World War I veteran John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937 and followed it up with The Lord of the Rings (1954-1944), books that would shape fantasy epics forever. The stories take place in Middle Earth, a medieval-esque land inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, orcs, and trolls, as well as sorcerers and wizards and witches and all manner of magics.
Thanks to sexy Legolas Peter Jackson, everyone has heard of Tolkien’s creations, but not everyone knows where he drew his inspiration from. Finally, the biopic Tolkien will tell the author’s tale.
Tolkien would lost two friends in the Battle of the Somme, a heavy toll for anyone to bear. Tolkien would also suffer from ‘trench fever’ — a typhus-like condition — that would heavily debilitate him for the rest of his service.
The journey from warrior to artist is a fascinating one, and Tolkien is one of the greatest. He had already begun writing some of his earliest tales, and after the war he sought employment as an Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary and later as an Associate Professor in English Language at the University of Leeds.
Based on the trailer, the film appears to celebrate Nicholas Hoult’s Tolkien, from his early education, love of language, and close friendships; to the war; and, of course, to his relationship with Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins.
For fans of his work, the film looks promising.
For anyone who knows the toll that war can take, the film looks familiar — and perhaps promises a way “back again.”
Tolkien is directed by Dome Karukoski and will open on May 10, 2019.
China is pumping millions of dollars into the World Health Organization, an action one expert describes as a political move meant “to boost its superficial credentials” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the US pulls its own WHO funding.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a Thursday news briefing that the country would be injecting an extra $30 million into the agency “in support of global efforts to fight COVID-19 and the construction of public health systems in developing countries.”
China also lapped praise on WHO and its leadership, saying the agency “had actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position.”
Last month, China already pledged million to the organization, a move it said was meant to “help small and medium-sized countries with weak public health systems in particular to bolster their epidemic preparedness.”
China’s latest cash injection comes a week after the US announced plans to freeze 0 million in payments to WHO. Until then, the US was the largest financial contributor to WHO.
According to publicly available data, as of the end of 2019, China contributed million to WHO — .8 million in assessed contributions and .2 million in voluntary contributions — while the US gave 3 million — 6 million in assessed contributions and 6 million in voluntary contributions.
It’s not clear whether the US will cut from the assessed or voluntary contributions. Other nongovernmental groups, like the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, gave WHO 1 million in voluntary contributions in 2019.
President Donald Trump told a coronavirus press briefing last week that the organization had “failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”
Trump and other critics have accused WHO of assisting China in efforts to suppress information on the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
‘Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide’
Experts told Business Insider that China’s contributions to WHO were not goodwill gestures but rather a series of political power moves to boost its global image.
“Beijing sees an opportunity to boost its superficial credentials as a global contributor to the pandemic following the US decision to halt funding to WHO,” said John Lee, who served as a national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop from 2016 to 2018.
Lee now works as a senior fellow at the United States Studies Center in Sydney and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.
He said China’s other altruistic measures, like sending medical teams and protective equipment to countries battling the coronavirus, were also tools meant to give China a political boost in the global arena.
Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, previously told Business Insider’s Alexandra Ma that China was trying to craft an image for itself as a global leader in the coronavirus fight rather than the country from which the virus originated.
“Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide trying to paint the Chinese government as the solution to the problem, rather than one of the sources of it,” Richardson said.
WHO leaders ‘captured’ by China
Lee said that while science and health experts at WHO “do wonderful work on the ground in all parts of the world,” the agency’s leadership had become “captured by countries such as China,” putting its credibility to the test.
“When [WHO] leadership is called to make decisions of global health concern such as with the current pandemic, such decisions tend to be overly influenced by political rather than health priorities,” Lee said.
“In this context, Dr. Tedros is deeply compromised and his credibility is heavily damaged,” he added.
WHO officials have hit back at accusations of the organization being “China-centric,” saying its close relationship with China is “essential” in understanding the origins of the outbreak.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to Tedros, told reporters earlier this month.
Tedros has also dismissed accusations of associating too closely with China, saying the agency was “close to every nation.” “We are color-blind,” he told reporters on April 8.
Within the last few years, 360-degree cameras have hit the market and they’re changing the way we record our favorite memories. They may also have implications for how our nation fights its enemies.
When it comes to fighting a ground war, having as many sets of surveilling eyes as possible is a good idea — an idea that could save lives.
