Author Archives: Jennafer Palmer

If You’re Lefty and You Know It


This might sound weird but I take pride in being left handed. Probably because we are a rare species of humans. Especially when only two other people in my family are also. They are both on my father’s side of the family; my grandfather and one of my male cousins. I see it as a novelty. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely used to get on my nerves in middle school when I would write my notes in pencil and the lead you leave a big smudge on the side of my hand and smeared letters on my paper. But I really do love it about myself. Makes me feel special. It got me to wondering the differences between being either left or right handed?

I didn’t realize that only about 10% of the population is left handed. We live in a predominately right handed world. Which apparently can have subtle Dr. Ronald Yeo, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas- Austin says that during fetal development that hand dominance is determined pretty early. So does genetics come into play when it comes to an individual being either left or right handed? Well apparently genetics are only 25% responsible, according to Yeo. However, it does run in families but its not as dominate as height and intelligence. This makes sense to me because there such a small group of us in my family who are left handed. It makes me wonder the likely hood that my kids, when I have them, will be left handed. There even seems to be a lot of theories about what determines a persons writing hand is. Many experts feel that it is really a matter of chance. One theory in particular that I found interesting is from a British study that found that super-stressed women who are pregnant can cause a fetus to touch their faces with their left hands more than their right hand. This website suggests that our internal workings and fine motor skills prove that a lot of our anatomy is not as balanced as we assume it to be. Gina Grimshaw, who is the director of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, says that more people that are right handed use the left side of their brains, which is where language is processed. However, that does not mean that left handed people use the right side of their brains. What I’ve found from talking to people is that when they were little they wrote with one hand but then their parents corrected them and conditioned them to write with the opposite (mostly from left to right handed). But that is more along the lines of cultural norms and superstition.

So it seems that there really is no way to determine why people are left handed or right handed. It can be looked as a matter of one or the other.

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Science and Vampires

I’m just like any other 22-year-old girl who fell in love with vampires when Twilight hit center stage. I will say when I was about ten years old that my aunt made me watch Interview with a Vampire with her (lots of movies that were scary to me at the time actually) except for this one I didn’t think it was scary. I thought vampires were pretty cool, for the basic reasons; immortality and psych-kinetic powers. Even though Ann Rice set the ground work for me with my fascination with vampires, Stephenie Meyers sent my teenage self into a whole other world. Her vampires are different than the traditional vampire and she caught a lot of flack from people because of it. Personally I thought she brought something new to the creature and she made a ton of money while doing it so all the power to her. I won’t get into all the differences, but one characteristic that lines up is some type of reaction when exposed to sun light. For traditional vampires they blow up, and in Anne Rice’s case, they turn to ash. Essentially, they die. Whereas Meyer’s vampires skin reflects off the sun and sparkles in the sunlight. This is where I had my epiphany moment. Traditional vampires condition with the sun can be thought of as having a sun allergy, times a million.


My Husband


You’re probably wondering where the heck I’m going with this. I’ve been seeing a dermatologist this summer due to a allergic skin reaction I was having to a medication that I was taking. My symptoms were red spots on my inner arms, inner thighs, and chest. These spots would be irritating and very itchy, and since I scratched them, they spread to up around my neck. She was rather puzzled by this because of how they developed she and her colleague were not quite sure how it developed. When She found out that I was on a biologic medication that for an autoimmune disease I have, we both came to the realization that being on a drug like that compromises the immune system. That was a piece of the puzzle for her so she did some more tests on pieces of my skin. In no way am I comparing myself to a vampire but I thought it was an interesting correlation. Even though it may sound crazy for someone to be allergic to the sun, its very much so a medical condition.

