Giver of Tears

By Scott LaFee

April 30, 2014 3 min read

It seems sibling rivalries may begin before there are even siblings.

In a newly published paper, Harvard evolutionary biologist David Haig puts forth an extraordinarily creative hypothesis for why newborns and infants cry so much at night: It means mom is more likely to be continuously exhausted, not ovulating, and thus delaying the arrival of rivals.

To be sure, Haig isn't actually suggesting the caterwauling cuties are consciously conspiring. Sometimes, maybe most times, they're just hungry. But he told NPR, "It's clear that babies can get enough milk even if they sleep through the night. The waking becomes a different issue ... I'm just suggesting that offspring have evolved to use waking up mothers and suckling more intensely to delay the birth of another sibling."

Haig posits that delaying pregnancy and the appearance of other offspring improves a newborn's survival chances, particularly in tough times when food might be scarce. He concedes that there's really no way to test the hypotheses. Perhaps it's just something to ponder at, say, 2 in the morning.

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE

The largest internal organ is the small intestine. The name derives from the fact its diameter is smaller than the large intestine's. But the small intestine is actually quite long: four times as long as the average adult is tall.

NUMBER CRUNCHER

A serving of Arby's mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce (137 grams) contains 365 calories, 164 from fat. It has 18.3 grams of total fat, or 28 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

It also contains 42 milligrams of cholesterol (14 percent); 1,511 milligrams of sodium (63 percent); 31.6 grams of total carbohydrates (11 percent); 5 grams of sugar; 2.5 grams of dietary fiber; and 18.3 grams of protein.

DOC TALK

Homonymous hemianopsia — when a person loses the same field of vision in both eyes

PHOBIA OF THE WEEK

Koumpounophobia — fear of buttons

NEVER SAY DIET

The Major League Eating speed-eating record for Chinese dumplings is 91 in eight minutes, held by Cookie Jarvis. Warning: Most of these records are held by professional eaters; the rest by people who really should find something better to do.

OBSERVATION

"Life is much too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it." — Oscar Wilde, in "Vera, or The Nihilists"

LAST WORDS

"Am I dying or is this my birthday?" — Lady Nancy Astor (1879-1964), upon briefly awakening to find her family surrounding her bed

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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