The human body is the most underrated piece of art in history. Woven within the fabric of our DNA lies a complex masterpiece. Just when we think we have it all figured out, a new protein or neurotransmitter is revealed. It’s as if scientists are dedicated museum-goers with white coats, patiently peering into an old painting until a new perspective is uncovered.
Coincidentally, breathtaking discoveries are frequented within this particular frame. Did you know that we possess a glymphatic system to clear unwanted waste and deliver vital compounds as we sleep? Or that the quadricep muscle has five muscle bellies instead of four? Talk about a misnomer. Just think of all those textbook companies that are frantically scrambling to keep up with this scientific madness.
To discover more about our astonishing beings, I recently read The Body by Bill Bryson. Within the tapestry of his writing, several accounts took my breath away and left me wondering, “How on earth!?”.
Here are five mind-blowing facts about the place that we call home.
“And your very flesh shall be a great poem.” Walt Whitman
Unraveling the Intricate Art of the Human Body.
1) You shed half a kilo of skin flakes every year.
Charles Weschler and colleagues explain that humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every 2–4 weeks at the rate of 0.001–0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour. Those flakes contain skin oils, including cholesterol and “squalene,” and are a major constituent of the dust that accumulates on tables and other surfaces in homes and offices.
Wipe your finger along a dusty shelf and chances are most of what you’re picking up is dead skin cells.
2) If you unraveled and laid out all of the DNA in your body, it would stretch ten billion miles, reaching beyond Pluto’s orbit.
On average, a single human chromosome consists of a DNA Molecule that is almost 5 centimeters in length. Each DNA in your cells is packaged into 46 chromosomes within the nucleus. If you elongated a singular DNA, it would sit at approximately 2 meters long. Stretch out every cell in your body, however, and it reaches a (very literal) out-of-this-world figure.
3) Autoimmune diseases are grossly sexist.
Women are twice as likely as men to get multiple sclerosis and ten times more likely to procure lupus. Nearly 80 percent of all autoimmune diseases occur in females. Several factors underlie this striking gender contrast. The clear differences between the female and male immune systems would suggest that the increased immune reactivity in females might predispose them to develop autoimmune disease. Differences in reproductive function, and pregnancy in women, may also explain this ‘gender gap’. Females undergo sweeping endocrinological changes throughout life, causing a stark autoimmune imbalance between sexes.
4) Sneeze droplets can travel up to eight meters and drift in the air for ten minutes before settling on nearby surfaces.
Thanks to research from MIT, we now know the truth about sneezing. The reality is, it’s not just the person next to us that we should be worrying about. These are harrowing figures, considering the grave circumstances we find ourselves in with COVID-19. Make this one more reason to practice social distancing and wear a mask in public.
5) Race is one millimeter deep.
Biologically, skin colour is just “a reaction to sunlight”, Bryson quotes the anthropologist Nina Jablonski. Throughout human history, people have “de-pigmented” and “re-pigmented” to adjust to their environment. Despite the minuscule variance in biology, look at how many people have been enslaved or hated or lynched or deprived of fundamental rights through history because of the colour of their skin.
“That’s all race is — a sliver of epidermis.” — Bill Bryson
We are an astonishing success story. Throughout millennia we’ve been battle-tested by every natural and man-made obstacle, and the result? Our bodies are extraordinarily resilient and remarkably self-healing. We are occupying a form like no other. With each step, beat, and breath, celebrate your genius existence. For you are like nothing else, and as a collective unit, we’re the greatest life form on the entire planet.