Author Archives: Olivia Mei Zhang

Twin Telepathy

My younger two sisters (9 years old) happen to be twins. About two years ago, one of the twins suffered from a case of appendicitis. Unfortunately, the doctors were unable to diagnose the illness in its early stages, which resulted in my sister staying in the hospital for much longer than needed. During the entire ordeal, my whole family experienced tremendous pain and just wanted her to recover quickly and completely. While my sister was in the hospital, her twin felt “incomplete”. Since they spent almost every waking moment together, she no longer had a friend attached to the hip. After a couple of weeks of my sister’s absence, her twin began throwing more tantrums and had trouble falling asleep at night. My whole family wondered if it had anything to do with my other sister being sick and spending time in the hospital. We were almost convinced that she actually felt the physical pain that her twin was enduring. This concept of “twin telepathy” has always intrigued me, especially since I have a personal connection towards the subject. Is there scientific evidence behind the theory that twins can simultaneously experience pain? Is “twin telepathy” scientifically possible?

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According to Live Science, twins have a special bond because they are so emotionally and physically attached to one another, especially after birth. There is certainly a psychological connection between twins, who have a tendency to think similarly or mirror the actions of one another. However, this could be easily related to any other pair of siblings. The theory of twin telepathy dates back to the 1800s, where an anecdote describes two brothers that were once conjoined at birth experiencing the same feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations as adults. However, just like this narrative describes, the support behind the theory of twin telepathy is primarily anecdotal. There is not concrete scientific evidence that supports the idea that twins are able to physically feel the sensations that the other one is feeling. It is more likely that shared DNA prompts similar traits, which can be said about all siblings. Like we have discussed in class, anecdotal evidence is not the strongest evidence in the science field and allows for weak inference rather than conclusive results. We cannot rely on anecdotal evidence because it is open to bias and can easily reflect the results of an individuals’ experience. Additionally, there is always the possibility that chance is involved.

One study in England tested the possibility of ESP (extra sensory perception) between twins. In the test, one twin was told to pick a number or draw the first thing that came to mind. The other twin was to say what their twin picked or drew. This test was also applied to non-twin siblings. The results of the study found that the twins were almost twice as likely to get the answer right, compared to the non-twin siblings that were able to predict what their sibling picked or drew. However, it is important to note that neither the non-twin siblings nor the twin siblings scored above the experiment’s chance expectation of 25%.

Null hypothesis: the twin siblings will not score higher than the non-twin siblings in the thought concordance test (same scores)

Alternative hypothesis: the twin siblings will score higher than the non-twin siblings in the thought concordance test

Based on the results of the study, scientists were unable to reject the null hypothesis that the twin siblings will not score higher than the non-twin siblings in the thought concordance test. The probability of a false positive, or scientists saying that the twin siblings scored higher than the non-twin siblings when really there was no difference in scores, would be 5%.

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One of the most intriguing aspects of the twin telepathy theory that allows for investigation is the “supernatural”. Similar to what we have discussed in class, the supernatural attracts scientists because it calls for an explanation. Since there are countless anecdotes, noted experiences of possible “twin telepathy” and instances where twin siblings have been able to sense each other’s pain in the most extreme of situations, scientists are willing to investigate and attempt to deduce causality.

ABC  debunks many of the twin telepathy theories. The idea that twins can sense each other’s pain and read minds is FICTION. The greatest reasoning behind why twins claim that they can physically feel each other’s emotions is due to the psychological bond that they share. Although they are still siblings, the connection they share may be stronger because they have shared a womb. But let’s be real, what connection is stronger than one created by the womb?

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Meaning behind Dreaming

The last dream I had involved me waking up with half of my hair chopped off. I was absolutely mortified and remember crying for hours (in my dream), and hoping it REALLY was just a dream. Luckily for me, I woke up and discovered that my hair was still on my head- untouched.  Although I am not a hair fanatic, I am very fond of my long hair and would be incredibly upset if anything happened to it. When I had this dream, I was surprised because it was very unlike me to dream about something as superficial as losing my hair. However, I am not in control of what I dream, and it was likely that my subconscious was trying to tell me something. I have always wondered if dreams have underlying meanings and are actually reflections of what is happening in our brain and subconscious. When I had the dream that my hair was practically gone, I felt that it represented my current stressed-out state in my everyday life. Bombarded with exams and an almost unmanageable schedule, it might be my subconscious telling me that I am really “losing it”. Can dreams really tell us things about ourselves? Or is it all just apart of our crazy imagination?

