including price tag
The end is nigh…
When I was a kid I was told that if you broke the human body down into its component elements they wouldn’t be worth more than a couple of dollars.
I started looking around at my classmates and thinking, “Yeah, but if you multiply that amount…”
Man, putting my data in the drop downs for age and weight felt a little… worrisome.
Just looking at the embedded graphic, the most interesting part of this is the information design / numeric analogies. When I read the “How many atoms are you made of” in the bbs-view pullqoute, I immediately became disinterested because the numbers are beyond what I can imagine weel-enough to be excited by. The chart image actually did a nice job of contextualizing the numbers to make them fun, though.
I think this article needs to explicitly mention that equivalent exchange doesn’t exist and you must have more than just the raw ingredients. It has an extremely high price to pay…
Today I learned that tooth enamel is amazing stuff, as it’s survived biting several meters worth of fingernail.
8.6 octillion atoms… this recalls a question I’ve had for a long time. Dimethylmercury, exposure to a single drop, through a rubber glove, on the skin, will kill you. But how? 8.6 octillion atoms. How many of those atoms are mercury already? How many more could you possibly be adding with a single drop, through a rubber glove, through the skin? 0.2 trillion brain cells… I’m not saying I don’t believe it, I just don’t understand it.
Wetterhahn’s accident showed that dimethylmercury was far more toxic than anyone thought. “We’re all exposed to mercury just by being alive,” Winn says. “A usual mercury concentration would be ten micrograms per liter of blood or less. If the level rises to 50 micrograms per liter you’ve hit the toxic threshold, the beginning of toxicity. You would begin chelation therapy. A concentration of 200 micrograms per liter is toxic, but not necessarily lethal. Karen had 4,000 micrograms per liter. That’s 80 times the toxic threshold.” Merely absorbing a drop or two placed her in the lethal range.
Biological systems are like that. We’re pretty delicate in some ways, robust in others. 2 mg of puffer fish toxin will kill a human adult, too. Even cyanide doesn’t need to be present in vast quantities. It turns out there are some very small processes that turn out to be very critical to keeping the whole human organism running. Poisons tend to take advantage of what I think engineers call “single point failure” modes. With cyanide, it’s “Oh, what’s that? You need a small quantity of enzyme to actually use oxygen in your system? Too bad, I’m binding to it.”
Meanwhile, I watched a fireman on TV talk about how he basically took an exploding house to the face and lived.
Ok. You’re getting me there a little bit. “Drop” is a very rough measurement. Looking at a ruler, what I would normally think of as a “drop” would be a 3mm sphere. Volume, 14.1 mm cubed. Two would be 28.2. If we had pure mercury, that would be 0.381 grams. “The internet” says a small adult has about 4.5 liters of blood. So that would be .0847 grams per liter, 84,700 micrograms per liter. But again, those numbers are pure mercury, all of it going straight to the blood.
But none of this is “why”. Going back to the fatal dose, 4000 micrograms per liter, I get 1.2x10^19 atoms of mercury per liter of blood, 5.4x10^19 in all of the blood. 0.2 trillion brain cells (2x10^11). 2.7x10^8 atoms per cell.
Arg. I guess I basically have two questions:
- How many of the wrong atoms in the wrong places in a brain cell does it take to kill it?
- How many dead (or significantly malfunctioning, no Trump jokes) brain cells does it take to kill a person?
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