Author Archives: Jeremy Perdomo

SC 200: Question Everything You Know.

On the very first day of Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy, I knew that I would be learning principles that could be applied to my life, even after I had long completed the class for credit. Andrew made a point to say that anything can be accomplished in his class if enough effort is put forth, and now, sitting here writing this blog with only one full week left of classes, I could not agree with him more. Looking back, we were all in control of the outcome of the class, and although I learned that effort can get a person very far, I also learned two critical pieces of information that perhaps might change the rest of my life forever and alter the way I perceive the world indefinitely: question everything and a person’s intuition is unimaginably lousy.

No Matter What, Question it!

Nothing in this world is safe from the shackles of failure and falsity, and thus, everything is susceptible to the possibility of inaccuracy; a clear example is how we learned that nothing in science is actually proven and that the prospect of chance playing a role in experiments is always existent. Whether you have evidence to support your claims, or if you simply have the power of anecdotes behind a hypothesis, nothing in this world can be 100 percent proven to be the truth because there is always a possibility for error and for chance to take its role in a situation or experiment. As we learned in the early sessions of the semester, science is a formalized detection system that is exposed to criticism from others; thus, one can argue that the purpose of science is to question the work, no matter how much evidence has been gathered to prove its truth. Nothing is off limits, and scrutiny is always welcomed in the scientific community; everything is meant to be judged in science, and by extension, the rest of the world.

One of the most notable examples of a failure to question was the proposed solution to Sudden Infant Death syndrome that Doctor Benjamin Spock introduced in the mid 1900’s; in 1946, he published a book called Baby and Child Care: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Childcare that refuted the old myth that babies should not be toucheddr-spocks-book or loved as often to protect them; Instead, he replaced it with the myth that babies should be put to sleep on their stomachs to prevent them from choking on their vomit if such should occur. Of course, since he was a doctor and nobody thought to question him, tens of thousands of babies around the globe were killed, which only further magnifies that when people fail to question, situations turn awry. Perhaps an even scarier example is when we learned about how ancient people used to believe that blood letting, which was the practice of making people bleed to alleviate sickness, was an actual form of acceptable medicine; back then, doctors had no alternative or solution, and so they, too, agreed to this practice. Little did they that this actual made conditions worse, and, eventually, George Washington died from a sore throat because of it.

Fear not, however, because we also learned of the heroic actions of a woman named Frances Oldham Kelsey who questioned a drug called Thalidomide and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Instead of believing what other doctors claimed to be truth, she demanded FDA approval and refused to believe testimonials. Fortunately for America, she refused this drug because, in other countries around the globe, babies were being born without limbs and other deformities that ruined their appearances.

Lets face it: our intuition is just crappy! Every time we believe something to be truth without questioning it at all, we get let down; above are just simple examples of our world’s history when we fail to question. Thus, it is clear that our intuition is a failed response to a problem, so, although we can find faults in other peoples claims, it is nearly impossible to find them in our own.

Final Thoughts:

  • The class taught me more than to just question everything in life and that our intuition is crappy. Some of the other important things it taught me:
    • Nothing escapes the clutches of chance.
    • Nothing in science it proven.
    • Confounding variables might effect an experiment.
    • Science is a process of correction.
  • Would I take the class again? Absolutely.
  • What would I possibly change about the course itself?
    • I would probably make the exams a little bit less critical analysis and more factual based; as they are now, it is very easy to fail because many people cannot think critically. Perhaps there could be two types of exams administered in class: one based on critical thinking and the other based on facts and memorization (much how normal exams are). Thus, the critical exams could be open notes, but the fact-based exams could be administered how normal exams are without any open notes and in-class.
      • This would make the class more balanced, and thus, less extra credit could be offered.

In general, SC 200 taught me valuable life skills that I would not have learned otherwise, so I am very grateful to have taken it!

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Don’t Hug Me, I’m Brainwashed.

The best method for me to convey that we are perhaps being brainwashed by the media is by introducing this video; please watch it in its entirety because you will not be disappointed.

What was that video trying to convey to the world? Well, essentially, it was trying to convey a plethora of things that the media is attempting to brainwash our children into believing. Whether you recognize it or not, the media is a powerful force in today’s world, moreover because of the extended manners it can contact us with our own technology. What the video was trying to argue was that the children born today hardly think for themselves, and thus lose their creativity; the media does all the thinking for them, and, as gullible as the children are, they believe everything it informs and commands them to do. If you  watched the video and are still having trouble deciphering exactly what the authors meant to educate people about, there are an invariable amount of websites out there to help, but I found this one the most knowledgable.

So, where is the science behind all this crazy talk? Well, scientists have recently discovered the exact part of the brain that makes people more gullible, and thus, believe more of what the media has to offer. According to some research I found, the younger generation and older generation tend to believe information more easily than the average adults. The ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex of the brain allows people to stop and assess the validity of something; in other words, it helps us in finding out if something is truth or fiction. However, this area of the brain is still developing in the brains of younglings. Actually, the brain does not stop growing until early 20’s, so anyone below that age is susceptible to higher rates of gullibility. At the other end of the spectrum, older people are gullible because this portion of the brain has begun to deteriorate, thus reducing its accuracy; the more damage to the prefrontal cortex, the more likely someone is to believing something. This represents a direct correlation.