Although the infantrymen that patrol hostile streets on a daily basis are highly-trained, it’s near impossible to recount every single detail exactly as it happened after the fact.
In the event that something abnormal happens on a trip outside the wire, having footage from a 360-degree camera can provide you with all the analysis you need.
It could help with your disability claim
A lot of sh*t can happen while you’re outside the wire in a short amount of time.
In the event that something bad happens and the platoon doc wasn’t there to witness it, there’s a good chance that it was captured clearly with the 360-degree camera. That dramatic footage will come in handy when you’re battling the VA for compensation.
You could update your terrain maps
One of the most significant issues with serving in a war that takes place in a developing country is that enemies can quickly take down and rebuild their dried-mud structures.
With the help of a 360-degree camera, if a structure is, in fact, rebuilt after being wiped away via airstrike, the new footage will help you update terrain maps. By simply carrying one of these versatile tools, you’ll record new information without even trying.
It’s called surveillance, people.
We thought so.
The footage could be better than any war trophy
Who here wants to document an awesome firefight where you kick enemies’ asses from all angles?
It can help identify high-value individuals
This may come as a shocker, but when the bad guys interact with allied forces, they typically lie about their identities. Having a 360-degree camera on deck can help analysts identify potential threats, even if the allied troop isn’t looking.
Did you guys hear the story of the staff sergeant in Afghanistan who raised $8k to bring a stray cat he took care of back to America? Literally everything about that story is great. He rescued an innocent kitten, took it to an animal rescue shelter on base, gave it all the shots and whatnot, and even had more money left over to help out other animals at the shelter.
I don’t care who you are. That’s a heart-warming story. Good sh*t, Staff Sgt. Brissey. If you ever decide to start taking a million photos and upload them to Instagram in an attempt to turn your new kitten into a meme… I’ll be behind you 110% of the way on that one.
Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
Once you’ve done sh*t, everything else is a cake walk. There’s nothing that can be so bad that you can’t look back on and say “well, it was much sh*ttier then and I didn’t give up. Why stop now?”
Then again… Pot is really good for PTSD and that might also have something to do with it.
There are a number of highly polluted sites where the United States once built the worst weapons of war. On six of those sites, where the weapons were once built were some of the most lethal ever conceived by man, new inhabitants are beginning to thrive: animals like bears, ferrets, and endangered salmon. All find safe haven where humankind once threatened itself with extinction.
Mule Deer graze where the US once tested plutonium triggers, outside of Denver, Colo.
Amchitka Island, Alaska is now cut off from the rest of the world, now a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. This island saw a number of nuclear explosions underground – where a large amount of radioactive material is still trapped. In Indiana, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge was once Jefferson Proving Ground, where the Army fired off artillery for more than 50 years, including tons of depleted uranium rounds. In Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the Army once built chemical weapons in the areas where the bald eagle built its nests.
Some of the places that are now protected areas may still be heavily polluted, however. Experts say they’re not all entirely safe for humans. This means some experts believe that 30 or so of the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than 560 wildlife refuges have some history with nuclear and/or chemical weapons and haven’t been entirely cleaned up.
It may take centuries for these areas to heal.
Animals used to just warn humans about sarin gas.
Government and private industry have spent around billion on cleanup efforts for the top six most polluted areas, but there is still more to come – much more. Washington state’s Hanford site was once the area where the United States produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. Cleaning up this mess could run the Department of Energy more than 0 billion for this one site alone.
Like Hanford’s contaminated soil and water, there are more sites to be cleaned and protected. Johnson Atoll’s coral reefs suffered under multiple atmospheric nuclear tests. What was once Rocky Flats, Colo. is now home to rare prairie grasses, endangered mice, and other species that once roamed freely across America. Cleaning up and protecting these site will ensure they may get another chance one day.
Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.
And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!
But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.
As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.
Ask the Locals
Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.
Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!
Try Everything Twice
One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.
Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.
Eat All the Foods
Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.
How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.
Don’t Say No
This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.
You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.
Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?
The idea of chowing down on some insects doesn’t sound too appetizing, but when you’re on the brink of starvation, it might be your best option. When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere, food sources can get pretty scarce. On top of all that, even if you were to catch a small game animal while enduring the elements, you’d still have to start a fire and cook that sucker to avoid ingesting any nasty parasites.
On the contrary, if you find a source of edible insects, you can just pop them into your mouth and get some lifesaving nutrition. Keep an eye out for these bugs if you find yourself in a bind.