According to The Huffington Post , dreams have a variety of different meanings. One of the most common dreams that people have is one in which they are being chased or followed. This represents a base anxiety that an individual may be experiencing in their life. They may feel pressured to do something or feel “chased” by responsibilities, obligations, and deadlines. Another common dream involves elements of water, which can reflect the current state of an individual’s life or mentality. If the water is turbulent, there may be chaos running admist. On the contrary, if the water  is calm, it may be a sign of solitude and acceptance. Vehicles and airplanes in dreams can signal the start of something new or a milestone being reached. They represent the different pathways that life can take, whether it be somewhere new or back to the past. Dreaming of school or a classroom environment can be a direct signal towards the past; “learning a lesson”. People who have already finished schooling may dream more about classrooms and school because it is an indication of the past.

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In a study reported by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , social psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University conducted a study to see how people viewed their dreams in the United States, South Korea, and India. The % of people who believed that their dreams were accurate reflections of their subconscious were as follows:

United States: 56%

South Korea: 65%

India: 74%

Next, another study was conducted to test to see if dreams really did have an effect on the decisions that people made. The study consisted of 182 individuals, who were asked which of the following scenarios would prompt them to change their flights: imagining their plane crashing in mid-air, hearing that an airplane crashed along the route of your flight, the government announcing a national threat that could potentially be serious, or having a dream that your plane crashed. The majority of the individuals said that the scenario that would most prompt them to change their flight plans was dreaming that their plane crashed. In their minds, they trusted their subconscious more (telling them that it was a bad idea/gut feeling). This particular study would be an observational study, because the participants were simply asked a survey question. There was no independent or dependent variables, and no control was assigned. However, the conclusion of the study has relevance towards the idea that dreaming does have an affect on people’s decision making and how they perceive their lives.

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The interpretations of dreams date back to the theories of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud , who had two different intepretations of dreams. Freud believed that all dreams could eventually be connected to sex, while Jung argued that dreams were direct reflections of the individuals’ subconscious trying to highlight a certain part of their life that needed attention or had significant meaning. According to them, dreams are another way the brain attempts to find solutions and answers.

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Dreams are most likely to happen during our REM sleep, which is when our bodies go on “auto pilot” and our brain experiences the most activity, according to ABC Science. REM sleep, which is an acronym for rapid eye movement sleep, is responsible for the most intense and visually realistic dreaming. The dreams that take place during REM sleep are more likely to be remembered because the brain waves are moving rapidly, along with overall brain activity. On the contrary, non-REM sleep allows for slower brain waves that may result in slow-paced dreams. These dreams are harder to remember because the brain waves are moving slower and there is less activity in the cortex.

Dream Stop lists the 7 categories that most dreams fall under. If you’ve had a strange dream lately, check out the link to see if there’s a hidden meaning behind it.  The next time you dream, take note of what you’re dreaming about. Then check out Dream Cloud , which is a dream dictionary that contains the meanings behind your craziest dreams.  Happy Dreaming!

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Stuck in a Daze

My senior year of high school, I was finally given the privilege to drive to school everyday. At the beginning of the year, I cherished my morning commute and it actually made me excited to get up and go to class at 8 a.m. I would get in the car equipped with my coffee and belongings for the day and turn on my morning playlist, consisting of my go-to jams. After I got used to the routine of driving to school and following the same pattern every day, the thrill and excitement of my morning commute slowly began to fade away. Towards the middle of the year, I would get in my car and begin the commute to school- almost robotically.

A key characteristic of this routine was that I would often not even remember the drive to school. The entire ride seemed to be erased from my memory and left me wondering how I got from my house to the school. This process of “zoning out” is one that has fascinated me for some time. I have wondered how the brain is able to erase certain events or experiences that come as a “routine”. Since I was following the same routine everyday, it came almost like second-nature to me. So why are we unable to remember our morning commutes to work or school? Where does this process of zoning out originate from, and how?

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Studies from the Journal of Consumer Psychology and the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science  have shown that the reason why people are unlikely to remember their daily commutes to work and school is because of it’s routine nature. It all comes down to how our brain perceives time and familiarity. For example, a morning commute that is taken every day is noted as a shorter period of time in the brain. There is less processing to be done in the brain because the task at hand is not new and does not require extensive comprehension. On the other hand, new experiences, such as visiting a new country or meeting a new group of people require in-depth processing in the brain. You are absorbing new knowledge and filing the new experiences into your memory. These new experiences are seen to have happened during longer periods of time because the brain takes longer to process the new information.

