Author Archives: Emma Murphy

Why do people sweat when they are nervous?

Sweating is a normal bodily function. Sweating allows toxins to be released from the body and cool the body down when it overheats, like during exercise. If you’re like me you don’t just sweat during exercise or when its super hot out. I find that I get sweaty when I get nervous. I consulted some of my friends to see if I was the only one who had that problem. I found that many of them agreed that they sweat when they get nervous, but why? unknown

When a person gets anxious or nervous their primal instincts kick in and the body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered. What is  the fight or flight response? Also known as the acute stress response or hyperarousal, it is a physiological reaction. The fight-or-flight response reacts to a stressful, harmful, or terrifying, attack, event, or threat. Described by Walter Bradford Cannon, the fight or flight response was originally recognized as a theory that animals responded to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system. But eventually the response developed recognition as the first stage of a general adaption syndrome. Triggered by a release of hormones, it is meant to let your body know to get away from the threat or address it. 

As part of the fight-or-flight response, adrenal glands release catecholamines, or stress hormones, into the body. The adrenal gland is is controlled by the hypothalamus. Part of the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamus signals to the adrenal gland to release hormones. One of these hormones being epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. Being nervous prompts a release of adrenaline into your body, activating sweat glands. There are two types of sweat glands that are triggered, the apocrine and eccrine. The apocrines are found around armpits and genitals. Apocrine glands produce a thicker, stickier sweat that is made up of proteins and lipids. The eccrine glands are located all over your body. These produce a sweat that is made of water and salt. As a result of these sweat glands being activated, your body’s heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing all increase.


So now that I know why I sweat when I get nervous, how can I stop it? Deep breathing is a highly recommended technique to reduce stress and nervous sweating. It helps to cool the body down and stop sweat. Also wearing loosely fitted clothes and keeping your hands out of pockets will help to slow down the amount of sweat being produced.

Sweating under pressure can affect some people more than others. It all depends on how well an individual can stay calm. Once the threat or event that has triggered the response is gone, it takes the body from 20 to 60 minutes to return to normal levels or prearousal.

While sweating under pressure is a normal physiologically explained occurrence, it is not to be confused with excessive sweating. Excessive sweating is a common disorder also known as hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis sweat an excessive amount through their underarms, palms, or soles of their feet. It can be triggered by anxiety and there is treatment for it.


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How To Stop Nervous Sweating (Caused By Social Anxiety)

Does moisturizing actually prevent wrinkles?

My mother is the biggest advocator for moisturizing. For as long as I can remember, she has been constantly trying to find the best moisturizer for her skin.  Her moisturizer obsession has rubbed off on me. I use a combination, which I can thank my mother for discovering, of an unscented vitamin E lotion and regular coconut oil to moisturize my face and body. Using both these products everyday, I got to thinking, what are these products actually doing for my body? My mom always told me to moisturize and keep my skin young for as long as possible and prevent wrinkles. I wondered, does moisturizing actually prevent wrinkles?unknown

Wrinkles are slight lines or folds in the skin of the face. They occur when the collagen fibers in the skin break down. Stress, aging, and environmental factors, such as sun exposure or smoking, cause wrinkles. Some of these factors like sun exposure, hydration, smoking, and drinking are controlled variables and can be altered by the individual. Others like stress and aging are confounding variables that cannot be altered. Genetics and skin type can also play a role in susceptibility to wrinkles. People with oily skin typically have less wrinkles because the excess of oil being produced also acts like a built in moisturizer. Drier skin accentuates wrinkles on the face. According to this article, moisturizing does not get rid of wrinkles, but it can help in prevent or conceal the severity of them

A moisturizers job is to prevent dry or oily and hydrate skin after it has been cleaned. Moisturizing can help prevent tearing or bruising of the skin. A moisturizer works to improve the appearance of a wrinkle by making the wrinkle less deep. When moisturizer is applied, the skin absorbs the moisturizer. The skin puffs up and lessens the appearance of the wrinkle. This effect is only temporary.


So why can the wrinkle only temporarily be lessened? To get rid of a wrinkle in the skin, moisturizer would need to penetrate through the epidermis and enter the dermis to repair the broken down collagens. But there is no moisturizer that is strong enough to do that. This article explains that any product that could get rid of a wrinkle would be considered to be a medicine. Moisturizers do not have any medicinal value, which is why they are considered to be over the counter cosmetic products.

