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Old Thursday, November 15, 2007
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Post Brain


Brain, portion of the central nervous system contained within the skull. The brain is the control center for movement, sleep, hunger, thirst, and virtually every other vital activity necessary to survival. All human emotions—including love, hate, fear, anger, elation, and sadness—are controlled by the brain. It also receives and interprets the countless signals that are sent to it from other parts of the body and from the external environment. The brain makes us conscious, emotional, and intelligent.

The adult human brain is a 1.3-kg (3-lb) mass of pinkish-gray jellylike tissue made up of approximately 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons; neuroglia (supporting-tissue) cells; and vascular (blood-carrying) and other tissues.
Between the brain and the cranium—the part of the skull that directly covers the brain—are three protective membranes, or meninges. The outermost membrane, the dura mater, is the toughest and thickest. Below the dura mater is a middle membrane, called the arachnoid layer. The innermost membrane, the pia mater, consists mainly of small blood vessels and follows the contours of the surface of the brain.

A clear liquid, the cerebrospinal fluid, bathes the entire brain and fills a series of four cavities, called ventricles, near the center of the brain. The cerebrospinal fluid protects the internal portion of the brain from varying pressures and transports chemical substances within the nervous system.
From the outside, the brain appears as three distinct but connected parts: the cerebrum (the Latin word for brain)—two large, almost symmetrical hemispheres; the cerebellum (“little brain”)—two smaller hemispheres located at the back of the cerebrum; and the brain stem—a central core that gradually becomes the spinal cord, exiting the skull through an opening at its base called the foramen magnum. Two other major parts of the brain, the thalamus and the hypothalamus, lie in the midline above the brain stem underneath the cerebellum.

The brain and the spinal cord together make up the central nervous system, which communicates with the rest of the body through the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system consists of 12 pairs of cranial nerves extending from the cerebrum and brain stem; a system of other nerves branching throughout the body from the spinal cord; and the autonomic nervous system, which regulates vital functions not under conscious control, such as the activity of the heart muscle, smooth muscle (involuntary muscle found in the skin, blood vessels, and internal organs), and glands.

A -Cerebrum
Most high-level brain functions take place in the cerebrum. Its two large hemispheres make up approximately 85 percent of the brain's weight. The exterior surface of the cerebrum, the cerebral cortex, is a convoluted, or folded, grayish layer of cell bodies known as the gray matter. The gray matter covers an underlying mass of fibers called the white matter. The convolutions are made up of ridgelike bulges, known as gyri, separated by small grooves called sulci and larger grooves called fissures. Approximately two-thirds of the cortical surface is hidden in the folds of the sulci. The extensive convolutions enable a very large surface area of brain cortex—about 1.5 m2 (16 ft2) in an adult—to fit within the cranium. The pattern of these convolutions is similar, although not identical, in all humans.

The two cerebral hemispheres are partially separated from each other by a deep fold known as the longitudinal fissure. Communication between the two hemispheres is through several concentrated bundles of axons, called commissures, the largest of which is the corpus callosum.
Several major sulci divide the cortex into distinguishable regions. The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, runs from the middle of the top of each hemisphere downward, forward, and toward another major sulcus, the lateral (“side”), or Sylvian, sulcus. These and other sulci and gyri divide the cerebrum into five lobes: the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes and the insula.

The frontal lobe is the largest of the five and consists of all the cortex in front of the central sulcus. Broca's area, a part of the cortex related to speech, is located in the frontal lobe. The parietal lobe consists of the cortex behind the central sulcus to a sulcus near the back of the cerebrum known as the parieto-occipital sulcus. The parieto-occipital sulcus, in turn, forms the front border of the occipital lobe, which is the rearmost part of the cerebrum. The temporal lobe is to the side of and below the lateral sulcus. Wernicke's area, a part of the cortex related to the understanding of language, is located in the temporal lobe. The insula lies deep within the folds of the lateral sulcus.

The cerebrum receives information from all the sense organs and sends motor commands (signals that result in activity in the muscles or glands) to other parts of the brain and the rest of the body. Motor commands are transmitted by the motor cortex, a strip of cerebral cortex extending from side to side across the top of the cerebrum just in front of the central sulcus. The sensory cortex, a parallel strip of cerebral cortex just in back of the central sulcus, receives input from the sense organs.

Many other areas of the cerebral cortex have also been mapped according to their specific functions, such as vision, hearing, speech, emotions, language, and other aspects of perceiving, thinking, and remembering. Cortical regions known as associative cortex are responsible for integrating multiple inputs, processing the information, and carrying out complex responses.

B -rebellum
The cerebellum coordinates body movements. Located at the lower back of the brain beneath the occipital lobes, the cerebellum is divided into two lateral (side-by-side) lobes connected by a fingerlike bundle of white fibers called the vermis. The outer layer, or cortex, of the cerebellum consists of fine folds called folia. As in the cerebrum, the outer layer of cortical gray matter surrounds a deeper layer of white matter and nuclei (groups of nerve cells). Three fiber bundles called cerebellar peduncles connect the cerebellum to the three parts of the brain stem—the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla oblongata.

The cerebellum coordinates voluntary movements by fine-tuning commands from the motor cortex in the cerebrum. The cerebellum also maintains posture and balance by controlling muscle tone and sensing the position of the limbs. All motor activity, from hitting a baseball to fingering a violin, depends on the cerebellum.

C -Thalamus and Hypothalamus
The thalamus and the hypothalamus lie underneath the cerebrum and connect it to the brain stem. The thalamus consists of two rounded masses of gray tissue lying within the middle of the brain, between the two cerebral hemispheres. The thalamus is the main relay station for incoming sensory signals to the cerebral cortex and for outgoing motor signals from it. All sensory input to the brain, except that of the sense of smell, connects to individual nuclei of the thalamus.

The hypothalamus lies beneath the thalamus on the midline at the base of the brain. It regulates or is involved directly in the control of many of the body's vital drives and activities, such as eating, drinking, temperature regulation, sleep, emotional behavior, and sexual activity. It also controls the function of internal body organs by means of the autonomic nervous system, interacts closely with the pituitary gland, and helps coordinate activities of the brain stem.

D -Brain Stem
The brain stem is evolutionarily the most primitive part of the brain and is responsible for sustaining the basic functions of life, such as breathing and blood pressure. It includes three main structures lying between and below the two cerebral hemispheres—the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata.

D1 -Midbrain
The topmost structure of the brain stem is the midbrain. It contains major relay stations for neurons transmitting signals to the cerebral cortex, as well as many reflex centers—pathways carrying sensory (input) information and motor (output) commands. Relay and reflex centers for visual and auditory (hearing) functions are located in the top portion of the midbrain. A pair of nuclei called the superior colliculus control reflex actions of the eye, such as blinking, opening and closing the pupil, and focusing the lens. A second pair of nuclei, called the inferior colliculus, control auditory reflexes, such as adjusting the ear to the volume of sound. At the bottom of the midbrain are reflex and relay centers relating to pain, temperature, and touch, as well as several regions associated with the control of movement, such as the red nucleus and the substantia nigra.

D2 -Pons
Continuous with and below the midbrain and directly in front of the cerebellum is a prominent bulge in the brain stem called the pons. The pons consists of large bundles of nerve fibers that connect the two halves of the cerebellum and also connect each side of the cerebellum with the opposite-side cerebral hemisphere. The pons serves mainly as a relay station linking the cerebral cortex and the medulla oblongata.

D3 -Medulla Oblongata
The long, stalklike lowermost portion of the brain stem is called the medulla oblongata. At the top, it is continuous with the pons and the midbrain; at the bottom, it makes a gradual transition into the spinal cord at the foramen magnum. Sensory and motor nerve fibers connecting the brain and the rest of the body cross over to the opposite side as they pass through the medulla. Thus, the left half of the brain communicates with the right half of the body, and the right half of the brain with the left half of the body.

D4 -Reticular Formation
Running up the brain stem from the medulla oblongata through the pons and the midbrain is a netlike formation of nuclei known as the reticular formation. The reticular formation controls respiration, cardiovascular function (see Heart), digestion, levels of alertness, and patterns of sleep. It also determines which parts of the constant flow of sensory information into the body are received by the cerebrum.

E -Brain Cells
There are two main types of brain cells: neurons and neuroglia. Neurons are responsible for the transmission and analysis of all electrochemical communication within the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Each neuron is composed of a cell body called a soma, a major fiber called an axon, and a system of branches called dendrites. Axons, also called nerve fibers, convey electrical signals away from the soma and can be up to 1 m (3.3 ft) in length. Most axons are covered with a protective sheath of myelin, a substance made of fats and protein, which insulates the axon. Myelinated axons conduct neuronal signals faster than do unmyelinated axons. Dendrites convey electrical signals toward the soma, are shorter than axons, and are usually multiple and branching.

Neuroglial cells are twice as numerous as neurons and account for half of the brain's weight. Neuroglia (from glia, Greek for “glue”) provide structural support to the neurons. Neuroglial cells also form myelin, guide developing neurons, take up chemicals involved in cell-to-cell communication, and contribute to the maintenance of the environment around neurons.

F -Cranial Nerves
Twelve pairs of cranial nerves arise symmetrically from the base of the brain and are numbered, from front to back, in the order in which they arise. They connect mainly with structures of the head and neck, such as the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, tongue, and throat. Some are motor nerves, controlling muscle movement; some are sensory nerves, conveying information from the sense organs; and others contain fibers for both sensory and motor impulses. The first and second pairs of cranial nerves—the olfactory (smell) nerve and the optic (vision) nerve—carry sensory information from the nose and eyes, respectively, to the undersurface of the cerebral hemispheres. The other ten pairs of cranial nerves originate in or end in the brain stem.

The brain functions by complex neuronal, or nerve cell, circuits (see Neurophysiology). Communication between neurons is both electrical and chemical and always travels from the dendrites of a neuron, through its soma, and out its axon to the dendrites of another neuron.
Dendrites of one neuron receive signals from the axons of other neurons through chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters set off electrical charges in the dendrites, which then carry the signals electrochemically to the soma. The soma integrates the information, which is then transmitted electrochemically down the axon to its tip.

At the tip of the axon, small, bubblelike structures called vesicles release neurotransmitters that carry the signal across the synapse, or gap, between two neurons. There are many types of neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Neurotransmitters can be excitatory (that is, they excite an electrochemical response in the dendrite receptors) or inhibitory (they block the response of the dendrite receptors).
One neuron may communicate with thousands of other neurons, and many thousands of neurons are involved with even the simplest behavior. It is believed that these connections and their efficiency can be modified, or altered, by experience.

Scientists have used two primary approaches to studying how the brain works. One approach is to study brain function after parts of the brain have been damaged. Functions that disappear or that are no longer normal after injury to specific regions of the brain can often be associated with the damaged areas. The second approach is to study the response of the brain to direct stimulation or to stimulation of various sense organs.

Neurons are grouped by function into collections of cells called nuclei. These nuclei are connected to form sensory, motor, and other systems. Scientists can study the function of somatosensory (pain and touch), motor, olfactory, visual, auditory, language, and other systems by measuring the physiological (physical and chemical) changes that occur in the brain when these senses are activated. For example, electroencephalography (EEG) measures the electrical activity of specific groups of neurons through electrodes attached to the surface of the skull. Electrodes inserted directly into the brain can give readings of individual neurons. Changes in blood flow, glucose (sugar), or oxygen consumption in groups of active cells can also be mapped.

Although the brain appears symmetrical, how it functions is not. Each hemisphere is specialized and dominates the other in certain functions. Research has shown that hemispheric dominance is related to whether a person is predominantly right-handed or left-handed (see Handedness). In most right-handed people, the left hemisphere processes arithmetic, language, and speech. The right hemisphere interprets music, complex imagery, and spatial relationships and recognizes and expresses emotion. In left-handed people, the pattern of brain organization is more variable.

