Author Archives: Dante Labricciosa

Can caffeine help you focus?

Relating to my previous post about tiredness and yawning, the constant lectures we endure as students put strenuous work on our mind, some of which is hard to grasp on an inattentive mind. Just as the majority of students, I grab an energy drink with caffeine every now and then before my class, because I need the extra energy boost, and believe that it helps me maintain focus through lectures. I also drink them when I am doing homework, because I firmly believe that it helps increase my productivity. I am not the only one either, as many other students are seen drinking coffee and other caffeine filled energy boosters throughout the day. So, although we continually drink caffeinated beverages, do they actually help us focus on our studies?

What is caffeine? Where can it be found?

Caffeine is a stimulant. Fueling the body’s central nervous system, and increasing the brain’s production of dopamine, which has been accepted to affiliate with the ability to maintain concentration. This can give a person energy, mainly short-term, which is why people use caffeine to jumpstart their day. You can find caffeine in many of the drinks you may see, including energy drinks, soda, and most importantly for a student in the morning, some coffee or tea. It can also be found in pill form and powder form at many supplement stores, as athletes and gym-goers often use the substance.


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So, can caffeine help you focus?

When we discuss the effects of caffeine on the ability to focus within our studies, we must look at ending performance and productivity. We examine such through cognitive tests, and physical performances. Within a study conducted by Division of Psychology at Northumbria University, caffeine was used in randomized double-blind and placebo controlled trials. 24 participants consumed caffeine within their beverage, and 24 received the same beverage without caffeine. After a series of tests to assess cognitive skills both before and after ingesting the drink, it was concluded that there were significant differences in tests measures, indicating improvement from the caffeine-given participants.  Reaction time increased, memory of various sentences and ability to verify sentences improved, and fatigue was stated to be abridged within the caffeine-given subjects, when compared to the non-caffeine subjects. This is useful information for us as students, showing that energy attained from caffeine may assist us on homework, classwork, and even tests.

Caffeine is often considered necessary given the amount of sleep deprivation students endure. Personally, I know that a maximum of 7 hours of sleep can be considered a good night. I also am an active student, participating in many sports and activities. Additionally, some of us students are athletes, and therefore our studies are not the only thing we need to focus for. We need to maintain focus on our physical activities as well. In another study conducted by U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine 68 U.S. Navy Seals were randomly separated into three groups and given different dosages of caffeine after three days of sleep deprivation. Cognitive and motor skills tests were given both after the sleep deprivation, and after caffeine was administered. The study concluded that caffeine improved their memory and reaction time from both types of tests. However, this isn’t saying that caffeine is the solution to sleep deprivation, as sleep is the only true answer. As active students at such a big, prestigious school (though we are now Navy Seals), can relate to strenuous work that is portrayed in other professions.


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Caffeine studies should not suffer from the file-drawer problem, as many experiments have been conducted and examined to show that its effects are supported with significant evidence. Though it can be used to help both physical and mental performance, whether on a test or on the field, caffeine’s stimulation is relatively short term, and has many other side effects, that may outweigh the benefits.

For me as a student studying the effects of caffeine, however, I firmly believe in its benefits. I try to use caffeine when I need to get a lot of work completed in a short amount of time. With the help of caffeine, I can better focus on easier concepts. However, it has a side effect of jitteriness that does not support my focus on either reading or critical thinking. Caffeine is known to be one of the most mass produced substances within our world given that there is significant evidence supporting its ability to help people focus, in addition to other reported benefits.


Yawn Contagion

Why is yawning contagious?

As a college student at a university as huge as Penn State, both mental and physical fatigue are all too familiar. Waking up for my 8:00 AM is probably the hardest thing I do in any given day. Remaining attentive in a gigantic lecture hall filled with 300 people while listening to one professor talk about the definition of a derivative, and other dull topics all but puts me to sleep. It seems, however, that it is not just boring or tiring to me, as many students yawn around me in each of my classes. From these observations, I have noticed that whenever someone yawns, it initiates a chain reaction, and either myself or someone else near me will yawn as well. So, is this because yawning is contagious, or because we are all just tired, and is there a correlation?