The effectiveness of moisturizer reducing wrinkles has been proven in a study funded by Olay. The study was led by Dr. Greg Hillebrand and the results were published in the British Journal of Dermatology. A sample of 122 females ranging from ages 10-72. Each woman had their picture taken in a neutral face and  the hydration levels of their skin were measured. Pictures and examinations happened again eight years later. The concluding observation made from the study is that wrinkles can be delayed by daily protection of the skin with moisturizer and sunscreen.main-qimg-536976fb5b1544aa1c0f3e2b7012909c-c

Moisturizing may not get rid of wrinkles, but it can definitely prevent and improve them. I’ve concluded that hydration, sun protection, and moisturizing is the key to healthy and youthful looking skin. I will stick to my mother’s preachings, and continue to moisturize everyday and I recommend that you do to.


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Is Sleeping With Contact Lenses OK?

For as long as I can remember, I have had bad eyesight. I have had glasses since the first grade and have been wearing contact lenses since fifth. My contact prescription is a -5.00. This means that I am nearsighted and have difficulty seeing far away objects. I prefer wearing contacts over my glasses. I always found glasses getting in the way of things and could easily fall off my face. Contacts are great in the way that its basically like having normal eyesight, until I have to go to sleep or want to take a nap. I have had a handful of situations where I either have fallen asleep with my contacts in and forgot to take them out or I just didn’t have anywhere to put them. Its a struggle because I would always hear from my mom and from my eye doctor to NEVER sleep with my contacts in. But I have and nothing bad has happened, so I wondered is falling asleep with your contacts actually that bad for you?


The answer is yes. Falling asleep with contacts in is actually very risky. Why are they so risky? What happens when you fall asleep with them in? There has been research done that shows a 10-15% increase in chance of getting an infection for people who sleep with contact lenses in. By not taking your contacts out, your eyes are not getting a chance to breathe. Wearing contact lenses lessens the oxygen supply to your eye and when you close your eyes the amount of oxygen lessens even more. So when you sleep with contacts there is a significant decrease in oxygen supply for your eyes.

Without a sufficient supply of oxygen, the cornea will swell up, causing a small opening between the eye’s surface. This small opening is where bacteria sneak in and cause infections. The eye is constantly exposed, causing less protection to the ocular immune system than the rest of the body’s immune system. The eye is also vulnerable to germs because of its moist mucosal surface.


Don’t give up hope just yet. Although sleeping with contacts in has a high risk of infection, a new   type of contact lenses allows for continuous wear, even while sleeping. These FDA approved contact lenses are called “extended wear lenses.”  Originally released and made available in the 1980s people wore wore contact lenses continuously without changing or cleaning them. This caused many people to develop eye infections. The FDA stepped in and shortened the amount of time recommended to keep contact lenses in. By the late 1990’s a new kind of extended wear lens was released. Made of silicone hydrogel, these extended wear lenses are made to be worn for up to 30 consecutive days during the day and night. The silicone hydrogel allows up to five times more oxygen transmitted through the lens to the cornea. Extended wear lenses are beneficial for people who are extremely active in life, have binocular vision abnormalities or just bad vision in general.

After reading about the risks of sleeping with non-extended wear lenses and learning about the extended wear lenses, I am more cautious about falling asleep wearing my lenses and am looking into investing in the extended wear lenses.


Is Peanut Butter Good For You?

At college my go to snack is is peanut butter. On my sandwich, in my oatmeal, or just a plain spoonful of peanut butter, it makes an appearance in at least 2 out of 3 of my meals a day. As a matter of fact, I am eating peanut butter and apples as I type this. Realizing what a large role peanut butter played in my diet, I began to question is this much peanut butter good for you?


Peanut butter has many benefits. Considered a “healthy fat,” peanut butter contains a variety of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. One serving of peanut butter is considered 2 tablespoons adding up to 188 calories. This one serving of peanut butter is “heart-healthy,” containing about 8 grams of a monounsaturated fat that can decrease risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health diseases. Selenium and vitamin B-3, also found in significant amounts in peanut butter, are good for energy production and fat metabolism.

