Author Archives: Olivia Watkins

What will science be like in 100 years?

There are no boundaries to where science can go. There are limitations, yes, but the future is endless. There will be new, more advanced tools that will allow for new knowledge and discovery. I found an article that has five speculations on where science will be in 100 yearsthe-jetsons-and-rosie-the-robot

A good way to start is to look at the history of where we have come. In the same article, the author lays out a timeline starting from 2000 BC until 1962. For example, he says that in 1609 telescopes and microscopes were founded while in 1950 double blind experiment was founded. As for the five speculations on where science will be in 100 years:

The first, being that the author believes there will be more change in the next 50 years than the last 400 years of science. This is because we have come so far with technology that finally they (technology and science) can be used together. In the past, there was not a mechanism that could help facilitate in a way that no one had even imagined.

The second, being a “century of biology”. According to Live Science, Biology has nine “umbrella” fields and each of those consists of subtopics. Biology is HUGE. It studies a variety of things from evolution to functions of living organisms. In general, there is a lot to learn but focusing on biology will lead to massive breakthroughs, seeing as it has the most amount of scientists.

The third, being taking advantage of our state-of-the-art computers. The author noted that information is growing by 66% per year. More realistic simulations and hypothesis searches will give new value and provide motivation for data collection.

The fourth, being that new knowledge will occur (it’s deeper than you think). The fact that experiments and studies that had negative results will in the end add positive value for research in the future. According to the author, there is already a journal called, “Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine”. A huge part of this is that very large “non-invasive” statistical data collection will occur where no one is going to even realize an experiment was happening.

The last, being that science will create a new understandings. The information and size of the Internet is constantly increasing while our brain “level” is not. The author noted it as being “all one machine and that we are the machine”.

There is really no good explanation of what will happen to science in 100 years. These are all speculations by a particular individual. What we do know is that it will advance and advance and advance. And, within those advancements, we will advance more. I am excited for what we will see in our lifetime. It was very interesting to see a current experiment happening in class today–replacing the mouses FGFRL1 with the giraffes in their genes. I cannot wait to see what happens next Fall!


Why are you fidgeting, eh?

At some point in your life, have you ever: Tapped your foot? Spun your pencil? Flipped your hair? Bit your lip? These are all signs of what we call “fidgeting”. Fidgeting is defined as using toys or movements to help keep us focused on what we are seeing, hearing or reading. Especially those with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder), having an object that they can essentially “play with” can stimulate their brain and help them focus better. I am highly guilty of fidgeting and it may be linked to my excessive watching of Spongebob as a kid (a study had tried to prove that watching Spongebob increased ADD). Like I said, I have always fidgeted and there is no time like today to find out why this phenomenon occurs.


Reading a lecture, typing a blog, or listening to someone talk for more than 5 minutes can create feelings of boredom or anxiety. This is one of the most common reasons of why we choose to fidget–anxiety creates a high amount of stress hormones, which gear your muscles for immediate activity. You probably aren’t the guy with a Go Pro cliff jumping right next to a Great White, so all of that energy that you have will need to go somewhere else and jiggling your leg. for example, is a good way to subdue that.

The authors, Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright, of Fidget To Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies For Living With ADHDgive another reason of why we fidget. In their book, they explain that fidgeting is a way of diverting the “bored” part of your brain so that the other parts can focus on the task at hand. They called this “floating attention” which could be tied back with prehistoric times. This occurs when fixating on one thing is not sensible because this could result in the “person missing the large ravenous beast behind the bushes”, as the authors wrote.

According to WhyWeFidget, there was a study conducted in 2005 explaining that fidgeting improved performance on memory tests. According to the researchers, this is because it lowers the level of cortisol (a stress hormone that has been known to interfere with learning).

There are also studies on how fidgeting effects our productivity. According to the Studies On Fidget Benefits, kids who are allowed to fidget in class rapidly absorb more than those who are not. There has been research done on the fact that handwriting notes increases creativity and memory while typing does not have such benefits and makes very annoying sounds. I have always hand written my notes and when exam time comes, I feel that I absorbed the material so much that studying is not as important as rewriting what I was taught over and over. This may be getting a little off subject, but I highly recommend handwriting notes because all the information in this blog supports the idea that “doodling” (which always always happens when handwriting) can boost memory and attention span.

