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25 Adorable Facts about Babies

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Babies are aggravatingly cute, but to the uninitiated, they’re basically aliens. And even the most experienced parent or childcare provider can still be baffled by one of those amazing, screaming bundles of joy.

Whether you’ve sworn off kids forever or already have several of your own, here are 25 adorable, cheek-pinching facts about babies you may not know:

1. YOU CAN’T GIVE THEM JUST ANY NAME.

Many countries prohibit using profanity, numbers, or symbols in children’s names, but some take it even further. Norway won’t allow you to use a traditional last name as a first name. A French court recently ruled that a couple couldn’t name their child after a brand of delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread. Portugal bans parents from naming their child Nirvana. The U.S., however, is more lenient, and will let you name your kid Espn if you really want to.

2. IN SOME PLACES, BABIES ARE VERY RARE.

Earlier this year, a baby boy named Pablo became the first child born in Ostano, Italy in almost 30 years. He’s the town’s 85th resident.

3. THEY’VE EVOLVED TO BE ADORABLE. 

Babies are completely dependent on adults for their survival for the first few years of their lives, so they’ve evolved to maximize the amount of attention they get from their parents and other adult humans. Scientists have pinpointed specific infant characteristics that we find irresistibly cute (known as baby schema), like a large head, round face, large eyes, and protruding cheeks.

4. WE NATURALLY WANT TO SQUEEZE THEM. 

Yale University research has found that people tend to feel aggressive when confronted with photos of adorable babies and animals. A 2015 study found that having an intensely positive reaction to pictures of babies was linked to wanting to express aggression in ways like cheek-pinching. The researchers aren’t quite sure why this is the case, but hypothesize that it may be a way to regulate extreme positive emotions.

5. EVEN TODDLERS KNOW THEY’RE CUTE.

A 2014 study of children as young as 3 years old used baby schema and eye tracking to help understand what babies find most cute. The children could identify baby-like facial characteristics in people, puppies, and kittens. Interestingly, they rated puppies as cuter than other babies or kittens.

6. THEY’RE DRAWN TO SURPRISE.

A 2015 study found that babies focus more on objects that surprise them. The researchers found that babies learned more about objects that defied their expectations of the world, such as a ball that seemed to be able to pass magically through a wall.

7. THEY HAVE A UNIQUE REFLEX THAT DISAPPEARS WITH AGE.

The Moro reflex, where a baby will suddenly fling out her arms and legs and cry, is an involuntary response to feeling unsupported, but it can also happen as a baby is falling asleep, which is one reasons why swaddling is so useful for babies—it keeps them from waking themselves up with the Moro reflex. The reflex is unique to infants, and by 5 months old, healthy babies grow out of it.

8. THEY ALREADY KNOW TO HOLD THEIR BREATH UNDERWATER.

Babies instinctively hold their breath and open their eyes underwater in what’s called the dive reflex. This reflexive response to water decreases over time.

9. THEY REALLY DO LIKE LULLABIES.

A 2015 study found that babies remained calm for longer while listening to songs, even in unfamiliar languages, compared to regular speech.

10. THEY’RE WIRED TO IMITATE. 

Brain activity studies have shown that when babies watch others reach for objects, the motor control regions of their brains activate, too. This helps them understand other people’s actions and think about doing something similar themselves.

11. THEY CAN LEARN IN THE WOMB.

Scientists have found that babies can recognize sounds they heard from inside their mother’s womb, such as the theme song to their mom’s favorite soap opera. In 2013, a group of researchers found that infants who had been exposed to a made-up word during the last few months of their mother’s pregnancy recognized the word and variations of its pronunciation later on.

12. THEY CAN’T REALLY SEE.

Until they’re around 3 months old, babies can only focus their eyes about 8 to 10 inches away from their faces, though they can see light and movement. They don’t gain depth perception until around 5 months old.

13. THEIR TASTE PREFERENCES CAN DEVELOP BEFORE THEY’RE BORN.

While in the womb, babies swallow the amniotic fluid that surrounds them, tasting some of the flavors of the food and drink their mother has had in the process. In one study, babies born to women instructed to drink carrot juice during pregnancy or breast feeding liked carrot-flavored cereal more than babies whose mothers were told to avoid carrots altogether.

14. THEY EAT LESS THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.

In the first three months of life, the USDA estimates that babies need between 438 and 572 calories over the course of a day, depending on their size. That’s only a little more than a single Big Mac.

