Author Archives: Isaac Orndorff

Is Fracking Safe?

In Pennsylvania, we’ve always been focused on natural gases/minerals as a good portion of our wealth. Without it, our state economy gets significantly worse, as shown in both the loss of jobs recently in the mining sector (and entire towns built for that purpose have been abandoned in our state). However, in recent times, things have changed for the better for us. Not only have we found massive amounts of oil we previosly didn’t know we had, but we also have introduced a new method of collecting oil-fracking.

For those of you who may not be familiar with what fracking is, fracking is the drilling into rock, causing oil or natural gases to come up that were trapped in there. If you want more information on fracking, you can look on fracking’s main website. We know that fracking has helped make the US a much larger producer of oil in recent years, causing gas prices to fall significantly and the economy and jobs to rise. However, I wonder if there is some bad in fracking that could affect the environment and our well-being as a result, perhaps something the fracking companies and government don’t want us to know.


How fracking works. Picture source

There are many articles on how fracking can cause explosions. The first is from Mexico, where 36 oil tanks caught fire, while another in West Virginia left 5 people injured. These are major situations, but both are rareities in the fracking industry, and likewise both had no known causes of ignition. Therefore, both can be caused to freak accidents, and not on the fracking process as a whole (due to chance). However, it can be said that we should look into if this process, which releases gases at a fast rate from rocks and the ground, can be an ignition source and cause explosions and be dangerous for those who work in that industry.

There is something involving fracking that is far more alarming, however. According to this study done by the ehp (environmental healh perspectives), a high amount of methane was found in water near some fracking sites. You could say that this is an isolated incident, or that the methane may not have a direct correlation to the fracking, but the results may shock you. In northern PA and NY, a study of 68 drinking water wells found that all had high levels of methane, so much so that they fell within the “take action” limit, and well above the maximum. This is both a staggering amount of wells contaminated, and all of them being over the maximum of methane is a scary thought.


Not only that, but these high levels of methane in our drinking water can too lead to an explosion, destroying homes in the process. This is a very bad thing for people near fracking, and needs to be addressed. Going back to my previous question, is this due to fracking, or maybe just due to poor plumbing/pipes? Or maybe another third party variable? The former head of the EPA for PA John Hanger says it’s the fault of the well construction, but is he just saying this because of how much money fracking makes for PA?

Thankfully, these leaks aren’t very likely, with only 2% estimated to be contaminated. Therefore, you can judge the risks according to other things in our lives. This is far more likely to occur than dying in a car crash, but the water being contaminated may not make you sick. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide if 2% is too much. Obviously either way, more meta-analysis on the topic is needed, as are stricter requirements for fracking. Thankfully, stricter measures were passed into law over 5 years ago. Are these measures enough? Only time will tell, but hopefully we can figure out a safe way to frack, without contaminating water or hurting people in the process. If we can’t, we may have to give up on fracking entirely and focus on renewable energy for the future faster than we may like.

New Information Regarding Pluto’s Geology

Does anyone remember the year 2006? We were all in elementary school still, or maybe just beginning middle school. Iphones were just created, and nowhere near the level they are today. Star Wars had ended the year before with a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Oh yeah, and Pluto was downgraded from a planet in our solar system by the International Astronomical Union (AIU). Becasue Pluto hasn’t “cleared out the area” surrounding it, it cannot be classified as a planet. Since then, many people have simply not cared about Pluto, especially with us looking for life in other solar systems and sending robots (and perhaps soon humans) to Mars.

However, an interesting article, maybe the first about Pluto in a long while, was published in the New York Times just yesterday. In it, it discusses some findings reported in the Journal Nature. Please note that while both of these articles are basically the same, I still would rely on the Nature journal further due to its background in science, and it going more in depth into what they found. I added both so you can see them, but we will be discussing the Nature journal from now on.

Back in 2015, the sattelite New Horizons spotted what looked to be a heart shape (pictured above as the white part) in Pluto’s equator. Until now, they didn’t have an answer as to what this was or where it came from. After researching for over a year, they came to the conclusion that this heart shaped spot on Pluto is actually an enormous ice cap (over 1,000 km across and several miles deep)! I know what you’re thinking-does this prove that life could be possible on Pluto, because with ice comes water and water comes life? Well, it’s not guaaranteed  The ice is mostly filled with nitrogen ice, making it not based off of water and no oxygen is present.

So, if this doesn’t prove life on Pluto, why is it interesting? Well, this heart shaped ice cap has most likely messed with the dwarf planet’s rotation over time. This was most likely caused by meteor impacts, which is something that shaped our planet’s existence millions of years ago. When the rotation changes, it can affect the environment in drastic ways. Because it is so vast, it moved Pluto’s rotation completely away from it’s moon, having NASA and the New York Times coin the phrase “Pluto is finding its heart”.


Here you can see “Pluto’s heart” Picture source

Likewise, this huge ice zone (what NASA named Sputnick Planitia) also affects Pluto’s atmosphere greatly. As I mentioned above, this ice sheet is made mostly of nitrogen, carbon, and methane. When Pluto warms, it goes into the atmosphere, creating a harsh environment, until it is brought back down to the surface with a new layer of frost. This is important because it’s literally changing the atmosphere of Pluto as we speak (much like how too much carbon in our atmosphere is warming our planet at a fast rate).

So, we have to be the clear about what this could mean for us as humans in the future. Not only do we more understand how Pluto’s atmosphere works, but we also can determine how Pluto is being affected by this “ice shape”, and it it’s rotation is being affected. Likewise, although it seems unlikely, scientists in the New York Times article do suggest that there may be an ocean of water underneath the surface of Pluto, not an ice sheet. If that’s the case, that could lead to the possibility of life on Pluto, although it is unlikely due to the significant low temperatures there. With us so heavily focued on life in other galaxies, it would be interesting to check Pluto out first to rule out this possiblity before moving onward. However, I think it’ll most likely be like Mars and show possible old signs of life, but nothing currently there. Still, having something to care about regarding Pluto is a pleasent changed of pace indeed.


What Happens After You Die?

Whether you believe in God and an afterlife or not, we all can agree that we all have thought the same thing. What happens to us after we die? Do we cease to exist, our minds and the person who we were in life completely gone forever, or do we go someplace else? Throughout history, we have answered this question with varying degrees. Hindu’s and Buddhists believe in reincarnation, Catholics believe Heaven, and a lot of Greek and Native American had some form of afterlife. Here’s what most major religions believe in when it comes to the afterlife: Regardless, we all agree on one thing: at some time in our lives, we all will die.

