Author Archives: vek5025

Should We All Become Vampires?

What if we could give older people a young person’s blood to make them feel or look younger? A scene straight out of Dracula probably comes to mind. When we think about the advancement of stem-cell research and repairing worn body parts, this concept does not seem very far off. What I would like to research (my hypothesis) is that young blood could cause an older person to feel young. This is also my alternative hypothesis and my null hypothesis is that young blood would not have an effect on an older person.


There were several studies from Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Stanford University which involved experiments on young and old mice. The Harvard Stem Cell Institute found that as cells in a mice’s body age, they send out changed signals to stem cells which causes less production in blood cells. Their experiment was fusing a young mouse’s blood with an aged mouse’s blood and seeing what affect there was on the older mouse. They found that there could be a reverse effect on the signals sent to stem cells. The stem cells could be told my newer blood to continue the production of blood cells. Young blood in an older mouse’s body lead to blood stem cells taking on younger stem cell characteristics and tissues appeared more youthful.

The Stanford experiments involved the same experimental setup, but they were focused on slightly different objectives. After infusing old mice with young blood, the mice performed better on spatial memory tests than old mice who had old blood. This experiment had a control group which did not receive new blood. The dependent variable was performance on the spatial memory tests and the independent variable was the type of blood the mouse had. Scientists of this study believe that young blood recharged the older mice’s brains.


In both of these studies, there was not information given on how many mice were tested or for how long the young blood would help the older mice. It also seems important to mention that mice have been the only animal tested for this and we are unaware of what effect would take place on humans. However, The Harvard Stem Cell Institute hopes to experiment on humans in the future and believes this could help those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. It was not mentioned whether young blood could make an organism appear younger so I think that image only comes from Hollywood movies. In conclusion, if an older person is offered an infusion of a younger person’s blood (and that person has been tested), it does not seem harmful to accept.

Are People Who Wear Glasses Smarter?

Within recent years, glasses have held a significant place in the fashion world and maintain their desirability as styles change. This is a major change from the time when wearing glasses meant you would be called “four eyes” by bullies. Using Steve Urkel as an example, you were considered a nerdy bookworm for wearing a mandatory aid on your face. This makes me wonder where did the stereotype of wearing glasses and higher intelligence come from? Apparently near-sighted folks started wearing glasses back in the 1200s, but if they have been around for so long is there truth to the association between higher intelligence and wearing glasses? My hypothesis and alternative hypothesis are that people who require glasses have higher intelligence. The null hypothesis is that there is not a connection between needing glasses and having high intelligence.



Researchers at the University Medical Center in Germany performed an observational study on 4,600 Germans between the ages of 35 and 74. Some of these participants had myopia, which is the scientific term for near-sightedness. What they found was that 53 percent of college graduates had the eye condition and those with more education were more myopic. The takeaway from that is that people who need glasses are more likely to continue onto higher education. To take this further would mean that more education means higher intelligence. A publication states that longitudinal studies show that brighter students become more educated and more educated students are brighter. At that point, I began to question if there could be reverse causation. I tried to find research about poor eyesight being caused by reading, but I could not find any. If there was sufficient research that showed the more that a person reads, the worse eyesight they have then we could make a case for reverse causation as a possibility. That would be due to the fact that school required reading thus more schooling should mean more reading.

It would be difficult to set up an experiment on this study, because there are many confounding variables. People can be intelligent genetically, it could depend on the topic being discussed, intelligence could depend on upbringing, and there are many different ways to view intelligence. If there was an experiment where some took a test while wearing glasses and some took the test who did not need glasses many other things would have to be considered. In conclusion, I do not think a reasonable person should go out and purchase expensive glasses that they do not need in an effort to make themselves more intelligent. I do not think that would make sense, but perhaps there is a link between already having poor eyesight and having higher intelligence.


Does Being Bored Give Us More Creativity?

Thanksgiving Break has just ended which is typically a time for getting together with family on Thursday and shopping the malls with family or friends the next day. Many of us probably spent time with high school friends we have not seen in months or reunited with our beloved pets. Since it was a week long, there was plenty of free time to do whatever we wanted. This also might have lead to some of us feeling bored and trying to entertain ourselves in some manner. Are we aware when we are bored? How do we decide what to do when we are in a state of boredom? This reminded me of my high school Science teacher who used some tricks to help his daughters to be creative. He told us that he limited which toys his daughters could play with at a given time, because he wanted them to be creative with activities to do with those toys. He felt that if they could have any toy whenever they wanted, they would be less creative and enjoy the excessive resources of entertainment without using their brains. I wonder if this is true for all of us… does being bored force us to be more creative?


