Author Archives: Francis Patrick Cotter

How Smart Is Your Dog?

Everyone is fully convinced that their dog is by far the smartest creature to ever roam the earth. But how smart is your dog? The answer just may leave you thinking that babies are dumb.

In a study by researchers at the university of Columbia (as reported by LiveScience), a dogs intelligence is very similar to a two-year-old human’s. Based on a “language development test” in which certain verbal cues were used to instruct or prompt a response. The data showed that a dog’s language development is similar to a two-year-old child’s. The study states that, just like children of that age, dogs are capable of retaining and comprehending 165 words. The smartest dogs can learn up to 250 words, putting them in contention with children two and a half years old.

Socially, dogs were proven to be more developed than children. The social complexities that can sometimes befuddle a child are better handled by dogs according to the researchers in the study. They suggest that a dog has better social skills than humans until children reach their teenage years.doogg

But the dog v.s human comparisons do not stop there. Through altered math tests created by researchers in which treats are used as basic arithmetic exemplifies (the details are further explained in the article), it was shown that a dog’s aptitude for math is similar to a three to four-year-old human.

Before you gaze at amazement at the genius that is your pup, let us consider some possible issues with the study. First off, dogs were not given the exact same tests as the humans. In order to account for the fact that dogs cannot speak, write, or can be held accountable for having their elbows on the table during dinner, the scientists had to alter the way they compared a human’s social interaction, mathematical aptitude, and language comprehension. For example, included in the researcher’s definition of a dog’s language are symbols, adding many communicative pathways to interact with the dog. However, a baby is not taught certain symbol as they are developing their communicative skills like dogs are, limiting their language to primarily vocal cues.

Even though the researcher is extremely qualified, the information regarding the social skills of a dog compared to a human are purely observational.

In regards to the mathematical test, different tools were used. The dogs were given treats as a method of solving math problems. The children were given toys. This makes the dogs more motivated to complete the presented challenge because the reward was food. If you have a dog, you know that all they really care about is food. The children were minimally motivated to complete the challenge because their reward was just a toy.

Even though I am poking holes in this study, the findings still tell us a lot about how dogs match up to infants and toddlers. However, making broad statements and assumptions that dogs truly compete with humans in intelligence can be very misleading.



A Runner’s High (knees)

As demonstrated in this video by Scientific American, elite sprinters have a different motion that average sprinters. This disparity is characterized by their quick striking feet that don’t involve the heel. In order to do this, sprinters lift their knees high enough to make a piston-like movement towards the ground.uahsdiufasif

When phrased that way, becoming a sprinter sounds easy. Just adjust your running stride to lift your knees higher and build leg muscles until no one can catch you. Unfortunately, your genetics might not let you rise to the top all that easily.

The Study:

The gene ACTN3, or the “speed gene”, has been linked with faster twitching muscles, therefore causing a quicker sprinting motion. In order to test if the gene physically changed the composition of the muscles for non-athletes that had the gene based on observation and data collection, Researchers studied the muscle fibers through a biopsy test. The subjects were then put under certain tests to study the velocity and power they could demonstrate.

The Results:

The researchers found that, despite having the speed gene, subjects did not have any difference in viscoelasticity (the ability of the muscle to twitch) compared to people without the gene. However, the subjects with ACTN3 showed greater power and faster overall muscle contraction than subjects without the gene.

So what does all that mean? That study demonstrates how the speed gene is very cool. It does not create any changes in physical appearance or influence a muscles’ viscoelasticity, it just makes the muscles contract faster and with more power than those without it.

When the finding initially came out initially in 2003, according to the Chicago Tribune, the idea of the nurture of the athlete vs the nature of the athlete debate was cleared up. In an attempt to avoid racial stereotypes, people have attacked the idea that the reason that people of African decent find their way on the podium in Olympic sprinting events because of genetics. This inadvertently resulted in the ignoring of scientific data in order to preserve what they perceived to be a respectful outlook.

Research, such as the one attributed by the Tribune, clearly link athletes of African descent with higher concentrations of the speed gene than caucasian or Asian athletes.

