Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jolie. Jolie Wonders, “what is your body made of” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jolie!
If you're a fan of old nursery rhymes, you might think that little boys are made of snakes, snails, and puppy-dogs' tails. Likewise, you might believe little girls are made of sugar, spice, and all things nice.
While you might find sugar, spices, and snails inside human beings, you're not likely to find snakes or puppy-dogs' tails. So what are human beings really made of?
The answer actually turns out to be both quite simple and very complicated. It all depends upon your perspective.
For example, a biologist will tell you that the human body is mostly made up of water. Water? That's right! Even though your body probably seems very solid, it's actually made up of approximately 57-65% water.
If you ask chemists, on the other hand, they will tell you the human body is mostly oxygen. Since water is 89% oxygen by mass, most of the body's mass does indeed come from oxygen.
If you're counting atoms, though, hydrogen wins the race. Because hydrogen atoms account for 67% of the atoms in water, most of the body's atoms are hydrogen.
While we're considering the elements that make up the body, it's important to note that the body contains approximately 60 different types of elements. However, nearly 99% of the body's mass is comprised of only six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus.
Another 0.85% comes from another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. The other approximately 50 elements appear in tiny amounts and are known as trace elements. Despite their tiny amounts, more than a dozen of them are believed to be necessary for life.
While these facts are often cited as answers to the question of the body's composition, there are yet other ways to look at things. For example, you can analyze the types of molecules, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and DNA.
You can also look at different types of tissues, such as muscles and bones. You can even look at cell types, but that can be confusing. Why? Although the body contains hundreds of different types of cells, the largest type by number of cells isn't even human. Instead, it's the millions of bacteria that exist in the gastrointestinal tract!
Finally, you can take the view that some physicists take when they claim that the body is mostly made up of nothing. How is that possible? When you consider that 99.9% of an atom is empty space, you could technically claim that the human body is mostly just that: empty space.
Of course, this same thing could be said of all other forms of matter, too. Thanks to the electromagnetic force, the electrical charges within atoms repel each other, giving your atoms volume and your body its size and shape.
Without these charges, there would be no space inside atoms and we would be incredibly tiny. How tiny? Scientists once determined that, if all the space inside atoms was removed, all of humanity would fit in the space of a single sugar cube!