The Heart!

Hey guys!

This post is all about us! Or rather, it’s about the organ that allows us to do all the things we love to do. That’s right. The heart.

This is the most anatomically accurate picture I could find.

The heart is probably your most important organ. It pumps blood throughout your entire body which provides the rest of your organs with oxygen and nutrients that are necessary for them to function. Blood also carries away waste from those organs such as carbon dioxide (which then is transported to the lungs to be exhaled).

The heart works a lot like a sponge. There are special cells in the heart called pacemaker cells. These cells essentially send an electric jolt to the heart muscles that cause it to contract and wring the blood inside it out into the aortic valve, which leads to the aorta. The aorta is the largest artery in our body and is the entry way for blood to enter the rest of our veins.

After the heart is wrung out, it relaxes and the cells along the wall of the heart expand. This also relaxes the coronary vessels that rest on the outside of the heart. Once the muscle cells on the heart are relaxed, blood that was just ejected from the heart drips from the coronary vessels back into the heart to feed the muscle cells, which allows the heart to keep pumping. “Imagine clenching your fist sixty to seventy times per minute for your entire life, which is essentially what your heart does – without ever becoming exhausted” (Roizen and Oz. You: The Owners Manual. 33). 

Just kidding!

The heart is made up of four chambers. There are two atrium (think like an atrium in a house) and two ventricals. After blood has been circulated around the body, the oxygen that was in it has been used up by the various organs and muscles it visited. The blood is now “dirty” (or deoxygenated) and is circled back around to the heart. It is then returned to the right atrium which sends it into the right ventricle via the tricuspid valve. The right ventricle then send the “dirty” blood to the lungs via the pulmonary valve (the function of the valves is to keep blood from backtracking. If dirty and clean blood mixed, it would be much less effective at keeping our body working properly. The “heartbeat” that we hear is actually the valves slamming shut).

Once in the lungs, the blood takes the carbon dioxide which was given back to it by all the other organs and muscles and sends it out of the body (that’s why when we exhale, it is carbon dioxide that comes out). It then is infused with the oxygen that we just inhaled and sent back to the heart through the pulmonary vein and into the left atrium. The blood is then sent through the mitral valve into the left ventricle where it is squeezed back into the rest of the body via the aortic valve and the whole process starts over again.


Citation list:

Roizen, Michael F., and Mehmet Oz. You: The Owner’s Manual. (New York: Collins, 2005), 32-51.

Wikipedia. “Blood.” Accessed May 4, 2013.

Wikipedia. “Human heart.” Accessed May 4, 2013.

Space and Time

Hey guys!

Sorry that it’s been forever since I posted. I started this post a couple weeks ago but hit a dead end trying to explain it, set it aside, then got busy with other things. This post was a tough one and I’m still doing my best to wrap my head around it but I thought it was incredibly interesting and trying to explain something is often the best way to understand it yourself. However, I  have no background in physics whatsoever and the purpose of this post is to make ideas accessible to everyday people so if I make any egregious technical errors or simplify a concept to much, please feel free to correct me in the comments.

This topic requires a little bit of background. Back in the days of the ancient Greeks, it was believed that the natural state for all things to be in was resting. Something only moved if it was pushed and, left to it’s own devices, it would go back to being still. This was the belief for a long, long time because no one ever really bothered to test if it was true or not.

This still makes me laugh

Eventually, Galileo did an experiment which showed that that was not the case and that when a force acts on an object, it’s effect is to speed it up or slow it down. Not just get it moving in the first place. When you push a ball, it does not stop on it’s own, but rather is stopped by friction on the ground and air resistance. If those and other external forces didn’t exist, it would continue to move forever. Newton expanded on that idea by publishing his laws of motion and gravity. For simplicity’s sake, I’m not going to recite them in this post but you can look them up here.

Newton’s laws have a lot of implications but the most important one for our purposes is that the idea of an absolute state of rest is incorrect. Common sense would lead us to believe that there is an absolute state of rest. Look at your chair or computer. It’s not moving and thus appears to be at rest. But while it looks like it’s just sitting there, it’s actually hurdling 67,000 mph (along with the rest of the planet) around the sun. And the sun is moving at it’s own breakneck speed around the center of the galaxy. So if you walk down the street at a brisk pace, are you walking at 5 mph or at 67,005 mph? Either one is technically correct and it demonstrates that the idea of space is relative, not absolute. Another example (shamelessly stolen from the book where I am getting most of my information, A Brief History of Time by Steven Hawking) is that of a train travelling north at 60 mph. Since the universe has no definitive boundaries, it would be equally correct to say that the earth is standing still and the train is moving north at 60 mph or that the train is standing still and the earth is moving down at 60 mph. Or both. 

This was a major milestone in understanding the universe, however people still thought of time as being absolute and unrelated to a “relative space”. Time marched forward, one second at a time and there was nothing anyone could do about it. However, people were still scratching their heads about something else: light. Did light have a constant speed? Well, in 1865, James Clerk Maxwell predicted that it did. So how fast does it go? The way that you determine speed is by dividing the distance it travels by the time it takes to get there. But space is not absolute, so no one could agree on how far it had traveled, even if they could agree on how long it took to get there.

Oh, Einstein, you.

In 1905, Albert Einstein, in a paper in response to this quandry, proposed his famous equation, E = mc^2. This essentially said that as an object goes faster, it gets heavier and thus requires more energy to propel it forward. Eventually, it will get to a point where it is infinitely heavy and requires an infinite amount of energy to move it and can not move any faster. However, since light has no mass, it can go faster then that speed (at 299,792,458 m/s to be exact) and nothing can move faster than light. This equation gave light a constant speed that was not affected by distance. To find the time it takes to get from one place to another, you divide the speed by the distance traveled. If no one can agree on the distance, since space is relative, it follows that no one can agree on the time it took to get there. This leads us to the conclusion that time is ALSO relative to the observer and is not a constant force which had been believed for thousands of years. This also integrated space and time so much that they can no longer be seen as separate and are now referred to as space-time.

