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The Secret of Sports: It's In The Belly Button!

Why do blacks excel at running track and whites dominate in the swimming pool? Scientists discovered the secret to why some athletes are so good at their sports: it's in their belly buttons!

What's important is not whether an athlete has an innie or an outie but where his or her navel is in relation to the rest of the body, says the study published in the International Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics.

The navel is the center of gravity of the body, and given two runners or swimmers of the same height, one black and one white, "what matters is not total height but the position of the belly-button, or center of gravity," Duke University professor Andre Bejan, the lead author of the study, told AFP.

"It so happens that in the architecture of the human body of West African-origin runners, the center of gravity is significantly higher than in runners of European origin," which puts them at an advantage in sprints on the track, he said.

Conversely, the position of the belly-buttons in white athletes mean that they have longer torso and thus are usually better swimmers: Link


The more I have learned about sports the more I think that ethnicity has virtually nothing to do with anything, and that the keys to success are 1) which communities have the good coaches and development programs for a particular sport; 2) which communities are using the best doping for a particular sport; 3) which communities perceive themselves as being the best at a particular sport; 4) another thing I can't think of right now because I'm tired.

For example, fifteen years ago there were many boxing afficionados who said there would never be another white heavyweight champion. In fact, almost all of them said that. In fact, even ten years ago almost all of them said that. But today almost all the top heavyweight champions are white. What happened is that a lot of good Eastern European heavyweights came onto the scene who didn't have the same feelings of inferiority traditionally suffered by white heavyweights in the west, and they completely shattered all those stereotypes about black people being better boxers.

Sprinting is perhaps the most extreme example of a seeming racial advantage in a sport. Only people of west african descent have ever run the 100m in less than 10 seconds. BUT a white sprinter from West Germany ran the 100m in 10.0 seconds way back in 1960. Are we really meant to believe that in the ensuing 50 years, plus with modern doping, there has never been a white man capable of running faster than that German sprinter? That would be almost inconceivable, but what has happened is that the stereotype of white athletes not being as fast at sprinting has become pervasive and for several decades the top white athletes have been funneled into middle and longer distances instead of sprints. Just like with a teacher, a coach imprints their stereotypes onto their pupils, and the athletes under a given coach tend, more often than not, to live up (or down) to that coach's expectations.

Once again, with old technology (slower tracks, etc) and without the benefit of modern doping, a white German man ran the 100m in 10.0 seconds in 1960, is it really reasonable to believe that there is some genetic defficiency in white people that has caused no white person in the ensuing fifty years to ever run that fast again, or is it not reasonable to assume there have been other factors invovled which have prevented the talent potential of white sprinters from being developed as it should be?

Only a few years ago there were all kinds of articles about how Kenyans were genetically superior at long distance running than everyone else in the world, of course this same "genetic trait" was only noticed during a period when Kenya had developed an exceptional marathon tradition and had a golden age of great marathon runners from Kenya, but it was an absurdity, a white English woman is the women's marathon world Champions, and even in the men's races only one Kenyan has ever held the world record and within the past twenty years an Australian, an Englishman, a Portuguese, a Brazilian, a Moroccan, and two Ethiopians have also held the marathon world record.

Black people are supposed to be worse at weight lifting and swimming, but I do not doubt that the same applies in those cases, and it is simply a matter of people living up or down to the stereotypes of the day, and a function of which communities have the good coaching, good doping, and good talent development in those particular sports.
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And let's not even get started about Asians, I really believe they have suffered odiously under (negative) athletic stereotypes and that their time is coming soon in the world of athletics when those stereotypes are going to be shattered. A Chinese man was recently the world record holder in the 110m hurdles. Manny Pacquiao (fillipino) is possibly the greatest pound for pound boxer of all time. Enough said.
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Ok, @Splint:
I'll bet darker eyes, darker hair are correlated with track sprint success, and their lighter counterparts are corellated with swimming pool success.

I'm certain that the smaller ratio of pinkie toe to big toe favors track sprints, and the overall length of foot favors swimmers.

