What's In a Smell?

Like breathing, smelling is something that happens whether you want it to or not. Much like the oxygen we inhale, scents--be they vanilla, peanut butter, or cigarette smoke--are invisible to our eyes and intangible to our fingers, and yet we can perceive them with our nose, even when far away from their source. But how exactly does our nose tell the difference between a fresh egg and a rotten one?

Continue reading

Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

You’re in the restroom and have just finished washing your hands and now you have to decide: paper towels or the hand dryer? For a while, it came down to whether you wanted the faster and time-saving paper towel or the environmentally friendly and convenient machine dryer. However, a review of studies reveals a clear winner in this debate in terms of relative efficiency and hygiene. And paper towels triumphed as the victors. Why is this even important you ask? Because the transmission of bacteria is more likely to occur from wet skin than from dry skin, proper drying of hands is a vital part of the hand hygiene process. The studies defined hand drying effectiveness as the speed of drying, degree of dryness, effective removal of bacteria, and prevention of cross-contamination. Turns out, based on the analysis in the studies, paper towels were considered the most preferable method. Why? First, friction plays a key role in the removal of bacteria with much of it being transferred directly onto the paper towel, thus stopping the spread of bacteria. On the other hand, rubbing your hands under a hand dryer leads to greater bacterial numbers and airborne dissemination. One hypothesis is that rubbing hands causes bacteria to migrate from hair follicles to the skin surface. Also, some believe that hand dryers may actually emit bacteria in their flow because of the contaminated air from the bathroom

. dryer Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

Second, the studies reveal that it takes 45 seconds to decrease hand moisture by 97% with hand dryers whereas it only takes 10 seconds to achieve the same amount of dryness with paper towels. The problem is that the normal person takes only 22 seconds with an air dryer, leaving their hands less than 70% dry. Paper towel users could achieve more than 85% dryness in only 5 seconds. Having said that, if you dry your hands completely and thoroughly with hand dryers, it shouldn’t be a major problem. Ultimately, the problem lies in people’s tendency to not spend much time with the dryers. When considering the environment, of the two, dryers are the more environmentally friendly choice because they not only prevent deforestation but they also actually use less energy and have lower carbon emissions. eco friendly Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

So next time when you’re drying your hands, remember to fully dry your hands if using air dryers and if using paper towels, to remember the environment and use only 1 piece. For more information on this topic, click on the links below: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538484/ http://www.medicaldaily.com/paper-towels-vs-hand-dryer-are-you-making-right-choice-246583 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2012/12/14/the-paper-towel-hand-dryer-wars-are-over/ http://www.webmd.com/news/20141121/restroom-hand-dryers-spread-more-germs-than-paper-towels-study-finds


On Pitch Perfect (No, Not the Movie)

Unless you’re interested in music (or perhaps a fan of Anna Kendrick), perfect pitch might seem insignificant to you. So what if there are some musical geniuses who can tell that a song starts on E flat? Most of us live our lives perfectly fine without knowing that our doorbell ring alternates between C and G, or that our car horn honk is an A. But when you think about it, the one person in ten thousand with perfect pitch probably sees the world--or rather, hears the world--on an entirely different level than most of us. And that’s pretty amazing. Continue reading


Can Dog Saliva Heal Human Wounds?

The belief that dogs can heal human wounds dates all the way back to ancient Egypt, when dogs were used in healing practices. The Egyptians believed that being licked by a dog, especially on an open wound, would aid in recovery or even cure the disease itself. This brings us to the question: Can dogs really heal human wounds?

Recent research has identified some potential benefits to dog saliva. It’s been linked to an ability to heal are antibacterial microorganisms (i.e. nitrates), various enzymes (i.e. lysozyme or lactoferrin), and antibodies that can speed up the recovery of wounds. Furthermore, dog’s tongues can be helpful in loosening any dirt or other debris on the surface of wounds, thus cleansing the area.

Be that as it may, just because your dog’s saliva may have some potential benefits does not mean that it comes without risks.

dog 2564920c Can Dog Saliva Heal Human Wounds?