Hemispheric specialization has traditionally been studied in people who have sustained damage to the connections between the two hemispheres, as may occur with stroke, an interruption of blood flow to an area of the brain that causes the death of nerve cells in that area. The division of functions between the two hemispheres has also been studied in people who have had to have the connection between the two hemispheres surgically cut in order to control severe epilepsy, a neurological disease characterized by convulsions and loss of consciousness.

A -Vision
The visual system of humans is one of the most advanced sensory systems in the body (see Vision). More information is conveyed visually than by any other means. In addition to the structures of the eye itself, several cortical regions—collectively called primary visual and visual associative cortex—as well as the midbrain are involved in the visual system. Conscious processing of visual input occurs in the primary visual cortex, but reflexive—that is, immediate and unconscious—responses occur at the superior colliculus in the midbrain. Associative cortical regions—specialized regions that can associate, or integrate, multiple inputs—in the parietal and frontal lobes along with parts of the temporal lobe are also involved in the processing of visual information and the establishment of visual memories.

B -Language
Language involves specialized cortical regions in a complex interaction that allows the brain to comprehend and communicate abstract ideas. The motor cortex initiates impulses that travel through the brain stem to produce audible sounds. Neighboring regions of motor cortex, called the supplemental motor cortex, are involved in sequencing and coordinating sounds. Broca's area of the frontal lobe is responsible for the sequencing of language elements for output. The comprehension of language is dependent upon Wernicke's area of the temporal lobe. Other cortical circuits connect these areas.

C -Memory
Memory is usually considered a diffusely stored associative process—that is, it puts together information from many different sources. Although research has failed to identify specific sites in the brain as locations of individual memories, certain brain areas are critical for memory to function. Immediate recall—the ability to repeat short series of words or numbers immediately after hearing them—is thought to be located in the auditory associative cortex. Short-term memory—the ability to retain a limited amount of information for up to an hour—is located in the deep temporal lobe. Long-term memory probably involves exchanges between the medial temporal lobe, various cortical regions, and the midbrain.

D -The Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system regulates the life support systems of the body reflexively—that is, without conscious direction. It automatically controls the muscles of the heart, digestive system, and lungs; certain glands; and homeostasis—that is, the equilibrium of the internal environment of the body (see Physiology). The autonomic nervous system itself is controlled by nerve centers in the spinal cord and brain stem and is fine-tuned by regions higher in the brain, such as the midbrain and cortex. Reactions such as blushing indicate that cognitive, or thinking, centers of the brain are also involved in autonomic responses.

The brain is guarded by several highly developed protective mechanisms. The bony cranium, the surrounding meninges, and the cerebrospinal fluid all contribute to the mechanical protection of the brain. In addition, a filtration system called the blood-brain barrier protects the brain from exposure to potentially harmful substances carried in the bloodstream.
Brain disorders have a wide range of causes, including head injury, stroke, bacterial diseases, complex chemical imbalances, and changes associated with aging.

A -Head Injury
Head injury can initiate a cascade of damaging events. After a blow to the head, a person may be stunned or may become unconscious for a moment.
This injury, called a concussion, usually leaves no permanent damage. If the blow is more severe and hemorrhage (excessive bleeding) and swelling occur, however, severe headache, dizziness, paralysis, a convulsion, or temporary blindness may result, depending on the area of the brain affected. Damage to the cerebrum can also result in profound personality changes.
Damage to Broca's area in the frontal lobe causes difficulty in speaking and writing, a problem known as Broca's aphasia. Injury to Wernicke's area in the left temporal lobe results in an inability to comprehend spoken language, called Wernicke's aphasia.

An injury or disturbance to a part of the hypothalamus may cause a variety of different symptoms, such as loss of appetite with an extreme drop in body weight; increase in appetite leading to obesity; extraordinary thirst with excessive urination (diabetes insipidus); failure in body-temperature control, resulting in either low temperature (hypothermia) or high temperature (fever); excessive emotionality; and uncontrolled anger or aggression. If the relationship between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland is damaged (see Endocrine System), other vital bodily functions may be disturbed, such as sexual function, metabolism, and cardiovascular activity.
Injury to the brain stem is even more serious because it houses the nerve centers that control breathing and heart action. Damage to the medulla oblongata usually results in immediate death.

B -Stroke
A stroke is damage to the brain due to an interruption in blood flow. The interruption may be caused by a blood clot (see Embolism; Thrombosis), constriction of a blood vessel, or rupture of a vessel accompanied by bleeding. A pouchlike expansion of the wall of a blood vessel, called an aneurysm, may weaken and burst, for example, because of high blood pressure.

Sufficient quantities of glucose and oxygen, transported through the bloodstream, are needed to keep nerve cells alive. When the blood supply to a small part of the brain is interrupted, the cells in that area die and the function of the area is lost. A massive stroke can cause a one-sided paralysis (hemiplegia) and sensory loss on the side of the body opposite the hemisphere damaged by the stroke.

C -Brain Diseases
Epilepsy is a broad term for a variety of brain disorders characterized by seizures, or convulsions. Epilepsy can result from a direct injury to the brain at birth or from a metabolic disturbance in the brain at any time later in life.
Some brain diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson disease, are progressive, becoming worse over time. Multiple sclerosis damages the myelin sheath around axons in the brain and spinal cord. As a result, the affected axons cannot transmit nerve impulses properly. Parkinson disease destroys the cells of the substantia nigra in the midbrain, resulting in a deficiency in the neurotransmitter dopamine that affects motor functions.

Cerebral palsy is a broad term for brain damage sustained close to birth that permanently affects motor function. The damage may take place either in the developing fetus, during birth, or just after birth and is the result of the faulty development or breaking down of motor pathways. Cerebral palsy is nonprogressive—that is, it does not worsen with time.
A bacterial infection in the cerebrum (see Encephalitis) or in the coverings of the brain (see Meningitis), swelling of the brain (see Edema), or an abnormal growth of healthy brain tissue (see Tumor) can all cause an increase in intracranial pressure and result in serious damage to the brain.

Scientists are finding that certain brain chemical imbalances are associated with mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. Such findings have changed scientific understanding of mental health and have resulted in new treatments that chemically correct these imbalances.
During childhood development, the brain is particularly susceptible to damage because of the rapid growth and reorganization of nerve connections. Problems that originate in the immature brain can appear as epilepsy or other brain-function problems in adulthood.

Several neurological problems are common in aging. Alzheimer's disease damages many areas of the brain, including the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes. The brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease shows characteristic patterns of damaged neurons, known as plaques and tangles. Alzheimer's disease produces a progressive dementia (see Senile Dementia), characterized by symptoms such as failing attention and memory, loss of mathematical ability, irritability, and poor orientation in space and time.

Several commonly used diagnostic methods give images of the brain without invading the skull. Some portray anatomy—that is, the structure of the brain—whereas others measure brain function. Two or more methods may be used to complement each other, together providing a more complete picture than would be possible by one method alone.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), introduced in the early 1980s, beams high-frequency radio waves into the brain in a highly magnetized field that causes the protons that form the nuclei of hydrogen atoms in the brain to reemit the radio waves. The reemitted radio waves are analyzed by computer to create thin cross-sectional images of the brain. MRI provides the most detailed images of the brain and is safer than imaging methods that use X rays. However, MRI is a lengthy process and also cannot be used with people who have pacemakers or metal implants, both of which are adversely affected by the magnetic field.

Computed tomography (CT), also known as CT scans, developed in the early 1970s. This imaging method X-rays the brain from many different angles, feeding the information into a computer that produces a series of cross-sectional images. CT is particularly useful for diagnosing blood clots and brain tumors. It is a much quicker process than magnetic resonance imaging and is therefore advantageous in certain situations—for example, with people who are extremely ill.

Changes in brain function due to brain disorders can be visualized in several ways. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy measures the concentration of specific chemical compounds in the brain that may change during specific behaviors. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) maps changes in oxygen concentration that correspond to nerve cell activity.

Positron emission tomography (PET), developed in the mid-1970s, uses computed tomography to visualize radioactive tracers (see Isotopic Tracer), radioactive substances introduced into the brain intravenously or by inhalation. PET can measure such brain functions as cerebral metabolism, blood flow and volume, oxygen use, and the formation of neurotransmitters. Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), developed in the 1950s and 1960s, uses radioactive tracers to visualize the circulation and volume of blood in the brain.

Brain-imaging studies have provided new insights into sensory, motor, language, and memory processes, as well as brain disorders such as epilepsy; cerebrovascular disease; Alzheimer's, Parkinson, and Huntington's diseases (see Chorea); and various mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.

In lower vertebrates, such as fish and reptiles, the brain is often tubular and bears a striking resemblance to the early embryonic stages of the brains of more highly evolved animals. In all vertebrates, the brain is divided into three regions: the forebrain (prosencephalon), the midbrain (mesencephalon), and the hindbrain (rhombencephalon). These three regions further subdivide into different structures, systems, nuclei, and layers.

The more highly evolved the animal, the more complex is the brain structure. Human beings have the most complex brains of all animals. Evolutionary forces have also resulted in a progressive increase in the size of the brain. In vertebrates lower than mammals, the brain is small. In meat-eating animals, particularly primates, the brain increases dramatically in size.

The cerebrum and cerebellum of higher mammals are highly convoluted in order to fit the most gray matter surface within the confines of the cranium. Such highly convoluted brains are called gyrencephalic. Many lower mammals have a smooth, or lissencephalic (“smooth head”), cortical surface.

There is also evidence of evolutionary adaption of the brain. For example, many birds depend on an advanced visual system to identify food at great distances while in flight. Consequently, their optic lobes and cerebellum are well developed, giving them keen sight and outstanding motor coordination in flight. Rodents, on the other hand, as nocturnal animals, do not have a well-developed visual system. Instead, they rely more heavily on other sensory systems, such as a highly developed sense of smell and facial whiskers.

Recent research in brain function suggests that there may be sexual differences in both brain anatomy and brain function. One study indicated that men and women may use their brains differently while thinking. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to observe which parts of the brain were activated as groups of men and women tried to determine whether sets of nonsense words rhymed. Men used only Broca's area in this task, whereas women used Broca's area plus an area on the right side of the brain.
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Old Thursday, November 15, 2007
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Post Lava


Lava, molten or partially molten rock that erupts at the earth’s surface. When lava comes to the surface, it is red-hot, reaching temperatures as high as 1200° C (2200° F). Some lava can be as thick and viscous as toothpaste, while other lava can be as thin and fluid as warm syrup and flow rapidly down the sides of a volcano. Molten rock that has not yet erupted is called magma. Once lava hardens it forms igneous rock. Volcanoes build up where lava erupts from a central vent. Flood basalt forms where lava erupts from huge fissures. The eruption of lava is the principal mechanism whereby new crust is produced (see Plate Tectonics). Since lava is generated at depth, its chemical and physical characteristics provide indirect information about the chemical composition and physical properties of the rocks 50 to 150 km (30 to 90 mi) below the surface.

Most lava, on cooling, forms silicate rocks—rocks that contain silicon and oxygen. Lava is classified according to which silicate rocks it forms: basalt, rhyolite, or andesite. Basaltic lava is dark in color and rich in magnesium and iron, but poor in silicon. Rhyolitic lava is light colored and poor in magnesium and iron, but rich in silicon. Andesitic lava is intermediate in composition between basaltic and rhyolitic lava. While color is often sufficient to classify lava informally, formal identification requires chemical analysis in a laboratory. If silica (silicon dioxide) makes up more than 65 percent of the weight of the lava, then the lava is rhyolitic. If the silica content is between 65 percent and 50 percent by weight, then the lava is andesitic. If the silica content is less than 50 percent by weight, then the lava is basaltic.

