Why Pregnant Women Don’t Tip Over
In 2009, University of Cincinnati Katherine Whitcome and two fellow researchers won the prestigious Ig Nobel Prize. Yes, you read it right: “Ig Nobel Prize”. This honor (most people consider it an honor) is dedicated to “achievements that first make people laugh and, then, make them think”. Dr. Whitcome and her colleagues conducted a study in 2007 to understand the evolutionary reasons why pregnant women don’t tip over (you may have noticed that pregnant women lean back to avoid toppling over…). Leaning back can put extra pressure on their spines, leading Whitcome’s group to speculate that women’s lower vertebrae evolved to reduce such pressure during pregnancy.They studied the lower backs of 19 pregnant women and found that the curve in that area extends across three vertebrae. In men, however, it extends across two! The joints between the vertebrae also are larger in females and angled differently from those of males to better support the extra weight.
After Pregnancy, Women Have Bigger Feet
Dr. Neil Segal, of the University of Iowa, measured the arch height and foot length of 49 women during their pregnancy and five months after they had given birth. On average, the women’s arch height decreased, and in turn, their foot length increased between 2 and 10 millimeters (about 0.1 to 0.4 inches) — during this period. Overall, about 60 to 70 percent of the women had longer feet and shorter arches after childbirth, he said (read the interview here). Eleven of the women reported changes in their shoe size. Interestingly, the changes did not resolve long after the hormone levels returned to normal, suggesting a permanent effect.
Coca-Cola is an Effective Contraceptive. Or Maybe Not
Common commodities such as honey and sodium bicarbonate, acidic fruit juices, and oils have been used through history as spermicides. Three Harvard researchers noted that a Coca-Cola douche was said to be favored for this purpose in some developing countries and was touted in American folklore as a contraceptive aid in years gone by. No documentation of the soft drink’s spermicidal capabilities was found, so Dr. Sharee Umpierre and two colleagues decided to test Coke in some of its various formulations in their lab. They found that Diet Coke was a most effective spermicide and that the original-formula Coke was also quite effective, five times more so than the reformulated “new” Coke. However, other researchers were unable to verify these results in later experiments. Subsequent trials performed by medical researchers in Taiwan (using several varieties of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola) led them to the opposite conclusion, that “cola has little if any spermicidal effect”.
Going Round in Circles to Have a Baby
George Blonsky was a mining engineer. He and his wife, Charlotte, loved children, although they had none. They also loved the Bronx Zoo. One day, George happened upon the sight of a pregnant elephant slowly twirling herself in circles, evidently in preparation for delivering a 250lb baby. The anatomical physics of this process galvanized George, who came up with the idea of an electro-mechanical device to accelerate the events in humans. The method is simple: the pregnant woman is strapped on to a circular table and then the table is rotated at high speed. On November 9 1965, the Blonskys were granted US Patent 3,216,423 for an “Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force”. See the patent, including drawings and explanations here.
The Effect of the World Cup on Male Births
The World Cup brings more than passing excitement to the world. A newly published study suggests that the World Cup also brings, eventually, a change in the world population. The conclusions of the South African authors is indeed puzzling. They noted that the 2010 FIFA World Cup was followed about 9 months afterwards by a significant and unexpected increase in the number of male births. “The main mechanism driving the observed increase in the sex ratio at birth in South Africa” -state the authors- “is most likely more frequent sexual intercourse at population level during the tournament.” No further comments!