Author Archives: Christina Rae Locurto

Does Tea Cause Kidney Stones?

I’m an avid tea drinker. I love tea, especially green tea, and all of the benefits it can offer. For example, green tea improves health and promotes weight loss. And mint tea can help with stomach aches. One thing I’m wondering is if tea can cause kidney stones. My friend posed this question to me a few weeks ago, and ever since then, that question has been swirling around my head— especially if I’m drinking a cup of tea.


According to, an article they published stated that drinking iced tea may cause kidney stones. The article notes that because tea consists of oxalates,  kidney stones have an increased chance of forming in the kidneys. An oxalate is a common chemical that causes kidney stones to form. The article also points out that iced tea has a greater chance of creating kidney stones than hot tea. And while tea may contain oxalate, does correlation equal causation?

For example, while oxalates may be correlated with creating kidney stones, this does not necessarily mean it is the cause. Many other factors can attribute to causing kidney stones. These factors, confounding variables, could be the solution to this question of whether tea causes kidney stones or not. Some possible third variables may include genetics, gender, exercise, diet and age. And of course, chance could always be the answer to the hypothesis.

According to, an article they published stated that different types of tea contains different levels of oxalates. The article further notes that a Japanese study concluded that green tea can even help prevent the formation of kidney stones. Additionally, the article points out that all of the studies used tea bags, and not loose tea.

I would probably conduct my own experiment and compare my results and data to determine if iced tea can cause the formation of kidney stones. I would perform a meta-analysis and gather two groups of people. One group would drink iced tea, and the other group would not. I would then compare both groups and determine how many people formed kidney stones. I’m interested to find out what the results would be, but I assume the group who drank the iced tea would have an increased number of kidney stones formed versus the non-tea drinking group.

While tea may have a lot of benefits, certain teas, especially of the iced variant, may cause kidney stones. But don’t fret, because some teas, like green tea, can have the opposite effect and actually prevent kidney stones. Be aware of what kinds of tea you’re drinking, but don’t be too concerned. Kidney stones are not a major health hazard, and they pass naturally through the body.

Unless you’re Joey from Friends, and it’s an unbearable experience all around. 634775_1296867590714_full

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

For years, parents and families have argued the validity of using vaccines for their children. There seems to be a stigma associated with vaccines, in that they can cause autism in children. And while some parents may think this way, there are others who think vaccines are the best way to prevent diseases in children. Because of the clear disjuncture on the subject, vaccines have become a very controversial topic in today’s society. I’ve been interested in this topic for a while, so I would really like to research more about it and find out for myself if vaccines can cause autism in children.


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an article they published stated that vaccines are not a cause of autism. They further stated that in a study eight different types of vaccines were given to a number of children. Based on the study, it proved that the vaccines were extremely safe. You can read about the specifics of the study here. But to sum it up, the study was a case-controlled study that examined 256 children who had autism and 752 children without autism. They also pointed out a few third variables that could be the answer to the hypothesis. The study concluded by saying vaccines did not cause children to develop autism.

Where does this misconception of vaccines causing autism therefore come from? An article from the California Department of Public Health might have a few answers.  There is a common myth that vaccines contain mercury, also known as thimerosol. According to the article however, science has found no direct correlation between mercury in vaccinations and autism. Additionally, over 23 case studies have been conducted over the past few years and every single one has come to the same conclusion: that vaccines do not cause autism.

So, if vaccines don’t cause autism, what does then? An article published by Science Alert may have a few answers. The article mentions many variables that may point to an answer for how autism develops. These variables include the type of surroundings a child is currently in, heredity traits the child may receive from the family, and how the  child’s brain may mature. Something I find interesting is that there is no mention of vaccinations at all in these three examples of confounding variables. There, of course, are many other confounding variables that could also point to an answer as well.

I would like to perform a meta-analysis to determine other confounding variables that could lead to an answer that deters from the misconception that vaccines cause autism. I would probably conduct an observational experiment and examine a random number of children, some with autism and others without. I would compare different variables, like age, gender and other confounding variables.

These experiments conducted by the scientists seem to be very legitimate, and provide enough information that clearly demonstrates that vaccines do not cause autism. I think vaccines are an extremely beneficial thing, and something that we as a society should be lucky to have. Vaccines can save so many lives, and prevent children from developing potentially life-threatening diseases.


