Author Archives: Rebecca Jordan Polaha

Why do teens and senior citizens crash more often?

Most of us have gotten the “Oh you got your license? I better stay off the road!” rant at least once since being able to drive. A lot of factors go into why car accidents happen. This ranges from gender, age, sobriety, distractions etc. In my state (California) I know that we are not allowed to drive other individuals under 25 for an entire year after we get our license to ensure we are ready to take on the responsibility. Driving is so new to us when we’re only 16 years old, and the last thing a 16 year old needs in their first year of driving is to be overly distracted and cause an accident. There are many mixed opinions on whether teenagers or senior citizens cause the most accidents in the United States. We have the least amount of experience of anyone on the road, that is true, but why do teens and senior citizens crash more often?


Why do teens crash?

There are too many ways that can go wrong while driving as a young adult. One of the examples I came across was obviously distractions. Distractions for teens can range from texting, loud music, loud and obnoxious friends, too many people in the car, all the way to their phone simply buzzing. A lot of teens think it’s okay to check their phones at a stop light because they think it’s “safe” when it obviously is not. I can not tell you the amount of times I saw cars with high school stickers get honked at when the light turns green. Cell phones are a greater distraction while driving  than you may think. It slows our body’s reaction time and negatively affects our focus. Surprisingly, this goes the same for hands-free cell phone calls! It’s unfortunate because we as a society have been told this whole time that hands-free is the way to go, but at least 30 studies have proven they do not make a difference for your safety. Aside from cell phone use (since most elderly people don’t really use cells phones like teens do), another big reason that teenagers crash their cars more frequently than others screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-1-42-05-amis because they are more likely to speed. This graph perfectly shows just how drastic the difference is between elderly drivers and teen drivers’ reported fatal crashes from speeding from 2007-2011.

Why do the elderly crash?

Aging has an effect on your body especially for driving. These effects tend to include loss of hearing, sight, and an increase in medical issues. While behind the wheel of the car, you need to be fully aware of what is happening and that is a difficult task for elderly people because it’s more difficult for them to react quickly. A lot of the time their crashes are due to driving below the speed limit or below the speed of traffic, having a harder time staying in their lane, and judging distance between cars.

Comparing both and Conclusion

As I was researching this topic, I came across extremely different statistic and study results when comparing who crashes more. As far as it goes for comparing senior citizens and teenagers, there are myriad sources that claim one thing or another that elderly people cause more accidents than teens and that teens cause more accidents than elderly people.  One source (IIHS or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) claims that you are 3 times more likely to crash your vehicle if you are between the ages 16-19 than drivers over 20 year of age.  A different source (Consumer Reports) said that you’re 9 times more likely to crash your car if you’re between the ages of 16 and 17 as opposed to drivers that are middle aged. It then states that if you are 80 years of age or older you are 5.5 times more likely to be involved in a car crash. The next time you get in your car, remember to keep your phone out of reach and try not to speed like a maniac!



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Are you guilty of the bystander effect?

Have you ever read something in a group message like “Hey, can someone come get me from the airport?” and think “Eh, someone else will do it, I just won’t respond.” ? Then you may be guilty of the bystander effect. The bystander effect, otherwise known as bystander apathy happens when people believe there is no tendency for them to get involved in a social or emergency situation because they believe someone else will help (mostly in a crowd). Therefore, when there is more people, less people are likely to help out the victim. Going back to my example above, the person believes that since they are in a group message with other individuals, that someone else will pick up the duty to go pick up the friend. If all of the individuals have the same thought, the person at the airport will be sitting there stranded for a little. As surprising as it is, this happens a lot in emergency situations such as car accidents or lost children on the street. So, what exactly are some examples of the psychological phenomenon the bystander effect?

