Author Archives: Michael Mandarino

Can carbon dioxide be used as a renewable energy source?

Along with global warming/climate change, one of the bigger broad issues on our planet today has to do with the energy sources that we use on a daily basis. Eventually there will be no more fossil fuel to turn into gasoline for our cars or oil to heat our homes, so in the event that we run out of fossil fuel, how will we be able to fuel our cars and homes? A recent article by Shankia Gunaratna of CBS News revealed a surprising finding made by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Ethanol, which is commonly used in cars, can be produced with carbon dioxide – an exciting discovery that could be the solution to the world’s energy problem (Wikipedia)

The scientists in Oak Ridge discovered a way to turn carbon dioxide, one of the most common greenhouse gases on our planet, into ethanol, which is used commonly to fuel our cars. And, according to head study author Adam Rondinone, this discovery with huge potential implications was made completely accidentally. While Rondinone and a group of scientists were testing other chemical reactions with implications in nanotechnology & electricity, they discovered the process of turning CO2 into ethanol. The process is done by combining carbon, copper and nitrogen; this combination initiates a chemical reaction that, in essence, is a reverse combustion of ethanol. This creates a solution of carbon dioxide that, once dissolved in water with the help of a nanotechnology-based catalyst, changed into ethanol.

This discovery, which was made back in 2014, is extremely exciting for everyone in the world that uses ethanol on a regular basis. Since these findings were first made two years ago, the Oak Ridge Lab has tested their work again and again, and they continuously made ethanol from carbon dioxide. These repeated experiments lead many to believe that they didn’t find ethanol from CO2 due to chance, and further validates and solidifies the credibility of their discovery. According to, there were approximately 210 million licensed drivers in the United States in 2010 – a number that has likely increased in the past six years. That’s approximately 2/3 of the United States’ 2014 population of 319 million people (source), with the other third likely accounting for children & adolescents under the required driving age of each respective state. The potential consequences of these are obvious, and they are extremely helpful to car manufacturers and consumers alike.

Can you make your migraines disappear?

onAccording to, 13% of all American people suffer from migraine headaches – a genetic disorder that causes headaches which are much more painful than the average headache. One of these people is my mom; she regularly complains of splitting headaches that force her to rest up for a certain period of time. Fortunately for my mom and the millions of others that suffer from migraines in this country, a specific diet can help stop your body from having migraines.

As said in a recent blog post by, a ketogenic diet can make migraine patients’ headaches stop altogether. The diet, which was originally created to treat children suffering from epilepsy, tricks the body into thinking that it’s starving. A person who is on a ketogenic diet consumes a significantly smaller amount of carbs and a larger amount of fats than the average person, and this causes the fat metabolism to make “ketone bodies”. The new surplus in fat cells caused by the diet is used to make the ketone bodies; these bodies essentially replace carbs and do their jobs in the absence of carbohydrates. Each individual body acts just like a normal carbohydrate, but they produce more energy than normal glucose cells. As a result, the rest of the body is much more efficient than normal, which reduces stress, and therefore, migraines.

Dr. Cherubino Di Lorenzo, an Italian professor at Sapienza University of Rome, conducted and wrote a report on his study of suppressing migraines. He took 25 migraine-suffering patients to study, but seven of them did not meet the entry requirements he set for the study (i.e. their migraines weren’t bad enough to require this rigorous of treatment). The 18 remaining subjects, who ranged from the ages of 19 to 54, all were put on ketogenic diets for one month. After this month, all of them showed significant improvement in their frequency and severity of migraine attacks. The p-value of this study was found to be less than 1%, so the results were probably not found due to chance. Since Di Lorenzo’s findings matched his hypothesis that the test subjects’ conditions would improve, the results are neither a false positive nor a false negative.

These results are extremely encouraging for those who suffer from migraines in the United States and all around the world. While migraine headaches are genetic and there is no way of preventing yourself from getting them, the fact that something as simple as a diet can almost immediately stop the mind-numbing (no pun intended) pain caused by migraines is a great find and will surely help thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States and in the world. On a personal note, these results are very encouraging for me and my mom. Since migraines are genetically inherited, there’s a chance that I or either of my two siblings suffer from migraines in the future; the fact that they can be “prevented” is fantastic news for everyone in my family.

How deep below the Earth’s surface do earthquakes start?

The western coast of the United States is one of the most earthquake-vulnerable areas in the world. Throughout the 20th century, several earthquakes have ravaged the area, including a 2.9 magnitude quake that happened this past Monday in Truckee, a small town which is along California’s eastern border near Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately for residents of California, not every earthquake was as harmless or insignifcant as the one on Monday. According to, California has fallen victim to two 7.9 magnitude earthquakes in 1857 and 1906. An earthquake even postponed game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics; as both teams prepared for the big game a 6.9 earthquake rattled Candlestick Park and the surrounding areas.

