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-   -   Stupid Human Tricks (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=672037)

Pitter Patter 11-12-2012 01:46 AM

Stupid Human Tricks
 
We all know someone who can twitch their nose, or wiggle their ears. Personally, I am a nose person. Just wondering if either of these traits would be evolutionarily justifiable? What possible benefit do either of these gain?

pkbites 11-12-2012 02:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pitter Patter (Post 15688366)
We all know someone who can twitch their nose, or wiggle their ears. Personally, I am a nose person. Just wondering if either of these traits would be evolutionarily justifiable? What possible benefit do either of these gain?

Sometimes something just is what it is with no benefit or handicap either way.

When I was a kid I could wiggle my ears. In my mid-teens I completely lost the ability to do that. I don't know how. It just went away. Maybe it's because while it's cute as a kid, it's weird as an adult and would make me look less attractive to the opposite sex and hinder my ability to mate?

Or maybe as I grew the muscles that controlled it just changed for no reason.

Princhester 11-12-2012 02:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pitter Patter (Post 15688366)
We all know someone who can twitch their nose, or wiggle their ears. Personally, I am a nose person. Just wondering if either of these traits would be evolutionarily justifiable? What possible benefit do either of these gain?

For a start, you are assuming that these tricks can be done because they confer some particular survival benefit, when it may simply be that you have certain muscles that, incidentally, can be used to twitch your nose or ears.

I can type "FXFETFCCR" on this keyboard. What possible benefit does a keyboard designer gain by permitting me to type that?

Senegoid 11-12-2012 02:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Princhester (Post 15688402)
I can type "FXFETFCCR" on this keyboard. What possible benefit does a keyboard designer gain by permitting me to type that?

If you were editing a text file using TECO and you typed that, it would almost certainly do something. It might or might not be obvious what it did. If not, you could spend the next several hours poking through your file to find out what got changed in it.

Keyboard designers gotta design keyboards to accept all possible TECO commands too!

Some people (myself included) can roll their tongue (the better for sticking into paper towel tubes :smack: ). You can immediately see the obvious evolutionary advantages to this.

I can also roll over and play dead. This is supposed to induce people to come over and rub my belly. But nobody ever seems to do that. I assume this is a genetic defect in all the people around me.

engineer_comp_geek 11-12-2012 03:26 AM

The ability to wiggle your ears comes from the auricular muscles. Once upon a time, these muscles allowed our ancestors to have directional control over their ears, like you see with dogs and many other mammals today. I've read that because our ancestors started living in groups, the need for this ability pretty much vanished and over time we lost this ability (seems like a reasonable theory to me). So while wiggling your ears no longer serves any evolutionary purpose, the muscles that allow you to do this are remnants from something that was an evolutionary advantage back before we lived in groups.

Wikipedia page (doesn't have much info but at least shows the structure of the muscles):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auricular_muscles

TubaDiva 11-12-2012 09:36 AM

A maniac I once knew could wiggle his scalp.

His hair would kind of move around on top of his head.

He used to do it in class, or when in a meeting ... people wouldn't get that he was moving his hair per se, just that there was something not right about the situation.

I've never seen that in someone before or since. He just assumed everybody could do it and didn't know why other people didn't try it.

HoneyBadgerDC 11-12-2012 09:45 AM

I think it indicates the ability to isolate and control specific muscle groups. Facial expressions could easily have played a roll in our evolutionary selection process.

AaronX 11-12-2012 09:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TubaDiva (Post 15689000)
A maniac I once knew could wiggle his scalp.

His hair would kind of move around on top of his head.

He used to do it in class, or when in a meeting ... people wouldn't get that he was moving his hair per se, just that there was something not right about the situation.

I've never seen that in someone before or since. He just assumed everybody could do it and didn't know why other people didn't try it.

I can do that...

ZipperJJ 11-12-2012 10:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TubaDiva (Post 15689000)
A maniac I once knew could wiggle his scalp.

His hair would kind of move around on top of his head.

He used to do it in class, or when in a meeting ... people wouldn't get that he was moving his hair per se, just that there was something not right about the situation.

I've never seen that in someone before or since. He just assumed everybody could do it and didn't know why other people didn't try it.

Me too.

Kevbo 11-12-2012 10:34 AM

With a bit of feedback (like standing in front of a mirror) it is often possible to train yourself to move and control things that you formerly couldn't. I taught myself to make my heart skip a beat when I was a teenager for example.

I think we all have the nerves and muscles to do such things, but there is no reason for most of us to learn them, so only a few random people get the innate ability to consciously do it. SWMBO can't wink, but has exceptional control of her toes. I'm pretty sure she could learn to wink if she worked at it, because she can close one eye slowly, just can't manage the quick wink thing.