While there are good bacteria, there are also harmful bacteria such as that could cause a skin infection called “cellulities” in humans if transmitted onto a wound. Dr. Scott Weese of the Veterinary College’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses explains, “The Pasteurella oral cavity of the dog contains billions of bacteria from hundreds of different bacterial species. Many of these are able to cause infection given the right circumstances.” There have been a number of reports of serious infections that have resulted in life-threatening amputations.

Vitals PugLicking 201x154 Can Dog Saliva Heal Human Wounds?

If dogs’ saliva was a safe and effective way to treat a cut, it probably would have already been utilized by many pharmaceutical companies by now. To be frank, the medical saying that “A dog’s tongue is a doctor’s tongue” is not wholly true. While there may be healing properties to this saliva, such properties are not worth the risk of contamination.


For more information, click on these links below:







Death by Stress

You've got a history paper due and an organic chemistry test on the the same Friday, which also happens to be the day of your orchestra audition and, of course, your wedding! We've all felt stressed before (although perhaps not quite to this magnitude), but after we get that busy day--or week, or even month--over with, that stress doesn't seem too harmful. And in small doses, it probably isn't. But can stress actually cause someone to die? Continue reading


People with Three Genetic Parents

In early February 2015, the British House of Commons passed a bill legalizing a process that combines the genes of two parents with a small set of genes from the mitochondria of a donor egg, called mitochondrial DNA transfers. Though the bill hasn’t been completely passed by British parliament, the overwhelming support vote of 382-128 is a sure sign that DNA from three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF) could soon be performed in the UK.

Mitochondria are organelles in cells that provide energy to the body, but when mutations occur in mitochondrial DNA, tissues that require high amounts of energy cannot function properly. When the liver, heart, or the central nervous system does not receive enough energy, heart problems, liver failure, and muscular dystrophy can ensue. There are no known cures to mitochondrial diseases. These conditions are often fatal at a young age, and they affect one in 6,500 children worldwide. This procedure was designed to give women who carry mitochondrial diseases chances to have children without the fear of transferring painful, lethal conditions to their kids.

The first method of three-parent IVF starts by removing the nucleus of the mother’s egg, where all the genes are concentrated, excluding the 37 genes from mitochondrial DNA. Then the nucleus from a donor egg containing healthy mitochondria is removed and replaced with the mother’s nucleus. Now that the mother’s nucleus is inside the donor’s egg, the egg is fertilized in vitro with the father’s sperm.

First Three Parent 300x195 People with Three Genetic Parents

Credit: HFEA

The second method involves the fertilization of both the mother’s egg and the donor’s egg by the father’s sperm. The nuclei in the donor’s egg are removed, and then the parent’s nuclei are transferred into the donor’s egg.

Second Three Parent 300x202 People with Three Genetic Parents

Credit: HFEA

This procedure has actually been possible for almost two decades. Back in the 1990s, it was called cytoplasmic transfer and was used to conceive 17 children at St. Barnabas Institute in New Jersey. Unfortunately, two of the children were born with serious defects, which caused the FDA to ban the practice at US clinics. The rest of the children conceived through this process are still living and healthy.

Recent research has brought three-parent IVF back into the spotlight. A promising study at the Oregon Health and Sciences University successfully created human embryos with three-parent IVF, but the embryos were not implanted. The same research team also used this procedure in monkeys, which lead to the birth of healthy offspring that had no complications later in life.

When it comes to creating human life in a radically new way, ethical issues are bound to arise. The 37 genes from mitochondrial DNA only pertain to mitochondrial function and do not affect the rest of human traits, but many people fear the implications of three-parent IVF. Some say that it could lead to tampering with other traits like athletic ability or intelligence. Along with the slippery slope toward creating “designer babies,” several religious groups have opposed three-parent IVF because the second method involves the destruction of an embryo.

Baby 300x201 People with Three Genetic Parents

Though many issues must be settled before three-parent IVF becomes a mainstream procedure, favorable initial studies have paved the way for clinical trials. Soon, mothers with genetic conditions in their mitochondrial DNA might have the chance to have children without the fear of passing on horrific diseases.










