Author Archives: Joe Garrett

Is Being A Sports Fan Healthy For You?

As we are all well aware, Penn State is a huge football school, and with a huge football school comes many huge football fans, myself included. I have been a fan of Penn State football since I came to my first football game in 2010. That game ended up being Joe Paterno’s 400th career victory so it was a very special game. On top of being a Penn State fan I have been a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia Flyers for most of my life. The past few years in particular I have followed these two teams much more closely than I had in the past. When I was younger I would watch Eagles’ and Flyers’ games every now and then but not religiously like I do now. I am much more of devoted fan nowadays and I have truly grown to love watching football and hockey. Since I spend a fair amount of my time and energy rooting for my favorite teams I began to wonder if being a sports fan can have some health benefits. A null hypothesis for this question would be that being a sports fan does not have health benefits. I am hoping to be able to reject the null hypothesis.

PSU White Out

One of the main benefits of being a sports fan is that you immediately have a sense of belonging when you have a favorite team. No matter what team you root for there will always be other people rooting for the same team. This common likeness of a team means that someone can bond with a fellow fan almost instantly. Being a fan of a certain team gives us an “in” with other fans of the same team. For example if I were to go outside of Beaver stadium on Saturday and yell “Go Penn State!!” then I will more than likely get a bunch of drunken “Wooooos!” as a response. In that moment I would feel accepted by the group of other Penn State fans around me because we are rooting for a common goal; For Penn State to beat Ohio State. I could also easily go up and converse with any of the other Penn State fans around me since we know that we already have something in common that we can talk about before I have even opened my mouth. On top of meeting new people, sports is a great  way to be with your friends since you can meet up for the game(s) each week. Maintaining a close circle of friends is very beneficial to our health. It can even increase your chance of living longer by 50% and doubles your odds of surviving cancer according to a study from Brigham Young UniversityMaintaining supportive friendships can also lessen the physical and mental effects of stress.


On top of helping maintain relationships being a sports fan can also make you smarter according to study conducted by the University of Chicago. This study was done by having 12 pro and college level hockey players, 8 hockey fans, and 9 people who had seen or played the sport listen to a radio broadcast of a hockey game while a machine recorded their brain activity. After listening to the game the subjects were given a test analyze their comprehension of the game. The results of the study showed that the athletes and sports fans understood the game on a much higher level and showed brain activity in areas of the brain associated planning, controlling, and performing. These results suggest that even being a spectator of a game can help you absorb more information about the game and even become more prepared to play the game as well.

Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz

I believe that I can reject the null hypothesis since these two studies, on top of many others available, that being a sports fan has different health benefits. So whether you are rooting for the Nittany Lions or the Philadelphia Eagles being a sports fan is fun and beneficial to your health, so get out there and cheer for your favorite team.


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Is Pain All In Our Head?

As a skateboarder I spend a lot of time on my skateboard which eventually leads to me falling off of my skateboard. Falling is inevitable in skateboarding so it was in my best interest to learn how take the falls without letting them hurt too much. After years of skateboarding most minor scrapes and bumps don’t really bother me too much and I generally keep skateboarding if the injury is not too bad. I’ve also noticed that the pain of an injury is usually worse if I keep thinking about how it hurts, whereas if I tell myself that it doesn’t hurt that bad then it almost immediately starts to feel better. This lead me to the hypothesis that pain we feel after an injury is mostly in our mind and based on how bad we think it hurts. Another example I can think of that I’m sure many of you can relate would be when you hit your shin on a coffee table; While this hurts a lot initially, as long as you didn’t chip or break your shin bone, in theory the pain should subside very shortly after because no major damage was done. But sometimes the pain from hitting your shin feels like it lingers around for another minute or two after it has made contact with the coffee table. Based off my personal observation again, the pain from an incident like this goes away much faster if you think that it doesn’t hurt that bad versus thinking something along the lines of “My shin hurts so bad… This pain won’t go away”. I believe the placebo effect plays a big part in how we perceive pain and how bad an injury hurts.   

