All posts by Victor Liaw

Eating a placenta

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Photo from Motionisland

Victor Liaw

The placenta nurtures and protects the fetus as it develops in the mother’s womb. Once the child is born, the placenta is no longer needed. Some mothers in the United States have recently become fascinated with placentophagy: the practice of eating the placenta after childbirth. It’s a trend that has become more popular over the past decade.

Most mammalian mothers eat the placenta. It’s speculated to be either for nutrition or to mask evidence of childbirth from potential predators. By contrast, human placentophagy is unusual. One exception to this historical trend is in traditional Chinese medicine, in which dried human placenta is thought to help with exhaustion. This practice is cited by modern placental consumption proponents.

The placenta can be eaten dehydrated, raw, or even cooked as a meat substitute for  lasagna or pasta. The most prevalent method of consumption is in pill form. In a process known as encapsulation, the placenta is cleaned, dehydrated, ground up, and placed in capsules. Encapsulation is a service that private companies can provide for a few hundred dollars, but it can also be done at home.   

People eat the placenta in the hope that it will aid with hormone balance, decrease the incidence of postpartum depression, increase energy, speed healing after childbirth, increase lactation, and increase intake of micronutrients. However, most scientists agree that there is no proven benefit from eating human placenta. Research on this relatively taboo subject is very limited, and most scientific studies on the alleged benefits of placentophagy are self-reports instead of experiments. Self-reports are subject to potential bias when mothers who already have positive expectations and beliefs report a good response.

Although the benefits of placental consumption are doubtful, the risk of side effects from this practice are also very low. The CDC recently described a case of Group B strep infection in a young infant after coming into contact with his mother’s placenta pills. Currently, there is no standard for processing and preparing placenta to ensure it is bacteria-free. Therefore, though it may be easy to find favorable testimonials supporting placentophagy, it is not recommended by doctors and scientists.

Happy Pi Day!

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Source: LiveScience

Victor Liaw

On March 14th, mathematicians and nerds around the world will celebrate “Pi (3.14) Day”. It is a celebration of the math symbol, π, a ubiquitous constant that is found in many essential equations in both math and science, especially with circles. Perhaps the modern fascination for the number comes from its irrational nature; though computers have calculated trillions of digits for pi, its exact value will never be known. The practice of piphology, defined as the memorization of pi’s digits, is evidence of the dedication to the number by some mathematical zealots. To others, Pi Day may just be an excuse to indulge in some nice pie. Ultimately, Pi Day serves to commemorate the existence of a simplistic yet essential number that forms the basis of our understanding of math.

Recently, some mathematicians have protested against the Pi Day festivities. Rather, these individuals insist that the math symbol ‘tau’ should be celebrated instead. For background, the derivation of pi comes from dividing a circle’s circumference by its diameter, a value which remains constant regardless of the size of the circle. The proponents of ‘Tau Day’, however, believe that a circle’s diameter does not really encapsulate the significance of the circle. Instead, it is the circle’s radius that should be celebrated. Since the circle is the only shape whose radius is constant throughout, these individuals believe tau to be the appropriate and correct value to commemorate the shape . By substituting the value for diameter with radius, the value of this constant, called ‘tau’, comes out to be exactly twice the value of pi (around 6.28). Thus, June 28th is the holiday celebrated by the ‘true’ lovers of circles and math. But despite their efforts to bring about change, ‘Tau Day’ continues to be overshadowed by the much more popular ‘Pi Day’, most likely because people have never heard of tau.

Which math symbol do you think should be celebrated? The classic and popular pi, or the less-known but ‘more appropriate’ tau? I may be biased, but I heard they serve twice as much pie on Tau Day 🙂

Shampooing and the ‘No Poo’ Method

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Source: Live About

Victor Liaw

From hair stylists to dermatologists, experts now agree that hair does not need to be shampooed everyday. However, a recent movement in hair care has taken this to the extreme. The theory behind the ‘No Poo’ (no shampoo) Method is that the synthetic chemicals found in traditional shampoos damage hair by removing natural sebum. Sebum is the oily secretions from the scalp that protects and moisturizes the skin.  It makes hair feel greasy.

Your scalp responds to frequent shampooing by producing excess sebum, making hair feel even greasier.  Then you need more shampoo for hair to feel clean, and the cycle continues. Proponents of the ‘No Poo’ Method believe they can break this cycle by using gentler options, including baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and even water alone. These alternatives purportedly have the same effect as shampoo, but are much milder. The idea is that persistent use can result in your scalp producing less sebum and hair will become less greasy.

Although some believe that the ‘No Poo’ Method is a better alternative to shampoo, outside of testimonials from celebrities like Kim Kardashian, there is no evidence to support this belief. That being said, the ‘No Poo’ Method isn’t detrimental. How you choose to wash your hair is a personal choice, as neither choice will drastically affect your health. Frequency of hair washing is also largely preferential, but people who sweat a lot, have very fine hair, or a naturally oily scalp might consider daily washing if it helps to limit itchiness, dandruff, and head acne