Author Archives: Michael Gerard Shevlin

Is Diet Soda Really Healthier?

I’ve never been a big soda drinker, and I can thank my parents for that. They rarely let me drink it and never had it around the house. Now that I’m older, I’m thankful for that as I live a healthier life than many of my friends. According to an article by Marie Dannie of Livestrong, the only real benefit from soda is moderate hydration. She says that soda can help you meet the daily recommended hydration levels. However, water is obviously a better alternative as soda has dozens of other bad effects on the body. Throughout my life I’ve seen many family members make the switch from regular soda to diet soda. Often it was because they were looking to lose weight without having to completely cancel soda out of the diet. I had heard before that drinking diet soda was actually worse for you. I had a hard time believing this because how could anyone buy this product if there were any evidence that it weren’t a healthier alternative? I finally decided to do some research on it and maybe now I can finally educate some family members.


I found an article by Dana Dovey of Medical Daily which outlines the good, bad, and really bad effects of diet soda as well as regular soda. She starts off right away by explaining that both types of soda simply aren’t good for you; there are good and bad to both. Dovey goes on to explain the only positive benefit she can think of, which is dental hygiene. She explains that the the lack of real sugar in diet soda (diet soda contains artificial sugar) is better for the teeth than actual sugar which is in regular soda. However, she states immediately after that diet soda also contains acid which can eat away at your teeth over time. So I guess she really couldn’t come up with any benefits of diet soda.

In her next section she writes what she considers the “bad” things about diet soda as opposed to the “ugly” which she addresses later. She explains that the use of artificial sugars in diet sodas actually contribute towards weight gain. Apparently the artificial sugars in diet sodas increase sugar cravings as well as overall food and drink cravings. So unless you limit the amount of food you consume while drinking diet sodas, you could very easily see a weight increase even though the soda contains no real sugar or calories.

Next, she discusses the much more serious effects of diet soda which include increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. In a University of Miami study, 2,465 people reported what they drank and how often they drank it, and then they were followed for 9 years. At the end of the study, it was found that diet soda drinkers, as opposed to those who rarely drank soda, had a 48% greater chance of heart attacks or strokes. While this leaves a lot of room for 3rd variables, it definitely shows a decent correlation between diet soda and health problems.

Dovey then goes on and explains the good, bad, and ugly of regular soda. She states that regular soda can effect learning capabilities as well as memory function. This is due to the extreme amounts of sugar in sodas that reduces brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is a chemical that effects learning and memory. She also mentions a 2012 study that showed that one soda per day strongly correlated to a 20% increased risk of a heart attack. With this, we still can’t conclude whether diet soda is more or less healthy than regular soda, but we can certainly prove that both sodas are causally related to poor health, which has been found in numerous detailed studies. Obviously the best option is to stay clear of both types of soda, especially since there are so many healthier alternatives. Next time you’re thinking about taking a diet coke over a regular coke, thinking it’s the lesser of two evils, you might want to settle for a water.

Will Poppy Seeds Actually Make You Fail A Drug Test?

My whole life I’ve always loved poppy seed bagels. It used to be the only kind of bagel I would eat, and I remember my mom would always tell me that if I were to have a drug test right after eating, I would fail. She claimed she had a friend who failed a drug test for her new job because she had eaten a poppy seed bagel before it. While I’m not completely sure that’s a true story, I thought it was pretty funny. I never really thought anymore of it, but if I were to ever get drug tested I would stay far away from poppy seed bagels based on my mom’s word. Even though I should probably listen to my mom no matter what, I decided to do some research to find out the truth, and I found that there is a lot of information on the idea.


9 Health Benefits of Poppy Seeds

I came across an article by USADA explaining how exactly poppy seed could transport drugs into your body. The article explains that the opium poppy plants contains seed pods filled with morphine as well as poppy seeds. When the morphine and poppy seeds are separated, the seeds are undoubtedly going to have minor traces of morphine. However, when the seeds are not cleaned properly, they can sometimes be covered in larger amounts of morphine, possibly leading to a positive drug test. According to the article, a morphine measurement of 1.3 micrograms/mL or more could result in a positive test result. With enough poppy seeds and enough morphine cover, I could easily see how someone could accidentally test positive. However, I wanted to see how often this really occurs so I looked for some experiments.