The general scientific term for a sun allergy is called “Photosensitivity”. This is caused by having a have a skin reaction to sunlight that is caused by a disruption in the immune system. This mostly happens when the skin is exposed to the sun. The areas of the body that have been seen to get affected the most from sun-exposure are the “V” of the neck, the back of the hands, the outside surface of the arms, and the lower legs. This reaction can sometimes look like tiny blisters, a rash, or even a skin eruption, but that is a rare occurrence. Excluding the back of my hands, my skin has reacted in those areas. Doctors do not know why this happens to some people and not to others but there is evidence that suggests that some sun allergies are inherited genetically. Some common types of sun allergies are; Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), Actinic prurigo (hereditary PMLE), Photoallergic eruption, and Solar urticaria. Here is a site that talks more about sun allergies.


This is roughly what my chest looked like.

From looking at some of these I can rule out a couple of them but I won’t self diagnosis myself because that leads to unnecessary anxiety. I know I won’t blow up in the sunlight like a vampire or even sparkle (I’m not that cool), but I do know that, at least for some people, vampires and humans seem to have that in common. Even if its on a basic level for humans.

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Deeply Sad Orca Truth

I don’t think I know anyone else that loves Orca Whales as much I love them. I truly believe they are my spirit animal. It all started back in the 90’s and early 2000’s when the Free Willy franchise was on VHS and I had a prop necklace of a Native American riding on the back of a Orca that the protagonist of the movie was given to by a Native American man. Native Americans in the Pacific North West call them Blackfish believe that the Orca whale represents great power and to see one in person is a significant omen. The whale in those movies was Keiko, and his story deserves a whole post of his own. Jumping forward into the future my love for them began to grow all over again when the mistreatment of Orca whales became a trending topic in the Media. Sea World was put on the front page again when in 2013 CNN premiered a documentary called “Blackfish”, which highlighted the captivity of killer whales in Sea World and other marine life parks. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. The first time I watched it I was crying so hard that I was glad that my roommate had decided to go out that evening.


I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. After watching this film I reflected on the fact that the first time I went to Disney in Orlando I wanted to visit Sea World. I wanted to see the Killer whale show. But on the day we decided to go, the park was closed. In that moment I was disappointed and really sad. But that small shred of disappointment would pale in comparison to the regret I would feel as a young adult for endorsing not only a show but an entire corporation that damages the psyche of such a beautiful and intelligent creature. It’s one of the many examples where man has completely disregarded another life. A life that, in my opinion, is lived to fullest more than some human lives are. This may make me sound like a crazed animal rights activists, but one cannot simply know about these animals and not feel a passion for being their voice when they have truly been wronged and displaced; all for the entertainment of man.

I feel that it’s important to give a prime example to back up the the points that I am going to cover that prove why Orca Whales do not belong in captivity. I will be providing perspective from a book by David Kirby called “Death at Sea World: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity” that I read that highlights Sea World, the science behind Orca’s complex social skills and what in their biology made them evolve that way. The star of this post is a bull Orca  that has been in the business since he was baby and since growing up in a concrete pool gave him no stimulation, he has evolved into a psychological ticking time bomb that can only end in violence. His name is Tilikum.


Tilikum is a 12,500 pound, 22 feet in length Orca whale (making him the largest Orca in captivity) that was captured in 1983 as a young whale, separating him from his pod. Orca whales travel in pods. Within these pods the whales have complex social skills which is reflected in how they interact with one another. One thing that I find most interesting about their family dynamics is that the male Orcas never leave their mothers side. from the time of birth till death they are within the vicinity of their mothers. The females in their societies are dominant and children are taught things and disciplined by the mother. One way that scientist have really seen their social interaction is when they hunt together as a pod. These families can be made up of at least 20 whales and made up of three generations; the grandmother, the mothers, and the children of the mothers. Day by day they work together strategically to lure their prey exactly where they want it before attacking and sharing their kill. A lot of the teaching that is done with the younger Orcas is very hands on, especially when it comes to hunting. When they are not hunting for food they are interacting with one another by playing, which sometimes includes tossing a live animal in the air and catching it, and jumping in and out of the water. Scientist have found that they are able to have such elaborated social lives because they have a part of their brain that humans do not. The area that is part of the Paralimbic region is more elaborated and larger than that of humans. This is where they are able to process complex emotions and thinking. It is because of this that they have evolved into having such dynamic social groups.

