Author Archives: Kateryna Okhrimchuk

Can sunlight reduce the risk of nearsightedness?

As someone who has been nearsighted most of my life, I know how incredibly frustrating it can be when you forget your classes or run out of contact lenses (which always happens when you need them most). Because my nearsightedness, or myopia, developed pretty recently, I can’t help but think about what I could’ve done to prevent it. My mom always told me that it was because I spend too much time on my phone and computer, as well as the fact that I read at night with a flashlight on, but could it be something else? The key here is sunlight. The null hypothesis would be that sunlight doesn’t affect your vision at all and the alternative is that sunlight can actually reduce the risk of nearsightedness!


First Study

A study done at JAMA Ophthalmology found that the group with the highest UVB exposure, especially in the teenage and young adult years, had about a 30 percent lower risk for myopia than those with the lowest exposure. I believed that this study was well done, and 4166 of the participants (4187 in total) attended an eye examination including refraction, gave a blood sample, and were interviewed by trained workers using a questionnaire. Although they did not find the mechanism as to why increased Vitamin D prevented myopia, a proposed mechanism was that exposure to sunlight increased Vitamin D levels, and the Vitamin D was what saved their vision. Although there is currently no evidence connecting Vitamin D levels with improved vision, scientists are working hard to find it pending these shocking results.


Second Study

A second study done in China came up with very similar results. Two groups of monkeys were exposed to two different types of light: natural light and artificial light. At the end of the experiment, monkeys exposed to artificial light had significant myopic anisometropia compared with eyes of monkeys exposed to natural light. Scientists believe that exposure to bright light releases chemicals in the retina such as dopamine that can control growth, slowing down the progression of losing sight.


Although more research needs to be conducted to explain why there is a correlation between sunlight and lessening your chance of developing nearsightedness, we accept the alternative hypothesis and believe that it wouldn’t hurt to spend more time outside based on the results. Vitamin D has so many great benefits to our health, as long as we are soaking it up in moderation. And if there have been multiple studies confirming that the sun helps prevent damaging something that cannot be fixed once gone, it wouldn’t hurt to spend an extra hour outside!

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Does lying about santa damage your kids?

Almost all of us, at one point or another, were convinced by our parents that a jolly old man with a white beard would bring us presents on Christmas. We would get so excited; set up a tree, milk and cookies, decorate our houses, and never once did we doubt the validity of a man traveling the entire world in one night on his sleigh, carried by reindeer. Now that we’re older, we realize that Santa Clause was all a lie told to us by our parents, but haven’t we always been taught that lying is bad? If you think about it, we are deceived for years and years by carefully thought out plans to hide presents, making sure that we’re sleeping when they are put under the tree, etc. Can this deception impact children negatively while their brains are still developing? The null hypothesis is that lying about Santa Clause has no effect on children and the alternative is that lying about Santa psychologically damages kids.


According to an observational study done by Jacqueline D. Woolley and Maliki Ghossainy, parents and media distorting the truth about things like Santa Clause affects a child’s ability to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not in the actual world. When they see imagines and videos of something that is not real, like Santa, often times there is skepticism, but  because children doubt the validity of these pictures and images, they also begin to be genuinely skeptical of the reality status of information they encounter in the media. For example, when a group of kids we’re shown the documentary, March of the Penguins, a few children were convinced that the movie was made through special effects and animation. This happens because they don’t know what’s real and what’s not on television anymore.

In addition to this, you can also lose your child’s trust and make them suspicious of anything else that authority figure says in the future. In an MIT study, a teacher demonstrated only one function in a three-function toy, and then gave the toy to the children to play with. When the children were asked how effective the teachers instructions were, the kids who knew that it was a three-function toy rated the teacher much lower than the kids who thought that it only had one function, since they knew that the teacher had omitted information. This caused them to be much more suspicious of the teacher.

Possibly the worst effect of lying to children about Santa Clause was found out about in this article, which was that lied to children are much more likely to cheat and lie as well. When parents maintain that honesty is an important value, but lie to their children anyway, it gives the child a sense of comfort about that the fact that lying is okay. They learn from this, and end up doing it themselves.

Something that we might have to worry about is the Texas sharpshooter problem. Santa Clause is a legendary figure of Western culture that millions of children across the U.S. and the world believe in, and the main purpose of parents omitting the truth about him is to make their children happy. If, for over ten years, a child gets happiness from receiving presents once a year, can that really be such a negative thing?

Because of the Texas sharpshooter problem, we cannot accept or reject the null hypothesis. It is an interesting question to keep thinking about, though. Is a little white lie really hurting children more than it is bringing them joy?



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Does multitasking really work?

Us millennials are known to be the multitasking generation. It is a skill that is valued by employers and one that everyone is very quick to put on their resume. We try to juggle multiple things at once, claiming that it makes us more productive and helps us make better use of our time and energy, but does multitasking really work? This is a question that has always interested me because personally, I don’t know how to multitask. If I am texting someone and a person tries to have a conversation with me at the same time, I can only focus on one or the other. Trying to do both, I would end up extremely frustrated and wouldn’t (or couldn’t) have my full attention on either. I wanted to do some research and find out if people can actually multitask and I’m just not good at it, or if it’s genuinely impossible and it’s actually hurting us and slowing down our progress in the tasks that we are attempting to perform simultaneously. The null hypothesis would be that we are unable to multitask and it’s slowing down our progress, while the alternative is that multitasking really works!


