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The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky., Merlene Davis Column: I Did My Research on Adult Diapers

February 11, 2007

By Merlene Davis, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.

Feb. 11–Much was made last week of U.S. Navy captain and astronaut Lisa Nowak. She put on an adult diaper in order to drive as quickly as possible from Houston to Orlando to confront the woman who had the affection of a man Nowak wanted.

Although donning a diaper to decrease the number of bathroom stops is not something you or I would think to do, otherwise healthy adults do wear diapers more often than we realize for good reasons.

Nowak, who was last in space on the shuttle Discovery in July, would have worn a diaper during launches and landings as all astronauts do.

It takes a long time to get into those space suits, so taking one off to go to the bathroom would use up valuable time.

The super-absorbent fabric used in disposable diapers, which can hold up to 400 times its weight, was developed so Apollo astronauts could stay on spacewalks for at least six hours.

NASA doesn’t tend to call the diapers diapers, though. Instead, they are called “maximum absorbency garments.”

Disposable diapers are just one of the many items NASA scientists have come up with to improve our earthly lives.

The scientists worked with information gleaned from the flights in the 1960s to give us cell phones, power tools, the laptop computer. They also came up with invisible braces for our teeth and improved running shoes.

And just like those items, adult diapers are used by more people than just those who walk in space or who are incontinent or handicapped.

Competitive weight lifters have been known to use them during early training periods.

Scuba divers will use adult diapers in order to stay under water longer.

Guards who must stay at their posts for long periods sometimes use them.

Death Row inmates may wear them at their executions as well as glider pilots during long flights.

And, according to Newsweek magazine, legislators would don a diaper before an extended filibuster in order to delay or squash the likely passage of a bill that was up for a vote. It was called “taking to the diaper.”

In recent months, adult diaper sales have skyrocketed in China as folks there boarded trains so crowded that even bathrooms were commandeered by passengers.

So it probably was only a matter of time before someone of Nowak’s intelligence — she is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering, a test pilot and an astronaut for more than 10 years — would come up with a reason to wear a diaper for less than legal purposes.

Police reportedly found two wet diapers in Nowak’s car.

Unlike Nowak, I’m not a rocket scientist, but it seems there wouldn’t be that much more time added to the trip if she simply had used the station’s bathroom when she gassed up the car.

As disgusting as those restrooms might be, how much more disgusting is wearing a diaper when you don’t have to?

But then, I haven’t felt compelled to confront the girlfriend of a man I wanted to make my boyfriend either.

Nowak will probably get off with her hands slapped and counseling, the popular cure-all nowadays, even though she is currently charged with attempted murder.

She is still an accomplished astronaut, after all is said and done.

And adult diaper manufacturers will make a mint because many of you will want to try them out for those long cross-country trips.

That will be as close as many of us get to being an astronaut, even if it is a very confused one.

Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or mdavis1@herald-leader.com [mailto:mdavis1@herald-leader.com].

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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