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We Asked People To Send Facts That Made Them Uncomfortable And Now They Won't Stop

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

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ovarian teratoma

An ovarian teratoma. Image credit: Billie Owens / Wikimedia Commons (CC by 3.0)

A few weeks ago, we asked people to send us some facts (preferably of the science variety) that make them feel uncomfortable. It was a bad idea and we regret it. Basically, the facts keep on coming in and they won't stop, and they do indeed deliver on the brief of making you feel uncomfortable. 

Below are a few of our "favorites". We'll jump in if anything needs elaboration.

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One popular fact that keeps getting thrown at us a thousand times is that some tumors can develop teeth. Which is entirely true.

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Called teratomas, they typically form in the ovaries, testicles, and tailbone, though they can be found all around the body. They aren't limited to skin, hair, and teeth – in one 16-year-old girl, surgeons found "a skull-like, bony shell" in a particularly developed teratoma.

Some found in others have contained bone and elements of a nervous system. Though they may cause discomfort (as you'd imagine), typically mature teratomas like this one aren't all that dangerous and can be removed via surgery with minimal complications for the patient.

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This was another favorite.  One theory is he may have suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, leading to his premature diagnosis of death.

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Told you these would be distressing. The belief persisted in some circles right into the 1980s, and surgeons would operate on young babies without anesthetic, believing that it was better for their health not to risk using the drugs. One study found that between 1954 and 1983, 77 percent of newborns that required surgery to repair a serious blood vessel defect were only given a muscle relaxant, or muscle relaxant alongside intermittent nitrous oxide, rather than anesthetic.

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Yep, this is true. This is what it's like.

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Manual mode engaged.

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Yep, this one is far more true than is comfortable. From 1597 until when C-sections became safe, a surgical procedure known as a symphysiotomy was performed during childbirth when a baby was struggling to make their way out. The pubic symphysis – a joint made of cartilage above the vulva – was cut to widen the pelvis and make childbirth go more smoothly.

Like all surgical procedures of the time, it wasn't without risk, and speed was of the essence. The less time spent operating, the less likely the patient would go into shock or develop a deadly infection.

In the late 18th century, two Scottish doctors, John Aitken and James Jeffray, came up with a solution for getting the job done much more quickly and efficiently: an actual chainsaw for the groin. The world's first chainsaw was a flexible saw based on a watch chain with teeth that were moved around with a hand-crank. Now, rather than look down and see a doctor cutting away at your pelvis, you could look down and see the far more reassuring sight of a doctor furiously cranking a chainsaw like they were sharpening a pencil.

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We'll leave you with one which, while not technically science, will never again leave your mind.

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