Bystander Effect Psychology Social Experiment

I found a video of an experiment where an actor pretended to be sick, grasping his stomach on the ground. He is groaning and wincing but people simply look down at him and walk along. He even blatantly calls for help, “help me, please help me sir” and the man just looks at him, and walks away. This went on for a good 20 minutes and no one even hesitated to speak or help him. He was then replaced with a women of the same age. 4 minutes passed and still none of the 34 people who had passed her even thought to ask what is wrong. A man finally walks up to her and asks if she is okay, along with another woman who comes to check on her simply because the man is there as well. I thought this was very interesting because the woman who finally helped the “sick” woman out only did so once the man came to check on her. Otherwise, she would have obviously went on with her day with no responsibility in mind. Also, I was wondering if she got helped sooner, -around 5 minutes rather than the man’s 20+ minutes- simply because she was a woman. The video did not mention this, but I am sure that can be something to look into. The experiment went on to have the same man in the beginning but this time, in business apparel. Shockingly, only 6 seconds had passed and someone asked if he was okay, and suddenly a swarm of people surrounded him. I was extremely curious why our brains work the way they do and want to search for an explanation of this phenomenon.


Potential Explanations

  1. Pluralistic Ignorance

One of the more common thoughts on why we as humans fail to help during certain situations is pluralistic ignorance. This occurs when the individual walking or driving by does not even realize that someone is in need of help. Therefore, if we see something and are not positive of what is happening, we look at other people’s reactions and body language to determine if we should intervene or not. The problem with this is, if no one else is getting involved we assume everything is okay, despite the fact that there may be a really bad emergency happening. Basically the thought behind this is that we think everyone else is interpreting the situation in some way but they actually aren’t as explained beautifully by psychrod.

  1. Diffusion of Responsibility

The other possible explanation for the bystander effect is the diffusion of responsibility. This goes perfectly with the social experiment I mentioned above. People do not feel responsible for the situation because they feel as though someone else may do it, resulting in that person not being helped at all. The more people around, the less likely it is for that person to be saved.

What to take from this

As strange as it is, the bystander effect is an interesting phenomenon. Whether it be unintentional or not, (Pluralistic Ignorance versus Diffusion of Responsibility) keep in mind, whenever you have that gut feeling that something is wrong, please go out there and try to help because it may save a life. Just because everyone else is ignoring it does not mean that person is okay.

Works Cited

“The Bystander Effect: Reactions and Causes – PSYCHROD.” PSYCHROD. N.p., 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <>.

Coolpsychologist. “THE BYSTANDER EFFECT.” YouTube. YouTube, 09 June 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <>.

Https:// “What Is the Bystander Effect?” Verywell. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <>.

@PsychToday. “Why Don’t We Help? Less Is More, at Least When It Comes to Bystanders.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <>.


How effective is animal-assisted therapy?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling down, I like to cuddle up with my dog to make me feel better. Dogs and cats are commonly known for making people of any ages happy. They love you no matter the circumstance and are always by your side. There is a sense of comfort to petting and holding a dog or cat.  Oxytocin levels in the body actually rise when you pet a dog or cat! Many people in hospitals involved in painful chemotherapy are given time with the animals to relieve the stress and anxiety from the pain. The animal-assisted therapy is not just for physical pain,it is also used for emotional pain such as depression. This can be seen as some sort of medicine to these people with physical and mental pain. I would like to know, how effective is animal-assisted therapy?


In this case, if we were to conduct an experiment:

H0  : The animal-assisted therapy does nothing

HA: The animal-assisted therapy improves health

The first study I researched shocked me. It was a study on how animal-assisted therapy affected the outcome of the death of the patient. 96 patients that were discharged of the critical unit of the hospital were followed after a year with a pet. 11 of the 39 recently discharged patients -or 28%- that did not have pets died. Only 3 out of 53 patients with pets -6%- died. This shocking results may have evidence towards the relaxation and comfort brought on by the pets, however, like Andrew commonly says, it may be due to chance and is a substantially small study. Also, this focused more on pets at home, rather than in the hospital which can be drastically different in my opinion. It is very interesting though how extreme the results came out with the death rate. A completely different study ( a one year controlled trial) focused on how animal-assisted therapy affected elderly patients with schizophrenia. In this one year blind controlled trial, 10 schizophrenic patients and 10 matched patients in a closed psychogeriatric ward (around the age of 80) were involved in the animal-assisted trial. Their results were measured by the Scale for Social Adaptive Functioning Evaluation, or SAFE. The therapy was then conducted in 4 hour sessions to get results. At the end of the trial the results showed that there was a substantial improvement in the wellbeing of the schizophrenic patients. This was due to the fact that the results after the baseline were drastically on the positive spectrum.