The thing that makes this topic so interesting is that there is absolutely no way of figuring this out. Much like the topic in class earlier this year asking if prayer heals, we cannot come up with a way to actually determine what happens to us in the afterlife with the certainty we usually can in regards to scientific findings. If you look hard enough, you can find hundreds or even thousands of people online saying they saw many different things after they died and were revived. Seeing all of these “near death experiences”, we would have to scientifically conclude that there might be something in the afterlife. You can argue whether this may file drawer problem, as those who don’t see anything and come back simply may not say anything about it (why would they if they didn’t see anything?). Still, with all of these people seeing things, I want to look at some ways scientists have gone about trying to answer this question in the past. (Note, there will be no way I can answer this question in this blog, nor should I. Take what I say with a grain of salt and know I’m looking at the process, not a solution. You can argue you can’t truly get the full picture without fully dying, but I’m trying to find the best solutions science can come up with).


This should really go without saying, but it’s far easier to die and see what happens in the afterlife than to report it back when you might be brought back to life. If (and that’s a big if) you’re brought back to life, you may have no memory of what you experienced when you died, either forgetting it entirely or just losing good portions of the memory. You can associate that with not remembering what you dreamed about when you woke up.

After looking through the internet for quite some time (there were many articles on the matter, just none very trustworthy), I came across an article issued in November 0f 2006 in New Scientist that looked for the answer to my question. You may need your PSU credentials to see this study, as I did. This study used a variety of different studies, but mostly had three different ways of finding an afterlife. They are as follows:

1.) A researcher creates an unbreakable riddle, one only he/she could solve. After they die, people on Earth find a way to contact them in the afterlife, getting the key to solve said riddle and answering the question. If they can’t find the key, there is no afterlife or no way to contact the dead that we know of yet.

2.) Looking at near death experiences, we can see what the person experienced and base that off of real life events they couldn’t have seen or possibly know when they were alive.

3.) People are weighed before, during, and after their death. If there is a “soul”, then this should be shown with a decrease, however small, in their weight as they die as their soul leaves their body.


Looking at the first way scientists look at how to scientifically prove their’s a life after death, this seems to be the least likely. Not only do we not have any feasible ways of communicating in the dead that is proven, we also don’t know if we remember anything in the afterlife from our previous life. For example, the article focuses mainly on how psychologist Robert Thouless did so in 1984, where he then died. However, no one has been able to crack the code since, even after many have said they contacted Thouless and got the correct key. One person even said they were able to contact him multiple times, but he doesn’t remember the password. You can either say he lied and did not contact Thouless or that Thouless had no reccollection of his previous life. Therefore, we can assert that this isn’t a good strategy for finding life after death.

The second strategy mentioned above is one I mentioned in the opening paragraphs-asking people what they saw when they died and were brought back. Like mentioned above, you can’t ethically kill people and then bring them back, so to combat this they put a TV on the ceiling above an operating room, which changes between images and is not visible to anyone who wouldn’t be looking overhead. The problem with this strategy is that not only do you rely on patients dying, coming back, and remembering this image, you also are relying on the idea that the soul moves upward after death, which may not even be what happens. As this article was posted in 2006, they have yet to find anyone who has been able to identify the images. This may be a great option in the future, but I think a better method needs to be established.

Finally, the third option is where we turn our attention to. Of the three, I think this is the method that is the best rooted in science. In regards to the other two, you can see that there is a lot of things you cannot control, like speaking to the dead or bringing someone who has had their heart stopped back. In this, however, it’s quite simple. You continuously weigh someone as they’re dying, and see if they lose weight after they have died. You can attribute this weight loss to that being your soul, even micro-weight differences. However, this proved to be far harder than it may seem. A man by the name Duncan MacDougall tried this method all the way back in 1901. However, with outside factors he was unable to get a consistent measurement in weight. He concluded the weight of the soul was 20 grams, but this wasn’t supported by more evidence and concluded to be an anecdote. When this study was replicated, they were unable to find a difference in weight. However, this doesn’t prove that there wasn’t a drop in weight after death, the soul could just weigh far less than a scale can measure. Therefore, you would need very expensive technology to truly get an idea of the weight of the soul (if it does exist).

So, in conclusion, we have yet to find a good method for finding if there’s life after death. All of these methods had positives and negatives, and the latter two can be refined and tried again. But something the article does bring up is something that made me think. According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, energy is not lost or gained in the universe. Instead, it simply transfers. So, at the most basic level, there is more for us after death. Whether our energy goes towards a small particle or part of a new animal, we will become something after death. Finally, while we cannot scientifically prove that there is life after death, that doesn’t mean that we have to stop believing in it. And who knows, we may be able to figure this out in the future with new technology or scientific findings!




Do Sexual Education Classes Decrease the Likelihood of Pregnancy and STD’s in Our Youth?

Growing up in a Catholic school, I never received Sexual Education classes like most of my public school counterparts. Instead, abstinence, or no sexual encounters before marriage, was the only thing preached. While it never got into the “if you have sex, you’ll go to hell” mentality that you see a lot in movies, it did heavily push for us not to sex in order to be right with God. This included things like uniforms with a certain length of skirts for girls, no PDA anywhere in school, no provocative dancing at prom, etc. So, after leaving that environment three years ago and entering into college, where the rules are obviously thrown out of the window, I always had this question: Does teaching abstinence or sexual education (and therefore safe sex practices) decrease things like teenage pregnancy and STD’s, or is it all pointless and kids will have unprotected sex regardless?

Looking at our two hypotheses, we have both the null hypothesis (sexual education does not change teen pregnancy reporting and teenage STD’s), and the alternate hypothesis (sexual education does decrease the amount of pregnancy reporting and teenage STD’s). Interestingly enough, we know that a lot of conservative, Christian families believe sexual education actually increases pregnancy reports and teenage STD’s, so although it’s seemingly unlikely, a second alternate hypothesis based off of this idea.

Looking at this topic on Google scholar, I found a (somewhat) observational study done in 2002 based off none-married, heterosexual adolescents aged 15-19 years of age (note, I had to put in my PSU email and password in order to be able to view the entire study for free. You may have to do the same). This study was meant to occur after the student’s first sexual encounter, but also after sexual education (which by itself is supposed to be conducted before the average student has sex). Because you can’t control if kids have sex and don’t, you cannot feasibly do an experimental study. Likewise, you cannot observe these kids 24/7 to see if they’re having sex and if they’re using protection, as that is incredibly unethical and practically improbable. Therefore, this study had to be done using a questionnaire. This, however, can make it less trustworthy because adolescents won’t want to report their sexual activity, even anonymously. Therefore, you can argue the students’ input may be withholding information or even not reporting true findings to the researchers (which isn’t quite the file drawer problem but is very similar.

Seeing the results, students who receive either sexual education teaching safe sex were about 4.95% less likely to report a teenage pregnancy than those who didn’t receive any education. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these teenage pregnancies didn’t happen, but they were reported far less. In abstinence-only education, there was no difference in sexual encounters and teenage pregnancy compared to sexual education. However, both offered no decrease in STD diagnoses among adolescents when compared to those who received no education. Therefore, it can be argued that these students were not practicing safe sex at a high percentage (which significantly decreases STD rates), and students were just likely getting lucky with teenage pregnancies or reporting them less than actually occurred. As you can see from the reporting, however, teaching about safe sex had no increase on reports of sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, or STD’s. Therefore, we can rule out alternate hypothesis #2.


