Not Just a Bucket of Bones – WIF Medicine

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Fascinating Facts

About the

Human Body

It’s no wonder that so many of us take our bodies for granted; we take them with us everywhere we go. We’ve all been there when it comes to complaining about aches and pains. People have been known to spend more than a million dollars altering the appearance of their bodies. There are some, such as neuroscientist Randal Keone, who want to end human dependence on bodies by creating computers into which our consciousnesses can be uploaded.

This is overlooking what a beautiful, elegant machine the human body is. Its many intricacies, quirks, and surprises. So let’s break out the microscopes and give the wondrous body a little more of its due.

10. The Prodigious Data of Our Genomes

In 2003, after three years of work, the International Human Genome Sequencing Project declared they had finished ordering the data that would allow them to write a human genome. It was noted that this was two years ahead of schedule. Why would it have been expected to take five years to write out the amount of data in a human genome?

Well, a genome is a complete set of human DNA., which as we all know is basically the code that is ordered to make out a specific human and their traits. Though specific traits such as hair color, height, and such only comprise about 2% of DNA while the rest is more or less a standard human template. The code is usually broken down into patterns of the letters U, G, A, C, and T (CC, AT, TG, etc.). A single genome of DNA will have 3.5 billion pairs of data in it to program a human being. This means that when the International Human Genome Sequencing Project completed their mapping, they had finished the equivalent of translating 100 encyclopedias worth of information! You’d think almost no one would have that much to write about them, even after Twitter came around.

9. I’m Radioactive

Part of the reason human beings are radioactive is inadvertent. The radioactive element strontium-90 tends to accumulate in bones because the body tends to mistake it for calcium. Relatively large amounts of that were spread around around the world due to pervasive nuclear weapons testing, but since it has a half-life of 29 years the worst effects of that have passed. The more pressing concerns for many are those who absorbed the material from such nuclear disasters as Fukushima in 2011.

The body more directly creates radiation through its nervous system. Every time you use your nerves to move an organ, think, etc., that causes the fission of a potassium-40 atoms, and that fission releases gamma radiation. On an average human being, roughly 10% of that will leave the body (lower on a heavier person). This translates to a lifetime spent sleeping with another person being the equivalent of spending a few days in Denver or some similarly high-elevation city. This is to say that we’re not radioactive enough to produce much energy. If all the nerves in your brain were harvested for electrical power, it would take roughly 2.85 days of charging time to fill up an iPhone.

8. Seeing with Your Ears

If you look at someone in the eye, you’re looking at one of the body’s most counterintuitive contraptions. When you see something, first light passes through the lens of an eye, then it casts itself on the retinas in the back of the eyeball. In the process of passing through the convex material of the lens, the light is refracted onto the retinas upside down. So how does it process as right-side up by the time that the information gets into the back of the cerebrum where the brain is located?

This is where the ear comes in. It’s the vestibular nerve in the ear that connects your eyes to your balance center and corrects your vision for the brain’s benefit. This has some handy benefits merely having the retinas connected directly to the brain wouldn’t provide. For example, it’s the reason that you can tilt your head at a 90 degree angle without the world appearing tilted. This discovery has led to the belief that newborn babies, with their nervous systems that are still coalescing, actually do see the world upside down. So far, though, none of them have said one way or the other.

7. Glowing Bodies

Sure, you’ve heard about how people with a certain mood or style are glowing, but this is a bit more literal. In 2009, researchers Masaki Kobayashi, Daisuke Kikuchi, Hitoshi Okamura photographed the first known images of a human being glowing, although the basic science of measuring biological photon reactions had been known since the 1960s. They placed five test subjects in a light tight environment, brought out a charge-coupled device camera, and spent seven hours photographing them. While the temperature remained constant, it was found that the amount of light/photons that their bodies emitted changed through the course of the day.

