Friday Weird Science: Eyeballin' the David's Balls

Apr 05 2013 Published by under Friday Weird Science


Doooooo your balls hang low
do they wobble to and fro
can you tie 'em in a knot?
can you tie 'em in a bow?


Anyway. testicles. Most people with intimate experience of testicles (and heck, even those who have experienced them second, or even third hand), will know that one testicle generally hangs lower than the other*. In general, the left of the tackle dominates, with about 42% of males having the left hang lower.

And of course, we know this is true in real life. But what about art? Art, after all, imitates life. But does it really?

It's time to to eyeball the David's balls.

I.C. McManus. "Scrotal asymmetry in man and ancient sculpture" Nature, 1976.

(Sure enough! The left is lower! Also I spent a good two minutes staring like this to figure it out. Source)

There have been many opinions as to why one ball hangs lower. Some people have hypothesized that the lower hanging fruit is heavier, and that's why it's lower. This appears not to be the case. Others hypothesize that the 'nads need to breathe, and one hanging lower promotes better temperature distribution (I would love to know whether lifelong kilt wearing influences ball hang). Still others hypothesize space requirements.

There are also questions as to which is the bigger ball. While most people might assume that the lower stone might be the bigger one, previous studies on cadavers (because, really, you can't properly weigh a scrote while it's still attached) have shown that the HIGHER testicle is the heavier and larger.

But why ask these questions, when we can simply appreciate the the BEAUTY of the ball hang.


Obviously, not every scientist is as open to the truly majestic aesthetics of the scrotal sack.

But I.C. McManus WAS. And he was prepared to do a lot of...aesthetic assessment. You know. For science.

He went to museums and found pictures and looked at a total of 107 antique sculptures (so, sadly, the David was not a study subject, he was, instead, referring to those of classical origin, like the Victorious Youth or the Artimisian Bronze). He was curious as to how well the ancients knew themselves (one might say), whether they placed the nuts in the proper configuration, and which they carved bigger (presumably due to actual purpose and not to some slip of the chisel).

What he found can be summed up in this rather confusingly written table (sadly, there were no labeled diagrams):

You can see along the top the side of the higher nut, and on the left the side of the larger. So, in full flesh and blood, the berry on the left side of the twig should hang lower (placing the higher berry on the right), and should also be the smaller (placing the bigger berry on the right as well).

What the intrepid and very assiduous McManus found was that while the ancients got the SIDE right (more statues had the left of the boys hanging in the basement), they got the SIZE wrong. They often chiseled the left of the crown jewels as bigger, presumably (according to the author) assuming that it must be bigger because it hung lower.

Our stupendous staerer of scrotal sacks hypothesized that the ancients put the lower ball on the left because of "a function of Greek left/right symbolism, in which right and male, and left and female were regarded as equivalent". Thus to have the right testicle higher would be a sign of masculinity. But I think it's more likely that art here imitates life, and they were sculpting the the spuds they saw. I also wonder if, in fact, the lower ball is bigger due to the fact that the higher one might be slightly harder to get at and chisel, and therefore more susceptible to careless chips which might end up reducing the size of the right hand teabag.

So the next time you're viewing yourself some truly classical sculpture, take a close look. Which one is higher? Which one is bigger? Does art imitate life? It's up to us to stare hard, and to judge the balls of antiquity. You know. For science.

*The exception to this rule is when only one testicle hangs at all, which I have finally found is only 1% of males. They still HAVE both testicles, just one remains up the body cavity. A larger proportion of males have this at birth, but most have the other testicle descend without a problem. Regardless, the uni-ball dudes are still fully fertile and do not need to worry.

5 responses so far

  • michelle says:

    Fantastic !. hahahahah!

  • katiesci says:

    What an awesome study! LOL Great explanation and choice of wording.

  • me says:

    Digging deeper, the story gets even more hilarious!! For instance, one paper which cites McManus uses his study to support the statement that "The true character of anisotropy is one of the most important questions to be addressed, and in that context quasi-one-dimensional 1D materials are the extreme examples in nature." Unbelievable!!

    I had no idea that you could actually use the literature to play such a cruel joke on careless reviewers!!

    Ru et al., "Anisotropy of electrical transport and superconductivity in metal chains of Nb2Se3." Phy Rev B. 75 (2007): 064517.

  • me says:

    Sorry, typo. Hu et al!!

  • kevin says:

    What funny post. I will never think of balls in the same way.

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