Author Archives: Marvin Barnhill

Is it safe to stuff the turkey?

The holidays are here and many of us will be cooking huge dinners and hosting guests. A part of these dinners of course will most likely be a holiday favorite, turkey. Along with the idea of a nice juicy turkey is its perfect partner in crime, stuffing. Many people elect to stuff the turkey with stuffing, and cook them together, however many sources have been pointing towards this practice as a dangerous one.

The USDA stated clearly that cooking a turkey that is not stuffed is riskier than cooking one that is. This is largely due to standards the USDA has set forward that give a safe cooking temperature of 165 degrees. The addition of stuffing is said to not reach this temperature despite the outside of the turkey being safe, allowing bacteria to live inside.×234.jpg

Martin Bucknavage, a food safety expert here at Penn State has supported these findings.  He reports that you would have to cook the turkey 20 degrees higher in order to obtain the same safety results. This would be fine, but at this point the outside of the turkey would then be overcooked, creating another issue. Even so, what kind of risk are we taking by just doing it the old fashioned way?

I’m sure that my family, like many others, will not be turned off by these findings and will still continue to stuff the turkey. So what risk are we truly at even with the lack of proper cooking methods? The CDC estimated just over a million cases of domestically acquired salmonella each year. Of that million, only about 19,000 end up hospitalized. Despite this huge difference, it still hospitalized and killed the most people of any  domestically acquired food born illness.

Now the next time you decide to stuff the turkey, or eat the stuffing from the turkey, you might take a second thought. However, how likely are you truly to be that one in a million? I think that’s a risk I’m willing to take.


Are peanuts good for the heart?

I noticed recently that advertisements for peanuts had been boasting their effectiveness in reducing the risk of heart disease. Of course, thats difficult to believe at first glance.  When looking further onto the cans of these products they are even certified by the American Heart Association. This led me to believe that this might not be just a marketing trick, this could be true.

The peanut institute contends that eating peanuts only twice a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 24%. This interesting fact is supported by a study shown by the peanut institute that examined peanuts and peanut products in participants diets and found that participants who ate these products had both lower cholesterol and triglycerides which in turn are good measurements of heart health. The peanut institute, which i’m sure is much in favor of the promotion of eating peanuts gives tons of resources in support of the health benefits of peanuts, so I thought, maybe its just bias?

The peanut advertisements and the peanut institute are supported by the FDA which made a statement making it very clear that “an ounce of peanuts a day may help reduce the risk of heart disease.” However, in order to protect against confounding variables, possible study errors,and results due to chance the FDA also makes many disclaimers stating that the evidence does not “prove” the peanuts reduce the risk of heart disease but rather “may reduce” it. This small discrepancy is crucial to the message here.

A Harvard University study saw similar results from its over 3 million participants. The more peanuts the participants ate, the lower the risk seemed to me for heart disease and other illnesses. This study is said to have adjusted for other risk factors however once again, we can’t truly rule out chance. Peanuts are commonly known to be a nice snack, whether alone or possibly with some trail mix. To think that there is a strong possibility that this small, crunchy, snack could be saving our lives little by little could influence people the next time they’re in the store looking for lunch. I”l definitely keep nuts in mind


Is red wine good for your heart?

You may have heard one time or another that “drinking red wine is good for your heart.” If this is the case, a healthy heart would mean a longer life right? Many biblical stories, movies, and tv shows support the notion that drinking red wine is harmless and possibly advantageous. To imagine (even as college students) that we can get a buzz and live longer because of it is a discovery that will have people running for the liquor stores with no remorse, and its one we’ve probably kept in mind sip by sip.

A study conducted in Denmark observed over 13,000 participants between the ages of 30 and 70 over a 12-year period. The results of this study showed a 49% decrease in risk of death over that 12 year span of participants who drank 3-5 glasses of wine per day. Beer and other spirits were examined as well showing an increase in risk of death over that span. I question the validity of this study because of the large pool and age of participants. If a 30 year old in the study died I wouldn’t suspect drinking more red wine would have prevented that. Similarly, some of the older participants could have passed simply of old age or other confounding variables. Regardless, if the study was done correctly it may be able to draw one if its major conclusions, which is that red wine decreases your risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association on the other hand is not as confident in these findings. Upon the look of their webpage on Alcohol and Heart Health the American Heart Association contends that the correlations found in studies conducted on wine and heart health could be due to confounding variables. Variables such as regular exercise and a healthier diet could be the cause of the decrease in heart disease. Furthermore the AMA does get an expert opinion from Prakash Deedwania, the chief of the cardiology division and professor of medicine at the University of California who believes that drinking wine lowers your cholesterol which in effect helps your heart.

