Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Ice Please

     There's something about ice. From glaciers to ice cubes, it's so fascinating, even though it is nothing but solid water. It feels different, it looks different, and it...tastes different? I don't know about you, but when I leave Zaxby's (see #10), I always munch on the ice and it feels like an extra side item. I'm not alone. People love ice. It cools our drinks, keeps us busy chewing, and allows for skating and endless rap metaphors. Some people will go to the drive-thru and ask for a free cup of ice instead of a free cup of water, but why? They're the same thing: H2O, just in different states. So other than cooling our drinks and preserving our fish in the YETI, why are we so fascinated with ice, and why does it seem to have it's own taste? And what does our fascination even mean?
     Well considering ice is just frozen water, it doesn't really have a taste actually. Yet ice is solid and gives us something to crew on, like we chew on food, which could be a reason why we feel it has a taste of it's own. Our brain can subtly trick us like that. Ever freeze Kool-Aid or Hi-C or orange juice, etc in ice treys when you were kid (or adult)? It's good isn't it? Almost better than the liquid thing. But in reality, there is no taste difference. Chewing instead of drinking gives us a different sensation. If you could drink(?) water as a gas, you'd experience the same thing. It'd technically taste like water, but you'd feel it tastes a little different because it's in a gas form and not liquid, which you're used to (could you imagine gas-milk?).
     It is possible to be addicted to ice and there is an actual medical term for it: "pagophagia." Just like other addictions, it can get serious. Some people will get up in the middle of the night and sculpt out their freezers to satisfy their ice fix. Pagophagia is actually a form of "pica", or an addiction to something that has no nutritional value. Ever seen those people (probably on TLC) that eat coins, glass, glue, sand, soap, hair, grass, and even mattresses? That's pica. You're aware you really shouldn't be eating it (especially glass...) and you're old enough to know better, but you just can't stop.
     Research has found that people that have pagophagia may actually be anemic. If you are anemic, you have a red blood cell deficiency. Many people with anemia have to take iron pills because their bodies lacks the essential quantity of iron. So why does that matter? What does it have to do with ice? Well while researchers still aren't completely sure, they believe that people with anemia chomp on ice non-stop because of pica. More on that below. Another theory is that chomping on ice relieves inflammation in the mouth. Many people that take iron pills regularly stop getting the urge to crush ice, but when they don't, the urge comes back. It's the bodies own notification system to take your pills I guess.
     New studies as well suggest that people with anemia gain mental boosts from ice. People with anemia are often fatigued because of the low red blood cell counts. Remember, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, and the less oxygen you get, the more tired you feel. Well ice may give people that kick that they need. According to The Guardian, a study came from the University of Pennsylvania, where they had healthy and anemic subjects complete a standardized ADHD test while being given either a cup of water or a cup of ice. The anemic subjects who sipped on the H2O performed far worse than the anemic subjects who had ice. Those subjects actually performed just as well as the healthy, non-anemic people. For healthy subjects, having water or ice didn't really make a difference in their test results. The study was published in Medical Hypothesis.
     One possible reason for the results? The anemic water-given subjects couldn't focus because they craved ice and they knew it was sitting right there in the room. I didn't read the whole study, but that could have possibly played a role. Another reason is below.
     So what does this mean for non-anemic folk? Well not much really. As stated earlier, you just enjoy ice and love the feeling of the crunch rather than the sip. You also don't eat or crave it enough for it to qualify as pica. Pica still needs a lot of research, but one thing is certain to correlate with it: iron-deficiency. Pregnant women are actually more easily susceptible to pica because the fetus takes a lot of the mother's iron, and eating these abnormal things may be an unconscious way of trying to get that iron back. While that makes sense with dirt, researchers still don't understand why ice is so craved when there is no iron in ice. According to The Guardian, one theory from researchers is that since ice is cold, large consumption of it makes blood vessels constrict and redirects that blood to vital organs such as the brain. Dolphins experience it as well when they dive into colder water.
     Don't be afraid of ice now. It's okay to chomp on it naked. PSA. when I say "naked", I mean eating ice without a drink. Don't literally sit there and eat cups of ice naked. That's weird. Anyway, if you haven't had pica all this time, you're not going to magically get it after reading this (though you could still get it someday). So while craving ice while having low iron may not make sense, it's a good thing we do.
     Ice. It doesn't have to make this kind of impact, to make an impact.

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*citations: New York Times, The Guardian, Our Health, GA Followers, Web MD. *photo credit: The Whole Earth Blog, Eventful, Grayline.

