Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hiccups and Hernias and Hemorrhoids - oh my!

The other night, I was describing chicken pox to my 12-year-old, and I was struck anew by how quickly science advances in many areas. Our kids won't ever experience diseases that we remember, like chicken pox and measles, and certainly not ones from a generation ago, like tuberculosis and polio. And the computer that my dad worked on when I was a kid, which was larger than my house, wasn't a tenth as powerful as my tiny cellphone. In the light of these huge accomplishments, I'm doubly perplexed by our inability to solve issues that would seem less difficult - like curing the common cold, or figuring out how to keep socks from losing their mates, or making low-fat chocolate that actually tastes like chocolate.

However, according to the New York Times, evolution, and by extension scientific discovery, isn't linear. A recent article in the Science section explained that our progression to each successive phase is rather bumpy, as illustrated by some physical ailments - namely hiccups, hernias and hemorrhoids - which are caused by our bodies' difficulty in adjusting to living out of water. Funny, I never thought of those 3 conditions as being related, although they sure are fun to say successively out loud (just try it and resist the urge to add "oh my" at the end!)

Hiccups, hernias and hemorrhoids are all minor irritants, usually not life-threatening, but right up there with colds, stretch marks and cellulite as problems you'd think we could solve with all our advanced technology, and conditions that lend themselves to standup comedy. Who knows, someday my children will tell their kids about the olden days, when people actually got hiccups, or had to actually click a remote to change the channel. (And yes, Justice Roberts, I know I just split an infinitive, but apparently you're wrong, it's not a flat-out rule, and it sounds better my way.) Meanwhile, I tried to get my kids interested in that New York Times article - if you ever want to make a teenage boy crack up, just try explaining the mere concept of hemorrhoids to him.

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