Nude Physics 1: Surface Area to Volume Ratio

Naturism and social nudism involve the exposure of voluminous parts of our bodies that are obsessively covered by the norms of Western society. No matter what size your breasts, genitals, or buttocks, you are uncovering some expansive corporeal real estate when you undress, and this is one of the most celebrated aspects of naturism, that we can feel the elements all over our bodies. We don’t artificially set up “No Trespassing” signs for the sun, wind, waves, or grass to “keep off” certain areas of our bodies.

What we do when we completely uncover our largest organ is that we set up a much greater surface area to volume ratio (SA:V). If you’ve ever painted a wall then you know about the surface area to volume ratio. Theoretically, you could save paint by leaving all the pictures hanging in their places on the wall, and the bookcase against the wall, and the filing cabinet, etc. and just paint around them. You’d have to be extra careful along the edges, and the edges might even end up a darker color as a result. But you know that the moment you want to move the furniture around or change the pictures, you’ll regret not having painted the wall one uniform color. Something similar happens to our bodies in the sun. If you’re wearing clothes, even if it’s just a swimsuit, you’re going to have large patches of your skin that get “painted” by the sun – and there is a tendency to burn darker along the edges of your textile covering. But if you want that uniform sun-soaked look and its health benefits, you’ve got to expose every little nook and cranny of yourself to the sun over the course of the day, the week, the month, the summer… your life. *Use sunscreen and avoid sunburn!*

Creases, volumes, surface area

Our bodies’ production of Vitamin D, of course, depends on exposure to the sun. Some claim that sun exposure limited to our arms or legs or face is enough, although there are plenty of health reasons to expose the entire body, ranging from studies claiming that direct sunlight on the chest or on the genitals is very beneficial for hormone production, to the benefits of direct sunlight on a range of skin conditions such as eczema, to the more psychological benefits that accrue around improved sense of body image and body acceptance, and staving off seasonal affective disorder.

The greater surface area to volume ratio that nudity embodies has other physical consequences, too. It affects our buoyancy, because unrestrained breasts and penises are free to float out in extension from the body’s core. This may be more inefficient, perhaps, for swimming races, but is a delicious sensation, universally appreciated through skinny-dipping, that exhilarates us and makes us feel more alive.

Maximized surface area to volume ratio underwater

There’s also the matter of heat transfer. I remember learning, in a middle-school camping/hiking/hunting safety course, that if you’re out in the woods and it’s cold, and someone is experiencing hypothermia, one option is to remove all that person’s clothing and get him or her into a sleeping bag, then remove all your clothes too and get into the same sleeping bag. This maximizes heat transfer because of the maximized surface area contact. Of course, all the middle schoolers in the class giggled nervously, and the instructor himself struggled to maintain a matter-of-fact demeanor. But there you have it: the power of our skin to transfer heat. Nudity’s maximization of the surface area to volume ratio can have many benefits.

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