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The scene at Candlestick Park after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rattled California’s Bay Area prior to Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics & the San Francisco Giants (FOX Sports)

A new study by the California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech, shows that earthquakes originate deeper below the earth’s surface than we thought. For years, seismologists believed that earthquakes originated anywhere between 12-15 feet below the Earth’s surface, but this study found that earthquakes can originate well deeper than 15 feet below the surface. Three scientists from Caltech studied the Newport-Inglewood Fault Zone, one of the most dangerous in Southern California. According to the LA Times, this particular fault zone is responsible for the 6.4 magnitude Long Beach earthquake of 1933, which caused $40 million in property damage and 115 deaths, according to the US Geological Survey. The findings of Caltech’s study were found based on six months worth of data from over 5000 sensors installed underground in Long Beach, CA. It studied each earthquakes’ density, seismicity and helium ratios, and also looked at the earthquakes’ size distribution in Long Beach only.

The Earthquakes’ size distribution in Long Beach (Asaf Inbal, Jean Paul Ampuero, Robert W. Clayton, California Institute of Technology)

So what does this mean? Why is it important that earthquakes originate below 15 feet under the Earth’s surface? Earthquakes on the surface of the Earth can now travel much deeper below the Earth’s surface, which means that they will be bigger, more violent and cause more damage and fatalities. While there is almost no way to stop earthquakes from happening, this leads to many other questions about the state of our planet. Why do earthquakes travel so deep below the Earth’s surface? What else could earthquakes traveling deeper below the surface cause?

Jean Paul Ampuero, one of the three authors of the study by Caltech, first got the idea that something was wrong when an 8.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Indian Ocean. The current belief of earthquakes originating 12-15 feet below the surface wasn’t consistent with an earthquake as strong as that. As a result, Ampuero, Asaf Inbal and Robert W. Clayton all got to work, and found that the belief that earthquakes originated 12-15 feet below the surface of the Earth was wrong, which shows that, as seen multiple times in class, scientists are wrong most of the time.

Stem Cell Transplants in Monkeys: Do they work?

According to a study done conducted by, implanted stem cells can regenerate cells of a damaged heart in macaque monkeys. According to, the new cells are not rejected instantly like other foreign cells entering the body, and they helped the heart contract after an intentional heart attack. During and after this heart attack the new stem cells integrated with the existing heart cells, and there were no signs of rejection coming from the immune system.  However, the monkey who received these new stem cells did suffer from an irregular heartbeat for the following four weeks after the implantation of the stem cells.

iPS cells were generated from MHC homozygous monkey and differentiated into cardiomyocytes. The cardiomyocytes were transplanted into another monkey in which either of the MHC haplotypes was identical to the donor. Credit: Yuji Shiba

Diagram of how Yuji Shiba, a human biology professor in Japan, conducted this experiment (Yuji Shiba)

The leader of the study was Yuji Shiba, a human biology professor at Shinsu University in Japan. In an interview with, Shiba said that these findings can be used to help cure patients with chronic heart infarctions. Before the integration of stem cells, oxygen was blocked from entering the monkey’s heart for three hours, giving the monkey myocardial infarction, or MI. After oxygen was allowed to re-enter the hear the monkey suffered from reperfusion, yet the study found that the stem cell implantation only helped cure MI. In order to avoid an immune response/rejection to the new stem cells, Shiba gave the monkey daily dosages of immunosuppressant drugs prior to the oxygen blockage, and he ensured that a surface protein, MHC, was carefully matched between the donor & recipient monkeys. Shiba predicts that cell implantations like the ones he ran on the monkeys, which have been used in humans before, will become more widely used within humans sooner rather than later.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in humans right now, so the findings of Shiba’s study are extremely helpful towards fighting heart disease. Fortunately, post-experiment meta-analyses found that the p-value of the study was less than 0.05, which means that it is unlikely that the monkey’s condition improved after the stem cell implantation solely due to chance. Several of these meta-analyses were done after the experiment was finished, with tests such as a two-sided Fisher’s Exact Test and Turkey’s multiple comparison test being conducted. All of these tests found the low p-value, which is an encouraging find in terms of finding the cure to heart disease.

