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Science Unlocks The Mystery Of Belly Button Lint 161

After three years of research, including examining 503 pieces of fluff from his own belly button, Georg Steinhauser has discovered a type of body hair that traps stray pieces of lint and draws them into the navel. Dr Steinhauser's observations showed that "small pieces of fluff first form in the hair and then end up in the navel at the end of the day." Chemical analysis revealed the pieces of fluff were not just made up of cotton from clothing. Wrapped up in the lint were also flecks of dead skin, fat, sweat and dust. Unfortunately, further study has failed to yield a hair or fiber that would give Dr. Steinhauser the last three years of his life back.


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Science Unlocks The Mystery Of Belly Button Lint

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  • by Hordeking ( 1237940 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:19PM (#27043919)

    That's right folks. You read it here first!

    This week's educational film will be "Groundbreaking Discoveries of the 21st Centuty!" followed "Zinc Oxide and You".

    • by siriuskase ( 679431 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:25PM (#27043995) Homepage Journal

      This is one of those guys that was navel gazing back in the 60's and figured out how to get a PHD out of it.

      • This is one of those guys that was navel gazing back in the 60's and figured out how to get a PHD out of it.

        It looks like he somehow beat Darwin's odds and achieved that...

        I wish I'd managed to get a PhuD out of that. Easiest A++ ever!

      • by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:37PM (#27044153)


        samzenpus: What's he doin?
        idle: He's finishing his senior thesis. Steinhauser is trying to prove the hair-free theory: a person with no belly hair does not accumulate naval lint.
        samzenpus: That's his thesis?
        idle: Yes! That's the beauty of college these days, slashdotter! You can major in naval lint if you know how to bullshit.

        • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:15PM (#27047591)
          naval lint

          No, the study is on navel lint, the lint that accumulates in the navel. Naval lint would be the lint that accumulates on warships, or on members of the Navy. For instance, if you take the wetsuit of a SEAL and put it in the drier, and then clean out the lint trap, the result will be naval lint. Now, if you clean out the belly button of an Admiral, the result is naval navel lint. Or perhaps navel naval lint.

      • by RingDev ( 879105 )

        To bad he wasn't a Naval gazer... he could have prevented a disaster like this: []


    • I thought everyone knew that the man who goes around putting fluff in your belly button is the same man who goes around putting bits of carrot in your chunder, even though you haven't eaten carrots for a fortnight...
      • by ColaMan ( 37550 )

        No, that's what your appendix is for.

        Apparently some primal need from way back in prehistory is fulfilled when you say, "I don't remember eating that!"

      • you mean the man who goes by the name of the Sandman?

    • That's right folks. You read it here first!

      This week's educational film will be "Groundbreaking Discoveries of the 21st Centuty!" followed "Zinc Oxide and You".

      More shocking discoveries of the 21st Century! Science shows that an absolute first post can, in fact, be redundant, despite there being no preceeding posts on, or off, topic!

    • sorry pal....

      Read it there [] yesterday.

  • Whenever you read these stories that have anything to do with our prehistoric forefothers, you must not forget your foremothers, especially if sex and/or reproduction r concerned.

    First, is navel lint sexy? No, take it from me, it isn't.

    Is it the least it useful? It sure is, lint is great for startng fires and making nests. Just don't ask me to lay an egg in your fluffy navel. A fire, pøssily

    • I learned women don't like it: I had a girlfriend, who first thing after we undressed and went to bed would look and pick out any navel lint from my "lint trap", as she called it. Things didn't happen until I had passed lint trap inspection.
    • I was thinking more along these lines:

      Special hair...
      Drawing debris into the intestinal area...
      Sounds a lot like a primitive sea creature, or even a carnivorous plant.

      I wonder if there's any shared evolution/genes here.

      • Actually a fantastic point. DNA does not specify the position of every cell within the body - there's not enough complexity there! Instead, it unfolds like a flower - and it can only unfold in so many ways. Why have we not evolved to have the belly button fade to a mere patch of scar over time? Why are sea anenomes shaped the way they are? The answer could be the same - if you tried to change it, something else would change too and you'd be some other organism.

  • by dmmiller2k ( 414630 ) <dmmiller2k@gm a i l .com> on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:21PM (#27043939)
    A question that has been keeping me up nights my whole life.
    • This is not news. It's been known about for ages. This is just a story about how some dork figured out how to get funding to research something that's already solved.

      Stupid university, sutid.

      • by SkyDude ( 919251 )
        Funding? You mean, he's getting money from the Pork - er, Stimulus Package?

        That does it. There must be funding for head cheese studies and I want it - the funding that is.

        • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) *

          Uhhh, what is "head cheese"?

          Never heard of that before.

          • by N1AK ( 864906 )
            Well the head it comes from isn't the one you show in public... for more details consult Google (preferably with image search off)
  • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:23PM (#27043955) Homepage

    This must be genetic - I've never experienced this myself and I wear the same kind of clothing like everyone else. Actually, I have, but usually it's my feet eating my socks. Never my innie.

