big boy biomechanics

Diane Kelly, a 30-year-old postdoctoral fellow at Cornell, is the first–and to her knowledge only–scientist in the world to study the biomechanics of the mammalian penis. Biomechanically speaking, the male reproductive organ has to do two things. It has to get rigid, and it has to deliver sperm. Kelly made her name in the rigidity arena, solving, as she puts it, “the mechanical problem of how to make something that’s floppy stiff.”

at the moment she’s investigating another element common to many penises: the baculum, or penis bone. Many mammals such as rodents, bats and primates have bacula, and no one knows what they’re for. researchers have assumed that, like most bones, it is a support structure and helps hold the penis rigid. However, unlike most bones, the baculum isn’t attached to muscle or to the rest of the skeleton. It sits like a pencil lead in the core of the penis.

There seems to be quite a variation among penis bones. Kelly has dug out an illustrated paper titled “Bacula of North American Mammals.” Rats are the plain vanilla of the baculum world. Chipmunk bacula resemble garden hoes. Muskrat bacula are crowned with tridents. The ground squirrel baculum looks as though it could serve pasta.

back in the early gimcrack days, nursemyra wrote about an previous employer who had a biomechanical accident and managed to pass it off as a broken baculum. if you haven’t already seen that post you can read about the adventures of Mr Tree here

Published in: on October 7, 2008 at 8:04 am  Comments (18)  

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hmmm, now I know what a baculum is. Somehow they never covered that in anatomy, perhaps because humans lack one. I believe we humans use fluid hydraulics for rigidity.

  2. At least the term “boner” makes more sense.

  3. “broke your baculum in a squash match”? oh, that’s special…

    i’ve seen raccoon baculum for sale at curio shops out west – as tooth picks, and horse or whale baculum (supposedly) as walking sticks… they don’t call them “baculum” of course…

  4. “Bacula to the Future” ……. the continuing story of evolution. Greenstick fractures!!!! ……. ouch

  5. hey good line daddyp. on a par with daisyfae’s “minstrel cycle” yesterday

  6. Are you sure? is it not a Tibia, could have sworn.

  7. Which set me searching for another Down There-related surprise from a couple of years back, on the size of the human clitoris http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5013866.stm

    I also found out that Bacula is the name of a computer backup system, which made me snigger like a schoolboy.

  8. Every Friday you manage to master “the mechanical problem of how to make something that’s floppy stiff.”

  9. Chertiozhnik: yeah, I saw that it was a computer program when I was doing the research. too funny.

    UncleKeith: glad to be of service 🙂

  10. This makes actor Scott Bakula’s name a lot funnier.

  11. and here all along i thought ‘baculum’ was a kind of camel, along with the dromedary… then again, they both deal with humps or humping, yes?

  12. Renal- well it explains all his rigid performances…

  13. I’m always surprised by how many of my friends dont know anything about the mechanics of the body, so many of themseemed to think the human penis had cartilidge (spelling?) in it.

  14. and I suppose when they ejaculate they empty their cartridge?

  15. Good lord that sounds like it would be painful…

  16. …and go off with a bang

  17. As a scientist not too far removed from the lab, I’ve got to say that Kelly’s reviewers must have had a great time reading her papers and grant applications.

  18. she’d be a fun babe to hang out with too 🙂


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