Author Archives: Zachary Morris

Is Red Wine Good For You?

I’ve frequently wondered about the health benefits that come with drinking red wine in moderation. I’m familiar with the saying “a glass of wine with dinner is good for you” but I’ve always had my doubts. How could alcohol, something with so much negative connotations, be good for somebody?

Null Hypothesis: Red wine consumption does not benefit one’s health

Alternative Hypothesis: Red wine consumption has benefits to one’s health.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-11-34-00-pm

When I first searched for the benefits of red wine I was met with an endless supply of information. The first article I really dove into however, didn’t have to do with people. It had to do with mice! in 2015, Samantha Olson published an article on an experiment conducting the effects of wine on mice. The first step was to fatten up the mice. For ten weeks the mice were fed a high fat diet in order to plumpen them up for this experiment. Once fattened, half the mice were given extracts from red wine Pinot Noir grapes daily, and the other half were given regular mouse chew instead. Over the next several weeks the results began to trend in the favor of wine. The researchers noticed the mice that were given grapes had less stored liver fat and lower blood sugar. Unfortunately, the mice grew ill from diabetes and died as a result of the beginning of the experiment. While the mice died, Olson still concluded that their study helped infer positive benefits of red wine and not the opposite.

This article was informative but I questioned some of the results. I was familiar with mice being used for human experiments, but I had never heard of the entirety of the control groups dying! The ending of this experiment left me feeling peculiar about the result and I continued to research.

The next article I found was written by Mandy Oaklander in 2015. Oaklander was researching an experiment done at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel. This experiment was unique, as the scientists had very particular rules for their subjects. They only chose people who had “well controlled type two diabetes and a low risk of alcohol abuse”. People with type two diabetes are more likely than the general population to develop cardiovascular disease and to have lower levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol. They eventually found 224 subjects that met their criteria and didn’t drink wine. They split the subjects up into three random but equal groups.
Group 1 was made to drink five ounces of mineral water every day for two years.
Group 2 was made to drink five ounces of white wine every day for two years.
And yes, you guessed it! Group 3 was made to drink five ounces of red wine every day for two years.
All subjects had a very similar Mediterranean diet and while some of the food they ate varied, the scientists did a good job of avoiding confounding variables with diet. Throughout the testing, the subjects took questionnaires, had follow-up appointments, and had their blood drawn for analysis three times. This helped give scientists the most accurate read possible for the given situation. At the end of the experiment, the results were clear. Red wine drinkers had significantly increased levels of good HDL cholesterol and had beneficial cholesterol ratio’s when compared the water group. The red wine group was also the only group to experience a significant drop in components of metabolic syndication. Lastly, those who drank either kind of wine were much more likely to report good sleep than the water group. Oaklander concluded that while the exact details of the relationship cannot be identified- wine certainly has health benefits.

I was somewhat skeptical after reading my first article but this second one really helped me answer my own question. The research here, for people unhealthier than the average, suggest that their bodies enjoy red wine and the benefits that come with it. I believe it’s safe to accept the alternative hypothesis which states that red wine consumption does indeed have benefits to one’s health. I also believe it is important to remember that the second experiment was acted out with five ounces, or one cup, each night. Nobody is suggesting that wine in excess in good for you.

Works Cited:
http://www.medicaldaily.com/red-wine-burns-fat-and-lowers-blood-pressure-plus-5-other-health-benefits-winos-321382
Here’s What Happens When You Drink Red Wine Every Night

Picture:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/Food%20and%20drink/2015-08/28aug/red-wine-large.jpg

Does Smoking Pot Make You Dumber?

Once dubbed “the Devil’s lettuce”, doctors and politicians alike are beginning to see marijuana as less detrimental to a person’s health. In fact, a few states have already passed laws making the drug essentially legal. While there is much controversy over pot, one of the most frequently asked questions is “Does smoking marijuana make you dumber?” While it sounds simple, this question is extremely complex and I believe it could have a number of answers.

Null Hypothesis: Marijuana use is not at all related to a person’s IQ

Alternative Hypothesis: There are confounding factors between marijuana use and a person’s IQ

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-15-32-pm

I began research on this topic and found a surplus of articles. After sifting through and getting the main ideas, I locked in on an experiment conducted at the University of London by Claire Mokrysz. In her experiment she studied data from 2,235 teens from southwest England, who made up what she called the “Children of the 90’s”. She sought out to test the relationship between how many times someone used marijuana by age fifteen, and how high they scored on an IQ test at that same age. Importantly, Mokrysz also tested these kids at age eight, before any of them had any idea what marijuana was. At first glance, the results seemed to link pot use to lower scores immediately. However, as Mokrysz explained, the kids who smoked pot at that age were also far more likely to use cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs. For example, of the fifteen year olds categorized in the “heavy smoker” group, (those who had used 50 or more times) 84% had admitted to using cigarettes in excess of 20 times. The rate of smoking 20+ cigarettes for children who had never used pot was a mere 5%. Taking into consideration all the other factors that came with children who used marijuana before the age of fifteen, Mokrysz concluded that smoking marijuana does not lower a person’s IQ.
I found this experiment to be interesting, but questioned the limitations of Mokrysz’ work. These limitations, to me, included the young ages of participants and the relatively moderate level of pot use.