Many other physical properties, in addition to color, follow the distinctions between basaltic, andesitic, and rhyolitic lava. For example, basaltic lava has a low viscosity, meaning it is thin and runny. Basaltic lava flows easily and spreads out. Rhyolitic lava has a high viscosity and oozes slowly like toothpaste. The viscosity of andesitic lava is intermediate between basaltic and rhyolitic lava. Similarly, basaltic lava tends to erupt at higher temperatures, typically around 1000° to 1200° C (1800° to 2200° F), while rhyolitic lava tends to erupt at temperatures of 800° to 1000° C (1500° to 1800° F). Dissolved gases make up between 1 percent and 9 percent of magma. These gases come out of solution and form gas bubbles as the magma nears the surface. Rhyolitic lava tends to contain the most gas and basaltic lava tends to contain the least.

Lava can erupt in several different ways depending on the viscosity of the lava and the pressure from the overlaying rock. When lava erupts out of a vent or large crack, it may pour like water out of a large pipe. The lava flows downhill like a river and can also form large lava lakes. The rivers and lakes of lava are called lava flows. Other times, the pressure exerted by gas bubbles in the lava is so high that it shatters the overlying rock and shoots lava and rock fragments high into the air with explosive force. The fragments of hot rock and lava shot into the air are called pyroclasts (Greek pyro, “fire”; and klastos, “fragment”). At other times, the pressure may be so high that the volcano itself is destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion.

A -Lava Flows
When lava flows out of a central vent, it forms a volcano. Basaltic lava is thin and fluid so it quickly spreads out and forms gently sloping volcanoes with slopes of about 5°. The flattest slopes are nearest the top vent, where the lava is hottest and most fluid. These volcanoes are called shield volcanoes because from a distance, they look like giant shields lying on the ground. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, on the island of Hawaii, are classic examples of shield volcanoes. Andesitic lava is more viscous and does not travel as far, so it forms steeper volcanoes. Rhyolitic lava is so viscous it does not flow away from the vent. Instead, it forms a cap or dome over the vent.

Sometimes, huge amounts of basaltic lava flow from long cracks or fissures in the earth. These basaltic lava flows, known as flood basalts, can cover more than 100,000 sq km (40,000 sq mi) to a depth of more than 100 m (300 ft). The Columbia River plateau in the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho was formed by repeated fissure eruptions. The accumulated basalt deposits are more than 4000 m (13,000 ft) thick in places and cover more than 200,000 sq km (80,000 sq mi). The Parana of Brazil and Paraguay covers an area four times as large. Flood basalts occur on every continent. When basaltic lava cools, it shrinks. In thick sheets of basaltic lava, this shrinking can produce shrinkage cracks that often occur in a hexagonal pattern and create hexagonal columns of rock, a process known as columnar jointing.

Two well-known examples of columnar jointing are the Giant’s Causeway on the coast of Northern Ireland and Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming.
Basaltic lava flows and rocks are classified according to their texture. Pahoehoe flows have smooth, ropy-looking surfaces. They form when the semicooled, semihard surface of a lava flow is twisted and wrinkled by the flow of hot fluid lava beneath it. Fluid lava can drain away from beneath hardened pahoehoe surfaces to form empty lava tubes and lava caves. Other basaltic lava flows, known as aa flows, have the appearance of jagged rubble. Very fast-cooling lava can form volcanic glass, such as obsidian.

Vesicular basalt, or scoria, is a solidified froth formed when bubbles of gas trapped in the basaltic lava rise to the surface and cool. Some gas-rich andesitic or rhyolitic lava produces rock, called pumice, that has so many gas bubbles that it will float in water.

Pillow lava is made up of interconnected pillow-shaped and pillow-sized blocks of basalt. It forms when lava erupts underwater. The surface of the lava solidifies rapidly on contact with the water, forming a pillow-shaped object. Pressure of erupting lava beneath the pillow causes the lava to break through the surface and flow out into the water, forming another pillow. Repetition of this process gives rise to piles of pillows. Pillow basalts cover much of the ocean floor.

B -Pyroclastic Eruptions
Pyroclasts are fragments of hot lava or rock shot into the air when gas-rich lava erupts. Gases easily dissolve in liquids under pressure and come out of solution when the pressure is released. Magma deep underground is under many tons of pressure from the overlying rock. As the magma rises, the pressure from the overlying rocks drops because less weight is pressing down on the magma. Just as the rapid release of bubbles can force a fountain of soda to be ejected from a shaken soda bottle, the rapid release of gas can propel the explosive release of lava.

Pyroclasts come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and textures. Pieces smaller than peas are called ash. Cinders are pea sized to walnut sized, and anything larger are lava bombs.

Cinders and bombs tend to fall to earth fairly close to where they are ejected, but in very strong eruptions they can travel farther. Lava bombs as large as 100 tons have been found 10 km (6 mi) from the volcano that ejected them. When cinders and bombs accumulate around a volcanic vent, they form a cinder cone. Although the fragments of lava cool rapidly during their brief flight through the air, they are usually still hot and sticky when they land. The sticky cinders weld together to form a rock called tuff.
Ash, because it is so much smaller than cinders, can stay suspended in the air for hours or weeks and travel great distances. The ash from the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens in the state of Washington circled the earth twice.

Many volcanoes have both lava eruptions and pyroclastic eruptions. The resulting volcano is composed of alternating layers of lava and pyroclastic material. These volcanoes are called composite volcanoes or stratovolcanoes. With slopes of 15° to 20°, they are steeper than the gently sloped shield volcanoes. Many stratovolcanoes, such as the picturesque Mount Fuji in Japan, have convex slopes that get steeper closer to the top.

Pyroclastic materials that accumulate on the steep upper slopes of stratovolcanoes often slide down the mountain in huge landslides. If the volcano is still erupting and the loose pyroclastic material is still hot, the resulting slide is called a pyroclastic flow or nuée ardente (French for "glowing cloud"). The flow contains trapped hot gases that suspend the ash and cinders, enabling the flow to travel at great speed. Such flows have temperatures of 800° C (1500° F) and often travel in excess of 150 km/h (100 mph). One such pyroclastic flow killed 30,000 people in the city of Saint-Pierre on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1902. Only one person in the whole town survived. He was in a basement jail cell.

Loose accumulations of pyroclastic material on steep slopes pose a danger long after the eruption is over. Heavy rains or melting snows can turn the material into mud and set off a catastrophic mudflow called a lahar. In 1985 a small pyroclastic eruption on Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano in Colombia, melted snowfields near the summit. The melted snow, mixed with new and old pyroclastic material, rushed down the mountain as a wall of mud 40 m (140 ft) tall. One hour later, it smashed into the town of Armero 55 km (35 mi) away, killing 23,000 people.

C -Explosive Eruptions
Rhyolitic lava, because it is so viscous, and because it contains so much gas, is prone to cataclysmic eruption. The small amount of lava that does emerge from the vent is too thick to spread. Instead it forms a dome that often caps the vent and prevents the further release of lava or gas. Gas and pressure can build up inside the volcano until the mountaintop blows apart. Such an eruption occurred on Mount Saint Helens in 1980, blowing off the top 400 m (1,300 ft) of the mountain.

Other catastrophic eruptions, called phreatic explosions, occur when rising magma reaches underground water. The water rapidly turns to steam which powers the explosion. One of the most destructive phreatic explosions of recorded history was the 1883 explosion of Krakatau, in the strait between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra . It destroyed most of the island of Krakatau. The island was uninhabited, so no one died in the actual explosion. However, the explosion caused tsunamis (giant ocean waves) that reached an estimated height of 30 m (100 ft) and hit the nearby islands of Sumatra and Java, destroying 295 coastal towns and killing about 34,000 people. The noise from the explosion was heard nearly 2,000 km (1,200 mi) away in Australia.
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Post Milky Way

Milky Way

Milky Way, the large, disk-shaped aggregation of stars, or galaxy, that includes the Sun and its solar system. In addition to the Sun, the Milky Way contains about 400 billion other stars. There are hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the universe, some of which are much larger and contain many more stars than the Milky Way.

The Milky Way is visible at night, appearing as a faintly luminous band that stretches across the sky. The name Milky Way is derived from Greek mythology, in which the band of light was said to be milk from the breast of the goddess Hera. Its hazy appearance results from the combined light of stars too far away to be distinguished individually by the unaided eye. All of the individual stars that are distinct in the sky lie within the Milky Way Galaxy.

From the middle northern latitudes, the Milky Way is best seen on clear, moonless, summer nights, when it appears as a luminous, irregular band circling the sky from the northeastern to the southeastern horizon. It extends through the constellations Perseus, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus. In the region of the Northern Cross it divides into two streams: the western stream, which is bright as it passes through the Northern Cross, fades near Ophiuchus, or the Serpent Bearer, because of dense dust clouds, and appears again in Scorpio; and the eastern stream, which grows brighter as it passes southward through Scutum and Sagittarius. The brightest part of the Milky Way extends from Scutum to Scorpio, through Sagittarius. The center of the galaxy lies in the direction of Sagittarius and is about 25,000 light-years from the Sun (a light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 9.46 trillion km or 5.88 trillion mi).

Galaxies have three common shapes: elliptical, spiral, and irregular. Elliptical galaxies have an ovoid or globular shape and generally contain older stars. Spiral galaxies are disk-shaped with arms that curve around their edges, making these galaxies look like whirlpools. Spiral galaxies contain both old and young stars as well as numerous clouds of dust and gas from which new stars are born. Irregular galaxies have no regular structure. Astronomers believe that their structures were distorted by collisions with other galaxies.

Astronomers classify the Milky Way as a large spiral or possibly a barred spiral galaxy, with several spiral arms coiling around a central bulge about 10,000 light-years thick. Stars in the central bulge are close together, while those in the arms are farther apart. The arms also contain clouds of interstellar dust and gas. The disk is about 100,000 light-years in diameter and is surrounded by a larger cloud of hydrogen gas. Surrounding this cloud in turn is a spherical halo that contains many separate globular clusters of stars mainly lying above or below the disk. This halo may be more than twice as wide as the disk itself. In addition, studies of galactic movements suggest that the Milky Way system contains far more matter than is accounted for by the visible disk and attendant clusters—up to 2,000 billion times more mass than the Sun contains. Astronomers have therefore speculated that the known Milky Way system is in turn surrounded by a much larger ring or halo of undetected matter known as dark matter.

The Milky Way contains both the so-called type I stars, brilliant, blue stars; and type II stars, giant red stars. Blue stars tend to be younger because they burn furiously and use up all of their fuel within a few tens of millions of years. Red stars are usually older, and use their fuel at a slower rate that they can sustain for tens of billions of years. The central Milky Way and the halo are largely composed of the type II population. Most of this region is obscured behind dust clouds, which prevent visual observation.

Astronomers have been able to detect light from this region at other wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, however, using radio and infrared telescopes and satellites that detect X rays (see Radio Astronomy; Infrared Astronomy; X-Ray Astronomy). Such studies indicate compact objects near the galactic center, probably a massive black hole. A black hole is an object so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape its intense gravity. The center of the galaxy is home to clouds of antimatter particles, which reveal themselves by emitting gamma rays when they meet particles of matter and annihilate. Astronomers believe the antimatter particles provide more evidence for a massive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

Observations of stars racing around the center also suggest the presence of a black hole. The stars orbit at speeds up to 1.8 million km/h (1.1 million mph)—17 times the speed at which Earth circles the Sun—even though they are hundreds of times farther from the center than Earth is from the Sun. The greater an object’s mass, the faster an object orbiting it at a given distance will move. Whatever lies at the center of the galaxy must have a tremendous amount of mass packed into a relatively small area in order to cause these stars to orbit so quickly at such a distance. The most likely candidate is a black hole.