This is not to say that you should be hoping for people that can save many on lightbulbs anytime soon. The amount of light is roughly 1/1000th that of what would be visible to the naked eye. Still, since the rate of photon emission was found to be linked to metabolism, Kobayashi suggested that after more study the technique could be refined to use to diagnose metabolic conditions. In the years since, some studies have been conducted with photon emissions to test the effectiveness of meditation. The results are reportedly promising but inconclusive.

6. New Body Parts at Different Rates

Everyone knows from lessons about the dangers of excess alcohol back in their teen years that we only get one set of nerve cells that never replenish. But what about the other organs? How long does it take to replace them?

Well, for one, the lining of your stomach only takes a few days to replace due to the corrosiveness of stomach acids. Your skin cells are comparatively long-lived with an average of three weeks. The liver cells stick it out a robust 150 days.

The longest lasting of the cells that do get replaced are bone cells. Those last long enough that your bones last an average of 10 years each. Each cycle, though, they tend to regrow a little thinner. This is why they’re especially vulnerable among the older generations. As of 2020, the National Institute of Health estimates that roughly 50% of Americans over the age of 50 have chronically weak bones.

5. Growth Hormones Can Cause Shrinkage

In the early 20th Century, experiments in injecting growing males with testosterone and females with estrogen began. The idea with the females was that it would normalize their menstrual cycles, and for males that were not growing satisfactorily to get taller. In the long run, the results would show the effort was a misfire. The estrogen injections increased breast cancer rates for women in their sixties, and for the males the testosterone could backfire in a more immediate way: their pituitary glands shut down because the body was already full of testosterone, so there was no growth.

By far the most famous recipient of this misguided treatment was Rainbow Connection and A Star is Born songwriter Paul Williams. Since his father was over six feet tall, he thought the fact Paul was only four 4-foot-6 in fifth grade meant there was a problem and started therapy. Williams said that it stopped the growth of his bones and sent him into puberty at age 10. Some things it just doesn’t work to try and force.

4. We Needs Metals

It’s standard practice to include the heavy metal content on a nutritional information label, but why do we need copper, zinc, or iron? Well, we need copper to control heart rate and produce all sorts of cellular tissue, from bones to heart cells. Zinc is used for cell division and dissolving carbohydrates for heat and other forms of energy. Iron also is used in metabolism, but with the addition of helping transfer oxygen to cells.

The amounts of metal in a body vary significantly and in some instances can be surprisingly substantial. An average adult human only has roughly 50-80 milligrams of copper in them, barely over 2% of an ounce. By contrast, it’s often said that an average adult human has enough iron in them to make a nail three inches long. Let’s hope for your sake that this is the only way anyone will say you have one of those in you.

3. 98.6 and Falling

Of all the entries on this list, this one likely provides the single best piece of news. In 1851, the standard temperature for a healthy adult male body was set at 98.6° F. Since then, studies such as the one performed in 2019 by Dr. Julie Parsonnet of Stanford University of 677,000 measurements found that the average man’s temperature had dropped down to 97.9° F. It hadn’t been a rapid dropoff. The average had been roughly .05 degrees per decade. Women came in at around 97.3° F.

According to Parsonnet, the reason behind this isn’t related to a lack of activity on the part of most people. It’s because with the adoption of healthier lifestyle habits and improvements in antibiotics, the number of people whose immune systems are constantly fighting colds and flus while remaining functional has declined. Not to mention that the fact that more and more people are living in homes with reliable temperature control means that more peoples’ bodies no longer require inflammation to remain active. Who’s to say if it won’t turn out in the next century that optimal human temperature is a degree or two lower?

2. Calorie Counts

Now this, admittedly, a fairly grisly entry for this list. In April 2017, historian James Cole of the University of Brighton was researching cannibalistic practices in ancient tribes to see if they were performed purely for ritualistic purposes or for survival. To this end he decided to determine the fat and caloric content of human bodies to see if they would yield a worthwhile amount of sustenance compared to available prey. He came to a conclusion that an average adult male human body weighing 145 pounds contains roughly 125,000 calories. Since the generally accepted amount of calories a person needs in a day is about 2,000, that means a human body would feed another human for slightly over a month and a family of four for slightly over a week, though as we learned in the previous entry harder living certainly meant people burned through calories faster. A red deer from the time would yield roughly 160,000 calories for less risk, which left Cole inclined to conclude that humans were impractical as a food source and thus the cannibalism was likely more for religious or militaristic purposes.

