Author Archives: Lauren Elizabeth Jardine

Should Schools Be So Hasty To Drop Cursive?

In many schools across the country cursive writing is being dropped as a part of the curriculum in English classes. Many see it as a practice that is becoming obsolete. I went to a high school where until eleventh grade all assignments had to hand written and in script. We also only had the option of handwriting our notes, nothing could be typed. According to my teachers writing in cursive helped us do to do better and made our though and creativity flow more smoothly and transfer better into words. We were also told that notes were to be handwritten because they helped us to remember the information better. To me always having to write out my assignments seemed tedious and annoying, especially because I had never learned to write in cursive, but were my teachers right? I ventured out into cyberspace to see what evidence there might be in support of their claims. 

My null hypothesis was that cursive did not affect your writing or intelligence more than any other type of writing style.

The alternative hypothesis was that writing in cursive does indeed improve writing and or creativity.

Most specialists and psychologists agreed that cursive is good to learn and use, but did not have much scientific data to back it up. Suzanne Buranch Anderson wrote in The New York Times that cursive writing is better for memory and thinking and language skills and that was the general consensus in scientific and psychological magazines, but very few people had studies to back up this information, just stating that they were specialists in the field. However I did find one study with very promising data.

In 2012 Marie-France Morin, Natalie Lavoie and Isabelle Montésinos-Gelet did a study for the University of Montreal testing out the effects of different writing styles. For participants they used students in Quebec, where the process of learning to write manuscript and cursive are both alive and well, unlike in many U.S schools, where cursive had been kicked to the curb. They split the seven hundred and eighteen second grade students into three learning groups, those who learned print, those who learned cursive, and those who learned print then cursive.

The results showed that learning solely cursive writing yielded the best results when it came to skills in syntax. These students were able to spell and had higher writing abilities overall. They found that students who wrote in cursive understood the concepts of words better because they were not just a bunch of separate symbols next to each other, but one flowing connected writing. Having this sort of flow to their writing helped them get ideas down better and faster (before they could be forgotten) because they were not pausing as much as their print and print-cursive counter parts. This led to their increased graphic-motor skills which is why they are more skilled than their print counter parts. The reason why print-cursive students were not as proficient, and in fact were least proficient of the three, is because they are not able to fully progress in one style. Instead the automation skills they are beginning to learn in print are barred by switching to cursive, causing their spelling and ability to get down their ideas to be hindered.

In this study the alternative hypothesis turned out to be right, as do my old-school teachers. Cursive does indeed appear to increase ability to write more fluidly and help you get your ideas out better, and just causes improved syntax overall.

As we are reminded constantly in class, correlation does not equal causation, and a third variable or just plain chance could be the reason for the cursive students increased skill sets, but personally this evidence makes me grateful for the hours spent writing out my homework assignments.

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How Much Can Cockroaches Really Survive?

Cockroaches have been said to be able to survive just about anything. Having their heads cut off, nuclear war, starvation- people claim it all. But how much of this information is viable? Would a cockroach really survive a month without its head? Will they be the last ones left in the event of a war? Will they survive underwater? I decided to look into this after seeing cockroaches in my hall way, and talking to my brother who said he was surrounded by them constantly when he was living in Vegas and that he did not believe all of the crazy things I had heard. 

In 2008 the Mythbusters gang experimented with cockroaches to see if one of these claims might be true, ability to survive radiation. In order to do this they cockroaches as well as fruit flies and flour beetles, to compare their reactions. Once they had the bugs they them exposed them to different increasing amounts of Cobalt-30 radiation. This isotope is usually used in very small amounts to reduce tumors, but is very dangerous in large amounts. They started the bugs off with 1,000 rads of the cobalt, which could kill a human in about ten minutes, and then gradually increased to 10,000 and then 100,000 rads.  They exposed them to the radiation in ways that mimicked exposure in a nuclear war situation. Over the next thirty days they monitored and observed their health. Compared to the beetles and flies, the cockroaches actuslly did quite poorly and had the lowest survival rate and couldn’t stand the same lethal dose that the flour beetles were able to. So in seeing this we can reject the idea that cockroaches are most fit to survive in a post nuclear war world.