Another article I read regarding marijuana use and a person’s IQ was published earlier this year by Emily Underwood. In this article Underwood refers to an experiment in which scientists compared IQ changes among twins who either used or abstained from weed for a ten year period. They monitored 789 pairs of twins from Los Angeles and Minnesota. Each pair was enrolled sometime from the ages of nine to eleven, and were given five tests each over the ten year period. In addition, the scientists monitored alcohol and other drug use. From test four to five, the scientists noted that marijuana users went down an average of four IQ points. This would be very conclusive evidence if not for the second part- their pot-free twins regressed about the same amount during that time period! This suggests that other factors also play a role in brain development. The head of this experiment, professor Nicholas Jackson, concluded “Our findings lead us to believe that ‘something else’ it related to something about the shared environment of twins, which would include home, school, and peers.”

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-39-05-pm

While these are solid, more recent studies, I still believe it is appropriate to reject the null hypothesis. Despite claims that the effects are indirect, marijuana clearly acts as a gateway drug for many teens and these results cannot be completely denied. Based on my research, I think it is safe to accept the alternative hypothesis in this instance. Marijuana use and a person’s IQ are seemingly impossible to measure accurately because there are so many other factors that go into a person’s life in the time necessary to conduct a convincing experiment. I don’t think it is safe to say marijuana has no effect on a person’s brain; but I also don’t agree with the saying “Marijuana use makes you dumber”. However, I do believe that marijuana use, particularly at a young age, often leads kids to make poor decisions that can hurt them in the long run.

Works Cited:
https://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2016/jan/14/does-cannabis-really-lower-your-iq
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/twins-study-finds-no-evidence-marijuana-lowers-iq-teens

Pictures:
http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=61245
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/content/images/articles/246/246392/fingers-holding-a-marijuana-leaf.jpg

Are we Conscious of Procrastination?

Procrastination is something that we have all dealt with at one time or another. It’s no coincidence that the blog site is always backed up closer to the due dates! People tend to think they have more time than they really do, and deadlines creep up on procrastinators like a thief in the night. Time and time again I’ve seen people cramming for a test or paper, and going crazy doing so. But is procrastination something people are conscious of?

Null Hypothesis: Procrastination is not something people are conscious of

Alternative Hypothesis: Procrastination is something people are conscious of

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-8-46-22-pm

According to a recent study, procrastination is indeed a serious problem, but one that can also be avoided. Parent-child relationships as well as quality of home life can often play big roles in the development of procrastination. For example, the children of very controlling parents are more likely to become procrastinators when compared to children of less controlling parents. This is because they don’t manage themselves without their parents constantly pushing them to do so. The study also mentions that procrastination is linked to repeated lying, the fear of failure, and alcohol and drug consumption. It goes on to state the main reasons why people are procrastinators:

  • The biggest reason is that some people actually like the thrill of last minute work. As I sit here during the last few hours of this blog period, I can’t wrap my head around who could possibly like that- but that’s for another time.
  • The second biggest reason is that people are scared to fail. While this one seems obvious, it is a serious problem for some people. If you are scared to fail you are often scared to try; and if you are scared to try… that’s not good.
  • The third biggest reason is for those who can’t make a decision. Some people get caught in their own mind and wind up going back and forth wasting time without even realizing it.

The article finishes by giving a last warning. It states that procrastination can even be the root of some health problems. The article then relates college-aged kids getting the flu and colds to procrastination.

A second article I read, by John Perry, sheds a completely different light on this whole question. This article had to do with “structured procrastination.” Perry’s writing seemingly tried to justify procrastination. He stated that some people like to knock out all the small tasks first, and leave the tough, time consuming ones for later. He does recognize that the mind of a procrastinator thinks differently, and he seems to take that into account while writing. However, I cannot agree that procrastination has any positive affect on a person.

In conclusion, I accept the alternative hypothesis. While these articles were very different in both style and substance, they each confirmed to me that procrastinators do indeed choose to be just that. I believe procrastination is a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of when somebody starts.

What Causes Hiccups?

Hiccups are generally harmless. For most people, they come and go unexpectedly and are more an annoyance than anything. However for some people, hiccups can be serious. While it’s very rare, some people can get persistent hiccups. Persistent hiccups are categorized as hiccups that last more than 48 hours. Hiccups that last more than two months are called intractable, or hard to manage. However, these types of hiccups are extremely rare, and for now I want to focus on only the simpler cases.

