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Science Unlocks The Mystery Of Belly Button Lint

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the extreme-navel-gazing dept.

Science 161

After three years of research, including examining 503 pieces of fluff from his own belly button, Georg Steinhauser has discovered a type of body hair that traps stray pieces of lint and draws them into the navel. Dr Steinhauser's observations showed that "small pieces of fluff first form in the hair and then end up in the navel at the end of the day." Chemical analysis revealed the pieces of fluff were not just made up of cotton from clothing. Wrapped up in the lint were also flecks of dead skin, fat, sweat and dust. Unfortunately, further study has failed to yield a hair or fiber that would give Dr. Steinhauser the last three years of his life back.

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161 comments

Stop the Presses! (2, Funny)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27043919)

That's right folks. You read it here first!

This week's educational film will be "Groundbreaking Discoveries of the 21st Centuty!" followed "Zinc Oxide and You".

Re:Stop the Presses! (5, Funny)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 5 years ago | (#27043995)

This is one of those guys that was navel gazing back in the 60's and figured out how to get a PHD out of it.

Re:Stop the Presses! (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044105)

This is one of those guys that was navel gazing back in the 60's and figured out how to get a PHD out of it.

It looks like he somehow beat Darwin's odds and achieved that...

I wish I'd managed to get a PhuD out of that. Easiest A++ ever!

Re:Stop the Presses! (4, Funny)

PMuse (320639) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044153)

ObPCU:

samzenpus: What's he doin?
idle: He's finishing his senior thesis. Steinhauser is trying to prove the hair-free theory: a person with no belly hair does not accumulate naval lint.
samzenpus: That's his thesis?
idle: Yes! That's the beauty of college these days, slashdotter! You can major in naval lint if you know how to bullshit.

Re:Stop the Presses! - Why, he's wrong (2, Funny)

BazilBBrush (1259370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044039)

I thought everyone knew that the man who goes around putting fluff in your belly button is the same man who goes around putting bits of carrot in your chunder, even though you haven't eaten carrots for a fortnight...

Re:Stop the Presses! (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045353)

That's right folks. You read it here first!

This week's educational film will be "Groundbreaking Discoveries of the 21st Centuty!" followed "Zinc Oxide and You".

More shocking discoveries of the 21st Century! Science shows that an absolute first post can, in fact, be redundant, despite there being no preceeding posts on, or off, topic!

Please, for the love of god, stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27043923)

Even by idle standards, this is just stupid

Please, for the love of god, stop complaining (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044243)

Why did you read it then? It's not exactly bait and switch. It's EXACTLY what the title sounds like.

Re:Please, for the love of god, stop complaining (4, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044483)

Because it's on the freaking front page. It's easy to either overlook the "Idle" tag in the title, when you're just skimming the story bodies or to get curious despite knowing better. I mean, it's like telling someone not to think of elephants -- it's too late already.

So why not complain? Idle is on rare occasions amusing to read when you've exhausted everything *else* that you normally read online, but it's not like it's "A-list" material* that deserves to be on the front page.

* Even for relative definitions of "A-list" material.

ObJoke (5, Funny)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044867)

Skim the headline and move along ... two seconds.

Post about it being a waste of time, twice ... two minutes.

Thrill other slashdotters with the hypocrisy of it all .... priceless!

Think like a Cavewoman (1, Funny)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 5 years ago | (#27043931)

Whenever you read these stories that have anything to do with our prehistoric forefothers, you must not forget your foremothers, especially if sex and/or reproduction r concerned.

First, is navel lint sexy? No, take it from me, it isn't.

Is it the least it useful? It sure is, lint is great for startng fires and making nests. Just don't ask me to lay an egg in your fluffy navel. A fire, pøssily

Well, now I can sleep at night (5, Funny)

dmmiller2k (414630) | more than 5 years ago | (#27043939)

A question that has been keeping me up nights my whole life.

Re:Well, now I can sleep at night (1)

ZirbMonkey (999495) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045059)

Some people are driven to unlock a cure for cancer. Others, the origin of navel lint.

As it turns out, belly button lint is curable by shaving your treasure trail. Cancer, not so easy.

Find the responsible genes (2, Funny)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 5 years ago | (#27043955)

This must be genetic - I've never experienced this myself and I wear the same kind of clothing like everyone else. Actually, I have, but usually it's my feet eating my socks. Never my innie.

