Monday, January 14, 2013

A Bit Fuzzy on This Navel News

Being a former newspaper editor, reading newspapers is one of my everyday habits. But it’s also a way of being constantly amazed by crazy stuff going on in the world.

Last week USA Today reported on something called the “Belly Button Biodiversity Project” (this is not a joke), a joint effort between North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. It's an in-depth study of bellybutton bacteria.

This certainly takes navel gazing to a whole new level.

According to the study, after looking into more than 500 bellybutton swabs, researchers have discovered 2,368 different types of bacteria. Most of this “jungle of microbial diversity” (as they call it) is harmless they say, and may actually be helpful in killing miniscule disease-causing critters. Glad to know that!

I thought about volunteering for this study, but given its magnitude of importance, figured I’d just be put on a waiting list. Didn’t want to be a member of the Navel Reserve.

In case you’re wondering, the article stated “innies” (about 90 percent of all bellybuttons) carry more bacteria than protruding “outies,” since they allow microorganisms to propagate more readily in the inward folds. So if you’re like the majority of us, the next time you contemplate your navel, remember you’re looking at a veritable germ factory.

I don’t know about you, but when I read about this, my gut reaction was, “Seriously? They’re paying people to do scientific studies of the human navel? What next – navel oranges?”

I’m finding this germ of an idea difficult to stomach, if you know what I mean. Kind of strikes the wrong umbilical chord, if you ask me. And what do these noble researchers do after work? Belly up to the bar?

Hopefully they will come up with some useful findings in their research. Like whether bikinis are healthier to wear than one-piece swimsuits, since they expose navels to the open air and inhibit their becoming germ-infested breeding grounds. Or whether it’s safe to knit sweaters from bellybutton lint. We the public have a right to know this stuff.

Somehow this revelation reminded me of Ecclesiastes 12:12, which states, …Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” The question is, does much study of the body weary the mind?

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