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Welcome to the Greenwood.Net Curiosity Corner

Eating before swimming...

Jun 13, 2018

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson,
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Lander University

QUESTION: Is it true that you should wait an hour after eating before going swimming? (Asked by Kylynn Keith, Grantsville, W.Va.)

REPLY: That’s an old one, advised by many mothers (including my own). It is based on the idea that you might develop cramps that could cause trouble while swimming. This stems from the belief that after eating, much of the available blood in the body flows to the stomach to aid in digestion. It is assumed that this shift in blood supply would leave the limbs (arms and legs) lacking—not able to function normally—and would cramp up, making for perilous swimming.

This is a misconception, though. Blood does flow to the stomach after eating a meal, but not enough is diverted to cause cramps. Thankfully, we have enough blood to go around and keep all of our muscles functioning properly. Some professional swimmers even eat right before they swim so that they have enough energy to compete for long distances.

However, there may be a concern in the quantity of food eaten. After eating a large meal, the body works hard to break down the food. This could lead to a stomachache during swimming, causing discomfort and possibly vomiting.

In short, it is generally safe to swim after eating, but it might be wise to wait a few minutes to avoid any stomach discomfort or nausea.
QUESTION: Is the United States a republic or a democracy? (Asked by a curious citizen.)

REPLY: Often, we hear people disagree on this point. There’s the Pledge of Allegiance, for example: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands …” Then, we hear that we are a democracy and promote democracy around the world. For some clarity, let’s take a look in the dictionary (Random House, Webster’s Unabridged):

Republic: a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.

Democracy: government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

In a way, we are both a republic and a democracy. However, democracy is a bit more inclusive. We are a democracy, but not a direct democracy in the sense that laws and governmental decisions are not made—in general—by a direct vote of the people (i.e., “exercised directly by them”). We are a representative democracy (“by their elected agents”), but there are some exceptions. For example, we all get to vote on an amendment to the Constitution and for state and local penny sales tax. But, I’ve never been able to vote on a national tax. Have you?

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): One of the greatest things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures. –George W. Bush

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.

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