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Contagious yawning is something that happens when we react to another person’s senses, as we respond to their yawn with our own yawn. It comes as a response to hearing or sighting another yawn. So is it contagious? In a recent study conducted by Duke Health, 328 participants (similar size to our class!) were followed and tested to see the effect that visualizing and hearing yawns had on their own yawn response. They conducted background surveys and question based tests to determine if yawning was in fact, contagious from similar levels of energy, tiredness, and actually empathy. Empathy is the ability to relate to another, and it was thought that maybe the relation made the yawns contagious. Subjects were to watch a video of yawning, and during this period, 222 subjects yawned. With respect to the background surveys and questions, the most significant information, or correlation they could gather rather, was that each of the 222 subjects who yawned, reigned from a similar age group. It was thus concluded that as age increased yawning decreased.

This could explain the current college lecture situation, as yawning spreads like a virus within the lecture hall. We are all relatively young, as well as within the same age group, and therefore can relate through interests and similar aspects of learning, as we all listen to the same lecture.

There is also the theory that we humans have traits of herding behavior. We all flock together and follow each other’s actions, such as yawning. As we are within the animal kingdom, yawning is a communication action initiated by instinct, to communicate the group’s set time or need to sleep, which could explain why we all yawn during my 8:00AM lecture.


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But we must ask, why do we yawn in the first place?

To find the origin of the contagion, we must dig deep in research to determine the proximate cause of a human’s yawning mechanism, and in turn examine how it becomes “contagious.” We yawn, according to WebMD, to apparently cool the brain and increase blood flow. To support this data, there was also a study conducted by the University of Vienna, to see if yawning was a cooling mechanism. They followed 120 participants during the winter and summer, and concluded that yawning was significantly higher during the summer, as subjects apparently needed yawning to cool their brain’s temperature during the hotter months. But how can that explain how yawning may be contagious?

In the present time, there are still ongoing studies to figure out why exactly yawning occurs, and for what reasons it seems to be contagious. Although cooling the brain and increasing blood flow may be the answer to the reason behind why we yawn, it cannot explain how this necessary action can be considered contagious. The current studies could suffer from the file-drawer problem, as there is a lack of significant information within the science world to explain and conclude a significant reason for why we yawn for certain and why it spreads.

Even though we cannot conclude anything just yet, as chance is always prevalent, I believe that yawning is contagious. Though personal anecdotes cannot be taken as significant information or conclusions, the observation of many yawns throughout the lecture hall leads me to believe that yawning is contagious, and for one, makes us all want to go back to bed.


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Is laughter the best medicine?

Like my previous post, which questioned the importance of breakfast, there is a lot of questioning in regards to the common sayings our society has. For instance, “is laughter really the best medicine?” This saying dates back thousands of years ago, and has been said to originate in the Bible within Proverbs 17:22, which states that “A joyful heart is good medicine.” Although I do believe that I feel both better and relieved of stress after a good laugh, this anecdote holds no scientific power. It is this personal correlation that peaks my interest, and leads me to delve further into the science behind laughter and mirth.


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So, is laughter the best medicine? If so, in what ways?

When attempting to find information on laughter’s effects, we must first ask if laughter can cure or prevent disease, if we can rule out reverse causation, and if reported experiments can be due to chance or a confounding variable.

Laughter has been seen to positively affect cardiovascular indexes. In a study done by University of Maryland Medical Center, humor responses were studied in a group of 300 participants. Half the participants had previous heart conditions (heart attacks, or coronary artery bypass surgery) and the other were completely healthy, and were similar in age. The study was done to see if the healthy people, with less fat and cholesterol levels within their cardiovascular system, had different laughter patterns compared to the unhealthy group. Within the study, they each were asked how they would respond to seemingly humorous situations with various multiple choice and true and false questions. According to the results, those with heart conditions appeared to laugh less compared to the other group in up to 40 percent of the given scenarios and questions. Because this experiment was conducted as such a large test, with 300 participants, it is given credibility. So… laughing helps the heart?

Laughing, as I personally feel, is believed to have a positive effect on stress levels. But I always wondered why would it effect my stress level… shouldn’t my stress be low when I am already in a positive mood since I am laughing? We look to natural killer cells, which are cells linked to the immune system. Given previous research, low natural killer cell activity is correlated with low disease resistance and has been known to worsen symptoms in patients with cancer and HIV. Laughter and mirth are thought to be beneficial to natural killer cell activity, assisting our cognitive behavior.

