By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
It’s about to be finals week and I’m stressing. I heard this myth once that college was supposed to be super fun with parties and football games and really chill class schedules, but that’s not the case at Boston University.
All I can think about are my 20-page papers, editorial projects and exams. And then, when I have the urge to give up, I get up, go into the kitchen and grab some Funyuns… and chocolate covered pretzels, and why not grab some Santa shaped cookies and heat up the pizza rolls and whatever else I can carry with me to the couch?
So basically, I have a feast — like straight up “the Last Supper,” with just with me and my textbooks, all in the hopes of de-stressing.
But honestly, can stress actually make us hungry for junk food? Let me tell you, #thestressisreal.
According to Kevin Laugero, a Research Nutritionist at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center/ARS/USDA and a Professor of Nutrition at the University of California Davis, we don’t actually eat more overall, we just alter what we eat. It’s no wonder why salad eaters switch to some good ol’ Velveeta mac and cheese during finals week.
The study, published in Popular Science compares human food habits with that of rodents, which is a little demeaning, but strangely accurate. Scientists have studied rats coping mechanisms with stress by cramming them into Plexiglas tubes or small areas (kind of sounds like a cubicle at the library, huh?)
When cooped in a small area for hours, scientists found that the rats lost their appetite for any type of healthy food, but were much more willing to eat junk food. I’m guessing the premise of “Ratatouille” may have some odds against it.
When animals get stressed they need additional energy to power through to escape being hunted. So, their bodies produce cortisol. This hormone triggers glucose stored in the fat and muscle and this is what motivates animals to find food that has the most calories in it. Similarly, we have comparable eating habits when it comes to stress, except we’re not running away from a predator — we’re running away from finals and trying to find comfort in a large tub of pistachio ice cream or what have you.
The thing is, stress does in fact affect us and our eating habits. To the extent that it affects 80 percent of the population, according to Popular Science. We’re all a little stressed out. Especially with finals approaching, don’t you just feel like you can take over the world when you’re “carbing” out? Well, at least until you go into a food coma, stress out about that and binge again…
Watch the video below to see something that might feel vaguely familiar to finals week:
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
I’m the worst liar. It sounds silly to admit because “everyone lies,” but I don’t have a knack for it. I’d divert my eyes, start to giggle or smile and run away.
A lie, for me, is kind of like stilettos. They are super cute, but if you wear them for six hours, they get tiring. You get blisters and callused heels and it’s almost not worth it. I’m a wedges girl myself, but those who like the long heels prepare themselves. And while girls prepare with band-aids and insoles, fibbers do their part to prepare too.
As painful as heels are, it’s much easier to pretend like those Louboutin’s don’t hurt after years of prep and practice. In the same way, people who lie are prone and do it more easily if they’ve prepped themselves with dialogue, scenarios, cue cards — you name it. Even on the spot lies have to be formulated somehow.
The fact of the matter is, it takes more effort to lie than to tell the truth, and why? Because it takes more brainpower to be a sly fox than to be an innocent sheep.
Brain imaging studies show just that. Xiaoqing Hu, a psychology doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, discovered that lying takes more of a mental effort than telling the truth because being honest is actually a natural default, and in order to come up with a dishonest response, we have to activate it.
In this study, Hu and his team asked volunteers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about themselves like their birthday or where they’re from. In some cases, they were told to tell the truth and in and in other cases, they were instructed to lie.
It was found that volunteers took longer to answer the question when they lied, but they actually were much faster to respond when they were telling the truth. However, when the researchers informed the volunteers what the study was about and were instructed to lie as best as they could, the results were different. Volunteers responded much quicker than originally and they lied even faster when they had time to prepare. Volunteers were almost as quick as when they said the truth, so now we can’t even tell! Great.
Hu’s next plan is to test the time it takes volunteers to lie with preparation to when they tell the truth.
The thing is, it’s much harder to keep up with all the lies over the years. It takes cognition, memorization, spontaneity… So, I guess honesty is actually the best policy, unless you get better at the latter.
To watch some true craftiness, see the video below:
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
Thanksgiving is the one time of year when you can eat as much as you want and not feel guilty about it. Naturally, it’s one of my favorite holidays. There’s so much to choose from at Thanksgiving dinner; from turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing to arroz con gandules, ensalada de papa and jamon…well, I grew up in Miami, so that’s my tradition #fakehispanic.