I am not surprised in this result because after a long time, these patients are less lonely, and stimulates mental activity. Animals are also non-judgemental beings in which people with disabilities and deformities have 100% love all the time whenever they’re with this animal. It is truly amazing how impactful animals are to humans. They have the power to motivate and change lives in people by enhancing their quality of life. Unfortunately as amazing as these results are that I mentioned above, most clinical trials done in this field are flawed and therefore can not be trusted. Most studies are too small -as I concluded in the first study- and may very well be due to chance. It is also difficult to measure “happiness” on a scale. As opposed to the first study, which compared deaths, the second study measured ‘well being’ which can be too general and quite difficult to accurately measure.

Most studies also have the file drawer problem, which we often talked about in class. Mostly positive results are only published because they obviously look good to the public eye because they are biased. For example, a psychologist wanted to see the effects that horseback riding 164600-169304had on 81 boys. These boys had certain emotional problems like depression, PTSD, and ADHD. No impact was found from the therapeutic horseback riding, and in fact some of the boys involved in the study actually had higher levels of anxiety and depression from leaving the animal. The study was never published, therefore creating the file drawer problem. So, animal-assisted therapy may or may not work; we will not know for now due to the difficulty of trials and the file drawer problem.

Works Cited

“Dogs and Cats Release ‘love Hormone’ around Each Other, Humans.” UPI., 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <>.

@drweil. “Animal Assisted Therapy – Dr. Weil’s Wellness Therapies.” N.p., 25 July 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <>.

“Get It!” Get It! N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

@PsychToday. “Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Really Work?” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <>.

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Are ADHD stimulants overprescribed in children?

The preponderance of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children aged 4-17 in 2011 was 11%. Around 6.4 million children in that age group were diagnosed with ADHD, and 4.2 million were prescribed psychostimulants, according to the CDC. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental mental disorder where one has difficulty controlling behavior, problems paying attention, etc.  Stanford Newmark claimed in The Wall Street Journal that a good amount of children are diagnosed after a 15 to 20 minute visit with a pediatrician. There are many opinions regarding overprescription of stimulants to children with ADHD. Some believe this increase is due to a misdiagnosis at an early age of childhood in children who are commonly immature. Others believe that the over prescription is simply a myth and that there is insufficient evidence to support it. ADHD is very real, but there may be some alternatives before going straight to the pill. So I want to know, are ADHD medications actually overprescribed in America?


I reviewed three studies done on children with ADHD to see if there is a common outcome:

1.MECA Study


1,285 children and their parents in four United States communities partook a epidemiological survey in the MECA or Methods for the Epidemiological of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders Study. This particular study focused on three main aspects: the frequency of the diagnosis of ADHD itself, medication prescription, and alternate methods such as psychosocial services. For the results of ADHD diagnosis, only 5.1% of all the children had met the full criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. Although, when it comes to the prescription of stimulants, 12.5% who met the ADHD criteria were treated. This was accurately prescribed, however, due to the fact that these particular children had very high levels of ADHD symptoms.

This study itself can not prove that there is not an over prescription of stimulants in ADHD children, simply that it is too small  and that is it a survey. However, this study supports the claims that medication is not over prescribed due to the fact that most of the ADHD diagnosed children were not prescribed the medication. This shocked me because most of the articles I read supported the common claim that this over prescription is absolutely prevalent.

  1. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

3,082 United States children aged 8-15 were surveyed from 2001-2004. Of those children, 8.7% met the criteria for ADHD. Of the 8.7%, 38.8% of those children were prescribed medication. Surprisingly, the poorest children in the study were the least likely to be given ADHD medication despite the fact that they are the most likely to have ADHD.