Monday, February 1, 2016

I Swear, That Hurt

 I was sitting in class the other day and as the professor was lecturing, it sounded like two girls were arguing outside about cupcakes or something. The professor tried to lecture on, but he could tell the class was annoyed. He went outside, then came back in and told us that they weren't actually arguing, but just rehearsing for a play (I'm guessing about baking). At that moment, the entire class, including me, went "ohhhhhhh." I then thought to myself, why? Why did we all say "oh?" Why didn't some of us say "wow" or "eeee" or "Yahtzee!" or "hot dog?" And then I wondered how come we say "ouch" when we're in pain? There may be a science to it.
     First off, pain actually comes from your brain, not the hot stove. When you touch the hot stove, the nerves on your hand are alerted and an electrical signal is shot up to your brain. Your brain senses that you are in some kind of danger and sends back down a signal of pain to make you pull away. As much as we hate pain, we couldn't live without it. If you couldn't feel pain, you'd keep your hand on the stove, and I'm sorry but there's really no way to turn that into a positive. Thanks to your brain's quick action, you'd snatch your hand away and likely yell "ouch!" or "ow!" along with "$#&%." Why do we do this? Well it could actually be because of distraction.
     Yelling "ouch" over and over or swearing after you experience pain can actually distract you from it. Mythbusters tried it, and it turned out not to be a myth at all. While plunging their hands in ice cold water, the group would shout out random words on the first test and swear words on the second test. Results showed that the group on average was able to withstand the icy water 30 pecent longer while swearing. PSA. don't turn into a walking explicit label after you stub your toe: your mom won't appreciate it. Do what I do: stop, drop, roll, and sob. You don't have to be on fire to do it. That's a myth.
     The same experiment was also done at the University of Singapore. 56 participants kept their hands in icy water while either saying "ow" repeatedly, listening to a recording of someone saying it, or not hearing anything at all. With the tests, subjects who said "ow" repeatedly were able to last 7 seconds longer than without saying or hearing "ow" and listening to someone else say it. The hypothesis of the researchers was that when people use their vocals after pain, it disrupts the pain receptors, distracting you and helping you cope. But I still haven't answered my own question: why do we say "ow" and "ouch?"
     Well, there is no real proven reason actually. The main theory, and possibly the obvious reason is that it is just a habit that we've all picked up hearing everyone else say it. Another possible theory is that we say it because our mouths naturally make an O shape, but again that's not proven, and is also less likely as many non-English speakers don't say "ow", but rather "aie!", "aui!", "av!", etc.
     While there seems to be science that shows using your vocals may help you tolerate pain a little better, you already know that won't eliminate the pain completely. So if you're planning on belly-flopping off the rock quarry into the lake later, don't count on "ouch" being there to save you afterwards.

*citations: Huffington Post, Discovery. photo credits Jokideo.

Rainless in Seattle

     Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman don't need umbrellas as much as you think. Seattle is known for many things: the Space Needle,  Grey's Anatomy, Mount Rainier, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, the Seahawks, and...rain. Most people who don't live in Seattle think that Seattlelites are miserable because they never get any sun. Well, they're pointing fingers at the wrong city. It actually rains in Seattle less than you think.
     According to Current Results, the average precipitation for Seattle is 37.7 inches per year. Boston on the other hand receives 43.8, Atlanta sees 49.7, Houston 49.8, New York City sees an average of 49.9, Miami sees 61.9, New Orleans with 62.7, and Portland, Seattle's sibling down south, actually sees 43.5. Saint Louis on average clocks in 41. 
     So why does Seattle always get rained on when they're dryer than ciudads such as New York City and Miami? Well it doesn't help that Seattle is cloudy for over 200 days a year. While clouds don't equal rain, in our minds when we see grey overcast everywhere, we can't help but think it's been raining or is going to rain. With that said, Seattle has sunny days only 43 percent of the year. Portland sees 48 percent, New Orleans 53 percent, Saint Louis 57 percent, New York City sees 58 percent, Atlanta 60 percent, and Miami 70 percent, 
     So why does it rain so much more in Miami, yet Miami gets so much more Sun? Well, Miami is in a tropical climate. A lot of the rain that Miami sees comes in the form of thunderstorms and heavy showers, which can, and usually do, dissipate a lot quicker. We've seen it rain all day long, but when was the last time you saw even a 2-hour thunderstorm? While it can rain all day in a city like Seattle, Miami  is more likely to wake up with Sun, have an afternoon thunderstorm, then go into the South Beach evening with clear sky.
     The reason Seattle sees so much grey weather is because of its location. Being wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, plus the jet stream and Puget Sound, and being closer to the colder Canadian air gives Seattle a marine climate. Moisture and clouds that race towards Seattle from the Pacific and Puget rain over the city, but struggle to make their way over the tall Cascades. Hot air is able to hold moisture better than cold, but as those clouds rise to get over the Cascades, they expand. As the air gets colder, the molecules slow, the cloud becomes heavier, and it cools. The cooler and denser the cloud, the harder it is to hold moisture and get out of Seattle's way. The jet stream passing by also helps mild conditions. 
     This also means it doesn't get blazing hot in Seattle. The average Summer temperature in Seattle? 73 degrees (22.7 C)...IT'S SO HOT. Seattle has only seen 2 days ever over 100 degrees (37.7 C), according to Current Results. Phoenix sees an average of 80...a year. Hmm, it's pretty fitting that Phoenix is named after a bird that's on fire.
     Seattle could be Goldilocks of American cities because the climate, just like the porridge, is just right (if you haven't been spoiled with LA or Miami). It doesn't get too hot, nor does it get too cold. According to The Weather Channel, the average January and February high is 47 degrees. That's manageable I guess. It could be worse. March then quickly rises to 55 (12.7 C).  Seattle also sees an average of 7 thunderstorms per year, versus New York's 25 and Miami's 80. Seattle's weather is clearly less bipolar than other major US cities.
     So if you want to visit Seattle, but haven't because you don't own a rain jacket, don't worry, you might not need it.