First Study

A study on this topic was conducted by Wilfred W.F. Lau and published in Computers in Human Behavior. The overall conclusion was that the longer the student spent multitasking on multimedia and social media, the lower they performed on the tests in the study. This is believed to be because our brain toggles between multiple tasks and actually tires itself out in the process. Each “toggle” depletes energy, actually leading to less accomplished due to the absence of the energy that you’d need to perform a task. Another reason we find it hard to focus on two or more things at once is because the right and left sides of the prefrontal cortex work together when focused on one task, but split up when forced to do two. When faced with three or more tasks, people in the study consistently forgot to complete one of the tasks, showing us that multitasking is in fact counterproductive.

Second Study

Another study done by Edward Downs, published in Computers & Education, showed the same trend. Two groups of students were given a documentary to watch, one group allowed to have some form of social media or computer with them while the other group was not. The group that multitasked made many more mistakes than the group that did not multitask and was just focused on the documentary. Some flaws in this study, though, were that most of the students in this study were freshmen. This could have been a flaw because freshmen could have different study/listening habits than juniors or seniors, simply because it’s their first year away from home, living and learning by themselves. Another flaw was that one fifth of the students in the experiment reported previously using their laptops in class to take notes. This is not ideal because they could have better trained themselves to be engaged in two types of medias, possibly skewing the results.

Other possible confounding variables to both studies? Our attitude towards how well we believe we could multitask. According to the National Academies Press, self confidence is one of the most influential motivators of behavior in our everyday lives. If we believe that we can do something, we have a better chance of actually accomplishing it. Another confounding variable is how long we’ve been attempting to multitask. Someone who has been actively on their phone while attempting to pay attention in class during their entire academic career has better conditioned themselves than someone who has only recently began to attempt multitasking.

Although multitasking seems like a great idea, the two studies that I have analyzed have showed that we must reject the alternative hypothesis. It seems like a great idea to do multiple things at the same time, but if it’s actually making us counterproductive, I’d rather focus on one thing at a time.


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Can Vitamin C really prevent us from getting sick?

It’s that time of year again – cold season. You walk into class and can’t go a minute without hearing someone cough or sneeze, and being in close proximity with so many sick people and germs (especially in the dorms) makes it extremely hard not to be affected. Something that my roommate swears by, though, is Vitamin C. She told me that as soon as she feels the symptoms of a cold coming on, she takes Emergen-C, an immune system booster with 1,000 mg of Vitamin C in it. Can it be true that something as simple as Vitamin C can actually prevent a week and a half of coughs, sore throats, and fatigue? The null hypothesis would be that Vitamin C doesn’t have any real effect on sickness while the alternative would be that it prevents you from getting a cold! I researched the answer to this question, and it’s actually not so simple.



First Study

The most famous study done on this topic was the 2007 Cochrane review. The review examined placebo trials involving the consumption of at least 200mg/day of Vitamin C taken either continuously to prevent colds or after the onset of cold symptoms. The overall conclusion was that the continuous consumption of Vitamin C didn’t help prevent cold’s in the general population, but actually reduced the chance of people like athletes, runners, soldiers, and basically everyone exposed to extreme physical activity by 50%. It did show, though, that continuous consumption of Vitamin C can shorten a cold by a few days. Although the mechanism for these results is unknown, a possibility could be that the anti-histamine effect of high-dose Vitamin C. When we are exposed to histamines, they attach to the cells in our body and cause them to swell and leak fluid, also causing itching, sneezing, and watery eyes. By reducing these symptoms with Vitamin C, the cold could possibly last a shorter period of time.


Meta-Analysis Review

A meta-analysis review, published by Harri Hemila from the Department of Public Health at the University of Helsinki in Finland, talks about all the shortcomings of studies that claim that Vitamin C does in fact prevent colds. Hemila lays out all eight studies that have been done on the subject, as well as the results including Vitamin C’s effect on duration or severity on the cold. The results all had the same thing in common: the effect of Vitamin C was not great enough to claim that it effectively prevents colds or aids in getting rid of them.

Sadly, we have to reject the alternative hypothesis, but even though Vitamin C doesn’t necessarily prevent colds from happening, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. For example, we discussed in class how sailors would go on extremely long trips and would have their teeth fall out (scurvy). They figured out that sucking on lemons prevented this, even if they didn’t know the mechanism behind it. It was discovered that Vitamin C prevented scurvy, making it a necessary aspect of our diet. Vitamin C has many other uses other than cold prevention, let’s just hope that something that does prevent colds gets discovered soon. It would be incredibly useful, especially on college campuses.


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Does consuming dairy cause us to break out?