Erik Asp, who headed this research on the brain, performed an experiment to test his f1e022f1-6be8-4e98-935d-b8a9ee5ab97cdeductions. He selected 39 participants  from the University of Iowa’s Neurological Patient Registry and 10 normal people who would function as the controlled variable (they had no damage in the brain); he showed consumer ads to the 18 people with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and 21 people with damage outside that area, along with the normal individuals. His hypothesis that there must be a correlation with damage to the brain and gullibility seemed to be correct; those who had the damage were significantly more vulnerable and deceivable than those who did not, actually being twice as likely to trust misleading advertisements and purchase the items in those ads.

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Oligodendrocytes, the cells who have the responsibility of forming myelin, insulate nerve fibers, and any damage caused to these fibers have dangerous repercussions, such as, in this example, higher amounts of gullibility.

On another website, the author George Avery outlines a number of specifics on how, exactly, the government tries to trick us into believing what they want through media outlets. Here is what he found:

  • There are patterns of data suppression and the coercion of journalists and editors for major media news outlets; he knows this because he read a string of emails proving such.
  • Major companies in the medical field influence the research performed on their drugs and devices to show only positive lights with their products, and even government agencies are turning corrupt, as well.
  • A new legislation has passed through the Senate that enables this behavior; the legislation allows for punishment of groups with researchers that publish any results that are not coherent with the agency’s goals.
  • Money can be withheld from an organization who publishes research against a certain company.

Implications and Conclusions:

We are in the prime age to be deceived, fellow classmates! Don’t believe the things major media outlets report to you, and learn to question everything, regardless on whether you think it to be fact or fiction. After all, Andrew has taught us that even the most accomplished scientists have challenged aspects of science everyone once thought to be true!

If you draw any conclusions from the research I have presented to you, it should be that the brain plays a critical role in the gullibility of a person; the prefrontal cortex of the brain is what effects our abilities to be deceived or not. The older you are, the more likely that there is damage, and thus, the more prone you will be to buying into the stupid things people try to convince you of, including advertisements and horoscopes. Furthermore, on the opposite side of the spectrum, young children do not have fully developed brains, and so it is obvious that they, too, will be much more gullible than the average adult.

We Are All Lowkey Racist.

Do people subconsciously harbor racist ideas and attitudes? How is this possible? Do certain social situations provoke different responses in racism?

These were the questions that seemed to drive the research I so desperately sought to find, especially considering the recent events that have made American history. After this past election, so many ideas and racist thoughts have been brought to light that I assumed had been abolished decades ago; it turns out I was wrong. People still seem to hold discriminatory thoughts; the only difference is that people in today’s world appear to conceal it better. However, although I found research that supports some people harbor racist ideas, this does not mean you are racist! It just shows the the subconscious mind is much stronger than you believe!

Warning: Do not be offended by the results!

In April of 2009, a study was done that had some scary implications: there are still negative associations and connotations surrounding the black race. Even more is that when people hear racial slurs being spoken, less people had the confidence to speak up than you would think.

Associate professor of psychology at York University, Kerry Kawakami (the author of the study) divided 120 non blacks into different roles for the experiment: experiencers and forecasters. It was the experiencers job to sit in a room where therigaud_2 fabricated altercation was to occur while the forecaster had the job of predicting how he would feel if he was in the situation. When a black person “accidentally” ran into a caucasian (part of the experiment), the white person would utter sentences from either one of three stages: weak, mild, and extreme. In the mild case, the white man would say nothing, and in the moderate case, he would say something along the lines of “Typical, I hate it when black people do that.” In the most extreme cases, he would shout, “Clumsy n*****.” It was the experiencers who essentially were observed in this study (thus making this an observational study), and what the author found was chilling.

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As even the most racist of the comments were said, the amount of discomfort the experiencers felt was astonishingly low; then as soon as the experiment was over, the participant had to choose either the white or black person to be a partner for an anagram test, and still, greater than 50 percent of the people chose the white person. This was even considering the fact that the white person had said some very nasty and derogatory comments. Now, even when no comment was made by the white person, people were still likely to choose him.

In that same article, the author goes on to explain the decades of research that seem to point to the same conclusion: when people are placed in certain sensitive situations, they tend to act opposite of what they accordingly believed. Back in the early 1960’s, a man by the name of Stanley Miligram performed the Miligram experiment; there is a psychological correlation between this study and Kawakami’s study. Watch the video below if you are interested in this correlation and the actual Miligram study; you will find that under certain situations, humans seem to act callously and maliciously when provoked, or, surprisingly, even when they are not.

Possible Flaws and Conclusions:

Throughout studying this experiment, I realized that there were a number of possible flaws with it. For example, it says that all the participants were non black, but what exactly does this mean? Does this mean that they were all white, or perhaps that they were simply minorities other than African American? There is too much ambiguity. Furthermore, this article seems to imply that the lack of discomfort the experiencers had is an example of them being racist, but is this necessarily the case? The way I see it, there is not correlation between these two variables; and furthermore, lack of discomfort does not equate to racism, so causation is not involved either. Lastly, confounding variables, although not a flaw, might definitely have played its role in this experiment.

So, what should you be taking away from this article? If you are learning anything, its that certain aspects of science, and even in everyday life, are not always as they appear. You might believe that you have made up your mind on something, and there might be evidence to prove it, but the subconscious is powerful; there are things that it can hide from you, and when certain situations arise, your innermost thoughts come out to play.