Does Coffee Hurt More Than It Helps?

Entering college, I promised myself I would not get addicted to coffee. A few of my friends in high school were already hooked on caffeine, and they said that it was inevitable to happen to me too. I didn’t want to believe them, yet a year later here I am sipping Dunkin Donuts every single day on my way to class. I absolutely love coffee now, but I can’t help but wonder if it hurts us more than it is supposed to help us. I’ve heard horror stories of people having awful withdrawal symptoms, and others having a messed up sleep schedule— all because of coffee. So, is coffee really the best thing for us? Or is it damaging us more than it should?


According to Mayo Clinic, an article published by Donald Hensrud, M.D. states that while many people associate coffee with causing many health problems, Dr. Hensrud may have a counter to that. The article points out that in a recently conducted study, there was no correlation between coffee and cancer/heart disease. The article further notes that coffee may actually be beneficial to us, decreasing mortality rates and even helping those suffering from depression. The article frequently mentions a study was conducted to point to these results, however the specifics of the study was not mentioned at all. We get no sense of data, or what type of experiment was conducted. I would say this article suffers from the File Drawer Problem because it fails to publish any evidence of results of the experiment. It just states that this experiment proved something, but provided no evidence to support that statement.

An article published by medicalnewstoday also discusses similar theories with numerical data, but again gives no specific examples of studies. This article does mention something that is vital to this hypothesis: that coffee affects each person differently. There are many third variables to recognize, that may point to why coffee has health effects on a person. For example, maybe that person’s family has a history of heart disease. Or what if you’re drinking decaf coffee? Would it still have the same effect even though there is no actual caffeine in it? The article says that caffeine can have different effects for all types of people, therefore making it difficult for us to come to a conclusion regarding the correlation that coffee causes heart disease.

Both articles fail to mention the specifics of the studies they claimed to get the results from, so I would probably conduct my own experiment to see the results for myself. At this point, there is not enough evidence to convince me one way or another, due to the lack of details concerning the experiments conducted. At this point I would probably undergo my own experiment and look at the results.

If I were to conduct an experiment, it would be a randomized control experiment. I would have two groups, with one group drinking coffee and another group drinking nothing. I would also have to be concrete with what I’m trying to figure out, meaning that I would need to develop a solidified hypothesis. So, I would pinpoint it down to one disease instead. Since the article from mayoclinic said the study tested if coffee increased the chances of heart disease, we will use that to determine the hypothesis.

So, does coffee intake correlate with an increased chance of getting heart disease? The experiment would be difficult to point to an answer, because the results aren’t something you can measure in a few weeks. Similar to the experiment we discussed in class with smoking correlating to cancer, it would be difficult to get accurate data on something like that because the effects would take too long to measure.

So would this point to a false negative? Do we believe coffee does nothing, and science proves that it in fact does nothing? It’s hard to say. more research would have to go into this hypothesis; but from what I researched already, the chances of coffee having negative effects on the human body, like heart disease for example, are slim to none.

The worst that could happen is you suffer from a little insomnia. But nothing life-threatening like cancer or heart disease. So drink all the coffee you want!

Can Bacon Cause Cancer?

Bacon is one food most meat enthusiasts love to eat. Whether it be on a burger, with a plate of eggs, or just strips by itself, bacon has proven itself as a very versatile and delicious, food. Last year, as a Freshman, I worked at Irvings Bagels downtown. You may have heard of it, they have very good food there. With some of our sandwiches, we add a few strips of bacon. One time while I was working, I added on a strip of bacon to a sandwich, and my coworker told me “Did you know bacon is now classified as a carcinogen?” And to that, I replied, “There’s no way that is true.” Now being in this course, I am revisiting the hypothesis of whether or not bacon does cause cancer.


An article published by PCRM (Physicians Community for Responsible Medicine) said that according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, eating 1.7 ounces of processed meat (or greater than that value) can increase the chances of getting cancer by about 21%. In addition to cancer, processed meats can come with a lot of other health risks. The article mentions a study that was conducted that came to the conclusion that processed red meat was correlated to a 10% increase in prostate cancer.


