5 Bizarre Things Your Body Does (Explained by Science)
Our universe is full of secrets, and you don't have to go far to find them. Some of the most complex enigmas of our daily lives happen within the confines of our very own bodies, which is why the reason hair turns gray can be more interesting to us than, say, what makes black holes tick.
Luckily, scientists are also bothered by these little everyday secrets our bodies hold, and they have set out to find answers. As a result of their tireless work, we now know the answers to some age-old mysteries, such as ...
Why Does Your Voice Always Sound Disappointing When Recorded?
It's happened to all of us at some point. We go through life secure in the knowledge that our voice sounds like distilled sex, until one day some absolute bastard pulls out a recorder and captures our smooth, honey-dripping Barry White sounds on tape. But man, are you in for a surprise: When played back, that sweet, sweet voice of yours sounds like something very different, and that something is pure, distilled ass.
"Check the file name again. This is clearly a recording of Gilbert Gottfried dubbed off of an antique gramophone."
The pitch is wrong. The tone is wrong. If you're a dude, your voice sounds way higher than you ever expected. If you're a lady, your lush soprano suddenly grows a beard and twists into a deep-pitched imitation of itself.
Now, your first instinct may be to burn down the electronics store so no one can ever hear that blasphemy again. However, we advise against it -- that shit is actually your real voice, while the thing you hear in your head whenever you speak is the autotuned version only you hear. We hear our own voices because sound waves travel up from the vocal cords and vibrate our ear drums. However, the vibrations don't stop there; they rattle through our skulls, echoing about and distorting the sound in a way that we alone perceive.
At least you can take some consolation in the fact that no one was listening to you in the first place.
But why do we invariably think our recorded voices suck monkey balls compared to what we hear when we speak? Like most things involving humans, it comes down to who we want to bone. Men prefer women with higher voices, and women prefer men with deeper voices. Deep pitches are attributed to bigger bodies, and we as a society have deemed big men to be the best mates. Higher pitches, on the other hand, give us the sense of small bodies, and again, humanity as a whole tends to feel women should be smaller than men. Therefore, when a guy talks, he hears his voice boom through his skull like a subwoofer in the back of a beat up Bonneville. Women's voices are high and feminine in their own ears, and all is well in the world.
When we hear it through a recording, we realize how far off our real voice is from the sexy ideal and can nervously feel our reproductive organs start to shrivel away with every word.
When in doubt, try replacing reduced pitch with added volume.
And while we're on the subject of technology ruining our self-image ...
Why Do You Always Look Weird in Photos?
If there's one thing more unsettling than hearing a recording of your voice, it's seeing a photo of your friends, noticing an eerily familiar-looking creeper in the upper corner, and realizing, "Holy crap, that freakish alien pod person is me!" You can recognize the image, and it's you, all right. But it's clearly not the you that you're so accustomed to seeing in mirrors, windows, and momentarily darkened computer screens while RedTube is loading. Everything is just ... off, somehow.
Like how, unlike your typical reflection, photos may occasionally depict you fully clothed.
Good news! You aren't crazy -- looking different in photographs is totally normal, for a whole bunch of reasons.
First of all, every single image we usually see of ourselves is a reflection. And we forget that a mirror image is actually reversed (in fact, the flipped version is the self-image you get used to and grow to like the most). When someone busts out an actual picture of you, you suddenly see your features "reversed" the right way around and, because faces are fairly asymmetrical, your brain freaks out. "That must be the evil version of me from another dimension! I must find it and slay it!"
"Or, you know, whatever."
The other reason cameras (both photographic and video) give us a "weird" version of us is that human eyes and camera lenses work differently. This is another thing that's easy to forget -- there is no objective way that any thing looks. It all comes down to how the eye or machine viewing it processes the reflected light. You look weird through a camera lens, but you'd find that you'd look even weirder if you could, for instance, see yourself through your cat's eyes. It's more than beauty that's in the eye of the beholder -- it's everything.
And not only does a camera work differently from your eye, but one camera works differently from another. Telephoto lenses, for example, shorten the distance between photographer and subject. Inanimate objects suffer little from this, but a person might change drastically as the lens shrinks the distance from their nose to their ears, resulting in more balanced features. Other types of lenses can have the opposite effect -- making you look fatter or wider, for example. Even the appearance of height can be widely manipulated simply by the type of lens used to take the picture. And then there's lighting, which can fuck up the most skillfully taken picture something awful.
Thanks a lot, Nikon.
Add it all up, and you might wind up looking better or worse in the picture than you really do. And it is utterly impossible to ever know which it is, because every view of you is subjective, and none can logically be called the "real" you. Sit back and think about that for a while.
Why Do Your Fingers Prune When You Take a Bath?
