Author Archives: Michael A Lupo

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

All around the country, marijuana is used by hundreds. Whether it be the legal use, illegal use, or for medicinal use, people will do whatever it takes to get their marijuana fix. For as long as I can remember, marijuana has been described as a gateway drug.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Dave Warden, a bud tender at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, displays various types of marijuana available to patients on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines today for federal prosecutors in states where the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed under state law. Federal prosecutors will no longer trump the state with raids on the southern California dispensaries as they had been doing, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley recently began a crackdown campaign that will include raids against the facilities. Cooley maintains that virtually all marijuana dispensaries are in violation of the law because they profit from their product. The city of LA has been slow to come to agreement on how to regulate its 800 to 1,000 dispensaries. Californians voted to allow sick people with referrals from doctors to consume cannabis with the passage of state ballot Proposition 215 in 1996 and a total of 14 states now allow the medicinal use of marijuana. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

I remember sitting in D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class as an elementary school student and listening to the teachers talk about how dangerous marijuana use can be when it comes to using other drugs. This would mean that when you start using marijuana you become more susceptible to trying other, new kinds of drugs. Although I am not a drug user, this topic is still very interesting to me. I wonder if there is any kind of link between smoking marijuana and using other drugs. I wonder if what the D.A.R.E. teachers had told me was actually backed by science all along.

Null and Alternate Hypotheses

In order to break down this issue, scientists must first test the hypothesis that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug to other drug use. There is a correlation between marijuana and the use of other drugs. In their studies, scientists are trying to reject the null hypothesis which states that there is nothing going on except chance, meaning marijuana use would not lead to a further desire to try other drugs. They are also testing to see if there are any alternate hypotheses that come into play at all. An alternate hypothesis would state that something is definitely occurring, which would mean that there are facts that link marijuana and the desire to try other drugs.


In a study found here, an observational trial was conducted which followed 1265 people throughout a period of 14-25 years and measured their frequency of drug use, then compared it to the number of other drugs that the people reported they used during the test period. The results that they uncovered were consistent with the hypothesis because frequent users of marijuana were more likely to use other illegal drugs. However, although this evidence supported the hypothesis, scientists were unable to find a clear mechanism to which the frequent use of marijuana caused the use of other drugs. Although this study was partially successful because it was able to find evidence which supported the alternate hypothesis, I feel that it could be improved. Scientists could take into consideration the third variables which could affect other drug use such as heavy alcohol consumption which is known to cause risky behavior. Also, instead of having people self-report drug use, I think it would be better to have them come in for monthly drug tests. This way, scientists can know for a fact which drugs people are and are not using. Although this method would be expensive, I think it is the only clear way to differentiate between what people say they are doing and what they are actually doing.

Ethically speaking, an experimental trial, in this case, needs to be ruled out. Scientists can’t just go around letting people smoke weed and then measure what other kinds of drugs they use. This would not only affect the health of the participants, it would cause an issue with the law as well because many of these drugs being tested for are illegal.

True gateway drug?

Although marijuana is popularly believed to be a gateway drug, scientists have actually been able to determine that the true gateway drug is alcohol through other studies. imrs-phpA study conducted a poll between 2835 12th grade students from around America to determine which was the first substance used which then led to trying other substances. Between alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, results showed that alcohol is the most commonly used first substance prior to any other substance use. Scientists were also able to discover that the earlier kids began to drink alcohol, the more likely they would be willing to try other illegal substances. Although this is another self-reported study, based on these facts, alcohol is a more impactful gateway drug, not marijuana.
This study can be easily improved by increasing the sample size. 2835 12th graders is a very small number compared to the 3.5 million expected to graduate between 2016-2017. With a larger sample size and more studies, it reduces the possibility of the results being due to chance.

Just like the previous experiment, ethically, this would never work in an experimental trial. Scientists could never give alcohol to 12th graders and then track what other kinds of drugs they try. Not only is this morally wrong, it is also against the law.