Senegoid 11-12-2012 10:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kevbo (Post 15689244)
With a bit of feedback (like standing in front of a mirror) it is often possible to train yourself to move and control things that you formerly couldn't. I taught myself to make my heart skip a beat when I was a teenager for example.

I think we all have the nerves and muscles to do such things, but there is no reason for most of us to learn them, so only a few random people get the innate ability to consciously do it.

Can you twitch the appropriate muscles to make your butt flicker like a firefly? Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes fame) tried this once, and wasn't able to figure it out.

AskNott 11-12-2012 01:40 PM

Harry Houdini reportedly taught himself to tie and untie knots with his toes. That was useful in his line of work. He was said to remove his shoes and socks to practice knots when he got bored at parties.

The ability to wiggle your ears or wrinkle up your nose can be useful for adjusting your glasses when your hands are full.

Nose-twitching is useless for most of us, but it got Elizabeth Montgomery a nice job.

TruCelt 11-12-2012 01:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AskNott (Post 15690000)
Harry Houdini reportedly taught himself to tie and untie knots with his toes. That was useful in his line of work. He was said to remove his shoes and socks to practice knots when he got bored at parties.

The ability to wiggle your ears or wrinkle up your nose can be useful for adjusting your glasses when your hands are full.

Nose-twitching is useless for most of us, but it got Elizabeth Montgomery a nice job.

Actually, she go tthe job in spite o fthe fact that she couldn't do it.

All these things can be learned - except the tongue rolling, that one's genetic.

If you smile really brightly, your ears go back. Do this enough times and concentrate and eventually you'll be able to isolate the muscles and use them on demand. Try long enough and eventually you'll isolate how to do one at a time. Do it with both ears hard enough and your whole scalp moves.

If you stretch your upper lip down over your front teeth, your nose goes down. Do this enough times and eventually you'll be able to wiggle it like a bunny without moving the lip.

I've said it here before, all these talents of mine are the results of long boring sermons in my childhood. It was something to do while appearing to sit there listening.

Pitter Patter 11-12-2012 08:32 PM

Very interesting replies. Maybe I am jst a clostet witch. Boo! I'll take that Geico broom now. Give it.

Locrian 11-13-2012 01:42 AM

I have voluntary nystagmus. It's real great to shake the eyes after a first date while using a satanic voice saying, "Thanks for a great time," while leaning in for that kiss.

I wonder if that's passed on to offspring (none yet) but I doubt it has any evolutionary value.

Taomist 11-13-2012 11:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Locrian (Post 15692262)
I have voluntary nystagmus. It's real great to shake the eyes after a first date while using a satanic voice saying, "Thanks for a great time," while leaning in for that kiss.

I wonder if that's passed on to offspring (none yet) but I doubt it has any evolutionary value.

I know there's a joke in here somewhere, something about 'ain't gonna ever be no kids if you keep doing that before the first kiss attempt!' but I am not awake enough to wriggle it out. :p

So, evolutionarily...no. Just...no :)

deltasigma 11-13-2012 12:12 PM

As someone who is downright unassuming otherwise, I know I look pretty scary when I wrinkle my nose and snarl, so yeah, I think there's probably an evolutionary advantage. It completely transforms my face from being pretty soft and androgynous for a male to something very much not that.

Gymnopithys 11-15-2012 02:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kevbo (Post 15689244)
With a bit of feedback (like standing in front of a mirror) it is often possible to train yourself to move and control things that you formerly couldn't. I taught myself to make my heart skip a beat when I was a teenager for example.

In the film Mondo Cane (1962) a man stopped his heartbeats for 30 seconds. You could hear the beats slow down, stop completely, and then accelerate for a second or two when restarting. Very impressive.

grokit 11-15-2012 04:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gymnopithys (Post 15701779)
In the film Mondo Cane (1962) a man stopped his heartbeats for 30 seconds. You could hear the beats slow down, stop completely, and then accelerate for a second or two when restarting. Very impressive.

When I was a kid I knew a guy that could swallow air and fart. Not very useful but pretty cool...

Xema 11-15-2012 07:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AskNott (Post 15690000)
Harry Houdini reportedly taught himself to tie and untie knots with his toes.

People who have lost their arms (or who never had any) routinely do this sort of thing. With the right motivation humans can develop extraordinary foot dexterity.

Princhester 11-15-2012 10:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by grokit (Post 15702150)
When I was a kid I knew a guy that could swallow air and fart. Not very useful but pretty cool...

When you were a kid you knew a guy who could hold in a fart, pretend to swallow air, then let the fart out. There are about 25 feet of intestine, the peristalsis of which is entirely out of conscious control, let alone control good enough to cause a bubble of air to pass along it from one end to the other in the time it would take to make this trick seem real.

Ksnook 11-16-2012 09:27 AM

I can both roll *and* curl my tongue.

And, yes, I am happily paired for life.


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