Looking at the conclusion, I would have to say that alternate hypothesis #1, or that having sexual education reduces the amount of STD’s and pregnancies, is partially correct. Although STD’s seemingly didn’t change, pregnancies significantly went down (likewise, reports of vaginal intercourse also decreased). And while that may not be the what alternate hypothesis #1 set out to do, we can see that it did have some effect, and because of that cannot be the null hypothesis. However, I doubt the results. Being that this is not an experimental study, you can argue that third party variables like race, class, education levels and many other things can change the results even if there is sexual education.

In the study, caucasian people made up  73% of the study, while African Americans only made up 18%. No other race was measured. Likewise, the study was done more in metropolitan areas than rural or suburban areas. Thankfully, income levels did end up averaging out to about equal due to the high amount of participants. But with all of these differences, you can see that there are some areas that don’t contribute to third party variables, and thus you can take the results with a grain of sand. The p-value of the study was less than .05, making a false positive unlikely. Therefore, you can say that the first alternate hypothesis was all but confirmed, but you should take the results with a grain of salt. Meta-analysis is needed, preferably with doing it with low-income, low education areas in order to get the full picture. But we can all agree, logically we should want our future children to have sexual education classes in the future before their first encounters.



How to Properly Cope with Stress

It’s getting around that time in the semester! The time where we, as college students, get unbelievable amounts of stress due to assignments, finals looming, and trying to raise our grades in time to salvage this semester. Previously, I wrote a blog about how stress can affect us as college students and how it affects our well-being. Well, being someone who is super stressed trying to make grades right, I had an important question to find the answer for: how do we cope with this insurmountable amount of stress? Obviously, everyone is different, and so is their individual way of coping, but have there been studies looking to what are the scientifically best ways to cope with stress? This is what I aim to find out. We have some hypotheses that we can test: the null hypothesis is that these methods don’t change stress at all, while the alternate suggest that it does change our stress levels, for better or worse. 


stress level conceptual meter indicating maximum, isolated on white background

How can we handle stress properly at an incredibly stressful time? Picture source

After looking for a while, I found an observational study done in 2002 looking at how both male and female nursing students cope with stress, both in their studies for 12 months and their 13-14 training cycle. This shows not only the stress of schoolwork that we are all dealing with now, but also how they deal with working with patients so soon, and even dealing with the death of patients.  This is important to study, as one day soon when we graduate, we will have stressors that don’t involve school and grades, but other stressors that we too need to learn how to handle. Because of that, looking at both stress in school and in their field is far more valuable for us to learn from and figure out.

It was found that things like experience and self-esteem are instrumental in how well you cope with stress. This is relatively obvious for most of us, because we know that our self-esteem and mental health can drastically change our stress levels and success. However, it’s still something to take into consideration for how to decrease stress levels in the future.

Moving forward with how the study was conducted, we can see that it was done using a questionarre asking a population of nursing students at the first, second, and third year levels of their major (the same 101 students across three years). These questionarres were anonymous, hoping to avoid selection bias of the researchers. After recieving the questionarre back, the researchers came to these conclusions:  the farther you got into the major, the higher the mean of transient stress (or short-term stress). However, things like chronic stress (long-term) and low self-esteem do not increase, but rather stay the same. This is a suprising finding, as it would seem that you add onto stress the farther you get into your major, likewise turning down your self esteem. On the other hand, you could also argue that in the breaks between semesters, students unwind themselves enough to decrease their stress levels before they start the new school year. Likewise, students may learn new and better studying habits as they go through college, combating the increase workload that moving up entails. And the farther they get into college, the closer they know they are to the end, so long term stress doesn’t affect them as much.

 This can be argued to show that stress has an effect not over time, but over difficulty of the subject material, making these nursing students worse off the longer they’re in school (the perception is that junior year is the hardest for most college students). This can be argued to be due to increases in responsibility and the addition of in hospital work, but still show how stress can affect you. Likewise, this being only a questionarre, you can argue that the study doesn’t rule out third-party variables and thus can be viewed as less trustworthy in the process. Reverse causation, or stress causing the subject material to become harder over time, is not a factor, and thus can be ruled out.

Looking forward to how they coped with these stressors, the best coping factors given in the questionarre were things like problem solving, exercise/sport, social support from peers and family, and tension reduction (drinking, smoking, yoga, meditation, etc.) Problem solving is a given, as we usually try to come up with solutions to our stress and better manage our time. However, the other ones are incredibly interesting as coping factors! These are things that a lot of us push away when we’re stressed, spending the time we’re usually working out , being with friends, or drinking cramming for that test next week. Without these things in our life, our stress levels spike and can make us far worse off come test time. By using both problem based (what we usually use) and emotional based (what we don’t usually use) problem solvers, they significantly increase the likelihood of coping with stress.

After looking through both studies, you can see that stress is indicative our our situations, but doesn’t affect us long-term for the most part. Humans are an incredibly resilient species, being able to bounce back from almost anything and adapting to almost every situation. This includes stress, as we can figure out ways to destress and solve the problems. The studies show that the best ways to cope with stress are not only looking for problem based solutions, but also focusing on our emotional health. As we went through school, we were always told to focus on studying and let hobbies and our social lives take a back seat for a while. And while that may be something you should do to a degree, you also need to continue doing these behaviors in order to properly combat stress. Without it, we just become more and more stressed, which we all know can lead to worse grades, health issues, etc. In conclusion, don’t be afraid to take some studying breaks every once and while! It’s good for you, and will help you do better on the exam due to the decrease in stress you’ll get from continuing these behaviors.


Cell Phone Usage and Male Infertility

Here’s a scary topic for us guys out there….becoming infertile. As you all (I hope) know, being infertile means not being able to produce children from your semen. But here’s a common myth that I was told a lot as a teenager by my Grandmother: using your cell phone too much will make you infertile. Now I always just chalked this up to being just another story Grandma told me to make sure I was a good kid and not using my phone too often, but what if it wasn’t? Could using your iPhone too often cause you to not be able to have kids? Does the radioactivity vented out of your phone cause you damage? This is the question I want to answer.



Could cell phone use make us infertile? Source

As always, first we should look at this from a scientific perspective and form a hypothesis. The null hypothesis, which is what most of us believe, is that cell phones will not cause male infertility. The alternate hypothesis lines more up with my grandma’s viewpoint, that a prolonged period of cell phone use causes males to become infertile. Obviously, we cannot experiment with this on humans, as you can’t just ethically let men get cancer if the data supports it. More likely, we’ll have to either experiment with animals and/or observe cell phone use with men. Finally, we want to measure the independent variable (the phone/mobile device) and the dependent variable (becoming infertile).

