Tagged: science

Science Tuesday: The science of sleep

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

If only we could learn in our sleep.../  PHOTO VIA Flickr user Mrehan

If only we could learn in our sleep…/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Mrehan

Behold! We have entered the ‘week of death,’ i.e. the week before finals week. We’ve entered the dome of late night strategy sessions, unhealthy food choices, and nocturnal raccoon eyes covered over with concealer. Wait, is that just me?

Well, Katniss and I might be BFFs because I feel like I’ve been chosen to participate in the ‘Hunger Games.’ It’s a battle to the death, but really, we’re all just creating this battle with our internal biological clock.

I’ve always been a night owl. I think better and produce higher-quality work at night. However, I’m a miserable troll in the morning when I have to wake up at 8 a.m. for class. I’m such a rebel, defying this clock, but by disrupting these neurons that tell me what to do and when to do it, it puts everything else out of wack.

The neurons in the brain are no bigger than the size of a mustard seed, according to The Atlantic. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) tells me when I should have breakfast or go to sleep, as well as determining functions like social and sexual behaviors. It’s what makes me a night owl and what makes normal people, well, normal.

According to Seth Blackshaw, an associate professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University, these characteristics can be genetic, and in a sense, predetermined. In a new study conducted by Blackshaw, SCN deteriorates as you age.

When I was a kid, I hated naps. I’d tell my mom that “day is for play and night is for sleep.” Clearly as a college student, that has changed drastically, but one thing is the same: I fight sleep. Back then, I wouldn’t take naps, and now, I drink coffee instead of giving in. Nevertheless, according to Blackshaw, being awake when our body is obviously tired is bad for you.

For those who pull all-nighters — you deserve a medal. I don’t know how you guys do it, but you do. You better save that medal though because some studies show that you have a higher chance of getting cancer or having a heart attack. So is the medal and a crappy paper worth your health? Probably not, but you’re setting yourself up for it if you stray from the SCN master clock.

In Blackshaw’s study, researchers removed a key gene in mice that helps the SCN communicate with other cells, because SCN communicates with cells in the entire body. He found that instead of the mice operating as if their Monday was a normal 24-hour schedule, they worked as if they have two or three body clocks controlling them at the same time (which kind of feels like my average Monday anyway).

Blackshaw concluded that the clock was still running, but it wasn’t synchronized. It’s why some people are like the living dead during the day, but at night are little miss peppy. I actually live in constant pep, but that’s just because I drink too much coffee, not because I sleep enough. I should probably attempt to do better. I’ll pencil it in … after graduation.

Science Tuesday: Pulling all-nighters doesn’t help you cram

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

When I took my core classes at the beginning of my college career, I pulled all nighters studying for my exams for days at a time. I made immense study guides, until my TA told me that my 32-page guide was equivalent to a grad student’s. My memorization isn’t the best (remember my issue with the Memory Game?) and I didn’t do too hot on my exams.

Turns out, according to a series of recent studies, like one presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society earlier this week, lack of sleep is detrimental to remembering things like test answers and where you put your keys.

Sleep, according to the study, not only helps us remember what we did in the past, but also reminds us of what we want to do in the future. Susanne Diekelmann of the University of Tübingen and her colleagues found that there are two ways to remember our intentions. One can be if we internally recite what we want to do, like repeating that “Parenthood” is airing tonight and you need to watch it, or you can store your intentions in the memory network. If it’s stored well enough, then you won’t have to internally remind yourself that your show is coming on later that day.

Diekelmann and her researchers made these discoveries through word pairing: half of the participants were told that they’d have to remember material later and then were either instructed to sleep for two full nights or were kept awake one night and were allowed to sleep the second night. Diekelmann found that the subjects who slept both nights performed better on the test.

I’ve always claimed to be a night owl, because it’s true — I work better at night. But it’s also true that when I don’t get enough rest, I bomb my exams. No amount of coffee could help me there (and trust, me, I’ve tried). So take a break, study with enough time, and make sure you get a good night’s rest. You’re going to need it!

Science Tuesday: 3D Printing for Chocolate Because, Chocolate, Right?

Chris Lisinski, Staff Writer
@chrislisinski

Soon your chocolate will be more scientific than you/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Dan4th Nicholas

Soon your chocolate will be more scientific than you/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Dan4th Nicholas

When 3D printing technology first grabbed headlines, most consumers were wondering what the future held. Now, finally, the day of salvation is near: We will soon be able to print chocolate.

Legendary chocolatiers at The Hershey Company have teamed up with 3D Systems to develop the candy-printing system, according to a Thursday press release. The technology will be used to bring the confectionery business to a state reflecting our wildest sci-fi sweet-tooth dreams.

“Whether it’s creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future,” said Hershey Vice President William Papa in the release.

But despite all of the futuristic hubbub, 3D printing technology has actually existed since the 1980s — it has however only recently become accessible and commercially feasible.

The basic principle is that 3D printing is an “additive” process based on a digital model. Rather than use tools to chip away at a block of marble or to cut wood and glue it together, 3D printers creates its product by laying down layer after layer of material according to the computer design. The computer programming allows for significant customization.

3D Systems unveiled the ChefJet, what it calls “the world’s first and only professional-certified, kitchen-ready 3D food printer,” earlier this month in Las Vegas, the Huffington Post reported on Jan. 10. Now, Hershey’s candy printer falls under the same line of product design.