It seems that the age old saying does stand, drinking wine may more likely than not be good for your heart. I don’t think any of us would object to a couple glasses of wine in exchange for additional years of life. Without studies that debate this topic to prove differently it seems we can keep on sipping.

Is marijuana smoking a factor in long-term intelligence?

Marijuana or “weed” has become the drug of choice for many people. Smoking weed might be the one illegal drug that is in fact boasted about by celebrities, musicians, writers, and more. The reaction to someone smoking, talking about, or offering you weed, I can assure you is much different than if they were doing the same with different mind altering drugs. In fact, the Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported in 2014 that Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. The logic I hear often from weed smokers is that marijuana is a harmless drug, and that “no one has ever died from smoking too much.” This could explain why it is so popular. However, Is it really true that a drug that affects the brain in the way that weed does has no adverse effects?

The National Institute on drug abuse, or NIH examined many angles of this issue, but to no clear conclusion. This source desribes a study that was conducted to see the affect of marijuana use on rats. It was found that THC exposure in rats causes cognitive issues in the future of the rats life. If this study is any sign, it would mean that smoking weed has long term effects on your life. However, this study is not a sign at all.

What follows this animal testing is a series of conflicting studies which leave this question in the air. A study was conducted referred to as the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study examined the risk of marijuana use in adolescence that followed 3385 participants between the ages of 18 and 30 for 25 years. The study saw that current users of marijuana was associated with lower verbal memory, and processing speed. Furthermore, after removing the current users from the pool, only a lower verbal memory was reported, and no other affect was seen in participants. The significance of the lower verbal memory was only reported for every 5 years of use before stopping which even further decreases the validity of the results.

Other studies, as reported by the NIH in another anaysis found that there was no link between marijuana use and IQ but that once again, verbal memory was affected. It seems that the effects are existent, but not substantial, nonetheless smoking weed can affect your future. I would say that with the many conflicting viewpoints, its up to the user to determine if they’re willing to sacrifice a decrease in verbal memory in exchange for a good time.


Why are dogs more obedient than cats?

Of the animals humans have domesticated and designated as pets, dogs and cats have seemed to come to be our favorite. So much so, that our own human behavior has created categories of people based on such pets i.e. “Dog people and cat people.” These animals are favorited for various reasons, most of which are completely different from each other. Cats, generally speaking, are beings of their own desire. They come and go as they please and most often are not responsive to commands. Dogs on the other hand have been labeled ” Man’s best friend” for their unconditional loyalty and obedient nature. This brings about the question: Why are dogs more obedient than cats?

The first hypothesis to answering this question is ” are dogs smarter than cats?” This could give an explanation as to their ability to learn, understand, and follow commands. A research and analysis by Gerhard Roth and Ursula Dicke examined the differences in animal brains and how those differences affect intelligence. It is easy for people to make the assumption that “Animals with larger brains are smarter. However, as this study contends, this would make other mammals such as elephants and whales more intelligent than humans, which to the best of our knowledge is not true. The analysis continues to break down the criteria for intelligence into three categories: Brain weight in grams, Encephalization quotient.

Here, I have summarized the parameters measured in the data and how they can be related to intelligence:

1.Weight of the brain can be related to size, on the most basic level of analysis we can say that some smaller animals i.e. insects, show a consistent disatvantage in the intelligence department

2.The Encephalization quotient is described as the ratio of how large the brain of the animal is relative to how large it should be (As explained later in the study, larger animals have larger brains but those brains are still proportionate to the body, thus not making them any more intelligent. Having a brain that exceeds this ratio though, may show some correalation to intelligence).

3.The number of cortical neurons is related to intelligence because the cerebral cortex is thought to be the center for cognitive abilities.

In the data cats fall short in both the brain weight and Encephalization quotient statistics. However, Cats almost double Dogs in their amount of cortical neurons at 300 million compared to 160 million. When comparing humans to whales and/or elephants there is a similar result. The study contests that the high density of cortical neurons can be the cause in large part of the difference in intelligence. Seeing that this same density difference is shown in Cats and Dogs, it would suggest that cats are in fact “smarter than dogs”, leaving us without a solution to our problem.