First, I needed to define what “boredom” really is scientifically. An article written by professors at York University did that and their findings can be summarized in a few main points. They found that boredom occurs when humans have an inability to focus on our surroundings. When this occurs, we are self-aware about our own boredom and we recognize that we cannot keep focus. So when we were saying that we were bored over break, it really means that our current surroundings are not holding our attention. I wonder if that causes us to find new surroundings or objects that will hold our attention since we know that we are not focusing on our current environment.  From this piece of research, we now have the knowledge that boredom happens, because of the environment that one is in.

My hypothesis is that low-stimulation environments cause people to be more creative. This would be my alternative hypothesis as well. The null hypothesis is that low-stimulation environments do not have an effect on people’s creativity.


Luckily, two studies were executed to test this idea. The first study required a group to read  literature that was considered boring then perform a creative task. The control group did not have a specific “boring” activity to do prior to doing creative work. One issue is if a participant is actually intrigued by the literature and does not become bored by it. This was improved for the second study which offered varying types of boring activities in addition to a control group. Still, with these differences the results were the same for both studies. The specific numbers from the studies are not given, but it is stated that the findings suggest that participating in boring activities leads to an increase in creativity.In addition to that, boring reading activities lead to more creativity than partaking in boring writing activities. An issue is that the first study had 80 participants and the latter had 90 so the sample sizes could have been higher. Some confounding variables could be variation in what activities people think are boring, different levels of creativity, etc. I think that it is also suspicious that the article is not more specific about the findings of the two studies. What we can take away from this is that boredom, which is typically seen negatively, could potentially have some benefits after all.


Wine Without the Whining

Recently I have seen advertisements on Facebook about a device that takes the fear of hangovers away from drinking wine. Of course that sounds like a dream come true, but I wonder if this claim is scientifically based or just strategic marketing. The specific product that I am looking into is called Ullo. Ullo is a startup from Chicago with the mission of bringing wine back to its natural state. After watching Ullo’s story video, I learned several things. First, the creators of this product have chemistry or vineyard/ wine-making backgrounds which could make them more credible than someone with a total unrelated background. Second, I learned that their product attempts to trap the sulfites used to preserve the wine to bring the wine back to its natural taste. Lastly, their product is said to have an aeration function that can be turned on or off to add flavor, specifically to red wine. After hearing all of this, I think that their product sounds very appealing, but how valid are all of these claims?


Next, I decided to find some scientific sources to confirm that sulfites can act as a causal agent for hangovers or at least see if there is a correlation between amount of sulfites consumed and severity of hangover after drinking. On Google Scholar I found a post which discusses sulfites in wine and the trend of consumers paying more for sulfite-free wine. Since the 1980s, the FDA has required sulfites to be on wine labels because they can be hazardous to about 1% of the population. For these sulfite-sensitive consumers, sulfite intake can lead to difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and stomach pain. Typically, we associate hangovers with headaches, nausea, and fatigue so it is interesting that this article does not link any of those symptoms with sulfite intake. Although there is a very small number who are sulfite-sensitive, anecdotal evidence and articles show that a much higher percentage of the population reports headaches after drinking small amounts of sulfites. So we can not state that sulfites in wine is a direct cause of hangovers, but since many people have complained there could possibly be a correlation. There would also be confounding variables like amount of wine consumed, amount of water consumed to keep hydrated, variations in a drinker’s tolerance, other alcoholic drinks consumed on the same days, and others. Another scholarly journal article admits that the cause of hangovers are still unknown. Research on the topic has only used anecdotes and questionnaire-based approaches so I can not confirm that there is a direct causation between sulfite intake and hangover intensity.