But at the end of the night with two (or maybe three) helpings, don’t you just feel like going into a food coma? We tend to blame it on the turkey because that’s our tradition too. Eat lots of turkey and then blame our sleepiness on eating so much of it. What if I told you that our tradition of accusing the turkey for our “after-dinner hibernation” is just a myth? I know, mind blown.
Now, before you go crazy like a headless turkey, just remember, I’m helping you out because who wants to miss out on the main course? So eating turkey can make you sleepy, but so can other types of meat like chicken or beef. Turkey has this amino acid called tryptophan, which our bodies use to build proteins and help us function properly. It’s used to make serotonin, which is a chemical that affects our sleeping patterns. So, we’ve found the culprit, right?
Actually, no. Remember, lots of foods we eat contain tryptophan, other than meat, like eggs, fish, soy and spinach and I certainly don’t feel like dropping into a deep sleep eating tilapia. What makes eating turkey on Thanksgiving any different?
Well, on top of turkey, we’re eating a lot of carbs, which triggers a release of insulin. These carbohydrates give us a higher amount of insulin than normal and with all the pumpkin pies, Snickerdoodles and pudding, we’re probably getting the highest levels of insulin we’re had all year.
The increase in insulin is important because insulin helps amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier, and thus, we get a rise in serotonin and melatonin in our brain. Because these both regulate sleep, we’re at a higher risk of getting a food baby and knocking out. Eating a lot can make you tired too, just saying. The real culprit isn’t turkey or tryptophan, it’s insulin (dun dun dun).
I know, you feel betrayed and think that there’s no way to escape a food coma, so just give in. Unbutton your pants one notch, take a nap if needed and go back for dessert, because who wants to miss out on the one day a year where you can eat lots of turkey and gravy and top it off with the best dessert ever, flan (if you’re in Miami).
If you still feel like you’ve been jipped since you can’t call out the turkey anymore, don’t worry, you’re not the only one who’s gotten tricked. Charlie Brown feels the same way about tradition, but while you’re watching, sit back, put a pillow over your stomach (and welcome that food baby), while you have another piece of pie, just for kicks
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
We’ve all heard it—we’re in the electronic age. From finding out that our friends from home are engaged at 21 on Facebook, to following people on Instagram who have killer style (but they don’t even go here), or reppin’ some of the cutest DIY posts your friends have pinned for Thanksgiving.
The thing is, well, isn’t it kind of odd that people can see what we do and like what we’ve liked? It’s not for us, but if you think about it, it totally is. Even companies like Hulu and Facebook are getting real personal with advertising products and websites that are geared to what you like.
If you’re ready for another revolutionary advertising tactic, Japan has it for you. Neurocam and its new app were introduced at the Human Sensing 2013 conference in Yokohoma, Japan.
Advertisers can tell what we like based on a headband system that attaches to your head and holds an iPhone next to your temple. Hitting the soft spot, huh? Well, this headset knows you better than you know yourself with the help of EEG sensors.
The camera on the headset records whatever you’re viewing, so when you see those Jimmy Choos and can’t contain yourself, the sensors will pick up on those spikes of interest through the brain scan.
The spike value ranges from one to 100, so once the data gets to a value of 60, the EEG sensors will claim whatever you’re viewing as something of interest to you. That’s when the phone’s camera will start to record, in five-second GIFs, the image you’re viewing (like a Tardis teapot in commemorating the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary).
I told you it’s a little weird, right? Well, advertisers are going to use this to their advantage, which I don’t have too much of a problem with, but my wallet just might. Advertising titan Dentsu is supporting the Neurocam through Dentsu ScienceJam. They think it can help to determine what goods interest people and also help in urban development planning.
The thing is, when I see a commercial for the Kia Soul while I’m on YouTube and literally scream because I’m obsessed with those Kia hamsters, only I see this side of me. I don’t know how I would feel if Kia can actually see how many times I’ve watched the commercial because it’s right there on the screen when I’m browsing online. I’m sure they’ll keep showing the commercial to me until I buy the car…oops.
Don’t you just want to buy the car now? Yep, totes.
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
Despite all these issues I have with nature, I moved from Miami, Fla. to Boston, Mass. for school, but also because of the culture and the four seasons. I may not extend my walks too far from the Boston University bubble as often as I would like, but for some reason, being outside and experiencing the wind on my face, the leaves wavering on tree branches and all the colors of fall clears my mind, if only for a while, but nature has that wonderful affect on me.
