Spoons. Frying pans. Industrial-sized irons. The blogosphere has been awash lately with the eclectic mix of objects that stick to a six-year-old Croatian boy’s stomach. In an unfortunately serious story, CBS reported that “Magnet” boy can carry upwards of 55 pounds of metal on his chubby little frame. What they forget to mention is that the boy’s “magnetic” abilities miraculously extend to mostly non-metal objects too, such as plastic TV remote controls and cell phones.
It also doesn’t help that little Ivan Stoiljkovic’s family apparently didn’t think human magnetism was odd enough: They claim that his hands radiate a special kind of heat that allows the boy to soothe “his grandfather’s stomach pains” and “the pain of a neighbor who hurt his leg in a tractor accident.” As for Ivan himself, his cuts apparently heal “very quickly,” leaving no trace of a scar (of course, it probably has nothing to do with the fact that younger skin just heals faster, with its greater elasticity and stronger connective tissues).
As Nature’s Barbara Ferreira so astutely points out, “If Ivan had indeed magnetic powers, he wouldn’t have the need to bend slightly backwards to keep the items stuck to his body. In fact, he could bend forwards and they wouldn’t fall.” Plus there’s the fact that “the skin on his young, hairless chest is very smooth,” which is a perfect surface to stick smooth objects to. Our bodies are covered with oils that make our skin smooth, and when you put equally smooth objects on already-smooth skin, you’re essentially maximizing the surface area over which chemical bonds form between object and skin.
There have actually been several “magnetic” boys in the past several years. Towards the beginning of this year, a seven-year-old Serbian boy made headlines for his spoon-sticking abilities. (Apparently this is an especially Balkan phenomenon.) Though you probably won’t make headlines, you can do something similar by breathing on a spoon and balancing it on your nose.
As for Ivan, his magnetic abilities are apparently “strongest in the morning … when he is calm and focused”—and damp with sweat after a night’s sleep?
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