When it comes to the topic of aerating wine, there is a patent for a method of aeration. This patent discusses the benefits and improvement of taste. I recognize that there may be some bias with a patent positively marketing its product. Unfortunately, when I looked for university studies or scholarly articles on the topic, there were not any substantial articles. I have had some difficulty finding proper research for this piece, but I have learned several things. It appears that scientists have not put much focus on researching sulfites in wine, wine taste or wine aeration. I think that there is a lot of room for research in this area, especially with wine’s popularity increasing with millennials. I can not draw a specific conclusion based off of the information that I found so all that I can do is leave a recommendation. Ullo’s wine purifiers are $79.99 which is expensive and that money could buy several bottles of wine. I do not think that a product at that price is worth it since the product is not 100% backed by science, but another option is using reviews as anecdotal evidence and deciding whether the investment is worth it. After all of this research, I cannot confirm or deny that Ullo’s products 100% work. Since the product is $79.99, I do not think that it is logical for a Penn State student to purchase the item. That is a lot of money for a product that only works based on a few consumer’s anecdotes.



Grocery Store Hunger

We have all had that feeling of browsing the grocery aisles on an empty stomach. Suddenly, everything in the store looks like the tastiest thing that we have ever seen and we can not wait to eat everything that we are purchasing. Not only have I been in this situation as a grocery shopper, I have also been on the other side of the counter as a cashier. I worked at a local grocery store for a year and a half and on a regular basis customers would admit that they bought more than they should have, because they were hungry. A lot of times that was their justification for buying cakes, donuts, ice cream, cookies or a whole pizza. Now that I buy my own groceries for my apartment I find myself justifying the purchase of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, because it looked good at the store and I had not eaten yet that morning. After my own experiences and hearing the experiences of many shoppers, I have developed the hypothesis that we buy more food at the grocery store when we are hungry than if we have recently consumed food.

Image result for grocery store hunger
I found a study done by Cornell University which brings data from an experiment to my hypothesis. The information that Cornell had before their own study was that a person eats and buys an increased amount of food after fasting (USC Study). The reason for this is not explicitly stated in the article, but I think that the body is in survival mode and will eat a lot to make up for the fact that it has been deprived. It reminds me of the Snicker’s commercials where they say “You’re not you when you’re hungry”, because maybe we act more animal-like and impulsive to ensure that we have a full stomach once again. Another study presented at a conference for The Society for the Study of Ingestion Behavior explains why our primal instincts come out when we are hungry. There are higher levels of a hormone called Ghrelin which was found to cause participants to pay more for food than if they had lower levels of the hormone. Ghrelin levels rise when we are hungry and could potentially cause us to make irrational decisions to satisfy our appetite. Knowing this information already, Cornell took things a step further.

Cornell’s study took into account how healthy the foods were that a person chooses to eat after being hungry. Participants were asked to fast for five hours prior to the experiment and then they were split into two groups. One group was not given any food while the other was told to eat from a plate of crackers until they felt satisfied. Next, they were told to shop in a fake online grocery store. The results showed that shoppers who were given the crackers before shopping chose less high-calorie foods than shoppers who were left hungry. In conclusion, food deprivation, even short-term, could lead to higher calorie food purchases.

In this experiment, the food given to participants was the control. The independent variable was the amount of food given to participants before shopping and the dependent variable was the amount of high-calorie items selected. In my opinion, there could be an argument for reverse causation. For example, if I knew that I was buying a high-calorie item to eat, maybe I would not eat prior to grocery shopping. I think that for the most part this experiment was done pretty well. They conducted this test over two days during two different times. Low-calorie alternatives were offered that were substitutes to high-calorie offerings which is similar to products in a typical grocery store. This gave participants the option to choose either one so that we could test which they would buy in real life. Some confounding variables could be differences in lifestyle, familiarity with food choices, preferences and age. There were 68 participants so I think that it would be a good idea to test more people on this and look for any patterns in gender, age, nationality, etc.


Long Commutes Unhealthy?

This past summer, I had a wonderful experience interning with a company’s Supply Chain department. Since Supply Chain is my major, I could not pass up this opportunity, but what could be negative about this position? The only problem was that the headquarters was located about fifty minutes from my house. I live in a suburb northeast of Philadelphia and this company was located over the bridge in South Jersey. The drive was about sixty minutes in the morning and a horrible hour and fifteen minutes on the way home in rush hour traffic. One of my coworkers actually told me that he had read an article stating that if you commute more than thirty minutes to a job that you are actually losing money. In addition to that fact, I assumed that it could not be healthy to have such a long commute each day so I researched how a long commute can affect your health.

According to this Time article, a long commute where you are inactive can be harmful for several different reasons. A major issue is stress from a long commute. I could definitely see how that is unhealthy, especially since I had to sit in bad rush hour traffic each day instead of relaxing. It is also detrimental to your health to have a longer commute, because all of that time in a car is spent sitting. I also sat at my desk for hours at work all day so I was inactive for most of my day. The article claims that this can lead to weight gain which is also unhealthy of course.