Re:Find the responsible genes (4, Funny)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044035)

When your shirt doesn't go past your belly button [wikimedia.org], it's no doubt you don't have lint problems. The world might just be a cleaner place if we had your genes.

Wait, is it too late to retract my last statement?

Re:Find the responsible genes (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044477)

I can't recall having this be an issue in my case. I wear t-shirt 90% of the time that i am out and about. I wear some kind of shirt anytime i'm out. I do have some soft/fuzzy (almost wrote fussy) hair near my navel.

I really have to think that any heavy lint collection is due unbathed/unkempt hygiene, or laundry being hang-dried in dusty areas, or place in a malfunctioning dryer, or sleeping in a hella lint-filled bed.

Interesting this comes out around Lint Season/Ash Weekend.

(I wonder if by brand/ply/coarseness factors anyone has done a PHd paper on whether North Americans' incidence of anus cancer is increased by used of dry/cheap-ass toilet paper, and reduced by use of moistened/soaped TP, with reduction coincident to taking one's time rather than rushing. TNow THAT would be more worth PHd funding...)

Re:Find the responsible genes (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044049)

Perhaps you're just not fat, hairy, or sweaty enough to collect belly button lint. But then, you're a Slashdot reader, so that can't be it...

Re:Find the responsible genes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044359)

I don't know about genes but it's either that or something these people do. Type of cloths, fabric softener, who the hell knows.

I have never experienced any belly button lint either. In fact, I never even think about my belly button. I just checked and nothing was in it despite the fact I obviously never clean it.

Re:Find the responsible genes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27045719)

I experience it (and clean it) every single day of my life. I wear primarily cotton garments, and the tighter/newer they are, the more likely I am to have a lot of lint. It's always exactly the same color as the day's shirt, so I always thought it was pretty obvious that something was rubbing fibers off of my clothes and that they were getting deposited in my belly button. Also, I am a little fat (240 pounds at 6'3") and there's a pretty flat (6" diameter), moderately-hairy area surrounding my navel. I assume that if fibers are rubbed off they can only be concentrated in one place, but are probably distributed similarly around the rest of my torso.

The part that has bothered me for years is that I have known that there were people studying this and felt obligated, but largely too lazy, to tell them that I could definitely shorten their research to two weeks or less. I remember reading about the guy with the largest belly button lint collection in the world and how the article presented the whole thing as a big mystery. I had the answer and I stood idly by and let these poor people waste years.

This is all completely true, which is why I'm posting anonymously.

Stimulus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27043997)

These guys are ripe for a multi-million dollar stimulus award - fuzz-ball research just sounds so good.

Please listen to your readers. (5, Insightful)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044003)

Please Slashdot, keep this kind of stuff off the front page or at-least make it like a sub-post. (Those little mini-categories)

Is this how you want a sophisticated site to look like when a new user views it?

Re:Please listen to your readers. (5, Funny)

Taimat (944976) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044031)

Sophisticated? You must be new here...

Re:Please listen to your readers. (4, Insightful)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045991)

What is so very wrong with adding a bit of humor to life?

I've been here on /. for a long time now. Adding the silly topic has been the norm every now and then.

Sorry if you noobs can't take it.

Re:Please listen to your readers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044147)

News for Nerds, Stuff.

Re:Please listen to your readers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044277)

You think you're better than me because your belly button is lint-free?

Re:Please listen to your readers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044301)

Is this how you want a sophisticated site to look like when a new user views it?

Most new users come here to see nuggets of wisdom like:

In Soviet Russia, sophisticated site views YOU!

Re:Please listen to your readers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044815)

What are you talking about? The title begins with the word SCIENCE, how can you get more sophisticated than that?

Picture = horrible! (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044027)

Does anyone else think that if you have that much navel lint, you've got bigger problems than justifying your research?

Re:Picture = horrible! (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044169)

I dunno. Seems like you wouldn't have that much trouble at all, and, in fact, it could be quite beneficial. For instance, I made that rug your standing right now out of mine.

Re:Picture = horrible! (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044265)

I'm pretty certain it's actually from a lint trap in a dryer.

Re:Picture = horrible! (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044285)

On the other hand, having just RTFA,

Mr Barker has been collecting his own navel fluff in jars every day since 1984. The achievement has won him a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's largest collection of navel lint.

Re:Picture = horrible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044601)

I've been collecting my navel lint for more than three years, and it's not nearly as much as that (nor as uniform). I have had some occasional large pieces compared to the norm, but even then they're at most a centimeter across.

