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Body Parts Research Review

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

Imagined Extras
“Delusional Reduplication of Parts of the Body,” Edwin A. Weixstein, Robert L. Kahn, Sidney Malitz, and Jules Rozanski, Brain, vol. 77, 1954, pp. 45–60. The authors, at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, report:

Four brain injured cases are described with reduplicative delusions of extra hands, legs, eyes and multiple heads…. Case 3.—A 29-year-old man was admitted to the Neurological Service of the Mount Sinai Hospital on June 20, 1952…. On July 29, he expressed the delusion that he had three heads and four bodies. One head and body were with him, but the others were upstairs in a closet. The head with him had not been operated upon but was “empty.” He described it “like a hunk of wood, having no use, no utility.” He charged that “I’m being punished because my head drained wrong, so what.” He attributed the bandage on his head to its having been hurt slightly in an automobile accident. He called one of the “other” heads his “main head” or “regular head” which had had pain but had been operated upon and now no longer had pain. He enumerated the "other" bodies as “one willed to me, one a duplicate of the original, and one I grew for protection.”

Parts for the Taking, Selectively
“Specialist Ant-Eating Spiders Selectively Feed on Different Body Parts to Balance Nutrient Intake,” S. Pekár, D. Mayntz, T. Ribeiro, M.E. Herberstein, Animal Behaviour, vol. 79, no. 6, June 2010, pp. 1301–6. The authors, at Masaryk University, Czech Republic, University of Aarhus, Denmark, and Macquarie University, Australia, report that, among other things:

We used a formicine-specialist spider, Zodarion rubidum, reared on three diet types: an entire ant, two ant gasters and two ant foreparts (heads, thoraces and legs) of Lasius ants. Spiders grew faster, survived longer and developed earlier on the diet consisting of two ant foreparts. Spiders fed on the two ant gasters had the slowest growth, highest mortality and slowest development while spiders fed entire ants showed intermediate performance.

Ringing Their Hands
“Personal Identification Method and Apparatus Using Acoustic Resonance,” Philip Koenig, U.S. patent #6724689, April 20, 2004. The invention is:

a biometric personal identification system that employs acoustic energy means for capturing the unique acoustic resonance spectrum of a selected body part, such as a person’s hand… and subsequently making a comparison of the stored spectral data with currently detected data for identification and recognition. [The patent document includes graphs showing the acoustic spectra of "John Doe’s" left hand and also of his right hand.]

Divvying Up the Parts, for Social Superiority
“Celebrating Fragmentation: The Presence of Aristocratic Body Parts in Monastic Houses in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century England.” Danielle Westerhof, Cîteaux Commentarii Cistercienses, vol. 56, no 1–4, 2005, pp. 418–36. The author, at the University of York, U.K., explains:

Burial within a church… contained the nobility and political benefits on which this article focuses. I particularly studied the practice of multiple burials, that is to say, the cutting of the body for burial in several places: the heart in a religious house, the body in another. This usage favored a broader concept of authority and the family within a growing network of political patronage and complex, while resolving potential conflicts of interest in social or political. Moreover, this practice became a reference point for social superiority.

The Body Parts that Hens Prefer Feathers From
“A Note on the Relative Preferences of Laying Hens for Feathers From Different Body Parts,” Alexandra Harlander- Matauschek, Kirsten Häusler, and Werner Bessei, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 108, nos. 1–2, December 10, 2007, pp. 186–90. The authors, at the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, report on the feather-eating preferences of certain hens:

The mean number of feathers eaten from the breast, neck and vent area was 0.5 ± 0.9, 0.4 ± 0.7 and 0.5 ± 0.8, respectively, when pooled data for both lines were used.

New Way to Track Body Parts of Multiple People
“Tracking Body Parts of Multiple People: A New Approach,”E. Polat, M. Yeasin, and R. Sharma, Proceedings of the 2001 IEEE Workshop on Multi-Object Tracking, 2001, pp. 35–42.


This article is republished with permission from the March-April 2012 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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