Mommy, Am I Ugly?

I look in the mirror and I constantly see a sexy beast. No matter what I seem to be wearing, or no matter what type of contortion I create with my face, I never seem to admit any degree of uenhanced-buzz-31473-1384550254-1gliness to myself. In other words, in my eyes, I seem to be the perfect human being with the best facial features and most flawless skin. What about you? Every moment that you catch a glimpse of yourself in a side shot or a mirror, what do you see? If you say that you see anything else other than perfection (or at least something close to it), I have the scientific proof to show that you are lying!

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I could not help but wonder if I am actually attractive from other people’s perspective, or if I am simply ugly but cannot seem to recognize it. Thus, I made it my goal to use science to try to prove that I am, in fact, a sexy human being! But first, here were the questions that I aimed to answer through some research: Does the human species naturally create a false perception of themselves? Is there a correlation between the brain and how we perceive ourselves, and is there causation involved?

According to some research I stumbled upon, people are not as beautiful as they think they are! Psychological research performed by University of Chicago’s Nicholas Empley and University of Virginia’s Erin Whitchurch shows that people have a tendency to view themselves as much more attractive; both these scientists collected a group of random participants and printed out less attractive, more attractive, and original photos of them and instructed them to choose the picture that most closely related to how they looked physically. Naturally, the majority of the participants were inclined to choose the picture that molded them as more attractive. However, this phenomenon, recognized in the scientific community as “self-enhancement,” did not quite work the same way when it was on strangers, instead. As those same participants were given the same range of photos of strangers, they often chose the unmodified pictures.

Another similar phenomenon called above average effects seems to prove the same exact conclusion; people overestimate their own behaviors and actions, but when it comes to that of others, people underestimate them. A clear example is that more than 90 percent of people think they are better than the average driver, which is, in fact, a mathematical impossibility. One thing is clear about the human species: people remain unrealistically positive about themselves and their abilities.

In a second article that I read, the author describes the exact opposite of what the previous study suggested; instead, he explains that the mirror makes you look up to 20 percent more attractive because it adds symmetry to a face that most likely lacks it. This might also explain why people seem so horrified at pictures of themselves; unlike the mirror that adds that symmetry, a camera does no do that, and thus people have a tendency to hate pictures of themselves. In addition, something called the mere-exposure theory plays a role; this essentially states that people have a preference for objects that they see and come into contact with frequently, and since people see themselves often, they have an automatic and natural inclination when they look in the mirror.

After all this research, I could not help but wonder if how we view ourselves physically and psychologically is somehow connected to how others perceive us; so, I set out on another adventure for some answers. I came upon a concept called metaperception; it is here where I learned about the correlation between how we view ourselves and how other people view us. According to that article, what others think of us is directly contingent on what we think of ourselves and our self-concept. It was also very interesting to learn that how we interact with other people stems from how our mothers treated us as children; if one’s mothers was unresponsive, one tends to be distant and obnoxious, but if a mother was responsive and attentive, one is more confident and connects better with peers. As children, we look for approval in our mothers, but as we grow into adults, we look for satisfaction from other adults.

What Does This Mean?

The results from the second article basically define a correlation between how a person views himself and how he actually looks; without the mirror being used to add some form of symmetricalness to one’s face, evil-mirrorone would not believe that he looks attractive at all. So, there is definitely a correlation; however, is there a causation? No, there is not. Someone looking at his reflection does not cause the distortion of his image. After all, we learned in class that just because there is a correlation between two variables does not mean that one must cause the other: correlation does not equal causation!

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Conclusions from the first article:

  • People seem to think they look better than they actually do based off an experiment with random participants and a couple of distorted photographs.
  • Self enhancement and above average effects play a crucial role in this.

Conclusion from second article:

  • Mirrors are liars! Don’t test them!
  • You are actually uglier than what the mirror tells you; if you want a more accurate assessment of how you appear from another person’s eyes, look at a photograph instead.

Why Can’t I “Juju on That Beat?”

Going to Pennsylvania State University has made it abundantly clear that everyone here is immersed in the “party culture;” almost every weekend, college students are out drinking all the alcohol they can hold, dancing their nights away, and most likely contracting some strain of STD or virus (but who am I to judge!). And don’t even talk about the football weekends! One walk down College Avenue here in State College makes it a clear deduction that if you are not getting drunk or in its process, you are definitely missing out!

Anyways, knowing that the college we all attend is a party school is a good thing because we all go out and have a good time, while still staying on top of our studies. As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago at a Fraternity, I couldn’t help but notice that, excuse my bluntness, some people are horrid dancers. So, this got me to speculating on a couple of questions: What makes some people better dancers than others? Is one’s brain-functioning capacity involved? Do some people simply possess the natural talent?

Null hypothesis: There is no relationship between a person’s brain and his ability to dance “better” (more fluid and smooth) and control his body with a greater degree.

Alternative: Brain activity plays a critical role in how well someone can control his body to perform dance moves.

*I personally believe that the null hypothesis will be rejected.*

What is the dance called “Juju on that beat?”

The above video ^ is one of the recent crazes that teenagers today are talking about; a new dance called “Juju on that beat.” But I consistently find myself wondering what it is that makes some people better than others at performing dance moves, and so thats exactly what I set out to find through research in the scientific community.