Background: After searching, I came across a study conducted in India in 2010 on male Wistar rats. They aimed to look for lower sperm counts, the weight of testicular organs, and destruction of Leydig cells in rats after an extended period of time around a mobile phone.

Before we get into what they found, I want to talk briefly about another study they used as background info by Agarwal in 2007 on 361 men at infertility clinics. This was an observational study and concluded that the use of cell phone by decreasing sperm cells’ motility, morphology, and even sperm counts. This shows that, indeed, cell phone use does affect male infertility. However, it’s incredibly possible that there were other factors that the researchers weren’t able to control, given it being an observational study. Therefore, we need to look at the study in India on rats to get an idea if, given everything else is controlled, we can see the correlation between cell phone use and infertility.

The Procedure: As mentioned above, this was an experimental study done in India on rats. These rats were split in half, with 6 being the control and 6 being experimented on. This was done randomly and was repeated multiple times to make it blind. After the groups were sorted, the rats to be experimented on were put in an air conditioned room where they were all put with a single mobile device. They were exposed for 35 straight days, where they were then euthanized in order to be tested. This is a very straightforward experiment, with a control group and a randomized blind trial. Now, let’s move on to the results.


What effect do mobile phones have on the rats? Source

The Results: Quite surprisingly, the results seem to support the alternate hypothesis. In the 35 days exposed to the mobile device, the rats had a significant decline in sperm cell counts. The counts were reduced from over 160 to only 70 counts of sperm, showing a 50% decrease. This is significant, as this supported the observational study mentioned earlier that there is a big correlation between mobile phone use and a decrease in sperm count. So, although this could be just due to chance, we have to conclude that the alternate hypothesis was overwhelmingly supported here. This is huge, as men of my age are significantly attached to our phones, and are the first generation to have cell phones from around 12 years old onwards almost 24 hours a day. Will we see a decrease

This is huge, as men of my age are significantly attached to our phones, and are the first generation to have cell phones from around 12 years old onwards almost 24 hours a day. Will we see a decrease in the ability to have children in our generation over the last? We’ll have to wait around 5-10 years to find the data to support that, but for now, I’m going to be worried about the results. As it turns out, sometimes Grandma is right!


Is High-Stake Testing Helping Us or Hurting Us?

Getting to this time in the semester, we’re all stressing out about these huge exams that are worth 20, 25, or even 30% of our entire grade. The more percentage the exam counts for our grade, the more we stress out. That’s a natural response over something that everyone in college and people who will hire us afterward is focused on, high GPA and test scores. The question I constantly ask myself is this high-state testing helping push us to our very best potential, or is it causing more stress and having us focus on testing more than if we actually learn and apply the subject to the rest of our lives? This something education is supposed to be all about, but has it lost its way?

Looking at this from the perspective of science, we have to have a hypothesis that we can test. The null hypothesis is that testing does not affect us, something we know not to be true. For better or worse, testing will always affect us in one way or another. So, we’re left with two alternate hypotheses:

Either testing makes us worse off than before, which we can test with things like stress levels, performance on the tests, and differences in how countries handle testing. We’ll call this alternate hypothesis #1.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


Testing makes us better off than before, which we can test with our nationwide performances on test scores, achievement gains since implementation, or how it compares to old test scores before we changed our testing policies. We’ll call this alternate hypothesis #2.

Background: Before we get into the study, which was done by Brian Jacobs in 2002, I first want to go through the previous studies that Jacobs went through in order to find correlation with his studies. The first thing that should be mentioned is the majority of exams that are measured in studies like this focus on high school graduation exams. This makes sense, considering that these are both high-stakes for the students (getting a good grade on this might help them get into college) and also will have a higher pool of students over the college level. Interestingly, Jacobs found studies that have a positive association (Bishop 1998, Frederisksen 1994, Neill 1998, Winfield, 1990), but also found a study that had no increase in achievement (Jacob 2001). So, basically, he found conflicting studies that can mean either of our alternate hypotheses is indeed correct. There were about 8-12 other studies that Jacobs looked at before conducting his own research, but this too proved to be a mixed bag. Just like Andrew often has said to us in class, science and studies just don’t seem to agree with each other and make things easy. The question is, which studies are wrong and which are right?


Before we get into the study, I wanted to share this video about the testing standards Jacobs studied, and why many view it as a failure.

The Procedure: In 1996, high-stakes assessment was implemented in Chicago. This focused on having students be accountable for learning, mostly by stopping the “social promotion” practice, which basically means that students would advance to the next grade, no matter what. If the students fail to perform to Chicago’s new standards in math and reading, they have kept back another grade until the standards are met and were put into 6 weeks of mandatory summer school. Looking for first-time test takers, Jacobs looked to see if their scores increased over time in this low-income, mostly African American environment to see if it helped in any way. The independent variable in this scenario is the new test policies, while the dependent variable is the reading, science, math, and social studies scores that the kids receive in these new tests.

The Results: This was quickly met with problems, however. Third graders who took the test failed to meet the criteria almost half of the time. On top of that, six and eighth graders failed 33% of the time. Obviously, Jacobs has focused on an observational study on this point. Unless you could convince a school board that you want to have some kids tested more high-stakes than some others, it would be incredibly difficult to have an experimental study. So, Jacobs is doing the best he can; looking at a low-income, low-grade area and seeing how high-stake assessment is doing.

Obviously, looking at the data above, it’s not doing well. When 33% of your upper-level students and 50% of you lower level students fail to meet the standards, there are two possibilities. Either the standards are too high and cannot be met, or you haven’t been teaching these kids right for years prior. Either way, it shows our educational system is incredibly flawed. However, something drastic happened in regards to math and reading scores. Beginning in 1993, test scores in math began to steadily increase each year. However, this may not be due strictly to the implementation of the new policy, but rather the changing of teaching to prepare students for the testing. Either way, it does seem to have increased both math and reading scores steadily. By the year 2000, math scores increased by 0.3 deviations higher than it’s 1993 counterpart.

More interestingly, low-achieving students (the ones used for the data above) may have done better in math and reading, but fell farther behind in science and social studies. This raises the question, did they really increase with high-stake assessment, or did they shift the focus to math and reading because it looked better for the school district (and thus would get them more money)?

So, in conclusion, the answer isn’t as cut-and-dry and we may have hoped. We ‘ve seen this a lot in class, with studies like the prayer hypothesis that didn’t affect mortality rate but did help them get out sooner (although that was later debunked). Although test scores did increase greatly in math and reading, it went down in science and social studies. Likewise, students had to take summer school between 33-50% of the time in order to advance to the next great because standards have not been met. The question is, did the scores increase because students worked harder with tougher standards, or did the administration just shift focus towards math and reading to get better test scores, and more money ,for their school?