In another study completed at the Indiana State University Sycamore Nursing Center, two groups of women were divided into a treatment group and control group. The participants in each group were given questionnaires to assess their stress levels, both before and after the test. They were then compared in terms of blood tests regarding their natural killer cell levels based on the answers. The experiment was relatively small, as only 33 women participants were subject to the experiment. The tested treatment group watched a comical video, since the belief that laughter is based off of our sense of humor and comedy is accepted, while the other control group viewed a general video displaying tourism, which had no accepted comedic components. In result, the treatment group with the humorous video had self-reported that they had less stress after watching the video, which correlated to their higher scores on the questionnaire and higher number of natural kill cells compared to the control group. Out of this study, it was concluded that laughter may actually reduce stress!

However, there may be many confounding variables, such as a person’s given different sense of humor or ability to find humor out of given questions. The studies also do not rule out reverse causation, as a person whom has disease/disability may, as a result of illness, have a negative mood and could therefore be less open to laughter.

However, assuming that the studies’ methods are acceptable, their conclusions show that medicine does help positively affect one’s health, and could possibly help in more ways than these! We cannot conclude that laughter is the “best” medicine, as it has no mechanism for answering a problem (disease), for example it is no vaccine. We can, however, conclude that is good for you. I for one, love to laugh, and now knowing that it is even beneficial to my health to enjoy and find humor in situations, I am more motivated to live life to the fullest.


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Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

Ever since I was a child, when I would willingly wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning, my mother always told me to “eat my breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day.” I never really questioned her, I mean I was a child. But this idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day was blasted everywhere. I saw it in school, on television, and especially around caring parents. But now I finally question it, for why would this meal be more important than any other meal? Aren’t they all just sources of calories needed for everyday energy?

So, what is the evidence that breakfast is most important?


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We must first establish what we mean when we refer to “importance”. When talking about food, we look to the digestive system. Food gives us energy to take on the day, but overconsumption can lead to weight gain and under-consumption can lead to weight loss. When we look at the response variable of weight within the changes in the digestive system, what is happening with our metabolisms is what causes such changes.

There is popular belief that eating breakfast, rather than not eating, boosts and regulates your metabolism. Metabolism is the process of turning food into energy and waste. By boosting your metabolism, you are able to convert more calories into energy, in a way thought to assist you in losing weight, if that is your goal. However, in a recent study completed by the University of Bath in London, they have concluded otherwise. 33 volunteer participants were randomized in the study, to compare Body Mass and cardiovascular indexes between the two groups of “breakfast eaters” and “breakfast skippers”. Based on the results, neither group showed significant findings, as there was not a great enough change in body mass to affect resting metabolism. Although, eating breakfast did cause more activity of thermogenesis within the body. However, we can only conclude based on this study, that people in London have no change in body mass depended on whether or not they eat breakfast. We also cannot conclude that losing weight is any healthier than gaining weight.

Another belief is that breakfast prevents one from over eating later on in the day. This belief is countered, because it has been found that it is what is in the breakfast that will prevent one from overeating later on. In another study completed by The Obesity Society, 57 participants were randomized and split into 3 groups, either eating a high protein breakfast, relatively normal protein breakfast, or no breakfast at all. This test was completed over 12 weeks. To examine hunger, they assessed future intake and ending body weight. The high protein diet prevented the participants from gaining fat mass and reduced consumption (in calories) daily.


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This goes to show that breakfast is just a time to eat. Our weight is dependent on total calorie intake versus expenditure. Eating vs. not eating breakfast does not mean you will consume less later, and it is now recommended to eat when you are hungry, but in moderation, as three-core meals now make one feel obligated to get all the calories in at once. Rather, we should place importance on the content of our food. High protein diets show a decrease in overall consumption, benefitting those that want to consume less every day. If one tends to eat more calorie filled carbohydrates and fatty foods instead of protein and nutrient rich food, not only will they tend to eat more, but their body indexes will take a turn for the worse.

As a college student, I now do not feel obligated to eat breakfast, especially since I am not really hungry in the morning. I would rather eat when I am hungry, or when there is a need for energy, instead of forcing food down my throat because of popular belief. We can conclude that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, as no meals really are. All meals are the same, simply times to take in calories. When we go to the commons for food, we should eat for the nutrition, not for the timing. Otherwise, I’ll be forcing senseless carbs of donuts, muffins, and French toast sticks in my stomach.