In summary, fidgeting does many things: keeps us focused, exerts our anxious energy and improves our productivity. It also helps us who have ADD/ADHD learn because we can distract our brain with a mechanism of our choosing (toy, movement) and enhance learning opportunities. HOWEVER, by no means necessary, am I saying it is OK to: flip you hair a million times, click a pen top a million times, hit your knee on the under part of the desk a million times…you see what I’m saying. Fidget in moderation and do your best to not distract others.

Keep Calm and Fidget.


Do sunny days increase chance of suicide?

Everyone’s heard of “My Girl” by The Temptations and their famous lyric, “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day”. Words that are associated with sunshine are ones that tend to be brighter–pun intended–for example, radiate and glow. In comparison, words that are associated with overcast days are more gloomy, for example dull and somber. It makes sense that rainy, murky days increase depression within individuals; however, if weather is a huge factor in suicidal tendencies, then why do a large amount of suicides occur in the springtime?

Hey, Temptations, maybe you should reconsider having sunshine on that cloudy day…


An important part before I continue is that the researchers removed the variation of the seasons from the data to get a more concise answer. In 2014,  a study  was published about the fact that sunshine and clear skies are motivating factors in numerous suicides.  Lead researcher Dr. Mattaus Willeit and his colleagues collected all data on confirmed suicides between January 1st, 1970 until May 6th, 2010. 69,462 suicides were compared to the average duration of sunshine per day through 87 meteorological stations. The results were highly correlated meaning that there was a relationship between hours of sunshine a day and the number of suicides.  However, this information supports day of suicide and 10 days prior. There was a negative correlation between the hours of sunshine and number of suicides if it was “14 to 60 days prior to the suicide”, according to the researchers of the study. In case anyone was wondering, they were measuring both violent (shooting or drowning) and nonviolent (poisoning) suicides, the effects were found in both cases.


In summary, the scientists concluded that a high amount of sunshine hours 10 days prior to day of suicide will aid a suicidal tendency; however, the amount of sunshine hours 14 to 60 days prior to day of suicide actually could potentially protect against suicide. I know that suicide is a very delicate topic to talk about but, I found this information very interesting and I wanted to share. I grew up in Florida and the suicidal rates there are little to those that are found in Washington. Naturally, I was baffled by the fact that being exposed to sunshine could assist a suicidal tendency, even if it’s a short window of 10 days prior.

Don’t let this blog post scare you. If you skimmed and missed what I said earlier, let me reiterate: Do not be afraid of being outside in the sun!! Vitamin D is a necessary component of your health (it helps you absorb calcium and promotes bone growth). The researchers reported that they found that more sunlight exposure (14 to 60 days prior) is linked with lower rates of suicide and that sunshine during this duration may protect against suicide. Being in the sun for long periods of time may help decrease suicidal tendencies but, then comes the question of skin cancer… that is another blog that will have to wait. Thanks for reading!

*Also, I wanted to make sure that I finished the blog correctly: If anyone is ever feeling unusually depressed or suicidal, do not hesitate to call the Suicide Hotline (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week): 1-800-643-5432. There’s always someone there for you!



Marijuana the new Tobacco?

The subject of marijuana is one that is very touchy but, that is much so dependent on who you are talking with. Within the past few years, the drug has been approved for medical use all over the United States including: majority of the Northeast, Hawaii, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona (just to name a few). Marijuana has also been approved for recreational use in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah. Even though it has been legalized in these states, it is still a federal crime to smoke, possess, or sell marijuana. The reason why I am choosing to write about this now is because of the “Does smoking cause lung cancer?” lecture that we had a few weeks back. I’ve been thinking about the similarities between that and the current situation we are at with marijuana. Will science be able to reduce the uncertainty of marijuana? Enough that the Federal Government will decriminalize the drug?


Marijuana’s scientific name is cannabis sativa which means “hemp plant”. The ingredient in this plant that creates the “high” is delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol which is also known as “THC”, according to my professor’s lecture about marijuana. According to the Federal Government, marijuana is a classified 1 drug. Other drugs that are in this category include heroin, LSD and ecstasy. According to my professor’s lecture about Marijuana, around 20 million people a year use marijuana, medical and recreational, in the United States. On April 17th, 2016, Pennsylvania hoped on the bandwagon and signed the medical marijuana bill to make it into a law.