Re:Picture = horrible! (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044761)

That picture looks like what you pull out of a clothes dryer's filter. I assumed it was a joke prop.

Collectors (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044051)

There are people who think collecting this type of stuff is a good idea? Even up to having contests about how much they have collected. And I thought I was weird just for being a geek.

Appitiser (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044071)

Wrapped up in the lint were also flecks of dead skin, fat, sweat and dust.

Man! I was eating breakfast!

Gross (2, Funny)

Tx (96709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044135)

I have never observed this phenomenon on myself or anybody else...but then I wash regularly. When he says "end up in the navel at the end of the day", I think he really means "end of the week".

Re:Gross (1)

ieatcookies (1490517) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044523)

I have never observed this phenomenon on myself or anybody else...but then I wash regularly. When he says "end up in the navel at the end of the day", I think he really means "end of the week".

I had to quote this as it makes me think you have the WORST belly button lint of anyone.

Wow, new hygiene lows (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044157)

I take a shower every day. I've never had a problem with lint in my belly button. I have a hairy belly button. I am not fat. Thus, the story should read "fat traps lint", or "people who don't shower accumulate crap in their body creases."

Re:Wow, new hygiene lows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044247)

Please. I get a lot of it, because I hang up my shirts to dry. On the occasions that I wear a shirt I put in the dryer, there's very little lint.

Re:Wow, new hygiene lows (2, Informative)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044331)

Maybe one can be too hairy to gather belly button lint. Or perhaps you wear only polyester? I wear lots of cotton t-shirts, I am thin, with 6-pack abs, I shower every day, and with a moderately hairy stomach I get belly button lint on a regular basis. Now, I never once wondered how or from whence it came to be in my belly button, as it was only way, way too obvious. Is this "Dr." at a community college?

Re:Wow, new hygiene lows (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044645)

I am thin, with 6-pack abs, I shower every day

 
I think you're on the wrong website...

Re:Wow, new hygiene lows (1)

gilgongo (57446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27046091)

I take a shower every day. I've never had a problem with lint in my belly button.

I shower once every three days and tend to pull ball of 5mm of lint from my belly button between those times. Why do you think the lint is a "problem"? All the girls I know think it's funny.

Why would he publish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044193)

So, this is all fairly obvious stuff - I suppose there's some merit in actually examining the lint to determine what is in it, but I'd come to the same conclusions long ago without feeling the need to attach my name to the observations for posterity....

Re:Why would he publish? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044307)

I don't blame you for not RTFA

Dr Steinhauser, whose other projects have included monitoring the erosion of his wedding ring, said: "The question of the nature of navel fluff seems to concern more people than one would think at first glance.

It's good to see....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044219)

that the bail out money is being well spent.

National Budget (1)

jlmale0 (1087135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044289)

WTF? Just when the presidency is starting to science seriously again, we come up with this kind of navel gazing? We can do better than this; we're giving science a bad name.

Re:National Budget (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044679)

The researcher is from the Vienna University of Technology, in Austria. I doubt this was funded by US taxpayers.

isn't science wonderful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044423)

Some people swim to the depths of the ocean, some look into the infinite space and some morons use it to figure out bodily functions nobody really wants to know. Where do people like this get money to waste? I'm unemployed, I could use this money for more crap

Study Ignores The Important Issue (4, Funny)

Drasil (580067) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044507)

ie. Why is belly button fluff predominantly blue? I believe that the anatomical feature known as a 'navel' or 'belly button' is in actual fact a previously unrecognised organ that serves a vital role in the human body.

As we all know, blood is red. Indeed the red colour of blood is integral to the role it plays in the body. I propose that the belly button is actually a chromatic lung which is capable of absorbing redness from the environment into the blood and similarly expelling excess blueness in order to maintain a healthy balance. This may be the reason that environments containing excess blueness cause people to feel cold: the blood looses redness, in turn diminishing it's oxygen carrying capacity leading to an overall reduction in the metabolism that actually serves to lower body temperature.

Interestingly, there are reports that the navel fluff of aristocrats has a reddish hue, leading to speculation that they are in fact a distinct species. This has yet to be demonstrated under laboratory conditions and remains a controversial area of research.

Dr Karl (2, Informative)

Smiddi (1241326) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044551)

This is old news. Dr Karl completed a survey and concluded the same result back in 2002. Ref: http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/lint/ [abc.net.au]

Re:Dr Karl (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045131)

Unfortunately, it seems we Australians don't actually exist. We're figments of our own imaginations (wait... what?).