Final thoughts

What we can take away from these studies is that although many believe that the true gateway drug is marijuana, correlational evidence actually shows that it is alcohol.  These findings were able to accept the null hypothesis because the studies prove that although there is a link between marijuana use and use of other drugs, there is no true mechanism in order to prove this. Many cases have been solved where a solution is found before the mechanism like Andrew described with scurvy and lemons. Also, like the prayer study we went over in class, the null hypothesis either can be true or it can be a false positive. Scientist’s conclusion that alcohol is the true gateway drug rejects a popular belief that many people had cemented in their minds. Although these observations and findings are still correlational, I still believe them to be true because most people try drinking alcohol before anything else. If you are not trying to get into any other kinds of drugs, it is a good practice to stay away from alcohol at a young age as studies prove it can lead to further drug use.63_chart01 I guess the D.A.R.E officers weren’t entirely wrong when they said that marijuana is a gateway drug, but there is no true mechanism allowing this to be deemed true or correct. In my own opinion, I feel that if you can exhibit self-control, you shouldn’t have any kind of substance abuse issues.

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Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

As of 2014, it was reported that one in every sixty-eight children is affected by autism in America. Because this disease affects so many American children, there is a high budget for research in order to become more informed on the disease as well as find possible links to its cause and determine solutions to the problem. One of the more commonly associated thoughts with autism is whether or not vaccinations have any correlation to the development of the disease. Because of this, many studies are conducted to see whether this link between vaccinations and autism has any merit. Thanks to the research conducted by scientists, vaccinations and autism are correlated in some ways. However, we know from class that correlation does not always equal causation, so more in-depth studies need to be conducted in order to find out whether or not this could be a possibility.

This issue makes me wonder if vaccinations have a direct relationship to causing autism. In that case, people should stop getting vaccinations altogether.

Little baby girl gets an injection

Third confounding variables also need to be taken into consideration because maybe something like the metals in needles used to administer the vaccinations is actually causing the autism. As Andrew has stated in class, “chance is lurking everywhere,” so we can never count that out. In this case, reverse causation would be ruled out because there is no logical way that autism could be the thing causing you to receive vaccinations because of the passage of time.


In a study conducted in 2011, scientists administered an experiment where they tested eight commonly given vaccines to adults and children to see if they had any cause in the development of autism. They were able to conclude that these eight vaccinations were very safe aside from the extremely rare cases. This experiment could be morally wrong if it was administered another way. If scientists and doctors went around vaccinating people with multiple medications and seeing if they develop autism, they could get themselves into a lot of trouble. Just like we discussed in class, in a situation where a doctor wants to operate an experimental treatment, consent needs to be provided.

Another case-control study examined the amount of the ingredients found in vaccines given during the first two years of life which help the body to produce disease-fighting antibodies (antigens) and compared it to the levels found in children with and without autism. The null hypothesis, in this case, would state that there is no difference between the levels of disease-fighting antibodies in children with or without autism except chance. 6a00d8357f3f2969e2019affaed29f970dThe alternate hypothesis would state that there is a palpable difference seen between the levels of these antigens in children with or without autism. With a control group of 752 children without autism and 256 with autism, this study was relatively small compared to a large number of children who suffer from autism.

To improve this study, I feel that researchers could a study of a larger scale of children to help reinforce the data that was discovered. The results, however, showed that the level of antigens was equal in children with or without autism. Thanks to some of these studies, scientists are able to conclude and reassure people that the vaccines do not actually cause autism.

Although parents and scientists alike continue to develop new hypotheses linking autism and vaccinations, science continually disproved them with thorough examinations of these theories. The most commonly proposed hypotheses can be read about here as well as the results of the many experiments conducted to disprove these hypotheses. As long as children continue to develop autism, parents and doctors will also continue to develop theories on why this occurs. Thanks to the rigorous experiments conducted in many labs around the world, autism being caused by vaccinations should be taken off the list of concerns because there is valid proof found which disproves the hypotheses.

Final thoughts

What we can take away from all of this is that parents shouldn’t worry about vaccinating their young children. With all of the information and evidence science has given us, there is no need for concern. d85606a1cf068cde44e972430cdd20adDoctors and researchers do the very best that they can to make sure they are keeping a patients or parents best interests in mind while they are doing their job. Thankfully, there is science to back up their notions and disprove the fact that vaccinations may cause autism.