15. THEY HAVE UNIQUE HAIR.

While some babies come into this world relatively hairless, others are born with a lot of whitish body hair, especially preemies. This soft, downy fuzz is called lanugo. It develops in the fifth month of pregnancy and if it isn’t gone by the time a baby is born, it usually disappears within a few weeks.

16. THEY STILL NEED PASSPORTS.

Even the youngest newborns need proper documentation to travel abroad. The U.S. State Department recommends taking a picture of your baby laying on a white sheet or sitting in a carseat covered in a white sheet to ensure her passport photo has a properly plain background. Canada doesn’t allow parental hands in the photo, but does note that the “Passport Program recognizes the difficulty in obtaining a neutral expression of a newborn and will allow for some minor variations in this regard.”

17. BABIES CAN GET CREDIT FOR THEIR PARENTS’ MOVIES.

Pixar recognizes “production babies” in the credits of its films. Starting with Toy Story, the studio began running lists of the given names of babies born to its employees in the year before a film’s release in the end credits. Now, some video games even list production babies in their credits.

18. IT WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE—HEALTHY, EVEN—TO DANGLE THEM OUT THE WINDOW.

In the 19th century, people living in dirty urban areas wanted to give their babies access to the restorative properties of fresh air. Without access to backyards and country homes, they came up with a workaround: the baby cage. In the 1920s, inventors came up with compartments that could be propped on window sills in high-rise buildings, effectively dangling enclosed wire cribs outside like air conditioning units. Wonder why that went out of style?

19. THEY CAN DO MATH.

Babies are born with some innate mathematical talents, namely being able to distinguish between orders of magnitude. They can tell the difference between a pattern of 10 dots and 20 dots, for instance. Having a greater intuitive sense of numbers at 6 months old predicted better math scores at 3 years old, according to a 2013 study. Another study found that 6-month-olds can detect math errors when presented with addition and subtraction problems represented by groups of dolls instead of numbers.

20. THEY’RE IPAD PROS.

A 2015 study of 270 families in Philadelphia found that 36 percent of kids had used some kind of touchscreen before they turned 1 year old. While the effect of technology use on kids’ development is still hotly debated, one thing is certain: kids love touchscreens. This is partially due to contingency, the notion that certain events are dependent on others [PDF]. So when a baby pokes at an iPad and makes a video play, she’s exploring contingency, and how her actions can shape the world around her.

21. THEY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SKYPE AND TV.

Because they’re well attuned to social responsiveness (again, contingency) babies can tell the difference between a video chat with their grandparents and being addressed by a static character like Dora the Explorer as part of a television show. This level of tech-savviness can appear as early as 2 to 6 months old. However, they may not understand that Grandma and Grandpa don’t actually live in the computer until later.

22. THEIR HEADS SMELL AMAZING.

The smell of a newborn baby has been scientifically proven to be amazing. A study of 30 women sniffing newborns’ pajamas found that the scent increased activity in the brain’s rewards system.

23. THEIR BRAINS HAVE ALMOST AS MANY NEURONS AS AN ADULT’S.

A child’s brain changes dramatically over the first years of its life. But the number of neurons stays roughly the same from birth—somewhere between 86 and 100 billion. However, the brain will develop thousands more synapses (connections between neurons) in the first two years after birth.

24. THEY CAN SEE THINGS ADULTS DON’T.

Because babies’ eyes aren’t completely developed, 3- and 4-month-old kids don’t have perceptual constancy, or the ability to recognize the same object in different lights, sizes, and colors. But a 2016 study found that babies at that age can see slight differences in images caused by changes in illumination—while adults cannot.

25. THEY GROW UP SO FAST.

It’s a cliché, but it’s also true. In the first six months, the average baby grows up to an inch per month, and doubles in weight. By a baby’s first birthday, she’ll have tripled in weight since birth.

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Marie Antoinette's Jewelry Is Up for Sale
Michael Bowles, Getty Images for Sotheby's
Michael Bowles, Getty Images for Sotheby's

Rare jewelry that once belonged to Marie Antoinette and hasn't been seen in public for 200 years will be heading to the auction block this fall, according to The Adventurine.