Everyone knows how to tell when bath time is over: you suddenly notice the bath's gone chilly and the whiskey bottle is empty. However, when we were younger, there was a slightly more liver-friendly way to know when to get out of the tub: when your fingers started pruning. As a kid, you probably just assumed this was the first sign that your body was about to start melting. And for the longest time, science's answers weren't much less stupid.
"Melting? Fine. Sure. Whatever. Now can you excuse me? I've got stuff to grow on rats' backs."
However, it looks like they've finally cracked this particular nut: A new theory suggests that pruning not only has a function, but is a straight-up evolutionary advantage that allows us to grip wet items more tightly. You may have noticed that the wrinkles that form on your fingers resemble treading on tires and other high-friction materials. The point of treading is to increase surface area and thus friction, and that's what scientists think pruning does, too.
In the modern world, this helps us with holding on to the soap and, well, that's basically it. But back in caveman days, pruned fingers may have been a huge survival advantage for our ancestors living in wet and humid climes. The extra gripping power provided by nutsack-textured fingers meant they had a surer grip on the spears and other weapons they used to fend off hungry beasts.
Keeping their precious genes safe so that future generations might masturbate in the shower more efficiently.
The pruning response doesn't work with fingers where the nerve had been severed, which heavily implies that pruning is an intentional response from your central nervous system, which knows a thing or two about keeping your ass alive.
Why Do You Always Pee More When It's Cold?
Ever come in from a hot day to a cold blast of air conditioning and immediately have to piss? Or jump into a swimming pool full of cold water and start peeing your little heart out, even though you didn't have to go before you dove in? If you've never noticed it before, you will now -- it's a known scientific phenomenon. So enlighten us, science: Why do we pee more when it's cold?
And could you sum it up quickly? We're about to pop over here.
It's all because of the cold diuresis phenomenon, which increases your urge to pee at an exponential rate as the temperature drops. The colder it gets, the harder the piss seems to push against the inside of your organs. It's hard to ascertain why it is that the bladder goes into overdrive when the temperature dips, presumably because nobody capable of finding out cared all that much, but the leading theory has to do with how when you're cold, your blood vessels shrink, especially in your extremities.
As a consequence, blood tends to draw deep within the confines of your body, where it can remain nice and toasty and let the appendages deal with that whole "freezing" thing. A side effect of blood's retreat tactics, however, is that all the scrunching of veins and arteries drastically drives up your blood pressure. This sends the kidneys into full alarm, and they try to compensate by dumping water.
Why Do You Wake Up Early After a Night of Drinking?
After a night of heavy drinking, nothing looks as good as your own bed. The deep slumber that follows a busy evening spent pounding your liver into submission is arguably the best sleep of all, and you fully expect to not open your eyes until sometime in the late afternoon.
Ideally, right around the time the bars start to open back up.
But then you wake up at 3 a.m., still tired as hell, yet somehow wide awake. There you are, confined to a sleepless existence at the worst possible time, as the tiny alcohol demons racing through your veins are slowly starting to lose the battle with the dreary trolls of hangover. All you want to do is close your eyes and go back to the warm, dark place where pain doesn't exist. But there is no help, no release, and oh shit work starts in four hours.
Fireworks tester seemed like such a cool job at first ...
Everyone who's ever ingested alcohol has at some point encountered this weird, random phenomenon where you jerk awake for no reason, despite being tired and/or wasted as all hell when you go to sleep. This unwished-for wake-up call, and your subsequent inability to revisit Slumberland, is due to the rebound effect of alcohol. The hooch has activated the jumble of hormones and the metabolic pathways responsible for sobering you up.
As you drink, your body is hard at work metabolizing the poison you rudely keep pouring into it. This takes a considerable amount of time, and at the point where you've already been thrown out for vomiting on the pool table, your night may be over, but your liver's work is just beginning. It's churning away the alcohol while you hit Taco Bell, sext your boss, find the keyhole on the seventh try, and finally go to sleep. And then -- ping -- it's done. By that time, you're already sleeping peacefully, but your body doesn't give a good goddamn. Happy to be finally done with your ethanol bullshit, it enters a "thank fuck, we're finally clear" state, thus disrupting the hell out of your sleep cycle.
Leaving you somewhere between "awake enough to feel pain" and "too sleepy to seek out Excedrin."
This effect can be dodged if you have no more than a drink or two, or presumably if you drink yourself into a full-on coma, but pretty much anything in between can send your internal alarm clock ringing, resigning you to a late-night whirlwind of Three's Company reruns and sex hotline commercials.
Josh wants your sweet lovin' on Facebook.
Related Reading: Your body does things every day that science can't explain, like yawn. If you're interested in exploiting some of your body's built-in cheat codes, we can help you with that, too. Afraid your body might betray you some day? We can give you the worst-case scenarios.