When the lights go out, five audiologists

: When the lights go out ...


Read on one side

By Ian Low

It is known that on that memorable November evening of last year, when the power went out for several hours, New Yorkers behaved calmly and disciplined. In those households where there were still a few candles, many a poker game will have passed the time without light or TV - maybe one or the other New Yorker picked up Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" in the candlelight. But what did the great mass of the citizens of the big city, suddenly cast into darkness, do? Dr. Paul Siegel, a well-known sociologist, says: "The lights went out, so people had no choice but to keep busy."

The consequences of this forced employment became apparent at the beginning of the week before last, nine months after the "blackout": Several New York clinics reported that their maternity wards were overcrowded. Mount Sinai Hospital, which typically has about eleven babies a day, recorded 28 births on August 8th. The four delivery rooms and the associated fourteen preparation rooms of the hospital were busy day and night. Five other New York clinics also reported that the number of childbirths had skyrocketed these days, while, conspicuously, there was no population explosion in the hospitals in those parts of the city where the electricity was only out for an hour or two at the time.

One of the specialists at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Richard Hausknecht, was able to contribute even more detailed observations to this fact. According to New York Times declared house servant: "I know the conception date of two patients exactly, it was not the one of the blackout", and he added that some married couples who had previously sought medical advice because they could not have a baby had apparently resolved their fertility problem to satisfaction on that dark November night.

There is not yet enough information available to conclusively determine a causal connection between power failure and "baby boom", so for the time being the electricity companies and television stations do not need to worry about the demoscopic consequences of their operational failures.

Of course, it was not only since August 8 that sociologists, psychologists and obstetricians have been considering which environmental conditions influence people's fertility. Someone - I'm pretty sure it was Pascal - once said that humans are the only animals that eat food, even when they are not hungry, and that they drink even when they are not thirsty and that all year round Love indulges. But love is not that easy. Thanks to modern statistics we can see that there are certain times of the year, characteristic of the individual nations, when particularly many children are conceived, and still others when noticeably few children are conceived.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Health published a study of Harry, M. Rosenberg on the seasonal fluctuations in the number of births in the USA from 1933 to 1963. This study shows: