Author Archives: Sarah Tarczewski

What effect does vegetarianism have on one’s health?

This summer I learned a lot about just how detrimental the meat industry is to our environment. That, coupled with some doubts about the ethics of eating meat, lead me to become a vegetarian. I’ve been without meat for almost 6 months now, and haven’t seen a big difference in my overall health. Despite that lack of difference, I’ve been told numerous times by many different people just how much this lack of meat could be effecting me. Some people see it as a positive difference, others think I’m greatly harming myself. So what is the truth?

Although for a long time people have been told of the detriments of not eating meat, in recent years, many studies have confirmed that a plant-based diet is very sufficient in terms of nutrition. In some cases, vegetarianism has actually proven to lower the possibility of certain illnesses, including heart disease. To be clear, a true vegetarian diet that will reap these benefits includes a balances diet of many fruits and vegetables. Sticking to cheese-based food and other junk foods will certainly be a detriment to one’s health. In doing studies on vegetarians, scientists need to be aware of the possibly confounding variables that could related to an unhealthy vegetarian diet.

Additionally, many vegetarians are told that we must not be receiving the necessary amount of protein in our diets. However, in reality, many meat eaters are actually eating too much animal meat.  On the contrary, vegetarians receive their protein from a variety of other sources. Broccoli, kale, beans, cheese, and tofu are all staples of most people’s vegetarian diet and all serve to provide protein.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vegans (an extreme form of vegetarianism where one eats no animal products) were found to have less saturated fats and cholesterol in their diets, and more fiber. Additionally, they were also found to have a lower risk for heart disease. Granted, they were also found to have some certain nutritional deficiencies, but that can be quickly fixed through consciousness of one’s diet and by simply becoming a vegetarian as opposed to a full vegan. The study itself seemed well performed and peer-reviewed, however more research is certainly needed. Doing an longitudinal observational study on the long term effects on a diet like this is needed. A similar study performed over four years regarding just a vegetarian diet found very similar results to the benefits of a vegan diet, without many of the nutritional deficiencies. Because of this, as of right now I believe I have enough evidence to support my alternative hypothesis that a vegetarian (not vegan) has health benefits along with the environmental benefits it also provides.

Long story short: the science is still out on the health aspect, but it looks promising. If you fear climate change in the least, it looks like you should put down that beef burger and pick up a black bean one.

Can your hair turn grey from stress?

College is a stressful time. The other day, I swore that I discovered a grey hair on my head. Although my roommate insisted it was blonde, I got to wondering anyway. It’s common knowledge that as we grow older, our hair either turns white or grey, but we also link that hair color to feelings of immense stress. So can stress actually cause a change in your hair?

Greying is a normal effect of aging. As we grow older, the melanocytes in our hair die off continually until our hair is no longer colored. In the case of extreme stress, science is just beginning to explain why our hair turns grey. One researcher, Tyler Cymet, conducted a retrospective observational study and found that his stressed patients, on average, went grey 2 or 3 full years before their less stressed counterparts. However, as with all observational studies and especially with studies involving self-report, there is the possibility of many confounding variables.  The reason as to why stress could effect the cells of hair is still very much disputed. One dermatologist believes that stress hormones mediate some signals that pigment one’s hair. Another believes that stress hormones act to cause inflammation that creates damaged hair cells.

However, although the jury is still out on why, it is clear that stress does play a role in our hair. Depending on your genetics, your stress level could cause you to grey prematurely as early as 10 years. So take a deep breath and relax, or start saving up for dye.

Should the Blood Ban on Gay Men be Lifted by the FDA?

I’m an At-Large Representative for the UPUA, Penn State’s student government. Despite the fact that most of the school are unaware of our presence, we do a lot of good work with the nearly $100,000 budget we operate with each other. A few weeks ago, we passed a resolution supporting the end of the blood ban on men who have sex with men (MSM). In supporting this resolution, I did a lot of work on the science behind HIV/AIDS. In light of today being World AIDS Day, I decided to explore this question on my blog.

In order to understand why exactly the blood ban is discriminatory, we need a better understanding of HIV/AIDS itself. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which, when left untreated can becomes AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Both are diseases that attack one’s immune system. After a certain period of time, the immune system becomes so weak that the period cannot fight off infections. While there is no cure for the diseases at the moment, today’s medicine has found a way for people suffering from HIV/AIDS to control their disease.