Surrounding the central region is a fairly flat disk comprising stars of both type II and type I; the brightest members of the latter category are luminous, blue supergiants. Imbedded in the disk, and emerging from opposite sides of the central region, are the spiral arms, which contain a majority of the type I population together with much interstellar dust and gas. One arm passes in the vicinity of the Sun and includes the great nebula in Orion. See Nebula.

The Milky Way rotates around an axis joining the galactic poles. Viewed from the north galactic pole, the rotation of the Milky Way is clockwise, and the spiral arms trail in the same direction. The period of rotation decreases with the distance from the center of the galactic system. In the neighborhood of the solar system the period of rotation is more than 200 million years. The speed of the solar system due to the galactic rotation is about 220 km/sec (about 140 mi/sec).
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Post Weather


Weather, state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. The elements of weather include temperature, humidity, cloudiness, precipitation, wind, and pressure. These elements are organized into various weather systems, such as monsoons, areas of high and low pressure, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. All weather systems have well-defined cycles and structural features and are governed by the laws of heat and motion. These conditions are studied in meteorology, the science of weather and weather forecasting.
Weather differs from climate, which is the weather that a particular region experiences over a long period of time. Climate includes the averages and variations of all weather elements.

Temperature is a measure of the degree of hotness of the air. Three different scales are used for measuring temperature. Scientists use the Kelvin, or absolute, scale and the Celsius, or centigrade, scale. Most nations use the Celsius scale, although the United States continues to use the Fahrenheit scale.

Temperature on earth averages 15° C (59° F) at sea level but varies according to latitude, elevation, season, and time of day, ranging from a record high of 58° C (140° F) to a record low of -88° C (-130° F). Temperature is generally highest in the Tropics and lowest near the poles. Each day it is usually warmest during midafternoon and coldest around dawn.

Seasonal variations of temperature are generally more pronounced at higher latitudes. Along the equator, all months are equally warm, but away from the equator, it is generally warmest about a month after the summer solstice (around June 21 in the northern hemisphere and around December 21 in the southern hemisphere) and coldest about a month after the winter solstice (around December 21 in the northern hemisphere and around June 21 in the southern hemisphere). Temperature can change abruptly when fronts (boundaries between two air masses with different temperatures or densities) or thunderstorms pass overhead.

Temperature decreases with increasing elevation at an average rate of about 6.5° C per km (about 19° F per mi). As a result, temperatures in the mountains are generally much lower than at sea level. Temperature continues to decrease throughout the atmosphere’s lowest layer, the troposphere, where almost all weather occurs. The troposphere extends to a height of 16 km (10 mi) above sea level over the equator and about 8 km (about 5 mi) above sea level over the poles. Above the troposphere is the stratosphere, where temperature levels off and then begins to increase with height. Almost no weather occurs in the stratosphere.

Humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air. The air’s capacity to hold vapor is limited but increases dramatically as the air warms, roughly doubling for each temperature increase of 10° C (18° F). There are several different measures of humidity. The specific humidity is the fraction of the mass of air that consists of water vapor, usually given as parts per thousand. Even the warmest, most humid air seldom has a specific humidity greater than 20 parts per thousand. The most common measure of humidity is the relative humidity, or the amount of vapor in the air divided by the air’s vapor-holding capacity at that temperature. If the amount of water vapor in the air remains the same, the relative humidity decreases as the air is heated and increases as the air is cooled. As a result, relative humidity is usually highest around dawn, when the temperature is lowest, and lowest in midafternoon, when the temperature is highest.

Most clouds and almost all precipitation are produced by the cooling of air as it rises. When air temperature is reduced, excess water vapor in the air condenses into liquid droplets or ice crystals to form clouds or fog. A cloud can take any of several different forms—including cumulus, cirrus, and stratus—reflecting the pattern of air motions that formed it. Fluffy cumulus clouds form from rising masses of air, called thermals. A cumulus cloud often has a flat base, corresponding to the level at which the water vapor first condenses. If a cumulus cloud grows large, it transforms into a cumulonimbus cloud or a thunderstorm. Fibrous cirrus clouds consist of trails of falling ice crystals twisted by the winds. Cirrus clouds usually form high in the troposphere, and their crystals almost never reach the ground. Stratus clouds form when an entire layer of air cools or ascends obliquely. A stratus cloud often extends for hundreds of miles.

Fog is a cloud that touches the ground. In dense fogs, the visibility may drop below 50 m (55 yd). Fog occurs most frequently when the earth’s surface is much colder than the air directly above it, such as around dawn and over cold ocean currents. Fog is thickened and acidified when the air is filled with sulfur-laden soot particles produced by the burning of coal. Dense acid fogs that killed thousands of people in London up to 1956 led to legislation that prohibited coal burning in cities.

Optical phenomena, such as rainbows and halos, occur when light shines through cloud particles. Rainbows are seen when sunlight from behind the observer strikes the raindrops falling from cumulonimbus clouds. The raindrops act as tiny prisms, bending and reflecting the different colors of light back to the observer’s eye at different angles and creating bands of color. Halos are seen when sunlight or moonlight in front of the observer strikes ice crystals and then passes through high, thin cirrostratus clouds.

Precipitation is produced when the droplets and crystals in clouds grow large enough to fall to the ground. Clouds do not usually produce precipitation until they are more than 1 km (0.6 mi) thick. Precipitation takes a variety of forms, including rain, drizzle, freezing rain, snow, hail, and ice pellets, or sleet. Raindrops have diameters larger than 0.5 mm (0.02 in), whereas drizzle drops are smaller. Few raindrops are larger than about 6 mm (about 0.2 in), because such large drops are unstable and break up easily. Ice pellets are raindrops that have frozen in midair. Freezing rain is rain that freezes on contact with any surface. It often produces a layer of ice that can be very slippery.

Snowflakes are either single ice crystals or clusters of ice crystals. Large snowflakes generally form when the temperature is near 0° C (32° F), because at this temperature the flakes are partly melted and stick together when they collide. Hailstones are balls of ice about 6 to 150 mm (about 0.2 to 6 in) in diameter. They consist of clusters of raindrops that have collided and frozen together. Large hailstones only occur in violent thunderstorms, in which strong updrafts keep the hailstones suspended in the atmosphere long enough to grow large.

Precipitation amounts are usually given in terms of depth. A well-developed winter storm can produce 10 to 30 mm (0.4 to 1.2 in) of rain over a large area in 12 to 24 hours. An intense thunderstorm may produce more than 20 mm (0.8 in) of rain in 10 minutes and cause flash floods (floods in which the water rises suddenly). Hurricanes sometimes produce over 250 mm (10 in) of rain and lead to extensive flooding.

Snow depths are usually much greater than rain depths because of snow’s low density. During intense winter storms, more than 250 mm (10 in) of snow may fall in 24 hours, and the snow can be much deeper in places where the wind piles it up in drifts. Extraordinarily deep snows sometimes accumulate on the upwind side of mountain slopes during severe winter storms or on the downwind shores of large lakes during outbreaks of polar air.

Wind is the horizontal movement of air. It is named for the direction from which it comes—for example, a north wind comes from the north. In most places near the ground, the wind speed averages from 8 to 24 km/h (from 5 to 15 mph), but it can be much higher during intense storms. Wind speeds in hurricanes and typhoons exceed 120 km/h (75 mph) near the storm’s center and may approach 320 km/h (200 mph). The highest wind speeds at the surface of the earth—as high as 480 km/h (300 mph)—occur in tornadoes. Except for these storms, wind speed usually increases with height to the top of the troposphere.

Pressure plays a vital role in all weather systems. Pressure is the force of the air on a given surface divided by the area of that surface. In most weather systems the air pressure is equal to the weight of the air column divided by the area of the column. Pressure decreases rapidly with height, halving about every 5.5 km (3.4 mi).

Sea-level pressure varies by only a few percent. Large regions in the atmosphere that have higher pressure than the surroundings are called high-pressure areas. Regions with lower pressure than the surroundings are called low-pressure areas. Most storms occur in low-pressure areas. Rapidly falling pressure usually means a storm is approaching, whereas rapidly rising pressure usually indicates that skies will clear.

Weather systems occur on a wide range of scales. Monsoons occur on a global scale and are among the largest weather systems, extending for thousands of miles. Thunderstorms are much smaller, typically 10 to 20 km (6 to 12 mi) across. Tornadoes, which extend from the bases of thunderstorms, range from less than 50 m (55 yd) across to as much as 2 km (1.2 mi) across.
The vertical scale of weather systems is much more limited. Because pressure decreases so rapidly with height and because temperature stops decreasing in the stratosphere, weather systems are confined to the troposphere. Only the tallest thunderstorms reach the stratosphere, which is otherwise almost always clear.

All weather is due to heating from the sun. The sun emits energy at an almost constant rate, but a region receives more heat when the sun is higher in the sky and when there are more hours of sunlight in a day. The high sun of the Tropics makes this area much warmer than the poles, and in summer the high sun and long days make the region much warmer than in winter. In the northern hemisphere, the sun climbs high in the sky and the days are long in summer, around July, when the northern end of the earth’s axis is tilted toward the sun. At the same time, it is winter in the southern hemisphere. The southern end of the earth’s axis is tilted away from the sun, so the sun is low in the sky and the days are short.

The temperature differences produced by inequalities in heating cause differences in air density and pressure that propel the winds. Vertical air motions are propelled by buoyancy: A region of air that is warmer and less dense than the surroundings is buoyant and rises. Air is also forced from regions of higher pressure to regions of lower pressure. Once the air begins moving, it is deflected by the Coriolis force, which results from the earth’s rotation. The Coriolis force deflects the wind and all moving objects toward their right in the northern hemisphere and toward their left in the southern hemisphere. It is so gentle that it has little effect on small-scale winds that last less than a few hours, but it has a profound effect on winds that blow for many hours and move over large distances.

In both hemispheres, the speed of the west wind increases with height up to the top of the troposphere. The core of most rapid winds at the top of the troposphere forms a wavy river of air called the jet stream. Near the ground, where the winds are slowed by friction, the air blows at an acute angle toward areas of low pressure, forming great gyres called cyclones and anticyclones. In the northern hemisphere, the Coriolis force causes air in low-pressure areas to spiral counterclockwise and inward, forming a cyclone, whereas air in high-pressure areas spirals clockwise and outward, forming an anticyclone. In the southern hemisphere, cyclones turn clockwise and anticyclones, counterclockwise.

The air spreading from anticyclones is replaced by sinking air from above. As a result, skies in anticyclones are often fair, and large regions of air called air masses form; these have reasonably uniform temperature and humidity. In cyclones, on the other hand, as air converges to the center, it rises to form extensive clouds and precipitation.

During summer and fall, tropical cyclones, called hurricanes or typhoons, form over warm waters of the oceans in bands parallel to the equator, between about latitude 5° and latitude 30° north and south. Wind speed in hurricanes increases as the air spirals inward. The air either rises in a series of rain bands before reaching the center or proceeds inward and then turns sharply upward in a doughnut-shaped region called the eye wall, where the most intense winds and rain occur. The eye wall surrounds the core, or eye, of the hurricane, which is marked by partly clear skies and gentle winds.

In the middle and high latitudes, polar and tropical air masses are brought together in low-pressure areas called extratropical cyclones, forming narrow zones of sharply changing temperature called fronts. Intense extratropical cyclones can produce blizzard conditions in their northern reaches while at the same time producing warm weather with possible severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in their southern reaches.

