Coffee — specifically the caffeine — is a stimulant. Stimulants are a class of chemical/drug that give you energy (“uppers”). You may be familiar with some of the other things they do like make your pupils larger, make your heart beat faster, raise your blood pressure, etc.
It turns out your body does not like your blood pressure elevated significantly above normal for a prolonged period of time. It can do bad things over time like cause an aneurysm (a balloon-like bulging in your blood vessels can rupture, which can essentially be fatal even with rapid medical attention), stroke, kidney damage, dementia, etc. Your body has three mechanisms to lower your blood pressure. One is to widen your blood vessels (vasodilation), one is to slow your heart rate, and another is to get rid of the fluid in them. Your body uses the latter to counteract caffeine.
The body uses sodium ions to retain water/fluid within its blood vessels. When you purge the salt, water/fluid follows. Caffeine stops the kidneys from holding on to salt causing it to be expelled into urine with water following soon thereafter.
Pope Clement VIII blessed coffee and declared it a drink so good that infidels shouldn’t be the only ones to enjoy it. It had been enshrouded in legend and controversy for centuries as we’ll explore.
Coffee is believed to be native to Ethiopia. There are numerous stories of how it spread from there. According to one legend, Sufis (a sect of Islam) watched birds that consumed caffeine-containing red berries and exhibited significant vitality. They then tried them finding it extended them vitality as well. There is a legend that Omar, exiled from his Sufi community, tried the liquid from the berries after boiling them and found it helped him to stave off hunger during his exile. Lastly, there is legend that a goat-herder watched his goats dancing after chewing on berries and tried them and spread awareness of their existence.
Regardless of the legend, coffee found its way from Ethiopia to Yemen via traders. It was used by Sufis to maintain nighttime devotions and increase concentration in prayer. By the 1400s it spread through North Africa and into Asia minor. It was banned in 1511 by conservative imams due to its stimulating properties but the ban was repealed in 1524 by Sultan Suleiman I. A similar ban was instituted in Cairo in the 16th century.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church banned the drink by the 1700s but softened its stance against the drink as the Coptic (an ancient Christian sect) priest Abuna Matewos did much to dispel the idea that it was a Muslim drink.
Coffee spread to Europe and the Americas. It reached Europe via enslaved and captured Turkish Muslims as well as the Dutch/British East Indian Companies and became a staple among well-off Europeans. Coffee was used to enhance religious thought in Christian circles and physicians touted its health benefits.
From Coffee’s first introduction to Italy, leaders in the Catholic Church strongly opposed it. However, Pope Clement VIII after trying the drink gave it his blessing.
During the American revolution (in part due to the Tea Act), it was touted as a replacement for tea. Coffee would go on to spread worldwide without significant controversy. Today coffee is used for its health and productivity benefits.
Ask someone to sing “We are the Champions” by Queen and they’ll close with the oft-sung “We are the champions…..of the world!” Except, Queen never sang that in the song. Other examples of things you’ll swear you remember that just are not true include the famous Forrest Gump line never uttered “Life is like a box of chocolates.” (Life was like a box of chocolates) and Darth Vader uttering “Luke, I am your father.” ( “No, I am your father.” )
How can this be?! The human memory is known to be less than perfect. In fact, it is known that how you remember things depends on your biases and prejudices, the word choice someone uses to ask you to recall an event, and how others witnesses recall the event. Further, science shows every time you recall an event, the memory (and the neuronal circuitry used to store/retrieve it) changes slightly. It is believed that false memories arise and are spread such that they become taken as truth.
This phenomenon in which false memories propagate is known as the Mandela Effect. It was coined by paranormal researcher Fiona Bloome when a popular false memory circulated regarding Nelson Mandela’s death broadcast in the 80s (who would not pass until 2013).
Interestingly, some have gone on to claim these inconsistencies are proof of parallel universes or that the timeline we live on is being altered.
The first dog in space, Laika (also known as “Muttnik” to Western media), was launched into orbit on November 1957. Little was known about the effects space had on life and it was determined that animals should go before humans in order to study them.
Laika was a stray dog plucked from the streets of Moscow because it was thought stray animals used to the elements could more easily adapt to the rigors of space. Laika adapted to the small cages that mimicked the cramped area in her future space shuttle and nutrient-rich gel in place of food. Laika also underwent surgery to fit her with devices to measure blood pressure and other vitals.
Laika took to space on the Sputnik 2; however, there were problems. The equipment monitoring her showed she was stressed. The equipment meant to regulate temperature malfunctioned and Laika died from overheating within a couple hours of launch. This was due to the rushed construction of the Sputnik 2, built within a month. A few months later, the space shuttle carrying Laika’s remains returned to Earth and disintegrated upon reentry.
Scientists at the time knew Laika would not survive re-entry and some expressed regret at allowing the experiment to be conducted. There was some outrage in Western media though little existed in the Soviet media.
The Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow would honor Laika in 1964. Two other monuments in her honor would be raised — one at Russian Cosmonaut training facility in 1997 and one at military facility she trained at in 2008.
Exercise and your body’s normal metabolism uses energy. ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is energy currency — if you will — used by the body to carry out those functions. Adenosine is a byproduct that signals to the body that energy is being depleted and it would probably be a good idea to rest and wind down. It signals this to the brain via adenosine receptors A1 — more directly associated with fatigue and A2a — more associated with the mood related to fatigue). Caffeine stops adenosine from telling the brain you’re tired when it blocks A1, and A2a blockade causes a release of dopamine which makes you feel good.
These effects are really pronounced in someone who drinks coffee rarely or who has just begun to drink coffee. They are diminished over time when someone drinks coffee regularly. This is because to combat the effect of caffeine blocking the A1 and A2a receptors, the brain produces more of both. This is called upregulation. Because the same amount of caffeine can only block the same amount of receptors, adenosine can signal tiredness more effectively. This is why coffee drinkers find they may need to drink more to get the same effect. This is called tolerance.
**Fun fact, caffeine causes vasoconstriction — the tightening of blood vessels. When one stops drinking coffee, their blood vessels vaso-dilate or widen. It is believed vasodilation of the blood vessels in the brain are responsible for headaches.