My relationship with hiccups can best be described by the old saying “When it rains, it pours.” I don’t hiccup all that often, but when I do I can usually count on a rapid succession. For years I’ve wondered: “Where do these even come from? What part of my body is responsible for this?”

Confusion1

The body part to blame is the diaphragm.

 

The diaphragm is responsible for providing the body its’ proper flow of oxygen. It almost always works flawlessly, without you even having to think about it. But like any body part, sometimes the diaphragm can become irritated. If this happens, one might suck air into their throat suddenly. If this trapped air hits you’re voice box, you are left with a hiccup! This can be due to swallowing too much air, but also occurs from: overeating, the carbonation in drinks like soda, and many other factors.
Hiccups are often sudden and involuntary. When the diaphragm muscles contract, the opening between your vocal cords is snapped shut to check the inflow of air and your left making a “hiccup” sound.
According to research, another major cause of hiccups is injury/irritation to the phrenic nerve or the vagus. The phrenic nerve and the vagus help control the movement of one’s diaphragm. If these parts are hurt or irritated, it’s very easy to notice the trickle down effect on the diaphragm.
Other research has also linked the CNS (central nervous system) to hiccups. The CNS, or the brain and spinal cord, are accountable for just about all of the human functions. If either of these body parts take damage, a person could lose the ability to control hiccups.
To me, it’s clear that hiccups are caused by a number of things- many which revolve around the irritation of one’s diaphragm.

hiccups

There are many famous remedies for hiccups. Some of the most classic examples include being scared by somebody else, chugging a glass of water, and swallowing a mouth full of sugar. Here is a list of what are considered the five most effective ways to deal with hiccups:
Being scared- badly
Drinking an entire glass of water without stopping
Eating a big spoonful of peanut butter
Drinking a couple sips of hot sauce
Breathing slowly into and out of a brown paper bag
Works Cited:

Hiccups Cure: How to Stop Hiccups With 9 Quick Tricks


http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/01/09/what-causes-hiccups.aspx
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiccups/basics/causes/con-20031471

Does the Weather Affect Your Mood

I have always been fascinated by the weather. I grew up just outside New York City and every season brought it’s own ups and downs. Each day was unique in that type of climate, and I quickly figured out what kind of weather I preferred. I dreaded the rain and wind but loved sunshine and snow, both in moderation. My sister on the other hand, loved the rain and hated the snow, in any kind. That always puzzled me- how people living in the same conditions could have such different preferences on the weather. For both of us, the different types of weather seemed to impact our outlooks on those days. I wondered if these outlooks were indeed because of the weather or based on some confounding variable. It made me ask the question, how does weather affect someones mood?

Null Hypothesis: The weather does not affect people’s moods in any way

Alternative Hypothesis: The weather affects people’s moods in different ways, depending on confounding variables

child-and-rain

 

I began to research this topic, and came across a March 2016 article written by Dr. Joseph Mercola. In his research, Mercola sought out ways in which the weather was in fact related to someone’s mood. The first thing that stuck out to me had to do with serotonin. Serotonin levels, which are associated with mood elevation, increased with brightness and decreased with a lack of sun exposure. Dr. Mercola stated that this was one explanation for why people who suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) benefited from bright light therapy. Later in the article, Mercola stated established research on this topic was gained from two primary factors: the season and how much time is spent outside. He went on to list many ways in which the weather and moods were indeed related. These included:
-A research study published in The Journal of Finance associating sunshine with higher stock returns, but not rain or snow
-Department of Justice records stating crime rates increase during the summer months
-Research taken on 682 actual university admissions showing favoritism towards academics over extra-curricular activities on cloudy days as opposed to sunny days
The list went on and on. From all of Mercola’s research, I concluded that I should reject the null hypothesis. It seemed clear to me that weather had some sort of impact on a person’s mood.

A second study I examined was done by John M. Grohl. Like Mercola, Grohl sought out to prove that their was a clear relationship between weather and mood. One major piece of work he covered was that of Klimstra (2011). In his experiments, Klimstra studied 415 adolescents and the change of their moods with the weather. He found that about half of his subjects were impacted by the weather, while the other half were not. He accredited this to different types of personality regarding the weather. He further broke this down by assigning four groups linked to weather personality: Summer lovers, summer haters, rain haters, and unaffected by weather. These groups were based on statistics showing that the summer caused the most drastic behavioral changes among seasons, and the same of rain in terms of precipitation. What he found was that:
17% of people were summer lovers. “Happier, less fearful, and less angry on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures. More hours of precipitation was associated with less happiness and more anxiety and anger.”
27% of people were summer haters. “Less happy and more fearful and angry when the temperature and the percentage of sunshine were higher. With more hours of precipitation they tended to be happier and less fearful and angry.”
9% of people were rain haters. “Angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. By comparison, they were more happy and fearful, but less angry, on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.”
And lastly, 48% of people were unaffected by weather. “Largely un-impacted by changes in the weather.”
Based on this experiment, Grohl concluded that weather seemed to have a real impact on a person’s mood, but that it was dependent upon many factors.