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A recent study published in the journal Pain found that patients who knowingly took a placebo pill for their lower back pain saw more improvement in reducing their back pain than those who were given traditional treatment alone. 97 patients suffering from chronic lower back pain were given a 15-minute explanation of what the placebo effect is before they were given their pills so they are well aware of what a placebo pill is. After they were given the explanation the patients were then split randomly into two groups; Treatment-as-usual (TAU) group or open-label placebo (OLP). Participants in both groups were taking anti-inflammatories before this study began and were instructed to keep taking the anti-inflammatories if they regularly take them and not to make any other major lifestyle changes such as starting a new exercise regimen or take a new medication, which could impact their pain levels. The patients in the OLP group were also given a medicine bottle labeled “placebo pills” and were instructed to take two pills per day. The pills contained no active medication for pain relief. After three weeks the OLP group overall reported 30 percent reductions in both usual pain and maximum pain. Usual pain being the amount of pain that is normally felt on a daily basis and maximum pain being the worst amount of pain they feel overall. Those numbers compare well to the TAU group which reported 9 percent reduction for overall pain and 16 percent reduction for maximum pain. The placebo group also saw a 29 percent reduction in pain-related disability whereas the TAU group saw little to no improvement in that category. That is an amazing difference for a pill that does nothing at all to help with pain.

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This experiment strongly correlates with the idea that pain is mostly in our head and we can make it go away with our own thoughts. When patients are being tested and given pills from doctors, it may make the placebo effect even stronger because the patients believe the doctor’s pills and instructions truly will make them feel better. I believe that this was a key part of this experiment working so well. 


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Does LSD Have Medical Benefits?

Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD and “Acid” is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic drug that was invented in 1943 by Albert Hofmann. The first person to do LSD and realize its powerful effects on the mind was Hofmann on April 19, 1943. This day is also known as “Bicycle Day” because Hofmann began to feel and notice the effects of the ingested LSD while he was riding his bike home. Upon his discovery Hofmann began to look for ways that LSD could be used for medicinal purposes. Other scientists began to do the same thing and there in fact over 1,000 scientific papers published studying the effects LSD can have on someone. Much research on LSD halted due to LSD becoming very popular in the 60’s due to the “hippie” and counterculture movement going on, particularly in America. Increased recreational use of the drug resulted in its prohibition. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency LSD is listed as a schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs and substances are said “to have no medical benefit and have a high potential of abuse” according to the DEA. 

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I personally believe that the DEA should not be the ones who decide what “schedule” level a drug should be. For example the DEA has also listed marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. This means that marijuana has “absolutely no medical value”, at least according to the federal government. This claim made by the DEA can be proven wrong very easily when it comes to marijuana. Just look at all of the states that have legalized medicinal marijuana, including Pennsylvania. Medicinal Marijuana has been proven to help with a multitude of health conditions such as cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, glaucoma and insomnia just to name a few.

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While there is no saying whether LSD has a high potential for abuse or not, the argument can be made that LSD does have some practical medical benefits. For example a study published Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2012, found that using LSD in combination with alcohol addiction programs helped decrease a person’s substance abuse. Another study, which was published in 2014 in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that when LSD was given to subjects under controlled conditions, over the course of two months, reduced the anxiety subjects had about terminal illness in the long term. All of the subjects in this study were facing advanced-stage terminal illness and decided to try this experiment to see if it could reduce their persistent anxiety. This experiment was a double-blind placebo trial in which the 12 subjects were either given a full dose of LSD (200 ug) or a placebo dose of LSD (20 ug) over the course of 30 sessions. In 22 of the sessions, subjects were given the full 200 ug dose of LSD and in 8 of the sessions the subjects were given the 20 ug Placebo dose. For reference, ~100 ug is the reported level of LSD needed to truly feel the effects but it varies from person to person. Even though it was small-scale the trial was a huge success in that ALL 12 patients reported feeling reduced levels of anxiety regarding their illnesses a full 12 months AFTER the trials had ended. This points to evidence that LSD may be very useful long term for an individual’s mental health.   

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Does having a pet increase happiness?

