PSI drops 2.5 PSI (13.5 PSI to 11 PSI). Although this proves that there is a relationship between PSI and temperature, it doesn’t quite answer the question becasue the PSI in the football had dropped from 12.5 PSI to 10.5 PSI in only a hour and a half, in temperatures of about 51 degrees.

But supporters have since surfaced, claiming that the Patriots are not in the wrong, claiming that it is possible for PSI to change in that way given the right conditions. Bill Belichick, head coach of the Patriots, had come out and claimed that there was no purposeful tampering with the inflation of the balls, and that it was simply the right conditions for the PSI to drop in the way that it did. And multiple scientists have come out in support of the team, saying that it is simple physics,  if you have something in a warm area (locker room) and then move it to a cold area (the field) the air pressure of the balls would most definitely drop.


So with these multiple studies, the best we can do is question. There are legitimate arguments on both sides, and the only people that know what actually happened are the people that were directly involved.    We can conclude that temperature does affect the air pressure, but we are left uncertain if it can affect the air pressure in the way that it supposedly did during the AFC Championship game.


Can height affect athletic performance?

Because of my height, my hopes of ever playing in the NBA or NFL were thrown out the window fairly early in my life. But this got me thinking, does height have any effect on your athletic performance, or can someone that’s 5 feet tall be just as athletic as some that’s 6 feet tall?

The null hypothesis in this situation is that height has no effect on athletic performance. The alternative hypothesis is that height does effect athletic performance, meaning being taller wither gives you an advantage or a disadvantage over shorter people in athletic performance. There are multiple third variables that we have to be aware of when looking into the topic, such as type of athletic event, and what you would use to define athletic performance.


Speed is a crucial aspect of any athletic event, so are short people slower? You would think that stride length would have a big impact on speed, and in a way it does, but  only after you reach a certain speed. It turns out, up to a certain speed, we all have around the same stride frequency. There was a study that was conducted in Italy about this very subject, where they collected data from a sample of 51 children ages 2-16, and then compared the findings with previously known data of adults. The researchers found that up to eleven kilometers per hour (8:45 mile pace), our stride frequency were very similar, and the frequency only began to change after you went of the set pace.

In a separate study, researchers looked into the relationship between muscle fatigue and arm length/height. The researchers gave each subject 3 attempts at a bench press where the were told to hold the weight at a certain height in order to produce muscle fatigue in the subjects. With a p-value of 0.02, it was found that there was less muscle fatigue in people with smaller arm spans than those with larger arm spans.


On average, men are slightly taller than women, so when we compare the difference between the heights of their vertical jump, we can get a vague idea of the relationship between height of a  person and the height of their vertical jump. On average, the mean vertical jump height for men 22.1 inches with a standard deviation (give or take) of plus/minus 3/4 inches, while the mean female vertical jump height is 14.1 inches and the standard deviation is plus/minus 2.5 inches. From this data, we can conclude that on average, there is a positive correlation between the height of a person and the height of their vertical leap. Although, we need to consider the possible third variables due to the use of gender comparisons and not the direct effect of height.

After these findings, we can reject the null hypothesis that there is no relationship between height and athletic performance. Although there is not always a negative relationship, there is undoubtedly one in general.


Do you actually need that much sleep?

How much sleep do you actually need? As college students, we find ourselves asking that questions most nights, wither its becasue of studying, late night food run, or a party with your friends. So I decided to look into just how much sleep we need in order to function on a daily basis.


The first study I looked at was one conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, a foundation dedicated to looking to find the best ways to get the best nights sleep that you can get. For their study, they gathered a panel of 18 sleep experts of different fields in order to properly judge the most beneficial amounts of sleep per age range. after multiple test, it was determined that the optimal range for sleep was between 7-8 hours. Although, they determined that it is possible to function normally when going off of 6 hours of sleep.But they do acknowledge that the necessary amount of sleep can vary from person to person, but it is very unusual for someone to deviate too far from the mean, such as 3 hours.

But if you find yourself missing out on a lot of sleep, there is still many things that you can do to help get the most of what sleep you can get and/or get more sleep.   The first recommendation would be to stay away from caffeine if you think you’re going to be sleeping at any time in the near future, it may seem obvious, but some people like to drink a soft drink or coffee while they’re studying or hanging out with friends. Another helpful tip is to avoid watching TV or other devices right before you go to bed. This is because your the light that the screen gives off confuses your brain into thinking that you should be up (because it’s light out).


So, after researching the topic, I can conclude that its important to get at least 6 hours of sleep. Although 6 hours isn’t the optimal amount of sleep, you can still function off of it, but any less could have negative effects on health and grades. Optimally, you should get around 8 hours of sleep, or 7 hours is also seen as a good amount of sleep.