These are probably the most popular insects to munch on. In fact, you’ve probably had a few crawl into your mouth while camping without even knowing it — don’t worry, it happens. You can efficiently collect these nutritious little bugs from their hills. Sure, you’re invading their personal space, but you have to eat, too.
Just make sure they’re not the painful kind first.
That’s good eatin’!
No, we’re not referring to young individuals who are learning martial arts. We’re talking about those little ugly things that jump from seemingly nowhere and land on your arm.
Packed with the protein you need to sustain yourself until you can find help, grasshoppers can be easily collected and stored for a quick snack throughout the day.
Though their name may have you believe otherwise, you can actually eat these suckers if you’re super desperate. Although they don’t look all that enjoyable, like most insects, they’re packed with the energy-providing protein you need to push yourself out of a desolate area.
It’s dinner time!
Another excellent source of protein and energy, termites can be found devouring large pieces of wood. These six-legged pests aren’t know for being filled with parasites, which means they’re good to eat. Once you find a log that’s been hollowed out by these eager eaters, give it a shake and watch them crawl out.
Also known as the “potato bug,” this little thing isn’t technically an insect — it’s actually a terrestrial isopod crustacean. Sure, maybe it doesn’t belong on list of bugs, but it does tastes similar to shrimp. They can be boiled in hot water just before being enjoyed by a struggling camper that’s to hold on for dear life.
Maybe we’re exaggerating a bit, but they do taste better than they look. Trust me.
There have been countless pre-mission plans that state the proclaimed time outside the wire will only last a few hours. Then, after a few hours outside the wire, you learn you’re going to be outside until right before nightfall. Then, you receive notice you’re going to stay in the field and conduct an overnight ambush.
The words “holy sh*t” pass through your mind because you didn’t bring enough MRE crackers and peanut butter to feed yourself.
2. Write down the mission and patrol route
During a hectic firefight, it’s easy to lose your train of thought. Writing as much information down before stepping out on patrol can lower your chances of panicking and forgetting what you’re supposed to do while under fire. It happens.
3. Continuously “prep and check your trash”
Trash doesn’t refer to the empty bag of MMs from your MRE — it refers to your gear. Grunts continuously move their gear around for better access during their movement. This practice helps to keep your sling from getting all freaking tangled when you need to put rounds down range.
4. Don’t leave important personal sh*t behind
Sadly, not everyone returns to the FOB after the patrol. Some ground pounders get hurt and get medevac to the “rear” for treatment. There are times where unique personal belongings are left at the FOB like IDs, pictures, and religious items that don’t reconnect with their owners.
5. Pre-staging your tourniquets
No one wants to think about getting hit, but it’s a real possibility when manning the front lines. When I was deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan, we pre-staged our tourniquets on our legs with 550 cords since the IED threat level was so freakin’ high.
In the sad event we stepped on one, the grunt would tighten the pre-staged himself to avoid losing any additional blood before the Corpsman or medic arrive.
Christmas romance movies have become a 21st century holiday phenomenon, first on the Hallmark Channel, then on Lifetime and now Netflix. There are literally hundreds of these movies, with dozens premiering in 2020 alone.
Holiday filmmakers have started to add the military to their formula, and there have been a couple of high-profile releases this year. Those movies inspired us to try to figure out just what’s going on here.
These are assembly-line products made for an audience that expects every plot to follow basic rules: Two people meet and irritate each other, but they’re irritated because they recognize a fellow special soul who doesn’t quite run with the pack.
One of them thinks the holidays are a crock. After some sassy back-and-forth, the doubter learns the meaning of Christmas, and that allows their love to flower. There are cookies, eggnog, flannel shirts and pajamas, a spectacular tree, possibly some chopping of wood, family members who saw it coming all along and, usually, a dog.
Regular readers know that we typically write about movies that feature combat, patriotism, world-changing shifts in power or the chain of command, ass-kicking and explosions, so this was a totally foreign experience.
If you’re the kind of person who gets your kicks complaining about breaches of military protocol in movies, have we got a totally new genre for you! Christmas romance movies are produced on such shoestring budgets that they make those late-period filmed-in-Romania Steven Seagal cheapies look like a Marvel movie. There’s no money for a military adviser, so they’re mostly just winging it.