Another article I found, by Emily Upton, outlines some experiments that actually test out this phenomenon. She goes on to explain a German study by the Institute of Biochemistry in 2003. For the experiment, a group of people (unspecified sample size) consumed different amounts of poppy seed cake. Then, they were tested for morphine levels at the 24 hour mark and the 48 hour mark. For both time marks, all people tested positive and some reached levels as high as 10 micrograms/mL. While there is still technically room for 3rd variables as well as chance, this experiment, even if it is a small experiment, shows some serious correlation between poppy seed bagels and positive drug tests 48 hours later. According to the article, Myth Busters conducted an almost identical experiment and got nearly the exact same results. Although there is a very slight chance that 3rd variables could be causing this, it is very hard to believe that this is not a causal relationship with the evidence we have already collected.

This epidemic of positive drug results due to poppy seeds has caused a shocking amount of trouble. From police officers to white collar workers, numerous people have failed drug tests due to, what is believed to be, morphine from poppy seeds. Plus, of course, there have even been lawsuits surrounding the issue, like one you can read about here. A mother had her newborn child taken from her when she failed a hospital drug test due to poppy seeds. The mother was paid a settlement of more than $143,000 after her child was taken from her home without any prior warning. With so many cases like this, it’s very important that we prove causation between poppy seed consumption and positive drug test results. At this point, I believe that we have a solid foundation for proof of causation as several detailed experiments have shown serious correlation with little to no room for 3rd variables and chance. One way to improve our certainty would be to take significantly larger sample sizes. However, for now, I’d recommend that anyone with a drug test in the future just stick to plain bagels.

Do Smarter People Drink More?

Most people have probably heard the notion that smart people drink more. However, that’s an extremely vague statement that’s probably not 100% true in the broad sense, so I decided to find out the truth. Throughout high school and my first year of college, my experiences showed me the opposite of this idea. I tended to see the less intelligent people drinking heavily and the smarter kids controlling their intake, but a handful of kids from my personal experience couldn’t debunk this idea right away.

I came across an article by Jordan Rosenfeld where she outlined the results of 5 different experiments which all tested this topic. She explains the first experiment which showed that woman in the UK who attended college drank 86% more than those who didn’t (same age). The experiment clearly showed a strong correlation between level of education and alcoholic consumption, but it left room for many 3rd variables to effect the results. For example, in a college environment, you are more exposed to alcohol than you would be if you didn’t attend a university. This scenario could lead to a false positive result as it may not be the intelligence of the person that is affecting their drinking habits.

Rosenfeld went on to discuss the second experiment in Finland where sets of twins were studied throughout their childhood. The results showed that the twin with the best developed speech at age 12, could prove them to be smarter, drank more at the age of 16. While this experiment payed more attention to the measurement of knowledge, the result of increased drinking could still be due to a 3rd variable or chance. Also, the measurement of speech development doesn’t directly relate to intelligence. Therefore, these measurement which correlate to alcohol consumption could not be related entirely to what we are looking to measure, which is intelligence.



The 3rd experiment Rosenfeld discusses relates college education to alcohol consumption later in life. The experiment showed that only about 35% of non college graduates drank while about 68% of college graduates did. While graduating college often improves your intelligence as opposed to not attending college, this still is not a very accurate measure of intelligence. Some of the most intelligent and successful people did not graduate college, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. This experiment seems to be a step in the wrong direction as the 2nd experiment included more detailed intelligence measurements.