And so to bed: New guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation


Alcohol’s effects on health

As college students, we all have access to alcohol. Some of us have more access than others, but we all in some way or the other, can drink if we choose. But what kind of a toll is it taking on our body every time we drink a beer, a glass of wine, or a mixed drink. Although there can be certain health benefits from moderation, certain reports say that a glass of wine a day keeps the doctors away, but anymore can be hazardous to your health.

When researching this subject, my null hypothesis was that drinking alcohol has no effect on your health, meaning that a sober person and a drinker would have the same health risks. The alternative process is that drinking does negatively effect your health, either small effects or major ones.


In a recent paper on the health risks that have been studied by researchers, multiple studies have looked into the link between drinking, lightly to moderately, and cardiovascular disease and/or deaths related to cardiovascular diseases. Multiple studies conducted in both Europe and the United States found significant links in subjects that moderately drank. In separate studies, researchers that conducted a meta-analysis of studies about drinking and strokes, found a significant link to heavy drinkers and stroke victims, although there was no link between drinking and more ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes. And while the link between drinking and cognitive ability at the time of drinking is well documented, most other mental effects of boozing is largely unknown. Although, recent studies have begun to show a positive correlation between moderate drinking and cognitive ability.

In a paper written by Wesley Perkins, a Professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, highlights that not all health risks are directly from the alcohol itself, but rather what you do while drinking. He points out that one of the many mistakes made while drinking is unprotected sex, which could lead to STI’s and pregnancy. And even though  pregnancy is not a hazard to your health (if all goes as planned), it still could have a very dramatic effect on a persons way of life. In one study conducted by Perkins, he found that 25% of the student body had partaken in either unintended or unprotected sexual intercourse at some point in the past year.


And from personal experience, I had recently gone to the doctors with my sister in order to get her some medication for a cold she couldn’t kick, and I talked to the doctor about the famous ‘PSU Plague’. She was telling me that one of the reasons that the viruses and infections spread so quickly is because alcohol can weaken your immune system, making it easier for students to catch viruses. Not to mention at parties people are crammed together and often find themselves sharing drinks with their friends.

After the research, I can reject the null hypothesis, meaning that there are negative effects on your health if you drink alcohol.



New evidence of the Great Plague

The amount of deaths caused by the Great Plague has been the center of many debates throughout the scientific community. Throughout its reign in the in the seventeenth century, the plague took the lives of over fifteen percent of London’s population. The biggest variable that has largely remained unsettled is how the plague was transferred , wither brought from Asia or from rodents. But thanks to the discovery of new skeletons in London, the world might finally get the answer.

The skeletons were discovered by a construction crew that was working on building a new underground railroad in London. The timing couldn’t have been better because they were celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, which is a large fire that many believe wiped out the plague.


Scientists were able to gather small samples of the pathogen Yersinia Pestis, which is the bacteria linked to the Great Plague. Luckily, enamel acts as a time capsule for anything that is present in a persons’ blood stream at the time of death. This certain pathogen has been linked to the plague, and the samples they were able to get from the skeletons, they can now look into how it was able to spread so quickly throughout the population. And fortunately, the bacteria itself died shortly after the host, so it poses no health risk to the public.


Because the Yersinia Pestis was also linked to Black Plague in the 14th century, scientists have plans on comparing the two strands and seeing how the two stack up against each other. If the DNA sequences match, it could prove that there is a local reserve of the plague through rats. If the DNA sequences do not match, it could prove that there were possibly different strands that were coming in from Asia. Although they suspect currently that it is the rats.

Scientists are beginning to look at the skeletons to find out more about the victims themselves, to further understand the demographics of those that were effected by the plague. Of the victims they have already studied, they have found all to be under the age of twenty five, as well as two being male and one female. They also plan on looking into the diets, pollutants that they had consumed throughout their life time, and wither or not they were locally from London or had traveled from somewhere else.

This just goes to show that in science, you never truly stop learning. What we thought years ago we’d never learn, is now right in front of us.


The spread of Ebola

It may seem like it was ages ago since the Ebola scare took the world by storm, but it was actually only two years ago. At the beginning of the outbreak, no one could pin down the cause of the virus and how it was being spread, it got to the point where anyone who showed symptoms of the virus were forced into quarantine. But after about a year, scientists think that they have been able to pin-point how exactly the virus initially began to spread throughout Africa. From several studies, they found that there have been mutations of the virus, leaving the less communicable diseases to die off.