My whole life I’ve I’ve been a huge fan of dairy products – milkshakes, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, you name it. My family always had these things stocked in our fridge, so I never saw anything wrong with them. I did notice, though, that I always broke out on my cheeks and forehead whenever I ate milk chocolate and custard, and I always dreaded waking up with acne after indulging in my favorite chocolate ice cream. A few months ago my friend told me that almost all of her acne was gone simply because she cut out dairy from her diet. This got me thinking – does dairy consumption and what we put into our body affect how much acne we get? The null hypothesis would be that our consuming dairy doesn’t have any real effect on acne while the alternative would be that certain foods and beverages, like cheese and milk, cause us to break out! I researched this question and it turns out that yes, dairy does play a huge role in our breakouts!



First Study

Although the relationship between diet and acne has always been extremely controversial, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology by Dr. Caroline L. LaRosa shows a positive association of low fat/skim milk consumption and breakouts. 225 people were recruited to participate in this study, and were divided into two groups – the control group and the group that consumed the dairy products. The study stressed that both groups of people perviously had moderate facial acne and were cleared by a dermatologist to participate in the study so that it was as unbiased as possible. Both groups were given low fat/skim milk, but the control group was given a significantly smaller amount. The result? Although both groups consumed dairy, the control group, or the group that consumed much less of it, had a significantly smaller amount of acne on their face compared to the group that consumed more dairy. It should be noted that both groups started off with relatively the same amount of acne on their faces. Although the study was able to make associations between dairy consumption and acne, it was unable to determine causation, so we don’t know the mechanism, or why this occurs.

A conjectured mechanism as to why dairy might cause acne is that it is a high-glycemic-index food group, and regular consumption of foods with a high glycemic index elevates serum insulin concentrations, which may stimulate sebum production. Sebum is an oily secretion from the sebaceous glands that, when the body produces too much, causes us to break out.




Just a few years ago, scientists knew almost nothing about dairy’s effects on our skin, but so many studies have been conducted since then that Dr. Whitney P. Bowe of SUNY Downstate Medical Center published a meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology of the results. In her meta-analysis, she talks about twenty different studies that were conducted that more or less had the same results; either increased consumption of dairy increased the non-control group’s amount of acne, or decreased consumption of acne decreased the control group’s amount of acne. I do not believe that this topic suffers from the file drawer problem because the accepted idea today in science is that dairy consumption does cause acne, so if a scientist conducted a study and found no correlation between the two, they would definitely want to publish that. To my knowledge, not many studies like that exist. This is why this issue does not suffer from the Texas Sharpshooter problem, either. There isn’t just one study that claims that dairy consumption causes acne, there are many. There have been too many positive correlations between the two, so no one positive result is being emphasized as being correct.

Something that we always have to worry about when it comes to science is anecdotes. A great example of this was the video that we watched in class about a woman who claimed that a vaccine caused her to be disabled, impairing her speech and forcing her to jerk violently when walking forward. Not only was this proven to be a hoax later on, but your chances of getting a life threatening reaction due to a vaccine, the small pox vaccine for example, is 30 in 1,000,000. I found many blogs online that bolstered about the authors’ positive experiences with cutting out, like this one titled “I Gave Up Dairy And All I Got Was The Best Skin Of My Life”. Although anecdotes should not be anyones primary reason for doing anything, this topic has much extensive research and results showing that cutting out dairy does, in fact, reduce acne. Since dairy is not an absolute necessity to our diet and someone seeing these results has struggled with acne, it would be worth a shot to see if avoiding dairy would in fact help them stop their breakouts.

From these results, we can reject the null hypothesis that our diet doesn’t have any real effect on acne. Next time you’re breaking out and notice that you’re eating too much ice cream or butter, try switching them out with fruits and vegetables and see if there’s a major difference in your skin!

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Is laughter really the best medicine?

We’ve all seen those incredibly cheesy quotes on Facebook and Instagram that go something along the lines of “Life is better when you’re laughing” or “Laughter is the best medicine”. I remember scrolling through Twitter and seeing a fun fact that said that just smiling puts us in a good mood if we’re upset. I wanted to do some research to find out if any of this is true, especially since laughter is such an easy and free way to make ourselves feel better.


According to this article published in the Lancet Oncology Journal, laughter is a great form of therapy because it makes patients feel better, it releases endorphins in our brain, and it’s a proven, free way to recovery faster after surgery. Aaron van Dorn, the author of this study, uses laughter as a therapy for cancer patients. Cancer, something that is extremely devastating and affects millions of people, causes many people to become depressed, anxious, and even suicidal. Dorn plans on combatting this in his patients with laughter. He has a comedian come in to perform for the people in his hospital, and has noticed excellent results.

According to the Chopra Center, laughter has many great benefits to those who do it on a daily basis.

  1. Laughter reduces stress
  2. It increases resiliency in people
  3. It combats depression
  4. It decreases pain

There has even been a thing called laughter yoga, which is a practice that includes prolonged voluntary laughter!


Sources –

  1. Source 1 – Laughter study
  2. Source 2 – Chopra Center

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Can indoor tanning actually be good for you?

As someone who tans in a tanning bed every once in a while, I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I do it. In addition to the fact that my mom lectures me on the dangers every time she sees me go, I’m very well aware that I’m putting myself at risk for basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. I wanted to find out if there are any known benefits of indoor tanning and to my surprise, there are quite a lot.


