Author Archives: Michael David Harding

Was Popeye on to something?

At the moment that I began writing this blog I was facing writers block and extreme exhaustion. Then the cartoon gods sent me a gift, Popeye the Sailor Man. As I came across the classic cartoon I remembered his unbelievable obsession with spinach. As we all know Popeye would get all strong and all juiced up. popeyeAs a fellow lover of spinach I became curious if there is really is a substance in spinach that does increase strength. Spinach has an interesting history as being a healthy food. In 1870, when a german chemist didn’t put a decimal point between a 3 and a 5, it appeared that iron had 35 mgs of iron rather than 3.5, per a 100 gram serving. According This Study,  the nitrates in spinach are what causes the strength increase. The study separated groups of mice, giving one  experimental group of mice nitrates in their water(Independent Variable), and one control group of mice just water. After time had passed the experimental group showed muscles that the control group didn’t have, and higher strength(Dependent Variable) in their muscles, thus rejecting the null hypothesis.

The circumstances surrounding spinach remind me of the scurvy case Andrew spoke of early in the semester. There was no mechanism for scurvy as Andrew mentioned; someone just caught on to the fact that sucking on a lemon helps scurvy. In reality scurvy is just a Vitamin C deficiency. People believed that spinach made you stronger due to a mistake made by a scientist. Although the final conclusion is true regarding that spinach made you stronger, just the reason believed is incorrect.

So if you are looking for a delicious way to repair and strengthen muscles that need it, spinach paired with exercise of course can help lead you there. If spinach isn’t your preference all you have to do eat something high in nitrates, the direct cause of the increased strength. If you prefer not to eat spinach, beets and most other leafy greens are also high enough in nitrates to make a difference.

Frozen People

As a huge mark for both Futurama and American History I have always wanted to visit the famed hall of presidents from the show. The ironic fact is that I started this post President Nixon’s f head made a funny comment on the television. One common futuristic technology that we see in many television shows is the ability to freeze people and bring them back to life hundreds or even thousands of years in the future. This led me to research the existing science on the matter. This Study  trained nematodes  to recognize smells in a certain manner. After freezing the nematodes, the nematodes recognized  the smell and in the same way that they were trained to do so. So it can be concluded that some species are capable of successful freezing. The issue that humans face is that extreme tissue damage takes place during the thawing process, not always as successful or funny as the following video.

This risky experiment has successfully transferred human organs into other species of animals, along with appendages of the human body. This can possibly move us into the future with the science to fully use cryogenically frozen body parts instead of the chilled ones used currently. This can change the world of “the harvest”(which is the single most cringeworthy medical term in history) referring to the taking of an organ donor’s useful body parts. This can give medical professionals more time to conduct the transplant to the needed patient, and more of a supply that can possibly save more lives.

This technology, of course, does not come without its fair share of obstacles. This informative article regarding the science done on the topic refers to the cause of death as a major obstacle that needs to be taken into consideration, due to that it may be impossible to fix the harm done that led to the subject being killed in an instance such as a car accident. Also cryogenically frozen brain function studies have not been conducted since the 1970s, which leads me to conduct the  argument that parts of this possibly history changing technology suffers from the file drawer problem.

Technology has come a long way since those experiments were conducted, especially in the medical and genetic fields. For example, Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996, a futuristic technology in the minds of people in the 70s. If ethical and scientific barriers can be jumped I believe it can be one of the most beneficial discoveries in human history. The science should be revisited and replicated, which is the true goal of scientific experiments.