According to this article, Wayne Hall investigated the health effect’s on adolescents from smoking marijuana between the years of 1993 – 2013. In summary, the regular use of marijuana increased the chances of dropping out of high school and becoming more dumb than your peers. Marijuana is known as being a “gateway” drug meaning it can possibly transition you to using harder more psychedelic drugs, such as Acid or Shrooms. Hall also mentioned some potential risks involved with marijuana including heart problems; however, there have been no reported cases of overdosing. Those that believe marijuana should not be legalized tend to stick to the facts. That it decreases productivity, increases concerns about workplace safety and that there has been a spike in positive drug tests in the workplace.

However, there are also some who believe marijuana should be legalized. Those who have “medical cards” are usually sick or have health issues. The usage of marijuana has lead to helping control seizures, decreased anxiety, and eases pain in those with physical ailments. According to this website , only 6% of studies on marijuana investigate it’s medicinal properties. A huge advance of legalizing marijuana is the ability to tax it. The tax revenue made from marijuana is so high in Colorado that residents sometimes receive a $10 check in the mail. The legalization of recreational usage is under much scrutiny because smoking too much marijuana can leave long lasting effects on an individual, as I mentioned earlier.


There are arguments for both sides. Smoking, eating, or watching too much of anything is not good for your health. In the end, I believe that in the next few years there will be a change in legislation, if it is decriminalizing it or enforcing new, more harsh regulations. Currently, there are just not enough studies or data for scientists to provide a definite argument (pro or con) for marijuana. Time is a huge factor. In the tobacco era, smoking cigarettes was considered healthy and beneficial at the time. It took twenty years for the public to believe scientists that smoking causes lung cancer which decreases life expectancy. I am very curious to see if the opposite will happen–since it is currently considered a benefit for health (if used in moderation). More longitudinal studies will need to be conducted to see if there is a positive or negative correlation between marijuana usage and health.


I know so many people have written about this but, I wanted to take another angle. Hopefully, I did! Thanks for reading!!



Professor’s Lecture: Matthew Bakowicz, RPTM 460: Political and Legal Aspects of Recreation Services. “Marijuana Lecture”. October 13th, 2016. No online lecture link available.

Why Red Solo Cup?

Ever since I can remember Solo cups have been used for any type of social event, from my family reunions, with my twelve 10 year old cousins, to the tailgates with Penn State Alumni’s. They serve one purpose–to hold your beverage– but, depending on your age and the social event happening, the functions behind the “red Solo cup” change. So, why is it that we always choose red Solo cups? Is there more to that red Solo cup that you don’t know about?


First, a bit of background history on where the brand comes from.  The actual name of this phenomenon is the Solo Cup Company . It was founded in the mid-1930’s but, wasn’t until the 1970’s that the red Solo cup came to America and changed the way we thought of disposable dishware. Solo has other products but, by far the red Solo cup remains the most distinguishable product that the company has yet to produce. Solo has no real reason of why they chose to make their cups red. However, it’s a nice color that has no bias towards women or men (which is always helpful now-a-days). They have alternative colors available as well, but on their website (above) they offer only red and blue Solo cups. As the cup became more popular, changes were made to the mechanics so that the user had full benefits. For example, the cup changed its bottom to a more square size for stability and they added more dimension to the outside so that there is more grip.

Back to the original question of: why do we chose Solo cups and not some other brand? Rebecca Bikoff, a brand manager at Solo, organized a focus group where participants were handed Solo cups and observed. The results were fascinating. Each individual was seen smiling or exempting positive behavior. The reason why this occurred is simple. People have been using Solo cups for events that usually celebrate a high point in life. Which means that there is an emotion attached to the cups. An association of celebration/making memories is something that the Solo company’s brand strives to be a part of. The plastic that the Solo uses is more eco-friendly than most other disposable dishware companies. There is also the psychological part that having red Solo cups at a party is a social norm. Having a red Solo cup in your hand also gives one a sense of belonging. By this, I mean that you were at this party and experienced the dancing, singing, laughing and all of the craziness that occurred.  Especially in this time of my life, Solo cups are used for numerous drinking games (flip cup, beer pong, etc.)  Another reason of why Solo cups are the bee’s knees is because of country star, Toby Keith.