Creatine Craze

Recently, I have taken the initiative to start routinely going to the gym, with the hopes that I can finally add some muscle to my pudgy frame. Though I hope to progressively accumulate muscle mass, I do not know the most efficient way. I was always told to consume protein after a workout (involving lifting weights), as it would apparently help build muscle, assuming that I had taken the liberty to work/stretch them out beforehand. But what is all this craze on creatine!? How come I see these behemoth shaped humans at the gym with these colorful juices that are apparently pre-workout/creatine? I always wondered why everyone at the gym, especially the huge dudes with a ton of muscle drank the supplement, but I never knew why.


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What is creatine? And what does creatine supposedly do?

Creatine (or regularly sold Creatine monohydrate) is a supplement that promotes muscle growth and reduces fatigue when exercising. This leads to both an increase in muscle mass and overall power when weightlifting, as well as an increase in performance of an exercise. Creatine is actually already naturally found within our own bodies, as a molecule that releases forms of energy (ATP) to our cells when needed during times of strenuous workouts.

But does taking creatine actually work?

In order to draw a conclusion, we must first ask some preliminary questions. First, does creatine intake directly correlate to larger muscle mass, or reversely, does larger muscle mass correlate to in-taking more creatine? Additionally, does a confounding variable (Z) affect them both?

As stated earlier, creatine is already found within our bodies, so why do people take additional creatine supplements? Well, according to a study done by Physiol Genomics, creatine was tested to see its effects on mass and power output within the human subjects. This was an experimental study, performed with randomized double-blind placebo trials. 12 men were observed when given a control placebo and creatine supplement. They were given the placebo for 10 days, and muscular changes were observed through biopsies for a 28 day period. The subjects were then given creatine monohydrate for 10 days to later investigate its effect on the muscle. The study found that when given the creatine monohydrate, subjects saw an increase in the fat-free mass, (muscle mass and water retention) as muscle fiber diameter and over all weight increased up to 9%. In addition, it was shown to upregulate other cellular components, with their results believed to be possibly supporting muscle growth indirectly. The results were significant, as the p-value was less than 5% (p<0.05), meaning these results were very likely not due to chance alone. We can also rule out reverse causation, as increase in muscle does not necessarily mean increase in creatine. Though this study shows the results of taking creatine supplements alone, we must next ask how the results change when performing an exercise.


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Because creatine is used as a performance-enhancer when exercising, many athletes take this supplement. In another study done by J Medical Association Thailand, creatine was given to long-distance swimmers to test its effect on endurance. The experiment, once again performed as a randomized double-blind placebo, consisted of 38 swimmers split into a control and test group. Half (19) were given a solution of creatine monohydrate within an orange solution twice a day, for a week, while the other half was given that same quantity of just the orange solution. Results fit the common belief that creatine is a performance-enhancing supplement. Swimmers that had taken the supplemented solution decreased their time. The results were determined have a significant difference between the control group timings and creatine-supplemented group timings, as the p-value was less than 5%.

Given the studies, creatine intake has shown evidence of having an effect on both muscle increase and growth, and positive performance. However, these are only two studies, and there can be many confound variables when testing just one substance on subjects, because the effects of other supplements such as protein, could have affected the studies. Though the p-values were less than 5%, the trial sizes in the studies were not large, so I would further the investigation and experiment process for a more thorough understanding of creatine’s benefits.

However, given the evidence and the large personnel (population wise and physical size wise) that takes creatine supplements in the gym, it may seem rational to begin taking creatine supplements if I want to fully pursue my initiative of accumulating muscle mass.




Dangers of Energy Drinks

I find myself as a former high school athlete, and college student with a huge workload, reliant on energy drinks. My favorite out of the many comprise of Monster Energy Drinks, Mountain Dew Kickstart, and 5-Hour Energy. As of right now, I am writing this blog on the “Energizing Orange Citrus” flavor of Mountain Dew Kickstart, breezing through words as my fingers steadily work the keyboard. But there is so much controversy over the use and dangers of energy drinks, but I always wondered what could possibly be wrong, besides the common known effects/dangers of high sugar intake?


