British dentist John H. Farrell spent much of his career studying the relationship between chewing and digestion. This involved repeated experiments in which he put bits of food in small, cotton-mesh bags, had subjects chew the food (or not), and then swallow it. The next step was more unpleasant:
On recovery from the faeces the bags were washed gently and the contents, if any, were examined and weighed.
The years he spent doing this convinced him that "very little chewing is required for maximum digestion."
Frederick William Bond took the photo below at the London Zoo showing the items found in an ostrich's stomach following an autopsy: a lace handkerchief, a buttoned glove, a length of rope, a plain handkerchief, copper coins, metal tacks, staples, hooks, and a four-inch nail. The nail had killed it.
The photo is undated, but I'm guessing it was taken sometime in the 1930s. (Update: the Flickr source says it was taken circa 1930.)
Along similar lines is this story from 1972 about items found in the stomach of an ostrich at a private French zoo: coins, telephone tokens, and stones. What wasn't found was the diamond watch it had snatched off a spectator the previous year.
It also went by the name "Belly Beeper". The idea was that if you slouched or let your stomach out, it would start beeping. Supposedly this would train you to always keep your stomach muscles tensed and not slouch.
Either that or it would train you to avoid wearing it.
An outbreak of mass vomiting at a school in North Carolina is being attributed to some kids getting upset stomachs from eating a combination of fruit juice and spicy chips, and then a bunch of other kids being triggered into “sympathetic vomiting.” That's when people vomit in response to seeing other people vomit. According to wisegeek.com, biologists suspect that the phenomenon has its roots in our evolutionary history:
The smell of vomit is widely considered to be one of the worst in the world, and may induce nausea in anyone nearby. While this may be simply a reaction to a malodorous aroma, it is possible that the body has a subconscious reaction to the smell or sight of the vomit itself. Because of the possibility that something the sick person has consumed has made them ill or poisoned them, your body may chemically decide to rid itself of potentially poisoned contents as well. In groups of apes, group or sympathetic vomiting has been observed after one animal becomes ill after eating. Since the other animals in the tribe have likely eaten the same things, sympathetic vomiting may be used as a survival tactic.
The owners of a 3 year old Great Dane took him to the vet because he was groaning and trying to throw up. After x-rays showed a mass of something in his stomach, the vet decided to operate. The surgery progressed something like a magician pulling hankies out of his pocket as the vet pulled sock after sock out of the dog's stomach. It was 43 in all pictured above. Fortunately the doggie came through just fine. Man, I'd hate to have to foot the bill for that though!
According to the Daily Mail, Bump Art is all the rage. This involves pregnant women painting their baby bumps. The Guardian interviews professional bump artist Julia Francis who says that "around 70% of women choose nature-based ideas such as flowers and leaves, a small percentage go for something 'really bizarre', and she has even done a few planets."
Well, it sure beats placenta art. I guess us men can always join in the fun by painting our food-baby bumps.
Rumination is the practice of bringing food back up from the stomach after it's been swallowed, rechewing it, and then swallowing it again. When cows do this, it's called "chewing the cud." When humans do it habitually, it's considered to be an eating disorder. The Wikipedia article on Rumination Syndrome tells us:
The disorder has been historically documented as affecting only infants, young children, and people with cognitive disabilities (where the prevalence is as high as 10% in institutionalized patients with various mental disabilities). Today it is being diagnosed in increasing numbers of otherwise healthy adolescents and adults, though there is a lack of awareness of the condition by doctors, patients and the general public.
But in an article by Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Leo Kanner, "Historical Notes on Rumination in Man" (Medical Life, 45, 1936) we learn a strange factoid. Kanner writes:
It is, indeed, a curious fact that not less than fourteen physicians are known to have been habitual ruminators. This is especially interesting in the light of the statistical evidence of the extreme rarity of this condition.
Kanner's list of ruminating physicians begins with a 17th century medical student who reported that rumination was "sweeter than honey and accompanied by a more delightful relish." The most famous name on the list is the 19th century French physician Edouard Brown-Séquard who developed a rumination problem after conducting a series of self-experiments in which he repeatedly swallowed a sponge and tried to vomit it back up.
Kanner's list was written in 1936, so it's possible there are now more ruminating physicians that could be added to it. Why physicians would ruminate in greater number than members of other professions, I have no idea.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.