The entirety of this song talks about Keith’s love for partying with red Solo cups. The song starts with how he uses them at a variety of events to how drinking from a glass is heinous. Then, the country star sings about how they are affordable and decomposable (after 14 years). The chorus restates his love for the cups and the need to party. Keith also talks about how he loves the shape of the cups but, dislikes the very flimsy material when it cracks and spills his drink. By the end of the song, you would think Keith and red Solo cup are best friends. His love and devotion to this party necessity is not only priceless but truly sincere. I have always wondered what his wife thought of all this…


If you are throwing any kind of get together and don’t have red Solo cups, you should probably reschedule until  you can run to the closest jiffy store and grab some (I paid $4 for a 12 pack the other night at Fresh-N-Fill). Give people the party they deserve by providing them with the cups they deserve.



(Youtube Video converts to the video instead of giving link)


Stopping to smell the roses can help reduce risk of Alzheimers

Have you ever smelled fresh food? Or a bouquet of flowers? Or cow manure? When you go out to eat with your parents and they order a bottle of wine, do they swish the wine around and smell it? This smelling —believe it or not— could lead to a lower risk in developing Alzheimers.

Why? Read on and find out.




Something to know before I continue, Dementia is a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities.

What is Alzheimers exactly? 

Alzheimers accounts for a majority of Dementia cases. Alzheimers affects the brain in such a way that your memory, thinking, and behavior are inhibited in a serious way. Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease prevents parts of a cell’s factory from running well but, more research is needed because there are still holes that need to be filled before we move forward and try to cure Alzheimers. Essentially, as the damage spreads around the brain, the cells lose their ability to do what they were made to do and die. This is what causes parts of the brain to deteriorate because irreversible changes have been made in the cells.

Now back to how smelling can reduce risk of getting Alzheimers: 

What started as a study  investigating why wine experts can smell and taste some things that others can’t, turned into a potential breakthrough for Alzheimer’s disease. The director of wine at the Mandalay Resort, Harley Carbery, has been more exposed to using his sense of smell than the usual person. Seeing as Carbery’s profession is wine, he has constantly been relying on his taste and his smell. He has developed an incredible talent (that he gets paid for) and claims that he can detect almost any ingredient in a glass of wine.

Alzheimers usually sets in parts of the brain that we do not use as much. Dr. Sarah Banks, who works for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Brain Health, did brain scans on 13 “wine experts” and 13 “non-experts” as they smelled various scents of wines and fruits. She found that individual’s who were “wine experts” could detect scents that the “non-experts” could not. After conducting this study, Dr. Banks discovered parts of the “wine experts” brains were bigger, including areas susceptible to Alzheimer’s. “The fact that the parts of the brain that are bigger are those parts that are most vulnerable to diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s bodes pretty well for the wine experts,” said Dr. Banks, “It suggests that they might have some degree of protection.”

Using our sense of smell, with wine specifically, could be a major component in the future research for Alzheimers. It may also give us information about how to help prevent other diseases!


In conclusion, try not to rely on your vision as much. Use your other senses and maybe in the future we will find more breakthrough research we thought we would never discover. This potential breakthrough could let our grand kids or their grand kids remember us as we actually are and not what some disease has made us.



“Wine Experts Possible Key In Alzheimer’s Research Breakthrough.” CBS Miami. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.


Hi y’all, my name is Olivia Watkins and I am currently studying RPTM (Parks & Rec) (Yes, like the TV show). My dad served in the Navy for 23 years so, I lived in many different places, e.g. deep sea fishing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to living down the street from George Washington’s house in Alexandria, Virginia. I’ve been very blessed with such an amazing father figure and he will always be my role model. I love traveling and was lucky to have done an internship in PCB, FL this past summer. I love ice cream, specifically a kind called “Superman” (pictured below).


The reason I am taking this course is because I always find myself asking “why”. Why is it that everyone driving faster than you is considered an idiot and everyone driving slower than you is a moron? Why does grape flavor smell the way it is when actual grapes don’t taste or smell anything like it? Why does the Easter bunny carry eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs?? This course will be very mind bottling as well as thought provoking and that’s the kind of class I’ve been lacking for awhile. I feel that it isn’t my destiny, or whatever you may call it, to be the next ground breaking scientist who discovers this and saves the world. Don’t get me wrong, totally want to save the world but through conversation and ecotourism than with supersaturated molecules and the Periodic Table of Elements. I feel very passionate about what I am studying and that’s why I am in RPTM and not science.

In case you aren’t sure exactly what my major is, here, is an awesome article about how amazing the National Park Service is and also some very pretty pictures!