According to this article, indoor tanning is actually extremely beneficial to those who tan for a small amount of time (ten minutes) each day. It states that the tanning booths UV rays help your body produce Vitamin D, which has attributed to preventing diseases such as colon cancer, depression, high blood pressure, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, prostate cancer, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), PMS, arthritis, psoriasis, diabetes and osteoporosis (Health Guidance). This was extremely surprising to me because I would have never thought that there was a correlation between Vitamin D and prevention of a disease like arthritis; the two seem incredibly unrelated. The article also states that indoor tanning reduces eczema flare ups and can color darken stretch marks to better match the color of your skin.

Although this all sounds great, I’m not buying it.

I decided to look up Vitamin D and how it prevents all of these serious diseases. Every single article that came up said something along the lines of “Vitamin D may lower the risk…”, and “Researchers have found that there may be a link between Vitamin D and…”. Even the American Diabetes Association states that most of the research on prevention of diabetes with Vitamin D is based on observational, epidemiological studies, which are important for generating hypotheses but do not prove causality (Diabetes Spectrum).

We know that indoor tanning causes cancer. We know that it is extremely dangerous to our health. We know that it can give us third degree burns. It’s a federal law that all tanning salons in the United States list all the warnings in every single room with a tanning bed because these risks are that serious. The research that the Vitamin D we get from indoor tanning ‘may’ prevent this, and it’s linked to ‘possibly’ reduce that is not enough to publish and reassure the public that baking in these machines is safe for us.

The information that I found on the Skin Cancer Foundation website is enough to scare anyone into no longer indoor tanning. The fact that more people develop skin cancer from using tanning beds than lung cancer because of smoking is extremely concerning (Skin Cancer Foundation). The general public should be extremely wary of the information that they read and where it’s coming from. Much of this “research”, which isn’t actually even research since I failed to find even one positive connection between indoor tanning and our health on a science database, could be coming from someone who indoor tans themselves and is trying to justify it, or they could be receiving funding from the indoor tanning industry to convince us to believe this information. Just like we learned in class about the paper towel industry funding the research that claimed that air hand dryers were detrimental to our health due to the bacteria that was being blown onto our hands, this could be happening with articles that list the benefits of indoor tanning that seem too good to be true.

Even though aesthetics are extremely important to so many of us, it’s not worth our health in the long run to look good now. No amount of stretch marks or inconvenient eczema is worth the high risk of cancer that comes along with unnecessary indoor tanning. After doing this research, I’m definitely going to cancel my tanning membership for good.

sunscreeeeeeeeen sunskkreeeennnn


Sources –

  1. Source 1 – Indoor tanning is beneficial
  2. Source 2 – American Diabetes Association
  3. Source 3 – Skin Cancer Foundation

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Being harsh on your children: does it help or hurt?

Growing up, my parents have always been complete opposites when it came to raising me. My mom was always the “good parent”, the one that I loved to come to whenever I messed up and needed her help. Bad test grades, phone calls home from my teachers, and anything else along those lines always went to my mom because she was extremely forgiving and kind whenever I messed up. My dad, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. If he found out about a bad grade, I couldn’t leave the house for a month. He would sit front row at my schools concerts and give me his critiques right after they were done. Waking up early every Saturday morning to do math problems with him was a weekly routine, and I would get scolded if I got any wrong. He always told me that I would appreciate him doing all of this in the long run, but even now, ten yeas later, I still go to my mom with everything because she was always kinder and more understanding than my dad. This made me think: does being harsh on your children help them or hurt them in the long run?

According to a an observational study published in the Social Science and Medicine Journal, harsh parenting has an extremely negative effect on not only adolescent physical health, but on adolescent body mass index as well (ScienceDirect).



According to Thomas J. Schofield, author of the article and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, parental harshness lowers our self esteem and self image and increases our stress levels. The scariest part is that it carries into our adult lives as well, affecting us even when we don’t live with our parents anymore. These results were also consistent with a meta-analysis that was published in 2009, describing multiple studies showing this exact thing. We can hope that there is no file drawer problem going on since so many studies have been published on this topic, giving us accurate results, especially since many of them have the same results.

There is likely a correlation between harsh parenting and a high BMI due to stress or emotional eating. According to this article, emotional eating stems from childhood, where most of us learn to associate food with comfort (Body For Life). For example, if a baby is crying, a mom would give it a bottle, or if a child falls off a bike he or she is given candy so that they’ll stop crying. When a child is being screamed at by a harsh parent, they turn to food to make themselves feel better; in turn leading to higher BMI and even obesity. I believe that this is incredibly dangerous because obesity, which is already such a big problem in the United States, could be prevented in cases like this if parents knew how to raise their children without pushing them over the edge and causing them to turn to food for comfort.

Young toddler boy eating messy pasta


Low self esteem, something that is definitely prevalent in a child when they are constantly being put down by a harsh parent, is actually what causes adolescent physical health to be compromised. Just like stress causes us to be more susceptible to getting sick, low self esteem, which can cause constant stress and worrying in a person, does just that. Just as physical health is compromised, mental health is extremely affected as well. Low self esteem can cause people to self harm, want to fix their appearance with cosmetic surgery, or even worse, can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

That doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t discipline their children at all, though. There are obviously many positives to disciplining children, like teaching them respect and how to be good people, but all of that can be done in a way that doesn’t hurt them in the long run. Parents can be strict without being harsh and abusive, giving their children a good life minus the low self esteem, high BMI, and many other problems that harsh parenting causes.



