Writing Assignment 1: October 2011 Archives

As I walked outside i wonder why people put on sunscreen. Also, i wondered why hybrid cars were the new craze. In my head, i knew why people put sunscreen on and drove hybrid cars.... Not to get sunburn and to save gas money, right? But the other main reason is because the o-zone layer is getting destroyed by carbon dioxide. Also, people are starting to get Skin cancer because the UV rays are destroying people's skin and giving them harmful cancer cells. One principle of thinking is using the principle of causation vs.correlation. Many experts say that peoples excessive use of cars, and the excessive carbon dioxide in the air, is caused by people wanting to drive to places, because they are lazy. Many experts use the statement that carbon dioxide is destroying the o-zone layer. This statement could be true, but its still a hypothesis. Just because researches say that carbon dioxide say that the o-zone layer is being destroyed by the carbon dioxide does not mean that it is true. There are many other alternate explanations like how the world is deteriorating by its aging process. Correlation does not prove causation, carbon dioxide does not purely responsible for the global warming, many other things are responsible for the global warming.

Informed Consent

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Researchers must inform the participants of what is involved in their study before asking the participants to partake in their experiment. When I read about the Tuskee study I was shocked that these researchers did not inform their participants that they had syphilis and that they did not treat them. Instead, the researchers watched more than a hundred men die with deaths related to syphilis. This case, although unfortunate clearly demonstrates why informed consent is necessary. Participants should be able to know the risks and information about the experiment.

Today, although researchers must tell subjects what they are getting into, it seems like informed consent should apply to other aspects of life as well. Numerous embarrassing photos and videos are uploaded to YouTube and Facebook daily. Through these devices people are often mocked and humiliated. Before this information is released to the public, shouldn't the permission of the subject of the work be required? Often these photos and videos can cause problems with friends; they can prevent one from getting into college or from getting a job offer.

An example of an embarrassing video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sd-j0rKeKw. More than three million people have watched this video, and it seems like it would be embarrassing to the sobbing girl that just wanted to make it snow. Before this video was made public, I believe that she should have had to give her consent.

An urban legend that relates to the subject of informed consent is when a couple was video taped during sexual intercourse during the night of their honeymoon by the hotel in which they spent the night. The couple was not informed that they were being video taped and the hotel did not ask for their consent, which violates their privacy. Although this would be hard to fake, an alternate explanation could be that the couple was lying. Replicability could be then applied to ensure that this was not just a hoax.


It was claimed, by professor Sunha Ji of Yonsei University, that the suicide probability of short, thin people with low level of cholesterol is relatively high. Professor Ji and her team with the National Health Insurance Corporation have found and researched 472 Korean people who had committed suicide from 1992 to 2009. It is interesting that three unrelated traits, height, level of cholesterol, and degree of obesity, are all claimed to be the possible cause of suicide.

The professor Ji has claimed that "the reason why the people with low level of cholesterol are more likely to commit suicide might be the factor of controlling emotions of the cholesterol." She has also claimed that "the decline in growth caused by mental stress during childhood might have an influence on suicide." It seems that her claims are somewhat reasonable, but clearly they are not in terms of critical or scientific thinking.

First of all, the criteria of whether tall or short in terms of height is ambiguous, and the study was also limited to Koreans whose number was too small to be used to define the causality. Secondly, the conditions of each group other than their height, degree of obesity, and the level of cholesterol were not controlled. That said, there might have been a 3rd variable that had influence on their relationships. Therefore, the study conducted by professor Sunha Ji and her team can be said that it has neglected one of the principles of scientific thinking: correlation isn't causation.


Psych You Out

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Psychics are everywhere in the media from Silvia Brown to Shawn Spencer on the USA show, Psych. America's fascination with their gifts only fuels their lies. What is believed to be a psychic reading is really only an observation. Many of these TV psychics are highly trained in observation and can easily read body language and facial expressions. Psychic's can make as obvious an observation as stating someone is married when they're wearing a wedding ring. As long as the person isn't any kind of a skeptic and really wants to believe they are speaking to a psychic, they won't even notice the obvious observation. All it takes to debunk a psychic is a little bit of skepticism. They're doing nothing but making guesses about you. It's always important to think of another reason the person may know certain things about you. If they guess that you're there to talk about your mother that just passed in a car accident, they may have read about it in the newspaper and recognized your last name. There is always another explanation.