In the height of the AIDS crisis, MSM were banned from donating blood, as you can contract the disease is through the direct contact of bodily fluids, obviously including blood. The FDA recently updating their policy in that a MSM can donate blood if he has been celibate for a year. Many people believe that this fear of MSM blood is based purely on anecdotal evidence, as the possibility of diseased blood passing through a rigorous set of tests for disease is very slim. Granted, there is always the possibility of a false negative in these tests, but to single out just one group of people and keeping them from donating blood is just perpetuating the stigma that HIV/AIDS is a ‘gay disease’, as it was referred to in the 1980’s.

In light of the Orlando shooting, it has become more apparent than ever just how detrimental this policy is. We cannot be basing our policies off of anecdotal evidence and stereotypes, we must look at the data. HIV/AIDS is largely in control now, and even if someone with the disease attempted to donate blood, the screening tests would be able to pick that up.

The Chicken or the Egg?

At our weekly staff meetings to determine attendance, the Writing Center asks us to write our names and an answer to a mundane question on a piece of paper. This past week, the question was: “What came first? The chicken, or the egg?” Although it wasn’t the most interesting of questions, I decided to look into this answer for my blog. The question has been long discussed by philosophers, but many of their answers have been marred by religion and the idea of creationism. According to the Bible, God created the world and all the creatures on it, so clearly the chicken came first!

REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

…And those creationists may be right, though obviously for a very different reason.  A paper written by British scientists entitled, “Structural Control of Crystal Nuclei by an Eggshell Protein” concluded that the chicken had to have come before the chicken egg. The specification is because the scientists stressed that the creation of eggs came well before chickens evolved. That being said, in order for a chicken egg to occur, the protein ovocledidin-17 had to be involved in the process. This protein is found specifically within the ovaries of a chicken. The researchers came across this discovery simply by studying the development of a chicken eggshell itself. Because of this means of discovery, we can conclude that, at the very least, the development does not suffer from the Texas Sharp Shooter problem. The researchers were not looking specifically as to how the chicken could come before the egg, and merely stumbled upon the importance ofovocledidin-17 in the egg-shell making process. The current hypothesis of scientists as to how this process occurred is that a chicken-like creature hatched a mutated egg that was fully-chicken.

Like most science related questions, this answer is a bit of a cop-out in terms of just how much it actually resolves the question at hand. However, without the ovary protein of a chicken it’s simply not possible for an egg to occur – sufficiently answering the age-old question for me.

Does Meditation Have Medical Benefits?

Being diagnosed with generalized anxiety leaves one with a lot of questions, mostly regarding treatment. Although most people would assume that medicine and therapy are the only two available options, I’ve done a lot of research into various self care strategies that can benefit someone outside of those two (sometimes expensive) options. Something I’ve personally found incredibly calming is meditation. Many people agree with this sentiment and believe it adds to their lives and health in other positive ways as well. So are there any medical opinions or studies done on this topic?

Two studies, both performed by Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Mass Gen, strove to explore the medicinal effects of meditation. Lazar and the other researchers hypothesized that meditation may also be associated with changes in brain structure. In this situation, the null hypothesis would be that meditation has no effect on brain structure, and the alternative hypothesis is that meditation does indeed change one’s brain structure.

In the first study Lazar worked on, the brains of people with extensive meditation experience were imaged and certain areas of their brains were found to be thicker than the brains of the control group. The regions of the brain that showed an increase in thickness had to do with attention, interoception (the sense of one’s physiological condition), and sensory awareness. Additionally, the difference between older participants who meditated and those that didn’t was extremely pronounced, suggesting that meditation could even work to stop the effects of aging on certain areas of the brain.

However, Lazar and her team of researchers realized that because they simply measured the brains of the two different groups of people that there could leave room for some confounding variables that could lead to the difference in cortex thickness. The second study functioned to remove that possibility by setting the study up in a different way. This time, the researchers obtained before and after MRI images of the brains of 16 participants who went through a 8-week meditation program. These images were then compared to a control group of 17 people who did not do any meditation during that period. These results again confirmed that there was a significant difference in the thickness of certain cortexes of the brain involved in learning, memory, emotion regulation, and self-reflection.

