Most days, I’m writing about fairly serious—albeit very interesting—stuff.
Like this week, for example, there are stories about nanomedicine, bilateral mastectomy, the development of strategic thinking in children, and the environmental hazards of microplastics.
But every once in a while, an absolute gem comes along that makes it into my Tales For Dinner Parties folder. Sometimes it’s because they’re laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes it’s because they’re so far into the weird zone that I can just picture the faces of the ethics committee tasked with approving them.
I might write an average of five stories a week, most of which I’ve forgotten the following week, but here are a few that have stayed with me:
- Japanese researchers find that specially-designed underpants lined with activated charcoal are the best way to deal with smelly farts. I’ve also found removing the offending individual from the room helps too.
- Women, are you tired of being prised open like a recalcitrant car door every time you have a Pap smear? What about a stunning new device that uses warm, sterile air to ‘gently inflate the vagina’?
This was one of the first articles I was given to write when I began working as a medical reporter at Australian Doctor. I thought it was some kind of initiation ceremony, a baptism of fire for the newby. But no, it was a real story. It certainly tested my laugh-suppression abilities to their very limit when I had to listen to the expert commentator explain how the problem with the device was that the eye-scope was too short, so doctors invariably ended up with their nose pressed against their patient’s anus. Or that the air pumped into the vagina sooner or later had to come out, so patients often hurried out of the clinic sounding like an malfunctioning Vespa.
I should mention, this device is still available and apparently has been much improved since its inception all those years ago.
- Penis size and male attractiveness. I take it as a badge of honour that I get handed these sorts of stories from the fabulous editors at ABC Science (including a more recent one on the oldest fossilised human turd). This turned out to be their most-clicked-on story for the year. You can read it here, but when you do, picture my face as I interviewed the very keen and excited expert. I then got double guffaws when he emailed me to share some images, and the subject line in my inbox read: “M****** J***** wants to share ‘penis size’ with you.
- Apparently the smell of coffee is more than enough to get the brain of a sleep-deprived rat up and ready for action. A study found that rats given a whiff of coffee showed just as much brain activation as rats actually given a drink of the brew. And since I discovered that, I always start the day with a long sniff from the coffee pot before I turn to my mug of Earl Grey.
That’s just a small sample of those that leapt to mind as I composed this post, but hopefully there will be many more to come.