I hope that that was a simple enough explanation. It’s hard to simplify it too much and still hit all the main points. Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you thought! Also, if you have any topics that you thought sounded interesting but were just too lazy to look up, let me know and I will try to get them explained for you!


 Citation list:

Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time. New York: Bantam, 1996

Wikipedia. “Newton’s Laws of Motion.” Accessed March 31, 2013.

Curious about Astronomy? “At What Speed Does the Eath Move Around the Sun?” Accessed March 31, 2013.

Wikipedia. “Mass-Energy Equivalence.” Accessed March 31, 2013.

Wikipedia. “Speed of Light.” Accessed March 31, 2013.

Awesome TED talk about how fictional languages are developed for TV shows and movies

TED Blog

There are seven different words in Dothraki for striking another person with a sword. Among them: “hlizifikh,” a wild but powerful strike; “hrakkarikh,”a quick and accurate strike; and “gezrikh,” a fake-out or decoy strike. But you won’t find these words in George R. R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, which is where Dothraki originated as the language of the eponymous horse-riding warriors; rather these and more than 3,000 other words were developed by David Peterson, the world’s authority on Dothraki.

At TED2013, Peterson gave this fascinating TED University talk on the process of creating Dothraki for the TV series Game of Thrones. Based on Martin’s books, the HBO series premieres its third season on Sunday.

Peterson, who has a masters in linguistics from UC San Diego, was teaching English composition at Fullerton College when he heard that HBO was hiring someone to develop Dothraki for Game of…

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The Origins of Writing

For my first post, I thought I would pay homage to the very invention that makes this blog possible: writing!

The origins of writing are ancient and go back as far as humanity’s oldest civilizations, originating in Sumer. Sumer was a region in Mesopotamia, what is now southern Iraq, and is considered to the be cradle of civilization. A number of various city-states dominated the region over it’s history (Uruk, Ur, and Akkad are a few of the more famous ones) but they are still collectively thought of as part of a greater Sumerian civilization. Around 4500 BC Sumer became the first region where humanity began to gather in what could be called “cities”, as opposed to the remote bands of tribes and villages that had been the norm for the previous hundreds of thousands of years.

Map of Ancient Sumer Map of Ancient Sumer


Before that, no one really had any use for writing. Most people were too busy hunting and trying to survive to bother with poetry or literature. That all changed once people started living in cities. Once farming was invented, people discovered that it could produce a great deal more food than hunting did and freed up some of the population to do other things with all their spare time. Some people became priests, some people became potters and some people became administrators and scribes that tracked and tallied all the extra food they suddenly had.

Since no one had considered writing things down before, these administrators had to figure out a way to keep track of everything. The earliest forms of writing were pictograms or very simple pictures of whatever they were meant to represent. These would be scratched on to clay tablets and then baked and were usually records of grain supplies or receipts. Over hundreds of years, these simple pictures became more abstract and evolved into what is known as cuneiform. The picture below shows an example of that evolution.


Cuneiform was written by taking the stalk of a reed and stamping it into clay. This was the first time that symbols were written by using different combinations of the same basic shape. This was also the first time that a writing system had characters that stood for sounds rather than physical objects. Different signs were combined to make brand new meanings for different words altogether. This allowed them to write about abstract ideas and things with no physical form such as “life” or “love”.

Writing eventually spread out of Sumer and into the surrounding civilizations who each added their own distinct flair. Writing was developed independently in at least three different geographic areas (Mesopotamia, China and Mesoamerica) but Mesopotamia was the first. The very first work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written down around 2000 BC (although it was based on stories that had been told for a long, long time before that) and was about the legendary king of Uruk who you probably already guessed was named Gilgamesh.

So concludes my first post on “Something Cool I Learned Today”. As this is a brand new venture, I am still figuring out how each post will be formatted. But remember, this blog is for you! If you think that this post was too long, too short, too detailed, too dumbed down or any other manner of wrong, feel free to let me know in the comments and I will do my best to rectify the error of my ways! Thanks for reading and I certainly hope you learned something cool today!


zigguratUr Replica of the long lost Ziggurat or Ur


1. J.M. Roberts, The New Penguin History of the World, Fifth Edition (London: Penguin, 2007), 49-65
2. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), 215-238
3.”Ancient Scripts: Origins of Writing Systems”, Ancient Scripts, accessed March 29th, 2013,


This blog is the result of a number of emotions, principally curiosity and frustration.

The most obvious is curiosity. I love to learn. I am fascinated by pretty much every subject there is under the sun and I want to learn everything I can about pretty much everything. I think that learning is both one of the most entertaining and one of the most important activities that someone can engage in and I want to share my fascination of the world around us with all of you!

The second emotion is frustration. When I was an undergrad in college, my attitude towards learning was not as focused as it is now and I didn’t quite live up to my full potential academically. Now that my curiosity has blossomed, I deeply desire to return to school to earn a graduate degree and eventually teach college history. Unfortunately, my low undergraduate GPA is making that road much, much harder than it could have been. This blog is basically a way for me to stretch my “curiosity muscle” and satisfy my intellectual itch while I work my way down the path to graduate school.

This blog will not be dedicated to a single subject but will instead feature a wide range of topics, including history, science, art, math and pretty much anything else that seems fascinating. I will also do my best to make each post interesting and easily digestible.

I’m anxious to get started researching the first topic so I am going to sign off for now and leave you with a picture of the Acropolis of Athens!