Is all of this due to chance? In any given experiment, the results could always be due to chance. Confounding variables can also point to an answer as well. For example, the increase in cancer could be due to genetics, or exposure to other carcinogens— like smoking. Business Insider actually does mention a few confounding variables in their article about the subject, but just for a brief moment. Business Insider does bring up an excellent point though. The article says that about 1 million deaths are the result of smoking tobacco, while only 34,000 deaths are the result of eating red meat. While both numbers are high, it’s obvious smoking is worse for you.

According to an article written by NPR, a study published by Archives of Internal Medicine claims that eating red meat (like bacon) can increase risk of cancer. The study came to this conclusion by noting that people who ate one serving of red meat had a mortality increase of 13%, whereas people who did not consume red meat had no mortality increase. The article points out another possible confounding variable— iron. It may seem like a weird third variable that can attribute to cancer, but it makes sense. When certain red meats with iron gets digested, it can turn nitrates in the body into carcinogens.

According to, smoking is worse than eating red meat, and by a whole lot too. While bacon causes a person’s risk of acquiring cancer to increase by 18%, smoking causes a person’s risk of getting cancer to a whopping 2,500%! In other words, eating a little bit of bacon here and there will not kill you.

Should you stop eating red meat? According to Yahoo! Health, dietitian Jessica Cording says that eating red meat once in a while will not kill you, and that you should not panic about eating one slice of bacon here and there. She does advise not to make eating red meat a part of your weekly routine because, just like smoking, the health risks will snowball and keep piling up until it does get dangerous.

So, with any food, watch what you eat and don’t make anything into a habit— forming habits with anything can be dangerous! Be cautious, but not too concerned. One slice of bacon, or a sausage once in a while will not kill you. Go and enjoy the food that you love, but always have the reminder to be aware of what you are putting into your body.


Does Listening to Classical Music Improve Study Habits?

As midterms rapidly approach, it seems everyone has succumbed to a state of panic and stress, myself included. This week I had two midterm exams in classes for my major, and I found myself staying up extraordinarily late almost every single night trying to cram useless information into my tired head. Like most college students, I often found myself procrastinating and surfing the web. Suddenly, I came across a soundtrack to a movie I once loved as a kid (and still do) called Spirited Away. I listened to the soundtrack, and was enthralled by the harmonious melodies composed by the brilliant Joe Hisaishi. You can listen to my favorite piece by him here, (also from the movie Spirited Away). As if like magic, I suddenly found myself concentrating even harder than before, and focusing and comprehending what I was actually doing. I wondered, does classical music have an affect on study habits?


According to USC News, it can. The article mentions several experiments on the topic that were conducted recently, that say classical music has a direct influence on a number of things. In addition to improving focus and attention, classical music can also have benefits on things such as how you sleep at night, your immunity to diseases and as a stress reducer. At a university in France, researches came to the conclusion that students who listened to classical music while attending a lecture did better on a follow-up quiz than students who did not listen to classical music during the lecture. The researches added that the classical music put students in a different state of mind, helping them focus better on the lecture material.

As I researched this topic more, I came across a name that researchers gave to this exact topic of study. Appropriately titled “The Mozart Effect,” this article from goes more in depth of the basis for it, and the studies that were involved to reach the conclusion. The article describes how music, specifically of the classical variant, can make you smarter. It lists various benefits of the Mozart Effect, including improvements in test scores, developments in creativity and changes in how the brain gathers information in a more productive way.

The article describes how a scientist named Dr. Georgi Lozanov used baroque music to teach foreign languages in a more efficient way, in that information would be better retained. The study points out that listening to baroque music while learning a foreign language could be completely comprehended in a span of 30 days at a rate of 85%-100% effectiveness, as opposed to how long it usually takes to completely learn a foreign language— two years. The article makes one final important point, noting the correlation between a relaxed body and classical music. When you hear the tempo of a classical piece, and the steady rhythm of the beat, your heart reacts and matches the pulse to the beat of the music, calming you. As your heart rate matches the beat of the music, it relaxes you immensely, therefore allowing you to concentrate better.