This study is difficult to say whether medication is over prescribed or not because most studies, like this one, fail to touch upon whether the medication is really needed as compared to their diagnosed ADHD status.

  1.  International Studies

I was curious how this was concept was in children outside of the United States to see if they were having the same “problem”.  

A structured interview regarding 1,897 Latino/Hispanic children aged 4-17, was conducted in Puerto Rico to see if they are treated with medication for ADHD or not. Only around 7% of the children diagnosed with ADHD, and only 0.2% without a diagnosis were treated with medication.According to this population, medication prescription is actually under prescribed rather than overprescribed. However, A study in Iceland (a country with a similar stimulant usage as the US), ⅓ of the youngest children studied were 50% more likely to not only be diagnosed with ADHD, but also prescribed medication.

Together these studies help prove that it is really mixed throughout the world on the prescription of ADHD medication when diagnosed. There is simply no way as of right now to determine whether either side is true or not. Certain articles supporting the idea that the stimulants are over prescribed claim that the increase of stress on the average American family has a drastic effect on the frequency of ADHD. However, the studies I have seen so far claim that there is not a significant problem in this “overprescription” in America. This is why we are split on this idea. There is simply no way of saying for a fact which side is correct.\

Works Cited

“Are ADHD Medications Overprescribed?” WSJ., 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Are Stimulants Overprescribed? Treatment of ADHD in Four U.S. Communities.” Are Stimulants Overprescribed? Treatment of ADHD in Four U.S. Communities. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

Froehlich, MD Tanya E. “Prevalence, Recognition, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in a National Sample of US Children.” Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders | JAMA Pediatrics | The JAMA Network. N.p., 01 Sept. 2007. Web. 27 Nov. 2016. <>.

N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

“A True ADHD Epidemic or an Epidemic of Overdiagnosis?” Psychiatry Advisor. N.p., 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

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What are Superbugs?

Like any other college student here, I caught the “Penn State Plague”. The first week of classes I woke up with a very sore throat and it drug on a couple days so I decided to finally go into the University Health Center. I believed I had another case of strep throat. The doctor swabbed my throat to check for strep, and sure enough it was positive. The doctor told me that I since I was allergic to Penicillin, he had to prescribe me Clindamycin. He had to prescribe me Clindamycin because the bacteria in the throat when you have strep is now immune to Amoxicillin. That made me think, is there a big problem with superbugs today?

What are superbugs?

Bacterial infections like strep throat are harder to treat when bacteria are able to survive the antibiotics. This happens because the bacteria carry certain genes that make them immune, and that immunity can be passed on through the bacteria. This is a very big problem because it can happen so rapidly. This rapid passing of antibacterial immunity creates what we know as a “Superbug”. According to C-Health, misusing or overusing antibiotics contributes to superbugs. A lot of people never end up taking all of the pills prescribed by their doctor because they believe they feel better. This is a major problem because every single time that someone does that, the drug becomes less and less effective.This resorts into more expensive and more difficult anti-bacterial medications like what happened to me. Instead of being able to use  Amoxicillin, which I believe is taken once a day, I had to be prescribed Clindamycin, which is two pills twice a day for ten days.  Antibiotics are sold over the counter in certain parts of the world which contribute to this problem because there are commonly misconceptions on if an individual even needs the drug or not. Also, many of the over the counter antibiotics do not have the proper recommendations for use, which help the bacteria service the medication. If you misuse antibiotics -such as taking the drug without needing it- harmless bacteria suffer because the antibiotics kill them. Not only that, but the medicine can also change the harmless bacteria, helping the actual harmful bacteria resist antibiotics.


The superbug experiment

An experiment done at Harvard Medical School shows the evolution of bacteria on a gigantic 2 feet by 4 feet petri dish. The bacteria are able to move along the petri dish, slowly making their way through different amounts of antibiotics in each section. The outer layer had no antibiotics so the e-coli bacteria traveled or spread until the next barrier with antibiotics where they then could not survive. The superbug begins to form when a mutation occurs. Each section going towards the middle of the petri dish becomes stronger and stronger with antibiotics until it is 1000 times stronger than what was needed to kill the first section of e-coli bacteria. Astonishingly, the bacteria slowly but surely makes its way to the middle of the petri dish due to these mutations that cause the bacteria to survive event the strongest situations.