Green and Nicotine

I apologize for my cheesy Bone Thugs N Harmony reference in the title, it just needed to be done. Of all of the bad things our parents told us not to do I think cigarettes and marijuana might have topped the list. As Reefer Madness such as the image on the leftpotcontinuously dies out and marijuana becomes more mainstream by the month we can learn more and more about both positive and negative effects of marijuana in a more scientific and objective way. But I found a study that might turn the head of just about anyone. This Study was conducted to see the effects of combined nicotine and marijuana together. Marijuana users and tobacco users both show smaller hippocampus size. Now ask any scientist and they will tell you that smaller hippocampus size should lead to worse memory. Incredibly, when marijuana smokers also smoke cigarettes their memory is better, although their hippocampus. Now explaining further, the smaller hippocampus size is being related to better memory.  Now this only occurs when then is an interaction between the two substances. Lets just say that I have a friend who is a frequent user of both and has the best memory of all of the people that I know. What is interesting about this study is that a previous confounding variable may become a leading variable in this study. The study mentions that nicotine use was rarely even considered in previous studies on the effect of marijuana on the brain. Although I do believe that further studies need to be conducted on this subject I believe that this study, as I interpret it, may suffer from the Texas Sharpshooter Problem. The study was conducted by just bringing an outside variable into a previous experiment(effects of marijuana on the brain). The study was conducted to see the interaction between the 2 variables(Marijuana and Nicotine), whatever the result may be. That being said, roughly 70% of marijuana users also use tobacco or nicotine products, and further tests need to be conducted.

God’s Water and Satan’s Golf Balls (Iced Tea and Kidney Stones)

As a child with severe ear problems the carbonation in soda always gave me a rough time, so I moved away from Coke and Pepsi and discovered all of the delicious ways one can drink iced tea. Lets just say that I should probably be in the Guinness Book of World Records for amount of peach tea I have consumed. All of the fellow tea drinkers in this class will have heard the warnings from just about everyone about the danger of the ever painful kidney stones. According to This Article the primary cause of Kidney Stones is dehydration. The same article brings up the fact that some ingredients that go into making iced tea are the same chemicals that lead to formation of kidney stone development. Also, iced tea makes you more susceptible for kidney stones than hot tea just for the fact that people drink more iced tea than hot tea. So I decide to put together a little mechanism for a possible study that can be conducted.

Alternate Hypothesis: Drinking excessive amounts of iced tea leads to the formation of kidney stones.

Null Hypothesis: Drinking excessive amounts of iced tea does not lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Dependent Variable: The Formation of Kidney Stones

Independent Variable: Amount of Iced Tea consumed

Possible confounding variables: gender, age, and possible diets aligned with tea drinkers

When it comes to possible reverse causation one can argue that people who are susceptible to kidney stones drink more iced tea. Also chance is always a possibility.

Some other possible causes for the kidney stones are the type of sweetener used in the beverages that can possibly cause the stone development. This study concluded that sugar sweetened beverages may be more of a risk than the specific beverage. So multiple studies have been conducted and scientists can not strongly conclude what is causing the rise in kidney stones. So In reality just remember that everything in moderation is okay, just remember to drink a lot of water and you will be a lower risk of getting kidney stones. So my personal conclusion is that it doesn’t matter what beverage you drink when it comes to kidney stones.the-rock


We Haven’t found it all yet

The other day I was ignoring all of my scholastic responsibilities and  watching one of my all-time favorite series, Planet Earth. I have to say, when I found out they were making a sequel to the original series, I was as happy as a schoolgirl in a candy store. As I have mentioned in my original post, I was always obsessed with the world around me and Planet Earth gave me the satisfaction in knowing there was some adventure left in this world- even when life might seem gray and boring. In the current season’s jungles episode talked about here a truly amazing thing was captured, dolphins  in the jungle. No, I’m not drunk- there are dolphins that live among the flooded tree tops after the wet season. Seen in the BBC picture below are the newly discovered dolphins. This led me to think that we have been to almost every corner of the earth is there species out there that we have not encountered yet, and what can those species mean to science? The hypothesis that I would come up would be that there are some species that we have not came across but although not that many. Boy, did the information that I researched about the subject blow me away. I came across this National Geographic article with unbelievable results. Over the years we have identified and classified 1.2 million species but there is to be estimated a total of 8.7 billion species on earth. This leaves around 86% on the earth to be discovered. We need to start looking into discovering these species and the possible scientific secrets that they hide. Unfortunately we may not get the chance. A lot of these undiscovered species live in the jungles and rain forests. More than an acre of this land is lost every second according to This fact sheet. We need to stop destroying this planet one acre at a time for our own benefit. Maybe there is an outside chance that shows with incredible camera work and determination like that shown from the Planet Earth crew more attention can be drawn and we can save the lands and discover all of the organisms that live in these mysterious worlds. planet-earth-ii

Do you Believe in Miracles, Yes!