Two studies does not necessarily mean that meditation is good for you. These studies could be false positives or there could be a large amount of studies performed that weren’t published due to the fail to reject the null hypothesis, therefore suffering from the file drawer problem. That being said, the research is promising. Although the first study could be explained away by chance, the fact that the second study – arguably set up much better – confirms the result makes me feel like I should be making sure to increase my frequency of meditation.


Getting the Most Out of Your Nap

As a college student, I’m constantly being bombarded with homework, tests, meetings, papers, chores, and various social events. It’s hard to keep track of these things and it’s even harder to stay on top of them without losing some sleep. Due to this lack of sleep, I find myself frequently passing out for an hour or so at a time from exhaustion. After I wake up from these naps, I find that I feel just as tired as before, sometimes with an added headache or nausea. I know a lot of people say a 20 minute nap is best, but I wanted to look deeper into that and the reasons behind it. The null hypothesis of this search would be that naps have no effect on the body, whereas the alternative hypothesis is that naps effect the body in some way.

The Mayo Clinic is a reputable organization, so I turned to them for my first source. They first detailed the pros and cons of a nap. The pros included the obvious: reduced fatigue, improved mood, and improved performance (among some other things). The cons were sleep inertia (feelings of grogginess) and problems with sleeping at night, which is obvious if you’re doing all your sleeping during the daytime. The Mayo Clinic stressed the fact that certain disorders and illnesses will lead to an increase in fatigue, so if you find yourself tired frequently for no obvious reason, you may want to consult your doctor. The Mayo Clinic confirmed my hypothesis in that in recommends a 10-30 minute nap. They also recommend you nap in the early afternoon, so as to not interfere with your night sleep cycle. However, I did not get any reason why this is.

Scientific American discussed that why. As many people know, we undergo different cycles as we sleep. Most of our night is spent in non-REM sleep, where we relax, our body goes through recovery, and our hormones regulate. REM sleep (or rapid eye movement sleep) happens after about 90 or so minutes of being asleep and although our brains are awake, our bodies become immobilized. Scientific American asserts that waking during these 90 minute cycles of REM sleep is what causes our sleep inertia.

A study performed by NASA found that a 40 minute nap enhanced pilot performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. British researchers also performed a study in 2008 that corroborated that a short (20 minute) afternoon nap was more effective than caffeine in improving people’s performance in deal with the “afternoon hump”. In this study, 20 healthy adults who were screened for their usual night’s sleep were split into two groups that either received a nap or caffeine, and then were given two tests to measure their performance.

Conclusively, it seems that if you are able to nap within the time frame of 10-40 minutes, you should go for that nap as it seems to raise your performance and lessen your fatigue. If you’re a longer napper, like me, you should set your alarm or perhaps cut naps out all together as you could be doing more harm than good to your body.

With medicine advancing as it is, could someone ever live forever?

In one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation, a main character, devoted to fitness, delivers the line, “Scientists say the first person to live to 150 has already been born. I believe I am that person.”

Although delivered as a joke, I was inspired to do some research into a more difficult question for my blog. Is this lifespan possible with medical advancements and if not, how long could we live for?

One scientist think it’s possible that medicine could lead to immortality. Aubrey de Grey  biomedical gerontologist with the SENS Research Foundation, which is just a fancy term for someone who studies the aging process and how it could be slowed or even stopped. The theory is pretty out there in regards to conventional science, but de Grey is convinced that through advanced medicine we will be able to undo cellular damage that our body naturally experiences. De Grey believes that now that infectious diseases are largely under control, we can focus on the largest cause of death: aging. The idea is that we learn more about medicine, specifically stem cell therapies, the easier it will be for us to pinpoint the cause of our cell death and stop it. The natural progression of medicine and knowledge about the human body has lead to a longer lifespan, so who is to say that this cell regeneration isn’t possible?

In an interview with Life Sciences, de Grey details more thoroughly his theory. There are 7 causes of death, according to de Grey, which is a bit more detailed that just “aging” or “cell death”. These causes include: DNA mutations, mitochondrial mutations, proteins which cannot be digested accumulating in cells, harmful proteins accumulating outside of our cells, cell loss, lack of cell division, and too many cross links occurring between cells. de Grey is currently about to start testing his theory out on mice, as he feels that if he is capable of this then he will be more seriously regarded. With the proper funding, de Grey asserts that we could see this newfound immortality in 25 years, so hold onto your lives, folks!

