Knight Ridder Newspapers
All about hearts:
What's in a Name?
The ancient Greeks called the heart "kardia," from which we derive the words "cardiac" and "myocardial infarction." (We always thought that sounded cool on the medical shows on TV.)
The ancient Romans modified "kardia" to "cor," which survives in the word "cordial," as in "cordial greetings."
The old Teutonic (German) word "herton" also was derived from "cor" and gives us "heart" - after morphing first into the medieval "heorte."
Your heart by the numbers:
Beats per minute: 130 for a newborn; 72 for an adult
Number of heartbeats in a 70-year lifetime: 2.5 billion
Weight of the human heart: 8 ounces (adult woman) to 10 ounces (adult man) As a point of reference, two sticks of butter weigh 8 ounces.
Year that a scientist first described the structure of the heart: 1706
Layers in the walls of the heart: three
Number of chambers: four (two taking in blood, two pumping out)
Output of blood per beat for each chamber: 2 tablespoons (which amounts to 5 quarts per minute or 2,000 gallons per day total for the heart)
Lifetime blood output (over 70 years): 250,000 gallons
Length of blood-vessel system (arteries, veins and capillaries): 60,000 miles
Number of Americans who die from heart disease each day: 2,000
A hearty quiz
1. Where is your heart?
a. the right side of the chest (like Mr. Spock's in "Star Trek")
b. the left side of the chest (where you place your hand when saying the Pledge of Allegiance)
c. the center of the chest
2. How big is your heart?
a. about the size of a clenched fist
b. about the size of two fists
c. about the size of a golf ball
3. What's the best hairstyle for you if you have a heart-shaped face?
a. full at the lower part of the face; chin length
b. full at the crown; long in back
c. a "mullet"
4. What does your heartbeat sound like?
a. LUB-dub, LUB-dub, LUB-dub
b. lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB
c. Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub
ANSWERS: 1. c, in the center of the chest between the lungs. The bottom of the heart tips to the left and forward, which is why you can hear it best on the left side of the chest. 2. This is a trick question. The answer is a. (if you're a child) or b. (if you're an adult). 3. a. 4. b.
-Sources: http//fitness.howstuffworks.com/heart6.htm, www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/eheart/facts.html ; www.beautywalk.com/beauty/flatter_face.htm ; www.members.tripod.com/trepanrr/id122.htm
What's that under the floorboards?
One of the creepiest stories ever written has to be "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. (And he wrote some creepy ones, let us tell you.) It's about a killer who hears the heart of his victim taunting him.
Here is how the tale starts:
True! Nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.
How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily - how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
It is impossible to tell how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded - with what caution - with what foresight - with what dissimulation I went to work!
I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. …
The origin of Valentines Day
Friday is Valentines Day. (Have you ordered flowers and chocolates for your sweetie?) A lot of us think the feast celebrates an actual saint - St. Valentine - but why on Feb. 14? Turns out there are many theories, and not all of them have to do with saints:
The feast of Lupercus. This stems from a third-century pagan tradition. At that time, hordes of hungry wolves roamed outside Rome where shepherds kept their flocks. The god Lupercus was said to watch over the shepherds and their flocks. So every February the Romans celebrated Lupercalia, to honor Lupercus. During the festival, the names of young women were put into a box, then drawn by lot. The boys and girls who were matched would be considered partners for the year. The celebration continued long after wolves ceased to be a problem in Rome.
St. Valentine's Day, the ancient tradition. To give a Christian cast to the pagan celebration of Lupercus, early Christian priests changed the name to St. Valentine's Day. (The church had several Valentines who might have been honored this way.) To give the celebration further meaning and eliminate pagan traditions, priests substituted the drawing of saints' names for the names of the girls drawn by lot. On St. Valentine's Day, young men drew the saints' names and were charged for the next year with emulating the life of the saint whose name was drawn.
St. Valentine's Day, the modern interpretation. Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius, who was heavily recruiting men to become soldiers. Claudius was having little success because the men didn't want to leave home to fight on foreign soil. The emperor then forbade further marriages and canceled all engagements - but Valentine secretly performed wedding ceremonies anyway. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine into prison, where he died.
Another version of this tale claims that Valentine was jailed for aiding Christians. While he was in prison, he was said to have cured a jailer's daughter of blindness. Claudius supposedly became enraged and had Valentine clubbed and beheaded on Feb. 14, 269.
Yet another story claims Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and wrote her letters signed "From your Valentine."
The various Valentines eventually evolved into one. In 496, Pope Gelasius claimed Feb. 14 in honor of St. Valentine. Through the centuries the Christian holiday became a time to exchange love messages, and St. Valentine (whoever he was) became the patron saint of lovers.
Just to confuse things further …. Europeans long believed that birds began to choose their mates on Feb. 14. Chaucer wrote in his "Parlement of Foules": "For this was Seynt Valentine's Day when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate." Shakespeare also referred to the date thusly.
When "I love you" isn't enough
Here's how to say "I love you" in 13 languages:
Albanian: Te dua.
French: Je t'aime.
German: Ich liebe Dich.
Greek: S'ayapo (pronounced "S'agapo.")
Irish: Taim i' ngra leat.
Italian: Ti amo.
Latin: Te amo.
Polish: Kocham Cie.
Russian: Ya vas liubliu.
Swedish: Jag a"lskar dig.
Thai: Phom Rak Khun.
-Compiled by Christine Schweickert, The State
© 2003, The State (Columbia, S.C.).
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.