A diamond parure (jewelry set), three-strand pearl necklace, and other gems that once adorned the last queen of France will be sold on November 12 in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of Sotheby's "Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family" auction. The family in question is related by blood to some of Europe's most important rulers, including former kings of France and Spain and emperors of Austria.

A diamond jewelry set
Courtesy of Sotheby's

Although Marie Antoinette was known for her opulent fashion choices, her jewels have scarcely been seen since the French Revolution, The Adventurine reports. The Smithsonian owns a pair of earrings that are believed to contain diamonds from the queen's collection, and a diamond necklace that appeared at a Christie's auction in 1971 "hasn't been seen since." The jewelry magazine notes that many of Marie Antoinette's jewels were dismantled, but a few—like the ones featured in this latest collection—managed to survive.

A pearl necklace
Courtesy of Sotheby's

According to Sotheby's, Marie Antoinette placed all her jewels in a wooden chest in March 1791 and shipped them off to her nephew, the Austrian Emperor, for safekeeping [PDF]. That following year, the royal family was imprisoned, and in 1793 Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVII were executed by guillotine. Their only surviving child, Marie Thérèse de France, retrieved the jewels and later passed them along to her niece, since she had no children of her own. They ultimately ended up with Robert I, the last ruling Duke of Parma in Italy.

The most valuable piece, a pearl pendant featuring a bow made of diamonds, is expected to fetch between $1 million and $2 million, according to the auction house's estimates. In the late 18th century, pearls were just as coveted as diamonds because of their rarity. Marie Antoinette, of course, wore them often.

A diamond and pearl pendant
Courtesy of Sotheby's

"It is one of the most important royal jewelry collections ever to appear on the market and each and every jewel is absolutely imbued with history," Daniela Mascetti, of Sotheby's European jewelry division, said in a statement.

[h/t The Adventurine]

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12 Facts About James Joyce
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June 16, 1904 is the day that James Joyce, the Irish author of Modernist masterpieces like Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and who was described as “a curious mixture of sinister genius and uncertain talent,” set his seminal work, Ulysses. It also thought to be the day that he had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.

He was as mythical as the myths he used as the foundations for his own work. So in honor of that June day in 1904—known to fans worldwide as “Bloomsday,” after one of the book’s protagonists, Leopold Bloom—here are 12 facts about James Joyce.

1. HE WAS ONLY 9 WHEN HIS FIRST PIECE OF WRITING WAS PUBLISHED.

In 1891, shortly after he had to leave Clongowes Wood College when his father lost his job, 9-year-old Joyce wrote a poem called “Et Tu Healy?” It was published by his father John and distributed to friends; the elder Joyce thought so highly of it, he allegedly sent copies to the Pope.

No known complete copies of the poem exist, but the precocious student’s verse allegedly denounced a politician named Tim Healy for abandoning 19th century Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell after a sex scandal. Fragments of the ending of the poem, later remembered by James’s brother Stanislaus, showed Parnell looking down on Irish politicians:

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this century
Can trouble him no more

While the poem was seemingly quaint, young Joyce equating Healy as Brutus and Parnell as Caesar marked the first time he’d use old archetypes in a modern context, much in the same way Ulysses is a unique retelling of The Odyssey.

As an adult, Joyce would publish his first book, a collection of poems called Chamber Music, in 1907. It was followed by Dubliners, a collection of short stories, in 1914, and the semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Clongowes Wood College is prominently featured) in 1916.

2. HE CAUSED A CONTROVERSY AT HIS COLLEGE’S PAPER.

While attending University College Dublin, Joyce attempted to publish a negative review—titled “The Day of the Rabblement”—of a new local playhouse called the Irish Literary Theatre in the school’s paper, St. Stephen’s. Joyce’s condemnation of the theater’s “parochialism” was allegedly so scathing that the paper’s editors, after seeking consultation from one of the school’s priests, refused to print it.

Incensed about possible censorship, Joyce appealed to the school’s president, who sided with the editors—which prompted Joyce to put up his own money to publish 85 copies to be distributed across campus.

The pamphlet, published alongside a friend’s essay to beef up the page-count, came with the preface: “These two essays were commissioned by the editor of St. Stephen’s for that paper, but were subsequently refused insertion by the censor.” It wouldn’t be the last time Joyce would fight censorship.