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What are the ingredients of energy drinks that distinguish themselves as “energy drinks?”

 Energy drinks distinguish themselves, as they use ingredients that make them stimulants, which increases activity within the body’s nervous system.

The most popular ingredient of them all is CAFFEINE. This is found in almost anything that says it will give you energy, as it is in your morning coffee and tea that tend to wake you up for your day, as it stimulates the central nervous system, making one quick on their feet and jittery.

The next ingredient is TAURINE. It increases energy levels by assisting muscle contractions within the exercises and activity one is completing and regulating the heartbeat for a fluent blood flow. But it is an amino acid, one that is naturally supplied by our body.

The following ingredient is GUARANA. It is similar to caffeine, with some additional molecules that effect physiological system our bodies have, increasing one’s attentiveness to a situation.

Widely known B-VITAMINS comprise energy drinks, whether it be your 100% daily value, to 5000% of your daily value. These help convert the calories taken in from eating into energy to perform tasks.

L-CARNITINE is another amino acid used in energy drinks. It is used to boost metabolism, which indirectly helps one’s stamina within a task.

And with the most obvious ingredient of them all, SUGAR. Everyone needs sugar, as even plants run their photosynthesis cycle with production of glucose. Sugar is a carb, and carbs help us with short term action such as a 100-meter relay, or quick game of basketball.

There are many more widely known substances, but all have relatively the same effects of these previous ingredients, as they assist in blood flow, heartbeat, metabolism, and create larger senses of readiness.


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Source of ingredient information

But what makes these ingredients dangerous?

There are many side effects rather than just an energy boost from ingesting these flavorful energy drinks.

Studies show that energy drink consumption, more off of caffeine consumption, can cause irregular heart contractions. That meaning, it can increase chances of cardiac arrest, especially through age. It also increasing blood activity, therefore blood pressure. It puts one in the position of possible hypertension and at risk of stroke. It can also lead to headaches and harsh forms of migraines, as caffeine almost becomes addictive when one relies on it for energy, as different-than-normal caffeine levels can cause withdrawal symptoms. Energy drinks tend to cause some people to be jittery, just as I am right now. It can increase anxiety, especially when taken with low body movement activities. Along with the jitters and anxiety, it can cause insomnia. You are too awake, too energized and the last thing you could do is sleep, as it effects future actions and concentration when sleep seems to be little. Type-2 Diabetes is very common among energy drink users. These energy drinks can range up 60 grams of sugar (of the ones I drink), which overtime slowly deteriorates the pancreas’s insulin level and insulin producing cells. Lastly, it causes serious dehydration. The drinks make you sweat more, and overheat your body, but cannot replenish the water levels. Ever wonder why your pee might be too yellow? Energy drinks lead to dehydration as caffeine and the other substances drain your system, which in return causes nausea, muscle cramps, constipation, and can actually ruin your energy levels if not treated (by ingesting more water).


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Source of ingredients danger information

So what should I do?

Well in my case, I should probably stop drinking energy drinks. Regular intake of such can lead to serious damage of the body, even though you think you are getting energy. In reality, most of the ingredients are found naturally in the human body, as we make these energy nutrients from the general activity and food intake.

It is pretty obvious to not ingest energy drinks to increase sporting performance. It is not like you see NBA or NFL athletes chug these energy drinks before a game, as the risks and consequences completely outweigh the benefits. Energy drinks can be dangerous, but almost anything can be dangerous. Studies wouldn’t say any of these substances are deathly in an instant, but they are overwhelming to the body when consumed regularly, as moderation is advised.

So will I stop drinking energy drinks? No, but I will drink less of them, and just deal with the consequences of caffeine withdrawal as I shouldn’t have gotten myself in this case to begin with.

Vaping, what’s bad about it?

Is vaping bad for you?

Though I am not a “vaper” or “vapist,” or whatever the cloud smokers call themselves, I was always interested in why people did such and what the actual effects are. I mean I know it is supposedly for one to quit smoking tobacco or using tobacco products after all the known cancer-causing-chemicals in such, but what are the ingredients in “vape juice” that make that a better alternative?


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First off, what’s so bad about cigarettes that make’s people switch to vaping?