Yes, I’m still in the city, but when I get away from the city for a bit, I have a clearer outlook on life and I’m able to focus more when I hit the books or when I have to make a long term decision.
To those who actually go on trips to ski and hike, kudos to you. It’s just not for me, but regardless of the type of nature you intake, it’s no wonder that being outside actually makes us feel good.
Don’t you kind of wish you went on a walk now before having that fifth cup of coffee now? I’ll help you out. The answer is yes.
Researchers have found that when we look at natural landscapes, it can make us more focused in our decision-making processes. In the study, researchers created two different slideshows, one that had natural landscapes and the other that was in a city environment.
Volunteers had to view either the natural or the urban slideshow, in which they listened to an audio that tried to convince the volunteers to become immersed with the landscape they viewed. After all the volunteers watched the slideshow, the researchers offered them either 100 euros ($135) now or a larger sum in 90 days, in which the price would increase in 10 euro ($13) increments until the volunteer chose that new reward over the initial sum.
Here’s where it gets interesting: the volunteers that saw the more natural slideshow rather than the concrete urban slideshow were more willing to wait for an extra 20, 30 or 40 euros. And thus, researchers hinted that the participants who viewed the natural photos were able to make more logical decisions and made them more open to the idea for a delayed gratification.
To make sure that this wasn’t a hoax, the researchers did subsequent experiments with the same idea of showing natural beauty versus a concrete setting and then offered immediate or delayed financial awards to three groups. Like clockwork, participants who were immersed by nature were more inclined to get the delayed future award.
According to the research that appeared this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, this implies that those with exposure to natural scenes tend to care more for the future. Kind of scary since we live in this great, giant city called Boston, but there are ways to get your daily dose of nature.
According to researchers, it is possible that on a psychological standpoint, nature moves at a slower pace, while life in the city is so fast paced and we want everything immediate, so we want to mimic what we see.
I’ve tried to take this study into my own hands and while I’m not planning on going fishing or mountain biking, there are many alternatives for city people, like myself, who would rather watch The Big Bang Theory reruns than wake up at 5 a.m. to see the sunrise. You could go to the Esplanade or sail on the Charles River or take a stroll in the Boston Commons. If you want to take it a step further, there’s whale watching, walking trails in the forest, the sandy Boston Harbor National Park and white water rafting.
Don’t like my ideas? You can do some research for yourself or take a hike — literally (and gain some clarity while you’re at it).
The happy camper
If you ever wanted to envision me camping…
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
I woke up this morning and the light was streaming in earlier than usual, the birds were chirping and the crisp air reminded me that fall was upon us… and then it became 4 p.m. and it got dark. ‘Wait, what?’ Oh yeah, it’s that time of year again folks where the days are shorter, because in New England, that just means that you’ll be freezing longer and the sun will wake you up earlier.
Oh, Daylight Savings, you kind of make me sick.
Now, before you think I’m the most depressing person on the planet, I’ll be missing the sun a little more than everyone else here. I’ll give you some reasons why the end of Daylight Savings Time affects all of us more than just changing our alarm clocks.
While sleeping in a little later sounds awesome for one day, giving you an extra hour of sleep, the end of Daylight Savings Time can actually screw up your biological clock.
Our Circadian rhythms are changes in our physical and mental behavior that follow a 24-hour cycle. It typically responds to light and darkness in our environment, so you can see how Daylight Savings Time can affect us biologically too because we can never truly adjust to the time change.
It’s okay to be offended, but don’t take it too much to heart — but some people actually do. With a loss of sleep, a disturbed biological clock and a weakened immune system can hurt us a little, but for those who have a heart condition, this combination can result in heart attacks.
Crazy, huh? I know, but just so you don’t think I’m making this up, I’ll throw in some actual stats that might make you a believer.
According to a cardiovascular researcher at the University of Alabama, the Monday and Tuesday after the time change is on average associated with a 10 percent increase in heart attack cases, so I guess you could say that Daylight Savings isn’t for the faint of heart.
And even if you’ve never had a heart condition, with the change in sleep, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, there is an increase in workplace injuries over a 23-year period where there was about 3.6 more injuries than usual on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time.
As for the never-ending midterms, researchers at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business discovered that when our sleeping patterns are altered, it affects our performance too. So, all that time trying to understand supply and demand on a global scale can all be blamed on Daylight Savings.
According to researchers at Penn State, about 20 percent of the time that was assigned to do a task wasn’t used productively when participants ha disruptions in their sleeping patterns.