This flaw caused by hypersensitivity to anything that differentiates races is similar to the battle against the theory of global warming that we discussed in class. People’s incorrect notion of what is fact compared to what is actual fact has blurred the scientific truth of the findings on global warming just as it has blurred the data on what makes a great sprinter.


Old people sports make old people

I’ll be damned… old people sports produce create old people.

According to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, certain sports, ones that I would refer to as sports for old people, have been linked with longer life-spans.

The Study (according to the journal):

The questions pertained to their exercise habits, frequency, and sport selection. The researchers questioned over 80,000 random people in Europe and collected data to form a conclusion.

The findings:

44% of the subjects met the standard recommended amount of exercise. Of those 44%, the type of sport they did to exercise produced varied evidence of longevity in the nine-year study span. Subjects who choose racquet sports as their primary way of exercise have a 47% lower chance of dying during the nine-year period than those who didn’t exercise. Subjects who swim have a 28% lower chance of dying. Subjects who do aerobics have a 27% chance of dying. olzzzzzddddFootball and running did not produce any significant data of a lowering in chance of dying in the nine-year period.

But before you rush to the closest sporting goods shop and invest in some sweet sweatbands and a dope racquet, consider the possible shortcomings of this study.

The issues:

  • As is inherent in a study that uses data based on randomly dispersed questionnaires, some of the data may be inaccurate. However, the sample size may override that issue.
  • Correlation does not equal causation, therefore this apparent link must have influencing factors that are separate from the advertised conclusion.
  • It would be ridiculous to think that if you start playing racquetball or swimming instead of another equally cardio intensive exercise. People who play racquetball or have access to a pool year-round are typically middle class or higher. This socioeconomic status is linked with higher longevity rates anyways. This brings up the point that the possibility of reverse causation. The subjects (based on their probable status and variables that influence the study results) cause these sports to have higher rates.
  • Finally, the study was performed by British, Australian, and probably New Zealand researchers. Don’t let the accents fool you. They are not the most trustworthy people.

The overall takeaway is that although these results support the notion that exercise, in general, can influence longevity, third confounding variables, such as socioeconomic status, nullify the data that indicates that the choice of exercise influences longevity.

The Predestined Termites

As a stupid person, Lewis Terman, the founder of the IQ test, completely exposed me and my kind.

In the early 1920’s, Terman, who was a psychology professor at Stanford, created a test to determine how smart a person was. The test soon became know as the Intelligent Quotient test (or IQ test).

Terman’s hypothesis, and subsequent conclusion, was that IQ is the primary determinant of a person’s future success. The study has been referred to as the Genetic Study of Genius.

An article by the New York Times details how the study is ongoing and is the longest active longitudinal lifelong studies.

The Study (as reported by the NYT):

  • Terman selected 1,521 students throughout schools in California that had an IQ of over 135, which is well over average intelligence. These kids came to be referred to as Termites.
  • Every five years (but far more frequently in the initial years), a researcher would observe the subjects life. Different factors such as their relative success, personal life, and happiness.
  • It was classified as an observational study. It didn’t have any controls, although data and perception of success could give the researchers all the baseline controls necessary to determine a conclusion.
  • The study is still ongoing. The “Termites” are currently in their 80’s.

The Results:

  • About two years after the study was initiated, Terman concluded that these gifted students were demonstrating success in their academic and personal lives.

Even though the test was supposed to track the success of the subjects, the lifespan study revealed much more data than they had initially desired.

For example, It was found that the average lifespan of subjects with divorced parents was 76, whereas the average age of subjects who’s parents stayed together was 80.

