Author Archives: Zachary Weissman

Is breakfast really essential?

Growing up I was always told to eat a big, healthy breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. As I got older, I began to eat breakfast less and less. Now, like many other college students, I prefer to sleep through breakfast altogether. My roommate on the other hand is an early riser and loves to eat a big breakfast. Since I am extremely skinny, he always tells me that skipping breakfast is hurting my already poor diet. I started to wonder if what he said was true: is missing breakfast really bad for you? According to Allison Aubrey of NPR, it isn’t.

In her article, Aubrey says that extensive research dating back to the 1960’s has shown that breakfast can lead to improved health. However, this is being disputed today. Researchers in Canada studied about 12 thousand participants and monitored their eating habits in relation to their BMI (body mass index) and their weight. They found that the participants’ eating habits had no relationship with either other factor. I am a bit skeptical with this study because the researchers did not manipulate the x variable (breakfast) at all. If they had randomly chose half the participants to eat breakfast and half to skip it, then we could possibly see some causation. Instead, what they did was have the participants self-report their eating habits, which can lead to bias (people can be embarrassed about how much they eat) error (people can easily forget to write it down), or at best show us a correlation, but no causation.

David Ludwig, nutrition professor at Harvard School of Public Health, says it’s not about when we eat, it’s what we eat. He says that if you choose to eat a breakfast full of processed carbs, it’ll probably be worse for you than if you don’t eat at all. However, if you eat a breakfast full of protein, like eggs, you’ll be feeling satisfying longer. Drew Ramsey is a psychiatrist at Columbia University and he studies the link between food and mood. Ramsey also agrees that protein in the morning can help people control their appetite better. In his study, Ramsey took 57 adolescents and randomly placed them into 3 categories: low protein breakfast, high protein breakfast, and no breakfast at all. The results showed that high protein breakfasts caused people to reduce their daily intake, hunger, and they did not gain any fat.

Looking at both studies, I am more inclined to side with the fact that eating a healthy breakfast is most beneficial. Having said that, my original question was whether or not it was bad to skip breakfast altogether. While one study said you should eat a healthy breakfast and the other says it doesn’t matter, they both say that it’s not bad to miss breakfast either; it just depends on what you eat when you decide to do so. Now, I may start to eat a healthy breakfast more often, but I won’t feel guilty when I skip it entirely.



Start the Day Early or Sleep in?

Ever since I can remember, I was never much of an early riser. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. Every opportunity I get to sleep in I take full advantage. Waking up early not only seems crazy to me, but just down right impossible. Common sense would tell you that people who start the day early are probably more productive; they give themselves more time to accomplish work. However, I wanted to know for sure if I was truly at a disadvantage.

For starters, people who sleep late, or “night owls,” are more likely to drink and smoke. A Finnish study of 676 people found that night owls were much more likely to start smoking and have a harder time quitting. Another study of 537 people found that night owls consume much more alcohol as well. In a study of 1231 German university students, it was concluded that people who start the day early are much more agreeable, conscientious, and proactive than night owls. Lastly, early risers are overall happier people. In a study done by two University of Toronto psychologists, they looked at 732 people (aged 17-79) and found that people who start the day early are have a much more positive mood than those who like to sleep in.

People who start the day early are generally better off than night owls. While causation is certainly not proven, it’s hard to ignore all of these observational studies. It turns out I probably am at a disadvantage, so it might be worth a try to start the day earlier and see how it goes.




Is it Better to Work in Groups or Work Alone?

Throughout high school I never really had to put in much effort in order to do well. I didn’t study that often, I never sought out my teachers for help; I pretty much just did the bare minimum and I never had a problem getting good grades. With almost a month of college now under my belt, I realize my work ethic really has to change. Since I don’t have a ton of experience with studying, I decided to research what the best way to study was: working in groups or working alone.