I guess when it comes to the change of Daylight Savings, it’s not helping us very much. You can thank good ol’ Ben Franklin for that, who came up with the concept to use the most of daylight hours, which in theory is great, but when I wake up at 6 a.m. because the light is shining through the windows, no amount of happy chirping birds are going to stop me from seconding my soul sister, Winnie Sanderson:
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
Don’t you just hate it when you’re watching a scary movie and all of a sudden, that kind of music begins to play like sharp, screeching violin strings and you know that something is going to jump out from behind the shower curtain and kill you (well, not you, the character, but it could happen to us #selfabsorbed).
Well, turns out that there’s an actual science to it that makes us scared. It’s not just the fact that Chucky is coming after us or a headless horseman is going to chase us down with an ax. The visuals play a huge part, don’t get me wrong, but the high-pitched music is just equally as stimulatingly terrifying.
Studies found that there is an actual connection between horror movie music and the screams of small scared animals. The irregular minor chords play a toll on a response a mother marmot feels when her children are threatened.
Researchers believe that we, biologically, are also scared when we hear dissonant sounds and minor chords, like the mama marmot. Daniel Blumstein, the leading scientist on the study is an expert on animal distress calls. He studied yellow-bellied marmots in Colorado and noticed that the marmots would “scream,” or make a “nonlinear chaotic noise” when the researchers caught them.
Blumstein put two and two together in a study he first conducted in 2010, linking nonlinear noise to scary music and found that horror producers used a lot of nonlinear noise, like a baby scream or a dissonant chord, and even recordings of animal’s screams just to scare you. It’s a trick! Don’t fall for it.
Blumstein teamed up with Peter Kaye, a film score composer and Greg Bryant, a communications professor to conduct the study. Kaye created two musical clips—one that was emotionally neutral (like something you would hear while you were shopping at Shaw’s) and another that had distorted nonlinear pitches.
Participants then ranked the music to how stimulating they were and what kind of emotion they felt after hearing it, and when it came to the nonlinear elements, participants said they felt fear.
The study also proved that when the music melody became higher, it provoked a more fearful reaction than when the notes were lower. According to Blumstein, could link us back to animal calls where a marmot’s scream pitch escalates when they are scared.
It’s just all in the pitch, isn’t it? And while we now know exactly why we get scared when the chilling soundtrack begins to play as the kid in the “Sixth Sense” says “I see dead people,” it doesn’t help us one bit from getting scared. I’m no scientist, but when you’re alone, and if you’re a wimp like me, you can always mute the TV when “Paranormal Activity” or “The Ring” comes on. It’ll make you less of a Halloween-ie and it’ll be less scary on so many accounts.
You’re in control, unless Samara comes out of the TV, then you’re screwed.
Check out the video below (start at 03:08 unless of course you love Mean Girls):
You felt scared, right?
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
Let’s face it, nearly everything we do, we do it with the use of a battery or an outside electrical source. Writing a paper? Hello—you need to charge that laptop with 5 percent battery. And you can’t heat up that mac and cheese over an open wood fire, so microwave that bad boy. Putting on makeup? Have you ever tried that in the dark? I’m telling you, it won’t give you that Cover Girl look.
So, when I think back to the last time I heard a story without the aid of a battery, I recall my mom’s tales about climbing trees and playing marbles and I probably couldn’t deal. The newest thing now though is the powering through energy harvesting. Disney Researchers in Pittsburgh have come up with a way to power things like interactive books and lighting up LEDs all with just a paper generator—no battery required.
In a Discovery article, researchers at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST), in St. Andrews, Scotland, found two techniques that show that a paper generator can be activated with hand rubbing and tapping so this voltage can actually control displays, e-ink and send signals to other devices like a laptop.
This sheet called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), typically known as Teflon, and another material that can be used as an electrode are the only two things needed. I kind of wish this study came out when I was participating in the fourth grade science fair; partly because it’s pretty awesome AND because it sounds like such an easy science experiment (and I was that kid in the science fair who tried to create enough energy to power a light bulb with lemons…it didn’t work and now I hate citrus).
UIST researchers proved, however, that with two techniques, the paper generator can be powered. In one approach, they used the Teflon sheet that will be used to create a static charge and then put it in between two silver-coated polyester sheets. It kind of looks like a mini sandwich that could shock you if you try to eat it, so don’t, but if you tap the polyester, it generates a voltage and a small current. The second approach is to rub the conductive sheet on the Teflon, which also creates a voltage.