Peanut butter contains around 8 grams of protein. It is a quick and tasty source of protein and when paired with milk or bread, the amount of amino acids are increased bumping up the protein intake to around 28 grams. The higher amounts of fiber and protein in peanut butter fill you up faster and keep you feeling full for longer. This is good for dieting when restricting your food intake because it won’t leave you hungry and looking for something else to eat.

All these benefits are convincing me that I should keep eating peanut butter all day every day. But the amount of calories raised a concern. Peanut butter has a pretty high calorie count. Two tablespoons equaling around 200 calories can easily take up about 10% of a persons’s daily calorie intake and begin to increase weight gain.

When I discovered the high number of calories in peanut butter, I wondered if every brand of peanut butter is the same. I found that there are so many brands that produce and sell peanut butter. Heres a fun article that I found ranking the top 36 peanut butters (my personal favorite peanut butter & co ranked at #12). Each peanut butter had around 180-200 calories, with the exceptions of a few types that had a different flavoring or an added mix of jelly in the jar. The nutrition facts vary for each brand of peanut butter. To create a different flavored peanut butter more sugars and carbohydrates are added. To make a low fat peanut butter, sugar or trans fat is added to make up for the cut out fat. And of course there are the organic peanut butter brands. Although those may have less of a particular ingredient, they have a higher susceptibility to toxic mold growth, fungus, and pesticides on their peanuts because it is less processed.

So is peanut butter good or bad for you? Based on the pros and cons that I found, I came to the conclusion that peanut butter is good for you in moderation. When choosing your peanut butter it is good to be aware of the nutrition facts and ingredients. It is each individuals choice what they decide they want to fill their body with and its important to know all the positive and negative aspects of a particular food or brand of food to make healthy choices regarding your daily diet.


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6 Reasons You Should NEVER Eat Peanut Butter!

” is alcohol killing my germs bc i get less sick every time i go out?”

Last week my friend texted me: “i’m convinced the alcohol is killing my germs bc i get less sick every time i go out.”  I “lol’d” but then started to seriously think, could my friend’s alcohol consumption actually being killing her germs and getting rid of her illness?

I did some research. Alcohol by itself or as the main concentration is not FDA approved to act as a disinfectant. In a medical situation ethyl and isopropyl alcohol are bactericidal water-soluble chemical compounds that can sterilize and kill bacteria. Because ethyl alcohol is also known as drinking alcohol, I figured I had found my answer, drinking alcohol disinfects. But I still considered to research. I found that absolute ethyl alcohol works to disinfect by breaking down proteins and lipids killing bacterial and viral germs, but in order for the ethyl to be affective and actually break down these germ cells, it has to be used at a concentration of 70%. Any concentration higher will dehydrate and any lower will not be strong enough to have any effect. Isopropyl alcohol functions in the same way.

My discovery that a 70% concentration of the alcohol is necessary to kill off any germs, made me question my initial instinct that yes drinking alcohol kills your germs. Concentration of alcohol in alcoholic beverages ranges from about 4%-40%. This means that the necessary 70% concentration is not there. An alcoholic beverage does not have the same effect as pure alcohols used for medical uses for this reason.

Another reason drinking alcohol does not kill your germs in the way that disinfectant alcohol does is based on your anatomy. When you are sick your respiratory system is infected. The alcohol that you drink goes straight to your your stomach through your esophagus, not passing through the location of the sickness. Germs are usually found in the trachea but they won’t be killed here because the alcohol consumed will not sit in your throat long enough and saliva from swallowing will wash the remaining alcohol away.

Germs from a cold or flu virus enter the patients bloodstream, but like the germs in the throat, they will not be killed by consumption of an alcoholic beverage either. Once the germs enter the bloodstream a concentration of about 60%-80% is needed to kill the germs. A concentration that high in a person’s bloodstream means more alcohol than blood. A person with a BAC of 60 to 80% will die.

The best treatment for a sick body is rest and hydration. Drinking alcohol interferes with both of these. Alcohol causes dehydration through excessive urination and vomiting, both affected by the production of the anti-diuretic hormone. Excessive urination means a higher concentration of salt and lower volume of water in the body and because alcohol decreases the production of the anti-diuretic hormone, the amount of urine is increased causing dehydration. Not only does it interfere with hormone production, alcohol also interrupts REM sleep. Drinking alcohol causes your body to skip over the first stages of REM sleep, going straight into a deep sleep.