Orcas are separated into two main groups called Resident and Transient Orcas. Transient Orcas are native to the Pacific North West and Resident Orcas are native to Washington State, British Colombia and Alaska. Both of these groups are distinct in their food patterns which is the only real distinctive difference between them, i,e fish for Residents and marine mammals for Transients. Other differences between these animals are the structure of their dorsal fins and the saddle patch (grey spot on back) on transients is more forward on Transients. something that is common for all Orca ecotypes, including offshores, which are a least common and smaller form of the Orca species, is the fact that these creatures can live as long as human, and in some cases even longer than 80 years of age. Here is a video where you can get a sense of the hunting elegance of some Killer Whales teaching young ones on how to hunt and kill a male elephant seal

Orca Comparison

From the area of Iceland that Tilikum was captured and the characteristics of the whales that are in that area, he is more than likely a Resident Orca, who just like his counterparts is in need of his mother, social interactions, swimming hundreds of miles a day, and doing something as basic as hunt for his own food. Instead, he is reduced to floating in a pool that is too small for him to live in and be spoon fed fish that is filled with medicine that go against his natural genetic makeup. Since he was captured Tilikum has killed three people that have gotten to close to him and the two trainer incidents happened 20 years apart from one another. The Dawn Brancheau case became the turning point in history when it comes to questioning the ethics behind having such a majestic animal like the Orcinus Orca in captivity. It can be looked up anywhere, that there is no record of a Killer Whale harming a human in the wild. They are just as curious about us as we are about them and are known to come up to boats to interact with humans and be playful. Another scary thing that the documentary pointed out is that since Tilikum is a bull, he has been the main contributor to their breeding program. Since there is a history of aggression with this Orca, does it make sense to develop an entire breeding program around him? No. But to a corporation bent on making money at all costs, in that case, they don’t care. Now, there isn’t much scientific evidence on this, but on the outside, its disturbing to think that this whale is used as a sperm bank, one cannot help but wonder if his aggression will be passed down to his offspring. Here is a link to Tilikum’s “family tree”.

I could go on and on about this topic but I highly encourage anyone who is interested to read the book I mentioned above, and watch the documentary as well as others about these beautiful creatures.


Kirby, David. Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity. New York: St. Martin’s, 2012. Print.


Hi everyone, my name is Jennafer Palmer. I’m a senior and I’m taking this class to fulfill my last GS requirement. As an English major and Theatre minor, I have always had a respect for math and science and at the same time I have always kept it at arm’s length through my career as a student. I will say though that I have more of a respect for science than math(which I detest with every fiber of my being). I like learning things that involve science like in documentaries. And occasionally blowing things up in my high school chemistry class, those were fun times. I thought this class would be interesting though because it didn’t seem like a typical science class where there are right and wrong answers that revolve around formulas. My favorite thing to learn about when it comes to science are Dinosaurs. Yes, I said it. Freshman year I took a class called “Dinosaur Extinction and Other Controversies”. I loved the class but the only downside is that we didn’t actually talk about dinosaurs till week 14 of the semester. But everything that we learned leading up to that week was very interesting and I did well in the class considering that’s the first time I ever took a class like that and it pushed my level of thinking. Anyway, I love Dinosaurs and have since I was little. At one point I wanted to be a paleontologist, but decided that studying dinosaurs is something that I should leave as a hobby for when I need a break from writing. So yes is you’re wondering I love Land Before Time, all the Jurassic Park movies and the original and updated versions of Godzilla. I know they are just movies and certain accuracies are stretched for the sake of entertainment but it’s interesting how accurate and inaccurate the dinosaurs are compared to the time period portrayed in the movie. If I were to be a science major I think it would take the fun out of the things that I admire the most about science. I respect those that study and teach it for a living. As for me, I will continue to love it at a distance and do my independent research on the parts of science I personally love.

Jurassic Park