The human body is a big, meaty sack of wonder. All day long, things are happening inside of yourself that you’re never aware of. Synapses fire in your brain, nerves send signals through your muscles, your heart and lungs and stomach and spleen are all doing what they do, all without any input from you.
A lot of the things you can experience in a day you may take for granted, but it turns out there’s some pretty weird science behind even the most mundane experiences. You just never realize it. Like these ten things,
10. Your Brain Releases Chemicals to Make You Hangry
Ever find yourself feeling a little hangry? It’s not just a goofy made up word, it’s a real thing! It’s a grumpy, angry feeling you get when you’re hungry. But why would being hungry make anyone angry? It’s all chemicals, man. As much as 25% of all of your energy is used by your brain. So when you’re running low on nutrients, your brain reacts like a spoiled child. It will induce a stress response to make you feed it.
Your brain will release cortisol and adrenaline to help balance your blood sugar and, for some of us, cortisol causes aggression. So your brain just wants a sandwich and now you want to punch someone to get it. It’s science.
9. Your Voice Sounds Weird on Tape for Physical and Psychological Reasons
Hate the sound of your voice on tape but not in your own head? You’re not alone. The phenomenon is called “voice confrontation” and it stems in part from the way your skull vibrates and changes the way your own voice sounds compared to the voices of everyone else you hear. It will sound deeper in your head thanks to how bones conduct the sound to your ear. But there’s more afoot!
Research in the 1960s concluded there was a psychological aspect to the hatred of your own voice. These “extra-linguistic cues” are hard to perceive when you’re speaking, but a recording makes them more apparent – things like how stressed you sound, if you’re indecisive or angry. Basically, it’s things you were not aware of, or not trying to project through speech, that came out anyway and now you’re confronted with them and they make you uncomfortable.
8. Floaters Are Caused by Vitreous Fluid Changes and Collagen Threads
Any time you see tiny, moving objects in your field of vision that aren’t really there, those are floaters. They can happen when you rub your eyes, when you get knocked on the noggin, or for no noticeable reason at all.
The inside of your eye is filled with vitreous fluid. Sometimes there are pockets of thinner liquid in thicker gel and the border between the two can be perceived as a floater. But you may also be seeing collagen fibers. As you age, these become thicker and denser, and that makes them more visible from time to time. These fibers can also clump together and get large enough to become visible. It’s actually the shadows cast by them that you perceive as floaters. Normally they are harmless, but if they become a constant presence, you’ll want to visit the eye doctor.
7. Long Drives Make You Tired Because Your Body is Constantly Reacting to Vibrations
Ever gone on one of those really long, cross-country road trips and, after being behind the wheel for ten hours, you’re just absolutely exhausted? Of course you are, you were driving for ten hours. You know… sitting still in one spot, lightly pushing pedals and gently moving a wheel in your hands now and then. It’s exhausting. But why? What makes sitting and doing next to nothing so tiring?
The phenomenon sometimes called travel fatigue is a real thing. Sitting for long periods actually stresses out your veins. Blood pools in your legs so you may start swelling. This can cause muscle soreness and can even lead to deep vein thrombosis.
In addition, the natural vibrations of a car in motion start to make you tired within just 15 minutes of taking the wheel. Your body must constantly adjust to bumps and shifts so your muscles never actually get a rest. Even though you’re not straining them deeply, they’re always being used, and that wears you down.
6. One Nostril Gets Congested at a Time Because of a Nasal Cycle
Allergies and things like colds make you feel terrible and one of the worst side effects is when you get congested. But you may have noticed the unusual predicament of being congested in just one nostril at a time. And it may even shift from nostril to nostril. So what gives?
Turns out, your nose is not an equal opportunity body part. Even when breathing normally, one nostril is doing most of the work. It will switch back and forth during the day, but one is always doing more than the other, thanks to your autonomic nervous system.
This nasal cycle keeps your nose from drying out and getting damaged. A cold or allergies will cause nasal blood vessels to dilate and then greater mucus production, which will leave that one nostril feeling clogged while the other takes over.
5. Your Brain Wakes You Up Before Your Alarm Because Your Internal Clock Knew The Alarm was Coming
If you have ever found yourself waking up only to stare at your alarm clock five minutes before it’s set to go off, you know how absolutely frustrating that can be. The only thing worse is that it seems to keep happening. It’s far too late to go back to sleep and you just don’t want to get up because you feel like you’ve been robbed of five minutes. And there’s a reason it keeps happening.