Thunderstorms are small, intense convective storms that are produced by buoyant, rapidly rising air. As thunderstorms mature, strong downdrafts of rain- or hail-filled cool air plunge toward the ground, bringing intense showers. However, because thunderstorms are only about 16 km (about 10 mi) wide, they pass over quickly, usually lasting less than an hour. Severe thunderstorms sometimes produce large hail. They may also rotate slowly and spout rapidly rotating tornadoes from their bases.

Most convective weather systems are gentler than thunderstorms. Often, organized circulation cells develop, in which cooler and denser air from the surroundings sinks and blows along the ground to replace the rising heated air. Circulation cells occur on many different scales. On a local scale, along the seashore during sunny spring and summer days, air over the land grows hot while air over the sea remains cool. As the heated air rises, the cooler and denser air from the sea rushes in. This movement of air is popularly called a sea breeze. At night, when the air over the land grows cooler than the air over the sea, the wind reverses and is known as a land breeze.

On a global scale, hot, humid air near the equator rises and is replaced by denser air that sinks in the subtropics and blows back to the equator along the ground. The winds that blow toward the equator are called the trade winds. The trade winds are among the most steady, reliable winds on the earth. They approach the equator obliquely from the northeast and southeast because of the Coriolis force.

The tropical circulation cell is called the Hadley cell. It shifts north and south with the seasons and causes tropical monsoons in India. For example, around July the warm, rising air of the Hadley cell is located over India, and humid winds blow in from the Indian Ocean. Around January the cooler, sinking air of the Hadley cell is located over India, and the winds blow in the opposite direction.

A variable circulation cell called the Walker Circulation exists over the tropical Pacific Ocean. Normally, air rises over the warm waters of the western Pacific Ocean over the Malay Archipelago and sinks over the cold waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador and Peru. Most years around late December this circulation weakens, and the cold waters off the coast of South America warm up slightly. Because it occurs around Christmas, the phenomenon is called El Niño (The Child). Once every two to five years, the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean warm profoundly. The Walker Circulation then weakens drastically or even reverses, so that air rises and brings torrential rains to normally dry sections of Ecuador and Peru and hurricanes to Tahiti. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, air sinks and brings drought to Australia. El Niño can now be predicted with reasonable accuracy several months in advance.

Since the early 20th century, great strides have been made in weather prediction, largely as a result of computer development but also because of instrumentation such as satellites and radar. Weather data from around the world are collected by the World Meteorological Organization, the National Weather Service, and other agencies and entered into computer models that apply the laws of motion and of the conservation of energy and mass to produce forecasts. In some cases, these forecasts have provided warning of major storms as much as a week in advance. However, because the behavior of weather systems is chaotic, it is impossible to forecast the details of weather more than about two weeks in advance.

Intense small-scale storms, such as thunderstorms and tornadoes, are much more difficult to forecast than are larger weather systems. In areas in which thunderstorms are common, general forecasts can be made several days in advance, but the exact time and location of the storms, as well as of flash floods and tornadoes, can only be forecast about an hour in advance. (For a discussion of weather forecasting methods and technologies, see Meteorology.)

Human beings can change weather and climate. Water-droplet clouds with tops colder than about -5° C (about 23° F) can be made to produce rain by seeding them with substances such as silver iodide. Cloud seeding causes ice crystals to form and grow large enough to fall out of a cloud. However, although cloud seeding has been proven effective in individual clouds, its effect over large areas is still unproven.

Weather near the ground is routinely modified for agricultural purposes. For example, soil is darkened to raise its temperature, and fans are turned on during clear, cold nights to stir warmer air down to the ground and help prevent frost damage.

Human activities have also produced inadvertent effects on weather and climate. Adding gases such as carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere has increased the greenhouse effect and contributed to global warming by raising the mean temperature of the earth by about 0.5° C (about 0.9° F) since the beginning of the 20th century. More recently, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are used as refrigerants and in aerosol propellants, have been released into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of ozone worldwide and causing a thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica each spring (around October). The potential consequences of these changes are vast. Global warming may cause sea level to rise, and the incidence of skin cancer may increase as a result of the reduction of ozone. In an effort to prevent such consequences, production of CFCs has been curtailed and many measures have been suggested to control emission of greenhouse gases, including the development of more efficient engines and the use of alternative energy sources such as solar energy and wind energy.
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Post Heart


Heart, in anatomy, hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through the body. The heart, blood, and blood vessels make up the circulatory system, which is responsible for distributing oxygen and nutrients to the body and carrying away carbon dioxide and other waste products. The heart is the circulatory system’s power supply. It must beat ceaselessly because the body’s tissues—especially the brain and the heart itself—depend on a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered by the flowing blood. If the heart stops pumping blood for more than a few minutes, death will result.

The human heart is shaped like an upside-down pear and is located slightly to the left of center inside the chest cavity. About the size of a closed fist, the heart is made primarily of muscle tissue that contracts rhythmically to propel blood to all parts of the body. This rhythmic contraction begins in the developing embryo about three weeks after conception and continues throughout an individual’s life. The muscle rests only for a fraction of a second between beats. Over a typical life span of 76 years, the heart will beat nearly 2.8 billion times and move 169 million liters (179 million quarts) of blood.

Since prehistoric times people have had a sense of the heart’s vital importance. Cave paintings from 20,000 years ago depict a stylized heart inside the outline of hunted animals such as bison and elephant. The ancient Greeks believed the heart was the seat of intelligence. Others believed the heart to be the source of the soul or of the emotions—an idea that persists in popular culture and various verbal expressions, such as heartbreak, to the present day.

The human heart has four chambers. The upper two chambers, the right and left atria, are receiving chambers for blood. The atria are sometimes known as auricles. They collect blood that pours in from veins, blood vessels that return blood to the heart. The heart’s lower two chambers, the right and left ventricles, are the powerful pumping chambers. The ventricles propel blood into arteries, blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

A wall of tissue separates the right and left sides of the heart. Each side pumps blood through a different circuit of blood vessels: The right side of the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood to the lungs, while the left side of the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body. Blood returning from a trip around the body has given up most of its oxygen and picked up carbon dioxide in the body’s tissues. This oxygen-poor blood feeds into two large veins, the superior vena cava and inferior vena cava, which empty into the right atrium of the heart.

The right atrium conducts blood to the right ventricle, and the right ventricle pumps blood into the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery carries the blood to the lungs, where it picks up a fresh supply of oxygen and eliminates carbon dioxide. The blood, now oxygen-rich, returns to the heart through the pulmonary veins, which empty into the left atrium. Blood passes from the left atrium into the left ventricle, from where it is pumped out of the heart into the aorta, the body’s largest artery. Smaller arteries that branch off the aorta distribute blood to various parts of the body.

A -Heart Val
Four valves within the heart prevent blood from flowing backward in the heart. The valves open easily in the direction of blood flow, but when blood pushes against the valves in the opposite direction, the valves close. Two valves, known as atrioventricular valves, are located between the atria and ventricles. The right atrioventricular valve is formed from three flaps of tissue and is called the tricuspid valve. The left atrioventricular valve has two flaps and is called the bicuspid or mitral valve. The other two heart valves are located between the ventricles and arteries. They are called semilunar valves because they each consist of three half-moon-shaped flaps of tissue. The right semilunar valve, between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery, is also called the pulmonary valve. The left semilunar valve, between the left ventricle and aorta, is also called the aortic valve.

B -Myocardium
Muscle tissue, known as myocardium or cardiac muscle, wraps around a scaffolding of tough connective tissue to form the walls of the heart’s chambers. The atria, the receiving chambers of the heart, have relatively thin walls compared to the ventricles, the pumping chambers. The left ventricle has the thickest walls—nearly 1 cm (0.5 in) thick in an adult—because it must work the hardest to propel blood to the farthest reaches of the body.

C -Pericardium
A tough, double-layered sac known as the pericardium surrounds the heart. The inner layer of the pericardium, known as the epicardium, rests directly on top of the heart muscle. The outer layer of the pericardium attaches to the breastbone and other structures in the chest cavity and helps hold the heart in place. Between the two layers of the pericardium is a thin space filled with a watery fluid that helps prevent these layers from rubbing against each other when the heart beats.

D -Endocardium
The inner surfaces of the heart’s chambers are lined with a thin sheet of shiny, white tissue known as the endocardium. The same type of tissue, more broadly referred to as endothelium, also lines the body’s blood vessels, forming one continuous lining throughout the circulatory system. This lining helps blood flow smoothly and prevents blood clots from forming inside the circulatory system.

E -Coronary Arteries
The heart is nourished not by the blood passing through its chambers but by a specialized network of blood vessels. Known as the coronary arteries, these blood vessels encircle the heart like a crown. About 5 percent of the blood pumped to the body enters the coronary arteries, which branch from the aorta just above where it emerges from the left ventricle. Three main coronary arteries—the right, the left circumflex, and the left anterior descending—nourish different regions of the heart muscle. From these three arteries arise smaller branches that enter the muscular walls of the heart to provide a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients. Veins running through the heart muscle converge to form a large channel called the coronary sinus, which returns blood to the right atrium.

The heart’s duties are much broader than simply pumping blood continuously throughout life. The heart must also respond to changes in the body’s demand for oxygen. The heart works very differently during sleep, for example, than in the middle of a 5-km (3-mi) run. Moreover, the heart and the rest of the circulatory system can respond almost instantaneously to shifting situations—when a person stands up or lies down, for example, or when a person is faced with a potentially dangerous situation.

A -Cardiac Cycle
Although the right and left halves of the heart are separate, they both contract in unison, producing a single heartbeat. The sequence of events from the beginning of one heartbeat to the beginning of the next is called the cardiac cycle. The cardiac cycle has two phases: diastole, when the heart’s chambers are relaxed, and systole, when the chambers contract to move blood. During the systolic phase, the atria contract first, followed by contraction of the ventricles. This sequential contraction ensures efficient movement of blood from atria to ventricles and then into the arteries. If the atria and ventricles contracted simultaneously, the heart would not be able to move as much blood with each beat.

During diastole, both atria and ventricles are relaxed, and the atrioventricular valves are open. Blood pours from the veins into the atria, and from there into the ventricles. In fact, most of the blood that enters the ventricles simply pours in during diastole. Systole then begins as the atria contract to complete the filling of the ventricles. Next, the ventricles contract, forcing blood out through the semilunar valves and into the arteries, and the atrioventricular valves close to prevent blood from flowing back into the atria. As pressure rises in the arteries, the semilunar valves snap shut to prevent blood from flowing back into the ventricles. Diastole then begins again as the heart muscle relaxes—the atria first, followed by the ventricles—and blood begins to pour into the heart once more.

A health-care professional uses an instrument known as a stethoscope to detect internal body sounds, including the sounds produced by the heart as it is beating. The characteristic heartbeat sounds are made by the valves in the heart—not by the contraction of the heart muscle itself. The sound comes from the leaflets of the valves slapping together. The closing of the atrioventricular valves, just before the ventricles contract, makes the first heart sound. The second heart sound is made when the semilunar valves snap closed. The first heart sound is generally longer and lower than the second, producing a heartbeat that sounds like lub-dup, lub-dup, lub-dup.

Blood pressure, the pressure exerted on the walls of blood vessels by the flowing blood, also varies during different phases of the cardiac cycle. Blood pressure in the arteries is higher during systole, when the ventricles are contracting, and lower during diastole, as the blood ejected during systole moves into the body’s capillaries. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters (mm) of mercury using a sphygmomanometer, an instrument that consists of a pressure-recording device and an inflatable cuff that is usually placed around the upper arm. Normal blood pressure in an adult is less than 120 mm of mercury during systole, and less than 80 mm of mercury during diastole.