David Eagleman, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, supports the idea that memory and perception of time go hand in hand with one another. As we grow older, we acquire more knowledge and experiences, which leaves little room for new processing in the brain. Once we become familiar with the world and how it works, we spend less time trying to comprehend certain events. As a result, we believe time passes by more quickly. This is another reason why we remember almost every important milestone in our childhood, but fail to realize what has happened in the last week or in our day-to-day lives.

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One particular study by the Journal of Consumer Psychology tested to see if the influence of music would have an effect on the way individuals perceived the passage of time. In this case:

Null hypothesis: the influence of music stimulus will have NO effect on the way individuals perceive time.

Alternative hypothesis: the influence of music stimulus will have an effect on the way individuals perceive time.

False positive: scientists claim that the influence of music stimulus (positive/negative) does NOT have an effect on the way individuals perceive time when it really does.

False negative: scientists claim that the influence of music stimulus (positive/negative) has an effect on the way individuals perceive time when it really doesn’t.

The results of the study showed that those individuals exposed to a positive music stimulus (major key) reported longer periods of time compared to individuals exposed to a negative music stimulus (atonal). Those who experienced negative music stimulus perceived time as going by quicker than those who experienced a positive music stimulus, believing that time was going by slower than it actually was. Therefore, the conclusion of this study led to the rejection of the null hypothesis (the influence of music stimulus will have NO effect on the individuals perceive time). Although this study does not directly relate to the concept of the morning commute, it supports the idea that certain stimuli will affect the brain’s perception of time. Similar to the variable of familiarity, the positive/negative music stimulus in the study affects the way individuals perceive time.

So, the next time you don’t remember your drive to school or walk to class, know that it’s just your brain of telling you to spice up your life. Just kidding. However, life should not be lived through routines and patterns- make the most out of your time and try something new every once in a while!

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Have a Bruise? Poke it

When’s the last time you had a bruise? Can you think of the first thing you did when you saw it? Chances are, you poked it to see if it hurt. We’re all guilty of doing this, whether we are aware of it or not. Personally, I am a very clumsy person, which results in the appearance of bruises all over my body. I would wake up and notice a bright red or purple bump on my arm and leg and think, “God, Olivia. Stop bumping into things!”. But of course, my first instinct is to touch it and see if it hurts. 99% of the time, it does. Why do we touch/poke our bruises? What (if anything at all) triggers our brain to test our own pain? It all starts with the bruise itself.

According to Health, bruises are primarily caused by the rupturing of blood vessels, which leak blood out, forming dark red and purple marks on the affected skin. The intensity of the bruise relies on the intensity of the blow itself; the greater the blow, the darker the bruise. Additionally, the size of the bruise is directly correlated with the intensity of the blow and damage to the skin. Some people, according to Web MD, are more prone to getting bruises than others. One factor is age, which means that older people are more likely to get bruises on their body. The protective layer of the skin is slowly diminishing, which makes blood vessels all the more vulnerable to harm. Another variable that makes people more susceptible to bruises is medication, which can increase the risk of bruising. Side effects of the medication may result in weakening of the skin, which increases the harm from blows to the skin. For those sun-tan lovers, skin is dramatically weakened through the harsh effects of the sun’s X-rays. Not only does the sun do harm to the skin, but it increases the risk of skin cancer.

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Wonderopolis describes the stages of a bruise. First, the initial popping of the blood vessels in the skin will cause a bright red or purple discoloration on the skin. The size of the bruise is dependent on the intensity of the blow itself. The body is able to metabolize and regenerate after a couple of weeks. Throughout the process, the bruise may turn several shades of green or yellow. Eventually, near the end of the healing process, the bruise may turn a darkish purple (could also be near-black) color.

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Now the real question: why are we prompted to touch our bruises when we see them?  Zocdoc explains that there are pain receptors in both the skin and in the brain. When we obtain bruises, the pain receptors in the skin are heightened and responsive to touch, vibration, and movement. The pain receptors directly in the muscle and skin are primarily geared towards feeling sensations (touch, vibrations, and light). Our instinctive response to touch our bruises is fueled by the stimulation of the nerves in our muscle and skin. Massaging the area of the bruise acts to distract the abundant pain receptors, which is transmitted to the brain. The brain no longer recognizes the painful aspect of the ruptured blood vessels, but pays closer attention to the alternative sensations.

