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Principia Pilorum aut Capillorum On:2005-04-17 07:48:23

One of the most endearing, enduring and traditional aspects of Modern Science is that it is hedged about with great Principles of Conservation: the Conservation of Momentum, the Conservation of Spin, the Conservation of Energy (which so recently made its successful take-over bid for that oldie but goldie the Conservation of Matter) and so on and so forth, and now, today, we can finally announce an amazing breakthrough.

Aided by a major grant from the A.B.A. (the American Barbers' Association) my colleagues and I have demonstrated beyond a doubt the Principle of the Conservation of Hair.

Stated simply in layman's terms:
where is the initial coefficient of hirsuitity, is the rate of decrease in super-nape-al hair, is the rate of increase in sub-nape-al hair, and A is Avogadro's number then it is clear that :

(That's Plank's Constant divided by two , and a bloody small number.)

To put it in a more technical and therefore more precise way (if harder for non-experts like you to understand): for every hair a man gains elsewhere on his body he looses one on his head! The implications of this are as profound in the everyday world as they are at the quantum level, and so it is that we see that in spite of male balding patterns, no hair is in fact ever lost!
So to recap: according to our Principle, hair is never created or destroyed, but just like momentum or spin or energy it's history is merely a matter of redistribution.

In other words and in practical terms, as a man gets older he gets hairier and balder.

Unfortunately the popular press goes wild at times of great scientific change like these and we serious scientists heartily decry headlines that scream things like:
wherein the more sensational aspects of a discovery are flaunted at the expense of the real intellectual beefcake. I mean nowhere have I yet seen in the papers any reference to the influence, if any, that the new principle has (and what it's effects are) on GUTs, and if you realize how important the GUT is to our understanding of the universe you will also realize what a dreadful omission this is.

The GUT or Grand Unification Theory is an attempt at that very important scientific activity of making reasonably good sense out of absolutely everything (as opposed to the more usual scientific activity of making extremely good sense out of practically nothing) and I feel certain that something must come out of the melding of Quantum-Chromo-Dynamics, String Theory and our new Principle - it shows every sign of being the basic foundation of the new punk-rock-haircut school of physics.

There are, as you've no doubt already leapt ahead of me to conclude, interesting implications in this for human evolution too, because of the generally accepted theory of the neotenous nature of man's development from primitive primates.

As you well know, neoteny is the retention into adulthood of the juvenile features of an earlier creature in its descendants as an evolutionary strategy. It is interesting, in the light of our new Principle, to see how a man's body attempts to grow up like an ape (the body does always seem to have been so much happier as an ape) whereas his head (which is after all only the way that it is because of neoteny) attempts to return to infancy and to the extistentially reassuring comfort of an infant's hairlessness.


Cheerio for now
to all you heads
Richard Howland-Bolton,
and to all you male bodies out there
[and this accompanied by the beating of chests]


A scientist replies...

Dear Richard:
Where to begin?
First, I can't wait to hear how you will pronounce your derived equations on the air.

Second, your assessment of neoteny as an evolutionary "strategy" seems generous, at least to me, since I have always dismissed neoteny as little more than a genetic reluctance to ever throw anything away. I think however you may have a point.

Third, I respectfully submit that your equation correlating the calculated center of hirsuticity (COH) on the aging male body overlooks two phenomena, one internal and the other external. Is it just a coincidence that the COH shifts as though attracted by gravity (the external force) and more or less in parallel with the changing distribution of adipose tissue towards lower skeletal muscles for whom tone is merely a memory (the internal force)? Is a little covariance speculation called for here?
And by letting neoteny rear its ugly juvenile head, you flirt with 'ontegeny recapitulates phylogeny', which then runs the risk of disappearing into the dim gloom of Hegelian dialectics. Sorry, I think that sentence was prompted by your essay this past Saturday, which I enjoyed.

M J Temple O. Carm., Ph.D.

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