3. NORA BARNACLE GHOSTED HIM FOR THEIR PLANNED FIRST DATE.

By the time Nora Barnacle and Joyce finally married in 1931, they had lived together for 27 years, traveled the continent and had two children. The couple first met in Dublin in 1904 when Joyce struck up a conversation with her near the hotel where Nora worked as a chambermaid. She initially mistook him for a Swedish sailor because of his blue eyes and the yachting cap he wore that day, and he charmed her so much that they set a date for June 14—but she didn’t show.

He then wrote her a letter, saying, “I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me—if you have not forgotten me!” This led to their first date, which supposedly took place on June 16, 1904.

She would continue to be his muse throughout their life together in both his published work (the character Molly Bloom in Ulysses is based on her) and their fruitful personal correspondence. Their notably dirty love letters to each other—featuring him saying their love-making reminded him of “a hog riding a sow” and signing off one by saying “Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty littlef**kbird!"—have highlighted the NSFW nature of their relationship. In fact, one of Joyce’s signed erotic letters to Nora fetched a record £240,800 ($446,422) at a London auction in 2004.

4. HE HAD REALLY BAD EYES.

While Joyce’s persistent money problems caused him to lead a life of what could be categorized as creative discomfort, he had to deal with a near lifetime of medical discomfort as well. Joyce suffered from anterior uveitis, which led to a series of around 12 eye surgeries over his lifetime. (Due to the relatively unsophisticated state of ophthalmology at the time, and his decision not to listen to contemporary medical advice, scholars speculate that his iritis, glaucoma, and cataracts could have been caused by sarcoidosis, syphilis, tuberculosis, or any number of congenital problems.) His vision issues caused Joyce to wear an eye patch for years and forced him to do his writing on large white sheets of paper using only red crayon. The persistent eye struggles even inspired him to name his daughter Lucia, after St. Lucia, patron saint of the blind.

5. HE TAUGHT ENGLISH AT A BERLITZ LANGUAGE SCHOOL.

In 1904, Joyce—eager to get out of Ireland—responded to an ad for a teaching position in Europe. Evelyn Gilford, a job agent based in the British town of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, notified Joyce that a job was reserved for him and, for two guineas, he would be told exactly where the position was. Joyce sent the money, and by the end of 1904, he and his future wife, Nora, had left Dublin for the job at a Berlitz language school in Zurich, Switzerland—but when they got there, the pair learned there was no open position. But they did hear a position was open at a Berlitz school in Trieste, Italy. The pair packed up and moved on to Italy only to find out they’d been swindled again.

Joyce eventually found a Berlitz teaching job in Pola in Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia). English was one of 17 languages Joyce could speak; others included Arabic, Sanskrit, Greek, and Italian (which eventually became his preferred language, and one that he exclusively spoke at home with his family). He also loved playwright Henrik Ibsen so much that he learned Norwegian so that he could read Ibsen's works in their original form—and send the writer a fan letter in his native tongue.

6. HE INVESTED IN A MOVIE THEATER.

There are about 400 movie theaters in Ireland today, but they trace their history back to 1909, when Joyce helped open the Volta Cinematograph, which is considered “the first full-time, continuous, dedicated cinema” in Ireland.

More a money-making scheme than a product of a love of cinema, Joyce first got the idea when he was having trouble getting Dubliners published and noticed the abundance of cinemas while living in Trieste. When his sister, Eva, told him Ireland didn’t have any movie theaters, Joyce joined up with four Italian investors (he’d get 10 percent of the profits) to open up the Volta on Dublin’s Mary Street.

The venture fizzled as quickly as Joyce’s involvement. After not attracting audiences due to mostly showing only Italian and European movies unpopular with everyday Dubliners, Joyce cut his losses and pulled out of the venture after only seven months.

The cinema itself didn’t close until 1919, during the time Joyce was hard at work on Ulysses. (It reopened with a different name in 1921 and didn’t fully close until 1948.)

7. HE TURNED TO A COMPLETELY INEXPERIENCED PUBLISHER TO RELEASE HIS MOST WELL-KNOWN BOOK.

The publishing history of Ulysses is itself its own odyssey. Joyce began writing the work in 1914, and by 1918 he had begun serializing the novel in the American magazine Little Review with the help of poet Ezra Pound.

But by 1921, Little Review was in financial trouble. The published version of Episode 13 of Ulysses, “Nausicaa,” resulted in a costly obscenity lawsuit against its publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and the book was banned in the United States. Joyce appealed to different publishers for help—including Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press—but none agreed to take on a project with such legal implications (and in Virginia Woolf’s case, length), no matter how supposedly groundbreaking it was.