I think all of the studies that were performed are very interesting, and I would like to read more about each individual study conducted to learn about the specificities of it. For example, were the studies mostly a randomized control test? Or was there some element of blind/double-blind too? From the articles I read, none of them mention any confounding variables either, so I’m wondering if a third variable could also play a role in determining if classical music does help with studying or not. I pondered a few confounding variables myself, and think the environment,  studying habits and level of education could also affect how a person studies. points out in an article that while most research done on this topic has resulted in the conclusion that classical music improves study habits, there have been many cases in which the participants of the experiment had an opposite effect on them, and they performed worse in an exam. This article also does mention confounding variables, for example how things like the volume or genre of the music could also affect how one studies.

The next time you have to study for a big exam, listen to some Mozart. You never know, it could end up helping you.

Does Eating At Night Cause Weight Gain?

In any given article in a health and beauty magazine about “losing weight fast” or “how to drop 10 pounds in 10 days,” often times I see “stop eating late at night” on the list. I was always confused by this, because I always assumed eating at night is equal to eating a meal during the day time. It’s not like eating at night causes you to inhale double the calories as you normally would, so what’s all the fuss about? Is eating at night as bad as we think it is? And what makes it different from eating any other meal in the day?

fridge with food

fridge with food

According to Jaime Mass, a nutritionist, simply states that a calorie is just a calorie, no matter what time of day you consume them. She further states that it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat food, because if you are consuming more calories than you are burning, you will gain weight regardless of the time of day you eat food.

However, states that research has shown that people who eat food at night consistently are heavier on average than people who do not eat at night. One study, conducted by The American Journal of of Clinical Nutrition, came to the conclusion that, people who ate between 11 pm and 5 am gained more weight than those who did not eat during those times.

The article does not give the specifics of the study however, and a lot of different confounding, or third variables, could contribute to weight gain at night. For example, in the study were the participants all males, or all females? Or a mixture of both? Men and women gain weight differently, so the study would have to be clear of the sexes of the participants for an accurate study. Another confounding variable could be the kind of food you are eating. A fattier food like a hamburger or pizza slice would cause you to intake more calories than if you were eating an apple or a slice of bread with peanut butter on it. The study was not very clear of what the participants were eating, so I am unable to decide if I should trust everything it is saying.

Before I came to any conclusions myself, I would conduct a study of my own before I decided for myself if eating at night was bad or not. I would think to myself the direct causality and the reverse causality of the hypothesis at hand. Does eating at night cause weight, or does weight can cause you to eat at night? Or, is a confounding or third variable causing it. Of course, chance could also be a factor too. I think any of the four options could be a viable solution to this question.

So, I think the answer to the question is unresolved now. I think more research is required to be conducted for us to come to a solution. As a sc200 student, I would understand that the correlation does not exactly equal causation, and that more research is required before I will come to a logical solution about eating at night or not.

Does Chewing Gum Help you on Exams?

There are many “study hacks” that circulate around the internet. Thousands of articles populate the internet on the exact subject of how to conquer exams, do well during finals week, and generally improve your grades. One method I noted was that chewing gum can help you on exams because the gum helps you retain information. In high school, I was always told eating mints or chocolate can help you do well on exams because it stimulates the brain. But I never heard anything about gum. So I wondered, can gum really help you do well on exams? And how does it help?


The initial claim is that chewing gum while you’re studying, and then chewing the same type of gum during an exam will trigger a reaction in the brain that allows you to recall certain information. According to NBC, an experiment was conducted by undergrad students of St. Lawrence University. In the experiment, they divided participants into two groups: those who chewed gum and those who didn’t. After five minutes of chewing gum, the two groups completed a few tests. The results of the experiment showed that the participants who chewed the gum did better on the tests than those who did not chew gum. The enhanced memory benefits are not long term however, and lasted for about 20 minutes. Why does chewing gum improve memory and the brain though?

According to Scijourner, the motion of chewing makes your brain more alert and aware. Chewing gum during an exam can make you attentive and pay closer attention to the questions that you are given, and therefore improve your overall test scores. This makes sense too. According to livescience, chewing gum causes blood to circulate through the head and brain. As blood continues to flow through the brain, it causes you to focus more.

There were a few negatives to this experiment however, that make the overall hypothesis not as worthwhile. According to, The study noted that the reason improved memory only lasted a short 15-20 minutes, is because chewing gum takes away energy that could be used to answer the questions instead. Chewing gum requires energy, but so does thinking about the test questions and coming to an answer. So, while chewing gum can be effective in allowing your brain to have a short burst of energy, this will not last forever and the effects will wear off in time.


