a semi-regular, not-quite-science column

Since his infancy, man has pondered the big questions. Ostensibly the only animal on Earth cursed with the desire to know not just what – but why, he has spent his existence striving to understand the mysterious universe around him. Well, what has he learned? Not much, but enough to write a column every now and then.

Sneezing is one of those things that are astonishing upon reflection, but have become mundane through constant exposure. That is to say, sneezing is free and easy because we’ve been doing it without batting an eye since birth. Well, I say without batting an eye, but sneezing actually commandeers your facial muscles and forces your eyes closed tight when it happens. I suspect this is because before the development of this response, sneezing’s sudden, violent force blasted our eyeballs out of our heads. Sneezing has always been dangerous, though, which led to the quasi-spriritual practice of blessing a sneezer. The sneeze was thought to be the sneezer’s soul attempting to jump ship prematurely. People around would then bless it back into the body, lest it fly away. Though there are no documented cases of people slipping up and sneezing alone, one can assume there were many instances of lonely sneezers dying suddenly from soul abandonment when no one was there to persuade it back in. Though this fear has been largely put to rest, probably by the government, there are still ways to be afraid of simple biological processes.

There are contemporary examples of people seriously hurting themselves from a sneeze. We’re talking broken teeth, blood shot eyes, burst ear-drums, and other pressure related injuries. Thing is, most of these people were tempting fate by attempting to hold in a sneeze, because if there’s anything an escaping soul hates it’s being rejected.

Anyway, it’s well established you should probably write your will before you feel the next sneeze coming on, but maybe we can defeat it by understanding it?

Right, well, modern physiology suggests that sneezing results from foreign substances, dust, or other entities disturbing your sensitive nasal nerve endings. These nerve endings subsequently complain to the brain stem about it, which responds by alerting the lungs and diaphragm that it’s time to explode your skull. It’s time for you to rear back and launch spittle and whatever else is lodged in your throat and nose at an incredible 100 MPH. At least, that speed was the finding of Discovery’s The Mythbusters. I encourage you to use your own high speed cameras to film yourself sneezing and report your findings.

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