Even though the study yielded important results that went far beyond the testing, critics have picked apart Terman’s conclusion. Here are the general issues with the conclusion (some brought up by the NYT):

  • Terman’s involvement: The professor formed a relationship with many of the subjects. This relationship may have skewed some of the data. Terman allegedly used his Stanford connection to assist some of the subjects to get into the prestigious university.
  • Sons of professors, the third confounding variable: Parent professors, who have been proven to have smarter children on average due to the genetic properties of IQ, typically provide an educated, steady, and upper-middle class household for a child to grown up in. This may skew the data and cause the data to be more influenced by socioeconomic status rather than IQ.
  • Reverse Causation: Can the subjects success influence the IQ scores? This article would point at that possibility. IQ scores are typically sporadic when taken at a young age. This means that the subjects tests may have been higher when they were young. A false genius? A little Einstein imposter? It is unlikely, but can not be ruled out based on the way the study was conducted.

It would also be interesting if Terman could have created a placebo effect by telling a certain faction of kids with IQs below 135 that their score was above 135. Maybe the confidence of being a genius would propel the subjects to expose themselves to more intense learning and a higher pressure for success. Even though this could hold moral issues, because lying to a child so they have a lifelong incorrect perception of themselves is generally frowned upon, the results would make the data carry more weight.

Penn State Cheesin’

According to researchers in the Department of Kinesiology of Penn State in an article by the Daily Collegian, there is an alleged link between dairy cheese consumption and heart disease prevention. The study was conducted by Penn State researcher/professor, Lacy Alexander. This article, released on Penn State’s news site, details how the experiment was conducted.

This is what the basic outline of the experiment was according to the article:

  • Participants, aged 55-60, were fed dairy cheese or pretzels. These sodium-rich foods were used to compare if it was just the sodium having an effect on the vascular health or if it was just the dairy cheese. Another independent variable food item was soy cheese. It was used as a control due to see if dairy cheese had different results.chdfsd
  • To test the dependent variable, which was the health of the vascular system based on blood flow, researchers used a laser light to observe the flow of red blood cells in the subjects’ arms.

The study found that dairy cheese actually benefitted the blood flow and even strengthened the cardiovascular system.

Although the study yields results that show a correlation between dairy cheese and heart disease prevention, even the researchers are not completely confident in the mechanism. One researcher told the Collegian that it may be milk’s lacrotripeptides that cause the strengthening of blood vessels and subduement of sodium’s negative effects. However, this is only speculation and the researcher admitted that the exact mechanism is still unknown.

Another issue with the study is that it was only geared towards short term results. Alexander said that she wishes to conduct more studies that deal with the long-term health effects of dairy cheese consumption.

The study may have suffered from the Texas sharp shooter fallacy. The researchers may not have had a specific blood pressure or blood flow in a formulated hypothesis. This may have altered the conclusion that they found to match data that was geared towards proving that dairy cheese was healthy.

It is also important to note who was funding the research. Dairy Management Inc. approached Alexander to conduct the study. This doesn’t mean that the companies involvement and probable investment in the results swayed the data, but it should be a recognized fact of the study. This means that the company’s products will most likely boast that it decreases heart disease, which can be misleading if the consumer does not fully recognize the origin and motive of that conclusion.

I feel your pain bro…

Pain is infectious. According to Emily Underwood of Science Magazine, a recent study has revealed that mice can feel pain when another mouse is in pain. She references the study done by Andrey Ryabinin of Oregon health and science university. The study showed that 68% of mice shows signs of sensitivity to pain when a nearby mouse was in pain. Ryabinin eliminated many factors in order to control the experiment, making sure that variables were limited.

Image result for miceThis study made me think of my dog. It seems like he can always tell when I am down or upset. Although he is typically very energetic and playful, he brings it down when he sees that  I am not happy. I wondered if the interaction with these mice was similar to the interaction with my dog. Apparently, my anecdotal observation may have evidence.

The Study

Dr. Deborah Custance developed a study in which the interaction between human and dogs was observed. 18 dogs with their owners were put in a controlled setting (the owners living room so that the dog wouldn’t feel stress). The owners were directed to perform different states. The owner was to cry for a period of time and hum for a period of time. The interaction with a stranger was also observed when the stranger was either crying or laughing. An observer would measure how the dog reacted to the emotional state.