sad-dis-happy

After researching this topic through the works of two different people, I’ve concluded to accept the alternative hypothesis. I think the majority of people can agree that the weather does have some type of impact on most people’s thoughts or moods. After the research backed up that, I was quickly able to eliminate the null hypothesis. At that point, I narrowed in on the idea that confounding variables could be responsible for the affect of weather on people’s moods. Through the studied research it was clear to me that other variables such as time spent outside, climate, and age all play huge roles on the other variables of this study.

Works Cited

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/08/29/can-weather-affect-your-mood/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/31/weather-affects-mood.aspx

How to Fix a Cheating Enviroment

From the first test I can remember taking, I can remember people cheating. Since elementary school, big tests have caused nervousness, uncertainty, and self-doubt for myself and for many other students. The pressure that comes with big tests can sometimes be unbearable, and often drives students to do the one thing they’re taught not to do the most: cheat.

James W. Lang, author of Cheating Lessons, offers his insight over three articles on the matter of cheating both historically and in present time. He covers all the bases; initially speaking on why, how, and when people cheat before moving to ways to help prevent and limit cheating.

In his first article, Lang refers to a researcher names Dan Ariely. Ariely created environments that made cheating easier and environments that made it harder for his subjects when he conducted his tests. To mine nor your surprise, the individuals with less at stake, for whatever reason, cheated more often. Whether it was an incentive like money or simply how close they felt they were being monitored, the people with less to lose consistently cheated more often than the others. Ariely referred to this as “The Fudge Factor”, concluding that individuals are more likely to cheat in the right situation. Lang uses another example, the “Princess Alice” test, to illustrate that cheating can be controlled, but there are very specific methods that need to be taken.

Lang then switches gears in his second article and references a 1994 study led by the United States and Japanese researchers. This study, led by George Diekhoff, intended to uncover the difference in cheating rates in different demographics. The group interviewed thousands of students in Texas and Japan. The average age of the Texan students was younger than the Japanese, so the researchers, like myself, assumed the Texans would have a much higher cheating rate. However, what they found was quite the opposite. A mere 26% of United States student admitted to cheating while a whopping 55% of Japanese students did! Puzzled by the results, the team took a step back. They looked deeper into what must be causing the massive cheating. Japanese students, as opposed to the Americans, took one final exam at the end of each class. Talk about a make or break! I mean no home works, no quizzes, no participation, none of it. It all boils down to one final exam for them and that’s whats driven so many of them to cheat. What Lang took away from all this is of great significance- students do better in an environment that provides frequent, low pressure opportunities (i.e more home works, quizzes, participation) rather than one were everything is riding on one or two exams. I find this to be extremely accurate for myself as well as my peers. The less pressure that comes with each class, the less stress that comes with each class. Lowering students’ stress levels and our need to feel like we NEED an A+ every time we click submit will directly help cheating rates decline.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-7-55-19-pm

In his third piece, Lang opens with stats from a 1963 research study held by William J. Bowers. Mr. Bowers went to over one hundred schools and identified the thirteen different types of acts that he considered cheating. The results he got were staggering: roughly 75% of college students admitted to have had cheated before. Fifty years later, Donald McCabe picked up where Bowers left off and essentially ran the same study. His results? Roughly the exact same, he discovered a %60-70 cheating rate. Overall, Lang concluded that the students are not going to be the one’s to change the system, it must be the faculty.

Cheating is so punishable yet so common. How do we make it end? All of the above information suggests the best way to stop cheating is to increase learning. The best way to increase learning is to keep your students engaged. Lang made an excellent point at the end of his third article regarding how to keep students engaged. He stated “With five minutes left in class, ask students to close their notebooks, take out half a sheet of paper, and write down the most important concept (or two, or three) that they learned in class that day.” Its the little things like these that will a) keep kids more engaged and with the big picture and b) make them feel more confident and comfortable with the everyday material they are taught. They should be taking frequent, low stake exams that they feel comfortable with on rather than being handed an extensive exam with over a months’ worth of work. If students are interested and don’t feel such extreme pressure, the cheating rate is almost guaranteed to go down. The best defense against cheating is simply to take the pressure off. Students’ wouldn’t feel the same urgency and desperation that often leads to cheating if they didn’t feel the hot pressure beating down on them.

These articles helped me recognize that while cheating is a huge problem, it is solvable to some extent. The more we can prevent cheating, the more student’s will actually learn. Student and faculty alike need to do their part in facilitating the collective effort to stop cheating.