Jun
09
2008

How often do people in Antarctica have sex?

How often?: For some lonely little penguins: "never."Courtesy mikehippThings are about to get a little saucy in the land we call Science Buzz.
Let’s start with a little mental image to get things heated up: imagine the coldest place on Earth. On July 21, 1983, ten days after my birth, Antarctica reached the coldest temperature ever recorded on the planet: -129 degrees Fahrenheit. The eyeballs of penguins across the continent were irreparably damaged, as little tears of discomfort froze to their faces. I’m assuming.
So it’s very cold there. Very, very cold. But, despite thegenital shattering temperatures, people live in Antarctica. Research stations bring the population on the continent to about 4000 in the summer, and 1000 in the winter, and underneath all those boots, and gloves, and snowsuits, and goggles, people still think about just one thing: penguins. And when they aren’t thinking about them, they’re thinking about paleontology, or astronomy, or geology, or biology, or physics, or meteorology, or oceanography. But, when they’re done thinking about all that stuff, you just know what’s on their minds: yeah—doin’ it.
One of the summer’s last shipments to the McMurdo base station, the largest settlement in Antarctica with a summer population of over 1,000, was a year’s supply of condoms. The prophylactics, all 16,500 of them, will be distributed, free of charge, among the McMurdo staff “to avoid the potential embarrassment of having to buy them.”
So…if the winter season is about 7 months long, and the winter crew is about 200 people, and the summer crew is around, say 1,100, we’ll just average the population to about 575. About two-thirds of that population, as I understand it, is male, so, without getting into changing ratios between summer and winter seasons, we’ll say the average male population is 378.
That’s almost as far as I want to go—we could take into account the frequency of condom use, or the definition of sex, or how many people abstain altogether, or how many condoms are lost to practical jokes and craft projects, but that’s complicated. So we’ll just say that everyone who can use a condom does (safety first!), and that they will be divided up evenly: about 44 condoms per condom user. That means that one condom could be used every eight or nine days. Or 44 could be used in one day (although the sun doesn’t really set for a few months of the year, so some of those days are really long).
How about that?
It’s kind of like studying an ancient civilization, just by looking at their condoms.
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