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4 Scientific Breakthroughs Happening Right Now

I'm a writer because I'm bad at math and science (not to perpetuate 'boy subject' stereotypes). OK, there are more reasons than that, but suffice it to say that sixth period chemistry was not my favorite class in high school (sorry, Mr. Rathe). It's not that I don't find it interesting; I just don't quite grasp it. Thankfully, Cassandra Galante, a junior at Colgate, knows her stuff. Read on as she runs through four recent scientific breakthroughs in terms even I can understand. "“ Stacy Conradt

4 Scientific Breakthroughs Happening Right Now
by Cassandra Galante

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1. When hypothermia is a good thing

EverettThe scenario: Kick-off returns are a coach's nightmare "“ they are the most dangerous play in football, with both teams running head-on at full speed. It's rare if these plays don't end in some seriously painful tackles. Usually the players get up and keep hitting each other, but just a few months ago, Buffalo Bill Kevin Everett's tackle drove his helmet straight into another player's shoulder, crushing his spine and paralyzing him from the neck down. Football injuries can be nasty, so team doctors and trainers are ready on the sidelines, prepared to perform some serious medicine at any given moment. It was the Buffalo Bills' orthopedic surgeon who had Everett in the ambulance within 15 minutes and injected cold saline into Everett's femoral artery to induce "moderate hypothermia" and reduce swelling.

The breakthrough: Everett's diagnosis went from life-threatening to miracle when he started walking again just two months later, possibly due to his spine being chilled. It prevented the damage from spreading from the injured area. This has sparked a lot of interest and discussion in the medical community "“ if induced hypothermia can help minimize spinal cord injuries, a serious medical breakthrough may be in reach.

2. Medical breakthrough or musical breakthrough?

arm
The scenario: Roadside bombs in war-torn areas are unfortunately pretty commonplace. Military-issue body armor can protect the torso, but bulky arm and leg guards can bog a soldier down and be just as deadly. The trade-off is when a humvee rolls over one of these hidden mines, this new protection allows soldiers to survive, but they still lose entire arms or legs.

The breakthrough: Science has developed increasingly high-tech prosthetics. Those made of silicone and PVC are incredibly lifelike. Researchers are also working on a process called targeted muscle re-innervation, which reroutes the nerves previously connected to the missing limb to a different muscle on the body (i.e. the chest) and then uses that motion as a trigger for moving the prosthetic a certain way. Pretty impressive "“ but there's also a $55 million dollar project to develop a prosthetic arm with goals so ambitious that they claim a person could play the piano with their "mind-controlled" arm. Which gives new meaning to the old joke:

"Doctor, doctor, will I be able to play the violin after the operation?"
"Yes, of course..."
"Funny! I never could before!"

3. ...How about this global warming?

treeThe scenario: The climate controversy has spawned the "hockey stick" graph, the glitterati's new obsession with living green, and the tendency for every socially awkward person to joke "how about this global warming?" whenever it's unseasonably hot outside. It's why you're constantly seeing the words "carbon offset" in advertisements lately, and why people can't stop talking about hybrids. Environmentalism has always been a common political concern, but it didn't become the epitome of cool to be green until the release of Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

The breakthrough: One scientist has invented a synthetic "tree" that looks nothing like a tree but does its most valuable job—that of cleaning the air of carbon dioxide. The creator claims that it could even be improved to do the job of 1,000 trees, which would go a long way towards getting rid of the 22 billion tons of carbon dioxide humans produce every year.

4. Outsmarting Mother Nature

tsunamiThe scenario: Humans may be damaging the earth, but she returns the punch every now and then. The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (AKA the Asian Tsunami, AKA the Great Sumatra-Andaman Tsunami) hit land early in the morning on December 26, reaching up to 100 feet high and killing 225,000 people, making it the deadliest tsunami ever recorded. There was quite a bit of outcry at the lack of any sort of tsunami warning system. Only those who recognized the receding bubbly water as a sign of an approaching tsunami would know to run immediately. Other methods exist, but none effective enough to give enough warning time for an evacuation.

The breakthrough: At a U.N. conference months later, an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System was created, with intentions of expansion into an International system in the future. But until then, those who live where tsunamis hit will have to live in constant worry, unless they pick up on some other way to detect the killer waves.

Check out the rest of our College Weekend festivities.

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Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
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We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

A display of tools.
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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

A stack of bed linens.
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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

Rows of holiday gnomes.
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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

Child choosing a toy car.
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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

Rows of rings.
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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

Searching for flights online.
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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

Gift basket against a blue background.
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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

Group of hands holding smartphones.
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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.
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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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