33 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Your Own Body
Upon further inspection, we all practically have superpowers.
You probably think you know your body pretty well. After all, you’re the one who feeds it, nurtures it, gazes at it in the mirror, and uses it to walk through this world. But did you have any idea that it has the power to digest metal? Or that every time you blink you’re taking a tiny nap? Or that your pinky is your strongest finger? It’s all true! So read on, and revel in all of the amazing things you didn’t know about your body.
A Blink is a Micronap
You probably thought that a blink was just something you did to keep your eyes moist or keep dust out of them. That is a very valuable service, of course, but we actually blink way more than needed for that alone—about 15 to 20 times per minute. In fact, closing our eyes briefly has been found, according to a study by Washington University, to help sharpen attention and serves as a miniature recharge.
Big Eyes Cause Nearsightedness
Big eyes may be considered beautiful by some, but they can cause nearsightedness. Also known as myopia, this condition that causes distant objects to look blurry is caused by light not properly reaching the retina.
If your eyeball grows too long, light is focused too soon before it hits the retina—so when it does hit the retina the image is blurry.
Hair Can “Taste”
Nasal passages and lungs are lined with fine hairs, or cilia, that detect and sweep out impurities. How do they detect it? By sensing bitter tastes of the things passing through them (such as, say, nicotine). When these hairs taste something bitter, they increase their rate of movement, attempting to sweep out the bad stuff, according to a study published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It’s Impossible to Tickle Yourself
Your cerebellum—the area in the back of your brain that monitors movement—predicts the sensation you will feel when you attempt to tickle yourself, countering the response that the tickle would otherwise elicit in other parts of your brain.
“Two brain regions are involved in processing how tickling feels. The somatosensory cortex processes touch and the anterior cingulate cortex processes pleasant information,” Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a research fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, explained to Scientific American. “We found that both these regions are less active during self-tickling than they are during tickling performed by someone else, which helps to explains why it doesn’t feel tickly and pleasant when you tickle yourself.”
Your Hair Helps the Environment
Dirty hair can be good for the atmosphere: according to environmental engineers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, hair absorbs the air pollutant ozone. Scalp oils were found to be a major contributor to this, so if you want to do your part to help your local air quality, skip the shampoo! More than anything, this fact truly proves to be one of the more interesting things you didn’t know about your body.
When we talk about someone having a “glow” about them, that’s often literally true. Research has found that the human body does in fact emit visible light, but since it’s about 1,000 times less intense than the levels our eyes are able to spot, it’s not “visible” in practice.
A team of Japanese scientists dug into this further and found that this body glow rises and falls throughout the day, with the least glow coming off of the humans they tested at about 10:00 a.m., and the highest at about 4:00 p.m. (perhaps because they were about to wrap up work for the day).
Stomach Acid Dissolves Razor Blades
You probably shouldn’t be swallowing these things, but you might be surprised to learn that your stomach could do some serious damage on razor blades if you did. Researchers out of Meridia Huron Hospital tested the effects of gastric juice on metal objects and found that over 24 hours, the stomach acid reduced razor blades to 63 percent of their original weight (pennies and batteries, however, were barely affected).
Sneezes Can Travel Up to 20 Feet
You may think you’re safe when the guy all the way across the subway car sneezes, but you may be in the line of fire without even realizing it. A video study conducted by researchers at MIT found that sneezes travel much farther than previously believed—as far as 20 feet.
Earwax Is Good for You
To be clear: you don’t want to eat earwax! But that annoying stuff you’re using Q-tips to remove serves the important purpose of lubricating, cleaning, and protecting your ears from infection. It’s as much as 50 percent fat, coating the ear and catching dust and debris—keeping your ears healthy, even if it looks gross.
You Lose Almost One-Third of Your Bones as You Age
According to Mammal Anatomy: An Illustrated Guide, you’re born with about 300 bones, but as you grow, some of these fuse together as cartilage ossifies, eventually leaving you with 206 bones by the time you stop growing (once you’ve reach young adulthood). As it turns out, there are quite a few things you didn’t know about your body.
Hair Knows When You Sleep
One crazy thing that hairs can do: track your sleeping patterns. Researchers out of Yamaguchi University have found that our cell-rich hair follicles contain RNA from “clock genes” that express each person’s sleep-wake cycle. If you get up late or go to bed early, your hair will show it.
Human Nails Grow Faster Today Than They Used to
If you feel like you’re having to trim your nails more than you use to, you might not be wrong. A study out of the University of North Carolina comparing the growth of finger- and toenails to two previous studies from 70 and 50 years earlier found that growth had increased by almost a quarter over the decades. For example, the big toe was found to grow by more than 2mm per month, compared to 1.65mm per month in the 1930s. The reason, according to researchers? The proliferation of protein-rich diets.
Taste Buds Dull With Age
Wine may taste better as it ages, but as we age, it’s harder for us to appreciate it. Just as hearing and vision tend to deplete as the years go by, your sense of taste does the same. As you get older, your taste buds regenerate more slowly after injury or if you take certain medications. And bad news for the ladies: Women generally experience a decrease in their taste sensitivity beginning in their 50s, while men don’t experience that until their 60s.
You Have a One-of-a-Kind Tongue Print
Just as your fingerprint is uniquely yours, so too is your tongue print, according to a study by the Thai Moogambigai Dental College. Biometric scans can be done to compare the individual shape (long or short, wide or narrow) and texture (ridges, wrinkles, and marks), with specific details tracked and mapped by a “tongue image-acquiring device.” Of course, while this thing you didn’t know about your body might be interesting, it probably is not very useful to forensic investigators.