Sources –

  1. Source 1 – Study
  2. Source 2 – Meta-Analysis of Data
  3. Source 3 – Emotional Eating

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Can the change of season really cause depression?

Summer has always been my favorite season. Being from Brooklyn, there’s always something to do, like going to the beach, the pier, or grassy Central Park. I love being greeted by the warm sunshine and beautiful weather when I wake up every single day, and I can’t wait to go outside and start my day. As soon as the fall, and especially winter, start creeping up, I can’t help but get sad thinking about the brutal weather and terrible cold that’s going to hit as soon as November rolls around. I also notice that every time the temperature drops, I lose all motivation to wake up for class, go outside, or even hang out with my friends. I get sad and coop myself up in my room until it gets warm again, something thats been happening for many years now. I recently found out about Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is what I believe is causing all of this. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is characterized as recurrent episodes of major depression at the same time every year (usually the winter). When I first found out about it, I thought that it was absolutely ridiculous, but I find it hard to believe that the depression that I get every winter is a coincidence. I decided to research more into the topic and find out the answer – can the change of season really cause depression?

sad-dis-happy sad-dis-sad

Many people believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder isn’t real, and an article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders even tries to disprove it. The only thing that this article proves, though, is that the study that Winkler, the author, is trying to disprove is just poorly done.

  1. The author states that the diagnosis of SAD is always based on patient history, which MayoClinic proved to be true. SAD diagnosis is done with a physical exam, in-depth questions about your health, lab tests, and a psychological evaluation (MayoClinic). In the study that they are attempting to disprove, the scientists only asked the patients about current symptoms. This does not mean that the disorder does not exist, the research is just done incorrectly.
  2. The second problem with the study that was done was the fact that the interviews were done randomly throughout the year, and not in the winter months when SAD is actually prevalent in people. This caused the researchers to diagnose depression in those people as SAD, when it was clearly just depression, something that affects people all year round. Again, this does not disprove that SAD is real, it just shows that the study was poorly done.


And although correlation does not equal causation, we can test for causality by changing something.

  • Direct Causality – Cold temperatures cause seasonal depression during that time
  • Reverse Causality – Depression causes the cold temperatures
  • Third Variable – Cold temperatures and depression during this time are not causally related, but something else effects them both.
  • Chance

We can automatically get rid of reverse causality, because depression certainly doesn’t cause the temperature to drop, the tilt of the earth’s axis does by changing the seasons.

A study done by Peter Graw from the Chronobiology and Sleep Laboratory in Basel, Switzerland  did show that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and can be managed, by showing the direct causality of cold temperatures on seasonal depression. He did this by exposing two groups, women with SAD, and a control group, to outdoor light (known to be extremely beneficial to people with the disorder) in both the summer and the winter. His results showed that the light had virtually no effect on the control groups mood and alertness during both seasons, and that both their mood and alertness stayed the same, but drastically improved the mood and alertness of the group with the disorder.


By manipulating the amount of light both groups received, this study was able to show direct causality between cold temperatures and seasonal depression. Although third variables can also be still be a possibility of causation, the likely answer is direct causality. Assuming that this study was done well, we can also rule out chance.

It is actually very reassuring to conclude that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. For the longest time I believed that something was seriously wrong with me and the fact that I, without failiure, felt so sad at the same time every year. Thankfully there are better ways to deal with it than counting down the days until spring, and maybe this year I’ll use some of them to actually feel better when the temperature drops.


Sources –

  1. Study 1- SAD has been disproven
  2. Study 2 – SAD proven to exist by experiment
  3. MayoClinic – Diagnosing SAD

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Does a strong support system shorten recovery time?

When I was younger, I had to have a few minor surgeries performed on my kidneys and liver. Throughout all the procedures, my parents were always there to hold my hand and be there whenever I needed them. I would wake up from my surgeries to bouquets of flowers, new toys, and a cheerful mom and dad to make me laugh when I wasn’t feeling so great. Whenever I think back to that time, I don’t recall it being miserable or painful, mostly because my parents made it so much easier for me to recover. I remembered this time in my life while I was watching Grey’s Anatomy a few months ago and the doctors on the show refused to perform a transplant surgery if the patient didn’t have friends or family to be with him after the procedure. Meredith Grey, the surgeon who would’ve been doing the procedure, said that the patient would never recover from such a major surgery if he didn’t have people to help him through it. This got me thinking; does a strong support system really help with and shorten recovery time?


According to a study published in the Journal of Anthropology in April of 2015, it drastically does. Avoiding Readmissions – Support Systems Required After Discharge to Continue Rapid Recovery, written by Doctor Paul K. Edwards and his colleagues from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, describes the results that the doctors have obtained from their experiment.