It’s like these movies exist in an alternate universe. Apparently, there are actors who’ve appeared in multiple Hallmark and Lifetime movies, and the channels promote their starring roles as if they’re Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lawrence.
Let’s agree that these movies have a huge and devoted following because they make some people happy. If you’re one of those people, please continue to watch and enjoy.
This article is for the rest of us who find the whole thing kind of weird. Here are five of the most startling military Christmas romance movies we found during our investigation.
1. USS Christmas (2020)
Filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, this Hallmark movie had the full cooperation of the Navy, so it features a few scenes filmed aboard a carrier and a lot of stock footage of planes taking off and landing. Did someone in the Navy Office of Information want to reach out to an audience that would never seen “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Hunter Killer,” two other movies that got full Navy support? Or was someone just a big Christmas fan?
This time, a sassy reporter who’s the daughter of an aviator gets convinced to join her mom and aviator sister for a holiday Tiger Cruise. The commander served with her late dad, and his son is also an aviator who hates the holidays, mostly because his parents divorced and he’s still mad at dad.
How much does he hate Christmas? Well, his call sign is “Grinch.” Yep, that’s how obvious everything is here. Grinch learns to love the holidays, forgive dad and appreciate an independent woman. Our reporter learns that maybe it’s best not to be so independent and that a military spouse‘s life might not be so bad after all.
Where these two will be in five years after a few deployments is hard to predict, but there’s reason to suspect that neither of them truly realizes what they’re getting into here.
2. Operation Christmas Drop (2020)
This 2020 Netflix movie had a higher-than-usual budget and was filmed on Guam with the full cooperation of the Air Force, so it looks a bit shinier than the usual fare. Since it’s set in the South Pacific, there’s no snow or hot cocoa or fluffy scarves.
A congressional aide has to cancel Christmas with her family to investigate just why the Air Force is wasting money on this “Christmas drop” every year. The congressional rep (played by Virginia Madsen, an actual movie star) is looking to cut budgets so she can save a base in her district. She sets her sights on Guam.
OK, they never call it “Guam” in the movie, but this is where they lose anyone with an interest in world peace. Why would we shut down an important strategic base in the South Pacifc to keep a base in some random U.S. state open? That’s a movie foul far worse than a sloppy salute.
Anyway, our aide Erika Miller (Kat Graham, “The Vampire Diaries”) doesn’t want to be there and knows her mission is to collect the dirt that will allow her boss to shut down the base. What she doesn’t expect is her encounter with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig, “Recon”), the laid-back architect of the current mission to provide presents and supplies to remote Pacific islands during the holidays.
The two clash, she finds herself falling for the captain and his island spirit, and her boss mysteriously cancels her own Christmas to fly to the island to see why Erika’s reports aren’t negative enough. Everyone goes on the holiday flight and then sees the light: Operation Christmas Drop is exactly the kind military holiday maneuver the world needs!
Erika finds her Christmas spirit. Will she find long-term love with Andrew? We’ll have to wait for an “Operation Christmas Drop 2” to find out.
3. Home for Christmas Day (2017)
Everyone knows that many civilian parents don’t want their daughters falling in love with a soldier. Long-distance romance is hard, and there’s usually a neighbor boy named Jody who’s willing to step in and help with the loneliness.
The single mom in “Home for Christmas” has an even more powerful reason to discourage her daughter. The big reveal is that her late husband was killed in combat himself, and she doesn’t want her child to face the same heartache when her new love is deployed.
To explain just how manipulative this one is, we have to go deep into spoiler territory. Our young lover learns that her mom is right when she hears her boyfriend’s name on a list of troops killed in action read aloud at a Christmas concert.
The girl is devastated, but mom realizes she was wrong to discourage her daughter’s true love and they reconcile. Have we reached a breakthrough moment in Christmas romance movies, when the harsh realities of real life must be addressed in the happy holiday world?
No, we have not! Those boobs at the Pentagon mixed up the dead troop records, and our hero is actually alive. He shows up on the doorstep, unannounced and on crutches, and everyone enjoys the best Christmas ever!!
4. A Welcome Home Christmas (2020)
This Lifetime movie takes the ethics manual, sets it on fire and throws a party in the town square. Chloe Marquee (actual character name) is working as a counselor for troubled veterans, and she’s assigned a particularly tough case named Michael Fischer.