I came across a study done by Gregory Walton and Priyanka Carr, an assistant professor and graduate student at Stanford (here’s the article explaining the study). In their five experiments, they found that people who worked together were more motivated to succeed than those who worked by themselves. What the participants had to do was go into separate rooms where they were told they would work on a puzzle. One group of participants were told they would either get a tip from another participant or have to give one. The other group of participants were told they would receive a tip from one of the researchers. What the participants didn’t know was they would all receive the same tip made by someone who was not involved in the task. The people who thought they were being helped by another participant, or thought they were working together, were noted as being more interested in the puzzle, being less annoyed by the puzzle, and overall put more effort into the challenge. Walton and Carr explained that it’s not a competition or an obligation that motivates people, it’s about feeling like you’re part of a team.

Does this prove that I’m going to do better if I work in groups from now on? No, of course not. This study could be a complete fluke. However, it does provide evidence that it may work, so why not give it a shot?


Working alone ‘together’ can be good motivation

Which is Better for Notes: Laptops or Pen and Paper?

Whether we like it or not, we are using technology more and more for everyday tasks. All of our assignments are handed in online, we order food online, we even pay our bills online. Everything that used to be done with pen and paper is now being done on a computer. Most recently, I found out that my old high school gave a laptop out to each student. The students have to use the laptop for all their work, including taking notes. I personally don’t know how I would get through high school if I had to do that because I prefer to write by hand. This made me wonder what the reason behind giving out laptops was. Do they think that using laptops will improve the students’ scores or do they just want to be more modern?

I decided to research whether or not it’s proven that one method is better than the other, and I stumbled upon this article. According to Pam Mueller of Princeton and Dan Oppenheimer of UCLA, students taking notes by hand are more successful in retaining information. In their study, they had college students (trials ranged from 67-151 students) watch a TED talk and take notes while they were viewing. They found that the students who were using laptops wrote almost word for word what was being said, simply because people type faster than they write. Since the students using pen and paper were writing slower, they had a better understanding of the material because they had to be more selective with what they wrote down. Afterwards, the students were asked questions about the speech, and the students writing by hand performed much better. The study showed that there was a negative correlation between the amount of words written and amount of questions answered correctly.  Even after being told not to write verbatim in a second trial, many students using laptops could not resist and performed worse again. In the third and final trial, Mueller and Oppenheimer gave the students time in-between the speech and the questions to review their notes. Once again, pen and paper won. It comes down to the fact that it’s easier to type, so you’re not comprehending  what you’re hearing, you’re just writing. When you write by hand you’re subconsciously thinking about the material as you write it, because you have to pay attention to everything that’s being said in order choose the most important points.

Based on this experiment, it’s fair to say that writing by hand is more affective than typing on a laptop. I guess my old high school just wants to be technologically up to date, and didn’t bother looking into what was in the students’ best interest.




Hi, my name is Zach Weissman and I am a freshman from Livingston, New Jersey. Being more of a math person, I always dreaded going to science class in high school. It was a constant memorization of definitions, formulas, and random facts that had just about no significance. How is knowing how photosynthesis works going to help me in life? I also did not like doing labs in science class. My teachers always said that the experiments had to be followed to a “t” in order to get the correct product, and I never understood that. For one, if there is only one right way to do it then what’s the point? Secondly, it was way too structured. The teachers gave step by step instructions on how to complete the lab, which pretty much takes all of the learning out of it. Plus, for whatever reason my high school thought it was a good idea to end lunch 15 minutes early once a week in order to give science classes more time. Needless to say, I will not be a science major here at Penn State. I am currently in DUS and would like to transfer into the Smeal College of Business.

When my temporary advisor told me at NSO that I needed to fulfill a science requirement, my first thought was, “I am not doing science all over again.” After scrolling through some classes that seemed incredibly boring, I stumbled upon SC 200. When I read the description of the class, I originally thought it was more of a current events type class than a science. Knowing this was probably going to be the best option for a science class, I enrolled immediately.

Here’s a list of how well a specific major pays out of college (P.S. business is higher than science).