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Heart disease death rates in the United States from 2008-2010 (

As I said before, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in human health today. According to, heart disease ranked 2nd in Canada in 2011, responsible for 19.7% of all deaths in the country that year. Only cancer (29.9% of all deaths) killed more people that year. The amount of people killed by heart disease every year is obviously alarming, so any strides made towards finding a way to cure and treat heart diseases are encouraging and beneficial to human health.

Have plants reached their “peak” carbon consumption?

Anyone who knows anything about botany knows that plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is one of the most important things a plant can do; without it, the plant would not be able to survive and grow. In a study conducted by a journal called Weather, botanists found that the consumption of carbon in plants located in the Northern Hemisphere peaked in 2006, and has been steadily declining in each subsequent year since. The results of this study have come as a shock to many people in the world of botany; according to Cosmos Magazine, this peak was projected to take place at some point after 2030. Not only is the amount of carbon consumed by plants decreasing, it’s decreasing quickly. The decrease in carbon consumption from 2013 to 2014 was equal to the amount of carbon omitted by humans in China for a whole year.

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Diagram that illustrates some of the many negative impacts of climate change on the Earth (

Not only are these findings shocking, they are also alarming and signal a big problem within our world. If plants aren’t absorbing as much carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, that means more and more COwill stay in the atmosphere. As a result, the process of climate change, which is a hot-button issue in society today, happens at a quicker rate of speed. These findings bring up several questions: why are plants absorbing less CO2, and how can we help stop this alarming trend?

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Graph showing the increase, peak and subsequent decrease of carbon dioxide consumption of plants – a shocking & alarming finding that could cause big problems for the planet (Weather)

According to the study conducted by Weather, plants are consuming less and less carbon dioxide because to put it simply, more COis being produced by humans every year. The findings of the study show that 30% more COis produced by humans every year. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, this means a COproducer the size of China is added to the Earth every single year. Since these extremely high numbers demonstrate that the Earth’s plants simply cannot absorb COas much as it could at one point, more measures need to be taken to cut carbon omissions in the atmosphere. This is an issue that has garnered mainstream media attention, with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio urging people to take care of our planet and help slow the process of climate change. This study is another convincing piece of data to show the world that climate change is truly one of the biggest issues facing our planet today.

Leonardo DiCaprio (right), pictured here with two elephants and two other environmentalists, is one of the most famous people in the world to actively help maintain the Earth’s environment (Twitter/@LeoDiCaprio)

How vestibular issues changed an NHL defenseman’s career

During his NHL career, Bryce Salvador was never the flashiest player on the ice. He was never the type of player that would dazzle fans with individual skill, and most casual sports fans have likely never even heard of Bryce Salvador. One thing that Salvador did during his career was battle. On the ice, he was a traditional stay-at-home defenseman, which meant he would battle in the dirty areas of the ice to help his team gain possession of the puck. Salvador never had any significant injury problems throughout his career until a game in 2009. As Salvador himself described it in his retirement announcement on the Players’ Tribune, he was hit in the face by an errant puck. He details the immediate impact that this event had on him and his lack of a proper recovery from the injury. Although his ears were ringing and he could hardly hear his own teammates ask him if he was okay, he didn’t miss any games and came back into the lineup for the New Jersey Devils’ next game against the New York Rangers.

Bryce Salvador with the captain’s “C” on his sweater in a game against the Boston Bruins (The Players’ Tribune)

As time went on the symptoms of the inner-ear concussion caused by the slapshot only got worse. Salvador describes how he couldn’t keep his balance on one leg during offseason training, and how even the most insignificant of body checks would make him feel completely nauseous. As Salvador’s condition worsened, he eventually sought the care of a trained military doctor, who finally revealed to him that one of three parts of his vestibular system was “broken”. According to Salvador, the three main components of the vestibular system are the eyes, feet and the inner ear. If one of these “breaks” (for Salvador, this was the inner ear), the two remaining components can take over and make everything seem okay. One of the “insignificant” checks Salvador took in between his inner-ear concussion and the 2010 preseason “broke” his eyes, so he couldn’t play. Instead of playing defense for the Devils, Salvador devoted his entire 2010-11 season trying to get well again.

Diagram of the Vestibular System in the inner ear (

Diagram of the Vestibular System in the inner ear (

Dr. James Kelly, a trained military doctor who has treated American troops who suffered severe damage from IEDs, reassured Salvador that he would be fine, but it would take a lot of work in order to get back on the ice. Part of Salvador’s therapy included spinning in an office chair until he was extremely dizzy, but why would he purposely make himself dizzy? According to Salvador, it takes the average person ten seconds to stop feeling dizzy after spinning around. At the start of his program, it took him over a minute to fully recover. As he kept working, the recovery time from his dizziness eventually worked its way down to ten seconds.