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So, the next time you get a bruise, what should you do? Poke it, of course. But if you’re looking for a remedy that will actually render useful, check out the following tips from Readers Digest:

-Use Ice (apply directly on the affected area for about 10-15 minutes). Reapply several times, alternating between putting the ice on and taking it off.

-Use Heat (apply directly on the affected area for about 10-15 minutes). Reapply several times, alternating between putting the hot compress on and off.

-Use Vinegar (encourages bloodflow)

-Elevate the affected area; If the bruise is on your leg, prop your leg up to encourage blood flow and stimulation

-Check out the above picture for some handy home-remedies that will aid the healing process of the bruise

REMEMBER: If a bruise persists for more than two weeks, contact a health professional immediately. Always better to be safe than sorry!

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Coughing Contagion?

As we slowly approach the fall season, Penn State has become vulnerable to a variety of illnesses: the common cold, flu, stomach flu, and cough. Coughing has almost become synonymous to breathing in large lecture classes- one person coughs, then another, and another…soon enough every few seconds that pass by accompanies an eruption of coughing from various sections of the lecture. Personally, I was a victim of the “whooping cough” at the start of the semester, which came as a terrible inconvenience. While I was sitting in class, I felt the uncontrollable urge to cough every minute, which was uncomfortable for me and the unfortunate people sitting next to me. Something I noticed in particular was that the sound of someone else coughing in the lecture hall prompted me to start coughing. While I initially believed this was just a reaction of my own body, I soon realized that coughing is almost “contagious”. One person’s cough begins a string of coughing, and it seems to spiral into eruptions of coughing from all sides of the room. So, is coughing really this contagious? Does the sound of coughing initiate a certain switch in the brain that causes an individual to start coughing? Could it be that coughing is as contagious as the “yawn effect” (one person yawning causes another person to yawn almost immediately)?

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According to the World Osteopathic Health Organization , whooping cough, a more severe case of the common cough, is one of the most contagious and highly communicable diseases within a college enviornment. Not only is whooping cough a bacterial infection, but it is also highly contagious among individuals. The symptoms of whooping cough include (but are not limited to): difficulty breathing, severe sore throat, continuous coughing, loss of vocal communication, and soreness in the ribs/chest due to severe coughing. Since it is such a highly contagious illness, bacteria is easily transmitted through the act of coughing. In college enviornments, individuals are more vulnerable to the symptoms of whooping cough, especially since students are in such close proximity of one another.

 

The “contagious” factor of coughing stems from a variety of reasons. First, the theory of psychologial mirroring, described by NBC News, is a possible reason for the contagious nature of coughing. As humans, we are prone to the social cues and behavior of other individuals. For example, one person yawning may elicit a yawn from another person. Similarly, laughing, crying, and a wide range of other emotions can be seen as having a “mirroring” effect on individuals. One theory towards the contagious nature of coughing is that humans tend to mirror actions of others. Similar to the mirroring of emotions, individuals may hear the sound of coughing, which prompts them to act on the tickle in their throat, or to simply clear it. Additionally, if you’re sick to begin with, the sound of coughing will  elicit a response from your body to remove the “toxin”, hence, the coughing.

So, what’s the bottom line? Is coughing contagious or not? Surprisingly, according to Medicine Net, the cough itself is not contagious. The real culprit that’s being transmitted is the pathogen in the cough. When individuals cough, pathogens are spread into the surrounding environment initiating the transmission of bacteria. If there were to be a clinical trial that measured the contagious nature of coughing (highly unlikely due to the lack of substantial independent/dependent variables), a hard endpoint conclusion could be the following: the act of coughing is not contagious. Pathogens, found in the airborne fluid that is emitted by coughing, are the true transmitters of the virus.

As college students, we are most vulnerable to getting sick, especially at this time of the year. Here are a few tips on how to combat sickness and stay healthy (brought to you by Rutgers Student Health Services):

-Drink lots of water: stay hydrated and allow your body to replenish

-Eat breakfast and don’t skip out on meals

-Don’t use boredom or stress as an excuse for overeating

-Be hygenic (shower daily, wash before you eat, brush your teeth)

-Exercise; go on a run, bike, take a trip to the gym, walk to classes rather than taking the bus

-Limit late night food trips and junk food

-Vitamins are your best friends

-Take a trip to the University Health Services for an annual-check up

-Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (I know-four hour naps are tempting!) and avoid pulling  all-nighters in a row

-Wash YOUR HANDS (just please, do it)

…and if you ever find yourself a victim of the whooping cough, find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone…just ask the other 50 kids in your lecture class that are struggling to contain their cough.