Cigarettes are bad due to the smoke it produces. Though the cigarettes have filters, it is still harmful for the lung to inhale such high temperature smoke. One would also be inhaling the substances in the typical wrapping it comes in, white-dyed cellulose paper. It is harmful for the ingredients it has within it, as it carries cancer causing substances such as aldehydes, preservatives, the ever-known carbon monoxide (which comes out of car exhaust!). All of these substances, along with some free radicals and heavy metals found in the cigarettes, cause various cancers within the gums, mouth, throat/esophagus, along with many more known cancers, with the most common of heart and lung cancer continuously killing the people of our world. Those substances also contribute to complications to pregnancy, dental issues, stroke, diabetes and many more other diseases, as the list goes on.


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Smoking cigarettes goes off of what is called combustion, as it creates smoke at a high temperature. Vapor on the other hand goes off on what is called vaporization which, instead, creates some fume made up of its nicotine content (could vary), glycerol, and various flavors with different ingredients depending on which flavor is preferred. But people get the common misconception that it is just water vapor being released out of the “mod” that heats up the liquid, but it is clearly not water vapor. It is more publicly accepted, as to why people tend to switch over from smoking, or rather people pick it up for the look, but the question is, do they really know what they are getting in to?

Source of vaping information

So is vaping bad?

Well it is actually fairly difficult to tell if vaping is bad. It is relatively new to our generation, as it only came about in the last decade or so. The FDA actually only just recently started regulating vaporizers and its sub-groups, but only on its distribution, manufacturing, sales, and technology used to create the vapor, rather than the actual chemicals and potential harms they can bring. Due to such, we still do not have regulated substance, as all the listed chemicals and food additives required to make the inhalant are actually on FDA approved list.

Though it does not seem as dangerous as cigarettes, it’s looks can be deceiving. E-cigarettes and various vape juices are known to have the same aldehydes and other particles considered carcinogens that can lead to cancer. Those same substances can also effect brain development, especially early on within adolescence. The juice may comprise of chemicals and food additives that land on the FDA approved list of substances, but some substances are just not meant to be inhaled. It has a substance named “diacetyl” and remains popular within the fruity flavors of vapor liquids. Diacetyl is found in flavoring of theatre butter and even beer, and studies have shown it is safe to digest, but not safe to inhale, as it leads to bronchiolitis obliterans or better known as popcorn lungs. There are ways to avoid diacetyl, by picking the correct flavors, but it is still found in the majority of juices, 39/51 known flavors to be exact.


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Let us not forget that each product contains nicotine, the addictive substance that has started the hook on cigarettes and this alternative of e-cigarettes/vaporizers. Nicotine toxicity is common among nicotine-addicts/users which leads to vomiting, respiratory issues, irregular breathing, rapid heartbeat and many more symptoms. Nicotine, with being highly addictive, creates a need for a user. That means there is an addiction to the product, and all the potentially dangerous substances along with it. As the addiction causes a need, it safe to say this anyone who picks up vaping or smoking, and wants to quit, will go through the common symptoms of withdrawal.

Source of vaping danger information

So what does this all mean?

It is widely known that smoking in general is harmful, as it is advertised with surgeon warnings on every product. But vaping… we still have a long way. There is a lack of LARGE and sensible experiments/studies that would lead to any strong evidence that it is harmful, though the few shared substances with tobacco are well known to be bad. Though with such substances, the amounts known within vapor juice compared to cigarettes and other tobacco products, are actually minuscule.

There is no positive about vaping. Use of such still has potential to be negative, as use correlated to a certain disease. But there is no saying with strong evidence.

Is vaping a healthy alternative to tobacco?

Answer: I wouldn’t say healthy, but there are much less known effects to cause harm in comparison. I recommend going cold turkey.

Is vaping bad for you?

Answer: Yes, it has certain carcinogens. But one must weigh the cost and benefits based on physical stance.


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The most rational thing for one to do, just like the study of leaving the lights on at night, is reflect on the little studies that have been done on all the components of vaping, and to just stay away from it, as why should one risk health when such little effort is needed to stay away from it.

Panda and Bamboo

Pandas, such majestic and lovable creatures that have characteristics that no one would forget. The black and white fur to match the yin and yang, the ability to climb, the powerful sneeze that seemed to went viral shown here. But, have you ever wondered, why do pandas eat bamboo?

