Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sugar and spice? - Err - Not quite

Acording to the nursary rhyme little girls are made of 'sugar and spice and all things nice' whereas little boys are made of 'slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails'. (Must have been a woman who wrote that one.) No matter how much little girls wish it the rhyme just isn't true.

So what exactly are we made of? Let's take a look at Mr Average: 38 years old, 5' 9" and weighing 79.83 Kg (179 lb)

61% of Mr Average is oxygen. It weighs 49 Kg (107lb) and as a gas it would occupy a volume of 34,000 litres (1,200 cubic feet) That's enough to keep an average person breathing for 68 days. Most of the oxygen is found in the water which makes up 55% of the bodies mass.

23% of Mr Average is carbon. It weighs 18.24 Kg (40lb). Thats about 6 bags if you want to have a BBQ.

10% of Mr Average is hydrogen. It weighs 7.98 Kg (17.6lb) and as a gas would take up 89,400 litres (3,160 cubic feet). In a balloon it would be capable of lifting 220 lb.

2.6% of Mr Average is nitrogen, mostly in the proteins of his body. It weighs 2.08 Kg (4.6lb) and would make enough fertilizer to cover 1/5th of an acre

1.4% of Mr Average is calcium. That's 1.12Kg (2.5lb). It's found in bones and teeth, is important for membrane function, nerve impulses, muscle contractions, and blood clotting. Converted to plaster it would be enough to cover 3 square feet of wall.

1.1% of Mr Average is phosphorus, 878g (1.931b). It's found in bones and teeth, nucleic acids and is important in providing you with energy. It's enough to make about 500 boxes of matches.

0.2% of Mr Average is potassium, 160g (5.6oz). It's important for proper membrane function, nerve impulses, and muscle contractions. Since potassium perchlorate is also used in making matches there's enough in Mr Average to make 160 boxes.

0.2% of Mr Average is Sulphur, 160g (5.6oz). Its found in fats, bones and proteins. there's enough sulphur in Mr Average to make the sulphuric acid for 50 car batteries.

0.14% of Mr Average is sodium, 112g (4oz). It's mostly in body fluids. Thats enough to make salt to put on about 1000 bags of fries.

0.12% of Mr Average is chlorine, 96g. (3.4oz) It's important for membrane function and water absorption. The chloride ion is the major anion in body fluids and it's essential in digesting food. There's enough to make several bottles of bleach or as pure chlorine gas it would occupy a volume of 30 litres - enough to kill Mr Average several times.

0.027% of Mr Average is magnesium, 21.6g: It's needed in enzymes, for bone formation and in using energy. Converted into antacid tablets you'd get 120.

0.006% of Mr Average is iron, almost 5g (0.1oz) It's needed in the blood to transport oxygen. There's enough in Mr Average to make a 2½ inch nail.

0.0037% of Mr Average is fluorine, 3g. Thats enough to make 660 tubes of fluoride toothpaste and again more than enough to kill Mr Average if taken all in one go.

0.0033% of Mr Average is zinc, 2.6g. It's found in enzymes. There's enough zinc in Mr Average to galvanize 74 square centimetres of steel on both sides.

0.0014% of Mr Average is silicon, 1.1g. It appears to help bones absorb calcium. That amount of silicon is found in ½ teaspoon of sand.

Rubidium and Strontium together make up about 1g of Mr Average. Rubidium seems to help the body select between sodium and potassium ions and strontium helps in the formation of bones. There's not enough of either to colour a firework.

There's about .3g of bromine (about 1 drop) in Mr Average. No-one is quite sure what it's function is.

There's about 0.1g of lead in Mr Average. In the past this was thought to be of no use and only harmful. Today a trace amount is believed to be necessary. That amount is enough to make one piece of birdshot.

Mr Average contains 0.08g of copper. Its used to make hemoglobin (in blood) and melanin (what colours your hair and suntan). That amount of copper could fit in a cube 2mm (1/13th inch) square.

There's enough aluminium in Mr Average, 0.07g, to make a piece of thick kitchen foil 7cm (2¾ inches) square. A tiny amount is needed in our bodies as a catalyst.

There's 0.06g of cadmium in Mr Average. It's found in some enzymes. Too much will kill painfully. It would take 75 Mr Averages to make just 1 AA size rechargable battery. (OK this was written in the days of NiCad rechargable batteries)

The remaining elements in Mr Average are in vanishingly small quantities. So here they are in a table.

Element%Weight (g) Comment
iodine0.000029%0.023Enough to make 3500 cuts sting!
tin0.000029%0.023Enough to tin plate a tomato puree can
nickel0.000021%0.017You would need about 75 Mr Averages to make a US nickel
mercury0.0000086%0.0068About as big an amount as the head of a pin
molybdenum0.0000071%0.0057Enough to make a small light bulb (or at least the
wires that hold the filament in place)
gold0.00000029%0.00023Enough to make one tiny gold chain link worth 0.6¢

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