Mythbusters also tried seeing if cockroaches could be drowned. They got five test subject cockroaches and placed each in a jar filled with water. They planned on leaving the cockroaches submerged for half an hour but by nineteen minutes it had already appeared as though one cockroach had died. By the time the thirty minutes was up all five cockroaches seemed like they had died, but decided to drain the water and see what they would find the next morning. When they returned they found each cockroach, even though they had appeared to be dead, was alive and well.This time, the rumor turned out to be true.

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Ice Cream When You’re Sick?

I am sure most of us have heard at some point in our lives that we should avoid dairy when we’re sick. I had always been told that it’ll lead to more mucus production and keep me sick longer. The thing is,whenever I’m sick with a cold ice cream is about the only thing i want to eat to make my throat feel better. I decided to look into the truths behind the consequences of dairy consumption when you’re sick with a cold. 

I know my doctor had only ever told me that mucus may become thicker with milk, not increased, but I wanted to see what studies had been done on the matter.

In the 1990’s Carole B. Pinnock, Neil M. Graham, Arul Mylvaganam, and Robert M. Douglas did a study to try and see if there is a correlation between dairy intake and secretion of mucus. They started with the null hypothesis that milk has no effect and the alternative hypothesis that milk did in fact increase and affect mucus. They first infected 60 people with the rhinovirus- which causes the common cold. Next they monitored their dairy intake for ten days. Many of the participants had the preconceived notion that more milk meant more mucus but the scientists recording their symptoms and nasal congestion/secretion levels said otherwise. They found in difference in the weight (amount) of mucus being produced between that varying amounts of dairy the participants were ingesting. There was a very small increase in loose coughing with increased milk intake, but it was too small to be considered statistically significant. In this particular experiment, the null hypothesis won out.

Jim Bartley also did a study on the matter. He found that only within a small group of the population, with very specific circumstance, could milk increase mucus production and asthmatic or cold symptoms. They have to have a specific milk type, and the beta CM-7 as well as colon inflammation. So while he did find small correlation, but not direct causation, for the most part Bartley would agree with the idea that mucus does not increase with dairy consumption.

This information definitely corresponds with what I’ve found in my life, if anything eating ice cream or having a milkshake when I’m feeling sick makes me feel better. As we’ve seen time and time again in class a popular notion isn’t always based in fact and many times is plain untrue, as we see here with milk and mucus production.

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Are We the Only Ones Having Sex For Fun?

As we learned in class humans are not the only animals to participate in homosexual sex. Clearly this tells us that not all sexual encounters in the animal kingdom are for reproduction and evolution. While in class we though about different reasons why animals might be having gay sex which can not result in pregnancy, one idea we did not really look at was that of animals having sex for pleasure.

Obviously humans have sex for pleasure and not just for procreation. In fact, there are multi-billion dollar companies that exist purely to prevent pregnancy but allow us still to have sex worry free. While I have often heard people say that dolphins and humans are the only animals that have sex for fun I decided to see if pleasure might be a factor in other animals sex lives, specifically those animals closest to us in design, and a possible cause for their homosexual behavior.

During my research I found many examples of animals participating in either homosexual behavior, or heterosexual behavior that could not end in reproduction. While male-male sex can possibly be explained with the examples given in class, like just tiring out a competitor, behaviors such as heterosexual sex with no chance of procreation and oral sex cannot.

While we can not exactly just ask the animals the purpose of their behavior, we can observe their reactions. One way to see if animals are deriving pleasure from sex that won’t end in pregnancy is to attempt gauging whether or not they, particularly females, are able to orgasm.

One team who tried to tackle this question was the pairing of Alfonso Triosi and Monica Carosi. The two observed Japanese Macaques sexual behaviors for 238 hours and recorded 240 mating, 80 of which ended in the female primate exhibiting signs of orgasm similar to those exhibited by human females. The 1/3 of sexual encounters that ended this way all were of longer duration than the ones not ending in orgasm and suggests that like in humans the females are reacting to a certain higher more intense amount of stimulation. As previously stated we cannot of course ask the animals if sex has to do with pleasure but as evidence suggests from the Japanese Macaques and other studies involving primates, it seems as though they may be deriving pleasure and even reaching orgasm.