The “support system” that their experiment provides for the patients is calling TavHealth. According to their website, this service helps identify and solve barriers to care by providing social, financial, and community resources to patients so that after-discharge care is as high quality as possible. It also shares these resources with physicians and health care professionals to make sure that patients smoothly transition from being in a hospital to back to living their everyday lives (TavHealth). 

Their results supported their hypothesis! With 1281 patients without TavHealth, and 593 patient with TavHealth, total readmissions decreased from 205 (16%) to 54 (9.2%) with the support system that was provided for the patients. Patients with TavHealth were also discharged 26 hours earlier, on average, than patients without it, possibly making this a breakthrough in patient after care.


I have a few doubts about these results, though. Earlier in the semester we learned about the paper towel industry funding the research that claimed that hand dryers blew out hundreds of different types of bacteria to sway peoples/businesses decision about switching to hand dryers to save paper. According to Todays Hospitalist, many hospitals are being pressured to discharge patients earlier, even giving doctors a “prime discharge time”, which is 11 AM. Hospitals are even going as far as giving their staff monetary incentives to make sure that patients are out earlier and faster, which could potentially be dangerous for the patient if they are not healed properly or have not been giving the proper time to recover from a major surgery. Doctor Paul K. Edwards could have been pressured to find a positive correlation between TavHealth and shorter recovery times because that would save hospitals a lot of money, possibly making the study not as accurate as it should be.

The study also did not account for x variables when measuring results. Although all the patients did have total join orthoplasties (a total joint replacement surgery), the study did not once mention age, general health, previous surgeries, and whether or not the patients had a separate support system, like family and friends, to help them get through recovery and avoid readmission. Another x variable could have been the financial status of a patient. If the patient had a low income or no insurance, they probably could not have taken the full recommended time to heal since they had to go back to work to pay off the hospital bill or just to pay their bills in general. Although the support system was there for them, it wouldn’t have helped them with their money situation.

We want to believe that all the studies we read are accurate, but sadly many are fueled by money and politics. Just like when Trofim Lysenko, the Russian scientist who claimed that vernalized fields should had greater yields of wheat, caused mass starvation during the Soviet Union, this information could be causing people to be spending money on an unnecessary service that could possibly have no impact on recovery time and readmissions. Sadly, we don’t have many more studies that show the correlation between a strong support system and getting better quickly, so for now this is what were going to believe. And to be completely honest, getting help and proper attention after being in a gloomy hospital doesn’t sound too bad either. Definitely not as great as having your mom and dad there, but certainly better than being alone.



Sources –

  1. Source 1 – ScienceDirect Article on the Study
  2. Source 2 – TavHealth Website
  3. Source 3 – Today’s Hospitalist on Reducing Hospital Stay Time

Picture Sources –

  1. Picture 1
  2. Picture 2

Can vegans actually better their lives and the lives of animals?

Throughout my entire life I’ve been an avid meat eater. My diet has always, even to this day, consisted of red meat, chicken, pork, vegetables, grains, and all the other good stuff in the food pyramid; but meat especially has almost always been included in every meal. It’s definitely a cultural thing in addition to the fact that I just genuinely enjoy it, too. My family and I are from Ukraine, and most of the dishes, like Kapusniak, a soup with pork, cabbage, and sour cream, include some sort of meat.

When I got to high school, one of my best friend’s told me that she was a vegan as soon as we met. I couldn’t fathom the idea of not only eating lettuce and apples all day (which she later told me was an inaccurate stereotype), but also not being able to enjoy any sort of animal products in general, like honey or gelatin. Often times I asked my 4’9, 92 pound friend if it was really worth it and if she was getting all the nutrition that she needed, and she seemed to think so. She loved the fact that she was helping animals and living a “healthier lifestyle”, but to be completely honest, I wasn’t buying it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe in being healthy by eating nutritious foods and exercising daily. I would probably benefit by cutting out some of the meat that I consume, too, but to completely get rid of something that’s been proven by science to be good for you, if eaten in moderation, sounds completely crazy to me.


One of the biggest problems of being a vegan is not getting the proper nutrients that a person needs to live a healthy lifestyle. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, vitamin B-12 deficiency is extremely prevalent in vegetarians, including 62% of pregnant women, between 25% and almost 86% of children, and 11% to 90% among the elderly ( And this is just for vegetarians! We could expect the percentages to be much higher for vegans since they have an even smaller window of foods that they can consume. This information is important because B-12, known as the energy vitamin, helps the body with circulation, formation of red blood cells, and mental clarity and memory function. A B-12 deficiency can lead to mental fogginess, memory troubles, muscle weakness, and fatigue (Mercola).

What’s even worse is that theres only seven vegan foods that have B-12, and four of them only count if they’re fortified with it. Vegans also tend to lack Vitamin D, Protein, and Zinc, all of which are mainly found in meat. The dearth of zinc, for example, can cause growth and developmental problems, hair loss, and diarrhea (Mayo Clinic). I found an interesting article that you can read here that describes many of the risks that have to do with a vegan diet. Although technically eating more leafy greens IS good for you, don’t these other health risks make the losses outweigh the benefits?

