Four years we've waited... four long years. The state of not knowing had almost driven me insane, but lo... it's alright now, we can rest, we can relax, we can cease the gnashing of teeth and the clenching of cheeks, for the man has achieved glory in the deciphering of one of the greatest mysteries of humanity. It may be time for celebration. For you see...
Philosophers finally relax as navel fluff explained
* 04:00 01 April 2009 by Graham Lawton
Scientific navel-gazing has been taken to new heights by a chemist who claims he has solved one of the great mysteries of human biology: why men produce navel fluff, but women do not.
Georg Steinhauser of the Vienna University of Technology has spent the past four years studying navel fluff, or lint, and has concluded that it is created when abdominal hair catches fibres from clothing and channels them into the belly button, where they are "compacted to a felt-like matter."
This explains why navel fluff is largely a male phenomenon, Steinhauser says.
Since March 2005, Steinhauser has collected 503 pieces of navel fluff from his own belly button. The fluff was usually the same colour as the shirt he was wearing, which led him to suspect that it was derived from his clothing.
Steinhauser also chemically analysed a sample of his navel fluff and found that it matched the composition of the T-shirt that he was wearing that day, with a smattering of extra nitrogen and sulphur compounds. These contaminants probably came from sweat and dead skin, he says.
He discovered the crucial role of abdominal hair by asking friends and colleagues about the contents of their own belly buttons. "The existence of abdominal hair was a major prerequisite for the accumulation of navel fluff," he says. Shaving off his abdominal hair caused the cessation of navel fluff accumulation until the hair grew back.
"It seems this work has broken a taboo," Steinhauser told New Scientist. "People are starting to talk about navel fluff."
The largest piece of fluff Steinhauser retrieved from his navel weighed 9.17 milligrams, which he concludes is probably the maximum capacity of his belly button. This piece accumulated on a day he was wearing a new T-shirt, which tend to be more prolific producers of navel fluff. Old garments sometimes produce no fluff at all.
A T-shirt worn 100 times would lose approximately 0.1% of its mass to navel fluff, Steinhauser calculates.
"This paper had no serious background at all," he says.
Journal reference: Medical Hypotheses (DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.01.015)