Joon Yun is a little less optimistic, but still believes our lifespans can be increased – and soon. Yun is not a scientist. Instead, he is a hedge fund manager sponsoring anti-aging research. He is just one of the many players in this game, but according to The Guardian, the results are slowly becoming promising. An example given is the diabetes drug metformin, which has been shown to display some age-defying effects in patients. A Google search revealed to me that these effects were the increased oxidation of cells, which increased their lifespan. Another drug, used to treat some cancers and aid patients post-organ transplant, increased the lifespan of the mice it was tested on by 25%. Now, while mice certainly aren’t humans, this drug was shown to bolster the immunity of elderly people to the flu.

The results are promising. As time progresses and we learn more about how our bodies work, our lifespans are increasing due to new medicine. de Grey’s theory may not be true and the ability to live forever may not ever come to fruition, but the idea that people could start living up to 125 or 150 years old seems to not be so far off.

What is the most effective form of mental health treatment?

All my life I’ve worried about the little things. From school to friends to extracurricular activites, there was nothing I didn’t feel stress about. It wasn’t until college that I realized that maybe this wasn’t how life should feel. Since that realization, I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety, along with possibly depression (to keep things interesting, I suppose!). My CAPS counselor suggested I try out a few psychiatrists and medicines as well as a psychologist. For clarifications sake, I’ll define those terms. A psychiatrist, unlike psychologists, are actual medical doctors who evaluate a patient’s symptoms and can prescribe medicine based on those symptoms. A psychologist, on the other hand, is someone who evaluates and studies behaviors. They work more in the therapy and counseling aspect of mental health, and typically have a master’s degree or a doctorate. Although she recommended I check out both avenues, I’m a busy college student. I don’t have the time to spend in multiple appointments a week. I decided to do some research on which form of treatment is more effective, and go from there.

Psychology Today talked about how the average person in America prefers medication to therapy, although this may not be an entirely informed decision on their part. A professor at Cornell, Richard Friedman, believes that many Americans are being over-medicated, despite evidence that suggests it may not be an entirely effective mode of treatment for everyone. Friedman cites a few studies performed that show how effective therapy can be and how it can lead to skipping the drugs altogether. The frequency of medication commercials was something cited for this rise in medication. This connects to what we’ve learned in class that sometimes anecdotal information or media interference can lead to faulty science.

study performed by Dr. Helen Mayberg found that treatment can depend highly on the person and how their brain functions. Using PET scans, Dr. Mayberg randomized depressed patients into 2 groups: one group on an SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor – a kind of drug used to treat depression and/or anxiety) and another in behavior therapy. The result was that 40% of the participants found their respective treatments to be effective. However, Dr. Mayberg discovered something else in this study that could show how brain differences lead to different responses to treatment. The participants that had low activity in the anterior insula region of their brain responded well to their therapy, while those with higher activity in that region responded more positively to medicine. This difference is attributed to how therapy and medication have been shown to target different parts of the brain. So, while one patient may find therapy very effective, another patient with the same illness may find that it does nothing for them, based simply on where the problem lies in their brain.

My next article, from the Times, also discussed the Mayberg study but detailed how this conclusion could change treatment for mental illness as we know it. Many doctors still stand by the assertion that both forms of therapy can be beneficial for a patient, but are advocating for the use of brain scans in order to determine which treatment would be more effective. The typical remission rate for someone with depression ranges from 40-50% and although those numbers don’t seem necessarily bad, with the amount of people who suffer from mental illness in this country, the actual numbers of people who don’t feel symptom alleviation is enormous.

So as with most of my searches for these blogs, my conclusion is that my question cannot fully be answered. Both forms of treatment can be effective, especially in conjunction, but it depends on the person to determine which is most effective. We can only hope that these brain scans become more readily available in the future to determine which course of action is the right one for people suffering from mental illness.

Do dreams mean anything?

The other night, I woke up in a cold sweat. I had a strange dream where my dad drove me and the rest of my family off a bridge and into the river below (The Delaware, to be more specific). My first move upon waking up was to text my friend Fran. She’s always felt particularly drawn towards things like this – horoscopes, psychics, dream interpretation, etc. She told me something about being afraid of ‘drowning’ in my responsibilities and while she really wasn’t far off, it felt like a very general answer. Who isn’t afraid of their responsibilities in some sense? So I began to wonder if there was any scientific explanation for why we dream what we do.

