Curiosities: Why does your body shiver when you are cold?

December 5, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.


I could not use my bicycle last night because of the rain, so I decided to go home by bus. While waiting at the bus stop, I noticed two things about a girl who was in front of me: One, she was wearing a miniskirt despite a temperature between three and four degrees. Second, she was shivering.

“Social conventions and male chauvinism dictate cruel rules sometimes”, I thought. “If you are a young girl, people expect you to show your legs even in winter and to extend the length of your skirt some centimeters as you are getting old until the day comes when you cannot even see your feet.” Then my thoughts went back to the second observation: Why does the body shiver when we are cold?

On very cold moments, your body temperature drops from its normal parameters (between 36°C and 37°C) to lower values that can lead to hypothermia, a dangerous condition because of a long exposure to cold. After moving or running for a while, you take your coat off, right? And you do that because friction and movements produce heat. Sometimes, we do not remember this fact, but our body does, and that’s why it shivers: As an attempt to protect you by raising the body temperature.

Copyright 2016 All rights are reserved.


Curiosities: How fast and far does a sneeze travel?

August 7, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.


When you are about to sneeze, you breathe deeply, your body is full of air, pressure increases and the air is forced to come out through your nose and mouth at an incredible speed. How fast? Well, if we could throw a baseball at the same speed as we sneeze (100 miles or 160 kilometers per hour), we would have a millionaire contract as a pitcher in major league. As for the explosive sound we hear when sneezing, it is the result of the significant amount of air coming out of our relatively small mouth and nostrils. The intensity and the onomatopoeia of a sneeze are both variable things. For example, in Japan people usually say “ハクション” (hakushon) when they sneeze while in many countries in Latin American people say “achís”, “atchoo” in USA and so on.

As for the distance, every time you sneeze, what is coming out of your mouth and nose is not a bouquet of flowers, but thousands of germs that travel between 3 and 5 feet because of the force and speed that the mucus particles travel with when they move out of your body. If possible, use a mask or a handkerchief to protect other people around you. In case you do not have time to get your handkerchief out of your pocket (or you don’t have any), use your sleeves rather than your hands since you can infect many things after touching them.

Copyright 2016 All rights are reserved.

Curiosities: Why do some people crack their fingers (knuckles) and why does the knuckle cracking make a popping sound?

April 2, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.


Yesterday, I wanted to go to a quiet place to write a short story, so I went to the town library. It was very quiet indeed, except for the noise made by a student who was cracking his knuckles. He did it once and, minutes later, he tried to repeat the same action, but it was in vain. However, after 20 minutes or so, he was right there, doing the same thing again. I was a little bit upset and also curious to know why some people crack their knuckles to a point that they cannot stop.

Joint cracking is a habit, and in general, people keep attached to their habits because they feel good doing so. Some people crack their knuckles to get rid of stress; others claim to experience physical release, certain feeling of comfort and looseness.

As for the popping sound, what do you hear when a balloon bursts? A sound, right? And a balloon contains gas. There are different theories about the popping noise, but in general they have the same thing in common: gas bubbles. Between the bones, there is a liquid called synovial fluid whose function is to allow the joint to move freely by acting as a lubricant. This synovial fluid contains gas bubbles that pop when they receive some pressure, making the familiar sound we know. A most recent theory points to a cavity filled with gas that is formed when the joint is stretched apart. However, in both cases, the idea is the same: The popping noise comes from gas as primary agent. Since the gas stays in the synovial fluid more than 20 minutes, a person cannot crack his or her knuckles repeatedly. They need 20-30 minute intervals for that, and that’s why the kid in the library could not crack his fingers twice so quickly, which allowed me to write the first paragraph of my story without being interrupted by his noise.

Finally, until now, there is no scientific evidence that links joint cracking to arthritis. Joint injuries, swelling and other problems are not beyond the bounds of possibility, but is not sure that you will end up dealing with these problems either. However the sound you make whenever you crack your knuckles is socially disturbing and annoying.

Copyright 2016 All rights are reserved.

Curiosities: How many times does a person blink per minute and why?

March 19, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.


When you blink, you shut and open your eyes quickly, in fact, quicker than the proverb “in the blink of an eye”, because a blink only takes one third of a second. We blink for several reasons, for example, to keep the eye clean and moist because if the eyeball dries out, it becomes itchy and irritating. A blink is also a protective mechanism against bright light or particles that could hurt your eyes.

As for the number of times we blink, I think that we have to be very careful with figures here since the range of blink rate is wide and it depends on different factors and situations. For instance, a baby only blinks once or twice per minute, but a person under great stress and anxiety, could blink 40 or 50 times, and if you are very concentrated on something, you will not blink more than 20. Anyway, if you still want something more specific, a person blinks on average between 15 and 20 times per minute, 900 and 1200 times in an hour.

Copyright 2016 All rights are reserved.

Curiosities: Why do we have flatulence (pass wind/gas)?

February 4, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.


Flatulence (commonly called fart) is a gas that we release from the digestive system via anal route. Putting aside the embarrassing moments it could create, flatulence is a normal biological action, as frequent as having lunch. In fact, more: People’s fart production goes generally from 7-8 (at its lowest) to 20-25 (at its highest) times per day.

When you open your mouth to eat or drink, you enter a piece of food or some drink into your body, but during this action, air enters too. Something similar happens when a person smokes, chews, etc. The gas is accumulated inside your digestive system and it basically consists of nitrogen and oxygen, which are sent out of your body when they reach uncomfortable levels in order to prevent possible health problems.

To pass wind is also the result of gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide) that are accumulated when we digest food. If what you eat consists of a large amount of food that is difficult to digest, it is not surprising that your body begins to imitate the sound of an automatic rifle. Finally, do not feel so bad when you pass gas since it is not only natural, but necessary. Remember that a car would not run a long distance without an exhaust pipe or a balloon would burst quickly with too much air. Passing gas is one of the most vilified actions that I have seen (I mean, that I have heard!) because it embarrasses us, especially when it happens in a plane, an elevator or in front of an audience or because of its foul odour, which comes from bad digestion of food. Bad digestion releases sulfur-containing substances and compounds, such as skatole, both responsible for the odor. Just be careful and respectful.

Copyright 2016 All rights are reserved.