After this significant breakthrough, Salvador called Lou Lamoriello, the Devils’ iconic general manager who was with the team from 1987 to 2015, and said that he was ready to play in the 2011-12 season. With Salvador and team captain Zach Parise, who missed all but 13 games of the 2010-11 season with a torn meniscus in his knee, returning from injury, the Devils made a run all the way to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, and Salvador was a key contributor and steadying presence on defense. Although Salvador was never a goal-scoring threat, he did score a goal in the Devils’ 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings. Though the Devils ended up losing the series in six games, scoring in the Stanley Cup Final is a significant achievement and something Salvador should be very proud of. After the 2012 season Salvador was named captain of the Devils, and retired in September 2015 after 14 seasons in the NHL.

Can the condition of a sports field impact how the teams play?

One of the most important aspects of every sport is the surface in which the game is played on. When fans talk about a sporting event or game they’re attending or watching prior to game-time, the conversation most likely will be about the players and coaches of each team and how they’ll impact the game, but not often about the playing surface itself. The fields, courts and rinks that each individual sport is played on are all unique and tailor-made for their sport. Ice hockey is played on, well, ice, basketball is played on a hardwood court, and baseball is played on grass with a dirt infield. All of those unique playing surfaces contribute to the pace and tempo at which they are played. Two sports in particular where the playing surface can directly impact the game being played are tennis and soccer. The F2Freestylers, whom I mentioned in my first blog post, teamed up with Unibet, an online gambling company based in Europe, to explain how the playing surfaces in tennis and soccer can impact the game.


Though not the most popular in the United States, tennis is one of the world’s most unique and interesting sports because of the variety of playing surfaces that are used throughout the season. There are three different types of playing surfaces: hard, grass & clay courts. Of the sport’s four Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open is played on clay, Wimbledon is played on grass, and the Australian & US Opens are both played on hard court. On top of the fact that these surfaces all obviously look different, they are also completely different in terms of how the ball bounces off of them. According to the video by the F2, the ball bounces highest off of clay because of its loose surface and travels slower due to the clay particles staying in the fuzz of the ball. When the ball hits clay, it digs into the ground, and this decreases the ball’s speed after a bounce and increases its exit angle. On hard courts, the ball also has a high bounce, but doesn’t lose speed after bouncing off the ground because the ball can’t dig into the surface like it does on clay. On grass, the ball doesn’t lose much speed just like a hard court, but the exit angle is significantly lower than the other two courts. This is the case because the individual blades of grass cause the ball to have very little friction after hitting the surface, which helps maintain its high rate of speed.


This still from the F2’s video shows how the bounce of a ball bouncing on clay impacts its velocity and exit angle (YouTube/F2Freestylers)

All of these unique traits may suit one player’s game more than the other, which may explain why Spain’s Rafael Nadal is so dominant on clay, why Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is so dominant on hard courts, and why Switzerland’s Roger Federer is dominant on grass. Each different surface fits the play style of these three stats, which is why they find it easier to win on one surface than the other.


While the effects may not be as obvious or tangible as those in tennis, the playing surface in soccer is extremely important to the outcome of any given game. According to the video, home teams in soccer are allowed to manipulate the field in any way they want to. They can decide if the grass is extremely short, long, or if it even is natural grass in the first place. Spanish giants Atletico Madrid used this to their advantage in the Champions League semifinal matchup against German powerhouse Bayern Munich. Bayern are the most dominant team in Germany’s Bundesliga, and their entire game revolves around quick passing and possessing the ball. For the home leg of the semifinal, Atletico kept their stadium’s grass longer than normal, which hindered Bayern’s ability to quickly move the ball around. Atletico won the match 1-0, with the lone goal coming from midfielder Saúl Ñiguez. Although they finished the match with 69% possession, Bayern’s players complained after the match that the grass on the pitch was too long for their liking, but did the pitch actually impact the game?

Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez (#17) celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Bayern Munich (

Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez (#17) celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Bayern Munich (

To answer this question, the F2 & Unibet arranged a match between a semi-professional team and an amateur team. To compare, think of the matchup as a minor league hockey team playing against a beer league team thrown together by a few buddies. The first half of this match was played on a beautiful, well-groomed pitch, but the second half was played on a torn-up pitch similar to what the amateurs play on every week. In the first half, the semi-pro team ran rings around the amateurs, and the score at the break was 1-0. The semi-pros had 72% possession, completing 93% of their passes. In comparison, the amateurs only completed 64% of their passes. However, the game completely changed in the 2nd half. The semi-pros didn’t adjust to the new, worsened field conditions, and the amateurs ended up equalizing and owning 56% of the ball in the 2nd half. The game finished 1-1, supporting the statement that the condition of the field does in fact have an effect on the outcome of a match.

