Monday, September 20, 2010

Sinuses - You Need Them Like a Hole in the Head

What's the point in having holes in your head?  

Ever had a sinus headache?  Ever have them clog up while trying to dive/free dive?  Ever wish you could drill a hole in your face to relieve the pressure?  Yes, yes and yes.  Why are they there?  I'll save you some time and the summary is that no one really knows, but here are some stabs that I was able to come across

  • The 'Air-Conditioner' Face Hypothesis: 
    • They filter and humidify the air. Passing through these caverns the air is slowed down and moistened like in a small, warm, gross cilia filled cave. It should be noted, though that it's been calculated that sinuses increase the humidity of the incoming air a paltry 1-1/2 percent.
  • The Smell Pocket Hypothesis
    • Being slowed down may give the olfactory receptors more time to sample the air and by being moistened we're able to smell more keenly. Some super sniffer mammal's sinuses have receptors in them, but this is not the case in humans.

  • The Make-Your-Head-Not-So-Fat Hypothesis
    • Apparently evolution is dying to make your noggin not so ridiculously heavy by putting holes in it. I'll quote Cecil Adams from Straight Dope,"Some researchers have estimated that if the sinus cavities were filled with porous bone instead of air, the head would be just 1 percent heavier. Also, many heavy-headed mammals have absent or rudimentary sinuses." It does grow quicker and less costly, though.
  • The Crash Test Dummy Face hypothesis
    • Cars are build with crumple zones to cushion an impact. This hypothesis says that evolutionary history had so many facial blows that organisms with holes in their face were selected for.

  • The Echoy Canyon Face Hypothesis
    • In singing lingo, using your 'head voice' might not be so bad after all. They just might serve as resonance chambers that may actually be tuned to make your voice more nasally, shall we say? Cats don't have unfilled sinuses and have no difficulty being shrill and annoying, though. Giraffes, which have quite large sinuses, are nearly silent...

  • The Hollow Chocolate Easter Bunny Face Hypothesis
    • Remember when you were a kid and you'd bite into that massive chocolate Easter bunny and think, "Hey!  It's hollow!  Those cheap skates!"  Maybe sinus holes are just cheap ways to fill in gaps in between different necessary parts of your head.

Summary: nobody knows. Maybe they're just a weird evolution history hold over!

Here's what it'd look like to sniff the underwater mines from Mario
"Just take a little off the front."
This is awkward on many levels.
Here's a look at Dr. Manhattan's sinuses

Only 19.95!!!! new application to the beloved little tea pot song...

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