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Does skipping breakfast cause weight gain?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been told by my mother to eat breakfast because “it’s the most important meal of the day.” And for the most part, when living at home, I always did eat breakfast.

Sunny cheerful breakfast

Now that I am in college, things are different. Sometimes, I just don’t have time for breakfast, so I skip it. Other times, I wake up so late that I’m actually eating my first meal at lunchtime (12-2.) Because of the saying, I have always wondered if it really is that important to your health to always eat breakfast.

Upon researching this, I uncovered that scientists have discovered a link between not eating breakfast and gaining I wondered if there is a direct relationship between not eating breakfast and gaining weight. This also leaves open the possible of reverse causation because maybe weight gain is causing you to not eat breakfast. The results being due to chance is always an option as well as third variables which affect both weight gain and whether or not you eat breakfast. An example of a confounding variable, in this case, could be a lack of time or maybe no food available for consumption.


While trying to discover if there is any mechanism for the hypothesis, I discovered a study which examined the effect of eating breakfast on humans. Body weight was one of the topics reviewed. Scientists were able to find out that breakfast eaters generally consumed more calories daily than people who skip breakfast. However, the people who ate breakfast were seen to be less likely to be overweight than their opposite, the breakfast skipper. Scientists didn’t stop at this one study, though. Because of the continued association between skipping breakfast and gaining weight, a meta-analysis was conducted to see if a mechanism linking the two factors could be uncovered. Nineteen observational studies were conducted with over 90,000 participants providing the data. Researchers were able to find a positive link between skipping breakfast and gaining weight. Although they were still not able to discover a mechanism that explained this, eating breakfast was still encouraged because of its vast other benefits unrelated to body weight. I like the fact that this study was conducted with over 90,000 participants. This gives the data some real weight in my opinion. If you discover a trend when looking at a control group of 90,000 there is a high likelihood of correlation.

Additional studies were conducted to test the possibility of reverse causation being the cause of weight gain due to skipping breakfast. A few were able to conclude that overweight children are most likely to skip breakfast. There is a problem with these findings, however, because researchers were not able to differentiate what occurred first: becoming overweight or skipping breakfast. Further studies were conducted to see how this problem could be avoided to not skew the data. Researchers conducted a longitudinal study where 14,000 boys and girls from all around the country were given a questionnaire and to report their BMI at the beginning of each year dating from 1996 to 1999. The results continued to complicate the equation. Children who were deemed overweight from the beginning of the study and skipped breakfast were seen to lose body fat in some cases. However, when looking into the normal weight children who skipped breakfast, some cases of weight gain were noticed. Scientists continued to encourage eating breakfast because of its ability to help maintain a healthy diet and provide energy to the consumer.

Final thoughts

What we can take away from this information is that although there are some cases where skipping breakfast has caused weight gain, there is no mechanism or decisive evidence that proves this to always be true. Breakfast is deemed “the most important meal of the day” because of other factors such as improved energy and focus, not because of whether you will gain weight from eating it or not. The benefits of breakfast are well known and many are being proven to be true, so eating it can only be an advantage to you. Skipping breakfast may or may not lead to weight gain, but it also won’t allow you to have the energy and focus that breakfast eaters possess. From now on, I will try to continue to eat breakfast whenever I can because I not only enjoy it, but it is able to provide things beneficial to my wellbeing… especially if it looks like this. breakfast-02

Does living close to power lines cause cancer?

I remember a time in my life not all that long ago when my parents were searching for a new house for my family. They looked long and hard for the perfect house. Then they stumbled across it. The house had everything they wanted but the surrounding property possessed a feature that they didn’t desire. Behind this house was a set of power lines. Although these power lines were blocked by trees and not an eyesore, my parents were concerned about them for a greater reason. The realtor had informed them that these lines were thought to have a link to cancer in children. pylon-power-line-compensationAt the time, when I heard this I didn’t believe it in the slightest way. Being a narrow-minded twelve-year-old, all I wanted was for my parents to pull the trigger on the nice house with the big pool. Now that I am a little older and wiser, the thought of these power lines causing cancer is an interesting topic to me. Upon further thought, I was able to raise a few questions about if there actually is a causal link between power lines and cancer in children.

