Author Archives: Matthew Porr

Why am I sick… Again?

Andrew has been telling us all semester that we should be getting a head start on our blogs before the end of the semester arrives where people start to get all kinds of sicknesses. I, along with plenty of other students heard this advice and thought “oh that isn’t going to happen to me.” Well here I am at the end of the semester with a runny nose and a vicious cough to accompany my overwhelming amount of work to do before grades are due. It seems ironic that I am sitting here writing this blog post about advice that fell on deaf ears with a tissue box to my right and a bag of cough drops to my left. But I am left wondering why is it that every year students are getting sick at the same point in the semester. Why am I suffering from the Penn State Plague once again?


Without fail, every year students get sick around the end of the semester so there must be a reason for it. While brain storming the reason of such a sudden wave of sickness, I thought about the time of the year and made an assumption that maybe stress from the end of the semester affects students’ immune systems in a negative matter. The null Hypothesis is that stress does not affect the immune system where as the alternative hypothesis is that stress is lowering the immune system. Stress would be the independent variable and the Penn State Plague would be the dependent variable but there are plenty of confounding third variable possibilities as well,  one of which could be lack of time. You are stress because you don’t have enough time to get all your responsibilities done and the lack of time puts a toll on personal hygiene which makes you sick.  While researching my hypothesis I found a study that followed medical students during their schooling. The study found these students immunity decreased during the 3 day period when they were taking a test. They also found that these students also have a lower level of Killer T-Cells.  Killer T-cells are a type of white blood cell that has the ability to attack and kill other viral or abnormal cell in the body. This study opened up a slew of studies researching this area. After all these studies were complete, Suzanne Segerstrom conducted a meta- analysis on all of the studies completed. This meta-analysis of over 300 studies concluded that stress all around weakens the immune system. We know from class that a meta-analysis is considered strong evidence, much stronger than anecdotal evidence.

While stress is definitely a key factor of why people are getting sick, I don’t think it is to only variable causing these sicknesses. This could be caused by student’s lack of cleanliness or even the change of seasons as I have found in the article. You might notice the atmosphere starting to get colder but this is not directly the reason why people are getting sick. As it turns out, this has some link to why we are getting sick though. When the temperature starts to change different viruses thrive in colder environments leading to higher exposure of the virus. Therefore the change of seasons allows viruses like the flu to infect more people.

Overall there could be many reasons why I have come down with flu-like symptoms. Do I think that stress from 3 exams this week might be one of those reasons? Absolutely. With evidence of meta-analysis, stress is definitely one of the factors to why I am sick along with the change of seasons. The take home message would be not to procrastinate on your blogs because no matter how strong your immune system is, you never know what virus you might catch in the latter part of the semester.

How much sleep do we really need?

As a college student I value any amount of sleep that I can sneak in to my productive schedule. Some nights I sleep for 14 hours and some nights I sleep for 2 hours and there are nights where I don’t sleep at all. Recently in my psychology course we learned about sleep and what I took away was that it is still not very well understood. People don’t really know why we sleep. The mechanism is unclear. There have been suggestions that REM sleep may be the most important because after not sleep for a long period of time you will immediately go into REM rebound where the intensity and length of REM sleep is increased. While the mechanism may not be clear, people still need to sleep and we spend a good portion of our lives doing so. If people need sleep, then how much sleep is optimal?

Eight hours always seems to be the magic number. It has been circulating for years and this is what parents tell their children when they are tired. Is 8 hours really the optimal time for sleeping? Lunky enough, the National Sleep Foundation put together a study which ended up being a meta-analysis of roughly 300 publications on sleep. They said that they cannot give an exact number for recommend sleep because everyone is unique but a sleep recommendation chart was crafted HERE. Our age group or “young adults (18-25)” is recommended to get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Being that this study is a meta-analysis, this information is most likely truthful, especially with a number like 300 studies. Students who are looking for the optimal amount of sleep should stick to around 7-9 hours.


The National sleep foundation explored only traditional sleeping patterns. I have recently heard that sleeping in two 4 hour segments is more effective than the traditional full 8 hours or so of sleep. While I engage in a monophasic sleep or the average 8 hours of sleep in one night, some partake in polyphasic sleeping patterns. These include:

“* The Biphasic Schedule: Two three-to-four-hour sleeps with an hour of awake time in the middle.

* The Dymaxion Sleep Schedule: 30-minute “naps” every 6 hours.

* The Uberman Schedule: Six 30-minute naps per day.

* The Everyman Schedule: A daily three-hour sleep plus three 20-minute naps.”

