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Is It True What They Say About Guys With Big Feet?

We’ve all heard it before: The claim that the size of a man’s feet can tell you something about the size of his reproductive organ. Sometimes it’s as vague as "big in the shoes = big in the pants," and sometimes it's as precise as a complex algorithm that can supposedly deduce the subject’s masculine length, in inches, from his shoe size.

For a while, all that the people who claimed these sorts of things and their detractors had to go on was anecdotal evidence. All the “proof” either side had boiled down to, “yeah, well, I used to date a guy who [confirmed/disproved] what you say."

Thankfully, we have urologists, those brave men and women who boldly explore the nether regions of science most of us would never dare tread. In a handful of studies, they’ve searched for empirical evidence of the supposed foot-penis size connection and came up, ahem, a little short.

Let's Go to the Measuring Tape...

In 1993, two Canadian doctors measured the height, foot size and slightly stretched penile length of 63 men. The length of the penis was linked to both height and foot size, but the correlation was pretty weak. The researchers, who won the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize for Statistics for the study, warned that there was no “practical utility” in trying to predict penis size from either of those other measurements.
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In 1999, Korean researchers measured the length and circumference of 655 Korean men’s flaccid penises, as well as the size of their feet, length of their toes and fingers, the sizes of their ears, mouth and even the amount of hair on their heads. They found a weak correlation between the length of the penis and the circumference of the penis (three cheers for being proportional!), but not with any of the other measurements. The circumference was also slightly correlated with height, weight, and the length of the third and first toes (in order of strength), but not enough that the scientists could conclude anything beyond “the size or characteristics of body extremities is not enough to predict the penile size.”
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A year later, Richard Edwards found in the sixth edition of his online "Definitve Penis Size Survey" that there was no correlation between penis size and shoe size, but a strong one between penis size and height. There wasn't a vast difference in those sizes as men got taller, though. (Of course, we also have to keep in mind that all measurements were self-reported by the survey takers, which could color the results.)
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In 2002, a study from the University College Hospitals in London measured penises and feet of 104 men and found no correlation whatsoever. While their results may be the most discouraging to guys who like to talk up their size 16 shoes at the bar, they did have one of the best introductions of all the studies I’ve read in my science writing days: “The penis appears in virtually every aspect of life.”

[Image credit: Flickr user FallenPegasus]

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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iStock

Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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How Michael Jackson's Dancing Defied the Laws of Biomechanics
Phil Walter, Getty Images
Phil Walter, Getty Images

From the time he debuted the moonwalk on broadcast television in 1983, Michael Jackson transcended the label of "dancer." His moves seemed to defy gravity as well as the normal limits of human flexibility and endurance.

Now we have some scientific evidence for that. Three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, recently published a short paper in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine that examines just how remarkable one of Jackson's signature moves really was.

In the 1988 video for "Smooth Criminal" and subsequent live performances, Jackson is seen taking a break from his constant motion to stand in place and lean 45 degrees forward. Both he and his dancers keep their backs straight. Biomechanically, it's not really possible for a human to do. And even though he had a little help, the neurosurgeons found it to be a pretty impressive feat.

An illustration of Michael Jackson's 'Smooth Criminal' dance move.
Courtesy of 'Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.' Copyright Manjul Tripathi, MCh.

Study co-author Manjul Tripathi told CNN that humans can't lean forward much more than 25 or 30 degrees before they risk landing on their faces. (He knows, because he tried it.) Normally, bending involves using the hip as a fulcrum, and erector spinae muscles to support our trunk. When Jackson leaned over, he transferred the fulcrum to the ankle, with the calf and Achilles tendon under strain. Since that part of the body is not equipped to support leaning that far forward without bending, the "Smooth Criminal" move was really a biomechanical illusion. The act was made possible by Jackson's patented shoe, which had a "catch" built under the heel that allowed him to grasp a protruding support on the stage. Secured to the floor, he was able to achieve a 45-degree lean without falling over.

But the neurosurgeons are quick to point out that the shoes are only part of the equation. To achieve the full 45-degree lean, Jackson would have had to have significant core strength as well as a strong Achilles tendon. An average person equipped with the shoe would be unable to do the move.

How does this apply to spinal biomechanics research? The authors point out that many dancers inspired by Jackson are continuing to push the limits of what's possible, leading to injury. In one 2010 paper, researchers surveyed 312 hip-hop dancers and found that 232 of them—almost 75 percent of the cohort—reported a total of 738 injuries over a six-month period. That prevalence could mean neurosurgeons are facing increasingly complex or unique spinal issues. The surgeons hope that awareness of potential risks could help mitigate problems down the road.

[h/t CNN]

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