The first being whether or not living in close proximity to powerlines is directly causal to cancer in young children. 

Another would be whether or not living close to power lines is reversely causal to cancer, but there is no logical way for cancer to cause living closely to power lines. 

This leaves only an independent third variable such as geographic location, and chance to prove this theory to be true.

Studies to further investigate this hypothesis

In order to investigate this further, I happened upon a study found here which describes a trial that was conducted in 1979 and uncovered a correlation between high-voltage power lines and leukemia in children. ca_v_emfThe study compared cancer rate of children who lived in close proximity to power lines to others who lived in houses, not near power lines. Researchers went out into the areas where power lines were present and measured the amount of radiation being emitted at different points throughout the day, then compared them to already known levels which were linked to cancer. Although no concrete results were discovered, it seemed to them that children who spent their whole childhood in close proximity to these power lines were most at risk. Then in 1995, the evidence was reviewed and there was no mechanism found which the magnetic fields generated by powerlines had any role in the development of cancer in children. The review of the evidence was able to rule out chance due to a high sample size. However, researchers did warn that residential magnetic field exposure and leukemia in children were regularly associated. These results only added to the question of whether or not there was any merit behind the theory that exposure to the magnetic fields given off by high voltage power lines does in fact cause cancer.radiation-from-powerlines-safe In 2002, another study was conducted and put the theory of power lines causing cancer to rest. There was no evidence found that supported the link between power lines and any form of cancer in children or adults or anything. Scientists didn’t give up, though. In 2013, one of the most recent studies to date came to the conclusion that there is no association between close proximity to powerlines any the development of any form of cancer thanks to review of previous evidence as well as further experiments conducted.

Final thoughts

Now that there is experimental evidence supporting the fact that cancer and close proximity to power lines have no effect on your health, you shouldn’t worry if you are planning on purchasing or living in a house near these lines. The alternate hypotheses which states power lines do cause cancer was rejected because the null hypothesis which states that power lines do not cause cancer was proven to be true thanks to the study from 2013. Although power lines may be ugly and an eyesore, there is no mechanism or link between the two variables. Having this evidence, I now wonder if my parents knew this at the time I would be living in a different house than the one I do today.

Do study drugs allow you to get better grades?

When midterm and final exams approach, college students will look for anything to try to help them prepare for these very important tests to the best of their abilities. Some turn to coffee and late nights spent at the library. Others start studying weeks in advance. However, while those methods are natural, another increasingly popular method some students turn to is prescription medicines to try to enhance their studying habits. 111434-pills-walbridge-01Although it is illegal to sell these pills, just as it would be illegal to sell crack or cocaine, students turn to their friends who are “lucky enough” to obtain a prescription for Adderall, Vyvanse, or Ritalin. These pills are prescribed to people who suffer from ADHD to try to help them focus better and maintain their focus for hours on end. While some people will take these pills to get high, many college students who have no need for these pills are taking them to study for hours on end. asset-11
In a poll performed in 2008, over 81% of the 1800 students involved thought that the use of these medications was only “slightly dangerous” to “not dangerous at all.” This self-reporting study shows that the number of students who are saying yes to these drugs is already large, and will only continue to grow. The way students are using these pills to enhance brain functions raises a few questions in my head:

Is the use of ADHD medication directly correlated to better grades?

Are better grades and ADHD medication use reversely correlated where receiving good grades is causing more medication use?

Or, is a third variable involved that could affect both ADHD medication use and better grades. An example of this could be anything from a longer attention span to more energy available for school work, which would affect both the grades received and the use of ADHD medication. Maybe the ADHD medication is allowing you to focus more easily on your studies which then leads to higher marks on exams.

Because of the time, reverse causation, in this case, would be ruled out because you would have already received your grades before you tried an ADHD medication, so it would be physically impossible for good grades to be reversely correlated to the use of these medicines.

There is a possibility that using ADHD medication could, in turn, lead to higher grades on tests but experiments need to be conducted in order to prove or disprove this hypothesis.