My first article dealt with many different ways scientists have thought about dreams. It first detailed a study which was performed in order to pinpoint when dreams were happening, as it was theorized it was during REM sleep. REM stands for “rapid eye movement”, as the eyes of the sleeping person move back and forth during this part of the sleep cycle. Additionally, brain waves function similarly as if the person was awake. The study measured volunteer’s eye movements, brain waves, and other biological functions as they slept. Then, the researchers would wake the volunteer as they began to enter REM sleep. 80% of the volunteers said they were dreaming upon being awoken.

Two scientists, Dr. Crick and Dr. Mitchison, deny that these brain waves actually mean anything. They theorized that dreams are just meaningless brain connections happening as someone’s brain rests at the end of the day, a sort of software check that the brain does, if you will. Researchers who have continued this line of thought have also explored the idea that the strange content of dreams isn’t due to anything psychological in nature, but is due to the random nature of the brain’s activity. This article came to nothing conclusive and did not point to any significant studies besides the one that proved when dreams happened, so I continued my search elsewhere.

The second article, published in Scientific American, provided more up to date information on dreams. It discusses how technological advancement which has lead to new and better dream related theories. The two theories discussed are: “activation-synthesis hypothesis” and the “threat simulation theory”. The former argues that dreams have no intrinsic meaning. It is random brain activity that we experience by the brain taking random life experiences and relaying them as images or scenes. The idea that dreams are a story is also constructed by us, according to the hypothesis. We want to make sense of these images, so we try to make them into a narrative. The “threat simulation theory” suggests that dreams put us in situations that would prepare us for them in real life, as a sort of evolutionary tool to prepare us for threats.

However it wasn’t until recently that any concrete evidence was behind any theory related to dreams. But the article continues by saying that a study performed by the University of Rome as reported by the Journal of Neuroscience found some kind of evidence. 65 students were left to sleep in this study and woken at various intervals and asked to record in a diary whether or not they had a dream, and what it was about. The conclusion of this study corroborated the one from my first article, in that it found that waking the student up during REM sleep lead to the most dream-related recollection. However it also found that students who experienced the most low frequency activity in their frontal lobes also remembered their dreams, and as the frontal lobe is connected to the construction and retrieval of memories, it suggests that it’s quite possible that memory is connected to our dreams.

One study cannot prove this, however. So the same team of researchers then went on to look into intensely emotional dreams. Using an MRI machine, they found that the amygdala (connected to emotion and memory) and the hippocampus (connected to memory) were activated during these dreams. This is promising in suggesting that our dreams do in fact have something to do with our life experiences and may actually be connected to them in some sense. Once again, two studies don’t necessarily prove anything, but scientists seem to be getting a bit closer to answering this age old question. I think it is only in time that we will fully be able to conclude anything about dreams and our subconscious.

Are our personalities determined by genetics or do our experiences shape us?

In my philosophy class, we’ve discussed two different theories of development: the continuous model and the traumatic model. The continuous model states that who we are as adults is exactly who we were as children – just physically grown. The traumatic model takes more of a Freudian perspective in that it posits that who we are is a reflection of the traumatic experiences we had as children. This discussing had me wondering. Is there any truth to either of these models? Is it possible that both are true, or perhaps even neither? What makes us who we are?

To begin my search I conducted a Google search of my question. Through this search, I came upon a few different studies. The first, as reported in the New York Times, cited a study conducted by the University of Minnesota. The results of this study found that personality traits are mostly inherited. From 1979-1986, 350 twins pairs underwent various forms of testing, ranging from drawing blood to taking a personality evaluation test. The conclusion of the study found that more than half of the test personality traits were hereditary, as opposed to due to the person’s environment. This is further backed up when considering that out of the 350 pairs of twins studied, 65 pairs were raised apart from each other. Yet, their personalities were still remarkably similar.