Another argument that I never fully agreed with is the fact that vegans are saving animals by avoiding consuming animal products. Out of 318.9 million people in the United States, only 7.3 million are vegans and only an additional 22.8 million follow a planet-based diet, according to the Vegetarian Times. This means that 288.8 million people, or roughly 90% of the population, consumes meat. Whatever animal it was that the vegan didn’t eat undoubtedly went to another meat eater in the country, meaning that no animals were saved by their efforts. And what about aquatic animals such as frogs and fish that die in the pesticide runoff from growing fruits and vegetables on farms? After reading this article, I was extremely shocked to find out that about 90% of the United States’ rivers are contaminated by pesticides and 80% of fish are affected by it. Vegans can stop eating meat, but they can’t change something as great of a factor as that.

What’s even more bothersome about veganism is that it’s been the “cool” and “trendy” thing to follow nowadays. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Chicago are among the top ten cities with a growing population of people going vegan, even though there are a plethora of health risks associated with the transition. I think it’s strange that such a great number of people care so much about posting a picture of their acai bowl on Instagram from the popular new vegan cafe, because not only is it overpriced but often times it’s also not tasty. Speaking from personal experience, I hope I can go back home to Brooklyn during Thanksgiving break and this craze blows over. I definitely miss eating pizza and wings with my non-vegan friends, especially at two in the morning when you’re craving them the most.



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Athletes – Are they the key to a successful U.S. Army?

Having played lacrosse for almost twelve years, I’ve acquired skills not only having to do with the sport, but skills that will stick with me throughout my entire life. Practicing for five hours a day, then having to go home and not only do homework, but make time for friends, family, and other activities as well, has taught me the valuable lesson of time management. Playing a game in an outdoor field in the middle of December with snow surrounding me from every corner while wearing only a racerback and a skirt has taught me not to complain when things get hard. Losing a game has taught me that you can’t always be number one, but that that’s okay, and shaking hands with our rivals after we won has taught me to stay humble and not make others feel bad when you’ve been successful.

According to this article, Lindsay Danilack, the fourth woman ever to be honored as First Captain at West Point, believes that there is a crucial relationship between an athletic background and being a soldier. But why?

The first reason is because athletes are mentally tough and are the most capable in successfully going through Army training. According to a study at The University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia, this proved to be true. 214 boys between the ages of 16 and 18 were separated into two groups, athletes and non-athletes, and were given a series of difficult, physically and mentally demanding tasks to complete. The study found that “both were observed for achievement goals and sport motivation, with the high mental toughness group favoring both mastery- and performance-approach goals and self-determined as well as extrinsic motivational tendencies” ( The athletes were able to make it through the difficult tasks and even used techniques acquired while playing their sport to push themselves to keep going. When a General is yelling at a soldier, he expects them to take it, not run away in fear or disobey in anger. Athletes are conditioned to “take the heat” from their coaches, making them the perfect recruits and future cadets.


The second reason is because they have developed the ability to work well in teams. No matter what sport you play, whether it be soccer, lacrosse, basketball, etc, no one person can take on an entire team on their own. Sure, there are the more skilled players with more developed abilities than others, thats why titles like MVP and Best Offensive Player exist, but without the help of their teammates they could never achieve the great things that they have done in their athletic careers. The Army is looking for team players because these are proven to be the most intelligent people. A study was conducted by the Theoretical Ecology Research Group at the Trinity College of Dublin that created digital organisms that electronically evolved “brains” in order to succeed in social games where they could either cooperate or cheat on their opponent (NBC News). The study found that the digital organisms that cooperated and worked together with the others not only developed more complex brains, but also ended up reproducing and creating a new generation of evolved intelligence, while the organisms that “cheated” on their opponents ended up dying out. Although in the Army the soldiers that you are with are certainly not your opponents, this study definitely correlates the idea of team work and success; team work being something that athletes have been conditioned to live by through endless quotes like “There’s no i in team” their entire lives. This is incredibly crucial in the Army because help from others could be the difference between life and death in the battlefield.


The third reason is because they are the most likely to follow through with something, and even become a leader. According to, 59.5% of recruits fail out of Ranger School, with 36.5% dropping out in the first four days. Athletes, known to be extremely tenacious and hard working, have the drive to practice a task rigorously, relentlessly, and push through failure and obstacles until they succeed. Although physical strength plays a huge part in this, the mentality of the athlete is what makes them the Generals, the Sergeants, and the leaders. Harvard Business Review recently revealed that athletes are among the greatest percentage of people with developed abilities of synchrony. Synchrony is a neural process where the frequency and scale of brain waves of people become in sync (Harvard Business Review). This plays a huge role in the relationship between leaders and followers, and often times people will listen to the leaders that they feel “in sync” with, making the athletes the most approachable and respected. The Army needs these types of leaders, the athletes, for the operation to run smoothly. In business, happy employees mean a successfully run company. The same thing goes for the Army.

If you were a student athlete in high school, or even continued to be one here at Penn State, congratulations! Your drive to succeed, and your ability to manage time and work well in teams not only benefits your life in positive ways, but it could also pave your way to a possible leadership opportunity in the armed forces (if you ever decide to go down that path).



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Dream Interpretation – Genuine meanings or deceitful fraud?