In a study conducted here, researchers have found evidence that should make students think twice before taking these drugs. Contrary to popular belief amongst students, scientists discovered that these drugs will not improve your grades regardless of whether you have ADHD or not. Studies show that the GPA’s of users are typically lower than nonusers. This proves that the academically superior don’t even need to turn to these so-called “study drugs” to obtain their high marks in their classes. study-drugs-like-adderall-do-they-work-300x177Another fact is that the users of these drugs also tend to be users of other drugs or alcohol. This can lead to poor study habits because of desire to do other things rather than study.

Another observational study conducted found that out of the 1,811 undergraduate students polled from a public university, 34% said they had used ADHD medication without a prescription. study-drug-statsAlthough this study proves that the use of ADHD medication is indeed a problem, it is relatively small sample size compared to the 20.5 million enrolled in colleges during 2016. The problem that I have with this current study is that the sample size should be increased for more accurate results and the data collected was from one university only. This flaw leaves open the possibility that the usage of ADHD medication without a prescription at this one school may be larger or smaller than at all other schools. With a larger sample size and polling data from undergrads at multiple different campuses, the results can be more accurate and cover a broader spectrum of students with different study habits.

This issue is a tough one to test experimentally amongst scientists. For scientists to perform a randomized control trial, they would have to give these study drugs to members of the control group and then test their exam taking capabilities compared to members of the group who did not take these drugs. It would be considered unethical to perform an experiment like this. Although a trial like this would be able to provide excellent insight into whether or not study drugs actually work, scientists have yet to find an ethical way to perform study where a patient’s health is not hanging in the balance. For now, they will have to settle on using self-reported data to try to find a mechanism for these drugs to impact performance.

Final thoughts

The things that can be taken away from this study are although it is a popular belief that these study drugs can improve performance on test and quizzes, there is no evidence to prove it. There is in fact evidence that disproves this theory as presented in the article listed above. Although there is no mechanism describing why study drug users tend to have lower GPA’s than non-users, it would probably be in your best interest to put down the Adderall or its substitute, and hit the books hard like a normal student would. Along with the fact that there is no proven benefit for non-prescribed users, there are also various health risks associated with the use of ADHD medication. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and seizure are some of the many side effects and dangers of using these drugs. Because of these risks, the benefits of using drugs like Adderal to study do not outweigh the potential dangers which can occur.  An old saying states that “there is no substitute for hard work,” and these findings help prove that to be true.

Self Driving Cars

In our world today, technology is consistently evolving. Computers, cell phones, transportation, you name it, and I can bet that the technology that makes it up now is light years better then it was when the product was unveiled. Some of the most intriguing examples of these technological advancements can be found in today’s cars. Being a car fanatic myself, I have always enjoyed reading and informing myself about the ever improving technology being used by todays top manufacturers. The new innovations are very exciting, and will change the way people use transportation in the near future. The technology that I am describing is self-driving cars.

Years ago, only in ones wildest dreams could a self-driving car seem feasible. It was doubtful, at the time, that we would ever be able to develop the technology necessary to even think about a car that requires no human operation. Technology used in cars today are examples of amazing revolutions alone, yet a car that is able to drive by itself truly would be incredible. The first step in the development of this innovative technology can be credited to the engineers at Tesla. Tesla’s designers (geniuses) were able to establish and implement an auto pilot system into their model lineup that A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc. will begin rolling out the first version of its highly anticipated "autopilot" features to owners of its all-electric Model S sedan Thursday. Autopilot is a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars, and includes features like automatic lane changing and the ability of the Model S to parallel park for you. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Imagesallows drivers to take their hands off the wheel and relax as the car drives by itself. It uses a combination of ultrasonic sensors, radar, cameras, and data to automatically drive the car. You can see the system in use in a video found here. An article found here also describes the cars abilities to scan for a parking spot once you have arrived at your destination and park itself on your command. This system also uses a lane keeping system and computerized data to analyze traffic, change speeds, and execute lane changes depending on the traffic conditions being experienced. Tesla is continually testing and evolving this system to make it the best it can be. When an update is available, Tesla is able to send it directly to the cars computer just as you would receive a software update on your phone. While this example is not exactly a completely self-driving car, Tesla is the first to stick its foot in the door of a car that requires no human operation.