The 4th experiment offers a much more efficient approach for relating intelligence and drinking habits by measuring IQ’s of 50,000 Swiss males aged 18-22. First off, this showed that those who didn’t drink alcohol at all had the lowest IQ’s. While this doesn’t prove causation, it certainly helps towards the notion that intelligence and drinking are causally related. The main discovery from this experiment is that men with the highest IQ’s drink in moderation, which is known to be the smartest and healthiest route. So after all of this research, my answer has yet to be answered. Scientists have yet to find some serious proof that intelligence causes an increase in alcohol consumption. However, based on these experiments, we can see a pretty significant correlation between attending college and drinking habits. We can also see that there is strong evidence showing those who don’t drink at all have the lowest IQs. This is something that needs to see more experiments. However, these experiment must be detailed experiments which will effectively test intelligence and increased alcoholic consumption without the possibility of 3rd variables. As for me, I will observe how my college experience and growth of intelligence will affect my alcohol consumption in the future.


Marijuana: The Devil’s Lettuce or God’s Gift?

Whether you like it or not, marijuana is becoming more and more prevalent in our country today. More and more people continue to push for the nationwide legalization of marijuana as they believe it has too many medical benefits to deny the public of its many uses. In this article, you can see states like Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, who have made recreational use of Cannabis legal. Often, we see that those who do smoke tend to insist that marijuana is a harmless drug with many benefits, and on the other end, many of those who don’t smoke see this plant as a murderous cancer to our society. I’ve always wondered if there was solid evidence behind either argument, so I set out to find the truth.

I came across an article by Agata Blaszczak-Boxe outlining 20 years of marijuana research. She starts off the article by immediately stating how smoking marijuana before driving doubles your chance of getting into an accident. She also states that 1/10 daily marijuana users become reliant on the drug. But what led us to these conclusions, and have we found a real mechanism for these outcomes? Agata talks about author Wayne Hall’s research in which he tested the effects of marijuana on humans between 1993 and 2013. She states that his work shows a correlation between smoking marijuana and dropping out of school. It showed that kids who smoked were more likely to drop out of school than those who did not smoke. These children also experienced lesser brain function as adults. Now the question is, is marijuana simply a correlation to bad health effects, or is marijuana truly causing these things to happen. With a situation like this, where school children were observed, we can always assume there might be a 3rd variable affecting the children and the marijuana is not. Also, many people could argue that, without details of a timeframe, reverse causation might be the answer to this.

As Agata goes on, she explains another experiment that offers a little more proof of causation. In a Swedish study of 50,000+ young men, the men who smoke more than 10 times before age 18 were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia; as opposed to those who didn’t smoke. With a large sample like this, and a long term time-frame, we can rule out reverse causation. While we still cant rule out a 3rd variable, or chance, this experiment definitely provides some serious evidence showing that mild marijuana use may cause serious health problems. Still, there are many people who insist that this conclusion may be a false positive. Even for those who accept these findings, many believe that the benefits of marijuana outweigh the costs found in these experiments.


However, according to an article by Alice Park, there isn’t much scientific evidence behind the benefits of marijuana. She states that, in an experiment where patients (each had a certain condition that marijuana has been rumored to treat) were given doses of the drug, some reported that their condition improved. However, many of the volunteers admitted that the improvement could have easily been due to chance alone because the correlation was so minuscule. Park states that the experiment showed possible correlation with treating chronic pain while little correlation showed between marijuana and Tourette Syndrome.

Without larger and more in depth experiments we won’t be able to confirm an actual causation relating marijuana to medical treatment, but as marijuana become more prevalent in our society, I believe new experiments will expose the true benefits of this drug. Our national government has no yet recognized marijuana as a medicinal product because they still consider it an “illegal drug,” but I can bet we will see legislative changes on the national level in the next 20 years. At this moment in time, there is a lot more evidence backing the harmful effects of marijuana, so now it is up to everyone to decide: Do we take the risk in the hope that there are real benefits to the drug? Or do we stay clear knowing that evidence effectively shows that marijuana is a harmful substance?

Think More, Eat Less

My mom used to always tell me stories about her grandmother who would dream vividly about food at night and then have no appetite the next day. This idea always amazed me and our whole family never understood the science behind it; or if there even was any explanation for it. I’ve tried to conduct my own experiments but they never seem to work,  so I decided to finally do some research on the topic.