If we are lucky, when the candy bars of tomorrow arrive, five of them are wrapped with golden tickets so we can take a tour and learn how they are made (sans nightmare-inducing psychedelic trip on a boat, please).

We can only hope the next step is for Hershey to hire an eclectic, bipolar hermit with a penchant for purple top hats and glass elevators.

Life Hacks: 4 Classes to Take During Spring Semester

By Shivani Patel, Staff Writer
@shizupates

Terriers, registration period is coming./PHOTO VIA WIkimedia Commons

In about a month or so, something important is happening.

That, my friends, would be registration.

I’m sure you all remember the excitement and disappointment of searching through all the classes, trying to find the right times and professors only to have all the spots taken by the time you registered. I feel your pain (fifth session orientation problems).

Here’s to hoping luck is on our side and that we don’t get 8 a.m. classes.

If you haven’t already seen it, there is a registration date and time based on the last number of your student I.D. Pro tip: have it memorized because you need it for so many forms (i.e. tests) and it is a pain to have to get your I.D. out every time.

I suppose someone out there really didn’t want me to get a good schedule, because I have the last time on the last day. Hopefully, you all get a better time!

As with before, don’t forget to plan your schedule beforehand so that you don’t waste precious minutes looking for classes right before your slot opens up.

As a reminder, freshmen get to start registering on Sunday, November 17!

Now, as freshmen, we usually get a bit of leeway when it comes to choosing classes. All you need is to complete credits for certain subjects; the choice in class is completely up to you. I talked to a few upperclassmen about what they would suggest, so here are a few classes you might consider taking:

1. Intro to Ethics – CAS PH 150 (4 credits)

If you need credits for philosophy, here’s a suggestion. Everyday, we perform actions that require a certain amount of thought behind them. This class deals with the morality behind those thoughts. For anyone wanting a more thought-provoking class, this will be it.

2. General Psychology – CAS PS101 (4 credits)

This is a good class to get credit for science and learn a bit more about the way humans work. It is useful for any major – be that journalism or business. Since it is general psychology, the work isn’t too intensive so you’ll get to focus more on the content than stress about the exams. This class usually has a discussion section, so plan accordingly. Many recommend taking the class with Caine, who is “very straightforward and explains concepts very clearly,” according to Kush Desai, a sophomore in CAS.

3. Magic, Science, and Religion – CAS RN 242 (4 credits)

This class usually seems to be a favorite among the students at BU. Like Intro to Ethics, this is an interesting class that makes you think outside of the box. Although magic, science and religion seem like three incredibly different topics, this class might just show you that they do have quite a few intersections and similarities.

4. Film Industry – COM FT304 (4 credits)

If you can manage to get approval for this class, go ahead and take it. If you’re iffy about the reliability of Film & TV major, this might help ease your mind. It marries both business and film into one class – the business behind the film industry. You get to learn about the inner workings about the industry, while still keeping to film.

If you have any other suggestions, comment below. I hope these have been helpful in your class hunting.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Could a bra be a lifesaver?

By Kimberly Clark, Science Tuesday Editor

Speaking on behalf of the female proportion of the population, I would like to say that bras are a necessary evil. They are not the most comfortable contraptions made for women, but they could be a lot worse. (How about those five inch heels, ladies?) And at the end of the day, you always realize that though you may have wished your bra weren’t around, you could not have made it through the day without it. Got to love that support.

But bras can do more than just lend support to the twins. They can push them up, push them down, push them together, give them some padding or even—for all you adventurous souls out there—a little freedom.

Bra e-card

And just when I thought bras could not get anymore complex, I get hit with the news that a company in Reno, Nev., called First Warning Systems, is developing a cancer-detecting bra. I’ll bet that Victoria’s Secret $2.5 million jeweled bra is looking a little cheap right now.

So, getting to the question of day: does this cancer bra really work?

The basis for the cancer bra is the technique of thermography. Thermography is the use of infrared cameras to develop images displaying the temperatures of body tissue. These images, called thermograms, could alert doctors to areas of developing cancer because malignant tissue has a higher temperature than normal tissue. The technique is already in use in an imaging device that measures the temperature of breast tissue to find malignant tissue.

The bra, which contains temperature-detecting sensors in the cups, is worn for twelve hours. It gives readings based on the temperature in a woman’s breasts of normal, benign, suspected for breast tissue abnormalities or probable for breast tissue abnormalities. More simply put, a hot reading signifies the presence of cancer and a cold reading signifies normal tissue.

Cancer-detecting bra

Photo via First Warning Systems

According to the First Warning Systems website, the bra has 90 percent specificity and sensitivity in detecting malignant tissues.

However, the problem is that the readings from the bra did not always match up with results of proven cancer-detecting methods: mammogram, MRI and ultrasound tests. The Food and Drug Administration warned against relying on the bra as a substitute for a mammogram.

Some women already diagnosed with breast cancer did not get a hot reading like they should have. Others, who did get a hot reading, underwent further tests, which found no malignant tissues. Those women went on to never develop breast cancer.

Furthermore, even if the bra did detect growing malignant tissue, there may not be much for doctors to do about it at such an early stage of development. Tumors must be a certain size before invasive surgery becomes a viable option and the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy are not warranted until the cancer reaches a certain stage.

So, the cancer bra cannot yet be dubbed the new Wonderbra. Until then, we’ll just have to be satisfied with the multitude of bras available at the local Victoria’s Secret.