The Straight Dope – Fighting Ignorance Since 1973

April 10, 2009 at 12:11 | Posted in Answers, Cecil Adams, Fun | Leave a comment

 

I love this site – every day, Cecil answers another weird question you never thought of asking but had wondered about while sitting behind the wheel of your car in traffic.

Like this one, for example:

Why do Eskimo people stay there?

April 18, 1980

Dear Cecil:

Why do Eskimo people stay there?

— David K. and Phil V., Chicago

Gentlemen:

Why do you guys stay in Chicago? At least the Eskimos have cheap rent and easy parking. In addition, Arctic peoples possess various physiological properties that make them well suited to life amid the icebergs, and in fact cause them to endure considerable discomfort if transported to a warmer locale.

For one thing, Eskimos are compactly built, which minimizes loss of body heat. The average Eskimo’s height is only about 5’2", and most of that consists of a massive torso. The lower portions of their arms and legs are shorter than the upper halves, and their hands and feet are distinctly petite. That means they don’t lose a lot of heat through their extremities, which are most vulnerable to the cold.

Eskimos have a higher-than-ordinary basal metabolism rate (they burn their food faster), which enables them to keep their blood temperature at a tolerable level despite the cold. Their blood vessels are arranged in such a way that there is increased blood flow to exposed body parts, such as the hands. In addition, blood returning from the hands is warmed before re-entering the heart.

In extreme cold, some northern people are capable (via the autonomic nervous system) of shunting blood from one artery to another so that temperature can be reduced in the extremities without affecting more important organs. It has been reported that some Arctic natives could work for considerable periods in subzero temperatures with their bare hands, and would strip to the waist and complain of the heat if the temperature rose above 40 degrees. You guys might cut a more dashing figure on the beach in the summer, but Eskimos are better equipped to shovel the snow.

— Cecil Adams

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