The Results

Custance’s hypothesis that dogs would react to the crying more than the humming proved to be valid. 15 of the 18 dogs were noticeably more responsive to the owner when the owner was crying. Some dogs were even more reactive when the owner was crying, barking and whimpering in response. Clearly, these results could not be due to reverse causation and it does not seem likely that it is due to a third variable.
This study brings up the interesting point of a human’s bond with their pet. Although the similarities to the mice experiment may be weak because of the vast difference in the way that mice act from humans and dogs, it still indicates that pain may be an almost infectious emotion.

This is much easier to explain with humans because empathy can be formed through verbal communication. A human’s capability of reasoning is far better than any other species. However, certain emotions, such as pain or happiness may be able to cross species.

Charles Choi of reported that the name of the neurons that cause this empathetic reaction are called mirror neurons. They cause a being to feel the desire to mimic another being’s actions. Choi referenced scientists who theorized that only certain people have active mirror neurons (they refer to the condition as synesthesia).Image result for crying anderson national anthem

This makes an interesting case for how we act the way we act. Empathy may be something that is genetically a part of you. Finding out the traits that form your personality, such as discovering your aptitude for empathy, help people understand what makes us act the way we act.


Is that you, Mom?

Babies are stupid. And America has seen an unfortunate increase in the number of ugly babies (I couldn’t find a scientific study to back it up, but we are just one randomized unblinded study paired with anecdotal evidence away from revealing that truth). While we await data on ugly babies, it is important to find out just how intelligent babies actually are (primarily so we can say “at least they are smart”).

Image result for duckling following shapeFirst, let us observe the duckling to provide background for human infant intelligence. As demonstrated in this video by ScienceMag, ducklings will follow whatever is moving after it is born and identify it as their mother. This is an instinct that has been developed over time and is a means of survival for the ducklings. The video demonstrates the newborns following various shapes with various colors. The first object that the duckling saw, it would follow. When these shapes were taken out, randomized, and returned to the rink, the duckling found the same shape/color combination and followed it. Although this data is anecdotal and has not amassed into a broad set of data, its consistency proves that the ducklings’ instincts were engrained into them.

Human babies, although not as blindly obedient as the duckling, have a similar impulse. In an article by Dr.Gwen Dewar, it is revealed that babies use identification methods similar to ducklings. They can analyze a face and identify it with “mother” just as the duckling does with a certain shape/color.

Dr. Bushneil performed an experiment in the late 1980’s to prove this theory.

The Study:

40 random babies were chosen for the study (20 Male, 20 female). The babies were between 12-36 hours old. In order to attain the best possible results, the babies were out of the mother’s care after the standard 24-hour care period when the baby was born. This is so parental recognition would not be due to standard facial recognition. In a very controlled setting (no gender bias, brightness differentiation, smell), the babies were placed in front of a screen where the mother sat alongside a stranger. The observer then recorded which person the babies were “fixated” on. When the babies attention was on a certain subject for a total of 20 seconds, then it was determined that the baby had recognized the face.

The Result:Image result for baby against window

Bushneil’s belief that newborns could recognize faces was confirmed by the study. The babies consistently focused their attention on their mother, proving that they have the capability to develop facial recognition in only a few hours.

This experiment was well performed because it has controlled many factors and made an effort to limit the amount of exposure that the baby has to the mother prior to the study. However, it would be interesting to see if the babies would be able to identify their mothers if they hadn’t spent more than a few moments with them. Obviously, this presents ethical issues, but it would present a stronger representation to ducklings. If the baby was given to another lady after birth, would the baby instinctually fixate on her? or even a him? That would provide evidence of a stronger link between mother and newborn than Bushneil’s study reveals.


Dr. Watson

Our class has talked extensively about the ethical means of cancer trials and what the future of cancer treatment looks like. We have also discussed the possibility of Artificial Intelligence changing our human world. In an excellent piece by 60 Minutes, those two topics converged.

