Author Archives: Danielle Megan Sobel

What causes a migraine?

For my last blog of SC200, I thought I would write about something personal to me, as well as get a little more research out of the way for myself. I have chronic migraines and have had this diagnosis since the 5th grade.Every day when I wake up I get an intense pounding on the sides of my head, behind my eyes, and under my neck. Throughout all the years I’ve known about my condition and through all the doctors I’ve seen, nobody has been able to tell me what causes the terrible pain I have everyday. Hopefully, the research I do for this blog will teach me something new.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, a chronic migraine is categorized by a person having 15 of the month taken over by migraines, which can last from hours to a few days. Believe me, I’ve had it all. I see a neurologist at the Children’s National Hospital, and she said the main reason I get migraines was probably stress, but I’m perfectly unstressed right now.

Some main triggers for migraines as mentioned on the Children’s National website are the weather, bright lights and loud noises, food (especially chocolate). I personally experience all of these and they all really lead to worse migraines existing. A lot of times, women can experience menstrual migraines, which as they sound, are migraines that flare up at the time of a woman’s period, the Migraine Research Foundation says.

So what causes migraines? It is a lot of neurological symptoms that lead to throbbing and extensive pain, and personally attack all over my head.

Why does glue start white and then dries clear?

The smiley face on the top half of the image is wet glue– All white. Whereas on the bottom half of the image you can see it gradually turning clear in the thinner parts first, where the water is evaporating.

As a kid, arts and crafts were one of my favorite hobbies, and still is now. Most craft glue, Elmer’s brand especially, comes in a thick white color, and if you have never used glue before you would think it would dry the same color. BUT NO! Glue has properties in it that make it dry clear, so crafts and other projects don’t seem messy. This is great an all, but HOW does this color transformation happen? Craft and school glue are essentially made of Polyvinyl acetate (PVA), a powdery substance that doesn’t mix well with water, which turns into other stages, forming the hardened and fastened glue.

This glue dries colorless

A science blogger, “John The Math Guy” explains the breakdown of wet glue and why it forms to the clearer hard state to hold objects together. The reason glue looks milky, as he puts it, is because the PVA is mixed with water which causes it to be wet. Since the water is the part that is wet and therefore will dry, that causes the PVA to turn clear, since it has nothing keeping it wet anymore. The water evaporates, which leaves only PVA plastic leftover, which is clear.

So it isn’t as complicated as I thought- It just has to do with water evaporating and leaving behind the clear PVA particles.

Why stretching in the morning is so awesome

Its 45 minutes before your first class, the alarm clock just woke you up and the first thing you do before getting out of bed is stretch. In every funny position imaginable, crossing each limb backwards and forwards, trying to wake your body up from the long slumber it just endured. It’s the best feeling, and I’ve never known why. My friend I was just sitting with said, “Dani, don’t you ever just want a machine to stretch your arms and legs in all directions?” So naturally, I had to write about it.

Writer Luis Villazon briefly discusses the surface level reason for why our bodies need to stretch in the mornings. He says its because when you sleep, your muscles are not as toned and some fluid builds up, so by stretching your muscles out past their normal capacity in the morning, it can allow for a normal body function throughout the rest of the day.

There are many reasons for stretching that we don’t always think about when we do it, but that DO help our bodies and lead to the positive feeling we get when we stretch. For example, stretching in the morning can lead to joint flexibility. I know when I wake up, I‘ll hear a few cracks from my joints here and there, but if I stretched more first, this would put less pressure on my body and cause it to be more relaxed throughout the day. A Null Hypothesis for this claim would be that if a person stretched, nothing would happen to their body. An Alternative Hypothesis would be that is a person stretched something beneficial did indeed come from it, such as joint flexibility or less stiff muscles.

There are some people who just stretch in miscellaneous ways until they feel less stiff from their sleep, while others stretch to a routine, or do specific moves to straighten their bodies back out. These are all effective ways to de-stress your muscles and to spread the fluids in your body back out in order to have an energized day.

Why are some breeds of dog more intelligent than others?

Happy Thanksgiving, Science 200! I am far from my hometown in New York at my cousins house, and this morning we are watching the annual National Dog Show sponsored by Purina. After watching dog after dog prance across the screen, poised an polished by breed, I began wondering if some of the dogs that participate in the show are smarter than dogs of other breeds.