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Elevators: the epitome of social awkwardness

Being at college for almost four weeks now, I can honestly say that I’ve been in 80+ elevator rides. You know, those awkward 30 seconds where you’re trapped between multiple strangers, eyes glaring at the monitor, hoping it’ll stop at your destination soon. Lets be honest, no one likes the awkward nature of elevator rides and the deadly silence that accompanies these anxious social encounters. Almost every movement is magnified and shared between individuals cramped in a small space (a claustrophobic’s nightmare). I’ve always been curious about the social phenonmeons behind “elevator etiquette”. Why do people choose to stand in certain areas of the elevator? What causes this social anxiety between strangers? Will we ever get over the social fear of elevators?

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A study conducted by Rebekah Rousi gave me insight over these daunting questions. Rebekah conducted an elevator study where she participated in 30 elevator rides in the two tallest office buildings in Australia. From this experience, she was able to make conclusions about where people are likely to stand in the elevator, and why. Generally, the front of the elevator would be occupied by women of all ages who would usually avoid eye contact or keep to themselves. Shy individuals would also occupy the front of the elevator, avoiding eye contact with others and keeping their gaze on the monitor above. Behind the women would most often by young men, who spent their time either looking at the other individuals in the elevator, or checking themselves out in the mirror. Additionally, women who were with other women were more likely to check themselves out in the mirror or act socially interactive compared to those women who were by themselves. Seniors or the elderly would most often choose to stand at the rear of the elevator, behind most people.

The findings of this study are particulary interesting, considering those who possess the most “power” in the situation are individuals who are standing towards the back of the elevator. The most vulnerable or introverted individuals are found to be those standing in the front. Is there any causal relationship between one’s personality (introversion/extroversion) on the place where they choose to stand in the elevator? This particular hypothesis would likely be difficult to test, especially since there are mutiple confouding variables (number of people in the elevator, unconscious behavior, mood) that could point to the dependent variable. However, this elevator phenomeon seems to oppose the social phenomenon in our office, workplace, and everyday hustle and bustle. Usually, extroverted people, or individuals who are more likely to demonstrate leadership and management will be geared towards the “front”, whether that be the front of the line in an elementary school class, the front of the bleachers at a sports game, or the front of a highly insurgent poltiical protest.

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Nowadays, it’s very unlikely that much social interaction will occur in the elevator. Think about it, when is the last time you striked up a meaningful conversation with a stranger while you were in the lift? Oliver Burkeman exemplifies the terrible nature of the elevator and reccommends that you avoid them as much as possible. He also recounts the fact that he has never engaged in a truly captivating conversation with a stranger in the elevator. Not only is the experience uncomfortable and gut wrenching, there are amidst unspoken elevator cues that are still up in the air. What do you do when you’re talking to a friend and then you enter an elevator? Is it okay to continue the conversation, aware that multiple strangers will be forced to listen to your interaction, or should the right thing to do be to stop the conversation altogether? When is apologizing for bumping into someone multiple times due to the high volume of individuals in the elevator be too much? Can you apologize to a stranger for unknowingly getting to second base with them? These are the real questions we still have yet to answer.

Let’s not forget the truly traumatic incident that Kylie Jenner went through a couple days ago when she was trapped in the elevator for a whopping 15 minutes. She documented the entire ordeal on her social media platforms, particularly on Snapchat. How did she do it? How did she survive such a harrowing experience? Looks like we’ll have to find out in her next memoir.

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Primer has some comforting words about dealing with elevator rides, and emphasizing the confidence one must possess when dealing with socially awkward situations as a whole. After all, you control what affects you and your behavior. Take pride in your individualtity and don’t make a situation awkward if it doesn’t have to be. The next time you’re in a elevator, simply smile at a stranger and know that the interaction will be over before you know it and if the awkwardness is truly too much to handle, find comfort in the fact that you probably will never see them again.

Happy Elevator riding!

 

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Another level of OCD?