IBM has poured 15 billion into creating “Watson”, an artificially intelligent computer that processes information at rapid speed and has been developed into one of the world’s most sophisticated technology. As shown in the 60 Minutes segment, 5 years ago Watson was put to the test on the game show Jeopardy. The machine used data put into to it from Wikipedia, newspapers, and other sources to verbally communicate the correct answers and beat out the human contestants. Watson has only gotten smarter since then, gaining the capability to process over 1 million books per minute. According to the 60 Minutes report by Chris Rose, Artificial Intelligence has advanced more in the past 5 years than in the previous 50 years combined. Image result for ibm watson

The medical applications for Watson have become the program’s most beneficial features. The UNC medical center has become reliant on Watson to help doctors make decisions for their patients Dr. Ned Sharpless told 60 Minutes. The board of researchers for the UNC MC have to read a ton of medical journals to stay up to date on the latest medical options for their patients. Sharpless estimates that nearly 8000 medical journals are produced every day, providing far more data than the group could possibly digest. Processing those journals is light work for Watson. IBM told 60 Minutes that it only took Watson a week to learn how to process, digest, and make recommendations based on medical literature.

In order to tell if Watson could truly help the doctors, Sharpless performed a study, as any true scientist does.

The Study:

The Center did an analysis of 1000 cancer patients. They had the medical center’s doctors diagnose the patients and come up with the best possible recommendations for their patients. With those same patients, Watson was ordered to come up with the best recommendations for the patients based on its knowledge. The patients were randomized and had varying severity and types of cancer.Image result for ibm watson

The Result:

The study found that Watson came to the same conclusion as 99% of the doctors. According to Sharpless, he found this to be a reason to keep faith in the capability of actual humans. However, for 30% of the patients (over 300), Watson recommended additional options that the doctors were not aware of. The information came from recent medical journals that Watson had processed, but the doctors did not get to in time.  This finding prompted the center to make Watson a key component of its research and care option process.

Anecdotal information:

In the 60 Minutes segment, a patient named Pam was asked about her experience with Watson. Pam was 66 years old and had tried many things to get rid of her cancer. Watson made a new recommendation for her based on a genetic mutation it had spotted. Pam believed that the computer had added some time to her life that she otherwise would not have had.

The 60 Minutes went on to discuss other AI applications in our world.

It is a scary thought knowing that a computer can be that smart and outperform humans that have dedicated their lives to cancer research. The study proves that while human intuition is good, it has flaws that are affecting our medical world. AI is expected to grow and have a serious impact on our lives. AI developers are already pushing the government to develop laws to control artificial intelligence before it becomes too advanced.

Sources: – This was the sole source used in this blog post. All of the information from the study was demonstrated in the 60 Minutes segment on Artificial Intelligence.



Why Vinyl?

I have a growing collection of vinyl records. Three things make me love the collection and make me want to add to it: The cover art is cool, it is the true sign that you appreciate an artists work, and, for some reason, it sounds better to me.

For most of my infatuation with vinyl, I figured I was just tricking myself into believing that it sounded better. The argument had been made by many so I figured that it could be a proper justification for the steep price of records.vinyl

However, the argument may have some truth to it.

The argument that vinyl is better than digital audio starts with the origin of the music. When someone streams something on Spotify, the music has gone from the artist to the digital audio recording system, compressed so it can stream without taking up too much storage, and to the listener. According to a report from the Oregonian’s David Greenwald, the vinyl sound follows a much more pure transformation from artist to listener. The sound travels from the artist to the physical tape recording, to the record making device (shown in this video), to the record, to the listener. This process involves no compression and mirrors the exact depth and pitch that the original artist intended.

According to Correy Binns of Popular Science, compressed audio in the form of an MP3 file can take away almost 90% of the sound from the original recording. This is because the digital download strips the music of its subtleties. Binns goes on to explain that this process occurs because of advanced machines that see what sounds the human ear requires to hear the song. The rest of the recording is deemed unnecessary and cut from the original piece to save storage.

vinyl-record-playerAlthough, it can be hard to differentiate between the two unless you are a true audiophile. Here is a recording a DMX song played on MP3 and record. Try to see if you can differentiate between the two.