I wondered if anyone had every experienced something like this before or if any research had been done on the topic. Immediately, I came across an article by Veronica Tonay discussing exactly what I was looking for. To start off, she explains that going to bed hungry or thirsty can cause you to dream about food or beverages. These findings from the 1950’s have showed a serious correlation with appetite and dreams. Tonay goes on to explain exactly what I was looking for. She says that, if you dream vividly about food during your sleep, you will in fact be less hungry when you wake up; and the same goes for dreaming about drinks. While this leads me in the right direction to confirming causation between the two, I wanted to find some more recent and detailed experiences from people.

I came across a piece of writing by Nick Wan on in which he described his experience with food dreams. He claimed that he had a dream about eating a significant amount of food, and when he woke up, he was full; just like my great grandma! Nick decided to do some research like me and came across the very same article by Veronica Tonay. He agreed that there is certainly a correlation between food dreams and hunger, as Veronica stated, but he refused to take her word for it. Like me, he needed more evidence to prove causation between the two, but all he could find were explanations for why he was having food dreams. Wan researched dream interpretations and discovered that his current happiness in life may have caused him to dream about food, but what was causing him to wake up full? I did some research on whether happiness led to a decreased appetite, but I immediately learned, according to this article by Chris Iliades of Everyday Health. Chris explained that loss of appetite is most certainly an effect of depression, meaning that happiness couldn’t possibly be causing a loss in appetite for my great grandma and Nick. With no leads in this direction, I went back to researching the basic question.

I eventually discovered another article by Jonathan Bechtel of the Health Kismet Blog. In the article he discusses the finding of Daniel Kahneman, one of the greatest psychologists of all time. Kahneman discovered that “habituation” may be what causes us to lose our appetite when we think a lot about food. Habituation is when increased thought about something causes you to lose interest in it. In his explanation, Kahneman discusses 5 experiments which all showed a strong correlation between thinking about a food and lesser consumption. In the experiment, people who continually thought of food ate less than those who did less thinking about food. While 3rd variables could quite possibly be a factor in these results, as well as chance, it is very unlikely. All 5 experiments showed that thinking about food more than others almost always caused the individual to eat less. Also, however, this experiment including only thinking about one food item, not a meal as a whole. So going back to my question, does dreaming about food cause you to lose your appetite?, or does it only work for a specific food? At this point, there haven’t been any experiments large enough and detailed enough to prove causation, but we can definitely say that my great grandmother’s loss of appetite in the morning is highly correlated to her dreams about food at night through a process called “habituation.”




Is Big Brother Hiding Cancer Cures?

When I was 5 years old, my baby cousin Kyle was diagnosed with Leukemia, a cancer in which cancerous blood cells overtake the bone marrow. Here a picture to give you a visual of Leukemia…



I won’t get too much into the details of Leukemia because that’s beside the point I’m looking to make right now. When my cousin was diagnosed, it was a stressful and sad time for our family as we had never experienced something like this before. We all became very educated on the topic and looked immediately to support groups and organizations. Two years later he was cancer free, and he his now 15 years old and healthier than ever.

However, three years ago, my uncle was also diagnosed with Leukemia. He battled for two years, and last June, he passed away. It was the first family death I had experienced in my lifetime. Now it seems like our family is plagued by this cancer, and you could imagine that I’m extremely passionate about finding cures for all types of cancer. Ever since my cousin Kyle was diagnosed with cancer as a baby, my entire family has been involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society which raises money for cancer research. When recently I came across a conspiracy article claiming that the government and drug companies might be preventing cancer treatments, I was filled with anger.  The reason for this, Camille Bautista states in the article, would be to protect the success of drug companies that significantly affect our economy. While this conspiracy did catch my eye and anger me, I knew it couldn’t be true.