The concept Nature Vs. Nurture was an important concept that I took a major interest. The argument has been ongoing for a hundred years, whether nature more affects the outcome of a person, or whether nurture does. When we look at the nature argument, genes and chromosomes are to play in affect. Genetics are the basics of our biological structure. They determine our physical appearance as well as our personal traits (agressiveness, depression, mood swings, etc.). Nurture is your enviornment you grow up in, the people, place, events that occur in your life that help shape an adalencent.
Being a twin, I have a hands on look at how nature and nurture can affect not only myself, but my twin sister as well. We are not identical, so our genetics varies a bit, although they are closer than most siblings. We are similar is almost everything. We enjoy the same topics in school, same sports, we even have the same humor. Their are a few things we differ on, but overall we are like one person split in two bodies. My personal opinion is that nurture has more of an affect than nature. Your mind obsorbs so much as a child, and the enviornment your placed in molds your brain to make you the person you are when you get older.

The psychological idea of selective attention rings true in many aspects of life. People often focus on one important interest, while minimizing others surrounding it. I believe this is important because we often miss out on other equally important events or information throughout life because we are more focused on our stronger interest at the moment. My dad, for example, personifies selective attention perfectly. He has lived a life constantly surrounded by four women, which caused him to become incredibly selective in what he pays attention to. His selective attention is sometimes so extreme that we can have extensive conversations or perform several tasks and, if asked about them, he would have no clue, but would know exactly what was happening on the TV. Or, for instance, people often seek out news stations that correspond to their personal views, which cause them to remain blind to different or opposing views. This sort of selective attention can easily end up giving people a very narrow perspective resulting in extreme politics or a lack in knowledge regarding a wide range of subjects. Also, when we are driving, we concentrate on more important variables like cars and pedestrians and can switch our attention to things like signals, yet we are also able to ignore less important things while driving because of our selective attention. A couple questions still arise: Is the change in arousal/importance level automatic, or deliberate? Do we only consciously decide to avoid less arousing/interesting subjects, is it all subconsciously, or a little of both?

Nature vs nurture is a long lasting debate in psychology that questions the development of a persons behavior as part of their genetic make up (nature), or their life experiences (nurture). In the debate of nature vs nurture, the average person will believe that these two explanations are mutually exclusive, that is, its either one explanation that describes the situation or the other. Is it completely irrational to believe that one, either nature or nurture, is more involved in the process of human development? Not entirely. Just like everything else in psychology, the issue of nature vs nurture needs to be inspected from multiple viewpoints.
In the case of the Bogle family, it is quite obvious that the family values instilled on the children at a young age played a huge role in the development of their questionable character. But, it is not fair to rule out that maybe there is some genetic, nature based explanation for the violent behavior of the Bogle family. For instance, are a genetically violent person and a person raised to be violent going to have similar violence levels? Situations like this are key to figuring out if a genetically compound person can be "cured" or changed by learning throughout childhood and adolescence to suppress bad behaviors and enhance good ones.
Because this issue of nature vs nurture is so complex, it is incredibly difficult to determine how much of ones behavior is nature or nurture. The only thing that psychologist have confirmed is that nature and nurture influence 100% of human behaviors. My analysis of this question is that it is different for every individual person. Coming form a family that has a wide variety of personalities and behaviors (the goody good, the smart one, the responsible one, the risk-taker "aka me", etc.) I am incredibly interested in how someone's personality is shaped. From my personal experience, there is no solid answer to how one's personality is shaped for the general population. It is completely unique to the person on what influences them more. If it weren't, there would be too many people who have similar personalities. I don't know about you, but I couldn't handle someone with the exact same personality as mine.