 

 

 

 

Can Exercise Get You More Than Just ”Runner’s High”?

More than once I have had friends explain, even boast, to me that they get high after working out because they burned fat containing stored THC from previous cannabis exposure. They’ve said how great it is that they lose weight and get high from it and how cool it is that they “have pot just chillin in [their] body waiting to make [them] happy”. While I knew that THC could be stored in fatty tissue, I was skeptical as to weather it was really being released and giving the experience of being high. As we learned in class, while powerful anecdotes are not proof or cause for belief and so I decided to investigate. 

In 2009 The British Journal of Pharmacology published a Study where they observed the levels of THC in the blood stream of rats after fat burning. First they injected the rats with THC for ten days. Then after either a two or seven day waiting period they injected the rat with ACTH or subjected them to food deprivation, triggering rapid weight loss (fat burning). After this, when they tested the levels of THC in the blood of the rats it was once again elevated, even though the THC injections had been over with for multiple days.  While this proved that fat burning could release stored THC into the bloodstream of rats, it did not answer the question of how and or if this process works in humans.

This led to a second Study, this time using humans who used pot regularly. Fourteen participants made it into the study where they were asked not to use cannabis the night before they were brought in and given an exercise regimen. Half of the fourteen were told to fast, skipping breakfast, and the other were told to go ahead and eat. While fasting and not fasting varied some blood sugar related results, they did not significantly make a difference in  how much more THC was seen in the blood after exercise. After exercising and blood tests, THC levels were shown to be raised in the participants, enough to make researcher think it may affect the effectiveness of some blood testing for legal reasons. The evidence also suggests that those with a higher BMI, therefore those with more stored fat, had somewhat more THC released in their systems and so may be subject more to “reintoxication”.

While this evidence supports the idea that THC formerly stored in fat can be released into the bloodstream, it does not tell us whether or not this would give one the experience of being high that THC regularly produces. I think the next step is to use more subjects and longer, more intense workouts, to test the evidence, as it was a rather small and short experiment, and also test the brain to see if the same areas usually stimulated by cannabis are stimulated during the post workout THC release.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871613002962

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782342/

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Should I nap Today?

Since starting classes I have found that I nap almost everyday. I come home from my early morning classes and jump right back into be and wake up just before my afternoon classes. I have found that napping seems to be a staple of the college student life and many people I’ve met here at Penn State indulge in a nap quite frequently. Also, it seems that most animals nap many times throughout the day, humans being the odd ones out. My question is, is napping good for us? If so how much is too much? And what are the different benefits of napping?

Napping is my favorite part of my day and I spend roughly three hours in and out of sleep during my scheduled napping time, and although on and off sleep isn’t too restful and probably isn’t the healthiest way to nap I still find it beneficial. According to the National Sleep Foundation, shorter naps through out the day are good for you. They increase performance abilities and give you the energy boost to continue throughout your day. NASA did an experiment where it allowed astronauts and military pilots to nap for 40 minutes and both their alertness and performance levels were greatly improved. Also, napping brings piece of mind and allows for relaxation and a break from the daily stresses that life throws upon us. If you take a good restful nap it can properly prepare you to face the rest of your day refreshed and awake.

Puppy Caught Napping Under Desk 5% of businesses in the US allow pets at work according to the Society of Human Resources Management’s yearly benefits survey (PDF), and until last week, Baloo the dog was lucky enough to be employed at one. But on...

Although, as with any topic there are also some negative sides to taking a nap. It has been found that longer naps can lead to drowsiness and some disorientation, something I can definitely attest to. When you nap for longer you force yourself to awaken during a deeper sleep which can cause this inertia. Also, Sleeping for long periods during the day can interrupt your regular sleep schedule and make sleeping at night, and sleeping well, more difficult.

