While the Guinness Book of World Records is expanding its entries concerning lint accumulation at laundromats, the Belly-Button Lint Survey, which won the 2002 Ig Award for projects that "cannot or should not be reproduced," is designed to trace the origins and levels of lint accumulation in the human belly-button. No rat trials first on this one.
The experiment is a question, in this case, a question on "Dr Karl's Triple J Science Talkback radio show. 'Why is my Belly Button Fluff blue – and why do I get it, anyhow'?"
The story is clever, nerdy, and intimately fascinating, if not a bit detailed in the discussions of follicles and bellies.
Like any experiment, they began with a hypothesis that "had two parts. We definitely did not think that the belly button generated its own BBL. (However, Professor Wil disagrees – see theories ). The first part of our guess was that at least some of the BBL was made from clothing fibres (although there might be other stuff in there as well, such as your own hair, or skin cells). These fibres might fall out because the clothes were getting old and threadbare, or perhaps because your washing machine or clothes dryer was too brutal on your clothes (which is why dryers have lint filters). The second part of our hypothesis was that the hair on your belly acted like a one-way ratchet mechanism, and advanced the loosened clothing fibres towards the belly button."
The experiment was social and interactive community-science research, with the survey also divided into two related parts, "the survey and the practical work. Our survey asked 19 questions. We even asked the participants to get mega-involved, and shave their bellies to do the Hair-Free Highway Experiment."
You can review the full results here, while on average, "You're more likely to have BBL if you're male, older, hairy, and have an innie."
Check out this vintage Boing post, "You are your bellybutton lint."