Human behavior in psychology is often multiply determined. As a result, it is difficult to distinguish between the causes of psychological behavior. More specifically, it is often difficult to differentiate between genetic and environmental causes. However, being able to tell them apart is essential to gaining insight to how the mind works and influences behavior.
Important ideas to psychology are behavioral designs. Adoption studies are of extreme significance because of its ability to differentiate between shared genes and that of the environment. In adoption studies, researchers examine families that are not intact. This makes it easier to distinguish between characteristics that are genetic in nature or qualities acquired by imitating the parents of the homes in which the children are placed. The idea is simple in that if the behavioral attribute resembles the biological parents, the characteristic is genetic. However, if the trait better resembles the adopting parents, the characteristic is environmental. This is especially important because few concepts that help us determine these differences are available. Exploring the factors that influence our behavioral patterns is essential to understanding the human psyche.
My family, for example, consists of six; a mother, a father and four daughters. Although we are each unique in our own ways, we are also very much alike. However, because our family is intact, it is extremely difficult to determine the source of our behavior. Could we all be similar due to the genes we share or could it be that we are all exposed to the same environment? In intact families, it is especially hard to tell the cause of certain behaviors.
Although adoption studies provide much insight to the cause of behavior, it appears that other factors have failed to be taken into account. If the behavior closely resembles that of the biological parents, the origin must be genetic however, what if the environment of the biological parents and the adopting parents are very much alike? Additionally, could it be possible that both families could share similar genes as well? How is this taken into account in adoption studies?

- Video Commercial: http://youtu.be/Y_O-djDJjIg

-The claim of weight loss: http://www.xenadrine.com/

This claim states that it's shown that 7 times more weight is lost when taking this diet pill compared to people just dieting alone. This is an extraordinary claim, and there isn't extraordinary evidence to prove this. It even says at the bottom that the Food and Drug Administration have not evaluated the statements. Also, they have success stories, but are they able to replicate these successes over and over again... most likely not. Does correlation mean causation? Different successes could have been due to the amount of exercise they did when taking the supplement, or the amount they ate. They have a celebrity as a success story. That just tricks people into buying the product, because a lot of people will think they will get muscles like that if they take the product, which in reality, muscle comes from working out.

People could believe it due to naïve realism. They see these skinny, muscular, fit people (sometimes famous) talking about how this supplement helped them get their dream body. This leads people to believing that it's all because of this pill. It causes them to draw incorrect conclusions. Also, people could believe it because of belief perseverance. Even though there are so many different types of evidence saying how diet pills really aren't very effective, people still buy them and choose to believe the commercials/media instead. The extraordinary principle is definitely the most useful for these claims.

Weight loss products do work sometimes for different reasons. They are more for obese individuals to help them. They work with a good amount of exercise and a proper reduced calorie diet. People are just so set on a dream body because of the impact of the media that they think the supplements are right for them.
- False weight loss claims: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/12/weightlossrpt.shtm

'Identical Strangers'

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In Psychology 1001 we learned about one of the greatest debates in Psychology. That debate would be whether our genes or our environment makes us who we really are. This great debate is called Nature vs. Nurture, which is a very controversial debate (pg.34). Online I found an article about a secret research project they did in the 1960s and 1970s. Which they took identical twins and separated them as infants. They used the one of a kind experiment to assess the influence of nature vs. nature in their development. The name of these two twins were, Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein. The scientist decided to do a study like this because they thought that twins, who usually were dressed and treated the same, would have to much influence on their characters. So separating them as infants would allow them to grow up as two totally different people. Another thing which was an important factor of the study is no one knew that the child had an identical twin. The adopted parents were only told that the child was apart of a child study nothing about a research project to see how identical twins differ growing up in different homes. Elyse and Paula were told when they were 35 years old that they had a identical twin sister. They were also told about the study that they were apart of. The faulty thing is the scientist realized that the public would most likely be against a study like this. So the results of the study have been sealed up until 2066 and given to an archive at Yale University. This study absolutely blew my mind and makes me very curious to see the results of the study. It could possibly be the evidence psychologist need to have better evidence of the Nature vs. Nurture debate! We only have to wait 55 more years to see what the scientists discovered about how our genes or our environment influence the person we are today.