Personally I seem to experience the negative sides of napping regardless of whether I actually nap, and the benefits far outweigh them. Honestly, the idea that I can come home and nap is the only thing that gets me up to those 8:00am classes every morning. The escape provided by a nap is something I love and plan to continue, especially now that I know of its benefits.

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I have always know that working out was good for you outside of just the physical reasoning. Every time I am upset and work out I feel better, when I run I become more productive for the rest of the day and I sleep better too. My mom always talked about how the days she did not make it to the gym she felt sad and did not have as much energy. I always knew this had to do with different hormones and chemicals but I wanted to look into the exact science behind why working out improves your psychological health as well as your physical.              As I thought they would my findings coincided with my preconceived notions that the chemicals and hormones released from a good workout were the cause of mental improvements, but I also learned a lot of exercise benefits I had not known about. As I learned from Carson Tate, our productivity is increased post exercise because blood flow throughout our bodies is increased, also increasing brain functionality. This highers glucose and oxygen levels in our body which in turn ups our energy levels helping us to get more done.                               Upon reading the benefits proposed The Huffington Post I learned that exercise does a myriad of improvements for our mental health and that really everyone should try to get a good workout a few times a week. Whenever we workout endorphin’s and dopamine are released which increase our overall happiness and is why many doctors suggest to their patients suffering from depression or anxiety hat they include workouts as a part of their weekly or daily routine. Also, it helps us to deal with stress because it increases the release of a chemical called neorepinephrine which moderates the way our brains deal with stress and stressful situations.                                                                                                                                                As if this weren’t enough reason already, exercise also increases the BDFN, or brain derived protein, in our brains which helps with decision making because it improves our learning and thinking capabilities. Lastly, and my favorite, a major reason to work out is because it helps you sleep better. Daily exercise relaxes you because during the workout your internal body temperature is abnormally raised, so a few hours later when your body returns to its normal temperature it relaxes you because this is signaling your brain you should be going to sleep, all to get you ready for another day of working out and reaping the benefits.

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Should You Jam While You Cram? – The science behind music while reading

For most of my life, and increasingly so for the last few years, I have found it very difficult to focus on what I am reading without listening to music. Even as I read other students blogs I had to press play on my previously paused youtube tab to be able to take in what I was reading. I think my problem is that I seem to always have two or more streams of thought running through my head at a time, so while I read one part of my mind is saying the words I see while another totally random train of thought runs through my head making it really hard to take in what I am reading. When I play music, however, I find that second train being consumed by the pulsing beat.                                                                                                                                                           Now I’ve always heard that it’s impossible to truly take in what you are reading when listening to music because our brains cannot multi-task but teachers had always told me listening to Mozart while studying was a good idea. And while the artistic makings of Flume or Chance the Rapper that I listen to are a far cry from classical symphonies, I decided to investigate on how music, and different types of music, impact our reading capabilities.                         According to USA Today, music can have a both positive and negative effect on your reading capabilities. The article reveals that in order to read or study it is optimal to be in a good balanced mood, which music can help bring us to. However when it comes to music with lyrics, our reading abilities can be impaired because we are using the language area of our brain to do two things at once, and the human brain is not good at multi tasking. When doing a school activity like math, however, lyrical music should not be too much of a problem because math uses a part of the brain separate from the lyrics and one shouldn’t severely interfere with the other.leo

Science is Dope

What’s up SC 200

My name is Lauren Jardine and I’m a freshman at Penn State. I was pretty sure I wanted to come here, but to be totally honest I flipped a coin to make my final college decision. I’m from Rockland New York but my dad lives here in Pennsylvania. I am enrolled in DUS because I have no clue what I want to do or what direction my major will be in, but it won’t be science.

After looking at rate my professor and narrowing down the classes that way, it was pretty easy to choose SC200. I enrolled in this course because I actually really love science but would rather focus more on ideas than delve into the mathematical problem solving side. When I read the course description it seemed pretty perfect for me because I didn’t want to give up science all together, but also didn’t want an intensive chem class.  I like that this class might actually give us the chance to discuss and focus on strange ideas and not just copy facts from a textbook with only right and wrong answers.

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