Revealing the Power of Gross Science: From Nuns Pee to Nobel Prizes

By Wilson | Published on  

Did you know that one of the first fertility drugs was made from the pee of Catholic nuns, and that even the Pope got involved? Yes, you read that right! In the 1950s, scientists were aware that women release high levels of fertility hormones in their urine when they enter menopause. However, they didn’t know how to isolate these hormones from the urine and use them to help women who were having trouble getting pregnant.

Enter Dr. Bruno Lunenfeld, who wondered if he could actually isolate those hormones from the urine and use them to help women with fertility issues. However, to test his hypothesis, he needed a lot of pee from older women, and that is not an easy thing to find. He and his colleagues got special permission from the Pope to collect gallons and gallons of urine from hundreds of older Catholic nuns.

With all that pee, Dr. Lunenfeld was able to isolate hormones that are still used to help women get pregnant today. It’s fascinating to think that one of the first fertility drugs was made from the urine of nuns, and that the Pope was involved in collecting it. This example illustrates how exploring the gross and unexpected can lead to significant discoveries and breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Exploring gross stuff can be a great tool for education and an excellent way to preserve curiosity. When we engage with gross stuff, we find insights that we never would have thought we’d find, and we even often reveal beauty that we didn’t think was there.

As children, many of us were fascinated by gross things, from playing in dirt to collecting beetles or even eating our boogers. Kids are like little explorers who just want to experience as much as they can and don’t have any idea about the relative acceptability of touching a ladybug versus a stinkbug. They just want to understand how everything works and experience as much of life as they can.

As we grow older, there is a way in which engaging with gross stuff isn’t just about curiosity, it’s also about finding out where the limits are and pushing the boundaries of what’s OK. But there’s another layer to why we define stuff as gross. As humans, we’ve sort of extended the concept of disgust to morality. Many of the things we categorize as gross are things that remind us that we’re just animals, like bodily fluids and sex and physical abnormalities and death.

Talking about gross stuff can help us claim a bigger picture of life on our planet. There are cycles of decay that are driving forest growth, and there are networks of fungus beneath your feet that are connecting literally all of the plants around you. It’s important for us to talk about gross stuff early and often with young people so they feel like they’re actually allowed to claim this bigger picture of life on our planet.

As humans, we tend to link disgust with immorality, which can make us avoid exploring gross things. According to psychologist Paul Rozin, many of the things we categorize as gross are things that remind us that we are just animals. These include bodily fluids, sex, physical abnormalities, and death. Rozin argues that the idea that we are just animals can be unsettling and can leave us with a deep existential angst.

This association between gross stuff and immorality can lead to shame, especially during puberty when our bodies are changing and we’re thinking about sex in a way that we never did before. The shame can settle in, and we start to think that there’s something bad or wrong about ourselves. This can result in us losing a significant part of our curiosity since there is so much out there in the world that is a little bit gross.

As we grow up, many of us learn to internalize this link between gross stuff and immorality. We avoid touching slugs or toads or anything else that is deemed “gross” in part because we have been taught to do so to protect our bodies. However, this tendency can prevent us from discovering amazing things about our planet.

Exploring gross things can be a great tool for education and an excellent way to preserve curiosity. As a child, I was fascinated by gross experiments and biology classes. I found joy in things like dissecting owl pellets, which are balls of material that owls barf up, and swabbing surfaces around the classroom and culturing the bacteria we’d collected. These activities were all gross, but they were also fascinating and led me to discover things I never would have thought to look for.

We should be talking about gross stuff early and often with young people so they can claim a bigger picture of life on our planet. By doing so, we can let them know that they’re actually allowed to have agency over their own body and health. In addition, we can learn about things that we might never have discovered otherwise.

While exploring gross stuff can be fascinating and educational, there is often a social stigma attached to it. Many people feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit their interest in topics like bodily fluids or decomposition. However, this stigma can limit our ability to learn and discover new things.

One reason for this stigma is the idea that discussing gross topics is impolite or inappropriate. We are taught from a young age that bodily functions and other “dirty” subjects should be kept private. However, this attitude can prevent us from having important conversations about our health and wellbeing. For example, discussing menstrual cycles and the importance of regular Pap smears can help to break down taboos and improve women’s health outcomes.

Another reason for the stigma is the fear of being judged or ostracized. People who are interested in gross topics are often seen as weird or abnormal, which can lead to feelings of shame and isolation. However, it’s important to remember that curiosity is a natural human trait, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about the world around us.

By breaking down these social barriers and talking openly about gross topics, we can create a more inclusive and accepting society. We can also learn more about our bodies, the natural world, and the things that make us human. So, the next time you feel curious about something gross, don’t be afraid to explore it and share your discoveries with others. You never know what you might learn or who you might inspire.

Our society often encourages us to suppress our curiosity about certain topics and to avoid talking about “gross” or “taboo” subjects. However, as we’ve seen in the previous sections, exploring these topics can be both educational and enlightening. But how can we do this without being judged or stigmatized?