I am an animal lover who has two dogs at my home away from State College. I miss my two dogs very much as I’m sure many of you miss your pets when you leave for school. I would take my dogs to school with me if I could, but sadly I cannot. My dogs always cheer me up whenever I am having a bad day, which is great while I am at home but not so great when I am 3 hours away from them at Penn State. This observation lead me to believe that there may be a positive correlation between owning a pet and increased happiness.

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Psychology Today conducted three different studies which focused on the positive effects having a pet can do for someone. In one study 56 dog owners reported that their dog fulfilled social needs more than other people did. Social needs include but are not limited to a sense of belonging, control and self-esteem. It was also found that these 56 dog owners were happier and healthier than non-owners meaning that the owners were overall less-depressed, have greater self-esteem, are less lonely and less stressed. In another study which involved 217 community members, “pet owners were more physically fit, more conscientious, were more socially outgoing and had healthier relationship styles than people who did not own pets” (McConnell, 2011). While these two studies point to a positive effect between owning a pet and overall health and happiness, they are not experiments conducted in a controlled environment. The third experiment conducted by Psychology today was conducted in a controlled environment however, a laboratory.  For this controlled experiment 97 pet owners were made to either feel socially accepted or socially rejected. Those who were socially rejected either wrote about their pet, write about their best friend, or draw a map of campus (control). Those in the control group, who drew a map, reported that they felt worse after being socially rejected. The control group demonstrates that the social rejection that was manipulated was successful. The same social rejection techniques were applied to other two groups of people as well and the other two groups were equally as happy even though one group wrote about their dog and one group wrote about their best (human) friend. This shows that people can find happiness from their dogs as much as people find happiness from their best friends. This is a correlation that equates with dogs giving people happiness.

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While these three studies point to evidence that dogs increase people’s happiness I wanted to find another source in order to have more than one site as my source of information about this topic. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that owning   a pet leads to lower stress and depression levels. In another study sponsored by the National Health Institute which followed 2,500 adults from ages 71 to 82 years old. The study found that those who owned dogs had higher stamina, walked faster and for longer periods of time, and were more mobile within their own homes. This study did not directly track the amount of happiness that these people received from their pets but I believe that the factors that this study did track can also correlate with happiness. I believe that the people who own dogs are happier than those who don’t because they are more active and lead a healthier lifestyle. This means they are less likely to be sick and/ or practically stuck in their homes because it is too hard for them to move for an extended period of time. This last part is purely speculation on my part but I do believe that owning a pet increases a person’s happiness and quality of life.


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Does Music Increase Athletic Performance?

I enjoy listening to music when I am skateboarding, snowboarding or biking and I’m sure many of you enjoy listening to music while you are working out or to pump you up right before a big game. I listen to music during these activities because it helps me focus, try harder, and stay motivated. I began to wonder if there was some science behind why listening to music while doing something athletic seems to help me perform better.

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Music can be a great motivator, especially when you want to perform at the peak of your athletic ability. Music can help us focus on the task at hand and drown out weighing factors such as fatigue. A study conducted by Brunel University had thirty participants run on a treadmill while motivational or pop music was played. The participants were instructed to keep running on the treadmill while following the beat of the music. The scientists found that participants could go for much longer, to the point of near exhaustion for some, while listening to motivational or pop music. The scientists also noted that the participants were in the “feeling state”, meaning that they felt good, while exercising more often when they were listening to motivational or pop music. The study concluded that listening to motivational and pop music can increase endurance by 15% and make working out more enjoyable.

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While I believe this study was conducted well and shows positive results towards music positively increasing athletic performance, I believe a confounding variable for this study would be a person’s music taste. The study concluded that only pop and “motivational” music increase endurance while running due to the upbeat tempo of the music. Clearly not everyone has the same taste in music and it makes me wonder if pop or motivational music would be as effective for people who do not like either of those types of music. For example, would someone who enjoys listening to rock and roll experience the same boost in performance from listening to pop music as someone who enjoys listening to pop music would?

It is no fault of the study since it was conducted this way purposefully but I believe it would be interesting to see the results of listening to different types of music and running on a treadmill while being told NOT to keep tempo with the music (At least not deliberately). On a similar train of thought as before, would a person who likes rock and roll perform the same as someone who likes pop music if they are both listening to their preferred types of music?  