To study this, I researched the intelligence of some of the breeds highlighted in the show: Retrievers, Toys, and Spaniels. According to neuropsychologist Stanley Cohen, author of “The Intelligence of Dogs”, there are 3 categories of intelligence that all breeds of dogs fit into. The 3 breeds that I am focusing on are all very different in terms of intelligence.

The intelligence of dogs can depend on what their breed was initially created for. For example, for the Toy breed, they were originally bred as lap dogs and were bred to look cute, not as herding dogs, so they don’t have a high intelligence. However, Retrievers were bred to be loystanley-coren-and-the-intelligence-of-dogs-5241d3bc7b1baal hunters and know what their job is, so therefore have a higher intelligence.

On the National Dog Show (NDS) website, it describes the different events and categories necessary, including demonstrations. The website claims the dogs must show intelligence and athleticism.

This ~text~ message will explode in 3…2…1…!

“Please buckle your seat belts and prepare for takeoff, but I’m sorry- you’re going to have to dispose of your Samsung Galaxy Note7 before this aircraft takes flight due to the recent reports of the device exploding.” This is what many travelers have been hearing as they approach their seats on an airplane before their flight. Some people are even prevented from getting onto the plane due to their choice in phone.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), they are taking this precaution to prevent in-flight fires and to keep the most amount of personnel safe, even though this new ban is an inconvenience for people with the Samsung Galaxy Note7.

So what is actually going on scientifically with the Samsung Galaxy Note7? The DOT has reports from Samsung customers saying they experienced what they called an ‘evolution of heat’ and an explosive battery. Due to the specific type of battery the Samsung Galaxy S7 has been using, a Lithium Ion Battery, the battery’s cell has a tendency to fail while charging which is what leads to the explosive incidents and burnt phones, according to Science Alert. Since people with Samsung Galaxy S7s are constantly using them for phone calls, texts, and notes, the battery ends are being over used, causing the electrolytes to boil, rupturing the battery cell casing and burn the phones exterior, which could lead to a fire if the boiling is bad enough.

Due to this intensive electrical malfunction on such a commonly used device, there have been recalls twice on the product, and now a public ban on the S7 on airplanes. Many unhappy customers are also returning their phones due to their incapability to function after being engulfed in an electrical flame.

This is a problem for people who fly on airplanes because the ban on the Galaxy S7 considers the phone to be hazardous under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations which doesn’t allow people to travel with lithium battery cells or electronic devices that may be known to start fires. These Lithium Ion batteries are not a foreign concept to the technological world, says the Chicago Tribune. In fact, they are in most of your laptops, phones, and other commonly used rechargeable items, it is just the overheating of the Galaxy S7 that makes the battery too dangerous to keep on airplanes for too long.

Singing in the Shower can lead to Happiness

There are classic movie scenes of singing in the shower, Spotify playlists literally called “Songs to Sing in the Shower” and, references to the action all the time in conversations, but are there any benefits of it other than it being super fun? Answer: Yes!

According to Music.Mic, a website that looks into music and science alike, singing in the shower can improve immune systems as well as sleep cycles. Since these people are singingImage result for singing in the shower more, it allows the body to
stretch its muscles to the fullest extent, as well as relax more at night.

The fad of singing in the shower is taking over the media, so there must be some more benefits, I thought.  Singing releases endorphins, which are chemicals that make the body feel good. So while you sing in the shower, your body is getting clean, as well as getting emotionally more positive. In an Australian study done in 2008, it was found that choral singing actually was the most beneficial to ones health, but I think shower singing is cooler. Image result for singing in the shower easy a

Additionally, improved heart health has been linked to singing in the shower, since a release of Cortisol happens, which decreases stress. So the more people sing, the more they release this chemical, and the more heart health they will have. According to Siecne: How Stuff Works, singing can be considered aerobic, since it helps bring oxygen to the brain, which will keep spirits up as well as boost circulation through the blood stream.

