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Uvula, Cerumen, & Coccyx: Your Body Is Weird

Your body is a temple, and what are temples usually filled with? Mystic, ancient texts that few people can read or understand. It's the same with your body's myriad muscles, bones and tissues. You've got a boatload of them, and many have strange names and even odder functions. Here are a few:

Uvula - The uvula is a short, rounded projection of pinkish connective tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat. Not sure what I'm talking about? Look in the mirror and say "Ahhhhhhh." You've now seen your uvula.

The stalactite-like tissue is used in the formation of certain guttural sounds. Massaging it with a finger will also trigger the gag reflex. This makes it a wonder why some people choose to get their uvula pierced.

Tonsils_diagram.jpgCerumen - Cerumen is a bodily substance primarily composed of layers of shed skin, long-chain fatty acids, cholesterol, and alcohols. It's often yellowish and wet (but it can be gray and flaky), waxy, and secreted in the ear canal, almost like earwax... Okay, the jig is up. Cerumen is earwax, just a cooler, more science-y term for the stuff.

On a side note, you really shouldn't clean it.

Sternocleidomastoid - Want to get inspired? Doing so will necessitate that you flex your neck's sternocleidomastoid muscle. And by inspiration, I don't mean getting filled with the urge to perform an activity; I mean the act of breathing air through your mouth and into your lungs.

The sternocleidomastoid is a paired muscle found on either side of your neck towards the anterior. You use it to rotate and flex the neck as well as extend your head. It's one of the more overt neck muscles and is unique to mammals. That's why, when designing movie aliens to seem attractive and familiar to viewers, special effects artists make sure to include it.

"Even C3PO has it, in the form of little pistons on his neck. Watch Star Trek: The good guys always have them, and the bad guys don't. It's a classic alien designer trick," biologist Stuart Sumida told Slate.

Sternocleidomastoideus.pngCoccyx: In one of the finest quotes that Wikipedia has to offer, the online encyclopedia reports that the coccyx, while the remnant of a vestigial tail, is "not entirely useless." Commonly known as the tailbone, it's a key attachment site for various muscles, tendons and ligaments, some of which are involved in the vital, custodial function of defecation. We also occasionally sit on our coccyx.