Just like a dustball (1)

grodzix (1235802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044571)

It looks just like those dustballs from psp commercials. So that's where they got that idea from...

Deserves a Nobel Prize (1)

feranick (858651) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044573)

Seriously, in face of such global challenges (climate change, water shortage, declining oil supplies), this really at a higher level.

Re:Deserves a Nobel Prize (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27046027)

There was already an "ignobel" for this, look above to links to what Dr Karl did on this subject on a talkback radio program in 2002. The idea is science that makes you laugh first and then think later.

Like Velcro (1)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044695)

The reason for belly button lint is clear. Look at the hairs around your belly button; the ones closest to it all point down and in to your belly button. The lint ratchets down the hairs into your belly button, powered by your own movement.

Was that the Higg's Boson in that guy's palm? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044701)

Maybe if we all save up our belly-button lint, we could use it to save AIG, or GM, or both?

"The Economist" has an article this week that "Victory Gardens" are coming back. My grandmother always accused me of trying to grow potatoes in my ears . . . maybe this guy just did some parallel research with naval gardening activities, in these tough economic times.

Reminds me of the sarlacc... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27044715)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarlacc

You know, the original one, not the CGI-fest of the Special Editions...

Can someone tell me (1)

coolbahman (1490539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044757)

Why does belly button lint cause urine suds to dissipate in the toilet?

Re:Can someone tell me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27045011)

Part of me thinks you're weird for discovering this. Another part of me wishes I had belly button lint to try it with.
anyway, it's probably from the fat it contains, as mentioned in the article.

Re:Can someone tell me (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045311)

Why does belly button lint cause urine suds to dissipate in the toilet?

Either you need less soap in your diet, or you are drinking your beer way too fast.

Profit "Center" (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044833)

I find a fair amount of loose change and corn chips in my B.B. Thus, I'm canceling my plans to lose some weight.

And next... (1)

JustDisGuy (469587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044865)

...a better lint filter for your clothes dryer. Or a suit bag that helps keep your clothes lint-free. Or a filter to help keep lint out of electronics enclosures. Or any number of other useful applications.

oH boy... (1)

Bobb Sledd (307434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044909)

Well I get belly button lint every single day. I shower/bathe every day, sometimes twice a day. I am not fat. But I figured this was no mystery: I figured it out and I didn't need a govt grant. I simply think that certain belly buttons with the right amount of hair scrape across the shirt during the day (usually while moving your torso or even just walking) and collect the lint like the screen on a dryer. My lint is always the same color as my shirt, and brand new shirts collect far more lint than older shirts.

Life gives you lemons... (1)

800DeadCCs (996359) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044923)

And those lemons are belly-button lint...

Why not study spinning, then knit and embroider a tapestry out of it?

Hell, you could even Call in Sick to do it.

Did this guy get a research grant? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27044981)

I seriously hope this guy was wasting his own money. Beyond that is the hypocrisy of awarding a PhD to this guy while telling me that I have to be able to remember everything taught in every course from freshman year engineering and be TESTED on it to even QUALIFY to be able to work on a PhD thesis never mind defending that thesis. I call bullsh*t.

Hair actually traps it? (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045127)

That makes sense. It's like a pitcher plant. So people with the most lint have the biggest bellies and vice versa. It all makes sense now.

BLECH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27045833)

Did they fund the study with pubes?

A hope for all Geeks (1)

christovas (1490613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045981)

excuse me for being excited, but my hot ass GF just finished her EP and man its sweet! What better way to get a review than my fav. group of geeks. (..and yes, in the realm of geeks, i'm considered a super-geek, even having worked in the "black world") So yes, there is hope for the geeks out there!!! :) Comments welcomed: www.leahfairchild.com oh, feel free to test my geekology.

Just a repeat of Ig Nobel 2002 research? (2, Informative)

digital21c (1487973) | more than 5 years ago | (#27045997)

Didn't Dr Karl Kruszelnicki win an Ig Nobel prize for similar research in 2002? http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/10/04/1033538774048.html [theage.com.au] '...concluded the lint was a combination of clothing fibres and skin cells that were led to the navel, via body hair, "as all roads lead to Rome". "Your typical generator of belly-button lint or fluff is a slightly overweight, middle-aged male with a hairy abdomen," he said.'

Calling the Ig Nobel committee.... (2, Insightful)

nsayer (86181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27046097)

I predict at least a nomination for this year's award for Medicine.

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