The Science Behind a Knuckleball

The knuckleball is one of the most interesting phenomena in all of sports. In baseball, Tim WakefieldRA Dickey and countless other pitchers made a name for themselves just because they could throw the ball with almost zero spin. In soccer, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Turkey’s Hakan Calhanoglu have both left opposing goalkeepers stunned and beaten by their knuckleballs. Although there is virtually no spin on the balls thrown and hit by these four athletes, there is a huge amount of movement on each ball. Why does the ball move so much when so little spin is put on it?

Jeremy Lynch and Billy Wingrove, known on YouTube as the “F2 Freestylers”, are an extremely popular duo of talented soccer tricksters who have made a name for themselves online. In this video, they explain how they’ve perfected their ability to hit a perfect knuckleball (and show off their skills a little in the process). According to, the swerve that makes a knuckleball almost impossible for a goalkeeper to save is caused by the air around the ball. Since a ball is a smooth sphere, the forces caused by aerodynamic lift fluctuate as the ball travels towards the goal in its straight path. These fluctuations cause the ball to move in such a seemingly unnatural way.

The knuckleball, however, is not exclusive to just a soccer ball or a baseball. A study by students at École Polytechnique’s Hydrodynamics Laboratory in France found that almost any ball, be it a tiny plastic bead or a 7 kg steel ball, will move similarly to a knuckleball seen in sports if dropped into a tank of water.

To this day, the knuckleball leaves opposing batters and goalkeepers bamboozled and frozen by the unpredictable, erratic ways that the ball moves towards them. Though extremely difficult to master, many goal-scorers and pitchers will continue to use the knuckleball to their advantage in the coming years.

First Blog Post

Hey everybody! My name is Mike Mandarino and I’m a journalism major from Bedminster, New Jersey. I have two siblings: a twin brother and an older sister (pictured below – I’m on the right). My sister is currently a sophomore at the University of Georgia, and my brother is a freshman at Montclair State University in New Jersey. I love to watch sports, mainly ice hockey, and mainly the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, a team I’ve followed since I was five years old – more on them later.

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(left to right) My twin brother Billy, my sister Emma, and me after my brother & I’s high school graduation in June 2016.

I decided not to be a science major here at Penn State not because I dislike science in any way, but because Journalism is something I hope to pursue a career in and have been passionate about for several years. I honestly didn’t even consider science as a possible major here, but that isn’t because I dislike it in any way. While I didn’t like sitting through a physics class and memorizing how to calculate the velocity of a tennis ball shortly after being hit by a racquet, I do find the more broader concepts of science interesting, and I realize that science applies to almost every aspect of our lives. Even if you hate science, you have to acknowledge the fact that there could be life outside of our own planet is really interesting.

I decided to take this class for various reasons. Admittedly, the main reason I took this class was to fill out a gen-ed requirement, but I could’ve taken any science class to fill out my requirement. I chose this one specifically because it covers the broader aspects of science, and it allows for more thinking and open discussion. I could sit through another chemistry or physics class like I did in high school, but those classes are more black and white and don’t allow for creative thinking. At the beginning of the year, the professor of one of those classes would say “we’re talking about this, this and this” and the schedule would be set. Science 200 is better in my opinion because although Andrew gave us a schedule for the semester, it isn’t final. If we as a class don’t find something interesting, then we can talk about something else and devote the class to another more interesting topic.

Projecting The Future


When I said science applies to almost every part of our lives I wasn’t kidding. This includes my favorite sport, hockey. Hockey is widely viewed as the fastest professional sport in the world, and its fast-paced nature is part of why I fell in love with the game at a young age. As time has gone on and I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the game’s most important position – the goaltender. As a Devils fan, I’ve been lucky to watch arguably the greatest goaltender of all-time, Martin Brodeur and one of the NHL’s current elite goalies, Cory Schneider, play in goal for the Devils. While I may not think about it while sitting in a rink watching a game, the science behind playing goal in the NHL is truly mind-boggling. The reflexes required to effectively play goal in the NHL are truly ridiculous, and they are all detailed in this video. It really is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating positions in all of sports

Martin Brodeur & Cory Schneider, who were teammates for one season in New Jersey before Brodeur’s retirement, skate off the ice together after a win against the New York Rangers

With all of that being said, I’m excited to get to know some of you guys throughout the course of this semester. Although it may be tough to get to know more than 300 people in one class I look forward to this semester and this class. See you guys on Tuesday!