Cole went into thorough detail in the analysis of a body’s calorie value. For example, a one pound heart provided 650 calories. The liver is 2,569. The lungs are 1,596 calories combined. Skin offers about 10,280; bones 25,330. The delicacy of zombies, the brain, provides 2,700 calories.

1. Makes Own Drugs

To think that in a few ways, every person is a mobile drug lab. For example, there’s dimethyltryptamine, which is a hallucinogenic Schedule 1 drug often extracted from mushrooms. It also naturally occurs in human cerebrospinal fluid and related to dreams. It’s speculated that near-death experiences are related to it. Then there’s the opiate pain reliever morphine, which in 2010 experiments indicated (inconclusively) the brain creates out of the chemical tetrahydropapaveroline.

More firmly established in the late 1980s was that the body produces its own cannabinoids, specifically CB1 and CB2. Beyond the intoxicating effects, the National Academy of Science reported in 2006 that CB2 is used by the body to regulate bone growth. Since then there have been findings that these cannabinoids are used for regulating a number of other physiological functions, which is why in some cases it’s better to rely on the body’s own cannabinoids than ingest some more.


Not Just a Bucket of Bones

WIF Medicine

Toxic Avenger’s Chemistry Lab – WIF Superheroes

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Dangerous and Deadly

Chemicals That Will

Ruin Your Day

We encounter them every day, putting things like water, chlorine, acetic acid and sulfuric acid to work for us in mundane ways. Yet amongst the chemical soup, there are some substances that are just too deadly. In this list, we discover chemicals that are lethal beyond comprehension and learn what to never touch, breathe, or taste, for the sake of survival. If it dissolves glass or is 20 quintillion times as strong as sulfuric acid, the danger is real, and we are not joking.

Just ask the Toxic Avenger:

10. Fluoroantimonic Acid

Superacids are scientifically defined as acids stronger than the infamous chemical sulfuric acid. And super they are, which makes them extremely dangerous. You probably wonder what the world’s strongest acid is, and that record goes to Fluoroantimonic Acid, a superacid that will actually dissolve glass. Terrifying. Of course, it would swiftly melt away any human body parts it came into contact with as well. The actual strength of this acid is a number that we cannot even imagine – just 20 quintillion times the strength of pure, full strength sulfuric acid, which is dangerous enough.

The super-acid has to be stored with extreme caution in containers made from PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) to prevent deadly accidents. Just about any organic compound will be protonated by this acid, which also forms vapors with a high level of toxicity. The components of the acid at an elemental level are combinations of antimony, hydrogen and fluorine. The raw materials are pretty mundane, but the right combination is extraordinary in its power. Chemical engineering and organic chemistry operations make use of this chemical for its ability to protonate organic compounds without having to find a specific solvent.

9. Nicotine

It might surprise you, but nicotine, an addictive plant-derived alkaloid, can be deadly toxic and we are not talking about a slow death from smoking-related health complications. Simply being accidentally overexposed to nicotine can cause a fatal overdose. Small amounts of nicotine function as a stimulant, but too much interferes with the autonomic nervous system and skeletal muscle cells. Furthermore, nicotine is poisonous enough to have been used as an insecticide, which has caused some very unfortunate accidental human deaths.

Nicotine poisoning is becoming more widespread in society thanks to increased availability of alternative nicotine products, such as liquid nicotine, according to Healthline. Symptoms of overexposure may include vomiting, increases in blood pressure, heart arrythmia, dehydration, dizziness, headache and visual and auditory disturbances. In insecticide applications, nicotine is sprayed on sites of insect infestation, swiftly killing the pests. Nicotine’s toxicity is such that only 30 to 60 milligrams may kill an adult. Fortunately, fatalities are not very common in adults, but data shows that if a child gets ahold of nicotine products, fatalities are more likely. Even picking tobacco plants without sufficient precautions has been identified as a potential cause of nicotine poisoning.