Brad Lidge and Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz celebrating the final out after the 2008 world series

The above picture was one of the greatest moments of my life. As I danced around my living room much more sillily than a 13 year old should have been and high fiving my father. The moment will be etched in the history of me and my father’s relationship. We like sports for the moments that are created by them. These moments are no better than the underdog upsetting a goliath in the playoffs. The shortened playoff season offers opportunities for these upsets to take place under the “on any given night” theory. There have been a history of mathematically inferior teams in all sports overcoming superior teams and getting to the top of the mountain. It confirms the scientific idea that chance is always possible. This Harvard Study conducts the standard deviation, means, and z scores on test runs by the SRS scales and Pythagorean Win expectation, which is a study calculating how many games they should win and how much they should win by. The results are posted in a table on the Harvard study. The saltiness is alive in this Harvard article because the 2008 and 2012 super bowl games in that the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots who were heavily favored in both of the the games. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals  won the World Series being ranked in the bottom third of the league after sneaking into the playoffs on the last day of the season due to the loss of another team. If this teaches us anything that chance is always at play when it comes to open competition, especially in the playoffs when the sample becomes smaller and the chance of upset is higher.

The unfortunate perish of The Great Barrier Reef

As a child I was a curious little boy who had big plans to see the world. After seeing some documentary on Animal Planet I always wanted to make sure i needed to see 1 place, The Great Barrier Reef. At it’s prime, the reef stretched over 2,500 kilometers, contained almost 1,000 islands and can be seen from space as seen in the photo below from Then I read some terrible news this week. As I was scrolling through Facebook as someone my age often does I read an unfortunate headline regarding the death of The Great Barrier Reef due to climate change and honest to god I was angry that we can be such a selfish species to let one the most beautiful places that this earth has to offer disintegrate into oblivion. The Bleaching caused by climate change is so bad that over 90% of the individual reefs involved in what we know as the great barrier reef are being affected by the bleaching.  According to this guardian articlein The Guardian Decomposing coral has lost its color and can no longer provide shelter for the fish that live in it. The WWF website explains that the reef is home to over 1,000 species of fish, hundreds of species of coral, over 100 species of sharks and rays, multiple species of rare marine turtles, and dozens of marine mammals. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living ecosystem in the world. Being as old as the reef is there is several indigenous groups that depend on the reef and have relationships with it. This Article explains the indigenous people from the area of the reef. The Aboriginal people are some of the oldest on the planet. They use the reef and its natural resources for years for their culture and livelihoods.

This CNN Article explains that soon after the reef was declared dead that the situation was  over exaggerated. The danger that the reef is in trouble is completely true but it is not too late. The goal of the conservation efforts should not be to mourn the death of the great barrier reef, but to look to the future because it can be saved with conservation efforts. I hope that I do get there one day and it is as beautiful, colorful and alive as I remember it in that documentary that originally caught my attention and made me fall in love with it.


Bleaching in the Reef

How Science class ruined my scientific spirit.

Hello all, my name is Michael Harding and I am from Pittston, a small city near Scranton Pa. I am currently a senior public relations major who is minoring in psychology. Although I am taking this class to fulfill my last gen-ed science requirement I am looking forward to get everything that I can out of it. Even though my major is now communications, as a kid I was obsessed with the scientific world. I had dreams of being a paleontologist, a marine biologist, an astronomer, and even an architect(which I know is more technically math but I just loved to figure out how the world around me worked). All this came to a halt when I started taking honors science classes in my high school. Honors biology, chemistry, and physics were the downfall. In classes where you are not taught to learn the material, just simply spit out information you were previously given, its hard to maintain a passion. It soured my love and pushed me toward something that I was seemingly better at which lands me where I am today. I have fallen in love with the career path I have chosen but there is still some “what if” thoughts that emerge.                                                  marine bio


click this link to view the page of the place where my dream of marine biology sparked due a family vacation, and an encounter with one of my favorite creatures, the sea turtle.