The first scientific article that I happened to stumble upon seemed to attribute the lack of dance moves and beat rhythm to something called “beat deafness.” Unlike the majority of the human species, and very similar to other species within the animal kingdom, this affliction seems to effect a number of individuals that often cannot seem to recognize patterns in music, which, consequently, causes horrid dance movements; it simply does not come natural to some people, while others seem to be much more fluent in this physical language. In the very same article, there was research done by McGill University that attempted to find out exactly what causes “beat deafness” and why it only effects certain people. According to their studies, people who are actually beat deaf not only seem to lack normal coordination of the body, but also seem to have rough times recognizing beats and clapping to them accordingly. More specifically, two test beat deaf subjects named Mathieu and Marjorie, can easily create their own beats and clap to them when there is no sound or music, but when tunes begin to play, the disorder kicks into effect; thus, attempts at synchronization are the problem.

Interestingly enough, scientists have concluded on something called an internal oscillator; these are the basic biological functions like heartbeats and talking that operate on the rhythms of the human body. Caroline Palmer, head of this research, suggests that both Mathieu and Marjorie lack these oscillators; essentially, this oscillator theory helps to support the fact that some people are simply not predisposed to adapting to changes in rhythm.

Some people suggest, however, that capabilities to learn new dance moves rely on how well the brain functions. In one article I read, the author explicates research done by Oxford University stating that GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, located in the brain largbrainely affects one’s ability to learn new moves and master them; this acid located in the human brain seems to function almost like a gate that regulates the transmission of signals between neural cells. In some people, these GABA levels are regulated with more ease than others, putting them at a much higher advantage; however, this does not necessarily conclude that those with less flexible gates will never master dancing!

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Both the studies suggest two opposing reasonings for the same problem: lack of fluidity and coordination when dancing. The first study implies that problems with dancing arise from a disorder known as “beat deafness,” while the second study attributes the same issues to differences in brain acids. Unlike the first study that has experiments both in effect and pending in the future, the second study has no actual experiments to support its claims. However, this does not necessarily mean that because there in no lab that there is no merit in what was concluded. There is definitely a possibility that either studies are correct, or even that both have scientific validity to some degree. With that being stated, my hypothesis that the null would be rejected is true, since the brain seems to correlate with the dancing abilities of certain people.

However, regardless of whether you possess the best dance moves in the world, or simply cannot seem to find the beat to a song, don’t let that stop you from having a great time and enjoying a little physical relief once in a while!

Should I Drink My Urine?

You are lost at sea for days now. You have nothing to do. No where to turn. Nobody to talk to. And you are now facing the effects of dehydration and starvation: scurvy, refeeding syndrome, hallucinations, fevers, etc. What should you do? As a matter of fact, what can you do? Some people argue that there is nothing to do but wait for the inevitable death that is soon to come, but others argue that you can utilize the very processes that we ignore on a day to day basis to survive during these times of need. Thus, some say that the use of the human digestive system can save your life!

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What is he talking about?” Well, my fellow classmates, I am talking about drinking your own pee. It might be easy to knock the idea down since your are not in this position, and most likely never will be, but that does not mean that others who are less fortunate than you might not run into the same problems. As hunger and dehydration begin to dole out its consequences on the human body, drastic measures might have to be taken in order to survive another day. However, the important questions that need to be answered by the scientific community are as follows: How healthy is  drinking one’s own urine? Are any adverse effects imposed on the human body by doing so? Is it recommendable if all other options are exhausted?

According to an article regarding urine therapy (the practice of using urine for multiple positive effects on the human body), urine is made up of a number of nutritional elements that are actually helpful to the human body. As a matter of fact, Dr. A.H. Free’s research explained in that very article showed that the urine expelled from humans contains amino acids, a number of essential vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, creatine, etc. This is because urine is actually just the excess from blood that is not needed; the body is constantly renewing its blood and cleaning it with the kidneys and liver, and any leftover is what eventually gets expelled as pee. More specifically speaking, approximately 95 percent of the pee humans expel is water, while the remaining 5 percent is nutrients and excess vitamins. Thus, urine is actually more sterile than distilled water!

But, did you know that you can do more than just drink your own urine?! As a matter of fact, through something called urine therapy, you can use the urine that the human body expels for more than just drinking; it is effective against acne, allergies, cancer, psoriasis, wrinkles, etc. And urine can be injected, swallowed, lathered, used as eye drops and even ear drops!

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Bao Yafu is the older gentleman on the right.

Like Andrew has explained in class, the power of anecdotes are extraordinary, especially in the scientific community, even if those anecdotes have no substantial scientific proof to support it. For example, both the Chinese men Bao Yafu and Yi Dongshan have been drinking their urine for decades, and more specifically, Bao Yafu has been doing so since the year 1972! Now, Mr. Yafu has been head of the China Urine Therapy Association, and organization that is dedicated to people who enjoy drinking their own effluent, since 2008. With nearly 1,000 members, this club has now been officially recognized by the Chinese Ministry of Health! Furthermore, Bao has a number of claims that he believes were only possible becasue of the practices he completes with his own urine samples; he says that the practice has eradicated his canker sores, cured his constipation, and even fixed his baldness!