The dying off of certain strands of the virus is a great example of the scientific principle of survival of the fittest. The original virus was found in wild animals and was then spread to humans, so it had to mutate in order to spread to humans and mutate further in order to spread more easily from person to person. This shows the survival of the fittest because it forces the virus to mutate or it will die off because it is not transmitted.

These mutations were originally found through the study of the human genome. They brought in blood samples from over 400 samples in order to compare their blood types in order to observe the affects the Ebola has on a person. A genome is the code that is made up of DNA that can be found in a persons 23 pairs of chromosomes. It is essentially the basis of how we are who we are individually. So because they were able to research the genomes of the four hundred patients, they were able to see what the viruses was attacking in the body. And when they found how the virus was affecting the genome, they were able to conclude how it was being spread.


Further studies showed that the second wave of the virus was much larger than the original introduction to humans. It was originally thought to be because there was a lot of passing the virus between Sierra Leone and Guinea, due to the fact that the first cases had sprung up in Guinea and then showed up in Sierra Leone. They then stated that the virus began to spread throughout the rest of the region without many influence from outside sources, but it was later hypothesized that the original Guinea strand was not fully treated and had slowly been spreading throughout the capital. This is a great example of what Andrew always emphasizes, that in science, you gain more knowledge because people question others’ work which creates more research and analysis.


The Battle Against Heart Attacks

For the longest time, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in America. It has become such an issue that nearly 1 in every 7 american deaths are due to some form of heart disease. I personally have seen multiple family members suffer at the hands of a singular or multiple heart attacks, as I’m sure many people also have. But thanks to new ways hospitals are dealing with time restrictions, we might be on the way to heart disease no longer being the leading cause of death in the US. You can read the full article which goes in depth on the steps taken and the outcomes of those steps.

The largest focus of the initiatives was to trim the excess time from ambulance to balloon (the balloon is the final step in treating the heart attack). The biggest upgrade that all hospitals have incorporated has been to give the patients the electrocardiogram (EKG) while they are in the ambulance being transported to the hospital. To understand how important this change is, you must look into the science behind a electrocardiogram. With each time your heart beats, it gives off a small electrical charge which helps stimulate the muscles in the heart that continue the beating. The EKG is used to measure the electrical output of your heart, and can determine wither the output is normal, slow, fast, or abnormal. If they find anything negative about the electrical activity, they can determine the location of the heart attack based on the speed of activity.


Completing the test in the ambulance has shaved off a lot of time from the time the patient gets to the hospital time to when they are able to clear the blockage with the balloon. It limits the time the doctor has to spend examining the patients tests while they are waiting to be treated, instead the hospital staff is able to start the procedure when the ambulance arrives at the hospital.

There have been many other steps taken to trim down the time. After checking with hospital lawyers, hospitals were able to cut down on the amount of information and paperwork needed from a patient before they are able to be operated on. Hospitals are now asking that all hospital staff members that are on call stay within 30 minutes of the hospital, leading to more available doctors and also doctors that are able to arrive much more quickly. Some doctors have gone as far as renting out hotel rooms close by to the hospitals or staying with relatives. And lastly, hospitals gave the authority to the ER doctors instead of relying solely on cardiovascular specialists, who often were contacted through fax which could take up to 30 minutes to hear back from.

What is the science behind a quicker ambulance to balloon time? When an artery is clogged, it prevents blood from flowing throughout the heart. When blood is unable to travel through the heart as it normally does, the blood is temporarily disabled, but the longer the heart is clogged, the cells start t die. This is unfortunately is what causes someone to die from the heart attack. But luckily with these improvements to treatment, the mortality rates of heart attack victims has dropped an astounding 38%.



Corbin V. Science

Hey everyone, my name is Corbin Miller and I’m from Towson, Maryland. It’s about a 10 minute drive from downtown Baltimore and also is the home to Michael Phelps, one of the greatest Olympians of all time.

When people ask why I’m not majoring in a science I just laugh, because why would I. I have taken both chemistry and physics, and with all do respect to the people that love those subjects, they are total wastes of times (at least for me). The best thing that came out of my chemistry class was that I learned how to make ice cream, and although I enjoyed the final result, it would have been much easier to go to the grocery store and just buy the ice cream. And in physics, I realized shortly after the class had started that in no situation in my life will I ever have to use math to calculate the speed of a swinging bowling ball attached to a rope. The only time that physics ever captures my interest is when it is used to analyze sports. A great example of someone using physics in order to analyze sports can be found through this link, examining just how incredible Lebron James is.


I’m taking this course because it combines the two best things about science, deep conversation and the science behind random and fun topics. I’m not going to lie, taking a science course at all was not my first choice, but if I have to I’m glad that this course was available. I look forward to discussing the interesting science behind our everyday experiences and the world around us.