Blood pressure is usually noted as a ratio of systolic pressure to diastolic pressure—for example, 120/80. A person’s blood pressure may increase for a short time during moments of stress or strong emotions. However, a prolonged or constant elevation of blood pressure, a condition known as hypertension, can increase a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, heart and kidney failure, and other health problems.

B -Generation of the Heartbeat
Unlike most muscles, which rely on nerve impulses to cause them to contract, heart muscle can contract of its own accord. Certain heart muscle cells have the ability to contract spontaneously, and these cells generate electrical signals that spread to the rest of the heart and cause it to contract with a regular, steady beat.

The heartbeat begins with a small group of specialized muscle cells located in the upper right-hand corner of the right atrium. This area is known as the sinoatrial (SA) node. Cells in the SA node generate their electrical signals more frequently than cells elsewhere in the heart, so the electrical signals generated by the SA node synchronize the electrical signals traveling to the rest of the heart. For this reason, the SA node is also known as the heart’s pacemaker.

Impulses generated by the SA node spread rapidly throughout the atria, so that all the muscle cells of the atria contract virtually in unison. Electrical impulses cannot be conducted through the partition between the atria and ventricles, which is primarily made of fibrous connective tissue rather than muscle cells. The impulses from the SA node are carried across this connective tissue partition by a small bridge of muscle called the atrioventricular conduction system. The first part of this system is a group of cells at the lower margin of the right atrium, known as the atrioventricular (AV) node. Cells in the AV node conduct impulses relatively slowly, introducing a delay of about two-tenths of a second before an impulse reaches the ventricles. This delay allows time for the blood in the atria to empty into the ventricles before the ventricles begin contracting.

After making its way through the AV node, an impulse passes along a group of muscle fibers called the bundle of His, which span the connective tissue wall separating the atria from the ventricles. Once on the other side of that wall, the impulse spreads rapidly among the muscle cells that make up the ventricles. The impulse travels to all parts of the ventricles with the help of a network of fast-conducting fibers called Purkinje fibers. These fibers are necessary because the ventricular walls are so thick and massive.

If the impulse had to spread directly from one muscle cell to another, different parts of the ventricles would not contract together, and the heart would not pump blood efficiently. Although this complicated circuit has many steps, an electrical impulse spreads from the SA node throughout the heart in less than one second.

The journey of an electrical impulse around the heart can be traced by a machine called an electrocardiograph . This instrument consists of a recording device attached to electrodes that are placed at various points on a person’s skin. The recording device measures different phases of the heartbeat and traces these patterns as peaks and valleys in a graphic image known as an electrocardiogram (ECG, sometimes known as EKG). Changes or abnormalities in the heartbeat or in the heart’s rate of contraction register on the ECG, helping doctors diagnose heart problems or identify damage from a heart attack.

C -Control of the Heart Rate
In an adult, resting heart rate is normally about 70 beats per minute. However, the heart can beat up to three times faster—at more than 200 beats per minute—when a person is exercising vigorously. Younger people have faster resting heart rates than adults do. The normal heart rate is about 120 beats per minute in infants and about 100 beats per minute in young children. Many athletes, by contrast, often have relatively slow resting heart rates because physical training makes the heart stronger and enables it to pump the same amount of blood with fewer beats. An athlete’s resting heart rate may be only 40 to 60 beats per minute.

Although the SA node generates the heartbeat, impulses from nerves cause the heart to speed up or slow down almost instantaneously. The nerves that affect heart rate are part of the autonomic nervous system, which directs activities of the body that are not under conscious control. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two types of nerves, sympathetic and parasympathetic fibers. These fibers come from the spinal cord or brain and deliver impulses to the SA node and other parts of the heart.

Sympathetic nerve fibers increase the heart rate. These fibers are activated in times of stress, and they play a role in the fight or flight response that prepares humans and other animals to respond to danger. In addition to fear or physical danger, exercising or experiencing a strong emotion can also activate sympathetic fibers and cause an increase in heart rate. In contrast, parasympathetic nerve fibers slow the heart rate. In the absence of nerve impulses the SA node would fire about 100 times each minute—parasympathetic fibers are responsible for slowing the heart to the normal rate of about 70 beats per minute.

Chemicals known as hormones carried in the bloodstream also influence the heart rate. Hormones generally take effect more slowly than nerve impulses. They work by attaching to receptors, proteins on the surface of heart muscle cells, to change the way the muscle cells contract. Epinephrine (also called adrenaline) is a hormone made by the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. Released during times of stress, epinephrine increases the heart rate much as sympathetic nerve fibers do. Thyroid hormone, which regulates the body’s overall metabolism, also increases the heart rate. Other chemicals—especially calcium, potassium, and sodium—can affect heart rate and rhythm.

D -Cardiac Output
To determine overall heart function, doctors measure cardiac output, the amount of blood pumped by each ventricle in one minute. Cardiac output is equal to the heart rate multiplied by the stroke volume, the amount of blood pumped by a ventricle with each beat. Stroke volume, in turn, depends on several factors: the rate at which blood returns to the heart through the veins; how vigorously the heart contracts; and the pressure of blood in the arteries, which affects how hard the heart must work to propel blood into them. Normal cardiac output in an adult is about 3 liters per minute per square meter of body surface.

An increase in either heart rate or stroke volume—or both—will increase cardiac output. During exercise, sympathetic nerve fibers increase heart rate. At the same time, stroke volume increases, primarily because venous blood returns to the heart more quickly and the heart contracts more vigorously. Many of the factors that increase heart rate also increase stroke volume. For example, impulses from sympathetic nerve fibers cause the heart to contract more vigorously as well as increasing the heart rate. The simultaneous increase in heart rate and stroke volume enables a larger and more efficient increase in cardiac output than if, say, heart rate alone increased during exercise. In a healthy adult during vigorous exercise, cardiac output can increase six-fold, to 18 liters per minute per square meter of body surface.

In the United States and many other industrialized countries, heart disease is the leading cause of death. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 710,000 people in the United States die of heart disease each year. By far the most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, in which the arteries that nourish the heart become narrowed and unable to supply enough blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. However, many other problems can also affect the heart, including congenital defects (physical abnormalities that are present at birth), malfunction of the heart valves, and abnormal heart rhythms. Any type of heart disease may eventually result in heart failure, in which a weakened heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to the body.

A -Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease in most industrialized countries, is responsible for over 515,000 deaths in the United States yearly. It is caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty material called plaque on the inside of the coronary arteries (see Arteriosclerosis). Over the course of many years, this plaque narrows the arteries so that less blood can flow through them and less oxygen reaches the heart muscle.

The most common symptom of coronary heart disease is angina pectoris, a squeezing chest pain that may radiate to the neck, jaw, back, and left arm. Angina pectoris is a signal that blood flow to the heart muscle falls short when extra work is required from the heart muscle. An attack of angina is typically triggered by exercise or other physical exertion, or by strong emotions. Coronary heart disease can also lead to a heart attack, which usually develops when a blood clot forms at the site of a plaque and severely reduces or completely stops the flow of blood to a part of the heart. In a heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, part of the heart muscle dies because it is deprived of oxygen. This oxygen deprivation also causes the crushing chest pain characteristic of a heart attack. Other symptoms of a heart attack include nausea, vomiting, and profuse sweating. About one-third of heart attacks are fatal, but patients who seek immediate medical attention when symptoms of a heart attack develop have a good chance of surviving.

One of the primary risk factors for coronary heart disease is the presence of a high level of a fatty substance called cholesterol in the bloodstream. High blood cholesterol is typically the result of a diet that is high in cholesterol and saturated fat, although some genetic disorders also cause the problem. Other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Coronary heart disease was once thought to affect primarily men, but this is not the case. The disease affects an equal number of men and women, although women tend to develop the disease later in life than men do.

Coronary heart disease cannot be cured, but it can often be controlled with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Patients with coronary heart disease are encouraged to quit smoking, exercise regularly, and eat a low-fat diet. Doctors may prescribe a drug such as lovastatin, simvastatin, or pravastatin to help lower blood cholesterol. A wide variety of medications can help relieve angina, including nitroglycerin, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Doctors may recommend that some patients take a daily dose of aspirin, which helps prevent heart attacks by interfering with platelets, tiny blood cells that play a critical role in blood clotting.

In some patients, lifestyle changes and medication may not be sufficient to control angina. These patients may undergo coronary artery bypass surgery or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) to help relieve their symptoms. In bypass surgery, a length of blood vessel is removed from elsewhere in the patient’s body—usually a vein from the leg or an artery from the wrist. The surgeon sews one end to the aorta and the other end to the coronary artery, creating a conduit for blood to flow that bypasses the narrowed segment. Surgeons today commonly use an artery from the inside of the chest wall because bypasses made from this artery are very durable.

In PTCA, commonly referred to as balloon angioplasty, a deflated balloon is threaded through the patient’s coronary arteries to the site of a blockage. The balloon is then inflated, crushing the plaque and restoring the normal flow of blood through the artery.

B -Congenital Defects
Each year about 25,000 babies in the United States are born with a congenital heart defect (see Birth Defects). A wide variety of heart malformations can occur. One of the most common abnormalities is a septal defect, an opening between the right and left atrium or between the right and left ventricle. In other infants, the ductus arteriosus, a fetal blood vessel that usually closes soon after birth, remains open. In babies with these abnormalities, some of the oxygen-rich blood returning from the lungs is pumped to the lungs again, placing extra strain on the right ventricle and on the blood vessels leading to and from the lung. Sometimes a portion of the aorta is abnormally narrow and unable to carry sufficient blood to the body.

This condition, called coarctation of the aorta, places extra strain on the left ventricle because it must work harder to pump blood beyond the narrow portion of the aorta. With the heart pumping harder, high blood pressure often develops in the upper body and may cause a blood vessel in the brain to burst, a complication that is often fatal. An infant may be born with several different heart defects, as in the condition known as tetralogy of Fallot. In this condition, a combination of four different heart malformations allows mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood pumped by the heart. Infants with tetralogy of Fallot are often known as “blue babies” because of the characteristic bluish tinge of their skin, a condition caused by lack of oxygen.

In many cases, the cause of a congenital heart defect is difficult to identify. Some defects may be due to genetic factors, while others may be the result of viral infections or exposure to certain chemicals during the early part of the mother’s pregnancy. Regardless of the cause, most congenital malformations of the heart can be treated successfully with surgery, sometimes performed within a few weeks or months of birth. For example, a septal defect can be repaired with a patch made from pericardium or synthetic fabric that is sewn over the hole. An open ductus arteriosus is cut, and the pulmonary artery and aorta are stitched closed.

To correct coarctation of the aorta, a surgeon snips out the narrowed portion of the vessel and sews the normal ends together, or sews in a tube of fabric to connect the ends. Surgery for tetralogy of Fallot involves procedures to correct each part of the defect. Success rates for many of these operations are well above 90 percent, and with treatment most children with congenital heart defects live healthy, normal lives.

C -Heart Valve Malfunction
Malfunction of one of the four valves within the heart can cause problems that affect the entire circulatory system. A leaky valve does not close all the way, allowing some blood to flow backward as the heart contracts. This backward flow decreases the amount of oxygen the heart can deliver to the tissues with each beat. A stenotic valve, which is stiff and does not open fully, requires the heart to pump with increased force to propel blood through the narrowed opening. Over time, either of these problems can lead to damage of the overworked heart muscle.

Some people are born with malformed valves. Such congenital malformations may require treatment soon after birth, or they may not cause problems until a person reaches adulthood. A heart valve may also become damaged during life, due to infection, connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome, hypertension, heart attack, or simply aging.