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Adrenaline Rush


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We all know the feeling of an adrenaline rush whether it be from a steep drop on a roller coaster, a horror movie or a life threatening situation like a car going the wrong direction right towards you. Adrenaline is part of the “Fight-or-Flight” instinct, meaning that in the threat of danger we choose one of those two options; fight the threat or run away from it. When adrenaline is released we are capable of running very fast, become much more alert of our surroundings, and have increased strength. Adrenaline also increases your heart rate and blood pressure and causes your pupils to dilate. Adrenaline can only last for a few minutes before the effects start to wear off. Adrenaline rushes also use much more energy than your body normally does.
Here is an example of when an adrenaline rush can be used to save someone else’s life. The article is titled “When Fear Makes Us Superhuman” by Jeff Wise. The article tells a story of how a man lifted a car that weighs 3,000 pounds off of a cyclist who had been run over by the car. The man who lifted the car, Tom Boyle, was an experienced weight lifter so his training gave him more of an edge than an average person might have in the same situation. It is noted in the article that Boyle’s heaviest dead-lift was 700 pounds and the world record dead-lift is 1,155 pounds. While those are extremely impressive numbers they do not compare to the 3,000 pound Camaro Boyle lifted off of the cyclist. So it is clear that adrenaline is the driving force as to why Boyle was able to lift the car.  Vladimir Zatsiorsky, a professor of kinesiology at Penn State has studied the bio-mechanics of weightlifting. Zatsiorsky states that our muscles have “absolute strength” which is the maximum amount of force they can theoretically generate, and “maximal strength” which is the maximum amount of force we can consciously generate with our muscles. Zatsiorsky also states that the average person can use about 65 percent of their “absolute strength” during a training session and a trained weightlifter can use about 80 percent. The amount of “absolute strength” an athlete produces can increase during the heat of competition, which is why many world records are broken at major events such as the Olympics. Adrenaline is an incredible chemical that is released in our body during stressful situations and it has the power to give us “superhuman” abilities even if it is only for a short time. Adrenaline can be very exciting in short doses. I myself am somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. I love the rush of riding my skateboard, snowboard or bike very fast down a hill or the rush of accelerating fast in a car. I’m sure there are plenty of you that love the rush of adrenaline too, but let’s just hope we don’t have to use it to lift a car.

Here is a YouTube channel you might enjoy if adrenaline is your thing

Can Dogs Understand Language?

My dog Molly

My dog Molly

Anyone who has a dog knows that we can communicate with them and they understand some of the things we say whether it be commands or giving them praise. I always wondered if my dogs actually understood the words I am saying or they are responding more to the tone of my voice. For example my tone of voice is much different when I am telling my dog that they were bad for making an accident on the carpet versus me telling my dog “Let’s go for a walk”. My dog can recognize whether I am happy or sad with her behavior by my tone of voice. I knew that my dog understood some words because they were tied to commands like “sit” and “stay” but I figured that was the only reason she understood those words is because I trained her to respond to those words in a particular way. I imagine many other dog owners feel similarly about this when it comes to training their dogs. With the mentality I had it came as a surprise to me to learn that according to Virgina Morell at some dogs can recognize more than 1,000 words and behavior suggests that dogs attach meaning to human sounds. While dogs may know over 1,000 words based off of tone a new study shows that it is the words themselves that dogs understand and not just the tone in which they are spoken (Morell, 2016). The study was conducted with 13 house dogs who were volunteered as test subjects. The group of dogs was made up of four different breeds; Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Chinese crested dogs, and German shepherds. These dogs were trained to lie still in a brain scanner while they listened to recordings of their trainer’s voice saying different phrases. “The dogs heard meaningful words (“well done!’ in Hungarian) in a praising tone and in a neutral tone. They also heard meaningless words(“as if”) in a neutral or praising tone of voice” (Morell, 2016). After running through these various tests the scientists noticed that the dogs processed the meaningful words in the left hemisphere of the brain, which is similar to how humans process such information. One of the scientists, Attila Andics, who was involved with this experiment stated “It shows that these words have meaning to the dogs.” This study supports the theory that our dogs can understand the words we’re saying to them attribute meaning to said words. Another study conducted by Victoria Ratcliffe involved having 250 dogs brought into a lab where speakers were placed on the left and right side of the dogs. Different sounds, voices and commands were played for the dogs in different tones and the direction the dog’s heads turned indicated whether it was processed in the left or right hemisphere of the brain. If the dog turned their head to the left it meant that the information was processed in the right hemisphere of their brain and vice versa. Speech is suggested to be processed in the left hemisphere and emotional information is said to be processed in the right hemisphere. Although these two studies are not conclusive and we will never truly be able to understand what our dogs do and do not know, it seems that our dogs may understand us more than we think.


