Jun
05
2009

Friday Disgust Extravaganza: As the Stomach Turns

Whatever.
Whatever.Courtesy Kabies
Today’s extravaganza, dear Buzzketeers, is a journey of self-discovery.

Don’t worry. There are quizzes involved.

So how about it kids? What makes you hurl?

What gets your motor running, and then makes it blurt chunky oil everywhere?

What’s your poison? Are you a bread ‘n butter, rats and roaches gal? Ketchup and icecream? Centipedes running though the kitchen? What about the thought of spiders, under your sheets at night, exploring you, perhaps finding their way to the warm cavern of your open mouth…

Or are you repulsed by dark glimpses of the other side (of being alive). The swollen and splitting stomach of a road killed dear? Maggots on the trash? A misplaced kneecap? …Brains?

What about the constant hacking, mucus-laden noises of your classmate? A prolonged embrace from an aunt who smells so strongly of… something? The firm, dry handshake of a Canadian?

(I don’t mean to offend Canadians here. I only used them as an example because they are so universally well liked that no one would assume I was being serious. Please, substitute whichever group of people you personally revile.)

Yes, today is the day of disgust. It smells like bile and puss, it sounds like nails on a chalkboard, it feels like the movement of tiny, alien legs on your skin, and it looks like Kuato from Total Recall. And it’s pretty interesting.

Basic elements of disgust are pretty easy to understand. In general, we’re pretty grossed out by the sorts of things that, should they find their way into our bodies somehow, could make us ill. Rotten food, some insects, etc. But then we’re also sometimes disgusted by groups of people or behaviors that pose no threat of contaminating us in any way. And, as this very useful page points out, disgust even plays a significant role in many of our religions, in how they regulate behaviors and bodily processes.

Really, that last link is the true extravaganza today. Check it out. Or don’t check it out, and go straight to this page to take a quiz on what sort of disgust you specialize in, and how it compares to others who have taken the quiz. Nowhere in the quiz, thank Blob, is the phase “It’s scary accurate!!!” written. It’s a little more scientific than that, but still interesting. What you end up with is a scale that shows how disgust plays not only into your actual health, but also into your morals (or… how morals play into your disgust?) The results are broken into “Core disgust,” which covers the sort of things we find gross because the could porentially make us sick (the rotten meat and bugs thing), “Animal-reminder disgust,” which comes from “death, corpses, and violations of the external boundaries of the body,” and is all about reminding us of our own mortality (they make us think about how we can and will die), and, finally, “Contamination disgust,” which is about whole-body contamination (as opposed to just the mouth), and covers our disgust for “dirty or sleazy people.”

I’d invite y’all to share your results with the Buzz community, and to let us know if the ratings make sense for you, but if you’re feeling private, take a gander at JGordon’s scores:

For “Core Disgust” I scored a .9. The average for the other 37,100 people tested was 1.9. This makes sense. I did, after all, eat a peanut I found in my sock this morning. But I would never eat that peanut a second time.

For “Animal-reminder Disgust” I got a 1.6, the same as the average score. In general, I consider myself to be slightly below average, but this also makes sense. I do fear death. Or, at least, I fear the dead. Zombies, I mean. This may have skewed the results some, but I suspect it’s in the correct neighborhood.

And for “Contamination Disgust” I scored a mere .2, next to the average of 1.1. Again, it makes sense. Being very sleazy myself (I moisturize with my own spit), I can’t afford to look down on other sleazebags, or else I’d be even lonelier. (Hey, don’t worry, I’ve got my Beanie Babies to keep me company. They’re all stuffed with the appropriate animal feces, by the way.)

While you’re stewing on all that, check this out: pretty soon we may be able to go out and get maggot juice to rub into our many open sores. Rad, huh? Science Buzz regulars will know that we’re all about maggots here. It’s mostly Liza, I suppose, but there’s not one of us that didn’t push a fist into the pig and enjoy it at least a little bit. (Some part of this is not true.)

Anyway, maggot juice. Maggots’ abilities to help a would stay clean and heal is well documented, but now there are some scientists who are convinced that they’ve figured out exactly why maggots are so beneficial to healing tissue. They have isolated an enzyme in the goo that gooey little maggots secret, which seems to remove decaying tissue from a wound, thereby preventing bacteria from building up at the site. If the enzyme could be reproduced, or just milked from maggots or something, we could remove the maggots from maggoty therapy. How about that? So now you just have to decide which disgusts you the least: maggot milk, maggots, or your own tissue rotting on your body.

Ding! Extravaganza over!

(Good looking out, Gene and Liza, for the links.)

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