How can you as an individual help stop superbugs from forming?

There are multiple ways that you as an individual can help stop the spread of superbugs.By doing these very important things, you are stopping the spread of immune bacteria in the body.


  • Make sure you take the entire course of the antibiotics
  • Do not pressure your doctor into a prescription you do not need
  • Never take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription


Works Cited

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Cara, Ed. “The Scary Reality Of Antibiotic Resistance Captured In A Petri Dish.” Medical Daily. N.p., 14 Sept. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.

“The Rise Of Superbugs: How Antibiotic Resistance Develops And How You Can Help Stop It.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Oct. 2016

“Superbugs: What Are They and How Are They Formed?” – N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.


Allergies are no fun

This year, I learned that my two young cousins have some exceptionally difficult food allergies. My 3 year old cousin is allergic to all dairy products. These products include: milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and even most processed dairy foods. He will vomit if ingested, and break out into horrible hives if he even comes into contact with these products. My other cousin has a severe reaction from gluten due to Celiac Disease. This made me wonder; will there ever be a chance that they can grow out of these life changing allergies?

What are allergies and how are they tested?

Allergies are everywhere, and vary from foods all the way to environmental and medication, and are commonly developed at infancy and childhood. One may have an allergic reaction from ingestion, touch, and inhalation. According to Healthline, allergies are defined as a reaction from the body’s immune system when a foreign substance is detected. But the catch is, most of these are overreactions are from something harmless, such as cat dander or shellfish. Once your body detects these “invaders”, it sends out molecules called immunoglobulin E antibodies, thus causing your body to have a reaction. Allergies can be immensely unpredictable. Exposure to the allergen for the first time may cause a mild reaction, but the second exposure may unfortunately send you to the hospital. Reactions may also vary from hives all the way to unconsciousness and death. That is why it is a good idea to be tested early on for possible allergens. One may be tested through skin tests, challenge tests, and blood tests. To do a skin test, the doctor or nurse puts a small amount of the allergen directly onto the patient’s skin and waits to see a potential reaction. This is commonly applied by a prick. Challenge testing, used for potential food allergies, removes the suspected food from the patient’s diet. A few weeks later, the patient will eat that food again and watch for a reaction. Lastly, the blood test is used in place of the skin test. These tests simply search for antibodies against the suspected allergen in your body.


The simple answer to the question of “can you outgrow allergies?” is Yes. Growing accustomed to the allergen is one of the most theorized ideas. Sometimes people just get lucky and do not see a reaction anymore. If you aren’t one of these lucky individuals, and want to possibly lessen your reaction, you can promote your tolerance by exposure. Research has shown that immunotherapy may be one of the best ways to calm down the reaction to foods such as peanuts. Although this is not “outgrowing” the allergen, it has been shown as highly effective for food allergies. According to CNN, a group at Cambridge University Hospitals did an experimental study to see if immunotherapy was actually successful. 23 who were allergic to peanuts were put into a group. Each day, the children ate small amounts, starting with 1 mg. The researchers progressively increased peanut quantity every two weeks. By the end of the trial, the children ate upto 5 peanuts with very mild reactions, such as abdominal pain. This dose of 5 peanuts was then given for six weeks.


Image found here

The results

In the end of the trial, amazingly, 91% of the children slowly exposed to peanut consumption can ingest 5 peanuts safely with no reaction. It gets even better. 19 of the children after six months could handle 12 peanuts, and after one year, the study showed that 15 of the children can handle 32 peanuts and have said to feel a lot safer when ingesting potential products with peanuts in them.


If you do not want to wait to see if your body naturally gets rid of your allergy, you may want to try immunotherapy. (With talking to your doctor first!) Although it is one study, it is clear that with the case of a peanut allergy that it is possible to build up your body’s tolerance to the allergen.