Ever since I was a little girl, I would run to my grandma after I had any sort of dream, whether it be good or bad, and have her read the meaning of it to me from her old dream dictionary. Throughout my life I’ve sort of accepted everything that I read in this “magic book” to be completely true. If I dreamt of fire, that meant that some sort of destruction or anger was brewing in my life. The time that I dreamt about living in a castle, the book assured me that meant that I was destined to a position of power, wealth, and prestige. What was even more strange was that these dreams and what the dictionary defined as their meaning came at the strangest, most non-coincidental times. Once, I kept having dreams about being an acrobat in a circus. They kept coming back over and over again and when I finally looked up what acrobats symbolized, the dream dictionary told me that it meant that I needed to better balance aspects of my life. It also meant that fears prevented you from achieving your goals. During this time of my life, I was extremely stressed out and dealing with school and family problems. This got me thinking; can it be true that the things that we dream have a meaning that predict and describe the events that are going on in our lives?

I became extremely skeptical about whether or not a book could actually tell me what my dreams meant. Even early civilizations of Greeks and Romans believed that dreams were special, going as far as to say that they were the medium between humans and the gods. They even believed that dreams could predict the future (

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Although there isn’t a 100% correct answer to this question, many theories have been proposed that correlate dreams and symbolism. Two psychriatrists at Harvard University, Robert McMarley and John Allan Hobson, proposed that dreams don’t actually mean anything, and that they are merely brain impulses that pull random thoughts and images from our memories. They state that the only reason we remember some of what we dreamed of is because our brain is trying to make sense of it all after we wake up. Professional Dream Analyst and author, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg. disagrees. Loewenberg says: ‘It’s easier to dismiss something as nonsense when you don’t understand it than it is to try and figure it out” ( She explains that dreaming is a continuation of your thoughts from the day, turning them into symbols and pictures that describe the feelings and emotions that you had felt that day. For example, if you got fired from your job you might dream of a storm, but if you got a bonus on your salary soft clouds or a rainbow is likely to appear in your sleep.

When it comes down to it, though, you really need to pay attention to credibility when reading about theories and opinions because neither of these things have been proven. With that being said, I would much rather trust the opinion of professors at Harvard University than a woman on the Internet who’s entire income comes from “analyzing dreams”. It’s just like psychics; we go to them because they claim that they can tell us our future, but we have no way of knowing or proving that they actually do. I found an interesting article, which you can read here, about one of America’s top psychics being a self-proclaimed fraud.

Although the idea of our dreams predicting our future or giving us some sort of message is incredibly enticing, it is most likely untrue, or at least hasn’t been proven yet. Still, though, I don’t think I’m going to be getting rid of my dream dictionary just yet. Sometimes it’s fun to believe that a book can tell you what that cool dream you had last night really means.


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The science of why I’m not drawn to science

Hi everyone,

My name is Kateryna Okhrimchuk, but most people just call me Cathy! I was born in Lviv, Ukraine but have been living in New York City for almost 15 years now. I’m a freshman here at Penn State and I did summer session so I’m extremely happy to be somewhat ahead. I’ve been playing lacrosse for most of my life (and hopefully will join the club team), love to work out, and love R&B and rap. I’m currently in the Division of Undergraduate Studies but hope to switch to Smeal as a Finance Major with a minor in either Econ or Political Science.

To be completely honest, the reason why I’m taking this course is because I needed to fulfill a general education science credit. Classes like biology, chemistry, and physics scare me, so I was looking for a class that wasn’t too difficult and didn’t require me to memorize formulas or do scary science math. When I was reading the description of SC200 on LionPath, I was extremely interested in the fact that it was more about getting you to think than to figure out how to find the velocity of a moving car. One of my friends also took the class last year, and just like me, he hates science. He told me that he really enjoyed it and that Andrew’s accent was really cool, so I thought “why not?”. I also really appreciated the fact that the class started at 1:35 PM, giving me plenty of time to sleep in and look like this:

                                                     :SLEEPING BEAUTY AKA ME

The reason why I’m not planning on being a science major is because I’ve felt really excluded my entire life from the “smart science kids”. I’ve noticed that teachers always favored the students that did well in their classes, which was never me in anything having to do with cells, molecules, and chemicals by the way, so I’ve never really had the chance to love it. When we were looking through microscopes for bio labs in the 7th grade, I was always the kid in the back that let the other guy do it, and when we were doing chemistry labs sophomore year of high school the teacher assigned me to write down the results because I just wasn’t as good or as fast at completing the task as the other people in my group. I definitely don’t hate science, I just feel like I’ve never been welcomed or given a chance at learning it well. On the flip side, though, I’ve always excelled in subjects like Math, Economics, History, and English, so when teacher’s in those classes liked me and gave me chances to do the subjects and voice what I thought, it made me love the class even more, so I tried hard and succeeded in those subjects, while I’m sure other people felt left out. It’s unfair, but it happens.

I’m not going to let my past bad experiences stop me from enjoying this class, though. While I was going through the syllabus and the things that we were going to talk about, I found so many interesting topics that really made you think about the world and how things around us work. One that was especially interesting to me was the question of Where does evil come from? When I tried to Google it, only the biblical answers like this one came up, but is there an actual scientific answer?