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? Continue reading Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

Why Do Your Knuckles Crack?

It’s a favorite activity for many - that is, cracking knuckles. Those same sounds (crack! pop! snap!) that bring you relief and satisfaction, however, may cause others to cringe. But why do your knuckles crack in the first place, and why does bending any joint (neck, knee, back, hip, etc.) in a certain way make them pop? And is it dangerous?

Several hypotheses have been proposed in the past, from filaments stretching to even bones grinding against each other. Be that as it may, scientists have discovered (with the help of an MRI scanner, a finger-pulling device, and a gifted and willing knuckle-cracker) that the sound we hear when cracking knuckle joints is caused by the formation of a bubble in joint fluid. This group of scientists set about recording the first video footage of the inner workings of a knuckle crack.

You can view this video here:

So, what does this even mean? Simply put, all the joints in your body that people crack (fingers, neck, back, hip, shoulders, wrists, etc.) are synovial joints and are the most flexible in your body. The space between the bones is filled with a viscous liquid fittingly called synovial fluid, which functions to cushion the bones and help them glide past each other.

When you crack your knuckles, the bones move away from each other, creating a larger gap between the bones with the same constant amount of synovial fluid. This forms a low pressure zone that pulls dissolved gases out of the fluid, and these escaping gases form a bubble with a satisfying pop! The bubble doesn’t last long, though, and the surrounding fluid pushes on it until it finally collapses. The bubble’s gases dissolve back into the fluid over a course of 20 min, which explains why you can’t crack the same joint multiple times.

You may have been warned at least once in your life that cracking these joints is dangerous because it causes arthritis. Multiple studies, however, have found no evidence that finger pullers and poppers are more likely to suffer from arthritis than those who are not.

There was even one devoted researcher, Dr. Donald Unger, who studied himself after roughly 60 years of cracking just his left hand. This case study showed no increased presence of arthritis in his left hand as opposed to his right.

As interesting as this discovery may be, you may be wondering what purpose it has. Apart from solving, perhaps, a long-standing mystery, this work could potentially help doctors understand why some people can crack their knuckles and others cannot. This information may provide insight into overall joint health for future discoveries.

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

Why do we get Carsick?

Are you one of the unlucky chosen that get carsick? If so, I can totally relate to you, and I think we can both agree that carsickness is no fun. Some parents even keep a plastic bag next to their children’s seats in case they get sick. But what gives? What, exactly, is carsickness, and why do we get it?

Carsickness is essentially the same as sea sickness or air sickness—collectively known as motion sickness. Basically, this is what happens when the brain receives conflicting signals from the eyes and the ears.

When you’re riding in a car and perhaps reading a book, your eyes tell your brain that you are not moving, that you’re simply sitting. The book and the inside of the car are both stagnant items that are not moving.

While your eyes are sending these messages to the brain, however, your ears are sending quite the opposite. Your inner ear is responsible for balance and two types of equilibrium: static and dynamic. Static equilibrium basically deals with at the orientation of your head and body relative to the ground, thus sending signals similar to those the eyes are sending. On the other hand, dynamic equilibrium looks at the orientation of your head and body relative to sudden movements, shouting messages at the brain that you’re in motion.

The brain gets an instant report from these different parts of your body and tries to put together a total picture of what you’re doing at that moment. These different messages make the brain a bit confused, though. Are you moving or are you not moving?It isn’t sure, and, as a result, concludes that your body is poisoned. Consequently, it acts to get rid of that by, you know, sending back a past meal (i.e. tummy confetti).

Be that as it may, there is hope! Here are a few things that you can do to reduce and prevent motion sickness.

• Look out at the horizon so that you’re eyes won’t be fooled into thinking that you’re not moving when you actually are.
• Find the place with the least amount of movement by sitting closer to the middle of the vehicle.
• Always sit forward as this helps keep the motion sensed by your eyes and ears the same.

One more thing: have you ever wondered why the driver doesn’t get carsick as frequently? This is simply because the driver not only has accurate sensory information from the eyes and ears that the car is moving, but he or she is also controlling the car and can therefore anticipate turns, accelerations, and decelerations. This position allows for better calibrations of the car’s actual movement with the expectations of movement.
So, the next time you find yourself on a road trip, you’ll understand the science behind carsickness and will hopefully know how to avoid it!

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

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 On Pitch Perfect (No, Not the Movie)

Can Waking a Sleepwalker Kill Them?

Sleepwalkers, or somnambulists, get out of bed and perform complex activities whilst they are asleep. Because the person is usually in deep sleep, the person probably won’t remember anything the next morning, and it may be difficult to rouse them during the episode. However, it is common knowledge that you should not even try to rouse a somnambulist because they can get a heart attack or die of shock, right? Continue reading Can Waking a Sleepwalker Kill Them?

What If the Earth Stopped Turning?

We sometimes forget that the Earth and everything on it are rotating constantly. It's a really good thing that our planet continues to spin because if it suddenly stopped it would mean utter disaster.


First, everything would be launched in a ballistic trajectory sideways. What this means is that the rocks, trees, your pet dog, buildings, and everything else would be swept away into the atmosphere. Basically, at the equator, the surface of Earth and everything on it is spinning around at 465 meters per second. Thus, if the Earth suddenly stopped turning, everything would be flung due east at more than 1000 mph. The escape velocity is 24,800 mph, so you wouldn’t fly off into space, but it would cause some horrible damage. Your body would instantly become equivalent to a 9.5 inch caliber bullet…not a fun ride.

Second, each night would be six months old. In the present, the Earth rotates once daily, giving us ½ a day of daylight and ½ a day of nighttime. If the Earth stopped spinning completely, it would then take 365 days for the Sun to move through the sky (from Earth’s perspective) and return to the same position. This would be terrible as half of the Earth would be scorching hot for half a year, while the other hemisphere would be in complete darkness. Would crops be able to survive this new and extreme world? Probably not. The entire food chain would be at risk.

Third, Earth’s magnetic field would cease to exist. The protective magnetic field is generated by an effect that involves its rotation. Without this protection, we would be shot with deadly amounts of ionizing radiation from the Sun.

Fourth, the Earth would become a perfect sphere. Currently, our Earth has a bulge around its equator, similar to the shape of a flattened ball because of its rotational velocity. Without its spin, gravity would pull Earth into a perfect sphere. This poses a huge problem because oceans, once held out at the equator, would go rushing back towards the poles. The water would wash over nearly all dry land, surging onto land in tsunamis kilometers high. Our planet would become a single continent around the middle, with oceans surrounding the north and south poles.

To sum it up, if the Earth stopped turning, the whole planet would spin out of control. However, if reading this article made you anxious, do not fret! The probability for such an event like this is practically zero in the next few billion years. But this is a good reminder for us to not take Earth’s turning for granted and to instead be grateful. Without such rotation, humanity would certainly be doomed.

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

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.

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.

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 Death by Stress

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.


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.



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.


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!



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.

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:



We're not just basic.