The previous test is anecdotal because a well-developed study with sizable data of how people perceive the music has not been sufficiently performed. All in all, it’s a matter of preference. It may be hard to tell the difference, but listening to vinyl is the equivalent of eating organic, non-processed foods: You may not feel very different, but you know it’s better for you.

Side note: Here is a great microscopic view of what the grooves of the record look like, as well as the movement of the needle (plot twist/spoiler: the needle primarily moves side to side to create the sound).

Sources: hyperlinked in the text.

Protein: The Natural Whey?

Protein is vital to the health and development of humans, but its availability and expense can leave people lacking a proper diet. A quick, efficient solution to this problem is powdered protein that can be mixed into water or milk, or ready-to-go protein shakes. The soluble powder product allows for easy transportation and consumption of protein. This development has sparked a variety of companies and brands that have taken many different approaches to selling their protein powder or shakes. Many factors differentiate the products such as the amount of protein, flavor, solubility, texture, or additional nutritional benefits. The marketing campaign for most of these brands is focused on bodybuilding trends, workout fads, and athletic competitions. The campaigns advertise either bulking up, slimming down, or recovering from strenuous physical activity. One company that has become synonymous with protein shakes is Muscle Milk. Although their primary protein shakes boast many grams of protein and amino acid content per serving, they also produce a line of protein powder called Muscle Milk Naturals. Although the Naturals formula is intended to replicate natural human milk with minimal additional additives, the scientific remodeling that is done in order to reproduce the natural substance strays from the product’s advertised dogma.arnold

The description of the product includes its benefits in the building and recovery of muscles, as well as not using artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors. The description goes on to say that the product “features a custom protein, peptide, and amino acid matrix patterned after human mother’s milk”. This means that each compound that makes up this protein powder would have to mimic actual human milk. Surprisingly, the company’s claims were somewhat consistent with the scientific research performed by Pediatric Clinic of North America. The clinic determined that human milk during gestation periods is composed of whey and casein, which are commonly found in protein powder. The research also referred to peptide as a component of human milk. However, the amino acid matrix that the product description refers to appears to be jargon. The text on the components of human milk does not describe the amino acid makeup, therefore making it difficult to determine whether or not the product could mirror human milk’s amino acid matrix. The protein content in human milk is significantly less than that of Muscle Milk’s protein powder. Although the amount of protein in human milk is determined by the stages of the gestation period, it never approaches the 32 grams of protein in a serving of Muscle Milk Naturals. The typical percentage of protein content in human milk is 0.9%.

Since the US Food and Drug Association has not come up with a definition for the term “natural”, many companies have been given sufficient leeway. The ingredients for Muscle Milk Naturals sounds like a considerable amount of leeway: Protein Blend (Calcium Sodium Caseinate, Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Lactoferrin, L-Glutamine, Taurine), Cane Sugar, Natural Flavors, Sunflower Oil, Cocoa Powder, Maltodextrin, Canola Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Crystalline Fructose, Less Than 1% Of: Potassium Chloride, Soluble Corn Fiber, Inulin, Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Potassium Bicarbonate, Stevia Extract, Soy Lecithin, Dl-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Monk Fruit Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Ferrous Fumarate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, L-Carnitine, Cholecalciferol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Chromium Chloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Cyanocobalamin. Human breast milk only has casein, riboflavin, and trace amounts of whey in common with the listed ingredients. However, “natural flavors” may be considered a component of breast milk.


The process for making the product is not clearly defined on the website, making it difficult to determine the strength of the term “naturals”. Since the formula is in a powdered form, it would not be reasonable to think that natural processes formed the substance. Even though Muscle Milk Naturals attempts to be unique from any product because it mimics human milk, the only difference from Organic Muscle Milk is that it isn’t ‘Certified Organic’. Therefore, it could be theorized that Organic Muscle Milk is actually more natural than Muscle Milk Naturals.

CytoSport boasting a potentially misleading label is not relatively new for the protein company. In 2009, Andrew Newman of the New York Times reported that Nestlé, the worldwide producers of many dairy based products and more, was suing Muscle Milk because the term ‘Milk’ was misleading. Nestlé argued that Muscle Milk’s use of the term led consumers to believe that they were drinking a dairy based product. The U.S Food and Drug association defines milk as the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.