Correlation is only important in that it gives us a potential causality to investigate.

Personally, I'm skeptical that this one will pan out. I think distribution of muscle density, ratio of quick twitch to slow-twitch, and foot/hand size (and digit ratios) will be a lot more fruitful correlations to explore.

(Note: I'm more of a two-bit engineer or businessman than a pseudoscientist. What happened, anyway? Did the Ghostbusters get rid of your friend?)
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1.- Center of gravity is not at belly button
2.- White people are better swimmers because the higher amount of fat that helps the flotation.
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I remember Tom Brokaw did a show about this subject back in the 90's.

Back then they concluded it was that blacks of W African descent had more fast twitch muscle fibers.

I'm sure in ten years they'll come up with something different
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Are we so fearfully un-racist that we get squeamish whenever anyone examines the differences between different races? Different races ARE built differently. We're always quick to point out the bad English teeth, but that's ok because they used to be our oppressors? Or..?

We do the same with the sexes - there's only a handful of female race car drivers, but heaven forbid anyone say it for fear of seeming inappropriate. I also dont see a lot of Vietnamese motocross riders or physicists with a southern drawl. Maybe these things mean something, maybe they dont - perhaps the reasons are purely environmental. None of us is really qualified to say. But that doesn't change the observed data - certain races do certain things more or less commonly than others.

Conquering racism doesn't mean pretending we're all physically identical - it means abandoning the idea that a persons worth is somehow tied to their race. Titles like "the first black _____" or "the first female _____" need to go away.

Why do black people like menthol cigarettes? Why do so many whites lack rhythm? it stands to reason that there is a reason, im just not sure its worth burning the calories to find out. We're all different and, generalities aside, as individuals we're all very different. Some people are mechanically inclines, some people are artistically inclined, and on an individual basis this seems to have very little if anything to do with race. And across the board there are always individual exceptions to the trends. But the trends exist. Not the most philanthropic endeavor IMO but it doesn't hurt anyone to investigate these things.
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It's that in the swimming pool, whites reflect heat and can control that for an extra boost which can be directed to the rear at will, while blacks, on the other hand, are able to absorb the heat from the air in front of them, thereby pulling them forwards.

It's a scientifical fact, proven by scienticians.
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@ Splint Chesthair
sick of it as you may me, I thought that that point was particularly apt in this case. There are so many other mediating variables that may contribute to these results (many excellent examples of which were provided by the people above) over and above the position of one's bellybutton, and I am extremely sceptical that one's center of gravity lies at their bellybutton.

Don't be so quick to assume that I am a "two-bit pseudoscientist". I have 2 psychology degrees under my belt, I'm currenlty doing a masters degree, and I am pretty down with statistics and regressional analyses. I am intimately familiar with the scientific method, having conducted a number of intensive studies myself.

Don't underestimate the importance of people's tendency to imply that correlation infers causation. After all, there is a very high correlation between using suncream and drowning at the beach. Should that mean that I should conclude that one may be the cause of the other, or should I consider other possible extranious variables such as, say whether of not it is a hot day and how many people visit the beach?

@ SuperCrap
I think you raise some excellent points. Look up stereotype threat and you will find a social psychological theory that fits in quite nicely with yours.
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@ ted

Show me an academic that doesn't employ the use of spell check when writing a paper. I also misspelled ’be’ and ‘currently’.

However I happened to have written that comment about 3 hours after having my wisdom teeth out, and I was still a bit drugged up.
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In the interview posted on this page, the author mentions bellybuttons. The original article is not based on bellybuttons, it is a theoretical paper using a model of animal locomotion that explains how a higher center of gravity would increase running speed and decrease swim speed.
Blacks have a higher relative center of gravity than whites.
In top competition, blacks are faster runners and slower swimmers than whites.

So the authors use their model to explain how racial differences in running/swimming may occur.

They did not actually perform direct correlations using bellybuttons, center of gravity, running speed, or swim speed.

If different ratios of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibres is important for running than swimming, then that may be another avenue of research.

Bodyfat would help boyancy, but not horizontal swimspeed.
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