Imagine this (viewer discretion is advised): you wake up in the morning, reach your arms out above you for that satisfying morning stretch, let out a satisfying groan, rub your eyes-and oh wait, you have some unfortunate dust bunnies in there. Lets be honest, it happens to the best of us. Now imagine this alternative scenario: same thing. Wake up, stretch, rub your eyes. But instead of those minuscule dust bunnies, you literally can’t open your eyes at all. Your eyes are glued shut by the own mucus of your eyes. You have no option but to run to the bathroom (blinded) and run warm water on your eyes until you have drained all the mucus out of your eyes. Not only does this happen to you in the morning, but during various parts of the day.

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This was a reality for me a couple years ago. This syndrome, known as Mucus Fishing syndrome  is a OCD victim’s nightmare. Mucus fishing syndrome involves the constant build up of mucus in the eyes, resulting from inflammation or infection of the cornea or around the eyelid. Once you succumb to the ugly aspect of it-actually placing your finger on your eyeball to remove the stringy, clear mucus, you’re hooked. Yes, hooked, but in the worst possible way ever. Once your eye has been exposed to that level of viral touch, a vicious cycle of never-ending removal will occur. Along with the constant string of mucus in the eyes, victims of the syndrome will experience irritation, redness, eye conjunctivitis, possible eyesight hindrance, and other eye-related infections.

The most detrimental symptom of this syndrome is right there in the name- fishing. Once you start trying to fish out the mucus in your eye, it doesn’t stop. It’s a continuous cycle that is unbelievably hard to stop. According to Dr. Paul Ajamian, victims of the Mucus Fishing Syndrome can experience symptoms for extended periods of time- weeks, months, and even years. Because it is so subjective to the individual, treatment cannot occur without self willingness and determination. The first step to treatment is much like one they teach you in any rehabilitation center: accept it. I doubted myself for the longest time when I started experiencing symptoms, and felt too embarrassed to go to the doctor and explain that I was pulling out long, white strings out of my eyes. Let’s be honest- would you believe it if someone told you that? Not only does it sound highly disturbing, but the very description of the syndrome can send anyone running for the hills.

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What is interesting about this particular syndrome is it’s relationship (possible?) with OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Since the most common symptom involves continuously fishing out mucus from the eyes, this can be linked to the anxiety driven aspects of OCD. Personally, I suffer from OCD in a mild sense, to the point where I do not feel satisfied with certain things. For example, if I were to write a series of notes during class and found my handwriting to be insufficient towards my own expectations, I would go home and rewrite the whole thing until I felt satisfied. Granted, I used to do this in middle school. Imagine doing this in college-that would be the least time-efficient task I could burden myself with. Sometimes I wonder if there really is any causal relationship between my mild OCD and the development of mucus fishing syndrome a couple years back. In one particular study, Molly Cardenal and Deborah Williams describe a 52 year old female patient who was suffering from extreme Mucus fishing Syndrome and Trichotillomania (obsessive pulling and removal of the hair). She was concerned with the actions of her own symptoms, and desperately sought out help. Ultimately, she received care through electroshock therapy and counseling services, which dramatically improved her condition. She was noted for being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder/mania. This study certainly exemplifies the relationship between Mucus fishing syndrome and OCD, but it’s important to note that correlation does not equal causation. For example, it is possible that this happened by chance but it is also possible that OCD was a supplemental factor in the development of Mucus fishing syndrome and Trichotillomania. It is also possible that confounding variables such as the patient’s medical history, family’s medical history, and environmental conditions had some role in the development of the syndromes. To determine if there really is a causal relationship between OCD and Mucus fishing syndrome, further randomized studies would need to be done, possibly with a large sample to ensure further credibility. That being said, the syndrome itself is not that prevalent that this sort of study would be realistic today.

I’m lucky enough to be cured of this awful syndrome today, and hope that no one will ever encounter it and the terrible inconvenience it entails. God forbid you already have this syndrome- check out these tips for getting rid of the symptoms.