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However, other than personal anecdotes and the science behind what actually comprises urine, there is no substantial evidence or research that proves that urine has positive effects on the human body; in other words, there have been no controlled studies that have proved the effectiveness of using urine as a medicine. However, by the same token, there is no evidence that has been found supporting negative effects, either. But, it is important to note that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, much like how we learned during Andrew’s lecture. Simply because studies have not been done proving that urine is bad for you does not necessarily give credit to the fact that it is healthy!

Conclusions:

  • If you recognize the fact that the urine expelled from the body is only water and excess nutrients, drink your own urine! It might not be proven that it is healthy for you, but the science behind the fact that urine is comprised of water and numerous minerals and nutrients has defineitly been proven.
  • Do not drink your pee, however, if you have been ill or suffer from certain blood diseases and are taking serious medications; parts of those things will appear in your blood.
  • Some people suggest that benefits arisen from practicing urine therapy have only arisen because of the placebo effect. Thats up for you to decide.
  • So many legal drugs come from components of urine, so it can’t be all bad!

Advice for Drinking Your Urine:

  • If you can’t bring yourself to swallowing your pee (or using it for other medicinal purposes), relax! If need be, mix it with other drinks to start getting used to it first.
  • The healthiest pee is the one expelled in the morning, so be sure to drink that one.
  • When someone is peeing, especially in the morning, the middle portion has the most nutrients and minerals. Thus, pee a little bit in the toilet, then fill your cup, and then finish in the toilet. Bon appetit!

Now the next question the scientific community must answer is whether you should eat your own…never mind!

Difficulties Behind New Languages.

Growing up in a Latino-American household, learning two languages was almost a natural process for me; I practiced my English at my elementary school and with my parents at home, while simultaneously utilizing my ever-growing Spanish language skills with my grandma the frequent times she would come visit me from New York. But very recently, I have tried to expand my arsenal of languages by trying to study Portuguese, yet, after hours of laborious work, I feel like I have come to no avail; I cannot retain the material! Even considering the fact that Spanish and Portuguese are probably one of the most similar languages on the planet, I still cannot seem to learn even the basics.

Why is that? Is there a certain age that makes it nearly impossible for the acquirement of a new language, and if so, what age? Do babies and young children have it easier than adults when attempting to absorb new material, or is this just a common myth that has been floating around for years? And are certain languages harder or easier to learn than others, or do they all hold the same difficulty?

*I hypothesize that languages become increasingly difficult to learn the older the person  that is trying to learn them is; in other words, babies and young children most definitely absorb new material, and in this case, a new language, at faster rates than any other age group.

Coming to America With Little English

One of the hardest languages to learn, believe it or not, is English! When my grandma immigrated from Ecuador to America at the age of 18, she was forced to become accustomed to  American traditions and cultures, and among those came the daunting task of learning their language. What did this mean for her? This meant that she would spend countless ours taking English language classes and slaving over the differences between “their”, “there” and “they’re.” Whether we recognize it or not, English has more complications and complexities than many other languages. Don’t believe me? Think about it. Think of all the different grammatical errors that could be in any one given sentence, all the capitalization and pronoun rules, antecedent and predicate rules, etc. We have been groomed since a young age to think less and less of the difficulty that is the English language, but to outsiders, it becomes nearly impossible to learn. As a matter of fact, the difficulty of learning English has become so obvious to society that many have taken it into their hands to prove it, such as this YouTube Channel’s video where they attempt to simulate what English sound like to non-natives:

So, why is learning English so hard? Well according the article here by the Oxford Royale Academy, its because there is no rhyme or reason to our language! They used clever examples such as there being no ham in a hamburger, or questioning that if a vegetarian eats vegetables, why doesn’t a humanitarian eat humans. In addition, there are varying amounts of “rules” in the English language, and whats more is that there are even more exceptions to those rules. Finally, there are specific portions of our language that non-natives have trouble understanding, such as adding emphasis on certain words over others, and even idioms and homophones.

Without a doubt, English has definitely proven to be one of the hardest languages out there!

Statistics Behind it All:

Guess what? To my surprise, my hypothesis was wrong (I am surprised because I am never wrong)! After doing tons of research looking for articles supporting that children are better at learning foreign languages than adults, I found nothing; instead, I found a plethora of articles supporting the exact opposite of what I thought: Adults actually have the abilities to learn new languages better than their younger competitors. Why is that so?

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Although this chart shows that learning is easier the younger you are, do not be deceived!

According to Anne Merritt and her piece Are Children Really Better at Foreign Language Learning, it is a complete myth that children learn languages easier and faster than the average adult; it only seems that children learn them easier. She claims that researchers in linguistics have done studies that prove adults are better than children in learning new languages because of many reasons, a critical one because adults already have preexisting knowledge, wisdom, and experience with languages. Unlike children, who basically start from scratch, adults already know what to expect and how to overcome certain barriers in their quest to conquer a foreign tongue.  Babies and children lack the perception needed to seriously engage in studying and learning, and this difference is critical and an essential portion of language learning. Finally, the only thing children have that adults do not is the attitude and motivation to learn something new; unlike adults, who might be scared to make mistakes in front of others and be criticized, children do not mind, or even notice, any criticism. Thus, the chart above might look like younger children have it easier, but it is not because of any brain wiring or ability to absorb easier than adults. Essentially, if adults had the same attitudes as the children, they would learn much better and quicker.

