'Pap' can do his part

Q. Can a woman who adopts a newborn breast-feed the baby? Could a man possibly do the same? ­F. Lamaze

 A. Women who have not recently been pregnant or breast-feeding can sometimes induce milk production through a combination of hormone treatments and frequent suckling– often with a breast pump prior to baby's anticipated arrival, says University of Michigan reproductive endocrinologist John Randolph Jr., M.D. The milk is usually sufficient to the newborn's needs in these highly motivated Moms. Men too can "suckle" their babies with a special bottle backpack and tubing hookup running down to a "nipple" over the chest to mimic the positions used in breastfeeding.

That's psychology. On the farther fringes of biology, males could in theory produce actual milk since they have breasts containing rudimentary ducts, "but I am personally unaware if this has really been achieved or to what extent," says Randolph. Female hormones would be required for breast development, along with intensive breast stimulation.

It is possible for men who have their testes removed or medically shut down to get normal-appearing breasts by use of estrogenic hormones, adds University of Missouri reproductive endocrinologist Steven Young, M.D., Ph.D.

Transsexuals (men to women) on estrogen get an increase in fatty tissue as well as glands. Of course, the size alone is no indication of function, and "I am not aware of any reports in the English language literature of normal lactation in these men. On the other hand, I suspect that it might be possible."

Q. Flying due west across the continental US, you can keep up with the Earth's rotation and watch the sunset for hours. Is there anywhere you could do this on foot? ­Dr. Scholl

 A. At the equator, a jet needs to go about 1000mph sun speed, but by 45 degrees latitude– New York, Paris, London– this is down to 700mph. Here the fastest cars could just about keep up.

Here's a catchier idea, suggests Dr. Michael Pearlman, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: Why not pack your skis and head far north? If you go to a high enough latitude, you and the polar bears can track the sun on foot. "At the poles, when the sun is visible 24 hours a day (North Pole in June, South Pole in December), a person can stand in one place and merely rotate once a day."

Q. What's one minority group every one of us today all over the world belongs to? ­N. Gogol

A. We're the living, some 6 billion strong, and growing by about 200,000 daily– the "population explosion." But it is not true that half of all people who ever lived are alive today, as has been said. Various estimates put the total of ever-lived humans from 60 billion to 120 billion, meaning there are some 10-20 dead souls out there somewhere (dust? spirit?) for every living person.

Q. Ounce for ounce, is there anything more valuable than gold? What is it about this coveted metal? ­K. Midas

A. Gold's $265/oz. is owing to its beauty, universal status as a monetary standard, corrosion resistance, high electrical conductivity, ductility, and malleability, allowing it to be drawn into thin industrial wires or flattened into "gold leaf" sheets 5 millionths of an inch thick, says University of Connecticut metallurgist John E. Morral.

Plus the stuff alloys well for use in jewelry and dentistry, taking on a greenish hue with silver added, reddish with copper, silvery "white gold" with nickel, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Paul Balo. "In pure form, gold is the only metal with a yellow color," he adds. Hence the Latin name aurum (symbol Au), from the alchemist's reference to the yellow color of the sun."

Not a bad resume. Still, there are plenty of things pricier, such as diamonds, the "precious metals" platinum ($600/ounce), palladium ($1000) and rhodium ($2,000), some B vitamins, pharmaceuticals, natural radioactive isotopes or manmade ones. The manmade radioisotope "californium-252"– produced atom by atom in nuclear reactors– goes at $65,000 per milligram. "Multiply this out," says Balo, "and Cf- 252's gold-ounce equivalent (using the troy ounce) is $2 billion!"

 

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