Google, yes the same google that you use for most of your internet searches, is next to the party.home-where Their cars, like the Tesla, use a combination of sensors and software in order to navigate whatever the streets have to throw at you. However, unlike the Tesla, Google’s car does not even feature a steering wheel or pedals. The interior, as described by Google, is “designed for riding, not for driving.” asset-version-f13d804524-app_6146While this car is just a prototype and has not hit the road just yet, it is still a super exciting advancement to keep in mind for years to come. The idea that a car in the near future will be stripped of its steering wheel and pedals is simply incredible. Not only will the use of self-driving cars make humans lives easier, it should also cut down on the amount of traffic accidents. If everyone has a self-driving car that has sensors to help it avoid collisions, then human error will no longer be the cause of so many accidents. You will suddenly be able to text all that you want when you’re in the car. No longer will you have to worry about sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. You will soon be able to sit back, and relax as your car handles whatever the road has to offer.

Will we ever get to Mars

I believe that one of the most interesting topics in all of Science involves the ability for life to be sustained on other planets. How cool would it be to say that you live on another planet other than Earth? Instead of moving to another town or state for a change of scenery, how about hopping on a spaceship and flying to Mars, or Jupiter, or Saturn. Obviously, some planets have a better ability to sustain life than others, and Mars sits atop of that list. So let’s gas up the space shuttle and go! Wait, not so fast. With the technology we have available at this current time, I realize this may not be attainable just yet. However, we have already completed the first step and discovered factors that point to Mars’ ability to sustain life. Evidence suggests that water once flowed on Mars and that is an essential part to supporting a life similar to the one lived here on Earth. Add in the facts that a magnetic field and key nutrients have been discovered there, life on Mars doesn’t sound as preposterous as it may have thirty or forty years ago. With our ever evolving technology, knowledge, and desire to explore, I don’t think that life on Mars or other planets is as far off as some think.


Humans brains and knowledge in general, are always evolving and with that, technological advances are made as well. Spacecrafts now are much more well suited to withstand the rigors of our earth’s atmosphere and the hardships of our solar system then they were when men took their first trip to the moon in 1969. An article found here highlights some of the advancements being made by NASA in order to build a spacecraft capable of traveling to Mars by 2030. Another article found here details the series of advancements being made in the coming years leading up to 2030 to help assure that the mission to Mars goes as smooth as NASA wants. This is exciting stuff. The simple fact that NASA feels that they have the proper equipment to be able to send a man to Mars in less than 15 years is very interesting to me. Between now and the end of my lifetime, there is a possibility that there will be life on another planet. Maybe I won’t be able to enjoy it, but for future generations this can be a big thing to look forward to.


The idea of life on another planet such as Mars can be related to many other instances in our life, such as the invention of the airplane or the invention of the computer. Innovators need to have a wide open mind to think of brilliant ideas like this. If you went back in time to early 1900s, there were only two men in all of America with the insight and intuition to think of a flying form of transportation. Not only was that invention amazing for the time, but the airplane is still a vital part of lives today. Basically, without the Wright brothers and their great idea, we wouldn’t have planes, which in turn means we wouldn’t have been able to get to the moon, which also means we wouldn’t be able to get to Mars. The same can be said about the computer, which is another instrument that is so vital in our everyday lives today. Computers play such a huge role in almost everything people do. Over 40% of the entire world takes advantage of internet access and that number is continually growing from the 1% back in 1995. I personally can’t live without my computer. It provides me with access to the internet to learn, allows me to take notes for class, as well as stay in touch with people. In fact, without a computer, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog post right now. The brilliant minds that invented things such as the airplane and the computer are the same minds that are working on sending people to Mars. I really hope that life is able to be sustained on Mars at some point throughout my lifetime because I feel that it would rank right up there with the invention of the computer and the airplane which were both invented before I was born.




Does your dog understand you?