I mean, I have wondered for the longest time, as the species is one of my favorite animals. I have actually seen pandas in their native habitats and in various zoos in China, watching them defy normal bear diets by eating the fiber-filled bamboo. But always wondered why they did not eat meat like the rest of the carnivorous bear family. How do they survive on bamboo, which has so little protein to tend to such large bodies of muscle, fat, and fur?


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Giant pandas are actually no different from any other bears digestive system, as they have the tongue with sharp teeth, wide throat and neck connected to a singular stomach and small intestine. One would typically hypothesize, since panda’s have the same basic digestive system, they should survive on meat and other nutrient-rich food substances. But as Andrew has said, our intuition is lousy, as science helps us find explanation for why the thought is wrong.

Pandas distinguish themselves from other bears through typical adaptation that all animals go through. From living in the high altitudes of forest within China, the pandas are surrounded by mostly one edible resource of bamboo. Through series of mutations, pandas actually digest bamboo similar to herbivores, even with a carnivorous system. Researchers within National Geographic conducted a study, an observational study, looking actually at the gene sequences within the poop of several wild pandas and several captive pandas. The study was observational, because they did not complete anything that would change a variable within the panda’s normal diet. But it was found that pandas, within their digestive track, have special bacteria that help break down the cellulose found within bamboo, and retain most of the calories and nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorous, and calcium.

The black and white anomaly also uses very little energy, with an extremely low metabolism. This may be due to their special bacteria that helps them breakdown more nutrients from the bamboo. According to research conducted through NBC Science, it is due to their levels of thyroid hormones which are the regulators within the digestive tract, slowing their metabolism. Compared to other animals of similar stature, and other bears, pandas expend less that 40 percent in energy, and have smaller organs to sustain the energy use.

Though it is said of how pandas survive on a strict bamboo/vegetarian diet, bamboo still has very little nutrition. According to an article by Sandhya Sekar for Science Magazine, pandas need eat up to 30 pounds of the shoots every day! Going to the bathroom must be a struggle.


Panda using little energy, picture found here


Pandas eat bamboo for the same reasons we eat in general, to survive. Over time, adaptation calls upon species, as the panda bears were called upon to live in the highlands of China, surrounded by the plentiful bamboo and little prey. Their bodies morphed over time, favoring traits that helped them digest the bamboo better. Bamboo also has a variety of different species, that hold different nutritional levels in different categories, as pandas will shift their focus on certain plants throughout the seasons. But for most of the reason, is due to bamboo species ability to grow up to three feet in just one day, as most of the variety can grow rapidly and replenish its supply.

The magnificent species is slow moving with a smaller snout compared to most other carnivorous bears. Becoming a predator does not suit them in the least, as they are unable to catch most prey. But, as rare as that time comes, pandas will seize the opportunity to eat meat, as according to WWF, about one percent of their diet comes from small rodents.


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Though my typical pizza order would be a meat lovers pizza, I still respect the slothful vegetarian pandas. They are calm, cool, and sneeze like no other, and for some reason people make platinum songs strictly about them. Though I would never consider being vegetarian myself, I still have the giant panda as my favorite animal.

I like science, but don’t like it enough

Hi, my name is Dante Labricciosa, and I am from King of Prussia PA, you know the place with the really big mall. I am a freshman at Penn State, following in my brother’s footsteps to become a Finance major, so science was never really that relevant to me in my college standpoint. I am completing this course to not only just fill my required Science general education courses, but to expand my knowledge on the general objects and actions around me, because science is really in and is everything. I love to critically think and figure out problems, and this course seems to fit that with the theories and questions. And as Andrew has said, there are no dumb questions, which is great because I ask a lot of questions that in my head seem dumb. I am not planning on being a Science major because I took no interest in any of my basic science courses in high school. In chemistry and physics, I was never relatively “good” at the applied math. I enjoyed biology, learning about actions of humans and animals, but could never get into the in-depth information that composed the course. But overall, I am not being a Science major because I would just rather do something within the business school, as I am all about business…


Though I am not generally interested in pursuing a career within the Science industry, I find certain topics interesting, such as this article of new sea creatures being discovered in very-low depths. I love learning about animals and organisms in general, so hopefully we can cover topics including such.