Joyce, then based in Paris, made friends with Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a gathering hub for the post-war expatriate creative community. In her autobiography, Beach wrote:

All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.

It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”

He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. ... Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses.

Beach planned a first edition of 1000 copies (with 100 signed by the author), while the book would continue to be banned in a number of countries throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually it was allowed to be published in the United States in 1933 after the case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses deemed the book not obscene and allowed it in the United States.

8. ERNEST HEMINGWAY WAS HIS DRINKING BUDDY—AND SOMETIMES HIS BODYGUARD.

Ernest Hemingway—who was major champion of Ulysses—met Joyce at Shakespeare and Company, and was later a frequent companion among the bars of Paris with writers like Wyndham Lewis and Valery Larbaud.

Hemingway recalled the Irish writer would start to get into drunken fights and leave Hemingway to deal with the consequences. "Once, in one of those casual conversations you have when you're drinking," Hemingway said, "Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline—his wife, his work and his bad eyes. His wife was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban--'Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.' We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn't even see the man so he'd say, 'Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!'"

9. HE MET ANOTHER MODERNIST TITAN—AND HAD A TERRIBLE TIME.

Marcel Proust’s gargantuan, seven-volume masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu, is perhaps the other most important Modernist work of the early 20th century besides Ulysses. In May 1922, the authors met at a party for composer Igor Stravinsky and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. The Dubliners author arrived late, was drunk, and wasn’t wearing formal clothes because he was too poor to afford them. Proust arrived even later than Joyce, and though there are varying accounts of what was actually said between the two, every known version points to a very anticlimactic meeting of the minds.

According to author William Carlos Williams, Joyce said, “I’ve headaches every day. My eyes are terrible,” to which the ailing Proust replied, “My poor stomach. What am I going to do? It’s killing me. In fact, I must leave at once.”

Publisher Margaret Anderson claimed that Proust admitted, “I regret that I don’t know Mr. Joyce’s work,” while Joyce replied, “I have never read Mr. Proust.”

Art reviewer Arthur Power said both writers simply talked about liking truffles. Joyce later told painter Frank Budgen, “Our talk consisted solely of the word ‘No.’”

10. HE CREATED A 100-LETTER WORD TO DESCRIBE HIS FEAR OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.

Joyce had a childhood fear of thunder and lightning, which sprang from his Catholic governess’s pious warnings that such meteorological occurrences were actually God manifesting his anger at him. The fear haunted the writer all his life, though Joyce recognized the beginnings of his phobia. When asked by a friend why he was so afraid of rough weather, Joyce responded, “You were not brought up in Catholic Ireland.”

The fear also manifested itself in Joyce’s writing. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the autobiographical protagonist Stephen Dedalus says he fears “dogs, horses, firearms, the sea, thunderstorms, [and] machinery.”

But the most fascinating manifestation of his astraphobia is in his stream of consciousness swan song, Finnegans Wake, where he created the 100-letter word Bababadalgharaghtaka-mminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk to represent a symbolic biblical thunderclap. The mouthful is actually made up of different words for “thunder” in French (tonnerre), Italian (tuono), Greek (bronte), and Japanese (kaminari).

11. HE’S THOUGHT OF AS A LITERARY GENIUS, BUT NOT EVERYONE WAS A FAN.

Fellow Modernist Virginia Woolf didn't much care for Joyce or his work. She compared his writing to "a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples," and said that "one hopes he’ll grow out of it; but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely."

She wasn't the only one. In a letter, D.H. Lawrence—who wrote such classics as Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Loversaid of Joyce: “My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”

“Do I get much pleasure from this work? No," author H.G. Wells wrote in his review of Finnegans Wake. “ ... Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousand I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?”

Even his partner Nora had a difficult time with his work, saying after the publication of Ulysses, “Why don’t you write sensible books that people can understand?”

12. HIS SUPPOSED FINAL WORDS WERE AS ABSTRACT AS HIS WRITING.

Joyce was admitted to a Zurich hospital in January 1941 for a perforated duodenal ulcer, but slipped into a coma after surgery and died on January 13. His last words were befitting his notoriously difficult works—they're said to have been, "Does nobody understand?"

Additional Source: James Joyce

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