Why Do We Feel Peer Pressure?

A common phrase said to middle and high school teens is “Don’t conform to peer pressure!” What exactly is peer pressure? Peer pressure is the feeling people get from their peers to conform or behave in a certain way that conforms to a group.

Peer pressure 300x150 Why Do We Feel Peer Pressure?

A person’s peers are known to have a dramatic effect on them. The teenager who buys a shirt because her friends have it; the kid who wants a toy because everyone at his school has it; or the adult who wants a mansion because everyone else seems to have it.

Several psychological theories have attempted to explain peer pressure. Erikson’s theory regarding peer influence concerns the adolescence stage of development, when teens are removing themselves from their parents but are trying to understand their place in society. This is achieved by peer groups that validate and accept the teen. Peer groups create this peer pressure environment and cause the teen to conform to an extent. The cognitive dissonance theory of psychology states that conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors creates a feeling of discomfort causing someone to adjust their behaviors to reduce this discomfort. To maintain cognitive consistency, sometimes irrational behavior is produced. This is included in the conformity theory, which states that in a group situation, someone feels the need to respond to the group.

Drugs 300x300 Why Do We Feel Peer Pressure?

We feel peer pressure because of our desire to conform to a norm to reduce the discomfort in conflict by holding different opinions that everyone else. Thus, to reduce peer pressure, you need to begin to think outside of a group setting and think at an individual pace.







Lucid Dreaming: The Dawn of a New Era of Consciousness - Guest Article by Kevin Lee

By the end of its second opening month, Inception had grossed over $570 million dollars.Inception was a huge hit – millions of people flocked to theaters to witness a futuristic world in which science had advanced so far that lucid dreaming was now a common occurrence – so common, in fact, that many could no longer distinguish dreaming from reality, and skilled thieves, such as Dominic Cobb, could steal intimate and valuable of secrets by linking their lucid dreams to any sleeper’s dreamscape.

inception bend1 300x198 Lucid Dreaming: The Dawn of a New Era of Consciousness   Guest Article by Kevin Lee

Inception was essentially a movie on the power and potential of lucid dreaming. However, while lucid dreaming was portrayed as something sinister and shady in the movie, in real life lucid dreaming is a boon and a scientific wonder. Although currently, dreams cannot be “linked” to one another as in Inception, lucid dreaming still has vast advantageous potential.


So what exactly is lucid dreaming, what are some of the advantages of perfecting this ability, and how can we begin to lucid dream?

Lucid dreaming is the act of dreaming while being aware that one is doing so (Dement 323). Normally, while dreaming, we do not consciously direct the events happening within that dream. Indeed, how many times in your life can you recall jolting awake in a sweat because of some crazy dream event – going to school completely naked, falling off a cliff, or being unable to run away from something because your feet are glued to the ground? When you lucid dream, you can control the outcome of these events. I’m naked? Well it doesn’t matter, because I’m dreaming – I can just wish a pair of clothes onto my body and they will appear. I’m falling off a cliff? I’ll just fly to safety – maybe even take a vacation to the crystal-clear oceans and paper-white sand beaches of Jamaica. The only limit is your imagination – when you learn how to lucid dream, even recurring, horrifying nightmares can become blissful wonderlands of puppies, candy, and even romantic dates with superheroes.

article 2002823 0C878F4C00000578 205 468x549 255x300 Lucid Dreaming: The Dawn of a New Era of Consciousness   Guest Article by Kevin Lee

Many have wondered about the scientific validity of lucid dreaming – is this wonderful ability truly possible? Indeed, it is – in many sleep studies, EEGs have shown an “increased activation of the frontal lobes of the brain,” with weak electrical currents of around 40Hz often being able to induce lucid dreaming (G. Voss & U. Voss 29). Indeed, this data correlates to the fact that lucid dreaming occurs during the REM stage of sleep – high brain activity is a characteristic of REM, for not only is brain analyzing the information within a dream, but also it’s creating more sleep mentation (abstract images and thoughts during dreaming) to process (Dement 33). As the night grows longer, more time is spent in this “rapid eye movement” state, and the chance of dreaming grows proportionally higher (Dement 49). Harnessing the brain during this highly cognitive and unique state through lucid dreaming would be extremely beneficial – one will not just have access to conscious thinking in the waking hours, but in the sleeping hours as well!