The next study I found, from Edinburgh University, corroborated the first study’s findings. The university studied more than 800 sets of identical and fraternal twins in order to determine what effects nature or nurture has had on these peoples’ success in life. The participants were asked a series of questions which were then analyzed to determine the traits of the people studied. The results found that identical twins were twice as likely as the fraternal twins to have the same traits, which suggests that DNA has a strong impact on personality. It is wise to remain skeptical though, as we have learned in class that correlation does not equal causation.

Although the two studies seemed credible, I wasn’t yet convinced. I tried to find evidence of a differing scientific opinion, however, I was less than thrilled with my discovery. Researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Hamburg determined that environment plays a stronger role in shaping personality than genes, however, their study dealt with zebra finches and not humans.These finches were taken from their birth parents and placed in a foster environment. Researchers found that these foster finches had more of an influence on their children than genetics seemed to. Personality was more dependent on environment for these birds than genetics, although researchers did acknowledge that offspring size of these finches did seem to be genetically inherited.

Overall, it seemed that through the various studies I found, some not included in this post, corroborated the idea that personality is largely genetically inherited. However, this clearly isn’t the only thing that defines one’s personality. It is such a complex thing that encompasses many factors, so it is impossible to say conclusively in any of the studies that genetics is that only thing that makes up someone’s traits.

Are pets good for our health?

Sitting in my dorm today, I received a text from my mom. Upon opening it, I saw that it was a cute picture of my dog with her leash on and the message below read, “I need a walk, Sarah!” As my job at home is walking my dog, a Cocker Spaniel/Poodle mix, I felt a little sad and homesick. I know my two younger brothers aren’t taking as good of care of my dog as I would if I were home. The thought was a little frustrating. However, the question for my next blog topic came to me. Do pets increase our happiness and therefore our health? Is there anything about having a pet that makes your life intrinsically better?

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology  finds that because pets give their owners some form of socialization, it at the very least increases their levels of happiness, which in turn improves their health. A Psychology Today article also summarized a few other studies performed, which all boiled down to the answer that, yes, pets are capable of giving their owners a great outlet for socialization. They don’t exactly replace the positives that come from actual human relationships, but pet owners have been shown to have higher self esteem and be less lonely. But does the happiness these pets provide translate to better overall health?

University of Sydney researchers seem to think so. They are in the midst of a study on this exact topic, trying to determine if dog owners live longer and are at a lower risk of heart disease and depression. Another study plans to test pet owner’s level of oxytocin upon seeing their pet. Although neither of these studies have been concluded, I found it interesting that many scientists have the same hypothesis as me and I will be sure to check up on these studies after they are resolved. However, in my research a possible confounding variable did strike me. Perhaps dog owners have lower levels of heart disease and depression because they’re forced to exercise due to having a dog in the first place.

A study performed by the American Heart Association confirmed my confounding variable idea, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. They found because of the exercise that comes with owning a dog, there seems to be a correlation between pet ownership and lower cholesterol, heart rate, and blood pressure. To be fair, as this article mentions, pets are not a cure for these issues, but they do have great potential to assist you in living a healthy life.

So there have been many conclusive studies that prove that at the very least, the amount of exercise that comes from owning a pet and the companionship they offer can lead to better health. Pets may not be a cure-all, but they’re certainly something to considering owning if you’re lonely or stressed and have the time and money to care for them. That question was resolved, but unfortunately all this research just made me miss my dog more.

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Why does a British (or New Zealand) accent sound more intelligent?

My boyfriend’s father is a British national who lives in America because of his marriage. Every time he speaks, I find myself at full attention, hanging onto every word. For some reason his accent just exudes a sense of intelligence that I can’t get over. Because of this course, I’ve begun to wonder about my reaction to his accent. Is a British accent a subconscious societal indicator of intelligence? Is it just because he sounds different than I do? Or is there something more sinister at play, ie: an aftereffect of colonialism that leads me to believe that the British are superior to me? I consulted these articles in my research.

A study was performed that found that, although the results were not statistical significant, British-accented people ranked higher on intelligence and attractiveness levels than Americans, Latin Americans, and Middle Eastern people. The theory behind this study was that people with accents from historically strong nations (ie: England) would be ranked much higher than any of the other people. Because the results were not statistically significant, this claim is not actually supported. So, if science can’t help me… what next?

