The Ingenious Reason Medieval Castle Staircases Were Built Clockwise

Shaiith/iStock via Getty Images
Shaiith/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or medieval programs in general, you’re probably familiar with action-packed battle scenes during which soldiers storm castles, dodge arrows, and dash up spiral staircases. And, while those spiral staircases might not necessarily ascend clockwise in every television show or movie you’ve watched, they usually did in real life.

According to Nerdist, medieval architects built staircases to wrap around in a clockwise direction in order to disadvantage any enemies who might climb them. Since most soldiers wielded swords in their right hands, this meant that their swings would be inhibited by the inner wall, and they’d have to round each curve before striking—fully exposing themselves in the process.

Just as the clockwise spiral hindered attackers, so, too, did it favor the castle’s defenders. As they descended, they could swing their swords in arcs that matched the curve of the outer wall, and use the inner wall as a partial shield. And, because the outer wall runs along the wider edge of the stairs, there was also more room for defenders to swing. So, if you’re planning on storming a medieval castle any time soon, you should try to recruit as many left-handed soldiers as possible. And if you’re defending one, it’s best to station your lefties on crossbow duty and leave the tower-defending to the righties.

On his blog All Things Medieval, Will Kalif explains that the individual stairs themselves provided another useful advantage to protectors of the realm. Because the individual steps weren’t all designed with the same specifications, it made for much more uneven staircases than what we see today. This wouldn’t impede the defenders, having grown accustomed to the inconsistencies of the staircases in their home castle, but it could definitely trip up the attackers. Plus, going down a set of stairs is always less labor-intensive than going up.

Staircase construction and battle tactics are far from the only things that have changed since the Middle Ages. Back then, people even walked differently than we do—find out how (and why) here.

[h/t Nerdist]

The Reason Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep

Tetiana Garkusha/iStock via Getty Images
Tetiana Garkusha/iStock via Getty Images

The sight of a dog batting its tiny paws around while sleeping is irrefutably adorable, and it’s not hard to imagine that your beloved pet is dreaming of swimming, fetching a Frisbee, or bounding around the yard in pursuit of a scampering squirrel.

In truth, that’s pretty much exactly what’s going on. Dogs, like humans, dream during the REM cycle of sleep, and their twitches are responses to whatever’s happening in those dreams. Though all dogs can exhibit muscle movements while dreaming, PetMD reports that it most often affects younger and older dogs. This is because of the pons, a part of the brainstem with two “off” switches that regulate movement during the sleep cycle.

“If either or both of these ‘off’ switches is not fully developed or has grown weak due to the aging process, then the muscles are not completely turned off and during dreaming, the animal will start to move,” Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher and former psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, told PetMD. “How much movement occurs depends upon how effective or ineffective these ‘off’ switches are.”

As long as your dog looks like it’s having a grand old time in its dreams, you can sit back and enjoy the show. If you think your dog might be having a nightmare, be careful about waking it up. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, a dog woken abruptly from a bad dream might bite you before it realizes its distress wasn’t real.

You should, however, learn to recognize the difference between a normal dream and a seizure.

“Some [dogs] manifest dreaming with twitching, paddling, or kicks of the legs. These movements are often brief (less than 30 seconds) and intermittent,” Jerry Klein, the AKC’s chief veterinary officer, described on the AKC website. “Seizing dogs’ limbs, on the other hand, tend to be rigid and stiffer, with more violent movement.”

The seizure can also be accompanied by loss of bowel control. If that description sounds familiar, you should talk to your veterinarian.

[h/t PetMD]

The Reason Doctors Have Such Sloppy Handwriting

Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images
Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images

It seems counterintuitive that doctors—widely regarded as some of the smartest, most detail-oriented people out there—so often have horrible handwriting. From a patient’s standpoint, it could seem downright terrifying. If your pharmacist misinterprets your trusted physician’s chicken scratch, you could wind up with a dangerously high dosage of medicine, or even the wrong medicine altogether.

In 2006, the National Academies of Science's Institute of Medicine estimated that doctors’ sloppy handwriting was killing more than 7000 people per year, and preventable medication errors were harming around 1.5 million Americans annually. Many medical offices have since switched to electronic medical records and prescriptions, and some states have even required them to do so.

But that doesn’t tell us why doctors’ penmanship is so poor in the first place. One reason is because doctors have to write much more than we realize.

“In the medical field, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen,” Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide, told The Healthy.

If you’re the very first patient of the day, the record of your visit and any prescription slips you get might be perfectly legible. Ten hours and dozens of appointments later, however, your doctor’s hand muscles are probably pretty cramped.

The content they’re writing isn’t particularly easy to spell, either. If a doctor is jotting down glomerulonephritis, for example, they may not stop to make sure all those vowels are in the right places.

“We have so many technical terms that are impossible to write,” Thum said. “You sometimes scribble to cover the error.”

However, if a prescription looks indecipherable to you, it’s possible that your doctor is using shorthand that your pharmacist will immediately understand—like the abbreviation QD, from the Latin phrase for “one a day.”

If you’re confused about what the doctor has written on your prescription slip, you can always ask them to clarify aloud, and double-check that it matches what’s printed on your prescription bottle.

[h/t MSN]

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