Furthermore, in the paper of a fellow college student all the way in the University of California, Santa Cruz (Barry McLaughlin), he provides studies that have shown this phenomenon to be true, as well. He debunks something called the “critical period hypothesis”; essentially, it states that a child learns quicker and absorbs easier because of the flexibility that their brains have. Supposedly, researchers have said that there in insufficient evidence to support this claim, and that instead of biological factors playing a central role in language learning, it is actually social and psychological factors that are critical.

In one of the studies McLaughlin mentioned in his writing, there were 17,000 students from England who were attempting to learn French, but out of those kids who spent their time studying French, the ones that were eleven years old performed better and absorbed more material than those that were eight years old. At the end, it was concluded that the older students were better learners of foreign languages. This same experiment might possibly be applied to that of children and adults; just because you are younger does not necessarily mean that you are better.

Important thoughts about the study above:

  • Would different results have occurred if it was a language other than French being studied?
  • This was a study conducted nearly 50 years ago; different variables and factors might effect the children of today.
  • Potential confounding variables might be at play.
  • Did chance play a substantial role in the experiment, or was it small enough to be considered insignificant?
  • Was there a correlation between the language (French) and the ages the children were; in other words, is it possible that French is an easier language to be learned at a younger age than, say, for example, Japanese?

My Final Conclusions and Deductions:

  • Simply because you possess a younger age does not necessarily mean that you are more keen to learning new material, and, in this case, a new language.
  • The only reason that children might actually learn better than adults is because of their motivation to grasp it and their attitude to strive to be better.
  • Children often have more free time than adults, so I definitely believe that that could be main factor for why it appears that they pick up languages easier; unlike adults who are forced to work and have daily obligations, children have a more lackadaisical lifestyle and can afford to try out new things and dedicate themselves to a greater extent.
  • If you are attempting to learn a new language, do not be discouraged of making mistakes; it is a natural process of getting better, so don’t give up! There goes the old saying “Practice makes perfect.”

Links for Pictures

What Goes On Inside A Child’s Brain?

True Love: Reality or Just Pathetic?

Personally, I really hate the connotations that come with love; anyone that I have ever spoken to has always stated that they believe that there is that one person romeo-juliet-deathout there in the universe that was “built just for them.” Disgusting. And how is that possible? Out of the nearly 7 billion people on this Earth, there is only one other person you can fall hopelessly in love with and marry and have babies with and buy a house with and live together with and grow old together with and die together with? I doubt that. But whether I agree with it or not is almost irrelevant since it is just my opinion; the more important question is if there is any scientific reasoning to back up true love, or if it’s simply an ideology a hopeless romantic (I am basically talking about William Shakespeare and his annoying play Romeo and Juliet) invented.

*Before I continue, I hypothesize that there is no such thing as “true love” and that there is nothing out there in the universe that supports it. It is all a figment of our imagination!

What do Most People Consider “Love?”

Have you ever wondered what love actually is? Every time you have asked people, they have most likely all told you different versions of what love actually means to them; whether it is an emotion that you feel for someone else or wanting to share the last slice of pizza with that person, the definition of love ranges between people because everyone is different and has had varying experiences with love in his or her life; however, in this Wikipedia article, love is basically described as a mixture of a group of feelings, attitudes, and attractions towards other people and ideas.

But, as we can all agree, there are different kinds of love; you do not love your spouse in the same way you love your brother or sister. You do not love your dog in the same ways that you love your children (and if you do, that’s a little weird). It is all dependent on the the person being described and the relationship given. Other factors that might play a crucial role include:

  • The amount of years you have known the person(s) in question
  • Certain circumstances or situations you have been through with that person, and whether the relationship grew weaker or stronger as a consequence
  • Previous sexual relations
  • Commonalities between each other, and the ability to respect the differences

Is True Love a Real Thing, Or is it a Concept Created Through Human Perception?

Yes, contrary to what you may believe, there are certain “stages” to falling in love, which is what Maryanne Fisher so expertly describes in her article The Science Behind Falling in Love. According to her research (she has a Ph. D, so she probably knows what she’s talking about!), when someone first begins to fall in love with another human through some type of emotional or physical connection, the first reaction the body has is a release of dopamine, which is abrain-1
chemical in the brain that essentially triggers happiness and sexual desire. So, one can assume that the “puppy love” at the beginning of most relationships is all due to this intense dopamine extrication.

Next, people start to give more attention to the person they are beginning to fall in love with, almost as if they are focused on nobody except them; this is due to the neurotransmitters in the brain that help to divert attention from any distractions and “zero-in” on more specific objects (in this case, the person you are falling in love with).

During the final stages of falling in love, feedback loop systems begin to form which eventually lead to systems that reward the human body for certain stimulations. For example, when certain positive situations or emotions arise, the human body sends chemical messages to different organs throughout the body, which then send other messages back to the brain. When falling in love, however, this system is involved with the stimulation of the genitals; if it feels good and the body enjoys the stimulation, then the body instantly attempts to make note of that and seek the same stimulation from that same person in the future. Thus, the “love connection” grows stronger and stronger.

But is there such thing as having only one “true love?” No! Well, at least not according to Sally Tamarkin and all the research she compiled in her awesome article called Theres No Such Thing as One True Love. And Here’s Why That’s Awesome. In it, Sally proclaims that although people might like to believe that there is only one person out there for them, that just isn’t the case; love is more closely related to a series of scientific processes than it is to an emotion, although in some of the stages, they intermingle. She also explains that there is, however, such thing as “love at first sight,” and that there can be instant connections between people simply through eye contact. I must admit, this shocked me because I thought this was a myth, as well! Then again, Andrew does always tell us to be skeptical about what we know and believe in science!

