Hairy and scary
Q: In search of the roots of vampirism and werewolfism, modern science has looked recently past gas-bloated corpses shifting in shallow graves (the "undead") and rabies victims (males bite, are hypersexual, and shun mirrors) to a rare inherited disease called "porphyria." Explain, please. –B. Lugosi
A: People with this blood condition (porphyria=purple) wind up with lesions throughout the body, especially when exposed to sunlight, "a reason perhaps why vampires were said to hide in dark basements or coffins during daylight hours," says Elaine N. Marieb in Human Anatomy & Physiology. Unfortunate victims were once shunned or deemed mentally ill (the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh).
About one in 25,000 people is afflicted, with symptoms worsened by alcohol and other chemicals, including some in garlic. Sunlight has a particularly nasty effect, lesioning and scarring exposed skin, mutilating the fingers, toes and nose, and triggering degeneration of the gums that leaves teeth stuck out prominently (fangs?).
"Rampant growth of hair causes the sufferer's face to become 'wolflike' and the hands to resemble paws." One treatment for porphyria is injections of heme molecules from healthy blood, obviously unavailable in the Middle Ages.
Next best thing? "Perhaps to drink blood," says Marieb, "as vampires were said to do.
Q: Most people can tell you that the word for "the hatred of women" is "misogyny." But is there a corresponding term for "the hatred of men"? –A. Dworkin
A: Few people know it but there is such a word: “misandry.” Not all dictionaries even have the term. Some do have "misandry" but not "misandrous" (misogynous) o "misandrist" (misogynist). A quick Google Internet search turned up 30,000 hits on "misogyny," 500 on "misandry"–most related to a new book Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in the Popular Culture.
Q: If you simply stopped cutting your hair, what’s the maximum length it would grow to? –R. A. Punzel
A: Max there is, though different for different people, with each hair growing 0.3-0.5 millimeters per day, lengthening to roughly 300 mm (12 inchees by the end of a typical two-year growth cycle before the follicle goes dormant for six months, then sheds its hair, says "New Scientist."
That's typical, but there are 10-year cyclers who put out hair prodigies up to 1.8 meters long, or about six feet.
Then how did Thai medicine-man Hoo Sateow beat even these super cyclers with tresses 5.15 meters long (17 feet) to claim the world record? His "secret was to wind his hair into one serpent-like plait, so that individual hairs weren't lost as they were shed from the follicle."
Q: What's the most complex everyday human behavior? –S. Freud
A: Try talking, says University of Washington speech and hearing scientist Robert M. Miller. During conversation there are about 100 muscles working at any given time to produce speech, and for each of these there are about 100 nerve endings transmitting impulses to muscle fibers.
Combine this with the fact that we produce approximately 14 sounds per second when talking. The product– 100 x 100 x 14– suggests there are some 140,000 neuromuscular (nerve-to-muscle) events occurring during every second of conversational speech. "And this does not even begin to account for the additional brain activities necessary to develop a thought, select words to express the thought, sequence the words, program the movements, and initiate the act of speaking."
Leaves us speechless!
(Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at email@example.com.)