She learns that Fischer led a toy drive while stationed overseas and recruits him to start a new one for military families here in their tranquil, picture-postcard, Christmas-loving town. What should be a great project turns sinister when Chloe starts having romantic feelings for her patient.
Well, that’s not how the movie sees it. Chloe heals Michael’s wounded soul through the power of love, and all the kids get some excellent toys after they overcome a few scheduling obstacles. Could a little eggnog and some smooching under the mistletoe be the miracle cure for PTSD that we’ve all been searching for? Lifetime says maybe!
5. Christmas Homecoming (2017)
This Hallmark movie answers the question, “What are the best cures for a grieving military widow and a wounded warrior recovering back home?” The answer may surprise you if you haven’t been paying attention. Why, it’s a little Christmas romance, of course!
Julie Benz (“Dexter,” and kind of a big star for one of these things) plays a military widow whose loss has destroyed her faith in Christmas. She rents a room in her house to an Army captain (Michael Shanks), a wounded warrior whose injuries have not shaken his love for the holidays.
The two team up to raise money to save the town’s failing military museum with a Christmas fundraising event, and these two self-described “wounded birds” find that the holiday spirit kindles a new romance.
Will both get the counseling and support they need going forward? Let’s hope so because both are coming into this relationship with a cartload of baggage. For now, though, tune in and enjoy the spell of mistletoe and twinkling lights.
Of course, there are more of these Christmas movies that try to work in military themes. If you haven’t picked up on it so far, look for titles with “home” or “homecoming” in the title, and you’ll go a long way toward finding what you’re looking for.
Of course, true fans of the genre will also be tuning in for the book editors, real estate brokers, high-powered attorneys and other assorted type-A personalities who need a little holiday spirit to help them get over themselves and fall in love.
If you want to watch them all, one movie a day, make a note on your calendar for Memorial Day 2021 and maybe you’ll have caught up by Christmas next year.
In the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is a selling point. It hearkens back to the cinematic classics of Akira Kurosawa by putting the duels of feudal samurai into a sci-fi setting. When we watch Jedi go toe-to-toe on-screen, it sets our imaginations ablaze. And when it comes to merchandise, there are lightsaber toys flying off the shelves, as every kid wants to get their hands on that ultimate blade.
While this weapon is all-powerful and completely practical in both fiction and our imaginations, in reality, there are a number of headaches that would come with using a high-powered energy blade in contemporary combat.
1. Lightsabers are useless against guns
Let’s get the obvious shortcoming out of the way: range. A lightsaber’s max effective range is about three feet out from the user’s hand. Blasters, on the other hand, reach much further.
We can cut the lightsaber a bit of slack since the blasters in Star Wars aren’t shooting at the speed of light, or even at a fraction of the muzzle velocity of an M4. Wired recently calculated the speed of blaster rounds at 34.9m/s (or 78mph) — similar to a Major League Baseball pitch. So, it’s feasible that our heroes can deflect the lasers at a constant rate like they do in the films, but you’d definitely tire yourself out, like a baseball batter constantly swinging at fastballs.
But we’re not fighting anyone who uses blasters, so… they’re basically only useful against other lightsabers.
2. You can’t really practice with lightsabers
Imagine how troops practice with their weapons. There’s dry training (training that doesn’t involve actually firing the rifle) and time at the range where you fire at a designated target. This becomes a little more challenging when you’re using a weapon that only has two settings: “off” and “able to slice through feet of hardened steel.”
Any practice with a lightsaber would need to be done with a fake. By practicing with a real one, you’d run the risk of chopping off your buddy’s arm.
Your only options are this ball thing or some rocks…
3. It’s worthless if you don’t have the force
Without any Jedi training, anyone who picks up a lightsaber would probably chop off their hand. Or they’ll drop it and watch it burn a hole through to the core of the planet.
And even Jedi Masters aren’t that great at fighting…
4. There’s no safety on a lightsaber
Let’s look at the basic build of a lightsaber: There’s handle that you hold onto, the extremely deadly blade, and the button that turns it on. Nowhere on the device is there any kind of safety mechanism.
If you bump into a chair and accidentally hit the button while it’s holstered, your leg gets cut off. If you’re fighting a Jedi, they could (spoiler alert) turn it on with the force and it’ll impale you. Imagine how many lightsaber battles would’ve been ended sooner if, while duelists lock sabers and stare each other down, someone just force pushes their adversary’s lightsaber.
