STRANGE BUT TRUE- Spurts: Baby Jack sprouts up
Published March 17, 2005 in issue 0411 of the Hook
By BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D. STRANGETRUE@COMPUSERVE.COM
DRAWING BY DEBORAH DERR McCLINTOCK
BY BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D.
Q. Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your baby grow? –R. Ford
A. Beanstalk fast, Jack, but not at all as uniformly as you might think, says Philip Zimbardo in Psychology and Life.
Researchers checked out babies from just days old to almost two years, and were amazed to find 12-day languish periods of zero height-growth sandwiched between spurt days of almost half an inch within 24 hours.
"This suggests that the majority of your young life was spent not growing," says Zimbardo.
Babies seem to be all head, which measures about 25 percent of body length at birth and 60 percent of its destined adult size. Body weight doubles in the first 6 months, triples by the first birthday. Baby fat through the mid-section and on pudgy arms and legs is Nature's way of helping a small being retain precious warmth.
Well-known laggard gendered tissues lie patiently dormant until the hormonal riot of the teen years.
Q. If all the world's gold were somehow shaped into a giant cube, how long would each side be? a) about the length of a tennis court b) the length of a football field c) even larger? –Ice T.
A. a). The 150,000 tonnes of gold brought forth from the Earth as the sum of all human gold-seeking efforts would form a cube roughly 65 feet on each side, says Randy Strauss of USAGOLD.com.
Far from filling a football stadium, that single yellow block would fit between the goal line and the 22 yard line. Another way of looking at it, if this gold were to be evenly distributed among all of the world's 6.4 billion citizens, "each person would have only 3/4ths of a single ounce– just 3 U.S. nickel-sized coins."
Q. There's no magic in the number 7, but it does have an uncanny way of turning up places. Such as where? –P. Cook & D. Moore
A. Seven is a prime number, with no divisors except one and seven, says Richard Phillips in Numbers: Facts, Figures & Fiction.
More famously, there are the Seven Deadly Sins (avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth and anger), the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, the Seven Levels of Hell, the Seven Dwarves, and of course seven days in a week.
The 1960 movie The Magnificent Seven was based on the 1954 Japanese film The Seven Samurai. The soft drink 7-Up was originally called Bib-label Lithiate Lemon-Lime Soda (gulp!) but didn't catch on until the name change.
And in 1956 George Miller wrote of "The Magical Number Seven Plus or Minus Two" to describe the limits of human memory: If someone gives you four random digits, such as 6 6 2 5, you will probably be able to recite them every time, likewise with five digits or six or seven, but beyond this people start making lots of mistakes.
"The longest number of digits people get completely right is called their 'digit span' and for most people this is about seven digits," says Miller.
Q. On, no, elevator cable snaps and you're freefalling 20 stories! Anything you can do to up your survival chances, such as leaping skyward at the last instant? -S. Man
A. In principle you can soften your fall this way, in practice you'd need superhuman leaping ability, says University of Oregon physicist Raymond E. Frey. Assuming 16 feet per floor, you're in for a 320-foot drop, accelerating to close to 100 mph–the speed you need to overcome.
A person with a 30-inch vertical jump attains about 9 mph. This does not help much... it could reduce your speed to the equivalent of merely(!) a 17-story drop, assuming you time your jump perfectly.
Here, however, is a winning strategy. When the cable snaps, you have 4.5 seconds to climb the wall and go through the car roof escape door. Remember, you're in free fall, "weightless" like an orbiting astronaut, so it is not hard to climb but maneuvering is tricky.
"Now, standing on the car roof, fire up your 4000-pound-thrust backpack rocket. Cover your eyes," advises Frey.
Send Strange questions to brothers Rich and Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.