*photos from North Point Recovery, Back Country Coalition, Wallpaper Cave, Topozone. *citations: Weather Whys, Weather Channel, Current Results, Nerd Wallet, USA Today, Wikipedia.

No Chocolate For Trixie

     If you own a dog, you probably give them Beggin' Strips, Purina Dog Chow, Iams, Pedigree, or whatever was on your plate that you didn't want. All these are fine choices, but one thing you likely don't give your dog is chocolate. If you haven't been giving your dog chocolate then good, keep up the good work. If you have, please slap yourself. It has always been believed that chocolate is toxic to dogs and any piece of the sweet stuff could mean early retirement for your dog. While it is true that chocolate is toxic, don't think he or she is a goner if you catch them with the stray M&M you dropped on the floor. Still, you must keep the candy bowl far, far away.
     Chocolate is toxic to dogs mainly thanks to a chemical called "theobromine." Theobromine is actually toxic to humans too, and cats, but you'd have to eat pounds of chocolate for it to have an effect on you. PSA. don't eat pounds of chocolate. Dogs on the other hand have a different metabolism, and theobromine is metabolized a lot slower, which can allow for the toxins to be absorbed a lot easier. Too much theobromine can cause heart attacks, seizures, tremors, dehydration, diarrhea, internal bleeding, and worse. You as a human wouldn't want any of these things, and I'm most certain your dog wouldn't either. While cats are in as much danger, they're less likely to consume chocolate because most cats have no sweet tooth. Plus, they're cats.
     While chocolate should be avoided altogether, the age and size of your dog and the type of chocolate both play a role. Chocolate, or any food, will affect a chihuahua faster than it will affect a golden retriever, and a corgi before it affects a greyhound. White chocolate has some of the lowest levels of theobromine, while cocoa has some of the highest. Dark and fine chocolate should be of the highest concern. (Dark chocolate is nasty anyway).
     There are some people who give their dogs chocolate on purpose because they feel it has no affect. While Trixie may still be able to prance around the front yard after half a Hershey, I still wouldn't recommend it, at all...You might as well give your toddler Jose Cuervo and your grandma Draino. PSA. don't do that. Please.
     If your dog does happen to stumble upon chocolate, the medical emergency procedure works the same way as it would for a human. Try to induce vomiting, give them water, and go to the vet ASAP. Don't sit and wait for your dog to start howling to decide to grab the keys. Symptoms can take over 6 hours to appear. While small amounts of chocolate can amount to nothing more than a stomach ache, that shouldn't be an assumption. If you have the slightest feeling that your dog swallowed your candy, just make them throw up already, don't wait. Activated charcoal is also good to have around. That industrial stuff binds to the theobromine and help keep it out of the bloodstream.
     Other foods that you need to keep out of your dog's mouth include grapes, onions, cheese, apple cores, alcohol, mushrooms, raw eggs (your dog is not Rocky), and avocados, all mostly for the same reasons: chemicals that are fine for us, but not for them.  It's basic chemistry people.
     Next time it's your cheat day and you're enjoying a nice slice (or two, or three) of double chocolate layer cake, and Trixie is sitting on your lap giving you a puppy dog face, you and Trixie both have to tough it out. Do not give your dog that cake. Give her this.

*photos courtesy of Tumblr, Canine Club LA. Citations: Web MD, Hillspet, Pet Parents, Today I Found Out, Food Beast.