I feel that the principle of Occam's razor is one of the most applicable principles of psychology. Occam's razor, simply put, is assuming that the simpler of equally logical explanations is correct. The applications of this principle are endless, and often not even realized. Excuses from children, for example, are often disregarded because of Occam's razor. Imagine, as a parent, entering a room to find your teenager holding a football, staring at a broken window. Would you be more likely to believe the enthusiastically told tale of a huge bird, probably rabid, flying through the window enraged, or the possibility of a miscalculated football pass? Occam's razor prevails.
Another more modern and entertaining example: the 2009 chick flick, He's Just Not That into You. The movie is based around the fact that a man's reason for not pursuing a relationship with a woman is probably linked to him not being interested in the woman, not one of the other possible, yet unlikely, explanations. As "Alex", so gently explains, "If a guy doesn't call you, he doesn't want to call you." While all of "Gigi's" explanations are possible, Alex's simple explanation is much more likely.
Certain questions do arise from this principle. The main critique, and the one that ultimately demised Occam's razor, is taking into account multiple causes. Obviously many more scientific situations may have more than one definitive cause. Also, while less frequently, some unlikely explanations are valid and true, and if we always rely on Occam's razor, we wouldn't even consider these explanations.
While there are exceptions to Occam's razor, in applicable psychology, this principle is very useful. Whether discerning where those presents on Christmas Day truly came from, or who stole that quarter from your jeans with the holey pockets--Occam's razor should always be considered.

So what is the end result of following all of the scientific methods, avoiding pseudoscience, and using the right research methods? I feel that the book has for the most part neglected what the ultimate goal of inquiring into all of the proper scientific research methods and procedures is. I am not implying that the book is incorrect, but just that it does not give the reader a context for the outcome of doing research and reporting the findings.

In the end, research must be applied to real world situations to expand the collective human knowledge. It has to have some form of application to make it useful and effective. Why else would research be done? No one cares about research projects such as these "Ig Nobel" award winners since they generally have no application that is useful to anyone: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6223831/Pointless-research-top-10-Ig-Nobel-award-winners-for-silly-science.html

The book touches briefly and why it is important for research to be reported correctly since pseudo-scientific claims have harmed people by, for example, influencing them to go on a harmful and unhealthy diet. So in addition to being useful, research must be done correctly so it isn't applied in harmful ways. Again, this goes back to the end result of research findings: application to real world situations for beneficial effects.

Overall, I just wanted to touch briefly on why research is done. It may seem obvious to most of you that it is done for its relevance to prevalent problems in the world, but I wanted to put into perspective what we have all learned in the book on proper scientific procedure and research methods and why it is useful. Hopefully you will all now consider what your goal is when doing research.

Through out our lives we all experience and witness certain acts that cannot be explained. Connections become apparent and relevant in areas where we would not expect them. In psychology, scientists label these experiences as apophenia, the tendency to perceive meaningful connections among unrelated phenomena. When the connections come through imagery, it is referred to as pareidolia. All my life I have found myself questioning if certain connections are coincidental or meaningful. However, there is no true way of studying these experiences, as they differ from human to human and there is not a scientific explanation for the occurrences. Many people find the connections important, while some others decide not to read into certain situations. For many sports fans, apophenia has become a vital role in the superstitions of the game, mainly for the fans that believe in the 'lucky socks' phenomenon. Michael Blastland of BBC News Magazine wrote about the connection between wins and fan support, but labeled it as an 'accidental association.' Blastland begins to explain the origins of his theory, dating back to 1947 and BF Skinner's experiment involving pigeons and a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food. The birds seemed to believe that the food presented to them was there from the actions they have done. For example, one bird pecked at the corner of the cage, time after time, because it was under the impression that if it repeated this act it would then get fed. This is great example of correlation vs. causation, due to the fact that when two things are associated with each other it does not mean that one causes the other. Blastland's responses of the 'lucky socks' theory and the outcome of the match can seem to be related, but the two are worlds apart in reality. Blastland writes that fans seem to associate chance with superstitious beliefs, "as if your socks can change the direction of causality." As there is no real explanation to give, it leaves us to continue to ponder the mysteries of life. In an article a few years ago in Scientific American called Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise, Michael Shermer wrote, "Sometimes A really is connected to B; sometimes it is not."