Works Cited

Dhar, Michael. “Can You Outgrow Your Allergies?” LiveScience. N.p., n.d. Web.

@healthline. “Allergic Reaction.” Healthline. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Landau, Elizabeth. CNN. Cable News Network, 19 Feb. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.


What makes “scary” things “scary”?

It’s just your average scary movie night. You’re sitting on the couch, your knees held tightly to your chest, and your eyes barely peeking over them. The room is dark, and as you watch the screen, you mumble “don’t go in there”. Your palms are sweaty as the music grows eerier and more suspenseful by the second… and… “AHHH!” a pop up nearly stops your heart. What is the science behind this intense feeling we call “fear”?

Your brain gives off immediate stimuli and fear just so happens to be one of them. In fact, being afraid of things, and our body’s natural tendency to react is one of the reasons why we’re still alive today. It is easy to understand why we are afraid of things such as poisonous insects, and animals that can harm us. But, why are things scary if they simply pose no possible threat to us …  such as scary movies, or creepy dolls. According to this video I watched , things like masks and clowns can be scary due to the fact that they are vague, or are ambiguous. These masks hide the social interaction between others and eliminate normal emotion. Often, scary movies use masks to scare their viewers partially because one can not tell if the person under the mask can possible threaten, or harm them. This is an example of ambiguity. This gives you a creepy vibe due to a hypothesis called Uncanny Valley. Masks fall under this category because they are almost identical to a human, but are the slightest bit off; making it creepy.


Image found here and here

Let’s talk about the brain. Going back to the jump scares and the creepy music in movies, I want to address the fear of loud sounds, and how that has a fearful effect on your brain. While most of your fears are learned, our body reacts to loud sounds innately. These loud sounds triggers your body into a fight or flight mode, releasing epinephrine into your system. Here is where I learned how the body processes fear, like loud sounds. Your amygdala has a key role in triggering fear because it’s primary role is memory, decision making, and emotional reactions. The amygdala shoots messages to your brain telling it that something’s wrong and in response, your body prepares itself for the worst. So whether the “scary” thing is a suspense filled movie, a loud pop up scare, or simply a spider, your body reacts the same way. Once those chemicals are released, your body tenses up; making your palms sweat, your muscles tighten up, and your heart race like no other. This is an autonomic response . We are not consciously aware what is happening. There are myriad parts of the brain that help trigger this fear, not just the well known amygdala.

fear-4The Thalamus, Sensory Cortex, Hippocampus, and Hypothalamus all work together to send messages to your brain that you are in danger, or “scared”.  So next time you get the creeps when you see someone in a mask, or jump out of your seat at a pop up in a movie, just remember that it’s just your body’s natural reaction to keep you safe.


I enjoy science … just not math!


My name is Rebecca Polaha and I am currently an incoming freshman. I am an intended Advertising/ Public Relations major which may give you all the blatant idea that science is not my best subject. I decided to take SC200 because I am actually really interested in topics related to science that do not correspond with math. As I look at the course schedule, I am excited to find out the answers to questions such as,  “Where does evil come from?” and “What is the universe made of?”. I am also very interested in our universe as a whole, and anything that has to do with astronomy.  I try to talk to my friends about it all the time but they do not seem to care. I think its amazing how we can not even fathom how enormous our universe is, and all the questions that we may never be able to answer in our lifetime. Despite my obsession with astronomy, subjects such as chemistry, and physics, are some of the courses you will never see me in. I am not majoring in science for that mere reason; math. English and Psychology have always been my best subjects, therefore I am most likely pursuing Public Relations and Advertising for my career goals.


Image found Here.

I am technically from Allentown, Pennsylvania since I lived there for 10 years, but I moved to Newport Beach, California my freshman year of high school.  This summer, my friend and I decided to make the 6 hour trip to Yosemite. There, we got to hike and take in the breathtaking views that Yosemite Valley has to offer. I have a link Here that describes how the valley was formed due to glaciers and the actual mapping of the National Park. The USGS published its first topographic map of Yosemite in 1897!