Humans live in two cyclic states: wakefulness and sleep (Dement 8). For most people, sleep and the dream state is the perfect time to recharge, relax, and let your subconscious guide you blissfully through the strange wonder of your mind. Some may be wary of lucid dreaming – what if this act of “conscious dreaming” will counteract the relaxing effects of sleep? While this is a valid question, there’s no need to worry: even if one is consciously directing the flow of the dream, restorative sleep occurs during the NREM stage, which is not affected by what occurs during the REM dream period (Dement 39). And what if one’s happy dream turns into a nightmare, or worse, a night terror? Sleep would certainly not be so “relaxing” in that state. Lucid dreaming would be the only way to escape, redirect, or control the nightmare – a much better alternative than letting oneself be sucked defenseless into a world of terror.


260930 lucid dreaming could help treat ptsd and other psychological disorders 456 body image 1423545897 1024x425 300x124 Lucid Dreaming: The Dawn of a New Era of Consciousness   Guest Article by Kevin Lee

There are many proven beneficial scientific applications for lucid dreaming. If patients suffering from PTSD can learn how to lucid dream, by planning out how to combat their nightmares during the day, at night, when they feel the onset of a frightening dream situation, these patients can then become lucid and redirect the dream as rehearsed. Lucid dreaming is also highly useful in treating depression – inside a lucid dream, one can go to his/her happy place, resolve issues that had so upset him/her during awake hours, and simply allow that individual to feel more rested, combating the depressing effect of sleep deprivation.

athlete1 300x225 Lucid Dreaming: The Dawn of a New Era of Consciousness   Guest Article by Kevin Lee

Lucid dreaming is also incredibly useful for athletes. Imagine that you are an athlete, and you’ve missed a few practices due to a sudden illness. Tomorrow, you’re expected to go back to practice, yet you haven’t been able to drill the coach’s plays at all… or have you? Indeed, you have! Inside a lucid dream, you’ve honed your sensory-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. You’ve created the perfect arena or environment with no distractions, and increasingly difficult “levels” to master once you’ve defeated the current challenge you’ve manifested. Through repetition, you’ve gained mastery over all parts of your sport, whether it be passing a ball, throwing a discus, or memorizing a routine. As memory recall is just as strong in a lucid dream as it is in waking existence, you rise in the morning feeling refreshed, confident, and prepared for the practice ahead (Dement 328). This is not just mere speculation – countless athletes have used lucid dreaming to hone their skills, and the power of dream repetition is backed by science. In a research study conducted by scientist Daniel Erlacher, participants who utilized lucid dreaming to practice coin tossing were able to perform remarkably better in a real-life coin toss than when tested on previous mornings without having practiced in a lucid dream (Taitz 178).

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned some of the scientifically validated benefits of learning how to lucid dream; however, there are so many more uncharted territories in which to use this dreaming phenomenon! Indeed, the possibilities are quite endless for lucid dreaming – for the world is yours, and if you can think it, you can certainly conjure it up and make it a “reality” within your mind. Imagine that you are a surgeon, preparing for a neo-natal surgery you must perform early tomorrow morning. Inside your lucid dream, you imagine all the possible scenarios that could go wrong, and figure out how to respond accordingly to prepare for the worst. Imagine that you are a mathematician who’s been trying to solve some theory for the past few months. The mind is in a different state in the dream world, and maybe, while lucid dreaming, you are able to utilize this fresh and new perspective to solve the complex theory! Imagine that you are a college student hasn’t completely finished studying for a midterm tomorrow morning. It’s 2 AM and you really should get some sleep, but you don’t feel adequately prepared. Well, fear not! Go to sleep, and inside your lucid dream, study the material, essentially sleeping and studying at the same time! Eliminate all distractions and conjure up all the information you know about the material, quizzing yourself, creating worksheets, and reviewing your mental notes. You’re friends will all be so jealous: you’ve solved the age-old problem of getting enough sleep vs. finishing all your studies, all because of lucid dreaming!