Experiments and Sample Studies

Using the scientific method that we learned in class, it is not hard to come up with possible experiments to test the boundaries of love; first, a question needs to be proposed, and then, simply, an experiment needs to be done where observable or quantifiable results can be recorded and accurate conclusions can be based. In the video up above, a certain YouTube channel decided to put love to the test; they grabbed two strangers that were willing to participate and made them ask each other a list of questions that would perhaps make them fall in love at the end. Did it work? Watch it and find out!

I decided to create my own plausible experiment, too. Although I did not actually perform it, I came up with a question that might be answered through observations and data: If “true love” illustration-of-a-heart-in-black-and-redactually exists, then why does speed dating often lead to marriages, etc? In my supposed experiment, a group of nearly 50 candidates can together in a room and attempt to speed date; the scientists or person(s) conducting the experiment would observe how the people react to their introductions and any flirting techniques that occur between the pairs. In the end, if many similar flirting tactics arose within certain candidates and other people, that might be cause to assume that they would perhaps date, or be interested in dating, in the future. By extension, one can assume that love might arise from such a relationship.And if love can arise from a speed dating exercise, is it really probable that you found your “one true love”, out of every one in the universe, in that very room on that very day? No! Which probably supports that anyone can fall in love with anyone, so long as a substantial connection is made.

Is There More Than One Person Out There For You?

Since research supports the fact that there is no such concept as “true love,” you should be happy! That means that there are a number of potential partners out there in which you could share the wonderful stages of scientific processes that people call “love.” If you put yourself out there, I am sure you could find someone that is madly in love with you, or at least might be willing to put up with you (LOL). Personally, I cannot say that I have ever truly been in love, although I have been in relationships before in my life. At least it gives me something to look forward to.I leave you with this final thought, fellow college students: Love exists in every corner of life. Don’t seclude yourself to one person because you believe that they are “the one.” After all, I just proved to you that there is no substantial scientific reasoning and research to back up that claim!

Links for Pictures

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwiO24O4nIbPAhXEKCYKHRgVD_gQjRwIBw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.emaze.com%2F%40AOWROROQ%2FRomeo-and-Juliet-Project&psig=AFQjCNGp-WZbM-bL8R0-uifEzBA4avNnVw&ust=1473645759351492

OCD, Our Brains, and Us

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308569.php

Savants are Smarter Than the Average Cookie.

If you read the title of this article, you are probably wondering what a savant actually is, so here it goes; a savant is someone who suffers from the formal medical condition known as savant syndrome. This affliction occurs when someone with a certain developmental disability, ranging from autism to down syndrome, has capabilities far more reaching than the average human being. Essentially, those suffering from savant syndrome have lower IQ test scores than the average person, while outperforming said average person tenfold in any specific given area, such as memory, art, rapid math calculations, or music.

autism-spectrum-conditions

This chart shows the spectrum of autism; all the way to the left are the cases of autism associated with extreme talent in given areas, which, in this case, is savant syndrome. As you can see, however, most of the cases of autism are not correlated with some level of genius. As a matter of fact, the chart further proves the rarity that is savant syndrome; there are less than 200 savants on the planet, making savant syndrome one of the rarest medical conditions in existence.

*With the previous information in mind, I hypothesized that savant genius has a direct correlation with some malfunction in some order of the brain. In other words, it is not passed down from generation to generation through a family tree.

So why are savants truly smart? Is it a brain mutation, or is it hereditary?

One of the most notable (and awesome) examples, taken directly from the Wisconsin Medical Society article right here, was Kim Peek, a savant who had extraordinary abilities to memorize everything that he laid his eyes on. Growing up, Peek’s doctors seemed convinced that he was bound to be a failure, going as far as recommending that he be “institutionalized” due to his ever-present mental disability. However, by the tender age of 6, Peek had already fully memorized nearly eight encyclopedias that his family had at their home, and only eight years later, at the age of 14, had he finished an entire high school curriculum. Today, he has memorized many different kinds of books and pieces; these include The Bible, all Shakespearean works, and all roads and routes within the United States. Impressive, right?

Watch this documentary about Kim Peek, and I promise you that you will be amazed!

Kim_Peek_on_Jan_16,_2007Why are savants, like Kim Peek, so smart? Well, Adam Piore expertly explicates the reasons behind the answer in his article post right here. In it, he writes about how behavioral neurologist Bruce Miller, director of the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, has found a direct correlation between certain levels of genius and dementia in his patients. As a matter of fact, one of his cases in 1990 dealt directly with a man who, as his Alzheimer’s disease worsened and his symptoms increased, began to create art that progressively became better and more articulate. What’s more is that this increased work came without any correlated practice; simply, one day his artwork was considered average, and within the next days, his work was considered genius in the art community.

In addition, it is clear that savants and dementia patients share the same defects in social and mental atmospheres; both seem to be compulsively drawn to whatever skill(s) they possess, while being severely lacking in language behaviors. That means that one can assume that savants and dementia patients most likely have more in common, as well, such as the brain mutations that cause them. Miller actually studied brain samples of young savants that began exhibiting extraordinary skills, and to nobody’s surprise, the scans drew a direct correlation to dementia; the scans showed that in the anterior temporal lobes, there were portions that were inactive.