(found here)

However, most of these methods lack concrete evidence that they are better, a study reported that most animals on earth are polyphasic sleepers. I believe that more work needs to be done on this subject and a structured experiment may help. If I had the resources, I would put together an experiment that was a randomized controlled trial where the control group would sleep 8 hours and the “treatment group” would test out one of the polyphasic sleep schedules and see the difference if there is any.

The take away message is that yes, you should listen to that old wives tale that you need 8 hours of sleep.  With a meta-analysis as evidence any one can be almost certain that this is the correct number of hours to sleep. Although it may not be the amount of time that you sleep that makes you feel the most rested but rather the schedule of your sleep. So if you’re feeling adventurous, give one of these methods a try and let us know how it works out.

NeuroFuse? Is It Worth It?

On Facebook the other day I saw something that caught my attention. Someone had shared an article about a brain enhancing drug called NeuroFuse. This peeked my interest because I have never heard of a  pill that you could take to enhance your brain functions. Whether that be because I am sheltered or there are not many brain enhancers out there in the world. Either way I needed to know more.

Everyone has experienced the moment where they feel as if they cannot write that paper that is due. They cannot focus and it seems like an impossible task to get everything that you need to do done. While reading this article I happened to be avoiding doing my philosophy paper so I’m opened to  any ways to get me motivated. NeuroFuse seemed to be like a great option for me. The claim is that I can take one pill and in less than 45 minutes feel the effects of being more focused and alert, but also enjoying myself while I work.


Of course who wouldn’t want a pill that has the potential to increase your work ethic? This could possibly give you an edge on all other peers or even make you stand out to your employers so you are more likely to get promotions and pay increases. All of these things sound appealing to me so I decided to find out more. While on the NeuroFuse website, I found that NeuroFuse claims to contain a medley of ingredients that are claim to improve mental performance. These ingredients include Bacopa Monnieri, Rhodiola Rosea, Caffine, Phosphatidylserine, among other things.

This pill is claimed to speed up the intake of visual information, improve test scores, help fight against stress of life, and improve memory.  On their website there doesn’t seem to be much actual evidence of testing. Rather, the website focuses on reviews of customers claiming the effectiveness of the drug and how it has positively impacted their life. Most of the evidence of effective ness for this drug seems to be a lot of anecdotes. We know from class that anecdotes are not the strongest form of evidence, but actually considered a weak form of evidence.  This is not always a terrible idea because in class we learned about the scientist who found out the link that smoking cigarettes causes’ lung cancer through stories of patience’s with lung cancers.  It may not be the most efficient way of finding out a causal link but it is certainly a good place to start.

Unfortunately for me the pill is too expensive for me to go out and buy a brain enhancer that has not been tested rigorously. For me to go out and buy NeuroFuse, I would have to see a double blind randomized experiment where one group receives the NeuroFuse pill and the other receive a placebo. These results would either compel me to buy the pill or further restrain me from the purchase of NeuroFuse.

“NeuroFuse.” My Great WordPress Blog Focus Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

Science Behind The Law of Attraction

The law of Attraction is slowly but surely becoming more and more popular. I first learn about this idea in sophomore year in high school and it has changed my life ever since. The basis of this idea is that like attracts like. This applies universally whether it be objects, health, finances, relationships, or ambitions, the Law of Attraction does not discriminate.

This idea dates back ages, in fact like attracts like is one of Plato’s ideas. While this is still a growing field of study there has been many anecdotes to attest this law. Realistically it makes sense because water is attracted to water, this is called cohesion. By repeatedly thinking that you have the power to achieve something, you attract that possibility to you. This is basically the power to manifest something. Manifestation means something that is visually or publically displayed from an idea or theory. So you can manifest good health or being financially stable or whatever you want by using the law of attraction.


Image found here

This can be done easily through aspiration, attention, and action. Aspirations are knowing what you want or desire so make some goals. Attention is focusing on what you want giving those ideas energy. Action is similar to attention because it helps you keep focused. Do something every day to work towards your goals.

Thoughts becoming things has been scientifically tested. One study showed that negative thoughts including worry and fear caused people to become sick where as positive thoughts of healthiness can keep people healthy. This can be proven by the placebo effect. People that are given a fake pill claim that they feel better because they think that they are receiving treatment. This shows that thoughts can actually make you feel better. As long as your thoughts are positive, positive effects will come soon after just like taking a placebo makes you feel better because you think you are getting better.

