While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.
Matters of the heart have baffled humans since the dawn of time, with sonnets and entire books devoted to the meaning of love. Now scientists are finding that the blood pump in your chest is just as complex. You can't live or love without it. Find out the sappy scoop on the heart, including how sex and laughter are indeed good for it, and how bad news really can break it.
In fact, scientists have pinned down exactly what it means to "fall in love." Researchers have found that an in-love brain looks very different from one experiencing mere lust, and it's also unlike a brain of someone in a long-term, committed relationship. Studies led by Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and one of the leading experts on the biological basis of love, have revealed that the brain's "in love" phase is a unique and well-defined period of time, and there are 13 telltale signs that you're in it.
"For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul."
Nothing says it's Valentine's Day like the pop of a freshly opened bottle of champagne — well, nothing says it quite so eloquently. The bubbly will do more than tickle your tongue and perhaps your heart, as there's loads of science sealed in as well.
From the physics of the 10 million or so bubbles in each glass and how they burst, to the glass shape's effect on the beverage's taste, here's what science can teach you about champagne.
If there are two things we at Speaking of Science love, it's bad puns and our readers.
Last week, we sent some science valentines in our newsletter (*ahem* which you can sign up for here !) and asked readers to contribute their own.
Now here they are, in all their nerdy glory.
FredHayek wrote: I know, Hallmark manufactured this holiday, yadda, yadda, yadda, but it is never a bad idea to remind the people in your life how much you cherish them and thank them for sharing their life with you. I see so many lonely people out there, be thankful if you have a special someone, or people around you who care.