It's weird: Much of what is going on inside our own bodies is still a complete mystery to us. For instance, we pointed out a while back that science has no idea why we yawn. Then you have things like crying, or laughter, which are parts of our everyday lives, but upon closer examination make no sense at all -- why would we signal sadness with eyeball drool?
And the theories as to why we do some of these things are downright bizarre ...
#5. Hiccuping Is Your Inner Fishman Fighting Back
Hiccups are a series of stupid, diaphragm-driven breath convulsions that bother you for a while, then vanish just as inexplicably. You might have grown up thinking that it's the body trying to get rid of some air you swallowed, but that doesn't appear to be the case (babies even hiccup in the womb). In fact, scientists actually aren't sure what purpose they serve, if any.
But there is a scientific consensus on exactly how annoying hiccups are.
If you think of your body as a temple for the pantheon of your bodily functions, hiccuping would be the trickster god running amok and mooning people for shits and giggles.
The Surprising Truth:
Hiccuping may be useless to you now, but some scientists think it played a huge part in what got you there in the first place.
Think much further back. And slightly more damp.
The theory is that hiccuping is a remnant from an ancient stage of evolution. Namely, the moment where our great-great-great-great-ancestors under the sea took a look at the giant hellbeasts their aquatic living environment was riddled with and turned their gaze to the relatively horror-free land environment. The first obstacle they had to overcome was the whole issue with breathing. After a few attempts, they realized that they obviously couldn't just jump on land and go "ta-da!" So they adapted by small steps. As evolution started to toy with the concept of "lungs," these creatures weren't ready to fully commit to breathing air and kept their gills, remaining amphibious.
"And I'm keeping my rotary phone and Children's Medicinal Heroin, too!"
Eventually, the gills went away -- but a small remnant of the system that operated them remains inside you even today, and every once in a while it goes "Oh shit, I can't breathe!" and gasps for air for a while before it remembers that it technically doesn't exist.
So the next time you get a nasty case of hiccups, cherish your ancestry -- it's just this guy waving from the annals of history:
National Science Foundation
Don't let great-granddad's smile fool you. He's disappointed in us.
#4. Laughter Is Your Body's Drug Dealer
If you had somehow never seen or heard laughter before, like if you lived in North Korea or something, the first time somebody did it in front of you, you'd think they were having a seizure. Their whole body starts shaking and they start making these loud, incoherent guffaws like some kind of distressed animal. Why the hell did we ever start doing it in the first place? And why do we seem to enjoy it? What if we told you that Reader's Digest was right all along when they said "Laughter is the best medicine?"
"You have hepatitis C. And, uh ... wakka wakka or some such."
Does this mean that if we laugh hard enough, stab wounds will heal instantly, like Wolverine? No, but ...
The Surprising Truth:
Laughter gets you high.
Thanks for the tasteful interpretation, Art Department.
It's literally nothing more or less than a switch your body uses to crank up the old endorphin engine, in order to administer to you a moderate dose of the brain's very own feel-good drug. The trigger lies in the actual, physical movements our body makes when we laugh -- namely, the "Ha, ha, ha" or "Hardee har har" or "Hoo hoo hee hee snort/fart."
And that's all there is to why we love to laugh. Everyone enjoys a cool, natural high, especially one that you can share with your friends and strangers with minimal effort. It's a physical activity that triggers pleasure chemicals, like masturbation, we suppose, only one that's acceptable to do in a theater setting.
In fairness, laughter doesn't make the floor sticky.
Evolution-wise, our ability and willingness to experience that slight rush played an extremely important role in social bonding. It still does -- that's why everyone enjoys comedy; that's why cracking a good joke can grease up social situations that might otherwise be awkward. Hell, that may well be why the sense of humor is so consistently ranked at the top of desirable qualities in a mate. It's all just in search of that endorphin fix.
#3. Your Tears Are Toxic Chemical Leaks
All right, so what about crying? It would almost make sense if crying were something we always did in response to physical pain, like when we were kids -- even animals will squeal or yelp when somebody accidentally steps on them. But humans cry over everything -- when tragedy strikes, when we see a sad movie, when we're really happy. Why in the world would strong emotion cause your eyes to start peeing all over your face?
If your tears actually look like this, you probably have a terrible bladder infection.
The Surprising Truth:
While we usually think of crying as either weakness or Oscar bait, some researchers think the act of crying is actually the body's way of evicting stress -- literally.
As with most things, it all starts with brain chemicals. There is one called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and it plays a crucial part in triggering cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress. When you get emotionally agitated, ACTH builds up, which in turn leads to more and more stress. Which makes you easier to agitate. It's a vicious cycle to which there is no escape. So why don't we all just choke to death on stress buildup every time we see a sad story in the newspaper?
Because sometimes, your brain just flat out declares that it has had enough of this bullshit and blasts a bunch of ACTH the hell out of your body. Through your tear ducts. We guess that's better than leaking them out your ass.
So crying is just the body's way of stabilizing its chemical levels by literally squirting excess stress chemicals out through the tear ducts like optic blasts made of tiny frowns. That's the reason most people feel better after crying -- all that shit that used to make you sad has literally been removed.
Along with some of your makeup.