Mindy N. asks: After a long run my leg muscles are tired, but my heart is not. Why doesn’t the heart need any rest?
An average of around 60 to 100 times every minute of every day of every year of your ultimately meaningless life, your heart beats… until it doesn’t. Not long after it stops, all knowledge of your having existed is rapidly forgotten. Unlike the other muscles in your body, however, your heart steadfastly rages against the dying of the light, refusing to ever get tired. But how does it manage this and why are your other muscles such slackers in comparison?
To begin with, the human body is broadly composed of three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are striated (banded), and are what most of us think of when we envision a muscle — controlling pretty much all voluntary, and some involuntary, body movement.
Like cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle derives energy from ATP (Adenosine triphoweknowyoudontcare), with this being made in a few different ways. To avoid going full textbook, we’ll just briefly give the high level over simplified view here. In a nutshell, the slowest, but most efficient, method of ATP production is via aerobic respiration where mitochondria in your muscle cells draw energy from the Dark Dimension, producing ATP, a small amount of which is stored in your muscles at any given time. This stored amount is a sufficient supply to last for about 3 seconds of vigorous activity, not unlike your high school boyfriend.
Diagram of the human heart.
After this supply is taxed, with the ATP converted to ADP (adenosine diphosophate) in the process, creatine phosphate in the muscles is used to convert it back to ATP. This supply will last about 8-15 seconds.
Next up, it turns out we were totally wrong about that whole Dark Dimension thing as, in fact, your muscles continue to get ATP beyond this via a series of chemical reactions resulting in glucose being used to make the needed ATP to keep going. This glucose comes from a variety of sources, such as glycogen in your muscles, or via blood via fats, protein, stores in the liver, and from your food churning away in your intestines.
There are two high level ways this production of ATP ends up being accomplished. In the first, using large supplies of oxygen. In this case, as much as 38 ATP molecules can be produced for every glucose molecule. In the second case, via anaerobic glycolysis — not requiring oxygen — only 2 molecules of ATP are produced for each molecule of glucose. While an extremely inefficient use of the available supply of glucose, this method at least produces the ATP over two times faster than aerobic respiration and continues working for a time while you’re out of breath.
Due to glycolysis resulting in the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, ultimately if it accumulates faster than it can be gotten rid of, it will interfere with the anaerobic glycolysis process and your muscles are going to go all jelly and cease to work as well for a little bit. This is in part why, if you get out of breath when exercising and your body is relying more on anaerobic glycolysis, you get fatigued extremely quickly. In this case, you’re simultaneously creating lactic acid at a much more rapid rate and using up your available glucose molecules faster, but producing relatively small amounts of ATP for those molecules used. Do this for more than a minute or two and it will overtax your skeletal muscles’ ability to produce the needed ATP at the rate you’re using it. (Though, again, your mileage will vary based on your current fitness level.)
Back it off and so you’re relying mostly on aerobic respiration and you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, able to keep going all night long if you keep hydrated and well fed. Slow and steady wins the race.
Unsurprisingly from all of this, the more mitochondria there are, the faster ATP can potentially be produced if the needed molecules are present and the more the muscle can keep on keeping on. As for skeletal muscle, about 2%-8% of the volume of such muscle is mitochondria, though this varies somewhat from person to person depending on your level of physical fitness.
Moving on to smooth muscle, as you may have gleaned from the name, this is smooth with no striations. Found in your hollow internal organs (except the heart), smooth muscles work automatically, helping you digest food, dilate your pupils and take a wee-wee. As an example of smooth muscle in action, in digestion, the contractions themselves are really not too dissimilar to how your heart beat works — fluctuation of electrical potential in the smooth muscle cells which causes the muscle to contract in a rhythmic fashion, in this case called the “Basic Electrical Rhythm” or BER. This rhythm is about three times per minute in the stomach, and 12 times per minute in the small intestines. The sound you are hearing when your stomach and intestines make noise is the result of these muscular contractions mixing and moving chyme (the cocktail of digestive juices, food, microbes, etc.) and air along down the tube between your mouth and your waste disposal port.
As for the mitochondrial needs of these muscles, they are typically approximately that of your skeletal muscles, with mitochondria making up about 3-5% of the smooth muscle volume.
This finally brings us to the real hero of your life story — cardiac muscle. Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated and like the other muscle in your body is primarily powered by mitochondria. The cardiac muscles, however, have as much as 10 times the density of mitochondria as your other muscles, at about 35% of the volume of your cardiac muscle.