A well-known, but poorly understood, type of valve malfunction is mitral valve prolapse. In this condition, the leaflets of the mitral valve fail to close properly and bulge backward like a parachute into the left atrium. Mitral valve prolapse is the most common type of valve abnormality, affecting 5 to 10 percent of the United States population, the majority of them women. In most cases, mitral valve prolapse does not cause any problems, but in a few cases the valve’s failure to close properly allows blood to leak backwards through the valve.

Another common cause of valve damage is rheumatic fever, a complication that sometimes develops after an infection with common bacteria known as streptococci. Most common in children, the illness is characterized by inflammation and pain in the joints. Connective tissue elsewhere in the body, including in the heart, heart valves, and pericardium, may also become inflamed. This inflammation can result in damage to the heart, most commonly one of the heart valves, that remains after the other symptoms of rheumatic fever have gone away.

Valve abnormalities are often detected when a health-care professional listens to the heart with a stethoscope. Abnormal valves cause extra sounds in addition to the normal sequence of two heart sounds during each heartbeat. These extra heart sounds are often known as heart murmurs, and not all of them are dangerous. In some cases, a test called echocardiography may be necessary to evaluate an abnormal valve. This test uses ultrasound waves to produce images of the inside of the heart, enabling doctors to see the shape and movement of the valves as the heart pumps.

Damaged or malformed valves can sometimes be surgically repaired. More severe valve damage may require replacement with a prosthetic valve. Some prosthetic valves are made from pig or cow valve tissue, while others are mechanical valves made from silicone and other synthetic materials.

D -Arrhythmias
Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, arise from problems with the electrical conduction system of the heart. Arrhythmias can occur in either the atria or the ventricles. In general, ventricular arrhythmias are more serious than atrial arrhythmias because ventricular arrhythmias are more likely to affect the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body.

Some people have minor arrhythmias that persist for long periods and are not dangerous—in fact, they are simply heartbeats that are normal for that particular person’s heart. A temporary arrhythmia can be caused by alcohol, caffeine, or simply not getting a good night’s sleep. Often, damage to the heart muscle results in a tendency to develop arrhythmias. This heart muscle damage is frequently the result of a heart attack, but can also develop for other reasons, such as after an infection or as part of a congenital defect.
Arrhythmias may involve either abnormally slow or abnormally fast rhythms.

An abnormally slow rhythm sometimes results from slower firing of impulses from the SA node itself, a condition known as sinus bradycardia. An abnormally slow heartbeat may also be due to heart block, which arises when some or all of the impulses generated by the SA node fail to be transmitted to the ventricles. Even if impulses from the atria are blocked, the ventricles continue to contract because fibers in the ventricles can generate their own rhythm. However, the rhythm they generate is slow, often only about 40 beats per minute. An abnormally slow heartbeat is dangerous if the heart does not pump enough blood to supply the brain and the rest of the body with oxygen. In this case, episodes of dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting may occur. Episodes of fainting caused by heart block are known as Stokes-Adams attacks.

Some types of abnormally fast heart rhythms—such as atrial tachycardia, an increased rate of atrial contraction—are usually not dangerous. Atrial fibrillation, in which the atria contract in a rapid, uncoordinated manner, may reduce the pumping efficiency of the heart. In a person with an otherwise healthy heart, this may not be dangerous, but in a person with other heart disease the reduced pumping efficiency may lead to heart failure or stroke.
By far the most dangerous type of rapid arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation, in which ventricular contractions are rapid and chaotic. Fibrillation prevents the ventricles from pumping blood efficiently, and can lead to death within minutes. Ventricular fibrillation can be reversed with an electrical defibrillator, a device that delivers a shock to the heart. The shock briefly stops the heart from beating, and when the heartbeat starts again the SA node is usually able to resume a normal beat.

Most often, arrhythmias can be diagnosed with the use of an ECG. Some arrhythmias do not require treatment. Others may be controlled with medications such as digitalis, propanolol, or disopyramide. Patients with heart block or several other types of arrhythmias may have an artificial pacemaker implanted in their chest. This small, battery-powered electronic device delivers regular electrical impulses to the heart through wires attached to different parts of the heart muscle. Another type of implantable device, a miniature defibrillator, is used in some patients at risk for serious ventricular arrhythmias. This device works much like the larger defibrillator used by paramedics and in the emergency room, delivering an electric shock to reset the heart when an abnormal rhythm is detected.

E -Other Forms of Heart Disease
In addition to the relatively common heart diseases described above, a wide variety of other diseases can also affect the heart. These include tumors, heart damage from other diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis, and inflammation of the heart muscle, pericardium, or endocardium.
Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, was commonly caused by rheumatic fever in the past. Today, many cases are due to a viral infection or their cause cannot be identified. Sometimes myocarditis simply goes away on its own. In a minority of patients, who often suffer repeated episodes of inflammation, myocarditis leads to permanent damage of the heart muscle, reducing the heart’s ability to pump blood and making it prone to developing abnormal rhythms.

Cardiomyopathy encompasses any condition that damages and weakens the heart muscle. Scientists believe that viral infections cause many cases of cardiomyopathy. Other causes include vitamin B deficiency, rheumatic fever, underactivity of the thyroid gland, and a genetic disease called hemochromatosis in which iron builds up in the heart muscle cells. Some types of cardiomyopathy can be controlled with medication, but others lead to progressive weakening of the heart muscle and sometimes result in heart failure.

In pericarditis, the most common disorder of the pericardium, the saclike membrane around the heart becomes inflamed. Pericarditis is most commonly caused by a viral infection, but may also be due to arthritis or an autoimmune disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus. It may be a complication of late-stage kidney disease, lung cancer, or lymphoma; it may be a side effect of radiation therapy or certain drugs. Pericarditis sometimes goes away without treatment, but it is often treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. It usually causes no permanent damage to the heart. If too much fluid builds up around the heart during an attack of pericarditis, the fluid may need to be drained with a long needle or in a surgical procedure. Patients who suffer repeated episodes of pericarditis may have the pericardium surgically removed.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, but damage from such an infection usually affects only the heart valves. Endocarditis often develops when bacteria from elsewhere in the body enter the bloodstream, settle on the flaps of one of the heart valves, and begin to grow there. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, but if untreated, endocarditis is often fatal. People with congenital heart defects, valve damage due to rheumatic fever, or other valve problems are at greatest risk for developing endocarditis. They often take antibiotics as a preventive measure before undergoing dental surgery or certain other types of surgery that can allow bacteria into the bloodstream. Intravenous drug users who share needles are another population at risk for endocarditis. People who use unclean needles, which allow bacteria into the bloodstream, frequently develop valve damage.

F -Heart Failure
The final stage in almost any type of heart disease is heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, in which the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump enough blood to the body. In the early stages of heart failure, the muscle may enlarge in an attempt to contract more vigorously, but after a time this enlargement of the muscle simply makes the heart inefficient and unable to deliver enough blood to the tissues. In response to this shortfall, the kidneys conserve water in an attempt to increase blood volume, and the heart is stimulated to pump harder. Eventually excess fluid seeps through the walls of tiny blood vessels and into the tissues. Fluid may collect in the lungs, making breathing difficult, especially when a patient is lying down at night. Many patients with heart failure must sleep propped up on pillows to be able to breathe. Fluid may also build up in the ankles, legs, or abdomen. In the later stages of heart failure, any type of physical activity becomes next to impossible.

Almost any condition that overworks or damages the heart muscle can eventually result in heart failure. The most common cause of heart failure is coronary heart disease. Heart failure may develop when the death of heart muscle in a heart attack leaves the heart with less strength to pump blood, or simply as a result of long-term oxygen deprivation due to narrowed coronary arteries. Hypertension or malfunctioning valves that force the heart to work harder over extended periods of time may also lead to heart failure. Viral or bacterial infections, alcohol abuse, and certain chemicals (including some lifesaving drugs used in cancer chemotherapy), can all damage the heart muscle and result in heart failure.

Despite its ominous name, heart failure can sometimes be reversed and can often be effectively treated for long periods with a combination of drugs. About 4.6 million people with heart failure are alive in the United States today. Medications such as digitalis are often prescribed to increase the heart’s pumping efficiency, while beta blockers may be used to decrease the heart’s workload. Drugs known as vasodilators relax the arteries and veins so that blood encounters less resistance as it flows. Diuretics stimulate the kidneys to excrete excess fluid.

A last resort in the treatment of heart failure is heart transplantation, in which a patient’s diseased heart is replaced with a healthy heart from a person who has died of other causes . Heart transplantation enables some patients with heart failure to lead active, healthy lives once again. However, a person who has received a heart transplant must take medications to suppress the immune system for the rest of his or her life in order to prevent rejection of the new heart. These drugs can have serious side effects, making a person more vulnerable to infections and certain types of cancer.
The first heart transplant was performed in 1967 by South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard. However, the procedure did not become widespread until the early 1980s, when the immune-suppressing drug cyclosporine became available. This drug helps prevent rejection without making patients as vulnerable to infection as they had been with older immune-suppressing drugs. About 3,500 heart transplants are performed worldwide each year, about 2,500 of them in the United States. Today, about 83 percent of heart transplant recipients survive at least one year, and 71 percent survive for four years.

A shortage of donor hearts is the main limitation on the number of transplants performed today. Some scientists are looking for alternatives to transplantation that would help alleviate this shortage of donor hearts. One possibility is to replace a human heart with a mechanical one. A permanent artificial heart was first implanted in a patient in 1982. Artificial hearts have been used experimentally with mixed success. They are not widely used today because of the risk of infection and bleeding and concerns about their reliability. In addition, the synthetic materials used to fashion artificial hearts can cause blood clots to form in the heart. These blood clots may travel to a vessel in the neck or head, resulting in a stroke. Perhaps a more promising option is the left ventricular assist device (LVAD). This device is implanted inside a person’s chest or abdomen to help the patient’s own heart pump blood. LVADs are used in many people waiting for heart transplants, and could one day become a permanent alternative to transplantation.

Some scientists are working to develop xenotransplantation, in which a patient’s diseased heart would be replaced with a heart from a pig or another species. However, this strategy still requires a great deal of research to prevent the human immune system from rejecting a heart from a different species. Some experts have also raised concerns about the transmission of harmful viruses from other species to humans as a result of xenotransplantation.

Scientific knowledge of the heart dates back almost as far as the beginnings of recorded history. The Egyptian physician Imhotep made observations on the pulse during the 2600s BC. During the 300s BC the Greek physician Hippocrates studied and wrote about various signs and symptoms of heart disease, and the Greek philosopher Aristotle described the beating heart of a chick embryo. Among the first people to investigate and write about the anatomy of the heart was another Greek physician, Erasistratus, around 250 BC. Erasistratus described the appearance of the heart and the four valves inside it. Although he correctly deduced that the valves prevent blood from flowing backward in the heart, he did not understand that the heart was a pump. Galen, a Greek-born Roman physician, also wrote about the heart during the second century AD. He recognized that the heart was made of muscle, but he believed that the liver was responsible for the movement of blood through the body.

Heart research did not greatly expand until the Renaissance in Europe (14th century to 16th century). During that era, scientists began to connect the heart’s structure with its function. During the early 16th century the Spanish physician and theologian Michael Servetus described how blood passes through the four chambers of the heart and picks up oxygen in the lungs. Perhaps the most significant contributions were made by English physician William Harvey, who discovered the circulation of blood in 1628. Harvey was the first to realize that the heart is a pump responsible for the movement of blood through the body. His work revealed how the heart works with the blood and blood vessels to nourish the body, establishing the concept of the circulatory system.