No doubt you’ve heard of your body’s internal clock before. Sometimes it goes by the flashier name of circadian rhythm. This sort of regulates your sense of time in regards to how and when you get things done. Part of that is when you feel tired and when you feel awake. There are plenty of external factors that can shake this feeling of tiredness or wakefulness up, ranging from how much work you did that day making you feel exhuatsed to what you ate or drank giving you energy boosts and so on. But, in general, your body is set to a routine.
Because your circadian rhythm likes to maintain a routine, it works best when you stick to that routine. Stick To the same routine long enough and it can even start predicting when you’re supposed to wake up, which is what is happening when you keep waking just before you alarm. Your body’s own sense of time is aware of how long you’re supposed to be sleeping and just jumped the gun on you a little. It starts producing the proteins necessary to get you feeling up and active because it knows you’re going to need them.
In fact, the protein eases you into wakefulness in part because it’s trying to avoid that jarring alarm which wakes you suddenly. This way, raising your blood pressure, temperature and cortisol levels, you can wake up gently rather than with a scream from a morning DJ.
4. You Think You Look Better in a Mirror Than in Photos Because of Lighting and Angles
Chances are you know someone who says they hate photos of themselves, or maybe you feel that way yourself. But you rarely hear those same people make similar remarks about their reflections. If you were to compare your reflection to a photo taken at the same time, you’d likely prefer the reflection, and there is a reason.
Existing in your head as you do, you almost never see the you that everyone else sees. The mirror you is a reverse you. Your perception of yourself is mostly built on this. So when you see a photo, it’s you but arranged in the reverse of how you’re used to seeing yourself and your mind doesn’t like that. It will also appear at angles we can’t see in a mirror because of how our eyes work in our heads when we see ourselves. Eyes front means you always have yourself at the best angle, even when you turn your head. So a selfie will give you unflattering angles you never knew existed.
Apart from the angles, the lighting isn’t able to change the way it will when your eyes adjust to a mirror image in a photo, either. In short, your eyes give you the best angle and best lighting automatically all the time, but photos capture a weird moment we aren’t used to.
3. Alcohol Burns Because it Alters Heat Receptors in Your Mouth
Do you remember the first time you did a shot of whisky? Or maybe vodka? That searing burn in your mouth and down your throat as you wondered why the hell people do this to themselves? And then, depending on your personal feelings regarding getting sauced, you either never drank again or did it until you barely noticed the burn? We’re not here to debate your feelings on drinking, but we are focused on what you feel when you drink, namely that burn. Ever wondered exactly why alcohol burns?
Weirdly enough, alcohol and spicy peppers work on your brain in very similar ways. Neither is hot to the touch, but your brain perceives heat in your mouth and throat when you consume them. That’s thanks to something called a vanilloid receptor. When these receptors in your mouth come into contact with alcohol, it lowers their tolerance for heat. Normally your mouth will burn because you ate something hot and they perceive things around 42 C or 107 F as hot. But ethanol lowers that tolerance right down to around 34 C or 93F. This is a problem because your body temperature is 98.6 F or 37 C.
Since your heat receptors are now set off by your own body, wherever the alcohol touches is going to feel like fire because your brain is now convinced you’re drinking fire. Once the booze is gone, things balance out again.
2. Tattoos Stay in Your Skin Because Macrophages Eat the Ink Over and Over
Around 30% of Americans have tattoos. But what is it that keeps the ink under your skin for all time once it’s in there? For years, the popular thinking was that tattoos are applied to the dermis, so it’s below the skin that constantly regenerates. That’s not actually true, though. The truth is all about your immune response and something called macrophages.
The tattoo does hit your dermis and your immune system immediately recognizes a wound. Cells called macrophages go to the wound and absorb the ink. Basically, they are eating it to try to make it go away. But the macrophages die and are replaced by new macrophages that eat the old ones, keeping the ink locked in place despite the fact they’re trying to clean it all away.
1. We May See Faces in Patterns For Evolutionary Survival Reasons
The human mind is wired to see faces everywhere. From an IKEA bathroom to Brussels sprouts. It’s not because some people are cranks, it’s because of pareidolia. We do it all the time when we see patterns, arranging them into familiar shapes in our minds.
In one study, 34% of participants who were shown gray static-like patterns managed to find a face in it. Brain imaging showed that the frontal and occipital regions, which deal with planning and memory. were activated.. It’s been theorized that this, followed by the activation of the right fusiform face area, which is activated when we see real faces, works together because we’re expecting to see something like a face.
One theory about why this happens has an evolutionary component. We are hard wired to see faces. Society works because humans help each other, but we also fear enemies. Recognizing faces, good or bad, kept us alive as a species. So our brains need to recognize them, even if sometimes we mess up.