My next article, published by “The Conversation”, named a study done by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission which did find evidence that job recruiters did discriminate between different British accents. The “Queen’s English”, aka the most widely known iteration of the British accent despite only being spoken by 3% of the English population, was equated with a higher IQ and those people were offered jobs more frequently. On the opposite end of the spectrum are people with accents like Ozzie Osbourne, called the “Brummie accent”. The people who spoke with the dialect were ranked lower than “silence” in the study. So British people are considered to have a higher intelligence, but only if you’re from a certain group of British people. I suppose that makes sense, though, as different regional accents throughout the US have different connotations, for positive and/or negative.

My final article was also about the study done on different British accents, so I was left with no real conclusive answer to my question. The consensus from the Internet seemed to be that although there is not factual, statisical evidence that supports my claim, that perhaps just the worldwide perception of British accents leads us to believe we find them intelligent. Truly confounding. We might never know what leads us to percieve the subconscious things that we do. Until then, I will be continuing my search for an answer to this pressing question.

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Is the flu shot really worth it?

Like many other Penn State students, I am anxiously awaiting the dreaded flu season. Class attendance thins, available UHS appointments are few and far between, and the close quarters atmosphere of fraternity basements becomes increasingly daunting. Last year, in order to combat this season of sickness, I, as per usual in my household, got my flu shot. Nevertheless, I got sick.

That sickness lead me to my current question. Should I get a flu shot? Does it work? Is it all an elaborate scam? I consulted this article for advice, along with a few others.

Most of the articles addressed the first question that comes to some people’s minds as they prepare to get the shot, “Injecting me WITH the flu? Won’t that just make me sick?” The answer to that is very simply – no. Vaccines in general are made with inactive forms of the virus you’re protecting yourself from, so at most you’ll have a sore arm and occasionally a low-grade fever. Another big question that many people, including myself, have asked is, “Why do I have to get the flu shot every year?” I found that the answer to that is a little more complicated. Basically, the type of flu that appears every year changes and evolves. The flu is unpredictable and so is the person receiving the shot’s reaction to the vaccine. Scientists every year to put forth their best possible guess as to what strand of flu will appear, and base the vaccine around that.

So I wondered, if every year the vaccine is basically the equivalent of an educated guess, is it really worth it? The next article I read, from Dr. Perl Mutter, thinks not. His blog lists some statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s website, which says that the flu shot was only 23% effective in the 2014-2015 year. Dr. Mutter believes that people should not be getting flu shots and that the medical community is advertising lies. I guess I was part of that unlucky 77% last year, but the CDC has a different story when it comes to the flu shot.

Although according to Dr. Mutter the flu shot is only 23% effective, the CDC believes that there is a larger component to the flu shot. Among the overall population, the vaccine manages to reduce overall sickness by 50-60%, which is a much more optimistic number. The point of the flu shot, and every other vaccine you receive, isn’t just to keep you healthy, but it’s to keep others who may be at a greater risk healthy. This shot may not work for you personally, but it helps to keep the population as a whole satisfied and smiling.

This information inspired me to continue receiving my yearly flu shot, and I hope you all do the same. It may seem useless to you, but from a larger perspective, this shot and all other vaccines you may get keep our world healthy. If the opportunity is out there, why not take it? (Vaccination your children as well!)


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Unrequited Love

My first semester at Penn State (last fall), I was extremely excited at the prospect of majoring in Biology. I had big dreams of medical school and all the heart-pounding, Earth-shattering, life-making moments that a career in medicine would have to offer me. However, life had other plans. I withdrew from Bio 110 about halfway through the course. My breaking point came after 2 terrible exam grades, when my professor began a lecture by stating, “We are all familiar with the Krebs Cycle, but from that we get ____”, I didn’t hear the rest of that statement. I certainly was not familiar with the Krebs Cycle, so I decided to abandon ship sooner rather than later. Now I’m a Global and International Studies major with a minor in Philosophy and am much happier with that decision (well… for now). I plan on going to law school, but we’ll see how my life pans out.

So it’s not by choice that I’m taking this class as a non-science major but I’m happy that I am. Not only did it fulfill my GN requirement, but the broad topic seemed interesting and I was very excited to take a course that was geared towards non-science majors. I look forward to an engaging and interesting class.



My article is very relevant in the world today, as it has to do with Zika and the effect it has on babies. As of right now the long term effects of Zika are widely unknown, and I’m very anxious to see how this disease develops.

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