“THAT’S METAL!” — BUT IT’S NOT MUSIC (No. 16): THE SPERM AND SPACE EDITION
We’re in a bit of a hurry this morning, so we’ve only got two stories for you in this installment of THAT’S METAL!, but they’re doozies.
By now, you know the drill: We periodically leave the world of metal to see what’s happening in what some misguided souls call “the real world” — that is, the fucked-up world that surrounds us but that we here at NCS do our best to ignore most of the time. We look for news items that cause us to exclaim, “Fuck! That’s metal!” — even though it’s not music.
Our two stories for this installment of the series are connected (or at least in our cross-eyed view of things, they seem connected). You’ll see why we think that. Also, they allowed us to continue using alliteration in our post sub-titles for this series, and that makes us happy. So does pulling the wings off flies.
As usual, we’ll include our own ignorantly juvenile and utterly tasteless commentary along with the news reports themselves.
This first piece of attention-grabbing news was brought to our attention by the sharp-eyed ElvisShotJFK, one of our regular commentators here at NCS. The original story seems to have broken much earlier in the year, but it’s just too damned juicy to pass up. With a headline like this, how could we possibly ignore it?
Oral Sex, a Knife Fight and Then Sperm Still Impregnated Girl
(more after the jump . . . and you know you can’t resist reading more)
Account of a Girl Impregnated After Oral Sex Shows Sperms’ Incredible Survivability
By LAUREN COX
Feb. 3, 2010—
A strange tale of oral sex, a knife fight and the most unlikely of pregnancies recently brought to light by the blogosphere has doctors touting the triumphant persistence of sperm.
In 1988, a 15-year-old girl living in the small southern African nation of Lesotho came to local doctors with all the symptoms of a woman in labor. But the doctors were quickly puzzled because, upon examination, she didn’t have a vagina.
Well fuck, that’s a new one, isn’t it? A girl with no vagina. You’d think maybe her parents would have sought medical consultation about this condition before she turned 15. Or maybe they were the kind of parents who thought this was a blessing. Y’know, there’s a lot less for daddy to worry about when his daughter enters puberty without a vagina.
We’re glad the doctors were “quickly puzzled” by the girl’s lack of a vagina. If they had become puzzled only after a few hours or days, that would have caused us some doubts about the quality of medical care in Lesotho.
“Inspection of the vulva showed no vagina, only a shallow skin dimple,” so doctors delivered a healthy baby boy via Caesarean, the authors wrote in a case report published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
They did what?!? They cut open her abdomen and delivered a baby? How the fuck did a baby get in there? Wonder if they were quickly puzzled by that?
By looking at her records the hospital staff realized the young woman was in the hospital 278 days earlier with a knife wound to her stomach. The average pregnancy lasts 280 days. After interviews, they gathered that “Just before she was stabbed in the abdomen she had practiced fellatio with her new boyfriend and was caught in the act by her former lover. The fight with knives ensued.”
The girl arrived at the hospital with an empty stomach — and therefore with little stomach acid around — and doctors found two holes from a stab wound that opened her stomach up to her abdominal cavity. The case report said doctors washed her stomach out with a salt solution and stitched her up.
“A plausible explanation for this pregnancy is that spermatozoa gained access to the reproductive organs via the injured gastrointestinal tract,” the authors wrote.
Now, let’s see if we’ve got this right: Girl goes down on her new boyfriend. Old boyfriend catches them in the act, but not before girl has ingested some life-giving nutrients, otherwise known as sperm. Sperm are happily swimming around girl’s stomach while old boyfriend starts a knife-fight.
Girl gets knifed in the stomach. Happily swimming sperm spot the holes in girl’s stomach and swim for daylight, wriggling their way out of the stomach and somehow finding their way to girl’s uterus. Somehow, sperm also find eggs and successfully fertilize them. What can you say? That’s just fucking metal.
“Here’s an unbelievable set of coincidences,” said Dr. Richard Paulson, head of the University of Southern California Fertility Program in Los Angeles. “But it’s totally plausible.”