It should also be noted that individual muscle cells in the heart actually do get regular rest thanks to how the heart beat actually works, which we’ll get into in the Bonus Fact in a bit. But the net result is that about 60%-70% of your life a given part of your heart is actually in a resting state.
Combining these micro-rests with the extreme amount of mitochondria and a large amount of oxygen from the heart’s awesome blood supply, this allows your heart all the ATP it needs to not get tired, assuming you’re not in an extreme state of starvation or doing some extreme form of exercise for extended periods well beyond your normal fitness regime.
On that note, the downside to needing so much ATP thanks to no extended downtime is that the heart really needs to rely on aerobic respiration to make sure it doesn’t run out of ATP, and thus it doesn’t take oxygen being cut off for too long from it before you’re going to have a bad time, unlike other muscles you can just stop using to help recover the needed ATP over time.
And, yes, it turns out the human heart can actually get tired and suffer damage if you’re trying to do some extreme form of physical activity outside your norm for lengthy periods, especially if in a low oxygen environment like at high altitude. In these cases, even the healthiest hearts can suffer damage, though given the other effects on your body of such extreme physical activity, typically most people will stop doing whatever before the heart is negatively impacted in a damaging way. In essence, your legs will give out before your heart does (usually), at least when talking energy supply. But that doesn’t mean in certain cases a measurable level of tiredness in the heart can’t be observed.
For example, in 2001, cardiologists studied a few dozen endurance athletes competing in a 400 km race in Scotland, which comprised of all manner of physical activities from paddling, rope climbing, running, biking, climbing, etc. and the whole event taking almost 100 hours. During this span, the athletes typically only slept about 1 hour per 24 hours during the event and otherwise soldiered on.
The results? At the end of the race, the athletes’ hearts were only pumping about 90% of the volume per beat they’d been managing before the race started.
That said, further research on endurance athletes calls into question the notion of “no permanent damage” being done. For example, researchers involved in a 2011 British study looking at British Olympians who competed in distance running and rowing (and specifically competing in at minimum a hundred events), found that as they aged they showed marked signs of heart muscle scarring, something that can lead to irregular heart function and, potentially, heart failure.
Of course, these are extreme examples, and for most people not doing ultra marathons regularly or competing professionally or semi-professionally in endurance events, this is unlikely to be a problem and the holistic health benefits of regular, vigorous exercise are likely to make up for it even then.
Ever wonder how the heart beat works? Well, wonder no more. In a nutshell, the heart is a four chambered pump. The top two chambers are called Atria, the bottom two are called Ventricles. They are separated from top to bottom by valves; the right and left sides are separated by a septum. So what makes the pump squeeze? When the hearts muscle gets “shocked”, it will contract and force the blood down its path, with the valves not allowing blood to flow back through the system, unless they are defective.
The blood’s path through the heart starts in a vein called the Superior Vena Cava. Then it enters the right atrium, flows through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle. From there it travels through the pulmonic valve into pulmonary arteries, then the lungs. Now back to the heart and into the left atrium, through the mitral valve. The blood is now in the “strongest” chamber of the heart, the left ventricle. From there it gets pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta and out to the rest of the body!
So what causes that infamous electric shock the heart receives approximately 60-100 times a minute? Short answer: Dormammu. Long answer: The exchange of electrolytes across specialized cells within the heart build up a differing electrical potential on either side of the cell. When this electrical potential reaches a certain level, it discharges and sends a shock down another unique set of cells within the heart, causing a shock and thus the contraction.
The specific set of cells that regulates the heart rate (in most people) are called the Sinoatrial node or SA node for short. The SA node (pacemaker of the heart) sits in the upper portion of the R atria near the entrance of the superior vena cava.
When the SA node sends out and electrical shock, it immediately shocks the atria. The pulse then gets “held up” in another set of cells called the Atrioventricular node, or AV node for short. This then transmits the impulse down to the bundle of His and then to two pathways called the right and left bundle branches. Then it’s transmitted to the rest of the Ventricles through what are called Purkinje fibers. All together this “shock” causes the atria to contract, then the ventricles. You’re still alive! (For now.)
