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See Inside December 2006

News from Down Under

A review of recent stories about the mind and some of the body
Steve Mirsky



FRANK VERONSKY
It came as quite a shock recently when the stupidest thing I've ever heard turned out to come from England. I had assumed it would be from the U.S., but no. Anyway, here it is. A government minister said that some pregnant British teenagers were purposely smoking during their entire pregnancies to try to have low-birth-weight babies, which would make for easier deliveries.

Even more breathtaking than smoking itself, isn't it? Take a moment to get a bandage for where you hit your head when you passed out just now. I reiterate--this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard (and that really is saying something, especially after we within the reality-based community have watched the past five years play out).

A magazine for nurses reported that the British minister of public health, Caroline Flint, revealed that young women and health professionals had told her about this smoke-during-pregnancy concept. She discussed the strategy at a conference of the British Labor Party. Ironically.

For any women just being exposed to the tar-and-nicotine-delivery-delivery-system idea and thinking it may be just what the doctor ordered, find a new doctor. Low birth weight puts a baby at risk in numerous unhappy ways and does little or nothing to mitigate the pain of delivery. Besides, there are various effective pain-control options, including drugs. As a man, I'll never be blessed with the searing agony of passing an entire human being through an orifice, but were I faced with that prospect and offered pain medication, I would absolutely quote Molly Bloom: "yes I said yes I will Yes." (Which is, coincidentally, precisely how Molly wound up eventually wondering about pain-free childbirth, but that's another long story with nary a hint of punctuation.)

In other news below the waist, when I recently heard a New York plastic surgeon hawking butt jobs on the radio--there, that got your attention--I searched the Web for more information about this new method of attaining a foxy derriere. Strictly out of professional curiosity, rest assured.

A procedure familiar to aficionados of the movie Saving Silverman, the buttock implant is apparently making great inroads in the U.S. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, some 4,500 such procedures were done in 2004 and 2005, with another 10,000 simple buttock lifts having been performed in those two years. The surgeries typically cost somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000. They are, however, 100 percent successful. Because if people find out you had one, they will definitely point at you and say, "Look at that ass." (I realize that I'll be accused of getting on my high horse about this. But, see, I haven't had this kind of surgery, so I can still get on a horse.)

Finally, this story from McGill University, north of the border. Researchers there used infrared imaging of thermal activity for the first time in an attempt to measure sexual arousal rates. Study subjects were shown sexually explicit films while researchers recorded the thermal activity of subjects' genital areas. (Subjects and scientists were both thus able to say, "Watch where you're pointing that thing.") Men and women required virtually the same amount of time to become aroused, contrary to conventional wisdom. But it was the control part of the experiment that really jumped out at me: subjects were shown a video montage that included The Best of Mr. Bean and Canadian tourism travelogues. If you find such material arousing and you are not a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer married to Rowan Atkinson, you should seek immediate counseling. Once you get off your horse.

Editors' note: In a discussion of New York City landmarks worth protecting [August], we listed Nobel laureates living or working in the five boroughs. We neglected to include 1998 physiology or medicine Nobelist Robert F. Furchgott, emeritus professor at S.U.N.Y. Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. We're sorry both for the omission and for having him bring up the rear of this column.

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