When I was young, I always wanted to be "cool." There were many reasons; obviously Hollywood played a role in that. For those who do not recall, James Dean brought us "cool" on the big screen, as did Steve McQueen. In the 70s, we saw Henry Winkler (aka "Fonzie") bring "cool" to a whole new small-screen level in the sitcom Happy Days. The word "nerd" did not originate in that show (but in a Dr. Seuss book), but Happy Days seemingly brought it to the fore for a generation. For the uninitiated, it was generally accepted that being a "nerd" is the opposite of "cool."
We all wanted to be "cool." And, to some extent, perhaps we all still do. We want to be "hip," "chill," and "with it." I'll remember when a cute girl on the school bus in grade school assured me "you will never be cool." Well, that hurt. I knew, somehow, that she was wrong. Someday, someway, I would be able to say I'm cooler than you know. And, today is that day. As KQED notes in a January 2020 headline "You're Cooler than you Think."
The Smithsonian Magazine explains there is a great cooling occurring, and it is not the climate. It explains that the old standard of 98.6 degrees as the "normal" human temperature is getting some re-analysis and resistance. See, the "normal" is not about physiology or "normality," it is merely an average of readings taken in a survey.
This particular math dates to a German doctor's conclusions in 1851. Somehow, he obtained readings from 25,000 patients and the rest, as they say, is history. Note, in those days there was no ear thermometer or scanning thermometer. Glass tubes had to be held under the tongue or in an armpit to get those readings. Despite the rudimentary equipment, this 1851 average became "a benchmark for medical professionals today."
A much smaller sample (148 patients) in 1992 suggested a lower average, 98.2 degrees. But, "more recently" a large (35,000) British sampling yielded an average of only 97.9 degrees. This discrepancy has been attributed by some to inaccurate readings back in the 1800s, but some also suggest that "human bodies are actually cooling." One notes that "we're actually changing physiologically." Imagine that, I am actually getting cooler.
If you are tempted now to have any doubts, you must remember that this is science and science is always right. It is infallible and always correct (sarcasm warning). Everyone knows you cannot doubt science. When the scientists tell you that you should not wear a mask, you must accept their opinion. When they later tell you that you should wear a mask, you must accept their opinion. It is, after all, science. But, should we accept the science of 1851 or the science of today? Will the science of tomorrow be different still? It is a challenge for those of us who wish to avoid thinking and instead want to simply "follow the science."
After extensive research described in the article, some scientists quoted by Smithsonian Magazine suggested there more here than testing or recording failures; that indeed body "temperature has gone down." They contend that this may be because of "improvement in temperature regulation" (heated and cooled living environments). It may also be because of gains in the treatment of disease that causes inflammation, "such as tuberculosis, malaria, and dental disease."
But, the infallible science is not unanimous. The article also quotes other's conclusions that the manner in which temperatures were obtained (oral versus armpit) may have influenced the population outcome and therefore the 1851 average. These doubters find the change in temperature to be difficult to accept scientifically, noting that such "evolution" by humans over the course of the last 170 years would be too rapid; they say those years would be "just the blink of the eye" in evolutionary terms.
So, there we have it. Science, and perhaps technology, leading to rescission of what was a near universal truth that "normal" human temperature is 98.6 degrees. The remaining question is simply whether we are getting cooler or whether we are just finally appreciating how cool we really are. This is interesting as some businesses continue to scan customers and employees as part of their defense against COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2, despite some suggestion that fever may not be the best differentiator or predictor.
It is coincidental that these articles on temperature change appeared right before the COVID-19 pandemic. A great many more people have checked their temperature in 2020 than in other years. Many have noted to me, as regards their COVID fears, that "I don't have fever"; my temperature is below normal. In fact it was one such representation that led me back to these articles in January 2020 and this exploration of the great cooling of humans. If you are not careful, you learn something new every day.
Which science is right? Are we cooler, or are we just better equipped for data gathering/processing? For now, perhaps it is just best to accept it all and bask in our new found "cool."
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