The 20th century witnessed extraordinary advances in the diagnosis of heart diseases, corrective surgeries, and other forms of treatment for heart problems. Many doctors had become interested in measuring the pulse and abnormal heartbeats. This line of research culminated in the 1902 invention of the electrocardiograph by Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven, who received the Nobel Prize for this work in 1924. Another major advance in diagnosis was cardiac catheterization, which was pioneered in 1929 by German physician Werner Forssmann. After performing experiments on animals, Forssmann inserted a catheter through a vein in his arm and into his own heart—a stunt for which he was fired from his job. Two American physicians, André Cournand and Dickinson Richards, later continued research on catheterization, and the technique became commonly used during the 1940s. The three scientists received the Nobel Prize in 1956 for their work.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most doctors believed that surgery on the heart would always remain impossible, as the heart was thought to be an extremely delicate organ. Most of the first heart operations were done in life-or-death trauma situations. American physician L. L. Hill performed the first successful heart surgery in the United States in 1902, sewing up a stab wound in the left ventricle of an 8-year-old boy. The next year, French surgeon Marin Théodore Tuffier removed a bullet from a patient’s left atrium.

Surgery to correct some congenital defects involving blood vessels also helped lay the foundations for surgery on the heart itself. In 1938 American surgeon Robert Gross performed the first successful surgery to treat an open ductus arteriosus, tying the vessel closed with thread. In 1944 Gross and Swedish surgeon Clarence Crafoord each performed successful surgery for coarctation of the aorta. The same year, American surgeon Alfred Blalock and surgical assistant Vivien Thomas performed the first successful operation to correct tetralogy of Fallot. But the greatest leap forward came in 1953, when American physician John Gibbon introduced the heart-lung machine, a device to oxygenate and pump blood during surgery on the heart. This invention made open-heart surgery—with the heart stopped for the duration of the operation—possible. It led to now-routine surgical techniques such as valve replacement, correction of congenital defects, and bypass surgery.

The rapid pace of scientific discovery during the 20th century has also led to many nonsurgical treatments for diseases of the heart. The introduction of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections greatly reduced sickness and deaths due to heart disease from rheumatic fever, endocarditis, and other infections involving the heart, although these infections remain a significant threat in many developing nations. Many effective drugs to control hypertension, reduce cholesterol, relieve angina, limit damage from heart attacks, and treat other forms of heart disease have also been developed. Advances in electronics led to implantable pacemakers in 1959 and implantable defibrillators in 1982.

Among different groups of animals, hearts vary greatly in size and complexity. In insects, the heart is a hollow bulb with muscular walls that contract to push blood into an artery. Many insects have several such hearts arranged along the length of the artery. When the artery ends, blood percolates among the cells of the insect’s body, eventually making its way back to the heart. In an insect, blood may take as long as an hour to complete a trip around the body.

In earthworms and other segmented worms, known as annelids, blood flows toward the back of the body through the ventral blood vessel and toward the front of the body through the dorsal blood vessel. Five pairs of hearts, or aortic arches, help pump blood. The hearts are actually segments of the dorsal blood vessel and are similar in structure to those of insects.

In vertebrates, or animals with a backbone, the heart is a separate, specialized organ rather than simply a segment of a blood vessel. In fish, the heart has two chambers: an atrium (receiving chamber) and a ventricle (pumping chamber). Oxygen-depleted blood returning from the fish’s body empties into the atrium, which pumps blood into the ventricle. The ventricle then pumps the blood to the gills, the respiratory organs of fish. In the gills, the blood picks up oxygen from the water and gets rid of carbon dioxide. The freshly oxygenated blood leaves the gills and travels to various parts of the body. In fish, as in humans, blood passes through the respiratory organs before it is distributed to the body. Unlike in humans, the blood does not return to the heart between visiting the respiratory organs and being distributed to the tissues. Without the added force from a second trip through the heart, blood flows relatively slowly in fish compared to humans and other mammals. However, this sluggish flow is enough to supply the fish’s relatively low oxygen demand.

As vertebrates moved from life in the sea to life on land, they evolved lungs as new respiratory organs for breathing. At the same time, they became more active and developed greater energy requirements. Animals use oxygen to release energy from food molecules in a process called cellular respiration, so land-dwelling vertebrates also developed a greater requirement for oxygen. These changes, in turn, led to changes in the structure of the heart and circulatory system. Amphibians and most reptiles have a heart with three chambers—two atria and a single ventricle. These animals also have separate circuits of blood vessels for oxygenating blood and delivering it to the body.

Deoxygenated blood returning from the body empties into the right atrium. From there, blood is conducted to the ventricle and is then pumped to the lungs. After picking up oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide in the lungs, blood returns to the heart and empties into the left atrium. The blood then enters the ventricle a second time and is pumped out to the body. The second trip through the heart keeps blood pressure strong and blood flow rapid as blood is pumped to the tissues, helping the blood deliver oxygen more efficiently.

The three-chambered heart of amphibians and reptiles also creates an opportunity for blood to mix in the ventricle which pumps both oxygenated and deoxygenated blood with each beat. While in birds and mammals this would be deadly, scientists now understand that a three-chambered heart is actually advantageous for amphibians and reptiles. These animals do not breathe constantly—for example, amphibians absorb oxygen through their skin when they are underwater—and the three-chambered heart enables them to adjust the proportions of blood flowing to the body and the lungs depending on whether the animal is breathing or not. The three-chambered heart actually results in more efficient oxygen delivery for amphibians and reptiles.

Birds and mammals have high-energy requirements even by vertebrate standards, and a corresponding high demand for oxygen. Their hearts have four chambers—two atria and two ventricles—resulting in a complete separation of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood and highly efficient delivery of oxygen to the tissues. Small mammals have more rapid heart rates than large mammals because they have the highest energy needs. The resting heart rate of a mouse is 500 to 600 beats per minute, while that of an elephant is 30 beats per minute. Blood pressure also varies among different mammal species. Blood pressure in a giraffe’s aorta is about 220 mm of mercury when the animal is standing. This pressure would be dangerously high in a human, but is necessary in a giraffe to lift blood up the animal’s long neck to its brain.

Although other groups of vertebrates have hearts with a different structure than those of humans, they are still sufficiently similar that scientists can learn about the human heart from other animals. Scientists use a transparent fish, the zebra fish, to learn how the heart and the blood vessels that connect to it form before birth. Fish embryos are exposed to chemicals known to cause congenital heart defects, and scientists look for resulting genetic changes. Researchers hope that these studies will help us understand why congenital heart malformations occur, and perhaps one day prevent these birth defects.
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Post The human heart

The human heart is a hollow, pear-shaped organ about the size of a fist. The heart is made of muscle that rhythmically contracts, or beats, pumping blood throughout the body. Oxygen-poor blood from the body enters the heart from two large blood vessels, the inferior vena cava and the superior vena cava, and collects in the right atrium. When the atrium fills, it contracts, and blood passes through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle. When the ventricle becomes full, it starts to contract, and the tricuspid valve closes to prevent blood from moving back into the atrium.

As the right ventricle contracts, it forces blood into the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs to pick up fresh oxygen. When blood exits the right ventricle, the ventricle relaxes and the pulmonary valve shuts, preventing blood from passing back into the ventricle. Blood returning from the lungs to the heart collects in the left atrium. When this chamber contracts, blood flows through the mitral valve into the left ventricle. The left ventricle fills and begins to contract, and the mitral valve between the two chambers closes. In the final phase of blood flow through the heart, the left ventricle contracts and forces blood into the aorta. After the blood in the left ventricle has been forced out, the ventricle begins to relax, and the aortic valve at the opening of the aorta closes.
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Default valves

Thin, fibrous flaps called valves lie at the opening of the heart's pulmonary artery and aorta. Valves are also present between each atrium and ventricle of the heart. Valves prevent blood from flowing backward in the heart. In this illustration of the pulmonary valve, as the heart contracts, blood pressure builds and pushes blood up against the pulmonary valve, forcing it to open. As the heart relaxes between one beat and the next, blood pressure falls. Blood flows back from the pulmonary artery, forcing the pulmonary valve to close, and preventing backflow of blood.
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Post Tissues


Tissue, group of associated, similarly structured cells that perform specialized functions for the survival of the organism. Animal tissues, to which this article is limited, take their first form when the blastula cells, arising from the fertilized ovum, differentiate into three germ layers: the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Through further cell differentiation, or histogenesis, groups of cells grow into more specialized units to form organs made up, usually, of several tissues of similarly performing cells. Animal tissues are classified into four main groups.

These tissues include the skin and the inner surfaces of the body, such as those of the lungs, stomach, intestines, and blood vessels. Because its primary function is to protect the body from injury and infection, epithelium is made up of tightly packed cells with little intercellular substance between them.

About 12 kinds of epithelial tissue occur. One kind is stratified squamous tissue found in the skin and the linings of the esophagus and vagina. It is made up of thin layers of flat, scalelike cells that form rapidly above the blood capillaries and are pushed toward the tissue surface, where they die and are shed. Another is simple columnar epithelium, which lines the digestive system from the stomach to the anus; these cells stand upright and not only control the absorption of nutrients but also secrete mucus through individual goblet cells. Glands are formed by the inward growth of epithelium—for example, the sweat glands of the skin and the gastric glands of the stomach. Outward growth results in hair, nails, and other structures.

These tissues, which support and hold parts of the body together, comprise the fibrous and elastic connective tissues, the adipose (fatty) tissues, and cartilage and bone. In contrast to epithelium, the cells of these tissues are widely separated from one another, with a large amount of intercellular substance between them. The cells of fibrous tissue, found throughout the body, connect to one another by an irregular network of strands, forming a soft, cushiony layer that also supports blood vessels, nerves, and other organs. Adipose tissue has a similar function, except that its fibroblasts also contain and store fat. Elastic tissue, found in ligaments, the trachea, and the arterial walls, stretches and contracts again with each pulse beat. In the human embryo, the fibroblast cells that originally secreted collagen for the formation of fibrous tissue later change to secrete a different form of protein called chondrion, for the formation of cartilage; some cartilage later becomes calcified by the action of osteoblasts to form bones. Blood and lymph are also often considered connective tissues.

These tissues, which contract and relax, comprise the striated, smooth, and cardiac muscles. Striated muscles, also called skeletal or voluntary muscles, include those that are activated by the somatic, or voluntary, nervous system. They are joined together without cell walls and have several nuclei. The smooth, or involuntary muscles, which are activated by the autonomic nervous system, are found in the internal organs and consist of simple sheets of cells. Cardiac muscles, which have characteristics of both striated and smooth muscles, are joined together in a vast network of interlacing cells and muscle sheaths.

These highly complex groups of cells, called ganglia, transfer information from one part of the body to another. Each neuron, or nerve cell, consists of a cell body with branching dendrites and one long fiber, or axon. The dendrites connect one neuron to another; the axon transmits impulses to an organ or collects impulses from a sensory organ
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Post Epithelial_Cell

A color-enhanced microscopic photograph reveals the distribution of structures and substances in epithelial cells isolated from the pancreas. The red areas correspond to deoxyribonucleic acid, the blue to microtubules, and the green to actin. The cells secrete bicarbonate which neutralizes acid.
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Post Compound Microscope

Two convex lenses can form a microscope. The object lens is positioned close to the object to be viewed. It forms an upside-down and magnified image called a real image because the light rays actually pass through the place where the image lies. The ocular lens, or eyepiece lens, acts as a magnifying glass for this real image. The ocular lens makes the light rays spread more, so that they appear to come from a large inverted image beyond the object lens. Because light rays do not actually pass through this location, the image is called a virtual image.
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