So what and how do these electrolytes cause this shock? In an attempt not to give a physiology lecture of ungodly proportion, we will simply say that the main two electrolytes involved are sodium and potassium. Potassium normally sits inside the cell, and sodium outside. Potassium slowly leaks outside of the cell and sodium then goes inside the cell. This creates the differing electrical potential that builds up until the point of discharge. Other electrolytes also help in creating this differential, and they are calcium and magnesium. All together the harmony created by this yin and yang system of electrical and mechanical systems come together to make that wonderfully thumping thing inside your chest!
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
For many Americans, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend that kicks off the summer season with BBQs and parties — and it should be. Gathering with friends and loved ones is a special privilege we are fortunate enough to enjoy.
For many service members, veterans, and Gold Star Families, however, the weekend can carry some sadness. Memorial Day is, after all, a day to remember the fallen men and women who gave their lives in military service.
We all honor those we’ve lost in our own way. For U.S. Marine JP Guhns, it’s through music.
JP is no stranger to We Are The Mighty. He first landed on our radar as a finalist in our Mission: Music talent search. He also has four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt, which significantly impacted his music.
“I’ve been a victim to suicide, said the Lord’s Prayer as we carried one of my Marine brothers to aid, been heartbroken by life, and prayed to pay the bills. I’ve fought the hard battles. I’ve cried through the nights of memories. Thank God I had friends and family to bring me through,” he shared on the Facebook launch of Good Friends and Whiskey (see video above).
JP isn’t the only veteran who shares military experiences through the arts — and he’s definitely not the only one who has been impacted by the loss of service members’ lives, home or overseas. This Memorial Day, as you enjoy some downtime and celebrate, maybe also take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of the military, contribute to a veteran non-profit, or support troops like JP by checking out their art and hearing their stories.
In 2017, USAA invited five talented military musicians to Nashville to record at the legendary Ocean Way Studios. JP was one of those artists — and he really made the most of the opportunity. His latest song is both a tribute to the people who have been there for him as well as a message to anyone else out there who needs to know that they are not alone.
“To all my brothers and sisters in arms, rejoice the memories of our fallen, and let’s get back to living again.”
Soldiers must be ready and capable to conduct the full range of military operations to defeat all enemies regardless of the threats they pose. But bad sanitation can keep them from the mission.
According to a 2010 public health report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, “Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war [World War I] than did enemy weapons.” The pandemic traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic in 1918, infecting up to 40 percent of soldiers and sailors. In this instance, the enemy came in the form of a communicable disease.
Preventative measures and risk mitigation work to impede history from repeating itself, keeping the Army both ready and resilient. One such preventative measure implemented in Jordan was a week-long Field Sanitation Team (FST) Certification Course last month at Joint Training Center-Jordan.
U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, works through the steps of water purification during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski, with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” has been an Army preventative medicine specialist (68S) for more than seven years. He said 68Ss and FSTs help mitigate unnecessary illnesses, allowing soldiers to focus on their mission.
U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, drops a chlorine tablet into water during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
Army regulations require certain units to be equipped with an FST, preferably a combat medic (68W), but any military occupational specialty can fill this position. The 40-hour certification covered areas such as improvised sanitary devices, testing water quality, identifying appropriate food storage areas, placement of restrooms, controlling communicable diseases, proper waste disposal, dealing with toxic industrial materials and combating insect-borne diseases.
U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen (center), with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, tests a water sample for chlorine residuals during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
The goal of the course was to “enable soldiers to maintain combat readiness and effectiveness by implementing controls to mitigate DNBI [disease non-battle injury],” said Kolenski.
He said environmental testing and figuring out how to mitigate problems before they start can drastically decrease DNBIs. These injuries can include heat stroke, frostbite, trench foot, malnutrition, diarrheal disease — anything that can take a service member out of the fight. Sometimes reducing risk can be as simple as washing hands or taking out the trash.
“If you reduce the trash, you’ll mitigate the flies, which reduces the chance that you’ll get a gastrointestinal issue,” explained Kolenski, “Because you can’t fight if you’re in the latrine [restroom].”
A week-long Field Sanitation Team Certification Course, spearheaded by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski (far right), with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” was held from Dec. 9 – 13, 2019 at Joint Training Center-Jordan.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
Hazards are identified by sampling air, water, bacteria, pH levels, chlorine residue in water and bugs in the area.
“It was interesting to learn about the different standards for food facilities and rules on the preparation of the food,” said U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, who serves as a combat medic at JTC-J.