If we had to choose between alternate hypothesis #1 or alternate hypothesis #2 and didn’t choose to put it in a file drawer, we’d have to go with #2 due to it increasing math and reading scores significantly. You can argue that the decrease in scores in social studies and science is temporary, and will increase over time as more focus is put back into those subjects after math and reading increases. Likewise, students not meeting standards increasing may be due to the change in standards taking an adjustment. Therefore, I would take this conclusion with a grain of salt. However, the increase in test scores show that these standards may be due to a bunch of different reasons, but it did increase test scores, which is exactly what it was meant for.

Should You Vaccinate?

We’ve all heard the debate on the internet and the news in the past few months, should you or should you not vaccinate? As you know, vaccination is giving yourself (or your child) a shot that gives them a killed/not harmful virus in order to stimulate your body’s immune system, making antibodies and thus lessening the chance of getting that disease. However, in recent years parents across the country have gone against vaccinating their kids, stating that vaccination harms you far more than any benefits it may give. You may have your own opinion on this topic, but let’s look at this scientifically.

First, we’re going to be looking at what the null and alternate hypotheses are. The null suggests that the vaccination does nothing, making them useless. More interestingly, there are two alternate hypotheses in this case. Either the vaccination makes you better, or it makes you worse. Regardless, it does affect you in some way, making both an alternate hypothesis. There’s also chance to look out for, perhaps in the form of you getting better/not getting the illness but not due to the vaccination or getting the illness even though you took the vaccination. Reverse causation would mean that getting better or worse makes the vaccination, making it not possible in this case. So, we have three options: The null hypothesis, alternative hypothesis 1 (vaccinations make you less susceptible to illness and disease), and alternate hypothesis 2 (vaccinations make you more susceptible to illness and disease, or make you worse off in some fashion).


Is vaccinating a good thing for you? Source

Background: Obviously, there are multiple ways to look at this question. We can look at how it affects children, how it affects a specific disease, etc. After looking through Google Scholar for some time, I finally found a study I thought would be relevant to us early adulthood students, especially the women of our class. We’re (hopefully) a bit of a way off from having kids of our own and likewise are well past a majority of our vaccinations. However, HPV is something that can significantly affect women at our age, so I believe that should be the focus of this blog. Obviously, the Human Papimillovirus (HPV) is extremely prevalent in young adult women, causing things like an increase in the risk of cancer, especially cervical cancer. This can make young women barren for life, according to this CDC article.

The Procedure: Now, onwards to the study, which happened in Queensland, Australia between 2007-2011. In this study, the researchers vaccinated the women, aged between 12-27 and having their first cervical pap smear, and observed their risk of cervical cancer over the next four years. Obviously, as we discussed in class, this is an observational study. The independent variable is the vaccination given, while the dependent variable is their health in the next four years. It should be mentioned that there wasn’t an ethics problem here, because instead of not giving HPV vaccines to women (which is very unethical and could cause them to get cervical cancer), they limited their participants to those getting a free, first time cervical pap smear, making sure there was no ethical bias. The participants were split into 4 groups based off of age: 11-14, 15-18, 19-22, and 23-27 years. This was used to determine the effectiveness of the vaccinations the older the woman gets. They then judged the data based on of their age, socioeconomic status, and remoteness to take those possible other causes off of the table.


Vaccine has made many diseases decrease between 75-100%! Source

The Results: Comparing the vaccination results to a controlled group of women’s cervical cancer rates. According to the study, there was a 46% reduced rate in high-grade cervical abnormalities amongst women who got vaccinated over those who didn’t, and a 34% reduced rate over any other kind of cervical abnormalities over the control. Needless to say, that is a big difference between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated. Another major point was that there was a benefit, albeit not a big one, to getting double vaccinated, bumping that rate even higher. The results also showed that the older you got, the less the vaccine helped prevent HPV. That’s quite an interesting finding that the study did not set out to find, but is definitely important in understanding when is the prime time to vaccinate women for HPV to get the best chance of cervical cancer prevention.

So, the data definitely supports the first alternate hypothesis we presented at the beginning of the blog. Indeed, the data clearly shows that the women who took the vaccination were almost half as likely not to get cervical cancer in the next four years. That’s a pretty good increase. In class, we often talk about if this data is guaranteed, or the hypothesis is ruled correct. Well, obviously there are hundreds of studies on the effects of vaccinations, but for this blog we’re only relying on this one source to verify that vaccinations have HPV. However, like Andrew said, the data shown tells you that it would be in your best interest to follow through and vaccinate yourself, especially at the young ages the women in our class.

Exploring the Effects of Stress on College Students

It’s getting that time in the semester where a lot of college students face an insurmountable amount of stress. Exams coming back lower than we anticipated, many assignments due, and just overall college is getting everyone stressed out. This is something that I personally am suffering with these blogs, much like some of you. I didn’t do well on blog period 1, and now I’m stressed at every sentence in my blogs to make sure they’re good enough for a good grade. The question I keep asking myself is, is this stress making me worse off?


Is stress making us worse off? Source

Looking at this from a scientific perspective, we have either the null hypothesis (stress is not affecting our health or over-all well being), or the alternate hypothesis (stress is indeed affecting our health or over-all well being). Reverse casuation is also something that could be possible here, as I know our grades or health may affect our stress levels, but in this blog we’re specifically looking if being stressed out will further advance the downward spiral that started when you got stressed, and how it affects things like our eating, sleeping, or exercise patterns.

Now, here is a quick video about how stress may affect our body:

Background: After a good bit of searching on the topic, I came across this study done in 2006 in the New York area that tested how stress affected mood, self-esteem, and a person’s daily habits. Before I get into what the study was and what it found, I want to share some earlier this article shared and what those studies found before they explained their findings. First off, women in college are more likely to experience more amounts of stress than men, according to these studies the journal mentioned (Mallinckrodt, Leong, & Kralj, 1989; Cahir & Morris, 1991; Toews, Lockyer, Dobson, & Brownell, 1993; Nelson, Dell’Oliver, Koch, & Buckler, 2001). Likewise, those who worked a lot of hours outside of their studies experienced a massive stress increase over those who didn’t work said hours. This is related to the same names and studies listed above. Likewise, it should be noted that these studies were based on of doctorate programs, which entails higher levels of work, and therefore higher levels of stress than us in the undergraduate level.


Stress causes more irritability, nervousness, impulsiveness, emotional instability, among other things according to the study listed above. Source

The Procedure: So these studies showed what kinds of emotions people were experiencing due to stress and the likelihood of getting stressed, but they never went far enough to see how this affected people’s lives. This is where the New York study comes in. In this study, the participants were 65 graduate students. Of those 65, 49 were female and 16 were men, with the age ranging from 22-49. Using a questionnaire, the researchers asked the participants to first assess their stress using the Student Stress Scale created by Insel & Roth in 1991. In this study, stress was assessed by a number between 1-100 (minor stressful events get a lower score, more stressful events lead to a higher score). The participants looked at the 31 potential events that the Student Stress Scale measured, and wrote down the events that happened to them recently.