Correlation vs. Causation

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The idea of correlation vs. causation can be deceiving to those who are unfamiliar with the six principles of critical thinking. The correlation of a graph is not always determined by the fact of two variables in a scatter plot. For example, the decrease in health is associated with the increase of number in homeless people in a given area. Now even though the facts are right since when do homeless people cause sickness? What we may have forgot to realize is that homeless people tend to live in areas with poor living conditions which in turn can cause health risks. So with this in mind can all correlations be relied on? The answer is yes, however, you can't use correlations on everything you please to do. Correlations should have a specific point and should be logical and reasonable. Yet with this idea on correlation and causation I wonder as to if some correlations today are false even if they seem valid. However, correlations that have reliable sources have proved to b valid so in which shows that as long as the correlation has a valid relationship between the variables the correlation should be correct.xkcd-correlation.jpg

We are all going to die. This simple statement causes millions, if not billions, of people to experience an underlying sense of terror. Why is it that acknowledging our destined demise causes so many of us to fear a dreaded sense of ending? Terror Management Theory recognizes that people are generally filled with a feeling of terror when confronted with their own mortality. Researchers that have studied this phenomenon have found that people who have a higher fear of death are more likely to believe in paranormal ideas like ghosts, reincarnation and astrology. I agree with this claim. I believe that if a person has a high fear of death, they are more likely to be in search of something that reassures them that there is some kind of continuance and that death isn't the end. A very big part of my life is religion and the core of my religion is to work, in terms of worship and good deeds, for the hereafter. Death is not the end, it is just the beginning to an eternity of bliss or, well, hell. Religion, as well as paranormal beliefs, allow people with a high fear of death to have some comfort in knowing that death is not the end.2008-08-23.gif

We are all going to die. This simple statement causes millions, if not billions, of people to experience an underlying sense of terror. Why is it that acknowledging our destined demise causes so many of us to fear a dreaded sense of ending? Terror Management Theory recognizes that people are generally filled with a feeling of terror when confronted with their own mortality. Researchers that have studied this phenomenon have found that people who have a higher fear of death are more likely to believe in paranormal ideas like ghosts, reincarnation and astrology. I agree with this claim. I believe that if a person has a high fear of death, they are more likely to be in search of something that reassures them that there is some kind of continuance and that death isn't the end. A very big part of my life is religion and the core of my religion is to work, in terms of worship and good deeds, for the hereafter. Death is not the end, it is just the beginning to an eternity of bliss or, well, hell. Religion, as well as paranormal beliefs, allow people with a high fear of death to have some comfort in knowing that death is not the end.


The placebo effect is improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement. In simple terms, things happens simply because we believe in them and we want to see them happen. This applies to the quote from Ghandi saying that "Every journey begins with one step", we must put our mindset to something before we can accomplish it. This relates to the Placebo effect because by thinking we taking that "one step" that Ghandi refers before we go onto our journey. Our journey which is, whatever we want to see happen. By already thinking that something will happen, it will almost be likely to occur. This is why athletes are told to visualize winning before they even start a game. By having a positive mindset, it improves performances.

I believe this is important because the placebo effect can be used for a positive thing in this world. For example, by helping sick patients gain the mindset of healing or having the ability to heal, it will help their development from their sickness. A real life example i have is that when i begin to feel sick, or even a little cough, I would tell myself i'm not sick and that i'm able to do anything. By saying so, it makes me less tired and more active. I believe that as soon as one begins to think they are sick or give in to the idea of being sick they will start to feel weak or not wanting to move.

The placebo effect can easily be seen as a mere mindset idea. If we want something to happen, all we have to do is imagine it and then act upon it.

Selective Attention

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I believe selective attention may be one of the most useful features of the human brain. Selective attention is basically the automatic use of abstraction by our brains. We overlook minor details of what is happening to us at a certain time and focus on the more important ones. For example, I am using selective attention right now while writing this blog post. There is a TV on in front of me right now and the noises of the city outside. There are also all of the things affecting my body, such as the heat from my laptop and my sore back from sitting in a bad position. However, because of the way selective attention works, I am not focused on any of these external factors and instead am able to direct my attention to finishing this post. This ability seems vital for everyone to be able to get anything accomplished. I think it would cripple anyone that could not use it. I would assume that people would be overwhelmed trying to do everyday tasks. This is actually the case with my grandmother. She has some brain damage and cannot focus on anything long enough to finish it, such as tying a shoe or reading more than a sentence.