It is clear that it is better for someone’s health to have a shorter commute to work. The article also gives several recommendations such as standing on public transportation instead of sitting and listening to relaxing music to relieve stress.

Your Long Commute Is Making You Gain Weight

Can we get rid of jet lag?

Everyone who has ever travelled before is familiar with jet lag. I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris a few years ago and my body did not transition to a different time zone very well at all. So I wondered whether there is a way to reduce feelings of jet lag. Some research brought me to a Business Insider article which promotes  the benefits of a new Boeing plane. What is so special about this plane you may ask? It claims to reduce passenger’s feelings of jet lag. A very key point is that our fatigued jet lag feelings may not be due to jet lag at all. There is strong evidence that we actually feel affects of acute mountain sickness. Acute mountain sickness happens to people who are over 6,500 feet so it makes sense that plane passengers would feel this. Because cabin pressure is similar to air pressure outside of the plane, passengers experience decreased oxygen pressure.


Image from article

Boeing has created the 787 Dreamliner which has a lowered cabin altitude. They did this by increasing the air pressure in the cabin. The cabin is pressurized at 6,000 feet so there is more oxygen and passenger’s bodies do not have to work as hard to function. This is a major step, because acute mountain sickness is a serious problem and this is the first plane to address the issue. In the past, planes have not had lowered cabin altitude, because the air pressure would put more pressure on the plane’s frame. However, Boeing claims that their knowledge of planes allowed them to figure out a way to prevent the plane from getting fatigued. In conclusion, I think that this will become a standard for airplanes. Many people complain about the discomfort of flying and there is a major push for living healthier so I think that this will become a popular trend and people would even pay more to ride in one of these planes.

Runner’s Fighting “Runner’s Knee”

As someone who loves running, I decided that I wanted to post a blog about this exercise. This past summer, I trained for my first half marathon race so I know first-hand that this healthy activity can also be tough on joints and causes many injuries. I know of many other runners who injured themselves while training for a race and I am constantly told by others that I need to watch out for “runner’s knee”. My previous knowledge on “runner’s knee” is that running takes a toll on joints and is tough on the knee so many runners end up with injuries in that area. Contrary to popular belief, a study in the Huffington Post states that middle-aged adults who run more have less knee pain. This might not be causation;however, because this lack of pain can be attributed to other factors, such as having other healthy habits and having more durable muscles compared to non-runners. The article also states that other studies have found similar results where running is not a direct cause of joint paint or arthritis in the knee.


Image found here

Although this first article does not associate running with knee pain, I found another interesting article which discusses treatments that pro-athletes use to alleviate knee pain that they have. There is a method called dry needling which uses a needle to help fight pain in sore muscle areas. It is a very similar practice to acupuncture, but some experts do not suggest overdoing this therapeutic technique. Ohio State researchers are looking into whether this therapy affects the way we feel pain by our brain and our spinal cord. Dry needling appears to be a good practice to alleviate the pain in their knees by increasing blood flow in that area. So even if knee pain is not caused by extensive running, many athletes-runners especially, are turning to this technique of dry needling to soothe their aches and pains.

Microscopic organisms were never my forte

Hey everyone! My name is Valerie and I am a senior. I have always been interested in science and breakthroughs that happen in scientific research, because they are so important to our everyday lives. Although I’ve had interest, science was usually my weakest subject. My issue with high school science classes were that a lot of the concepts that we were tested on were things that were not visible to the human eye. For example, it is difficult for me to visualize atoms so I always had trouble understanding them and how something so small could connect back to my life. I took a Science 2.0 course in high school which was all about current scientific topics and we even spent a few classes watching the movie, Inception, and discussing theories. I really enjoyed that class, because it felt relevant. Still, I am not a science major, because I never did well when I was tested in my traditional science classes. I prefer business and learning about Supply Chains.I did not plan to take a Science gen-ed my Senior year, but after doing miserably in Astrology last semester I needed three more credits. I am taking this course, because I have heard that it helps you gain appreciation for Science.

I recently heard  this about bananas going extinct. The article is a a little old, but I heard about the potential for bananas going extinct just this week. I would like to learn more about this, because I love chocolate banana smoothies.

Especially from Starbucks like this:


choc banana smoothie