Image result for singing in the shower quotesFrom what we have learned in class, there could be a null hypothesis: singing in the shower doesn’t effect a person’s health at all or an alternative hypothesis: that singing in the show will effect a person’s health for better or for worse. I have not found an experiment, however I don’t think it would be to hard to find out that singing in the shower is good for you, since all the psychological reasons line up.

singing in the shower song

Fear of Heights

Personally I’ve never been afraid of heights to a great extent. Sure, the uneasiness of being at the top of a roller coaster or the edge of a rocky mountain makes knots in my stomach, but it’s nothing anxiety provoking. However, a fear of heights is nothing to joke about, as it is a real phobia that some people have, and I have always been very curious about it.

Acrophobia, the scientific name for this extreme fear of high up places which is often ongoing. As all phobia names are, this name comes from the Greek language, and the beginning part of the work “Acro” means height- translating to height fear.  This fear has always been existent zipline in kauaithroughout human history, however people first started noticing it when they aged, due to their balance wearing off, so this pattern was what helped discover this phobia. So since this fear usually pops up so late in life, what causes it? According to Steven P Wickstrom, something when you were younger probably set you on a track to be afraid of high up places (ex: a horrific event or something you watched happen).

Since this phobia can be debilitating to a person’s life, how can it be cured?

There are a few steps to overcome Acrophobia. In the moment, positive thoughts, counting, and deep breathing can be effective to suppress the anxiety. However, for the long haul, Hypnosis and learning about the phobia itself are key ways to tackle it as to recoil your mind.

Have you ever had a dream regarding a fear of heights? Or even a falling from a high place dream? These can often be connected to a feeling of low confidence or a similar situation that resembles the one the person dreamed of. According to the DreAcrophobiaam Symbolism dictionary, dreams can be seen as metaphors for real life, so if a person dreams of falling from a high up place or being scared of heights, they may subconsciously have this fear.

Some ways to recognize if you truly have Acrophobia are that you may experience panic
attacks or the urge to go off of high up places (although not in a suicidal way). Additionally, if the
symptoms worsen sometimes CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) can be  used to treat the phobia. CBT is a psychological therapy that is used for changing people’s thinking, actions, and feelings all together.  Image result for cbt

I was curious to learn more about the details behind a person’s fear of heights, so I hope this helped somebody else on this blog learn more too.

What is Cuffing Season?

It’s that time of the year people!!! The air is getting chilly and people are switching their morning drink from Iced Caramel Lattes to Salted Caramel Hot Chocolates. I’ve seen my once “single-pringle” friends, who swear to be a die-heart single girl till they die. However, this time from early fall to winter is particularly interesting time when people who once loved going out and focusing on themselves, start to strive for something more romantic. All across magazines like Cosmo, E!, and Vougethere is an animalistic attribute to this idea of “cuffing”.

I have always wondered what makes people are more inclined to get into relationships in the fall. Maybe it’s for the Instagram photos in pumpkin patches. Maybe it’s for the companionship throughout the harsh winter. But what I do know is that this culture of getting into relationships has been sweeping the media for years around this time.

The science behind this idea of this season is that mammals go through Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” and that only the couples survive the winter. There is also a pressure of this for young adults

Another reason cuffing reason cuffing season is so prominent, especially in climates similar to Penn State, is due to the increased rates of the need for dates to holiday parties, formals, and hayride nights. The internal competition singles have to find love in a season when all the social settings are requiring a date.

So although a flip may not literally switch once it turns to October, and single people may not automatically jump into relationships, there is still the pressure for people from the media for monogamous relationships in the winter, along with the psychological reasoning.



It’s a Horrid Habit.

One of the most widely discussed issues in America is obesity. I want to explore how it begins. I know there are potential leads such as oral fixations, a predisposed genetic history, and beginning the poor habit by yourself. However, I want to dive deeper into how each of these reasons may lead to obesity. If Americans knew more about what was causing them to become obese, they put more effort into stopping the trend.

Oral Fixations:  Have you ever noticed yourself constantly biting your nails or chewing gum? Then you might have an oral fixation. An oral fixation can be described as constantly needing something to chew on or eat. Most young develop this due to breast feeding, using passifiers, and teething toys. However, these fixations may sometimes go away after 8 months, Flow Psychology says. So naturally, people who feel the need to always have something to chew on sometimes turn to something edible rather than the end of a pencil. Food. According to the book, Exploring Psychology, people eat food to satisfy feelings of guilt and anxiety, which at the time feels amazing and comforting. However, over time this is what leads to the uncontrollable cycle that is obesity. 