Sony has recently created a robot that creates actions due to people thoughts. This is not just a correlation but rather a thought directly causing the movement. A person wearing some type of skull cap that measures electrical impulses can think about moving his arm and then the robot would actually move his arm. This is because the electrical impulses generated by the thought are transferred in to making the robot move its arm.  This shows that thoughts become things.

Critiques of this science say that the evidence for the law of Attraction is based on stories but that isn’t enough to disregard the law of attraction. The power that is supposedly has is too great to be ignored. Even with little evidence, simply changing your attitude and thought process has a greater value than to not at all. It isn’t that hard to try something new that could potentially drastically benefit you. I would say it is worth trying something new.

ProsperityRadio. “Is There Scientific Evidence Behind the Law of Attraction?”YouTube. YouTube, 03 Apr. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

By Constantly Telling Yourself You Can Achieve Something, You Predict a Constructive Outcome. Positive Repetitive Thought (RT) Has Been Found to Enable: . “Law of Attraction Pro.” Scientific Proof of the Law of Attraction. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

Breast or Not

I’m sure by now all of us have heard the argument that breast feeding your child is better.  Some critiques say that maybe breast is not indeed the best option for your new infant. In this specific argument I believe that the pros outweigh the cons and if you are on the fence about breast feeding, you should really look into it for the sake of your child.

Biologically breast milk is definitely the best option when choosing what to feed your child. Breast milk helps protect your child from infections and germs that can be so harmful to a newborn. Mothers are very protective of their child when they are new to the world because they know how easily they can get sick. They have not had the time to be able to build up immunities to all of the viruses and bacteria that the world has to offer. So it would only make sense to feed your child breast milk that contains antibodies (cells created in the body to void away infectious disease).

Mother nursing son

image found here

These antibodies correlate directly to why breastfeed children are healthier than babies who are not. Breastfeed children are less likely to get infections, asthma, and have a great opportunity of not getting diabetes. The maternal instinct to protect your child can be easily fulfilled by breastfeeding your child.  Not only will your child be healthier, but studies show that your child will be more intelligent as well.

Higher IQ’s can be found in children that are breastfed. An observational study that followed babies into their 30’s found an increase of 7.5 IQ points in children that were breastfed opposed to children who are not.  They also found that older people who were breastfed during infancy had a higher verbal performance. Lessa Horta suggests that this is due to a molecule called long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids or FCPUFA for short. Brain growth is linked to this molecule which is found in breast milk.  This was a study of 5,914 babies and they found that these specific babies who were breast feed had better grades and higher incomes. Because of the large number of participants you can conclude that this was a fairly well done study.

Some critiques of breastfeeding say that this study doesn’t address any other possibility which is known as a third variable causation. Wolf suggests that the fact that parents are dedicated enough to breast feed their child distinguishes themselves from parents who bottle-feed their children which may correlate to higher intelligence. While this may be true it just seems like the best option to breastfeed your child.  Breastfeeding is FREE and formula is expensive. It also helps the mother of the child. Breastfeeding helps you burn calories to help you lose weight from being pregnant. It also increases Oxytocin in your body which helps the womb return to its normal size, and finally strengthens your bond between you and your child.  To me breastfeeding seems like the obvious choice. At the end of the day what do you have to loose from it? The choice to breast feed is so beneficial to your baby that the simple choice to do so outweighs the cons of not doing so.

“Is Breast Best?” NYU Press Books Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

“Breastfeeding Is Best.” Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

“Study: Breastfed Babies Have a Higher IQ.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.

Not my top choice

Hello everyone, I’m Matt Porr and I am a freshman here at Penn State. I originally took this class to fill my science gen. ed. I also was attracted to this course because it covers a broad array of scientific topics. This is important to me because even though I find science interesting some topics are boarder-line painful to learn. After attending my first lecture I found that this course was very student oriented. Instead of learning about things we don’t find interesting, we are empowered to change the direction of this course by offering other topics to learn about instead.

In high school I had my fair share of science. i found it very interesting to learn and that it i could pick up the lesson fairly easily. My junior year I even took AP Biology and did well. Even though I did well in most of my science courses I knew this wasn’t the field for me. While taking elective I found out that I was more passionate about my TV course than any other course that I had taken in high school. Therefore I decided to become a Communication major over other majors.


After deciding to not be a science major I decided it is still possible to be a interested in science. One of the more interesting topics that I’ve learned about is the Law Of Attraction. Some might say that this is not scientific but it has a lot to do with science. This article shows just how much the Law of Attraction has to do with molecules. Not only does this concept involve molecules but also brain waves.