I have found an interesting research study about how video games affect peoples' selective visual attention. I am an avid gamer and was surprised to find out how much video games can actually improve a person's attention. This makes me wonder if there might be training programs in the future to improve simple brain functions by using programs similar to the games used in the study.

The video game study can be found at: http://www.bcs.rochester.edu/people/alex/pub/articles/PougetDhttp://www.bcs.rochester.edu/people/daphne/VisionPDF/GreenandBavelier2003.pdf

Scientists at Oxford University have believe to discovered a way to make objects called muon-neutrinos travel faster then the speed of light-which has been known to man to be the fastest possible speed for years. This is considered to be breaking the light barrier. It has been tested at a mere 400mph faster then the speed of light, and many scientists consider it an extraordinary claim with not enough evidence to prove the test. It also claims that the particles were traveling so fast that they ended up in the past. How is it possible to proven that the particles ended up in the past? Will time traveling soon be an option? Also scientists are ruling out each others hypothesis because each believes there theory is either right or wrong. It doesn't disprove Einstein's theory however because light does travel at the speed he concluded it just disproved that the theory of there is nothing faster then light is wrong.

The claim is suggesting that because there has been a theory that has been replicated that is faster then light that everything we know about the universe is incorrect. But the one thing Einstein's theory has on the new proposed one is, Einstein's works every time while the new one has a small error percentage but in science efficiency is the most important task.

However Oxford scientists ruled out the extraordinary claim by presenting extraordinary evidence. Scientists in numerous countries are trying to replicate these findings, and if the do it will be considered one of the biggest scientific findings in our lifetime. They even convinced the challenging scientist to believe by presenting math equations so simple that "high school students could check it." The have not however released a explanation as they are allowing scientists world wide to check the fallibility of the claim before explaining.




On October 30, 1938, during the era of radio entertainment-- mass panic was induced. Famed broadcaster Orson Welles read from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, scripted to sound like a news report. With no visual or concept of context, listeners around the country were fooled into thinking that an alien invasion on New Jersey was imminent. The result? Mass hysteria.

Psychologically, this panic can be accounted for in a number of ways. First, one must consider the scientific principle of extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence. In 1938 the radio was considered a trusted and valid source of information. Like a newspaper, everyone who tuned in had to rely on a singular sense to trust. Rather than seeing the event, people assumed noises heard were also occurring visually.

In my opinion, this phenomenon can also have been propagated in part due to how we handle terror management. It is some scholars' belief that our awareness of our death leaves us with an underlying sense of terror (Lilienfeld 17). This predisposition to our own demise could only serve to escalate an imposing, if not unlikely, threat. Listeners had no reason to doubt that what they heard during this Halloween prank was reality because no evidence to the contrary was ever given.

Somewhat surprisingly, Welles himself was surprised that a story that had familiarized itself with the public through text and comic form could have been mistaken for truth by such a large number of the public, as demonstrated through the video below. The alien invasion on New Jersey is one of many examples of a media hoax (though unusually this one was, on some level, purposeful) and we, as scientific thinkers, must continue to practice scientific skepticism to avoid replicating such hysteria in the future.

The urban legend about the FAA lending the British a chicken gun to test windshields on planes has many holes in its validity. According to the principle of extraordinary claims, all extraordinary claims must have extraordinary evidence to back up the claim. In the case of the chicken gun there is little extraordinary evidence. First of all, there are many variations of the same story which creates doubt in the overall strength of the legend. These variations include instead of the British using the gun it was the Americans or the French, NASA or the Air Force were the organizations with the gun, and train windows and jet engines were used as an alternative to airplane windows. One of the only pieces of concrete evidence given was the fact that there was indeed an article written in November 1995 issue of Feathers but no one is sure where Feathers got its information. Another piece of evidence is that the chicken gun has been around since 1972. In America this chicken gun has been used for the "chicken ingestion test", one of the many tests required by the Federal Aviation Administration to test new aircrafts. This assessment of new planes requires a chicken to be shot into an engine working at full speed to make sure the engine is up to standards. This does not prove that this type of gun was used in British tests. Finally, this same story about using a chicken gun to test various vehicles has been published in many articles around the world including a book of urban legends published in Australia. Overall, there is little extraordinary evidence to back up this claim. http://www.snopes.com/science/cannon.asp