Genetic History: In some cases, people can be born with a “poor-deck of cards” dealt to them, but it doesn’t necessarily predict their definite future. If a person has family members who have genetic conditions which make them obese, it just makes them more susceptible to be obese themselves. I’ll reiterate…just because somebody is genetically predisposed to “be obese” does not be they necessarily will be. There is a lot of action people can take if they are at risk for becoming obese. Some examples are an extensive exercise plan and a specific diet.

Poor Habits:  If you bring on obesity to yourself, it’s probably because of the following reasons. 1). an inactive lifestyle. According to NIH if more Americans spent time walking, spending time outdoors, and participating in exercise, than there would be less obesity in the country. Since people are becoming lazier and spending time indoors with technology, there is less motivation to go outside. 2). Smoking (another horrid habit) often increases obesity when it is quit. And although anybody who smokes should quit, they probably shouldn’t have started in the first place. Harvard says when people quit smoking, food often looks more appealing, causing them to want to eat more of it **(this goes back to the oral fixations part of the blog. Since people who quit smoking do not have cigarettes to keep in their mouths, they turn to food, which causes obesity)**

So, there are many causes for obesity in America, not all of which are the obese person’s fault in the slightest. However, it is the responsibility of the obese person to take action in order to maintain a healthy life.

See you in 7 years…or sooner?

We’ve all been there…that terrifying moment when you’re aimlessly walking around and suddenly you feel a punch in your throat and then what feels like a never ending boulder rolling down to you stomach. That’s right, swallowing gum. One of the worst feelings that I bet has caught almost everyone on this blog by surprise.

Kid’s blog about swallowing gum



I know you’ve heard the myth that you won’t see that piece of gum for another 7 years, but is that really true? NO!

According to Michael F. Picco, M.D., certified in gastroenterology and a consultant for Mayo Clinic in Florida, swallowed gum does not make a home in a person’s stomach if swallowed. It cannot be digested along with food that has been swallowed, however, it can be moved throughout the large and small intestines and in most cases, will exit the body in a short period of time.

For the kids who love their gum, it’s important to make sure that they know the reasons why its called CHEWING gum, not SWALLOW gum. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recalls a case of a young boy with severe constipation, found to be caused from an extreme amount swallowed chewing gum). It was not one piece of gum that did this, but the behavior of the child and his habit of constantly swallowing the gum he was given. This can be the rare case  if you do not chew gum properly (or at all).

If there were to be an experiment on this topic, researchers would either have to force children to swallow large amounts of gum, creating constipation, have children not swallow gum, and also have kids chew gum at their own rate. There would be a null hypothesis of nothing happening when the children swallowed different amounts of gum, as the gum would just come out of their body in stool a few days later. However, on the other hand their could be an alternative hypothesis where the gum could create a great build up in the intestines and harm the body. 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) says that since a chewing gum type substance has been around since the time of the cavemen, there would be more information on the topic if it was really though to be doing  a ton of harm. But since the only foreseeable outcome is bad constipation for a short period of time if a child swallows a lot of gum, then there is not much research left to do.

So, we know gum doesn’t stay in your system for 7 years. But what happens to it while it is inside you

While the food is being digested and all the good parts of food (and gum int his case) are being absorbed into the body, the rubber part of the gum is left sitting in your stomach, immune to the acids inside you. So when it does come time for the gum to pass through, it is nothing more than rubbery remnants  of the gum that once was.

So the bottom line, don’t swallow chewing gum. It;s meant to be chewed and spit out. Although it won’t reside in your intestines for 7 years, why risk the potential uncomfort of constipation and the everlasting pain that swalowing gum comes with. If you need ot put your gum down for a while, you can always stick it behind your ear. 😉

demonstration of how to porperly chew gum

Baby Einstein might not be so smart after all

Growing up with 3 younger brothers, I’ve seen how they have grown up and matured into very cute and mature boys. I also saw how they were raised as babies. From the food they ate, to the clothes they wore, to the activities we all did together, I just about know it all.