Of course, the situations I mentioned in the previous paragraph are merely hypothetical, yet the beauty of lucid dreaming is that anything is possible inside of your dreams. You can improve upon some valuable skill in your life (dexterity, critical thinking skills, musical ability) through constant repetition; you can prevent anxiety and stress in the tangible world by immersing and conditioning yourself in that stressful environment in a dream, thus, improving your confidence in that situation when it happens in real life!


lucid dreaming1 300x200 Lucid Dreaming: The Dawn of a New Era of Consciousness   Guest Article by Kevin Lee

At this point, you may be wondering: just how common is lucid dreaming? Well, surveys on lucid dreaming have found that about “50% of people experience a lucid dream at least once in their lifetime and about 20 percent have lucid dreams… once a month or more often”. Even more incredibly, in Germany, about 1% of people asked this question responded that they even had weekly lucid dreams – often more than one lucid dream per week! How have the 1%, and even the 20%, learned how to recognize the lucid dream state, and consequently, learned how to lucid dream at will?

Dr. Stephen LaBerge, famous psychophysiologist and lucid dream researcher, believes that the answer lies in the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) Technique which is comprised of three steps: Focus Your Intent, See Yourself Becoming Lucid, and Repeat. Broken down, the first step involves reminding yourself as you are falling asleep that your purpose this night is to lucid dream. The second: while keeping this intention in mind, recall a dream from a previous night and analyze how you could’ve recognized it was a dream. Then, imagine yourself becoming lucid within that recalled dream, controlling and directing it as you wish. Finally, repeat the above steps until you drift off to sleep!
By following these steps (as well as possibly purchasing the Nova Dreamer mask or keeping a “sleep journal” documenting the events in all your dreams which combined would highly increase the chance of lucid dreaming) you can begin on the pathway to mastering lucid dreaming.

Happy dreaming everyone! - Kevin Lee


Dement, William C. The Stanford Sleep Book. Stanford, CA: William C. Dement, 2006. Print.

Taitz, Isaac. “A Neurobiological Model of Lucid Dreaming.” Clinical Applications of Lucid Dreaming Therapy. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Voss, Ursula and Georg Voss. “A Neurobiological Model of Lucid Dreaming.” Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2014. N. pag. Print.


What Makes Superglue So Super?

If any of you are like me, at one point in your lives, you’ve marveled at the wonders of Superglue. I mean, just one square inch of this glue can hold up to a ton! How does this even work? In other words, what makes Superglue so super?

The main ingredient in Superglue is a chemical called cyanoacrylate (chemical formula: C5H5NO2). What’s so special about this chemical is that it is an acrylic resin that forms extremely strong bonds almost immediately. The only trigger it requires are the hydroxyl ions found in water which is essentially found on almost everything and in the surrounding air, making it easy for the glue to start a polymeric reaction anywhere. Once this reaction starts, it’s pretty difficult to stop; the resulting molecular bonds don’t come undone easily.

Hydroxyl Real 2 What Makes Superglue So Super?

Hydroxyl Real 3 What Makes Superglue So Super?

But wait, there’s even more “super” in Superglue! It actually has uses other than just for sticking things together- one of which is fighting crime. Warming cyanoacrylate releases fumes that when touch the moisture residue from fingerprints form white polymers and fingerprints that might otherwise have been hard to see.

So next time, when you use or see Superglue, you’ll know what gives it its superpowers. Just make sure to use it carefully to avoid getting in a sticky situation!


For more information on this topic, click on these links below:








What Did I Dream Again?