One way is to use “gross stories” as a socially acceptable way to explore our inner selves. By sharing stories about our own experiences with gross or taboo topics, we can open up a dialogue and encourage others to do the same. This can help break down the social stigma around these topics and make it easier for people to explore them in a healthy way.

For example, one could share a story about a time they had to deal with a particularly disgusting bodily function or a bizarre medical condition. These stories can be both informative and entertaining, and they can also help us connect with others who have had similar experiences. By sharing our stories and engaging in open conversations, we can learn from each other and grow as individuals.

Furthermore, exploring gross topics can also help us better understand ourselves and our own limitations. By confronting our discomfort and learning to overcome it, we can develop greater toughness and self-awareness. And by sharing our experiences with others, we can help to break down the social barriers that prevent us from exploring these topics openly and honestly.

Overall, while it may seem counterintuitive, exploring gross topics can be an important part of our personal growth and development. By sharing our stories and engaging in open and honest conversations, we can create a more accepting and understanding society, where curiosity and exploration are celebrated rather than stigmatized.

It turns out that talking about gross stuff is not only a fun and interesting way to explore our curiosities, but it can also be beneficial to our physical health. By discussing our bodily functions and processes, we can gain a better understanding and control over them, promoting body agency and giving power.

For example, discussing menstruation can help women better understand their menstrual cycles and identify any potential health issues. Similarly, talking about bowel movements can help us identify changes in our digestive health, and talking about sexual health can help us make informed decisions and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

However, there is still a lot of social stigma surrounding these topics, which can prevent people from seeking help or sharing their experiences. By breaking down these barriers and promoting open and honest conversations about our bodies, we can improve overall health and wellbeing.

Additionally, exploring and talking about gross stuff can also help promote body positivity and reduce shame and embarrassment surrounding our bodily functions. This can lead to a more positive self-image and improved mental health.

In conclusion, talking about gross stuff should not be seen as taboo or shameful, but rather as a valuable tool for exploring and understanding our bodies. By promoting open and honest conversations, we can improve our physical and mental health, and promote body agency and positivity.

Gross stuff can also be an entry point for exploring important scientific questions that affect our daily lives. One example of this is the study of periods. As the speaker in the video points out, periods are often stigmatized and dismissed as “gross,” but they are a natural and essential part of reproductive health. Understanding the biology of periods can lead to advances in menstrual care and treatment of conditions like endometriosis.

In order to advance our understanding of periods, basic research is needed. This includes studying the physiology of menstruation, as well as investigating the social and cultural aspects of menstruation. Gross stories can help promote interest and curiosity in these topics, leading to more research and ultimately, better health outcomes for those who menstruate.

In addition, talking openly about periods and other “gross” bodily functions can help break down stigma and shame. By normalizing these topics, we can create a more open and accepting society, where people feel comfortable seeking the care and information they need.

So don’t be afraid to talk about gross stuff! It can lead to important scientific discoveries and a more equitable world.

Exploring gross stuff not only expands our knowledge and curiosity, but it can also lead to scientific breakthroughs and even Nobel Prizes. One example of this is the discovery of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium responsible for causing stomach ulcers, which was found in the stomach lining of a patient’s biopsy sample. This discovery, made by Australian scientists Barry Marshall and Robin Warren in the 1980s, challenged the prevailing medical belief that ulcers were caused by stress and spicy foods, and opened up new avenues for treatment.

Another example is the discovery of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) in jellyfish, which was found through studying the luminescence of the sea creature. This discovery, made by Japanese scientist Osamu Shimomura and his colleagues in the 1960s, has transformed the field of cell biology and earned him a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008.

These breakthroughs show us that exploring gross stuff is not only fascinating but can also lead to significant scientific discoveries. Who knows what other amazing discoveries we can make by continuing to push the boundaries of our curiosity and explore the world around us, even the gross stuff?

Throughout this post, we have explored the fascinating world of gross stuff, from the surprising origins of fertility drugs to the unexpected benefits of exploring the human body’s most taboo topics. We have seen how exploring gross stuff can promote curiosity, challenge social stigma, and even lead to scientific breakthroughs.

Despite the social stigma around gross stuff, it is clear that exploring these topics is essential for understanding ourselves and the world around us. By challenging our preconceived notions of what is acceptable to talk about and study, we can unlock new avenues of discovery and innovation.

The link between disgust and morality is a powerful one, and it can often hold us back from exploring topics that are essential for our health and wellbeing. By acknowledging and addressing this link, we can start to break down these barriers and promote open and honest conversations about our bodies.

Moreover, exploring gross stuff can lead to unexpected benefits, from discovering new medical treatments to winning Nobel Prizes. Basic research in topics like periods may seem unimportant, but it is often these seemingly small discoveries that pave the way for larger breakthroughs.

So, let us hug the gross stuff and the power of curiosity. Let us challenge the social stigma around taboo topics and promote open and honest conversations about our bodies. Who knows what discoveries and innovations we may reveal by exploring the things that make us squirm.