One of the most popular activities my littlest brother, Sam, liked to do was watch Baby Einstein. If you don’t know what that is I’ll attach a short clip here. My brothers did enjoy these videos, I assume mostly for the entertainment purposes. However, there are some families that play videos like theses for their infants with the goal of improving language skills and IQ, essentially as an educational tool.

In a study conducted by Child-Psych, they found that children who watch the educational videos at a more developed age (closer to 2 years old) were not likely to be effected in any way (positive or negative). However, for children who are younger, they may actually learn less words by watching the videos. Pretty strange since the goal is to encourage educational growth. However, there are other key components that can be put into play here with the regard to the lesser amounts of learned language from the video. Once , is that while children watch videos, they are not interacting socially or verbally with their parents. So according to Child-Psych, they loose the body language association that goes with verbal communication.

In a New York Times article, there are similar findings after a similar experiment. The journalist writing the article may not see dramatic changes in her child’s language development, she does feel that videos like Baby Einstein are a good use of time for her child while she is completing necessary tasks around the house. It seems a practical solution for busy mothers who just need a break, or just a shower after a long day, since the video is not deteriorating from her child’s education.

On the Baby Einstein website, they feature categories that they specialize in for education such as, Language, Music, Art, and Nature. They are all described as rich experience in an interactive program for learning. They describe their company as an experience that will allow parents to fulfill the need of their curious children.

Mayo Clinic did research on this claim, finding that there is no significant improvement in a child’s language after watching there films. Children ages 1-2 who watch these videos are missing out on key life experiences such as playing outside, playing with other babies, and talking and singing with their families.  They are seeing images and hearing music from a screen, but they cannot absorb it as well as they could real life music or conversations.


Bronzed and also Blonde…but how?

Now that summer is officially wrapping up, all we have left is the faint tans from that beach trip in June, the strips of blonde in our hair hair that we never thought would exist, and lines on our backs from the endless sunburns. However, after meeting so many new people during this first month of school, and them asking if I am “really that tan” and “wow, how did you get such natural looking highlights”, I got to thinking about my summer color a little bit.

How is it that my skin gets to be so dark in the summer, but my hair gets almost entirely blonde? I’m in the same sun everyday and I do’t use any funky products, so how come such opposite affects happen to my body in the Summer?

Stars in the sky:

The Skin Cancer Foundation created this info graphic, comparing the strength of UVA rays to UVB rays against the layers of skin.

Although we see it as a pretty bright white circle in the center of the sky, the sun isn’t as innocent as it looks. For 6 billion years, the sun has been casting its UV A and B rays among the people of earth, including you. The two types of rays, UVA and UVB are very different. UVA rays are longer and are the most persistently active throughout a normal day, especially when tanning. They are less intense than UVB however. UVB rays are shorter rays which also go through the atmosphere an effect our lives. UVB rays are most common when dealing with cancer and burns relating to the sun. The Skin Cancer foundation found all the aforementioned information, as well as a comparison of the 2 different types of UV rays to be true.

How come I get SO tan SO quickly during the summer months?

According to Dr. Andrew Shafer of Stanford University, the reason sun worshipers like you and me get so tan, is because the sun is destroying the melanin that your body already has. Therefore, in order for your skin to protect itself, it creates darker melanin and produces more of it, creating darker skin. What is your skin protecting you from? Well, there are dangerous things out there like Cancers and UV rays, so the tan that your skin creates almost acts as a shield for your body. There are 2 steps to tanning accroding to Dr. Shafer:

  1. Immediate Pigment Darkening: This occurs when your skin first reacts with harsh sunlight. This can happen over the course of a day or even just a few minutes in the sun.
  2. Delayed Tanning: This step begins when there is finally enough damage to your skin cells, that the DNA must begin to craft new skin cells that are all darker, in order to protect you from the sun for a long term period of time.

When you tan so darkly, it is a sign that your body is being beaten down by the sun.

Where’d I get that blonde hair!?

Actually, you now have colorless hair. That’s right. The hot and very bright UV rays of the sun actually stripped the color from your once dark brown hair, and in return you now have lovely free highlights- feel free to skip you trip to the salon this month.

The destruction of melanin in hair that goes on, as well as the production of fibers and other proteins begin to make your summer hair very tangled and knotty, creating thinner and more damaged hair. The only way to let this hair go, is to grow it out or cut it off.

Why do I put myself through this year after year?