Within seconds after reading the ridiculous conspiracy article, I found a Credible Hulk article that offered a very sensible disproval. Credible Hulk’s first note that caught my eye was that medical researchers, as well as government officials, can easily develop cancers as well. These people are just like us, susceptible to all diseases we are. How could they knowingly prevent cancer cures if them or a loved one had cancer? While this alone was enough for me to forget about the conspiracy, I kept reading. Another point The Credible Hulk made was that most researchers would be far more interested in the fame of finding a cure than the money protected by hiding it. Not to mention, the fame of finding a cure would come along with quite a lot of money; enough money that even a CEO would jump on the opportunity to expose the cures. Many scientists usually become scientists to find that one breakthrough idea that makes them famous. As I kept reading the article, I found one perfect point that sealed the deal for me. They mentioned that there is no possible way that this “hidden cure” could take place all across the world. Their explanation for this is because many countries, 32 to be exact, have universal healthcare paid for by the government. This would mean that drug companies would have no benefit of treating patients and hiding cures. In fact, these governments would push harder for cancer cures as it would open up space in the budget by reducing healthcare costs.

The final debunking factor that was mentioned in this article explained that hiding the cure would , without a doubt, be the more expensive root for companies. When it comes to money, companies looking for profit will ALWAYS take the cheapest route. In order for companies or the governments to keep scientists quiet, they would have to pay off every single one of them. Naturally, scientists would demand more and more money to keep secrets, and eventually it would become unimaginably expensive to keep these secrets.

This one article alone took that mind boggling conspiracy and nearly completely disproved it in the first few points. While technically this conspiracy can’t be 100% disproved, this article provided some serious evidence against the idea. While this conspiracy may be a load of garbage, always remember, big brother is watching….




Are Athletes Born or Made?

Was LeBron James born as the best basketball of all time? Was Michael Phelps born as the greatest swimmer of all time? The answer to that is… kind of. Many people have set out to get to the bottom of this, and, according to CBS News article written by Susan Spencer, one of them is photographer Dan McLaughlin. Refusing to believe that genes are the result of freak athletes, McLaughlin has set out to become a professional golfer alongside the best players in the world. This man, with little to no golf experience, has set a goal to compete on the pro tour against players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. McLaughlin says that there is no such thing as “inborn talent.” He relies on another idea started by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell recommends 10,000 hours of practice in order to become an expert at anything. With this concept, McLaughlin is currently still training to reach his goal and will likely complete his 10,000 hours of training. Here he is in route to his goal…

If he does in fact reach his goal of making it onto the pro tour, this may be a groundbreaking experiment that will offer a new view on freak athleticism.

There are numerous scientists and everyday human beings who strongly disagree with McLaughlin’s ideas. According to David Epstein, author of the book The Sports Gene, profiting more efficiently from training is decided by our genes. He believes that half of athletic greatness relies on training and the other half relies on natural athletic genes. Susan Spencer of CBS News, in this article, is relating two professional high jumpers, Stefan Holm and Donald Thomas. Both of these athletes competed in the 2007 world championship. She states that Holm had been training for 20 years, as opposed to 8 months for Thomas, and Thomas beat the veteran in his 8th month of high jump. With this event, we have to think there is some direct causation between genes and athletic greatness.

Elizabeth Quinn, and exercise physiologist, seems to agree with this concept in an article explaining how genes affect athleticism. She states that endurance, flexibility, lung capacity, anaerobic threshold, muscle fiber composition, and muscle size are all greatly influenced by genes. All of these factors significantly contribute to a persons athletic ability. She also goes on to explain that genes also affect the way that an individual responds to training, which can give someone a serious advantage over other athletes. This relates back to Epstein’s idea of genes that provide for better reception to training. However, this is where it gets a little confusing. If you are a person with genes that respond better to training, then you may become “great” without having been born with “athletic genes.” However, this doesn’t disprove that athletes are born because it is those genes that you are born with that allow you to make yourself into a great athlete.

So now the question is, does Dan McLaughlin have genes which allow him to respond better to training than the average person. If he does, the results of his experiment will have little to no significance because the effectiveness of his training was due to the genes he was born with. Dan McLaughlin probably should have done a little more research into the gene aspect of training. As of now, the only conclusion we can come to is that athletic greatness comes from both athletic genes and training. However, we can’t forget that the efficiency of training does in fact come from genes we are born with. I still find it hard to believe this man was born to be an athlete…

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-6-38-46-pm Photo


Muggsy Bogues was a 5’3″ NBA basketball player if you’re wondering.


