Baby Talk: The Moro Reflex

So my wife and I took baby Jack on his first outing over Labor Day weekend: a barbeque pool party. It went surprisingly well (he slept 2 hours straight, even with people poking and fussing over him), freeing his parents up to chat with others. Here's what I noticed though, as this party was full of other new parents or parents-to-be: When we were all young and single, one of the most often dropped questions at such a party would have been, "So"¦ what do you do?" Now, curiously, we're all asking, "So"¦ when are you due?"

Other topics of conversation included whether to go with cloth or disposable diapers (anyone care to chime in on that debate?), and my recent favorite: the Moro Reflex, otherwise known as the "startle reflex." This is what newborns do with the arms when they hold them out as if they're falling. Baby Jack does it quite often and it always freaks me out a little.

The Moro Reflex was first described in the early 1900s by an Austrian pediatrician named Ernst Moro. He discovered that it's leftover behavior from when we used to be primates, clinging to our mother's fur as she went foraging for food. Obviously if you felt like you were falling, you'd hold on tighter, right? Moro believed this leftover reflex was the only unlearned fear in newborns.

As an adult, I can tell you that I still fear falling. Sometimes when I'm about to drop off into slumber, I'll wake myself up with a start, thinking I'm actually falling.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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