In today’s society, people’s love and affection for pets play a huge role in their happiness and wellbeing. While all pets are particularly lovable, there are more dog-owning households in America than any other pet. Like many people who love dogs, I also share a deep love for “man’s best friend.” When you are exposed to owning dogs, it is common to speak to them like humans as if they are another member of the family. I have always wondered if they can actually understand the commands you give them and the tone in which they are given. I realize that dogs are intensely smart and attentive creatures that are useful in many fields yet that question always seems to stick out in my mind. Because dogs play such a huge role in the family life of many, it would be nice to know if they actually do understand when you tell them “Let’s go for a walk,” “Lay down,” “Play dead,” or “Stop barking.”  If a dog can actually understand your commands, it opens up a world of possibilities where dogs can be used for anything we can command them to do.imrs.php

In my research of this topic, I first came across this article which goes into vast detail about how a dog’s brain works. Researchers were able to gather household, family dogs and train them to sit in a machine that measures brain activity. Then by using a combination of neutral and praise words, they were able to determine how the dog’s brains work. The results were astonishing. A dog’s brain uses a left and right hemisphere system that is identical to how the human brain is wired. The left side is used to process language whereas the right side is used to process tone. Another test used was saying a variety of praise words in a neutral tone and using neutral words in a praising tone. The dogs were able to identify the praise words in the brain’s “rewards center” when spoken in the neutral tone, yet didn’t respond to them. The similarities between a dog’s brain and a human’s brain are endless. Just like humans, dogs can decipher whether or not a positive word is spoken in a positive tone and then combine the idea of word and tone to completely understand the commands being given.


This knowledge about how a dog’s brain works can also raise another question about a dog’s behavior. When their master is showing emotion, is their dog able to tell. Studies show that based on their facial expression and the sound of their voice, a dog can actually decipher how a human is feeling. An article that can be found here goes into greater detail about how dogs can sense how you are feeling, and whether or not humans can sense how a dog is feeling based on their facial expressions. In my own personal experience, I think that my dog can sense if I am happy or sad. Whenever I am in a happy or cheerful mood, my dog seems to be feeling the same way and is anxious for attention. However, when I am sad, my dog also seems to be able to sense it. A recent example is when I left for college last Friday. My mom was very upset about sending her oldest off and was in tears before we even left the house. My dog seemed to be able to sense this, walked over to my mom’s feet, and laid down. This instantly made my mom feel better because the dog is probably the favorite member in my household. He gets away with everything. This example in my life helps add to the credibility and my belief in the article above. Attached here is a picture of my dog.




Hi class, my name is Mike Lupo and I am a freshman here at Penn State. I’m from Holmdel, New Jersey which is about 4 hours from here. Its located centrally in New Jersey so I am only about 20 minutes from the nearest beach which is nice in the summer. I am currently enrolled in DUS, but would like to study finance or economics down the road. When I was scheduling my classes with my advisor, I first wanted to select all of the required classes for an intended business path. After those classes were squared away I was able to pick an elective that intrigued me. Science is everywhere in our world and that is interesting to me. Weather it be the makeup of the solar system all the way down to sports science, it is such broad topic that everyone should be able to find an area that peaks their interest. When reading the course overview, this class seemed to hit on all areas of science that do interest me. Unlike chemistry where a lot of it is memorization or math, SC200 allows you to think critically and not have to be burdened with knowing how to do stoichiometry or significant figures. I am looking forward to the topics discussed in this class after receiving the schedule and feel that this class will keep me interested throughout the entire semester.


I am not planning to be a science major for multiple reasons. The first is that I absolutely hate chemistry. I not only do not understand it but I also don’t find it interesting in any way. I struggled with it on the high school level, so I can only imaging the problems I would have here with the higher level Chem classes. Another reason is that I have always been interested in the business field and was set on my major being business related before I was even done with high school. My father was a finance major and loves his job, so that probably helped sway me towards a degree in either finance or economics. Although parts of science do interest me, I don’t love it enough as a whole to pursue it as a major. However, I am very eager to get going in SC200 and see what this class has to offer. It seems unlike any other science class I have ever taken and Andrew seems like a great teacher. When looking over the class schedule one of the topics that jumped out at me was “do fish feel pain?” I found that topic interesting because growing up near the beach, you always see people fishing. Even tough I’ve been exposed to fishing a lot in my life, I never really thought about weather or not a fish feels pain when it gets hooked. This led me to an interesting article which can be found HERE which goes into further detail about the kind of pain fish feel in relation to the kind of pain humans feel.