However, according to Newman, the FDA is not overly strict when it comes to the enforcement of the definition. This is exemplified by the allowance of soy milk to be labeled as milk as well as other non-dairy milks.

In 2011, CytoSport had another legal battle over a misleading label. In 2011, a consumer sued Muscle Milk for having misleading information on their ready-to-go bottles such as “healthy” and “healthy, sustained energy”. According to the FDA, drinks that claim they are healthy and are low fat must have no more than 15% saturated fats composing the calories. Muscle Milk did not meet this requirement. The settlement resulted in CytoSport having to take the “healthy” off of the label and pay an impressive 5.3 million to settle the lawsuit.

The two lawsuits do not directly relate to the distinction on whether or not the Muscle Milk product should be labeled “natural”. However, it indicates that Muscle Milk is no stranger to stretching the truth on their labels. They use buzz words. The buzz word “healthy” lost them a considerable amount of money. Although the Muscle Milk Naturals doesn’t directly claim to be “Natural”, aside from the sweeteners and flavoring, using the buzzword at all to try and make a product more attractive has proven to be a dangerous marketing scheme.

Sources: (others linked in text)

Inception: More Than a Movie?

(This post includes spoiler. However, the movie came out forever ago so it’s your fault at this point.)

Aside from badass suspense music and a plot complex enough to make you question the question your are questioning, Inception has raised some actual questions regarding dream access and memory hacking. Is it possible to see a person’s dream? How does time function in a dream? Leonardo Di Caprio may have been on to something.Image result for inception

Even though the Movie has complex devices that send you into various dream worlds, levels, or whatever, that kind of thing doesn’t exsist. However, as mentioned by Rowan Hooper of New Scientist, modern MRI brain scanners can reveal the brain activity of a dreaming person and attempt to recreate that image through advanced software.

In the movie “Inception”, they determine that each level they go into a dream, the slower time is (Hooper states that 5mins=1hr in the first level, 5mins (on the second dream level)= one week). This concept allowed inception to have an insane climax that was a confusing as a Matthew McConaughey speech. The scene only makes sense if you understand the time concept. The idea brings up some cool ideas on the topic, but has little evidence to support it. While it may seem like only a little actual time elapsed while you are having a dream, it is most likely happening in real time rather than the slowed time that Inception suggests. I believe the illusion is due to the rapid change in setting that occurs in a dream, making it seem like a lot has happened therefore a lot of time has elapsed.

Having control of your dream is referred to as lucid dreaming. Hooper states that avid video gamers are good at lucid dreaming because they spend time living an alternate projected life often.

Image result for inception dream machine

Overall, Inception made the audience question why we dream, how we dream, if its possible to enter a dream, or if we can control a dream. Even though those questions have limited data. For example, Scientific America published a story stating that new data showed why we dream and why we remember those dreams, the data was essentially tied to the use of MRI brain scanners and the meaning of the findings is ultimately speculation.

All I know for sure: the top keeps spinning.



ACL in the NFL

A lot of commotion has been stirred up over the NFL’s handling of head trauma injuries. The league has been forced to make new rules and regulations regarding proper tackling form and post-concussion procedure. However, head injuries only take a player out of the game for a few weeks. The true career changer is an ACL tear.Image result for acl diagram

The ACL is a ligament in the knee that connects the two major bones in the leg. When this ligament is torn, the injured person can’t walk. The surgery is extremely invasive and can keep a player from physical activity for up to a year. Once the player returns from the injury, the chance of re-tearing the ligament is high. Most players return to action wearing a specialized knee brace.

The injury can occur when a player makes an unnatural lateral cut, the leg is hit at an awkward angle, or when doing simple movements. The randomness and recovery time of tan ACL tear make it one of the most feared injuries in the NFL. USA TODAY sports columnists Peter Barzilai and Erik Brady found that 46% (of the 293 players they polled) said they feared leg injuries the most compared to the 26% that said they fear head injuries the most.