Is it Possible to Travel via Hyperdrive?

This Summer, I finally sat down and decided to watch all of the Star Wars movies. I absolutely fell in love with these films, and now regard them as some of my favorite movies of all time. One question I frequently wondered while watching these films was if achieving hyperdrive is possible. Just like how Han Solo uses hyperdrive to go into light-speed on the Millennium Falcon, I wondered if scientists in the future could make this possible too. If so, it would certainly make travel through space a lot easier, and possibly even help us reach places we never thought we could.

Chewbacca, C-3PO, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) aboard the Millennium Falcon as it navigates through an asteroid belt. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Chewbacca, C-3PO, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) aboard the Millennium Falcon as it navigates through an asteroid belt. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

In order to answer the question of whether achieving hyperdrive is possible, we first must understand what exactly hyperdrive is and how it works. The official Star Wars wiki page describes that hyperdrive essentially allows ships to travel faster than the speed of light to reach other galaxies and planets. In order to achieve this, a ship would need a working hyperdrive motivator. From there, hypermatter particles are released that essentially cause the ship to propel across the universe at the speed of light. Since all of this is pure fiction, actual science isn’t necessary in explaining how it works; but some scientists may have a few theories that can lead to the development of similar technology. 

According to , studies in Physics proposes that alternative and quicker routes through space are a possibility—notably, the wormhole. A wormhole allows space to essentially fold over in itself to make point A to point B next to each other, instead of on opposite sides of a given plane. I think the movie Interstellar did a solid job explaining how wormholes work.

I do believe wormholes are a missing link to reaching hyperspace, and traveling at the speed of light. If we are able to travel through wormholes from point A, and reach point B immediately, that is essentially the same thing as Han Solo entering hyperdrive and reaching Tatooine in the blink of an eye. Both methods are taking a shortcut that occurs instantaneously. So could unlocking the secrets of a wormhole help us to achieve hyperdrive? Possibly. But for now, this is all just theory and speculation.

According to NBC News, fans at the Star Wars Celebration in Florida asked representatives from NASA to build a hyperdrive that will allow people to travel at the speed of light. Joseph Tellado, a logistics manager for the International Space Station, admitted that first NASA would need to develop better propulsion systems before attempting to develop complex and intricate technology like a hyperdrive. And while the reality of a hyperdrive is not currently tangible, NASA has been researching ways to make the hyperdrive a reality. Probes such as the Deep Space 1 and Dawn missions utilized advanced propulsion systems, intensified by ion engines that allowed them to move faster than ever before. It may be a small step, but every stride leads us closer to a reality of a future of traveling at the speed of light.

While wormholes are certainly a possibility, a more realistic action would be for NASA to further develop and enhance technology that allows things like probes, and even space ships to accelerate at a rate that is much faster than currently possible. So, for now, achieving hyperdrive is not possible.  But who knows what the future will bring. Maybe in the next 50 years we will have achieved that technology, and be able to traverse across the galaxy, just like Han Solo and Chewbacca.

My Relationship with Science

Hi everyone! My name is Tina Locurto and I am a Sophomore. I’m from Somers, New York, which is a very small town in Westchester County. I often tell people I live in the same county as where the X-Men live, which is something that always makes people laugh (and also provides for a great conversation starter).


I am in the College of Communications, and I plan to major in Journalism with a minor in either English or Art.  I decided to take this course because I needed one more science class to fulfill a general education requirement. I also choose it because this class seemed genuinely interesting though, and not typical of a normal science class.

Which leads me to answering why I am not planning to be a science major.

I have a fairly complicated relationship with science. Growing up I honestly loved it, and enjoyed participating in the various experiments our class would conduct. For a while, I wanted to work with animals and be either a Veterinarian or Marine Biologist. Things definitely changed when I entered high school and realized math and science are two subjects that I absolutely despised. My science classes in high school were your typical science classes— where you have to cram for exams and remember complicated formulas and scientific equations— and if you don’t remember them you failed the class. I wish science classes in high school were taught differently, but I guess the teachers are just teaching us what is mandatory by state through the common core. I found this New York Times article about the Common Core that I found very interesting, and describes how the Common Core is hurting students across the country.