It's not uncommon to wake up and think, “What did I dream last night?” Once in a blue moon, dreams are able to be recalled. Why is it that we are hardly able to recall our dreams? It’s not because we didn't dream. Scientists have determined that everyone dreams every single night whether or not they are able to remember it. Continue reading


Your Identity on Your Finger

Fingerprints are the ridges and other patterns on the tips of fingers. They are formed from the pressure in the womb on a baby. No one has been found to have the same fingerprints. There is a one in 64 million chance that two fingerprints would be the same. In fact, even identical twins do not have the same fingerprints!

colorful fingerprint 300x199 Your Identity on Your Finger

Fingerprints begin to develop around the 10th week of pregnancy and are complete by the end of the fourth month. There are many theories of how fingerprints are created, one of which says that the middle layer of skin, called the basil layer, strains against the inside layer (the dermis) and the outer layer (the epidermis) causing the skin to buckle, forcing the epidermis into the dermis and creating the complex patterns we see today. Since the fingerprint pattern is at the interface of the dermis and epidermis, it is permanent and cannot be destroyed by skin injuries.

fingerprint patterns 300x205 Your Identity on Your Finger

The pressure each fetus experiences in the womb is different, thus causing each fingerprint to be unique. The FBI has different classifications of fingerprint patterns as shown below that allow them to more easily identify the different fingerprints.


The Wannabe Scientist One Year Later - Say hi to TreeSTEM

So...I have something big to tell you guys.

Recently, I have been working on a project that I have poured quite a bit of my own sweat and blood into. Yes—it's separate from The Wannabe Scientist, but not really, in a way. NO. I'm not "quitting" TWS in the traditional sense of the word. But, for now, I am actually going to step away a bit from The Wannabe Scientist.

I started this website with a couple of my closest friends about a year ago, simply because we were bored. I had just finished submitting in my college applications, and had essentially nothing to do but to wait out the rest of senior year and survive senioritis. So, what's the most natural thing to do in that situation? Create a website of course. Science had become a big part of all of our lives by that point, and we realized that not many other people realized how awesome it all really is. We wanted to share a bit of what we saw in science.

So in essence, we did exactly that. We started writing about the coolest things in STEM. Things we were passionate about. Things we were excited about. And started sharing it.  Little by little, other people wanted to join on, we started getting invited to interviews, science fairs, and things picked up really quickly. One year later, here we are, over a hundred staff members from all over the world, a few great partners to support us, invited to cover the Intel ISEF, and better than ever.

Yet, I've always meant to create something bigger. The thing with a news site is that it's very static. Sure, we have a lot of great people joining on and becoming staff members, but, beyond that, the medium provides very little interaction between the readers and the team. I'm aiming for something a bit more...dynamic. More like a community.

So let's make one. It's called TreeSTEM.

TreeStemLogo 300x159 The Wannabe Scientist One Year Later   Say hi to TreeSTEMTreeSTEM is a social collaboration platform that matches you up with collaborators and opportunities in the world of STEM. The idea is that we give you the knowledge of all that's out there, and it's up to you to decide what to do with that knowledge.


Here is a quick presentation we recently gave at the Stanford Graduate School of Business:

And for the next few seconds, your eyes are going to be subjected to how AWESOME TreeSTEM looks right now.

HomePageScreenShot 1024x512 The Wannabe Scientist One Year Later   Say hi to TreeSTEM ScreenShot2 The Wannabe Scientist One Year Later   Say hi to TreeSTEM ScreenShot3 The Wannabe Scientist One Year Later   Say hi to TreeSTEM ScreenShot4 The Wannabe Scientist One Year Later   Say hi to TreeSTEM



Let's get people actually talking with each other. Let's open up more doors for people to the world of STEM.

All in all, no, the Wannabe Scientist isn't going anywhere. I'm handing it off to Corey Fogg, who has been the best Editor-In-Chief anyone can ask for while I can focus all my efforts on TreeSTEM. Later on, once we're finished with developing the platform, we'll integrate TWS into TreeSTEM. For now, I'll keep on updating you guys on what's going on with the new project.

Any questions? You guys already know how to reach me!

It's been a great first year TWS.

-Brexton Pham

We're not just basic.