The Science of Surfing

When most people go to the beach, they see waves rolling onto the shore, and the idea of how these waves actually got to that point never even crosses their mind. For most people, they could care less how those waves actually formed; they just care that they’re there and they can have fun in the ocean. Being a surf instructor who relies on waves everyday to bring in business, I focus much more than the average person on how these waves actually come to be. Now imagine at the next Summer Olympics in Japan, where a director has to pray that there are ridable waves during the olympic timeframe, how much they care about how waves are formed. If you don’t believe me that surfing will be in the next olympics, here is some proof. Now I know that most of you don’t care about surfing and definitely don’t care that it will be an event at our next summer olympics, but I’m going to explain how this could go terribly wrong in 2020.

The basis of all waves start with wind. Whether it be deep sea winds or shoreline winds, wind is the key factor in moving water to produce waves. While water moves throughout the ocean, wind acts against it, pushing the water upwards forming “swells.” Swells are waves that move hundreds of miles across the ocean at a heightened elevation. As wind keeps blowing constantly over these waters, the swells will continue to grow as they travel towards shore. Low pressure systems, which are explained in this article, are known for created the best and biggest waves because they produce the strongest wind. Another way that these swells can grow along the way is by the shape of the ocean floor. If a moving body of water passes over a large bump in the ocean floor, it’s height is going to naturally increase.

These swells are not, however, what surfers ultimately surf; at least not until they reach the shoreline. When these swells finally reach shorelines, the shallow water slows them down, decreasing the wave lengths. As the wave lengths decrease, the swells get steeper, turning into cresting waves that are ridable for surfers. Depending on the shape of the sand bar, reef, or rocks at the shoreline, the wave will have a different shape.

With all of these factors coming into play to make a wave, you begin to realize how much of a miracle it is that waves actually make it to shore. So now, if you are a director of olympic surfing, wouldn’t you be a little nervous that there may not be waves big enough to surf during the two week olympic timeframe? It is very possible that this is what we will see at the 2020 Summer Olympics…



Now, while many of you may still not care about the amazing “wave production” process, it’s important to understand that many people actually rely on these waves to make a living. Here is an example of a professional surf event that was cancelled due to lack of waves. This meant that professional surfers, who get paid to surf in contests, were unable to surf and receive their paychecks. While this isn’t the end of the world, especially since the contest was rescheduled, it is definitely something to think about.

Many people might say, “Why don’t professional surfers just compete in surfing wave pools?,” which is a very valid argument. However, I, along with most surfers, would tell you that a machine produced wave ruins the sport. It takes the nature and fun out of surfing as every single wave is exactly the same. However, I will admit it’s pretty cool

I hope I’ve made you appreciate the production of waves a little more with this post. If not, at least next time you’re at the beach you’ll know exactly how those waves got there, or how they didn’t get there…

So who thinks there won’t be any rideable waves in Japan 2020?


Photo Credit:


No Waves Forces Cancellation of Roxy Pro Biarritz




Science for Harambe

Hey everyone my name is Mike Shevlin and I’m a freshman in the DUS program. I actually know for a fact that I want to do Finance, and I’ve known that since I was about 13, but I had to beat the system by getting accepted into the DUS program first. Science has never been my strong point for several reason. The main reason I’ve never enjoyed or excelled in science is because I have never, in all my years of schooling, had a good science teacher. When picking classes at orientation I was praying to stay clear of any science class, especially one with a lab. When an advisor told me there was a science class literally made for people who don’t like science or don’t want to major in science, I jumped right on it.

While I don’t like science very much, there are some topics that I find pretty interesting, like astronomy. Even though I had an awful Astronomy teacher in high school, I remain interested in things like life on other planets and black holes. Here are some cool facts about black holes that I find pretty interesting (you probably won’t feel the same way). Now, while I have your attention, here is something that is truly important…Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.26.17 PM