“It’s a long way from the stomach into the lower abdomen, it’s a heck of a trip, but they made it,” said Paulson. “You just need sperm somewhere in the area of an egg.”
Life always seems to find a way, doesn’t it? In fact, you could say the same thing about all the life forms on Earth, starting from some single-celled organisms swimming in the oceans billions of years ago: It’s a heck of a trip, but they made it.
Our second item is a much more recent piece of news, and it’s ground-breaking on a much grander scale than the triumphant story of those sperm in Lesotho.
Could ‘Goldilocks’ planet be just right for life?
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer
Thu Sep 30, 1:17 pm ET
WASHINGTON – Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right.
Not too far from its star, not too close. So it could contain liquid water. The planet itself is neither too big nor too small for the proper surface, gravity and atmosphere.
It’s just right. Just like Earth. “This really is the first Goldilocks planet,” said co-discoverer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Now that’s pretty fucking metal, isn’t it? We’re not too sure about calling planets like this “Goldilocks planets”. Not really a very metal name for a place that seems just right for the emergence of life. Wasn’t Goldilocks the whiny little bitch that didn’t like bears eating her porridge and sleeping in her bed?
Let’s learn more about this new discovery:
The new planet sits smack in the middle of what astronomers refer to as the habitable zone, unlike any of the nearly 500 other planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. And it is in our galactic neighborhood, suggesting that plenty of Earth-like planets circle other stars.
Finding a planet that could potentially support life is a major step toward answering the timeless question: Are we alone?
I suppose it’s nice to have some evidence which suggests we aren’t alone, but to me, it’s never really seemed plausible that Earth is the only planet in existence where life has evolved. I mean, it’s a big fucking universe, right? What makes us so special?
Scientists have jumped the gun before on proclaiming that planets outside our solar system were habitable only to have them turn out to be not quite so conducive to life. But this one is so clearly in the right zone that five outside astronomers told The Associated Press it seems to be the real thing.
It is about three times the mass of Earth, slightly larger in width and much closer to its star — 14 million miles away versus 93 million. It’s so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn’t rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark.
Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between — in the land of constant sunrise — it would be “shirt-sleeve weather,” said co-discoverer Steven Vogt of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Vogt believes “that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.”
Okay, so maybe there’s life on this planet. But maybe that just means Earth and this planet the astronomers are calling Gliese 581g, orbiting a star that’s relatively close to our solar system, are the only two in the galaxy that can support life as we know it. Sure, and if you believe that, we’ve got some land in the Everglades we’d like to sell you.
That close proximity and the way it was found so early in astronomers’ search for habitable planets hints to scientists that planets like Earth are probably not that rare.
Vogt and Butler ran some calculations, with giant fudge factors built in, and figured that as much as one out of five to 10 stars in the universe have planets that are Earth-sized and in the habitable zone.
With an estimated 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, that means maybe 40 billion planets that have the potential for life, Vogt said.
“It’s pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions,” Vogt said.
Yes indeed. In fact, as those mighty sperm-swimmers in Lesotho have proven, it’s pretty hard to stop life even when you don’t give it the right conditions.
Here on our own planet, human beings seem to be doing their damnedest to imperil and snuff out life in all sorts of ways, both negligent and intentional. That kind of depressing news just litters the “hard news” headlines on a daily basis. But stories like the two we’ve featured today provide just the tiniest bit of comfort: Life does find a way to emerge and survive, on both small and grand scales — and that’s fucking metal, isn’t it?
It turns out the sauce those tenacious little fuckers are swimming around in is just as butch.
That’s an interesting read, and fortunately it’s not using terminology that’s over my head. As one commenter suggested (the second one), maybe it even works both ways.
That Goldilocks planet is close on a galactic scale, but at 120 Trillion miles, it’s out of reach for us at the moment. It’s only 20 or so light years away, but that would take generations to reach with existing technology.