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Me? Sarcastic? Yeah, right

As a freshman at Penn State, I’ve been thrown into a big pond with a lot of fish. That being said, I’ve introduced myself countless times to countless people, usually having the conversation geared to the most generic “freshman” questions; “where are you from”? and “what’s your major”? After being introduced to numerous people, I have gathered first impressions, good and bad alike. One particular night, when I was out with my roommates, I was introduced to a new person. After some small talk, I became more comfortable with the conversation. Soon enough, he stopped me in the middle of my sentence and yelled “You’re so sassy, WOW”! Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve been described as highly sarcastic or sassy. I’ve been told by multiple people: friends, family, even strangers (as this instance described) that I seemingly respond to questions or humor in a highly ironic manner. For as long as I know, I’ve been highly sarcastic. My personal belief is that it stems from my own personality, and simply who I am as a person. I can also attest to the fact that it doubles as a defense mechanism at times, especially when I’m in a new environment or trying to “lighten the mood”. Although I fully embrace my own sarcasm and witty humor, I’ve always wondered: where does sarcasm stem from? Why is my brain geared towards making sarcastic remarks, even in the most arbitrary times?

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According to Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal, sarcasm does have a place in everyday conversation, just in small doses. While sarcasm can be seen as lighthearted humor, it can often lead to conflict if the parties involved are not close with each other or do not possess a personal relationship. Often times, sarcasm is used to deflate negative conversation or uncomfortable interactions. People insert witty remarks into the conversation to lighten the mood and ensure the carefree nature of the interaction. While sarcasm can change the mood of conversation from tense to playful, it can also be used as a means of flirtation or teasing at another individual to show affection and desire. Additionally, the hypothesis of whether or not people who utilize sarcasm are more intelligent than those who do not has been prevalent in research today. A study published in the journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes supports the idea that people who generally use sarcasm appear to be increasingly more intelligent and creative in their process of thinking compared to those who do not. Those participating in the study were randomly assigned to three groups: neutral, sarcastic, and sincere conditions. Each group was to recall an incident in which they acted neutrally, sarcastic, or sincere. Later on, the groups were given a cognitive task to perform which utilized creativity and thinking outside the box. The study also exemplified the role of sarcasm in personal interactions and the degree of comfortability that it brings to the conversation depending on the relationships between the individuals. People who have closer personal relationships tend to have more positive attitudes towards the use of sarcasm in social interactions and also avoid any means of conflict.

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Richard Chin from The Smithsonian makes a solid point about the duality of sarcasm. While it can definitely soften the blow of insults, petty banter, and criticism, sarcasm proves to be even more demeaning than criticism at certain times. The very act of sarcasm can elicit negative connotation, like the false perception of superiority towards another person. Sarcasm has the ability to be taken the wrong way, which will ultimately result in hurt feelings and an even more uncomfortable interaction. Nowadays, kids are becoming more exposed to incidences of sarcasm in their interactions and relationships with their peers. Even more so, researchers are jumping at the conclusion that children who are unable to recognize sarcastic remarks at the young age of 5 may be at risk for brain disease. Now, this seems a little overdramatic, don’t you think? This just goes to show the overriding role that sarcasm has taken in our society and it’s effect on our youth, interpersonal relationships, and everyday conversation.

 

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Hi Everyone! My name is Olivia Zhang and I’m a freshman at Penn State University Park. I am originally from Northern Virginia (close to D.C.), which is jokingly known for being it’s own “state”. The suburban and affluent setting is far fetched from the rest of Virginia, which is a common joke that fellow NOVA residents can relate to. If I’m being completely honest, I am not a science or math person at all. After suffering the grueling coursework that accompanied Chemistry and Physics, I realized that following a career path towards science was not in my cards. I’m currently in DUS, but working towards becoming a business management major. After my advisor informed me that my science course requirement could be filled with this class, SC 200, I was ecstatic. After reading the description of the class, I was entranced by the idea of the philosophy and critical thinking behind ordinary science concepts. This class is not your ordinary course load of equations, calculations, scientific research, experimentation, and memorization. It exemplifies critical thinking and the ability to explore the depth of science in the real world. I have high expectations for this class and truly believe it will change my reasoning and logic in the future. Andrew has extensive knowledge about the development of scientific theories and really puts into perspective the origins of ideas and hypotheses. I was so surprised when he showed us a video of a TED talk, that HE GAVE! Ted talks are so interesting and thought provoking, and proves our professor really is the best of the best. I am thoroughly excited to meet you all and embark on our own scientific exploration in SC 200.

 

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Here’s an interesting article I found about the possibility of a low mass star, Proxima b,  that possibly has the ability to harvest life outside of our solar system. It’s pretty common to hear about the possibility of “new life” outside of Earth, but there hasn’t been any substantial evidence that proves this theory. Perhaps we finally have reached a breakthrough? Only science can tell.