So no, drinking a beer or taking a shot is not going to kill your germs. Alcohol masks any other feelings, which is why alcoholics never feel hungover because they keep drinking, covering up the symptoms of a hangover. If you are sick and drinking alcohol the only thing you’re doing is covering up your symptoms. The human body does not allow for high enough concentrations of alcohol needed to kill bacterial or viral germs causing a sickness.






Unpopped Popcorn

When making microwave popcorn I have always felt frustrated to reach in and find a handful of unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag. I have never understood why these select kernels did not pop while others did. Looking for a solution to pop all my kernels, I learned the art of how microwave popcorn pops.


On every website that google search has led me to, each one tells me: popcorn is a special kind of corn. What makes this kind of corn special? The most obvious difference between popcorn and other corn is that is pops. Other than its “pop-ability” , popcorn kernel contains a drop of oil and water mixed with a starch. This drop, contained by the endosperm, is surrounded by a hard outer coating, or the pericarp. When the oil and water inside are heated, it turns into steam. Pressure from the expanding steam builds inside of the kernel. At approximately 180 °C, the popcorn kernel has reached its maximum amount of pressure and the kernel pop. When popcorn pops, the outer shell of the kernel is basically turning inside-out.


Now that I know the science of how a popcorn kernel pops, I am curious to know why some of the popcorn kernels do not pop. Bruce Hamaker of Purdue University hypothesizes that the answer to all unpopped kernels is in the chemistry of popcorn. In his study, Hamaker looked at 14 genetic varieties of yellow popcorn. He analyzed how they popped and counted the number of unpopped kernels from 4% to 47%. The popcorn kernels that had little leftover kernels were discovered to have a stronger outer shell.

A popcorn kernel’s shell is made up of cellulose. The stronger kernels were found to have a more ordered crystalline arrangement of cellulose molecules. If the shell of the kernel is strong, then the pressure will be held in longer, maximizing moisture retention. This causes a complete pop for more kernels. A weak popcorn shell can permit the oil and water inside the kernel to evaporate into the bag, which means that the pressure built up in the kernel may not be strong enough to cause a pop.

So how can I guarantee that all the shells of my popcorn kernels are strong and pop-ready? The answer is chemical modification. Researchers are working on creating a popcorn with the stronger crystalline cellulose structure. The genetically modified popcorn will possess the same process of popping, it will just have a different chemical makeup. There is even a new corn plant being genetically engineered to produce this kind of popcorn with a strong shell.


As an avid popcorn consumer I am reassured to know that someone shares the same unpopped kernel struggle as me. Thankfully they felt so strongly that they have set out to find a solution. I am happy to know that one day, maybe in the next 3 to 5 years, I will be able to fully enjoy the entire bag of kernels as a popped salty snack and no kernel will go unpopped.


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During high school I spent a majority of my time rowing for a local crew team. My coach would always talk about the various “science” aspects that went along with rowing. There is hydrodynamics involved, the  power curve of the stroke, and the stability and balance of the boat and oars. But what I was always interested in the most was the anatomy and physiology of rowing. The three years I spent rowing was also the three years I have been in the best physical shape. In rowing there is such a high intensity of training, on the water and on land. Your body becomes like a machine accelerating the shell across the water one stroke at a time.

For a rower to be able to propel the boat at the maximum acceleration, they need to be in shape. If you go to the gym you probably know the ergometer as the “rowing machine”, or if  you have no idea you can read more about it here. To sum up the physical and mentality that came along with the erg my coach would always tell us that if you love the ergometer then you are not pushing yourself hard enough, or you are just crazy. During each season, my coach would create a new cycle of workouts that the team would do on the erg or on the water. The cycle, focused on anaerobic and aerobic fitness, was set up like a pyramid, with a base of  longer interval workouts at a lower intensity building up shorter intervals with more intensity. The low intensity workouts were meant to build up stamina and endurance so when the shorter pieces came along you they felt shorter and you would be able to expend all your energy quicker. Each workout piece would consist of a designated amount of intervals. Training in intervals allows a rower to strengthen their cardiac output and transport more oxygen throughout their body, by increasing their heart rate, slowing it down, and then increasing it again.