Apparently there are designs for nuclear drives that have the potential to reach 2/3 light speed, which would be fucking awesome if we could build a ship that can withstand those forces – not to mention what traveling at that speed would do to the people in said ship. How far away we are from coming close to having engines and ships that could even possibly go on such a trip, I can’t say. However, I’m guessing we’re at least a few decades away. Hell, if NASA didn’t have the foresight to actually have a new shuttle design in place and production started years ago instead of waiting 30 years, we might have something better ready to go.
Of course, it could be unsuitable for us (temperature might be okay, but that’s not the only thing to consider), just as anywhere else in our own solar system that may the potential (like some of the moons of our outer planets, maybe even Mars).
Now, for the other journey…
There is some doubt about the girl’s case, and some similar reports. The thing that comes to mind is that if she was capable of getting pregnant, what about menstruation? Without a vagina, where did things go, if anywhere? Was there any activity at all going on inside?
Yeah, your point about the girl is a bit of a problem with the story’s credibility, but it was written up in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, so it’s probably not complete bullshit. Seems like the only way this could have happened is if the girl had only experienced one or two periods before this Olympic-class sperm-swimming event.
As for space travel, we’re generations away (if then) from anyone in government having the political will to make the investments necessary to turn sci-fi into reality. Fucking shame.
Yeah, I suppose that is possible – some girls don’t get their periods until later anyway. Without all the details, it’s hard to say what is and isn’t possible with this story. It’s certainly a rarity, but there are other oddities and unusual circumstances out there with some people that kind of make this look like nothing special.
As for getting further into space, I’m not sure it’s so much a matter of money. I think it can be done for far less that one might expect.
Unfortunately, there’s still a strong sense of ‘what has space travel given to us’ and not enough incentive to try going further. Sure, there’s talk of returning to the moon eventually and getting to Mars. There’s also some asteroids to possibly mine that are potentially reachable. But beyond that? We need to see more tangible reason to make the effort to make it happen.
Oh, by the way, in the pic you selected for the beginning, it looks like there is a mouse head in the group.
You definitely have eagle eyes. I’m not seeing the mouse head, but who knows? I just used the photo that accompanied the original story.
It’s to the right of the leftmost sperm, just under the center of the image.
OK, I see it now. An odd image for sure.
Notwithstanding everything else, but I’ve seen such a “scientific” calculation of the chances of life before. That’s just total bollocks. It includes a bunch of variables, all but one or two of which get an assumed value. A value grabbed out of thin air. They do some multiplication, some division and voilà, you get a number and that number they call chance. All great and all, but the end result of a calculation is only as good as what you put in, and given that what they put in is just a bunch of wild guesses, it’s not at all very accurate.
That still doesn’t mean I don’t think there can be life outside what we know though. It’s just that those calculations are complete fake noses. Just had to get that out.
True. 97% of all statistics are made up.
Even if the planet can support life, that doesn’t mean there’s anything there. Or if there is, it may be unlike anything science has considered before. But the odds that Earth is the only place with anything living? Doubtful.
Even taking a creationist view, why should this wet rock be the only place that a higher power has set things into motion to create life? The randomness of the entropy that comes with the big bang theory and an expanding universe provides more avenues for life, but if we are indeed the results of design and not chance, surely there has to be someplace else where some form of life exists (or has in the past).
Stephen Hawking says there’s life out there and that we may not want to encounter it. I agree with part of that, but I don’t buy into the idea that if we aren’t alone, that we’re beneath whatever else is out there. For all we know, a future colony trip to a habitable planet could end up with us being the invaders. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but that was the premise of Earth 2. And probably others.
Agree with both you dudes about the manipulation of statistics. The cool thing about this story was simply the strength of the evidence that this planet is so similar to the conditions on Earth. Doesn’t mean carbon-based life exists there now, but the odds are pretty good that it will eventually. When will this ever matter to human beings on Earth? Maybe never. Probably never. But I still think it’s something that’s cool to think about.
Dammit. Where is Weyland-Yutani when you need them?
Oh, it’s out there. It’s just using names like ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer for the time being.
Touche’ my friend.