5 Seemingly Impossible Things Your Body Does Every Day
Due to the relative lack of effort we put into staying alive every day -- basically, remember to breathe and eat ... if it's cheap and close to the couch -- it's easy to forget how incredibly complex our bodies are. But our stupid meatshells are actually working overtime to juggle ridiculously complicated tasks behind the scenes. They're truly wonderful machines, so let's take a minute to appreciate the fact that ...
Your Kidneys Are Literally Tasting Your Pee for Toxins
Taste and smell receptors don't just exist in your face. For the past decade or so, scientists have been discovering, to their surprise, that these specialized cells are actually found in tissues and organs all over your body, like the kidneys, heart, spine, respiratory tract, and even red blood cells. They initially wrote it off as a case of bodily confusion, but now they have a more interesting theory: your entire body is constantly smelling and tasting the world around you. That last sentence reads like either madness or the setup for a gory body-horror movie, but it may be true.
The appropriate reaction.
Take your kidneys, for example: Scent receptors are found within a tight grouping of cells called the macula densa. This region regulates blood filtration rates and therefore urine production, but the presence of these receptors suggests that it's literally smelling and/or tasting your piss as a form of chemical analysis. That's right: Your kidneys are super freaky.
"Yeah, that wasn't tea ..."
Even your blood can smell things. In an experiment, scientists put blood cells on one side of a chamber and an aromatic compound that reacted with their scent receptors on the other, and watched in fascination (or perhaps abject horror) as the blood moved toward the scent. Getting more Cronenbergian by the minute here, aren't we? Well hold on, because it gets weirder:
You know what can also smell? Sperm.
"Guys, smell that? I think we went the wrong way."
And not just "like a teenager's bedroom" either. It's suggested that sperm use smell receptors to hunt out a woman's egg like bloodhounds. Now picture a penis firing out a billion tiny writhing creatures, each hungrily huffing the air around them, trying to track down what they all collectively want.
Supersize that scene, slap some spikes on it, and you got a pretty solid sequel to The Thing.
There are 1,000 Times More Synapses in Your Brain Than There Are Stars in Our Galaxy
For a while, scientists estimated that there were 100 billion neurons in the human brain. This theory was debunked when they did a direct study -- which involved tossing brains into a blender and then subjecting the goop to microscopic analysis -- and found that the number is closer to only 86 billion. Great. We're a bunch of idiots. Thanks for confirming that one, science.
But then there's our synapses, the connections between neurons, which snap together like thinky Legos to create the immense network that is the human mind. The total number of these synapses is a mind-boggling 100 trillion. A number that's 1,000 times greater than the total amount of stars found within our Milky Way galaxy.
This one reminds you to clear your browser history.
At a rate of 20 million billion calculations per second, your brain makes world-class computers look as technologically advanced as a drinking bird. To put things in perspective, Japanese and German scientists in 2013 tried to build a machine that could simulate the computing power encased in your skull. Using the power of 82,944 processors, they were actually able to achieve something approaching the computing power of one second in the human brain. It took them 40 minutes.
They best they could achieve was something resembling a terrible video game launch day.
And yet here you are, reading a comedy website in one window with 16 tabs of sloth memes in the other. It's like having a Large Hadron Collider in your kitchen and using it to make toast.
Your Hearing Is So Sensitive, It Can Distinguish Temperature
Evolution has fine-tuned every aspect of our ears to assure survival in a world once dominated by saber-toothed cats and fist-toothed ... mammoths. We don't know, this isn't history class.
Back to the ear: First of all, that weird shape, with all those folds and creases, isn't just wrinkly evolutionary gibberish -- the various lumps and grooves of your ear actually guide sound waves in such a way as to let you identify the direction of the predator sneaking up on you.
Not surprised yet? How about this: you can actually hear temperature. Yes, that's a combination of words we just put together. No, we're not high. Or no more so than usual, anyway.
That's the claim put forward by British advertising firm Condiment Junkie (not exactly our first stop for science), who did an experiment to see whether participants could determine the difference between hot and cold tea being poured into a glass by listening to the sound alone. According to their results, a whopping 96 percent of the volunteers involved correctly guessed the temperature of the beverage. That may not be just Condiment Junkies making shit up because they're still delusional from last night's mustard high. Some believe this phenomenon is due to differences in viscosity between the liquids. The molecules squirming within a cold liquid are less energetic, idling about and "sticking" to each other, whereas the hot molecules zip about readily and allow for a smoother pour. And your crazy super ears are so fine-tuned, they can hear how lazy molecules are.
"At least we think that's tea. You taste it."
Your Stomach Lining Is Completely Consumed by Acid and Reborn Twice a Week
It's a question that every stoned person has asked themselves at one point or another: "why doesn't your stomach just digest itself?" After all, it is constantly churning out deadly hydrochloric acid, a substance used to pickle goddamn steel. It stands to reason that you probably wouldn't want the kind of stuff you'd use to dissolve a body inside your body. Not that we know anything about dissolving bodies ...
You. Saw. Nothing.
The answer is that your stomach is able to regenerate, like a tiny Wolverine stuffed with Hot Pockets and long-expired Peeps. Here's how it works: Your stomach houses specialized cells that secrete a sugary, protein-rich mucus to protect it from the acids it employs specifically to combat your shame-eating. And once the acid has done its job, stomach cells neutralize it with alkaline bicarbonate to send it on its merry journey without burning dime-sized holes in your rectum.
But even the stomach's own super-mucus isn't enough to fight back the acid forever. It's still slowly eating you alive. That's why it has to stay hard at work rebuilding itself faster than it can melt in its own gastric sludge. Every three or so days, this membrane is replaced with a shiny new lining, so no individual cell is ever in duty long enough to be rendered useless by acids.
For all intents and purposes, you have a baby stomach. For once, it's not just your personal trainer saying that. It's science.
You Almost Get Cancer Hundreds of Thousands of Times a Day
Cancer is the eternal nemesis of the human race. You can avoid cigarettes and alcohol, and stick to a diet of carrots and leafy greens harvested by Appalachian monks, but at the end of the day, your chances of coming toe-to-toe with the Big C at some point in your life hovers around almost 38 percent for women and 43 percent for men -- so you're only slightly better off than if you were flipping a coin.
That's because cancer is shockingly easy to develop. It forms when a cell gets damaged in a way that alters its DNA and reprograms it to kill. How often does that happen? It's estimated that each of the many trillions of cells in your body can suffer up to tens of thousands of lesions per day. Your body is basically John McClane -- it takes a beating, but it still gets the damn job done.
So in the time it takes you to scarf down that dehydrogenated soy crisp, you could contract cancer over a thousand times.
Frozen in terror?
Also the appropriate reaction.
Unthaw, buddy! Your body has got your back. Special enzymes scuttle around your body inspecting DNA strands for potentially cancer-triggering faults. Whether you caused the problem by huffing glue or your cells were just holding the blueprints upside down when they replicated (it happens), your body's incredible fixers are able to identify the fault, cut it out, and patch over it before it can develop into a murderous tumor.
Think of it as thousands of tiny Nanas making you into a people quilt.
Of course, it's not 100 percent effective, and when something slips through the net, that's when fatal diseases happen. But considering the sheer volume of cancer you could have gotten just while reading this sentence, we'd like to say that your body is awesome ... but only if you don't hold it against us.
There's just so much cancer in that thing.
For more reasons we all have dormant superpowers, check out 5 Superpowers We All Had as Babies (According to Science). And then check out The 27 Most Practical Superpowers We Actually Want.
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