    • by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:28PM (#27044035)
      When your shirt doesn't go past your belly button [], it's no doubt you don't have lint problems. The world might just be a cleaner place if we had your genes.

      Wait, is it too late to retract my last statement?
      • I can't recall having this be an issue in my case. I wear t-shirt 90% of the time that i am out and about. I wear some kind of shirt anytime i'm out. I do have some soft/fuzzy (almost wrote fussy) hair near my navel.

        I really have to think that any heavy lint collection is due unbathed/unkempt hygiene, or laundry being hang-dried in dusty areas, or place in a malfunctioning dryer, or sleeping in a hella lint-filled bed.

        Interesting this comes out around Lint Season/Ash Weekend.

        (I wonder if by brand/ply/coarse

    • by eln ( 21727 )

      Perhaps you're just not fat, hairy, or sweaty enough to collect belly button lint. But then, you're a Slashdot reader, so that can't be it...

  • by Drakin020 ( 980931 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:26PM (#27044003)

    Please Slashdot, keep this kind of stuff off the front page or at-least make it like a sub-post. (Those little mini-categories)

    Is this how you want a sophisticated site to look like when a new user views it?

  • Does anyone else think that if you have that much navel lint, you've got bigger problems than justifying your research?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I dunno. Seems like you wouldn't have that much trouble at all, and, in fact, it could be quite beneficial. For instance, I made that rug your standing right now out of mine.

    • I'm pretty certain it's actually from a lint trap in a dryer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        On the other hand, having just RTFA,

        Mr Barker has been collecting his own navel fluff in jars every day since 1984. The achievement has won him a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's largest collection of navel lint.

        • Unfortunately, the fact that he's been behaving so unusually regarding his navel pretty much invalidates any tests he could do on it.

    • by Xtravar ( 725372 )

      That picture looks like what you pull out of a clothes dryer's filter. I assumed it was a joke prop.

  • There are people who think collecting this type of stuff is a good idea? Even up to having contests about how much they have collected. And I thought I was weird just for being a geek.

  • Wrapped up in the lint were also flecks of dead skin, fat, sweat and dust.

    Man! I was eating breakfast!

  • I have mod points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_Bionic_lemming ( 446569 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:32PM (#27044097)

    I have mod points,How do I mod bomb the article into oblivion?

  • Gross (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:36PM (#27044135) Journal

    I have never observed this phenomenon on myself or anybody else...but then I wash regularly. When he says "end up in the navel at the end of the day", I think he really means "end of the week".

    • I have never observed this phenomenon on myself or anybody else...but then I wash regularly. When he says "end up in the navel at the end of the day", I think he really means "end of the week".

      I had to quote this as it makes me think you have the WORST belly button lint of anyone.

  • I take a shower every day. I've never had a problem with lint in my belly button. I have a hairy belly button. I am not fat. Thus, the story should read "fat traps lint", or "people who don't shower accumulate crap in their body creases."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thedonger ( 1317951 )
      Maybe one can be too hairy to gather belly button lint. Or perhaps you wear only polyester? I wear lots of cotton t-shirts, I am thin, with 6-pack abs, I shower every day, and with a moderately hairy stomach I get belly button lint on a regular basis. Now, I never once wondered how or from whence it came to be in my belly button, as it was only way, way too obvious. Is this "Dr." at a community college?
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I am thin, with 6-pack abs, I shower every day

        I think you're on the wrong website...

      • I have greasy skin and get belly button lint. (We've already eliminated fat and hairy as the factors, heh heh.) Maybe that's it? Report.

    • by gilgongo ( 57446 )

      I take a shower every day. I've never had a problem with lint in my belly button.

      I shower once every three days and tend to pull ball of 5mm of lint from my belly button between those times. Why do you think the lint is a "problem"? All the girls I know think it's funny.

  • damn belly button lint.

  • by secretplans ( 1489863 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @04:46PM (#27044259)
    If I were a subscriber I could have seen this story early!
  • WTF? Just when the presidency is starting to science seriously again, we come up with this kind of navel gazing? We can do better than this; we're giving science a bad name.
    • The researcher is from the Vienna University of Technology, in Austria. I doubt this was funded by US taxpayers.

    • by Valdrax ( 32670 )

      People who view science purely from a utilitarian viewpoint of wanting instant monetary or technology returns like you are the reason for the death of the US lead in the sciences.

      Also, as the other poster pointed out, he's not doing his research at a US institution, and I'd like to further point out that this is most likely a personal project of his. His usual research is a bit drier. []

  • by Drasil ( 580067 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @05:07PM (#27044507)

    ie. Why is belly button fluff predominantly blue? I believe that the anatomical feature known as a 'navel' or 'belly button' is in actual fact a previously unrecognised organ that serves a vital role in the human body.