For many years parents have been saying," Don't crack your knuckles or you'll get arthritis!", and we believed our parents, although many of us still cracked our knuckles when they weren't looking. This is a classic case of correlation vs. causation. Just because you crack your knuckles doesn't mean you're going to get arthritis, there are other factors involved.
Dr Donald Unger was told numerous times in his life by relatives that cracking his knuckles would lead to him having arthritis. He decided to conduct a very long study over 50 years to prove them wrong. Dr Unger used himself as the subject of his experiment. Unger cracked his left hand twice or more each day. For the control in the experiment he didn't crack his right hand at all. At the end of the 50 year study the results go against what many mothers expected; neither his left nor his right hand had arthritis.
So the next time your mother tells you cracking your knuckles will cause you to have arthritis later on, just show her the studies that prove cracking your knuckles is not correlated to having arthritis, and there is another factor that leads to getting arthritis.


boySneeze.jpg This article claims that the common cold virus--a strain known as the adenovirus 36 (AD36)--may cause childhood obesity. This claim is based on a new study from the University of California, San Diego, but it has a problem.

There is no significant amount of evidence that supports this extraordinary claim--a principle of scientific thinking. In this study, 124 children--from age 8 to 18--were tested for the presence of AD36 antibodies; 67 were obese and 57 were of normal weight. The results from the test were, "antibodies to AD36 were found in 15 of the obese children and 4 of those with normal weight"--so a little over 20% of the obese children had the virus while a little over 8% of the normal weight kids had the virus. With this insignificant data, we cannot determine if this virus causes obesity. Evaluating this claim further, this study shows a correlation rather than a cause. More obese kids happen to have this virus more than kids of normal weight; there is no concrete evidence to support the claim.

There is a possible explanation for this correlation. First, children who are obese--generally--make unhealthy food choices. They tend to eat fast food and junk food more than fruits and vegetables--depriving their body of nutrients that boost their immune system. Thus they become more susceptible to infections, such as the AD36 virus, rather than kids who eat balanced meals.

Finally, if this study continues, they must isolate theAD36 virus and test it extensively--making sure that other factors such as nutrition do not affect the results--to see if it indeed is one of the causes of obesity.


paula and elyse.jpgFor years, people have disagreed over whether nature or nurture has a larger impact on who we are and who we become. "Nature" supporters believe genetics play a greater role while "nurture" supporters believe that characteristics are largely influence by the environment the individual is raised in.

There are many ways that scientists studied and tried to solve the Nature vs. Nurture debate. One type of study used is a twin study. In twin studies, researchers examine identical and fraternal twins and look for similarities and differences between characteristics to determine which are inherited and which are environmental.

In the 1960s, researchers took the twin study to the next level. They took identical twins, separated them at birth, and gave them to different families. Both the families and the twins were unaware of the study. The twins would grow up separately, and be compared later for similarities and differences. Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were two of the thirteen children that were part of this study. The study ended in 1980 because new laws. It wasn't until 2004, 35 years after they had been separated that they found out about one another. Elyse had contacted the adoption agency to get information about her birth mother, but found out about Paula, instead. Both women were very excited to finally meet, but were upset that it hadn't been sooner.

This study pushed ethical limits. Was it right for the researchers to separate these twins without their consent? Most people who have heard of the case have said that the researchers had not done the right thing; however, it provided useful information. They found that the women were actually very similar, and had similar interests despite being raised separate. By looking at this case, we can find the differences that can be attributed to nurture. Thankfully, this study can never happen again.

Despite the fact that these women missed out on 35 years with each other, their case gave a deeper look on nature vs. nurture. It is now widely accepted that both nature and nurture play a role in our characteristics.

Click here to read Elyse and Paula's full story

Click to see an interview with Elyse and Paula

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Writing Assignment 1 category from October 2011.

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