What does this discovery mean for the scientific community, though? Well, essentially, much like other diseases and afflictions, once it has been concluded to be extremely similar to another disorder, doctors and scientists can study it with more background knowledge in hopes to learn even more. In extraordinary cases, correlations between diseases can even lead to cures! In this specific example, the link from savant genius to dementia might help to better understand Alzheimer’s and other problems that eventually arise within the brain due to age. If scientists continue to study this syndrome, perhaps they can learn how they acquire such talent or skill in specialized areas, which might, in-turn, create ideas for future medications in patients that demonstrate its need.

best-adventure-travel-experiments-of-2014-1024x616

Perhaps if a scientist wanted to draw more conclusions on the similarities between savants and dementia patients, he could introduce them too each other and observe their interactions and behaviors; since they both express similar personality behaviors and lack of social skills, maybe how they interact with each other might lead to new discoveries in either the savant or the dementia patient.

The Science Behind Savant Syndrome: Correlation and Causation

Remember when Andrew was lecturing about the worms and whether or not there was a valid correlation between worms and the stupidity within kids? Did the worms cause kids to be stupid, or were the stupid kids just more likely to get worms? This very principle, correlation and causation, could be applied to the science between savant syndrome and the measure of genius a savant has.

According to the same article from the link above, the more severe and serious the savant syndrome found in a person, the more extraordinary the ability he is gifted with. The example used in the article is of a man named Derek Amato, who, at the age of 39, slammed his head against the concrete floor of his pool and acquired savant syndrome. In comparison to many other savants who were born with the affliction, he somehow contracted it after extensive brain damage through a concussion. Thus, there is a clear correlation between the method that the syndrome was contracted and the extensive extraordinary ability acquired. It is also a safe assumption that reverse causation, which is the predicament of a reversal chain of consequence, is not a factor; there is no way that the ability causes the syndrome, only vice versa. One has to acquire savant syndrome in order to get the given ability, not the other way around.

Deductions from Personal Experience

Personally, I have never come into contact with a savant; I have, however, come into contact with geniuses, which, for the purpose of my argument, are extremely similar. I am always in awe of how quickly they are able to pick up course material. For example, while it would take me a couple hours to study for an upcoming exam, for some of my friends that were in the gifted program at my school (East Stroudsburg High School North), it would take one hour maximum! I would try to comprehend how they would do it and consistently ask them for their study habits, but my inquiries would come with simple replies like “I don’t know how I do it” or “It was really easy!” When my friends would respond like this, I would just roll my eyes and think to myself “they don’t even realize how smart they really are!”

Regardless, everyone is gifted in his own way; whether it be in a specific sport, a genre of art like music or sculpting, or even singing and acting, people from all over the world have their own special talents. After speaking with my roommate about some of the genius friends we have at home (we came from the same area and high school), we came to the mutual agreement that no matter what you think of yourself and your talents, there is something special in everyone!

Links for Pictures

https://raisinganonconformist.wordpress.com/page/3/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Peek

http://www.adventuretravelnews.com/you-win-some-you-lose-some-2014s-best-experiments-in-adventure-travel

Link for the Introduction Paragraph Information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savant_syndrome

I Love Science…Sike.

Hey Everyone!

My name is Jeremy Perdomo, and I suppose I should start off by saying that I am a Freshman in the Smeal College of Business; more specifically, I am an aspiring Accounting major.

I guess to avoid an awkward introduction, I am expected to follow the normalcy of social standards and tell you guys a little bit about myself, so here it goes; I am Dominican and Ecuadorean and come from a small town in The Poconos called East Stroudsburg, which is actually a little less than three hours away from State College. Consequently, I graduated from East Stroudsburg High School North, and could not be more proud to be a Timberwolf!

Click here if you want to be directed to the website of my high school, although I know, according to statistics, the majority of you could not care less.

While attending this school, I was extremely involved in extracurriculars, ranging from being captain of the Varsity Tennis Team (click here to learn about the science behind a tennis serve) to being head of the Speech and Debate Club. However, I still remained one of the top students in my class and graduated in the top five percent of my nearly three-hundred student body.

Growing up, I was always extremely invested in my family, and I could not be more grateful for having them in my life! They never failed to support me and all my endeavors, and when my friends were not around to lift me up, I knew I could always count on them. Thus, I grew very close with my parents, especially my mother. Want to see a picture of us with the Snapchat Dog Filter? I gotchu.

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I am enrolled in this course mainly because my academic advisor highly recommended it to me, although, after careful consideration and extensive research (stalking) of the professor, I agreed that I should give it a try:) To be completely honest with myself, at one point in my life, I was determined to major in Biology; however, after I thought about it and did more research,  I realized that it was mad work, so I said “Sike!” and now I’m happily here.

I am not planning to major in Science for a majority of reasons, but the greatest is because I no longer have an insatiable interest in it, which is almost an essential part of anyone’s education. After taking all the science classes in my high school, I came to the realization that this was not something I wanted to be spending the rest of my life learning about. It morphed from something that I could not learn enough about to a topic that I so eagerly avoided.

Anyways, this is the end of my blog; sorry I am kind of boring on the internet; I promise you that I am actually very lit in real life! If you see me, say “What’s up?” please!