The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published research by Monique A.R. Udell and CDL Wynne which examined the ability of dogs to respond to both verbal and non verbal commands. A portion of this source gave a good evalutaion that dogs were domesticated about 5,000 years before cats. Therefore certain adaptations and methods may be more developed. The article then refers to a study done which examined the dependence of both animals on their owners. The study was conducted by producing two experiments. First, the animals had to find a bowl of food by being pointed in the correct direction by humans. Both animals were able to complete this task. Then, the food was made inaccessible and the trial was run again. It was seen more in dogs that they looked back to the humans for assistance wheras the cats did little to nothing to cue the humans for assistance.

Simple operational conditioning can train most animals. Humans have been training dogs for thousands of years which could explain our strength of relationship. However, this study could prove to show that cats are generally less dependent and care less for socialization with humans. This could prove despite their higher intelligence, why cats are less obedient.

Can sex relieve migraines?

Those who have experience might notice feeling much different after a session of love-making. More specifically, many, if not all, go into a relaxed state throughout their body. This relaxed state of pleasure includes not only your sex organs and limbs but even your head. For this reason, it is my contention that headaches and other non-inhibitive aches and pains should not keep you from having sex, but rather be an incentive to have sex.

According to CBS news Researchers at a German university, the University of Munster, conducted an observational study in which they found that sex does in fact have a pain relieving effect. The study was made up of 1,000 patients, 800 of which suffered from migraines whereas the other 200 suffered from cluster headaches. The study was done in the form of an anonymous survey and asked patients to respond to questions over time regarding sexual activity and the effect of said activity on frequency and intensity of headaches. When I examine how this study is set up, I notice that there is a specific pool of subjects with a particular diagnosis, meaning it is not completely randomized however the fact that the survey is anonymous hopes to eliminate any response bias. In addition, because this is an observational study there is no control group or placebo. This leaves all data to be subject to the personal opinion of the patient. I believe this makes it much more difficult to infer causation because the simple fact that the study is asking if the patient feels better after sex may lead them to thinking that it’s inherently true regardless of how they actually feel.×400.jpg

The results of the study, as reported by Cephalalgia, showed that only 38% of the migraine patients and 48% of the cluster headache patients even responded to the survey. The results become even slimmer when considering only 34% of migraine patients and 31% of cluster headache reported having sex while having a headache. This means that only 7.6% of the original sample size, or 132 patients were able to give valuable evidence either linking or not linking sex to pain relief. If this small sample is representative, it shouldn’t make a difference however once again it seems that there could be a large volunteer response bias in this case. In addition, when making assumptions it is best to have a larger sample in order to decrease the margin of error. If more research were to be done on this topic, and larger samples were to be used, it may be a much easier and clearer case to prove the alternative hypothesis in this case.

If we continue to break down the numbers, in migraine patients, 60% reported an improvement in condition, and 33% reported the symptoms became more severe. As for cluster headache patients, 37% reported an improvement of their symptoms and 50% reported the symptoms became more severe. In total, of the 1000 people surveyed only 71 reported an improvement in symptoms after some kind of sexual discourse. In this case, we can even look statistically. The null hypothesis is that “Sex does not affect (or worsens) the symptoms of a migraine or headache.” The value of p-hat for the purposes of testing the null hypothesis would be .46 and from what I’ve learned in my stat 200 class this is too high to reject the null hypothesis.

After analyzing this study though, can we still make the assumption that sex relieves pain? The lack of challenge to this study makes me believe that this discovery doesn’t need to be profound in order to be believable. Many of us can take personal experience in place of science and use it to our advantage. Similar to the study we looked at in class that examined the risk of leaving the tv on at night, this is a problem where we can personally ask ourselves…what can it hurt to try it?


Hey everyone! My name is Marvin Barnhill and I’m a sophomore majoring in Labor and employment Relations. I hope to one day become a Human Resources executive or even a Lawyer. I’m taking this class to fill my requirements but also to give science one last attempt. In high school the practicality of science was never taught, and i struggled incredibly just to get B’s. However, my sophomore year in high school I had the best chemistry teacher who was able to give us real world examples of the things we were learning as well as give us great learning tools. Unfortunately, every other teacher was not that dedicated to the education of their students, as a result, science and I just don’t mix well.

I used to sit in class and try my hardest to put things together, but in the end I would end up saying/thinking “Wait…what?” And no matter how many tutoring sessions or extra work I received, I still couldn’t get with science. I have however found a passion for people and interactions. The liberal arts is just where I need to be. Everything liberal arts has been teaching me are things I actually want to learn and are truly eye opening. If only the same could be said for math and science courses. I will say that I took Math 034 (Math with money) and loved it. Maybe a similar story can  be told of this class. I’m excited to find out!

P.S. I love music, here’s chance the rapper