Then, the participants went through more questions asking about their daily habits, from a 1-5 scale (1 being not at all, 5 being daily). Questions like alcohol/tobacco use, eating patterns, and proper sleep was analyzed through these questions. High scores meant that there was a big shift from the normal, and low scores meant a little/no shift from the normal. Likewise, mood was also tested with the same 1-5 scale, being asked how often they were in positive moods in the last month. This was based on 20 variables The higher the score in mood, the better the person’s mood was. Finally, students were asked to base their self-esteem on the SD-SA scale (SD meaning strongly disagree, SA meaning strongly agree) after being asked multiple questions about their self-esteem. The higher the score on this, the better the self-esteem.


Results: Before saying the results of the study, it should be mentioned that the participants filled out the questionnaire at home, then mailed them anonymously to the researchers so the researchers would be blind to who wrote what questionnaire. So, although this wasn’t an observational or experimental study, it was a blind one. Therefore, things like independent/dependent variables were not put in place and measured. As we know from class, observational and experimental studies are far more likely to actually find the answer to the hypothesis than just asking them, as personal bias’ may make it hard for them to be truthful. Therefore, you may want to take the results of this study with a grain of salt.

Likewise, I’m not going to include the data of the study on the blog, but feel free to look at the data on this journal. According to the results, interestingly enough, the graduate students mostly experienced low stress and were somewhat satisfied in themselves. Changes in eating habits, positive moods, and both smoking and alcohol habits were not related to higher levels of stress. However, both sleeping, negative moods, and exercise was greatly related to stress. That means that these graduate students felt more stressed with more exercise (!!!) and less sleep, along with negative mood. Surprisingly, however, eating habits, drinking/smoking, and positive moods were not affected by the stress.

So, the study does indeed conclude the alternate hypothesis-stress does indeed affect our health and well-being, albeit less than one might originally have thought. This is due to it not affecting positive moods, eating habits, or drinking/smoking as one would think it would. However, some possible other explanations for these results could be geographical (only choosing students from New York), the oversampling of women over men, and the fact that the study was neither an experimental or observational. Therefore, the alternate hypothesis was the conclusion of this study, but be wary of a false positive that more studies might find. So next time you’re feeling stressed out, maybe try to meditate, breathe, or take your workload one thing at a time, before you let it affect your well-being. And always remember, stress is a temporary thing and, although we all feel it right now, it will get better soon.



Does Music Affect Our Moods Significantly?

Throughout history and culture, through all ages and races, we all listen to music of some sort. Whether to pass time while walking to class or to have something playing in the background while studying, we hear music almost every single day. We often see on Apple Music or Spotify’s curated playlists that there are playlists associated with moods. Playlists for studying, for break-ups, for parties, there seems to be a playlist for everything. My question is, is there any scientific backing that music can affect our moods significantly. As in, can we put on some Bruno Mars if we’re feeling down and get happy quicker? As I see it, there are two possible hypotheses-either music affects our moods and we likewise are affected by it (alternate hypothesis), or it does not (null hypothesis) .

Obviously, chance is always something we have to worry about, as we can never rule it out. Reverse causality (instead of music affecting our emotions, our emotions affect our music choice) is something that we usually do, but it does not explain the answer that we’re looking for: can we change mood with music. We cannot change mood by already choosing the songs associated with that mood, as that will only reinforce it. We have to pick songs associated with a different mood to see if that changes the mood in that song’s favor to test this hypothesis. Therefore, we are down to either the alternate hypothesis or the null hypothesis. I aim to find studies seeing if we are affected by music and in turn test the hypothesis that we can get happier just by listening to music associated with that mood.



How much does music affect our mood? Source

 According to this study done in the early 1990’s by the British department of psychology at the University of Keele, music does have a great impact on mood. After having 500 participants fill out a questionnaire, researchers chose 83 respondents from a wide variety of music backgrounds. Of those 83, there were 34 professional musicians, 33 amateurs, and 16 who do not perform but listen to music often. In this study, the researchers had all 83 individuals listen to music, and asked them to write down how often things happened like shivering down the spine, laughter, racing heart, sweating, and tears while listening , among others. On a 1-5 scale (5 being very often, 1 being almost never), the top three results were shivers down the spine, laughter, and tears, which were all between the 3 and 4 range. It would be very difficult to find that chance can cause laughter and tears while the participants were listening to music, but that is always a possibility.


The researchers further went to see how they responded to individual notes, which I would highly recommend reading as it is extremely interesting, but it’s not very relevant to the question at hand. Likewise, it should be noted that this was not either an experimental experiment nor an observational one. Instead, the participants were simply asked these questions, which they then wrote down for the researchers. This can be argued to make the study and it’s data less trustworthy, but there is still something to be said about the data it produced. Not only did this music cause laughter and tears/chills on a “quite often” level, these emotions would occur more often the more you listened to it. So this goes to show that something is indeed causing us to react to the music, causing happiness (laughter) or sadness (tears). The next question I have is, can we change moods just by listening to music?

After extensive research looking for the answer, I came across this Music as Therapy PDF study looking at how music affected the moods of patients about to go into surgery. Using a randomized control trial, it was revealed that music therapy greatly affected the moods of patients and even reduced how much anaesthesia they needed. They had the independent variable be the music, while the dependent variable is how the people felt after they listened to said music. There were multiple examples across the board to back up this data. Men undergoing prostate surgery felt less anxiety and had reduced blood pressure when listening to music than did those in the control group who had no music. Patients undergoing spinal surgery needed less sedative during surgery after listening to music for only 20 minutes prior.


Likewise, the same type of study done on children produced a similar result. The results actually go to show that playing music during procedures will greatly reduce stress over a control group that just had the procedure with no music. Needless to say, all of these examples provide great insight that indeed, music significantly can help moods, even in times of great stress and anxiety like surgery. That, with the previous research we talked about, gives multiple studies that show that indeed, music affect moods. That research on its own may seem spotty at best, but paired with this research it helps make the alternate hypothesis seem much more likely. This confirms the alternate hypothesis we set out to find at the beginning of the post, and it goes to show that if you’re feeling down in the near future, music can fix it rather quickly.

Finally, if you have time I suggest you watch this TED talk on how music affects moods. I think you’ll find it quite interesting

Showering Everyday: Good or Bad for Your Health?



We’ve all sat next to that person in class, the one who smells like they haven’t showered in days. We always wonder, “Why can’t they just shower everyday, are they trying to push people away?”. Personally, I shower between once or twice a day, depending if I worked out that day. I never understood people who don’t do the same thing I do. Societal norms tell us that we should shower every single day (at least in America, in Europe it’s every few days). So, we’re going to see what science has to say about the matter.  As we discussed in class, science is a formalized error detection system. Therefore, it’s the perfect thing to use to determine if it’s good or bad for you to shower everyday.