Image result for acl injury nflSo why is it such a big deal in the NFL? Football has many aspects that make the players susceptible to ACL tears. Evading defenders requires constant lateral movement. The body is constantly shifting weight in order to brace for hits or break out into open field. Cleats, which help the players traction, actually increase the amount of stress on the knees during play. NFL teams invest millions into the players on their squad. When these injuries occur, the teams still have to pay the money that is determined in the players contract. For instance, when Teddy Bridgewater, the Minnesota Viking quarterback, suffered an ACL tear in training camp, the Vikings had to trade away multiple draft picks and millions of dollars to acquired new starting quarterback in Sam Bradford.

Therefore, it is surprising that NFL teams do not investigate more into the prevention of ACL tears. Even though head trauma can truly ruin a players life, it financially makes more sense for teams to stress leg injury prevention.

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Talk Alien to me…

One of the biggest questions humans have is wether or not there are other life forms out in the universe. Since it would be shortsighted to assume that only earth can sustain life, it is probable that extra terrestrial beings exist. Isn’t that amazing news? Now all we have to do is fly to their homes, which are just like ours and probably have clear directions outlined on google maps, and talk to them. Wrong. There would be a language barrier beyond anything Donald Trump would wish to have.
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The inability to communicate with extra terrestrial beings, despite understanding that they exist, is called the Fermi paradox. The scientist Enrico Fermi had a number (too many to make a reasonable blog post) of theories on why we haven’t had proven communication with extra terrestrial life. The first theory is that extra terrestrial life is rare or nonexistent. As I said earlier, that would be a very shortsighted way to view it. Another theory is that humans have not existed long enough to be recognized by other intelligent beings. This theory could hold true since human existence is a drop of water in the ocean of time. However, if aliens were so adapted, they would have the means to recognize our existence. The most likely theory that can be derived from Fermi’s list is that humans are not advanced enough to understand, interpret, initiate, or receive alien communications.

The author and transhumanist Zoltan Istvan theorizes (quite confidently) that humans will never be able to talk with intelligent life because so many factors must be appropriate. First off, these aliens would have to be in a state recognizable to humans. Istvan went as far as to say that aliens can become advanced enough to shed their biological beings (should be noted, however, this man is the proclaimed president of the transhumanist movement, so outlandish theories are kind of his thing). Next, we would need to have a similar state of time as the intelligent being, and that is not likely. Finally, these other life forms would have to be looking for us too. And let’s admit it, we aren’t as sought after as “Transformers” would want us to believe.
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It’s not me, it’s you

Science… we tried. We really did. At first I was like “Damn Science, you’re kinda cool”. You had all these cool TV shows with potato clocks, potato guns, and… pretty much anything having to do with potatoes was awesome. You would make explosions out of nothing and don’t even get me started on Volcanos. Volcanos are by far the most badass thing science has ever done. It’s like the Earth is popping its most deadly pimple.

I started questioning you towards the end of seventh grade. My teacher handed me a paper and I’d never felt so betrayed in my life. It was a series of random boxes with elements and numbers that made me lightheaded. The evil teacher looked down on me and said “Learn it. Love it. This is the periodic table, the basis of all Science”. How could you do this to me, Science? You pretended all along that you didn’t suck, but then BAM… you suck. I shouldn’t have forgiven you because you only became more aggressive in High School. You abused me. You threw numbers and elements and theories and quotes by old people at me. I felt trapped. But here, at Penn State, I’m ending it. I’m done being your bitch, Science. It’s time to take control of my learn life. I’m going to take SC200 and learn cool things like the sexual orientation of animals and why I’m toxic. Andrew will take our minds on a wild ride into the depths of interesting concepts and possibilities, all while maintaining a possibly staged New Zealand accent.

For further reference on why I hate you, here are the reasons that you, and your friends, are hated. It’s over between us, Science. I will remember the good times: The Bill Nye show, the first season of The Big Bang theory, potato guns. But, overall, it’s for the best that we are ending things. It’s not me, it’s you.

chuck norris