8. Hydrogen Peroxide

It’s almost water… but not. It is hydrogen and oxygen, just like water, but in a different ratio. While you have seen it in the home and drug store for a variety of uses, what you get is the diluted form (3 to 6%). Hydrogen peroxide in more concentrated amounts is explosive, extremely dangerous, and able to unleash tremendous damage (so handle with great care).

Hydrogen peroxide in so-called food grade concentrations has caused a number of deaths when misused or accidentally ingested in quantity. The stuff is poisonous, as it behaves very differently in the body compared to the water to which it is so relatively close, chemically. Even worse is the fact that violent criminals have used hydrogen peroxide in deadly attacks.

In one especially tragic case described by the British Broadcasting Service, subways in London were attacked by four crazed bombers who used hydrogen peroxide-based explosives to kill a shocking 52 people in London tube and bus attacks. Due to the mundane nature of hydrogen peroxide, police were not notified of the purchases of the chemical despite the large quantity being bought on repeated occasions, prompting criticism from the coroner commenting on the case.

7. Dimethylcadmium

Cadmium is not very well known compared to the nearly cliched “big three” poisonous metals and metalloids, arsenic, mercury, and lead. Yet cadmium is exceptionally dangerous, especially in the readily bio-available and extraordinarily anti-organism and reactive compound known as Dimethylcadmium. Possibly the most toxic thing a chemist could reasonably be unlucky enough to come across, the compound consists of Cadmium, Hydrogen and Carbon mixed in just the right way to be unusually unsafe. Dimethylcadmium is not something to wash away, for it will explode upon exposure to water.

Furthermore, the chemical is carcinogenic, though that might be one’s last worry considering how immediate the threat of acute poisoning and physical injury presented by this chemical is. A colorless liquid, Dimethylcadmium quickly turns to vapor, allowing it to inflict even more damage should people allow themselves to get into its proximity. The nasty effects of Dimethylcadmium include quick attacks through the bloodstream on the heart and lungs, which it targets with incredible biochemical force.

6. Azidoazide Azide C2N14

This bizarre acid is the most explosive of all created chemical compounds on the planet. Literally anything can cause it to detonate, making it an unmanageable compound. Azidoazide Azide has the seemingly mundane chemical formula C2N14, but what a bad combination that is.

The raw materials for the chemical exist in the air we breath every day, but in different molecular combinations. Classified as a high-nitrogen energetic material, this azide is so reactive that the slightest chemical change may create disaster. Furthermore, changes in temperature or slight disturbances will cause the chemical to explode, making it an extremely unstable substance. Chemists found that the compound was explosive even in solution, and would explosively decompose even as a result of infrared scanning. While a curiosity as a record holder for most explosive substance, this is no chemical for any amateur chemist to check out.

5. Ethylene Glycol

The worst chemicals are not just the most immediately toxic, corrosive, or explosive. Being commonly accessible and also tasting good are most unfortunate in case of mislabeling. A key part of antifreeze used in cars, ethylene glycol is metabolized in the human body by the same enzyme that digests ethanol found in wine, beer or whiskey. Yet the chemical has disastrous effects on the kidneys and central nervous system.

Children and pets are vulnerable, but even fully-grown victims may not realize what they are ingesting in cases of mislabeling due to bottle reuse until it is too late to dodge death or serious harm. Effects can include nervous system disfunction that leads to death within a short time from contamination, which occurs easily upon exposure. Accidental ingestion, exposure to fumes in concentration and spills, or skin absorption are all among the ways that the deadly goo can come into contact with victims.