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Health Benefits of Skateboarding

I have been skateboarding for 8 years now and I started when I was 13. When I stopped playing basketball at 15 skateboarding became my main source of exercise. I would come home sweaty, beat up and tired almost everyday from being out skateboarding, and I loved every second of it. Skateboarding is a very physically demanding activity. Riding the board alone takes a lot of balance and having to keep pushing while riding the board can take a lot of stamina. Skateboarding also builds muscle in your legs since a vast majority of skateboarding tricks are done using your feet and legs to be able to “pop” the board into the air. This pop is known as an ollie and it is the basis of all other skateboarding tricks. An ollie is when a skater pushes their back foot down on the tail of the skateboard while simultaneously sliding their front foot up the board and sucking their feet into their chest. This causes the board to come up with the skater’s feet. Below is a picture demonstrating what the ollie looks like when it is done properly and here is a GIF of an ollie so you can see what it looks like in motion.

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So now that you have a general understanding of some of the physics that goes into skateboarding it should be easier to understand why skateboarding is a very healthy activity that burns many calories and can keep you in shape. According to an article ( at (“The Health Benefits of Skateboarding”, 2014) skateboarding can burn 150 to 500 calories per hour. That number can fluctuate depending upon your size, where you are skating, and how hard you are skating. For example if you are skating in a skatepark for an hour you will burn much more calories than riding to the store for an hour. Skateboarding also improves your flexibility since you use every part of your body to perform a trick. Even though the pop of the skateboard is done with your feet and legs every part of the body is used in skateboarding. As seen in the picture above the skateboarder is using his arms to help him ollie higher. Arms are also used to help with balance and rotation. Skateboarding also improves your flexibility, especially in the ankles. Skateboarding requires you to be loose so you can move your body and bend your knees to absorb impact when you land. If you remain rigid it will be much harder skateboard. Along with improved stamina, flexibility and overall health one of the most important things skateboarding has taught me is how to fall properly. Falling happens A LOT in skateboarding and injuries do happen but after skateboarding and falling over and over again I have learned how to fall in a way that I reduce my chances of being severely injured. The most important part to falling in skateboarding or in general really, is to keep your momentum moving so one part of your body does not absorb a large amount of impact. When I fall I try to roll and this keeps my momentum moving in the same direction. Knowing how to fall is a useful life skill that can help you out if you find yourself falling down for whatever reason. The last health benefit of skateboarding I want to touch on is a mental one and that would be stress relief. Skateboarding allows me to forget about all of life’s stressors and problems for a while. When I am skateboarding I am focused only on skateboarding. Nothing else really matters when I am riding my board and it allows me to focus and have fun. In conclusion skateboarding has many different health benefits such as improved physical endurance, coordination and overall health. In my opinion having fun is the biggest health benefit to skateboarding.


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Definitely Not A Science Major

Hi everybody, my name is Joe Garrett, I am from Doylestown, PA and I am Senior majoring in Security and Risk Analysis.

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All throughout middle/high school science was never my strongest subject but I did find it interesting. I took a BiSci class during my freshman year and then I knew for sure that a science degree was not in my future. I always found the more technical aspects of science to be more difficult such as chem and bio. That is why I believe that this class will work perfectly for me. I had heard that this class was “science without the science” which I took as “science without the technical parts of science”. This class seems to be different from most science classes because we are forced to think in a new way and apply science to our everyday lives, not just in a lab or on paper. I am excited to learn in this class which is something I usually don’t say for a science class. Here is an interesting video behind the science of dogs.


And here’s Mr. Mackey because South Park is the best