So, it’s September again and my tan is fading, but my blonde hair lives on, and all I have left of summer are the memoriess and tan lines. However, doing research for this got me thinking, even though I love the sun and I’m outside everyday of the summer, I never really knew why the body reacted to sun in this way. I always figured it was a complimentary make-over for the start of the new school year (jokes…but seriously I never considered how harmful the sun is to other parts of my body besides the skin). Also, I figured, if I’m not getting burnt, then I must be OK and my skin must be healthy. Wrong. A natural tan is working against UV rays and DNA transformations to ensure healthier skin, but in reality it’s already damaged.

Lose Your Loofah

Picture this: It’s 9am, you just woke up and are heading to the bathroom to start your day. Walking down the hall in your towel wrap and shower shoes with your shower caddy in hand, you turn the shower nob all the way to the warmest setting. Just as the shower starts to get hot, you start your shower. Head to toe you start washing, scrubbing, rub-a-dub-dubbing, and so forth, all with a little help from your loofah.

The member of the Plantae Kingdom, the Luffa in its most original form of sponge, can be used as a Loofah for the shower

The loofah- a common shower accessory for most; usually brightly colored; soft to the touch; great for lathering ones body in body wash and exfoliating soaps; home to grimy mold and bacteria.

Once just a member of the Plantae Kingdom, in the fruit species, Loofahs have taken over the world of spas and pampering.

Hidden inside the (happy) valleys of sponges and mesh sit week and month old bacteria that mature into viruses. If not washed out properly, these shower sponges can infect the skin of the person using them. According to the Huffington Post, if you aren’t careful, innocent exfoliation from loofahs may result in an Staphylococcal Infection near the source of a cut, which can lead to puss filled bumps on the skin.

While looking for images to include in this post, I could not find one photo from a movie or TV show where a character was using a loofah. I saw the occasional wash cloth, but I promise, even the big shot Hollywood movie makers know not to mess with loofahs.

Although they look soft, loofahs are actually far more rough on the skin than they seem. According to MSN Lifestyle, avoiding your face while loofah-ing is a key component to any shower. The skin on your face is too delicate to pummel with the mesh that makes up a loofah, so make sure to keep the loofah designated to your back, chest, legs, and arms for optimal exfoliation and washing- if you even want to keep using it at all.

Wanna hear something really gross? Every time you use the same loofah, you’re putting millions of baby germs back onto your body that you had “cleaned off” before. The Huffington post says, the only difference now is that you might smell a little better than before you showered.

What should I do if I still want to use a loofah?

  • Hang it up to dry and light after you shower (and make sure it is actually dry…because otherwise you’re just asking for bacterial growth)
  • If you don’t remember when you bought the loofah, it’s time to get a new loofah. The bacteria build up will get to be too much and it will just stop being an effective method of cleaning.
  • Soak your loofah once a week in boiling water to kill of any germ colonies.


Love and Loofahs! -Dani

AH! the element of surprise

Hey SC 200!

My name is Danielle Sobel and I’m from Rockville, Maryland which is just outside of Washington, D.C. I’m majoring in Journalism, I love old Taylor Swift (‘Fearless’ is the best album, obviously), and I love thunderstorms.

I’ve always been envious of my friends who really understood science, because I never did. I grew up getting pretty good grades in science classes…until I got to sophomore year Chemistry. I tried memorizing the Periodic Table. I tried learning Stoichiometry (I still don’t really know what it is if we’re being honest). I even tried to wrap my head around molar mass but it just wasn’t happening. I didn’t count out science completely though. I took Anatomy later on in high school and I even dabbled in Biology a little bit. I was successful, but still frustrated. It has always been hard for me to conceptualize the classroom “scientific”  topics and accept the fact that there is only one correct answer and only one way to think about something.

When working on my schedule before coming to campus in the fall, I was trying to find a thought provoking, but not a “pull-your-hair-out”, type of science class to fulfill my Gen Ed. I read about SC 200 and discussed with my adviser about the possibility of taking the course. We decided based on the description of it that it would be a good fit for me.

Even though the semester has just started, I am confident that I will continue be pleasantly surprised by what this course has to offer. I am so intrigued to discuss questions about the world I have never even though of before and I can’t wait to hear the perspectives of everyone.