4. Chlorine

Chlorine might seem like a familiar substance, or less a poison than a disinfectant, despite its notorious wartime usage. After all, the water you drink is likely chlorinated, or at least you hope it is if there is concern over possible waterborne illnesses. Yet chlorine and chlorine derivatives can be exceptionally dangerous, and also easy to accidentally encounter in either excessive concentrations or in combination with other common chemicals that render it much deadlier. For starters, chlorine can cause serious lung damage in pure form.

The chemical reaction that produces chlorine can occur from mixing cleaning products that were never meant to be combined, such as bleach and acids like vinegar (acetic acid). This can be extremely toxic, and even fatal. Chlorine is insidious. It may not kill outright, but exposure may trigger permanent lung damage that builds over time. One of the worst symptoms, apart from actual burns, are those associated with pulmonary edema, a fluid accumulation in the lungs. Greenish yellow, chlorine has a sickly smell that some might recognize from bleach made from sodium hypochlorite or swimming pools and treated drinking water, where it is used in lower concentrations.

3. Dimethyl Mercury

Mercury poisoning is often thought of as a chronic issue, which is more likely to be the case when mercury compounds like Cinnabar (Mercury Sulfide) or even in pure form in small quantities come into contact with the human body. Yet organic mercury compounds are more bioavailable, or readily absorbed and metabolized in the human body. Thus, they are far deadlier. Dimethyl Mercury, for instance, is a chemical to be greatly feared.

Volatile in its reactivity, Dimethyl Mercury is colorless, flammable, and is one of the most potent neurotoxins in the universe. Just 0.1 milliliter can trigger an acute case of mercury poisoning, which can kill. Exposure need not be through ingestion – skin contact is a potentially fatal incident. Death can occur even if gloves are worn, as latex is no barrier to the chemical. The tragic death of chemist Karen Wetterhahn saw the researcher die after being exposed to just several drops of Dimethyl Mercury, which went through her latex gloves. Following exposure, she thought she would be OK until symptoms arose and she passed away 10 months after the tiny spill.

2. Sodium cyanide

Frequently used in industrial applications, sodium cyanide can cause death in an extraordinarily short timeframe should exposure occur. The white, water soluble salt is mostly used as a chemical agent for extracting gold from ore, and is thus not illegal despite the danger it presents. In some extremely disturbing cases, the chemical has been used to murder (or attempt to murder) people for insurance money. The most shocking fact in these truly depraved criminal cases was that the chemical was placed in products available in public for purchase, with the hope that the intended victim would be among the customers.

Sodium cyanide is also used for illegal cyanide fishing and is an all-around deadly chemical that should not be handled casually. Acutely toxic, sodium cyanide kills by interfering with human respiration and is an inhibitor of electrons. Impairment of oxygen metabolism then occurs, with lactic acidosis to follow. Death can result from exposure to just 200 or 300 milligrams of sodium cyanide. Unfortunately, fatal effects come fast with this nasty chemical.

1. Chlorine trifluoride

A bizarre chemical of interest to Nazi researchers as a weapon of World War II, Chlorine Trifluoride just didn’t make the grade as it was seen as too dangerous. A total of 30 tons were produced by Nazi Germany to create bombs and flamethrowers before being discontinued for its sheer impracticality. The bizarre chemical is an oxidizing agent that is corrosive to the point of conflagration. Formed from an unstable mix of halogen elements chlorine and fluorine, Chlorine Trifluoride is explosive, toxic, and exceptionally reactive. It might shock some that there are chemicals that can dissolve glass, but this chlorine compound is another glass buster in a different way.

With this chemical you can literally set glass on fire. Most chemists do not want to work with the chemical given the extraordinary danger it presents. (Definitely forget the test tube!) The reactive chemical will start fires upon any disturbance that cannot be put out with water; water just grows the fire. This stuff burns the fireproof – even asbestos, the deadly fireproofing material will burn with Chlorine Trifluoride. The only way to store it is in containers with a thin fluorine coating, but an accident will spark disaster. When a storage facility with the now banned chemical weapon caught fire, the flames continued until they had burned a foot into the ground before stopping.


Toxic Avenger’s Chemistry Lab

WIF Superheroes