Strange But True

Opinions - January 9th, 1998

by Bill Sones & Rich Sones, Ph.D.

Q: In the climactic scene of the 1976 movie remake, King Kong falls from atop the World Trade Center and lies dying in the street below where Jessica Lange bids him a tearful good­bye. How is his demise wholly unrealistic from a “falling bod­ies” standpoint?

A: A creature as big as King Kong, falling from that height, should have hit not with bone-crunching force, but with body-splattering force, says biologist and anatomist Michael La-Barbera of the University of Chi­cago. “Pink mush would have covered the streets of Manhattan.”

While small creatures easily survive very great falls because air resistance slows them greatly, big ones get, quite lit­erally, creamed. This led to the common strategy during me­dieval sieges of taking the body of a dead horse, let­ting it ripen a few days in the sun, then catapulting it over the walls of the be­sieged town.

“On impact, the carcass would, indeed, splash, spread­ing contagion throughout,” says Dr. LaBarbera.

Q: If animals ate at restau­rants, would they choose the no-smoking section?

A: Effects of second-hand tobacco smoke have been thor­oughly tested over the years, including its impact on many different animal species, reports University of California at Los Angeles psychopharmacologist Ronald K. Siegel.

• When colonies of luminous marine bacteria are subjected to infused smoke, they turn off their lights.

• Not only do bees, flies and other insects quickly perish be­fore the smoke, but also do leeches feeding on the blood of human tobacco smokers.

• When placed in enclosed smoke chambers, frogs, pigeons, mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and dogs died slowly over a couple of weeks or months.

• When beagles were fitted with masks that forced them to inhale intermittent smoke over a period of time, hundreds of them expired.

Q: You’re born with about 300 of them, wind up with around 200, you stand, lift, push and keep your shape with their help, they’re tough and du­rable, yet light and resilient, con­stituting only about 14 percent of body weight. What are they?

A: Your bones. And if you ever doubt the singular strength of these anatomical building blocks when they’re healthy, consider that one cubic inch of bonestuff can withstand 19,000 pounds, the weight of 10 small cars, making them four times stronger than concrete, say Gil Brum, et al, in Biology: Explor­ing Life (2nd edition).

Q: A drink or two will relax you, but what if you just think you had a couple of drinks? Suppose the host is serving vodka tonics, but forgets to put in the vodka.

A: This was an actual experi­ment by addictive behaviors specialist Alan Marlatt. Says the doc: “Disinhibition” (relaxation of inhibitions) will occur under this placebo condition, leading to a “think drink” high.

Corollary: For guys who get a bit sexually uptight at times, a “think drink” or two prepared by a lady friend might be just what the doctor ordered (breaks the ice without the physiologi­cal sexual downside to actual booze).