    As we all know, blood is red. Indeed the red colour of blood is integral to the role it plays in the body. I propose that the belly button is actually a chromatic lung which is capable of absorbing redness from the environment into the blood and similarly expelling excess blueness in order to maintain a healthy balance. This may be the reason that environments containing excess blueness cause people to feel cold: the blood looses redness, in turn diminishing it's oxygen carrying capacity leading to an overall reduction in the metabolism that actually serves to lower body temperature.

    Interestingly, there are reports that the navel fluff of aristocrats has a reddish hue, leading to speculation that they are in fact a distinct species. This has yet to be demonstrated under laboratory conditions and remains a controversial area of research.

    • by Genda ( 560240 )

      You may discover that there is a space-time/gravitational element to this conversation.

      That the blue or red shifting of belly button lint may have to do with a hidden element found in the lint that actually warps space-time, causing the observed red or blue shift in the local light as well as a possible secondary time dialation effect. Upcoming experiments with navel lint at Lawrence Livermore will soon determine if Belly Button Lint is the missing ingredient making Fusion a viable technology today.

    • So kind of like a dark sucker [], then?


  • Dr Karl (Score:2, Informative)

    by Smiddi ( 1241326 )
    This is old news. Dr Karl completed a survey and concluded the same result back in 2002. Ref: []
    • Unfortunately, it seems we Australians don't actually exist. We're figments of our own imaginations (wait... what?).

    • by quenda ( 644621 )
      RTFA! Dr Karl's breakthrough research is credited, though not his Ignobel Prize. And NoobixCube, et al, please stop the whining. This article is from the UK, where Australia is very well known. They have watched every episode of Neighbors.
  • It looks just like those dustballs from psp commercials. So that's where they got that idea from...
  • Seriously, in face of such global challenges (climate change, water shortage, declining oil supplies), this really at a higher level.
    • Actually, he may well have a shot at the igNobel prize!
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      There was already an "ignobel" for this, look above to links to what Dr Karl did on this subject on a talkback radio program in 2002. The idea is science that makes you laugh first and then think later.
  • The reason for belly button lint is clear. Look at the hairs around your belly button; the ones closest to it all point down and in to your belly button. The lint ratchets down the hairs into your belly button, powered by your own movement.
  • Maybe if we all save up our belly-button lint, we could use it to save AIG, or GM, or both?

    "The Economist" has an article this week that "Victory Gardens" are coming back. My grandmother always accused me of trying to grow potatoes in my ears . . . maybe this guy just did some parallel research with naval gardening activities, in these tough economic times.

  • Story (Score:1, Redundant)

    by tsa ( 15680 )

    That reminds me of a story [] I wrote long ago.

  • Why does belly button lint cause urine suds to dissipate in the toilet?
  • I find a fair amount of loose change and corn chips in my B.B. Thus, I'm canceling my plans to lose some weight.

  • ...a better lint filter for your clothes dryer. Or a suit bag that helps keep your clothes lint-free. Or a filter to help keep lint out of electronics enclosures. Or any number of other useful applications.

  • This guy should be nominated for the igNobel awards.

    The igNobel website: []

    Nominate an candidate. Like this fellow: []

  • Well I get belly button lint every single day. I shower/bathe every day, sometimes twice a day. I am not fat. But I figured this was no mystery: I figured it out and I didn't need a govt grant. I simply think that certain belly buttons with the right amount of hair scrape across the shirt during the day (usually while moving your torso or even just walking) and collect the lint like the screen on a dryer. My lint is always the same color as my shirt, and brand new shirts collect far more lint than old

  • I seriously hope this guy was wasting his own money. Beyond that is the hypocrisy of awarding a PhD to this guy while telling me that I have to be able to remember everything taught in every course from freshman year engineering and be TESTED on it to even QUALIFY to be able to work on a PhD thesis never mind defending that thesis. I call bullsh*t.

    • If you're crying about how this guy doesn't deserve his PhD, you obviously don't deserve yours. What if the navel lint problem is the key to understanding the zero-point field or something? I bet you'd feel real stupid then! YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND TIME CUBE

  • That makes sense. It's like a pitcher plant. So people with the most lint have the biggest bellies and vice versa. It all makes sense now.

  • Omphaloskepsis []

    Hands up, how many people guess at the existence of such a word ?
  • Why is this in my science RSS feed? Can we keep this idle cruft out of the "real news" feeds?

  • Didn't Dr Karl Kruszelnicki win an Ig Nobel prize for similar research in 2002? [] '...concluded the lint was a combination of clothing fibres and skin cells that were led to the navel, via body hair, "as all roads lead to Rome". "Your typical generator of belly-button lint or fluff is a slightly overweight, middle-aged male with a hairy abdomen," he said.'
  • by nsayer ( 86181 ) * <> on Monday March 02, 2009 @07:32PM (#27046097) Homepage

    I predict at least a nomination for this year's award for Medicine.

  • Dr Karl Kruszelnicki won an Ignoble Prize in 2002 for his great Belly Button Lint Survey []

    I refer you to the theories [] page for prior research in this area.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.