The Origins of the Heart
The traditional heart symbol has been used to represent love and devotion for hundreds of years, but where did it come from? Because it only very loosely resembles the organ it is supposed to symbolize.
In the 4th century BCE, Aristotle popularized the idea that the heart was the seat of passion and emotions. His early anatomical studies also incorrectly claimed that it only had three chambers, much like the shape that persists today.
The Greek colony of Cyrene (in modern-day Libya) also holds claim to some heart-shaped history. Beginning in the 7th century BCE, they made a boatload of coin trading silphium, a now-extinct plant whose seeds were used to season food and for medicine. They loved it so much that they put it on their money! Oh, and it was allegedly a contraceptive, which is a whole other kind of love …
The heart shape really began to take over the Western world in the 1600’s, after Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque reported a vision of Christ holding a traditional three-pointed heart surrounded by a crown of thorns. the Catholic Church owned the modern image of the heart, and its association with St. Valentine, until it lost a bidding war with Hallmark.
A Digital Heart
Using the world’s second most-powerful supercomputer, Sequoia, Lawrence Livermore and IBM scientists have simulated the human heart at never-before-seen resolution. By dividing the muscular organ into tiny units (seen above), the electrophysiology and mechanics of heartbeats were accurately created inside of a computer. Some of their methods approach single cell resolution!
What’s the point? An accurate simulation of the heart can let scientists research heart problems like arrhythmia without cutting anyone open, and even simulate the effects of certain heart drugs. Perhaps, one day it will help doctors diagnose heart problems just by comparing your heartbeat to one inside a computer.
Of course, if your heart problems are more of the “Cupid” variety, then even this computer can’t help you. It will take a lot more computing power than this to figure out love.
Good morning and happy Valentine’s Day! Here is a map of a woman’s heart circa the 1800s.
A map of woman’s heart from the 1800s, equal parts amusing and appalling.
Oh lordy. At least we can all laugh at it today. Happy Valentine’s Day, my science loves!
A Simulated Heart
This elegant, powerful, nearly tireless organ fascinates us so deeply that we have attributed to it (scientifically and not-so-scientifically) everything from love to life itself. Its woven fibers of muscle and intricate electrochemistry are still incompletely understood.
This simulation from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center uses the power of 10,000 computer processors to simulate the dynamics of our most critical organ. It highlights the uniquely mechanical and deeply complicated biology behind the muscle behind every man, the human heart.
(via The Atlantic)
Source: The Atlantic
A Cardiod, a lovely mathsy heart shape, can be constructed as shown in the animation as the combination of many circles generated from a single underlying circle. This shape describes the sensitivity regions of many directional microphones. [more] [code]
Lovemath for those who love math!
Turn that inverted parabola upside-down!
Next time you’re sitting there in math class pondering the greater existential significance of translating various quadratic functions into parabolas, I hope you think of this Vi Hart experience … take the time to doodle those dots, stitch together those segments, and fill your cup with the reflected sunshine of a beautiful cardioid.
I want to hug my computer when I watch this. Such beauty lies in connecting dots, and not knowing exactly what will come out the other side.
Well done. This one’s for Vi Hart (via benice equation):
(If you liked that one, check out more from benice equation here)
If you’re lucky enough to survive a heart attack, you’re often left with half a heart. Not in the literal sense, but the cardiac muscle that was deprived of oxygen during the heart attack will more often than not form scar tissue. This scar tissue doesn’t beat like normal heart tissue, which weakens an already troubled organ.
What if doctors could reverse that damage and turn tough, nearly dead scar tissue back to heart muscle? If this new mouse research can translate to humans, we just might be able to do that.
Out of the ~25,000 genes in the human genome, how many do you think you’d have to add to get regular structural cells to turn to cardiac muscle tissue? 100? 50? How about 3?
By expressing just three genes, Gata4, Mef2c, and Tbx5, fibroblast support cells were able to turn into cardiac muscle, begin beating, and prevent scar tissue formation in mouse hearts. It didn’t require surgery or stem cells. Just adding the three genes on a harmless virus and getting them into hearts was all it took.
This is the only day I will endorse letting your heart have more weight than your brain.
Love someone or something today, commercialized holiday or not.
Painting above: Der Vivisektor by Gabriel von Max, 1883
(via Morbid Anatomy)