THE GOOD: According to this article, there are many reasons you should shower everyday. Not only does it make you smell better by getting the sweat and natural oils off of your body, but it also does things like increase blood flow, reduce stress (because who can be stressed in a shower!?), boosts the immune system, improves sleep, among other great benefits (these are listed from the same article listed above). Likewise, it also opens up your pores, making you look better to others and feel better as a result. Obviously, there are massive benefits to keeping your hygiene up. And now we know that not only does it make you smell better for all of those around you, but it also helps you in other ways as well.

THE BAD: Obviously, taking a shower everyday will use up a lot of water, something we have to be mindful of in this day and age. According to this article on the guardian, the average 10 minute shower uses 60 litres of water, a truly staggering amount considering how many times I shower a week. Likewise, more showers=a higher electricity bill per month. Again, according to the same article, the cost of a family of four showering everyday equals about $450 extra a month, something that a lot of families probably cannot afford. This goes to show that, while showering everyday may be good for your health, it may be bad for your bank account (something that we, unfortunately, put a lot of focus on). Likewise, the same article talk about how using a lot of shampoo/soap on your hair and body can be damaging to your skin and hair. Your hair has natural oils that get damaged, causing your hair to become brittle (which is why you need conditioner as well to keep your hair soft, costing you more $$$$). This can lead to baldness later in life and can also lead to skin conditions as well.


So, in reality, the answer is that I have no answer for you. While my hypothesis was that showering would be beneficial for you (which it is, in a way), my research showed that it can also be harmful for your health in other ways, and likewise put a hole in your wallet. So, in essence, I would say that you should shower as you see fit, so long as you aren’t too smelly next to me in class, because there are positives and negatives to showering daily and to showering weekly. Obviously in the summer, or if you are an active person like me, you should probably shower everday. However for others it may be perfectly acceptable to wait a few days between showers!


Sometimes, science doesn’t answer the question, but rather make you more unsure of the answer. Unfortunately, in this case it’s the latter, and I now am not sure if I’m making the right decision showering so often. Often in science evidence may change your hypothesis, and this may be one of those times for me. Hopefully this article at least informed you on reasons to or to not shower. But remember, the next time you’re in bed and know you should shower but you’d rather lie there an extra 20 minutes before class, that it may not be that big of a deal.

Finally, I wanted to show you this video on why showering everyday might not be all it’s chalked up to be.

Thanks for reading!


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Dehumanization and the Science Between Athletic Rivalries

Ever since sports have been around, there have been rivalries between the people who play it. The Yankees vs the Red Sox, the Steelers and the Ravens, Michigan State and Michigan, Mcgregor and Diaz. These are all rivalries that are synonymous with sports, ones that everyone in America knows and, when they collide, people love to watch. And it shows in ticket sales, according to this article. The average ticket price for a regular season baseball game is $39, a very acceptable fee, all things considered in 2016. However, this jumps up to over $100 in the first season series of the Yankees/Sox, showing a heavy demand to see the biggest rivalry in baseball go another year. The question is, why do we care so much about rivalries, or sports in general? Why does it happen? Is the correlation between rivalries and higher interest related? Or is it just due to chance, which we learned is always a possible answer? Likewise, is reverse causation an option? In essence, I’m asking if the rivalry creates the fanbase, or does the fanbase create the rivalry?

A major reason that we care for rivalries in sports is simple, it keeps us together. Rivalries are a way of linking ourselves to our past, something that humans desperately strive for. In human nature, it’s incredibly common for us to want some sense of routine and comfort. Likewise, we also enjoy rivalries due to the rituals it provides for us. If we associate a Ravens/Steelers game with a good memory, with us cheering with family or loved one in the stands as your favorite team won, it makes us want to see those two go at it again next year. Our mind will associate the good memory and sense of belonging with the team, making us fans of said team for life.


Like most of you, I associate my favorite teams in sports with my family’s favorite teams. I like the Yankees because my dad likes the Yankees, and he does because his dad did, and it goes on and on. The main reason for this, according to the same article, is because we learn most of things in life from our family at an early age. We do so in order to get closer with our family, the people who provide for us, giving us a bond that we share for life. Likewise, it’s often the team that is on TV or that you see live first, usually resulting in that now being your “team”, the team you most associate with that sport. It is very rare for people to go out of their family’s team and find their own, but it does happen. In reality, however, most of the time you stick to the same teams your parents like, showing that family bonds is a strong proponent for your team choice.


Why do fans go so crazy for ‘their’ football teams?

Shifting gears, I want to talk about what makes a good sports rivalry. The reason is three-fold, and the first reason a rivalry exists and people come in droves to see it is that there has to be a common between the teams. Whether it be that they’re in the same division (like the Yankees/Red Sox) or fighting over a title (McGregor/Diaz), people need to relate the two teams together in order to care that they’re fighting each other. Likewise, people need to see these matches often in order to care. When Texas and Texas A&M stopped their long series of matches every year, people stopped associating it to as a rivalry because they don’t play one another anymore. Teams need to play each other at least once a season, or in big match situations, and it always has to be important for people to care. Lastly, the people playing need to be on a relative skill level to one another in order to people to care for it. If the Yankees blew out the Red Sox for 10 years straight, people wouldn’t be excited to see them face off anymore because they already would know the results. It’s true that often sports rivalries have a very close win/loss record against one another-The Yankees only have won barely 50% of their games over the Red Sox in 116 years (about 50.6%), according to this article.


McGregor and Diaz going toe-to-toe in the biggest rematch in UFC history

In sociology, the classic idea of in-group versus out-group mentality makes you view this rival team or even rival team fans as lesser human beings. You become biased in your group over the out-group, making everything they do or like wrong and everything you do right. This can even turn into dehumanization, or the aspect of stripping away human characteristics from people in order to not relate to them. This is done on a larger scale in war in order to have soldiers not feel as bad about killing people, making them see the enemy as monsters over humans that have families. Similarly, governments will play propaganda videos like this one in order to make citizens hate the enemy, making them out to be evil and us the “good guys” in order to keep their support during the war.

In sports, however, this in-group mentality can also create dehumanization, making us feel above our rivals in some way or another. We often view normal sports calls as “bad calls” or “rigged” when playing our rivals. When we lose to them, we don’t accept that they were the better team. It all goes against our in-group mentality. Therefore, the correlation between violence between teams and their fans can be attributed to this dynamic.

