Portly Johns

Science, technology, and life.
Feb. 13 2009 8:17 AM

Portly Johns

Humans are getting bigger.

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William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Not taller or stronger, sorry. Just fatter . We're gaining weight and taking up more space. And that means the entire industry of things designed to fit, hold, transport, and dispose of us has to upsize. Starting with toilets.

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Agence France Presse has the latest from Australia :

The standard strength of toilet seats is slated to triple, after the national safety watchdog Standards Australia found the maximum unsupported weight capacity of 45 kilogrammes was not enough. Toilet seats will soon have to pass flex and rigidity tests at 150 kilogrammes—"a precautionary measure to accommodate the increasing size of humans," a Standards spokeswoman said.

If your toilet was designed in the era of smaller humans and breaks under the stress of the new normal weight, don't fret. We can get you to the hospital, thanks to bigger emergency vehicles.

The Royal Flying Doctors, Australia's iconic outback air ambulance, is the latest service to supersize, announcing last month that it was seeking larger aircraft to cope with heavier patients. ... The planes will join a fleet of "mega lift" road ambulances already in use in New South Wales. ... More than 1,500 patients have been transported by the special ambulances since 2002, and the number is growing. ...

And if you don't make it to the hospital in time, we'll take care of your corpse,

with the standard coffin size growing from 18 inches (46 centimetres) across the shoulder to 20 inches. Most coffin-makers now stocked a range right up to 32 inches—once considered a "custom order," said [the director of the Australian Funeral Directors Association]. Crematoriums were upgrading their ovens to expand door widths closer to 100 centimetres (40 inches) and gone were the days of a "standard" grave, he said.

So, if you failed to burn off some of that extra fat when you were alive, no worries. We'll burn it off after you're dead. Or we'll put you in an extra-wide burial plot with a matching headstone to help future paleontologists reconstruct the era of wide-body humans .

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