Humans Are the Only Animals That Weep
While many animals produce tears as lubricants for their eyes, humans are the only ones who cry as an emotional response. Dr. Thomas Dixon, director of the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London, suggested that tears serve a social purpose for humans and that, “Even for those who think they really are just weeping for nobody apart from themselves, it’s still a sort of performance. You’re showing yourself things have really got bad, or whatever it might be.”
Your Rear Is Your Largest Muscle
While there is some debate about which of your muscles is the strongest, your gluteus maximus happens to be your largest, according to the Library of Congress. These muscles help keep your body upright and move your hips and thighs have to work against gravity when you’re walking uphill or upstairs. Oh, and they also cushion you in the seated position.
Half Your Hand Strength Is in Your Pinkie
The pinkie seems unassuming, but it’s crucial for your hand strength—helping the thumb to pinch and giving more power to the ring, middle, and index fingers. Laurie Rogers, hand therapist at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, told the New York Times that losing your pinkie would mean, “You’d lose 50 percent of your hand strength, easily.”
Your Intestine Is Four Times as Long as You Are
This just in: there are a plethora of things you didn’t know about your body. Case in point: your small intestine is about 18 to 23 feet long, meaning, if you uncoiled it, it would stretch to almost four times the length of your own body.
Humans Have More Than Five Senses
While we have sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, humans also have “proprioception” (sense of space) and “nociception” (sense of pain). There’s also “equilibrioception” (sense of balance), “thermoception” (sense of temperature in and around the body), “temporal perception” (sense of time), and more, depending on who you ask. So, yeah, The Sixth Sense might need a new title.
Your Body Position Affects Your Memory
Researchers have found that sitting and looking downward will make it easier to recall negative memories, while sitting upright and looking upward makes it easier to recall positive, empowering memories.
No named bone in your body is smaller (or lighter) than the stapes, a bone in the middle ear that’s actually shaped like a stirrup. It’s complete with a base and an oval window, which is covered with a membrane that measures sound vibrations.
As the temperature rises, so do the height of kids. While you might imagine that growth happens in a steady, gradual way, Joseph Gigante, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, tells CNN that, like much else in the natural world, growth spurts can be seasonal: “Although we don’t have a good explanation for it, children seem to grow fastest in the summer and slowest in the fall.”
We’ve all felt that “butterflies in the stomach” sensation (say, before a first date or major presentation). There’s good reason for this: there’s a network of neurons that lines the gut, which some scientists have taken to referring to as our “second brain.” The gut doesn’t just handle digestion, but comes with its own reflexes and senses, and is intricately and inextricably interwoven with your nervous system. So, yeah, trust your gut.
Your fingers do countless important things throughout the day, from opening jars to opening doors. But as strong a grip as you might have, it’s not because you’ve got strong muscles in your fingers. Any movement that happens in your fingers is due to tendons and bones, with a lot of help from the muscles in the palms of your hands and at the base of each individual digit.
While most of us experience a broken bone at some point in life, the fact is that bone is an incredibly tough substance. So strong, in fact, that, as Discover Magazine puts it, “ounce for ounce, our bones are stronger than steel.” A bone has a greater pressure tolerance and bearing strength than a rod of steel of the same width. The strongest bone in the body is the femur, which can support 30 times the weight of an average human.
Every muscle in the human body connects to bones at both ends, allowing it to pull and create motion. There’s one prominent exemption: your tongue. On one end, it’s connected to your hyoid bone—part of your neck—but nothing else on the other side.
You’d think that our kneecaps would be a necessary part of the human body. Not for babies, who aren’t born with them. Instead, it’s cartilage that gradually turns into bone, as ossification begins between the ages of three and six years—and doesn’t fully finish until young adulthood.
The liver is resilient. Even if reduced by as much as 75 percent, it can grow back to normal size. This happens through the rapid replication of liver cells, with the thing reaching its original size (or very close to it) within about a month, according to the University of Iowa. Though this may be one of the few things you didn’t know about your body, it should be the one fact that proves to be truly stunning.
Your Feet Contain a Quarter of Your Bones
Human feet contain 52 bones (26 for each foot). That’s nearly a quarter of all the bones in your whole body! Each also contains 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
It might seem like a tall tale, but, as the folks at Business Insider explain, when you wake up in the morning, you’re actually a tiny bit taller than you are when you went to bed. This is due to the pressure put on joints throughout the day. As you go about your activities, it puts causes the cartilage in your spine to compress—just fractions of an inch but enough to push everything down. As you relax in your sleep, it eases the pressure on your spinal disks and allowing you to return to your full height.
It turns out we’re just as hairy as chimps. Or, at least, to take it from The Economist, “per square centimeter, human skin has as many hair follicles as that of other great apes.” We have the same number of hairs as chimps, even if the hair itself is much finer, making it harder to see and creating a lower volume of hair overall.
Your skeletal system’s cells are constantly regenerating and on average, these bones you have now will have completely regenerated in about a decade’s time. This does start to slow down as you age, with regeneration taking longer, causing bones to naturally become thinner.
Next time you’re in a meeting or having a quiet conversation and your stomach makes an embarrassing rumbling sound, you can blame it on borborygmus, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. That’s the technical term for the gurgling sound that results from fluid and gas moving around in the intestines (plural, it’s known as borborygmi).
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