So, in essence, you choose to follow sports rivalries because they’re always interesting, they relate back to good memories for you, and because they connect you with others, making you feel included. Basically, sports and rivalries keep us together and make us feel like we belong, something that is inherently important to us as humans. Obviously, the leaders of sports teams want you to be invested in the rivalries in order to create more revenue for them, making them richer in the process. Likewise, those covering it (ESPN, NBC, ABC) want you to tune in so they get more money. Basically, everyone wins, which is why sports and rivalries are so huge . This rivalry also creates the ‘rabid’ sports fans you see on TV, causing damage, fights, and even rioting when their team loses. When they lose, we feel like we lost too. That’s part of the in-group mentality mentioned earlier in the article. And we view the opponents as cheap, or hate them for no apparent reason simply because they’re our team’s rivals, and we are indoctrinated to do so by the media, by our family, and by our very own minds by dehuminization. The next time we play Maryland or Pitt in football, remember that the other fans are just like us, and remember their players are people too, and try not to get caught up in rivalries.

Thanks for reading:)


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   We’ve all heard this debate countless times throughout our high school and college years in America… Which sport is truly “tougher”, American Football (which will now be referred to just as football, sorry internationals) or Rugby? Having played football for 15 years myself, I have heard the massive complaints from Rugby fans or players that Rugby is tougher because they don’t wear any protective padding. Obviously, this always struck me as odd, considering of the countless amounts of hits, injuries, and overall toughness that I have seen over the years as a player, fan, and spectator. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to have my first blog post focus on this question I’ve wanted an answer to my entire life. Which sport truly is the toughest out there? In class, we talked about the options presented towards us, so I see two options here. Either rugby causes more injuries, with the lack of pads contributing to a higher injury count, or football causes more injuries due to the added force its players put into hits because they feel better protected with pads. Without a doubt, revese causation is thrown out the window, as you cannot attribute that the injuries cause football or rugby. We’ll also be looking later on why these injuries might happen, or if third parties like the weather cause more injuries.

A massive hit in football, throwing the recipient's helmet completely off

A massive hit in football, throwing the recipient’s helmet completely off

According to a post by NCAA or the National College Athletic Association, the overall injury rate per every 1,000 athlete exposures (practices included) is 8.1. That may not seem like a lot, but looking at the big picture, there were 41,000 injuries in football per 25 million athletic exposures in just five years. Think about that, 41,000 injuries in FIVE YEARS. That truly is a staggering amount.

How may Rugby compare in this kind of data? Well, according to this powerpoint by the USA Rugby association, the injury rate per 1,000 player exposures for Rugby is about 6.6. Now this, compared to the NCAA statistics shown earlier, may not seem like much, but it does have the upper hand to the 4.4 injury rate per 1,000 player exposures that high school football has, according to the same powerpoint. However, as both are collegiate programs, football does have the upper hand thus far.


A rugby player takes a spear from an opponent, with no padding whatsover

So, in reality, both Rugby and football have a staggering amount of injuries, more than any other sports. And, although it may seem like football has the upper hand right now, you still need to look at where the injuries are taking place to properly see what indeed is the tougher sport.



According to the same NCAA article listed above, a little bit of over 50% of injuries occur in the lower body. These include: Broken legs/toes, stretched/torn ligaments in both of the knees, thighs, and ankles, and also contusions in the same areas. Rugby, on the other hand, only has 16% of their injuries affecting their lower body or brain, according to previously mentioned powerpoint.  Therefore, 84% of their injuries involve upper body injuries in some capacity, whether their shoulders, arms, ribs, or any other body parts. In essence, football has the upper hand in lower body injuries and concussions (7.4% on concussions ALONE, with over 45% of concussions not being reported), while Rugby has far more upper body injuries. This makes sense, as the upper body is the most supported in football. However, the shocking thing to me is football players, who wear helmets, have more concussions per exposure than their helmetless counterparts. Likewise, terrifying neck injuries also seem to be more common in Collegiate football than Collegiate Rugby, which goes to show that the padding provided in football isn’t truly making the sport safer. The most common reasoning for the increase of neck and head injuries in football over Rugby is due to the ability for football players to use their upper shoulder pads and helmets to tackle opponents, something Rugby does now allow.

Here’s a brief video clip of some big football hits over the years (viewer discretion advised)

Likewise, here’s a video clip of big Rugby hits (viewer discretion still advised)


So far, we’ve talked about the injuries that, while obviously painful and take a good amount of time to recover from, are not fatal. Other than the brain and neck injuries mentioned, most of these injuries won’t have significant effects on you the rest of your life. However, I don’t think we can firmly make a decision between the two sports until we talk about the worst tragedy in sports…fatalities. In Rugby, fatalities are almost unheard of. Due to the rules of the sport, where tackling below the waist and wrapping the legs to bring people down is common, Rugby offers a much safer environment for brain and neck injuries, as mentioned previously. Unfortunately, you cannot say the same for football. According to this article, there is an average of 12.2 deaths PER YEAR, or about 1 in every 100,000 participants. This doesn’t just come from brain or neck injuries as one might expect, however, as there is also cardiac failure as well as heat exhaustion. Many times during the beginning of the season, kids don’t get enough water in the 100+ degree heat, and pass out, possibly causing their death in the process. A truly horrible circumstance that has happened to too many children in America. The correlation between deaths and football is something that really needs to be focused on.

As we discussed in class, the correlation between  injuries and football is not just due to chance, or by a third party. No, there is a direct causation. You play football, you’re far more likely to recieve injuries than if you don’t. So, looking at all of the evidence presented and what they show, it all points to football being the “tougher” (or more dangerous, depending how you look at it) sport. Having the higher rate of injury in the lower body, neck, head, and fatalities give it the upper hand over Rugby. Likewise, football also has more injuries per athletic exposure than Rugby does. Playing for 15 years, I’ve had many broken fingers and toes, a broken nose, three broken ribs, a torn shoulder and bicep, and bad back, and three concussions. I personally know the damage this sport can cause. I believe the reason that football has so many more injuries is actually having pads on. In Rugby, the players know not to tackle with their heads because they don’t have any protection, and likewise don’t hit as hard. Football players often find themselves invincible in pads, and thus throw their entire body behind their hits. That, along with bad timing or bad technique, can cause the serious injuries we’ve seen. Instead of bragging that my sport is indeed tougher, I’m more disappointed at how many injuries football players have to contend with every year. It’s definitely an issue, and steps have been taken in recent years to make it better. However, this isn’t enough, and I hope if I have a son and he plays in the future that he won’t have as many injuries as I did or caused while playing.


Thanks for reading guys!


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Science, a Love and Hate Relationship

Hi everyone! My name is Isaac and I’m a junior here at Penn State, just transferring in after two years at a small school by here called Juniata. I’m studying Social Studies Secondary Education with a minor in Sociology and Special Education.  I’m taking this course because there are a few pre reqs I need to get before I can graduate, a science course included. I’m not a science because, although I enjoy the more philosophical science this course has to offer, I always found that classes such as Chemistry or Biology were worthless for my life as a History teacher.

The most science I’ve learned in life is from this guy –>




I wanted to add this awesome science clip for you guys to see, so click here