A 2000 meter workout piece is the main time that is referred to for lineup selections and college recruitment. During a 2k, you want to start off at a high rating to get the boat or the wheel of the erg moving. The general length of initial sprint should be 18 seconds. After 20 seconds the lactic acid will hit your body and cause pain and fatigue. From personal experience I can assure you that lactic acid is a rowers worst enemy. Lactic acid is an organic compound made in muscle cells and red blood cells when the body’s oxygen level is low. Carbohydrates are broken down for energy to make up for the lack of oxygen. To obtain a higher lactic acid threshold, a rowers anaerobic training kicks in. The anaerobic metabolism that comes from longer distance pieces, allows the rowers body to breakdown the lactic acid that is being released. A rower’s anaerobic training is crucial once they have hit their aerobic limit. Aerobic means the body is is turning sugar into energy through oxygen.


Knowing what was happening to my body during a race or an erg workout helped me throughout my training. I appreciated every workout we did even if I knew it was going to be difficult because it would benefit me later on.


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How to Bleach 101

Being a freshman, I have had to learn the art of doing my own laundry. I’ve mastered how much detergent and fabric softener to put in each load. I now know that whites go in warm water and darks go in cold. The one concept of laundry that I have not learned how to do is bleach. Last week, I attempted to bleach a yellow, honey mustard stain off of my white tank top. I put my tank top in a a bucket of bleach and left it to sit while I went to class. When I took my tank top out of the bucket to rinse the bleach off of it, the fabric was yellow and covered in holes.


After my tank top-ruining bleach experience, I took it upon myself to research how to properly bleach my clothing. The bleach that I used is a sodium hypochlorite solution. Sodium hypochlorite is a mix of chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide. This is a chlorine bleach. Typically, bleach is used to lighten or remove color. Deep in my research, I had to learn how colors work in order to better understand how the bleach takes out colored stains. We can see 400 to 700 nanometers of wavelengths. The yellow stain on my tank top has a chemical makeup that allows the color to reflect light with a wavelength of a certain number of nanometers. The molecular makeup of the honey mustard causes the stain to be the color yellow on my white tank top because the bonds of the electrons are absorbing light and reflecting it back to my eye.

So how does the bleach counteract this absorption of light and make my tank top white again? The stain removal is done through the process of oxidation. Oxidation is the removal or adding of electrons. During oxidation the bleach breaks down the electrons in the molecular bond of the honey mustard. When the atoms of the honey mustard are oxidized, their properties change. Because I used Clorox chlorine bleach, the bleach breaks down the chemical compound of the stain and removes the color. Depending on how strong the bond of the electrons in the stain are, the color of the stain will either be mostly or completely gone. After this process of applying the bleach and after the oxidation has occurred, the tank top is ready to be washed. The molecules in the honey mustard stain have been broken down. When washed in the laundry with detergent, the stain will come out.


Although I am down a white tank top, I now have an in-depth understanding of how bleaching works. Through my impulsive decision to pour half of the bottle into a bucket, I learned that with bleach using less is more. Bleach is a very strong and concentrated chemical compound, so when used for stain removal, it should be diluted and used in small amounts. And to think, all of this could have been easily avoided if I had just read the instructions on the back of the bottle!


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Not so “science-y”

Hi SC200! My name is Emma Murphy and I’m a freshman majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. I love kids and plan to pursue a career path working with them, which is why I chose my major. Throughout high school, I always preferred the classes, such as English or Psychology, where I could interact with people and have discussions. My high school psych teacher managed to link my favorite show, Game of Thrones and Psychology together. I’m not interested in a science major because during all of the science classes I’ve taken, I have never felt like I was absorbing the material. I felt like I was just memorizing formulas and facts.

The reason I took SC200 was because it seemed to be the least, “science-y” of the other science GenEd classes I could have taken. When I met with my advisor during the first week of classes, she suggested that I take SC200. After reading the course description, it stood out to me because specifically it is oriented towards non-science people and how science influences our daily lives rather than memorizing formulas that I won’t remember.

Heres a pic of my puppy