While the current, produced by the rubbing or tapping, is relatively low, the voltage is high; up to 1,000 volts which can trigger e-paper displays. So for example, the Disney Researchers created a cartoon of a rocket ship with the rocket ship’s fire outlined with LED lights. When the paper was tapped, the LEDs lit up. In another demonstration, there was a cartoon of astronauts and aliens, so when the conductive sheet was rubbed on the Teflon, the e-paper revealed the word ‘Hello.’
So, how does this work? Well, the materials, including the Teflon, have a permanent static charge, so when researchers moved a conductive material through an electric field, it gives you a current. The system is fairly easy to make considering that almost anything can be an electrode, as long as it conducts electricity– it’s easy to build and you could even print a paper generator from your laptop. All the demonstrations were produced without a battery and yet it’s still interactive. Crazy, huh? Well, I suspect that intellectual light bulbs are going off around the world, so although we’re simplifying things without batteries, the days of playing jacks and marbles are way behind us (oh, and science fair projects with lemons).
To see more watch the video below:
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
You know how people always say to avoid stereotypes because we’ll probably be wrong about the person? Well, we kind of misguidedly judged one of our best friends. Its name is chocolate.
My mom always told me, “Sanah, don’t eat that extra piece of chocolate, you’ll get fat,” and I believed her. In fact, I believed this myth for the longest time, but in article from the journal Neurology, researchers found that chocolate can actually help older people think sharper and keep their brains healthy. The participants in the study that drank two cups of chocolate-based drinks for 30 days had an 8.3 percent increase in blood flow to the brain. It even helped with memory and cognitive exams.
The study, funded by Mars, Inc. (the chocolate company), made a connection with the flavanols in cocoa. The adults consumed some form of cocoa in a drink every day for eight weeks and researchers found that those who consumed more flavanols did better not only on cognitive tests, but also completed the exams more quickly and remembered more of the information. So you know what that means — walk into your next exam like a boss while eating chocolate. You know all those mornings of taking your Vitamin D, that gross fish oil and a piece of dark chocolate did you well and you should feel good about it.
Cocoa consumption, along with making you a smart (chocolate chip) cookie may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a 2012 study produced by Oscar Franco from the University of Cambridge in England.
Another positive? Eating chocolate can make you slimmer. Cue the “HALLELUJAH!” According to a 2012 study published in the journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, people who ate chocolate five times a week had a lower Body Mass Index than people who avoided chocolate.
But here’s the deal with chocolate. Like most things, it needs to be done in moderation. So don’t go raiding Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Also, remember: the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is for you. The dark chocolate is what has all the ingredients that keep you healthy, like fiber, magnesium and antioxidants. So get on that chocolate jungle fever and enjoy that Godiva bar.
By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
I’ve always thought of myself as a right-brain thinker. I’ve even taken one of those online left-brain versus right-brain tests just for fun. The right side of the brain is more attune to color, expressions, music and just being creative (which in my opinion, is just more fun than the left side of the brain). The left side is more about numbers, reasoning and logic – no wonder I’m terrible at math and can make unreasonable choices!
A new study conducted by Jeff Anderson and Jared Nielsen, however, opposes the right brain, left brain theory. Most people believe they are more left or right brained based on their personality. However, according to this study, there is no actual evidence of this. I know, big shocker. It’s like being lied to for years about yourself and you didn’t even know it! I need to be more logical, obviously.
Anderson and Nielsen studied lateralization of brain functions for two years and performed 1,011 brain scans on people from seven-years-old to 29-years-old, according to an article Discovery.com.
The study suggests that some people are not more or less connected to one side of the brain, as we previously thought. In other words, I, as a “former right-brain” am not actually more connected to the right side of my brain. It could be, according to Nielsen, that personality types do not have anything to do with the different hemispheres of the brain.
We all just thought that since there were opposing personality traits, that we associate it with the brain, which is understandable considering that these certain brain functions do occur in one side of the brain or the other. According to Anderson, brain functions occur in different aspects of the brain, but it’s not determined by having a stronger left or right-sided brain network, he said in a press release. It’s all about the connection. In a press release, Nielsen says, “It may be that personality types have nothing to do with one hemisphere being more active, stronger or more connected”
I guess we all thought we connected with our brains on a much deeper level. I’m not sure how I feel, my brain is telling me one thing and my heart is telling me another.