the sneeze -- 3/14/24

Today's encore selection -- from The Body by Bill Bryson. Autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst:

"Only recently has it been discovered that sneezes are a much more drenching experience than anyone thought. A team led by Profes­sor Lydia Bourouiba of MIT, as reported by Nature, studied sneezes more closely than anyone had ever chosen to before and found that sneeze droplets can travel up to eight meters and drift in suspension in the air for ten minutes before gently settling onto nearby surfaces. Through ultra-slow-motion filming, they also discovered that a sneeze isn't a bolus of droplets, as had always been thought, but more like a sheet -- a kind of liquid Saran Wrap -- that breaks over nearby surfaces, providing further evidence, if any were needed, that you don't want to be too close to a sneezing person. An interesting theory is that weather and temperature may influence how the droplets in a sneeze coalesce, which could explain why flu and colds are more common in cold weather, but that still doesn't explain why infectious droplets are more infectious to us when we pick them up by touch rather than when we breathe (or kiss) them in. The formal name for the act of sneezing, by the way, is sternutation, though some authorities in their lighter moments refer to a sneeze as an autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst, which makes the acronym ACHOO (sort of)."



Bill Bryson


The Body




Copyright 2019 by Bill Bryson


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