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October 5, 2010

Human Anatomy & the Atomic Theory

In Biology we studied about the Cells -the building blocks of all living organizms, but in Physics we were taught that everything is made up of Atoms, so for quite some time I was unable to integrate Human Anatomy with the Atomic Theory. If that was not enough had also to deal with organic compounds - proteins, carbohydrates, numerious vitamins,the much despised fats, the inorganic compounds - minerals,ions and the most fasinating anotomical discovery of the last century - Nuclei acids (RNA / DNA).

To top it up I also read about particle physics (particle physics research is focused on subatomic particles such as electrons, protons, and neutrons (protons and neutrons are actually composite particles, made up of quarks) and to stir up the plot further we had Quantum Mechanics (the branch of quantum physics that accounts for matter at the atomic level) with its sci-fi theories -string theory,multi-verse, parallel universe, anti-matter et al.

And so it was with tremendous courage I set about to put this myriad concepts into one narrative. Using resources from the internet, have provided the appropriate credit & acknowledgement . So here is my attempt to connect Human Anatomy to the Atomic Theory

The cell is the functional basic unit of life. It was discovered by Robert Hooke and is the functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life.Some organisms, such as most bacteria, are unicellular (consist of a single cell). Other organisms, such as humans, are multicellular.

Humans have about 100 trillion cells; a typical cell size is 10 µm and a typical cell mass is 1 nanogram. The largest cells are about 135 µm in the anterior horn in the spinal cord while granule cells in the cerebellum, the smallest, can be some 4 µm and the longest cell can reach from the toe to the lower brain stem (Pseudounipolar cells) . Althought there are different types of cells, most cells have the same components. A cell consists of a nucleus and cytoplasm and is contained within the cell membrane, which regulates what passes in and out. The nucleus contains chromosomes, which are the cell's genetic material, and a nucleolus, which produces ribosomes. Ribosomes produce proteins, which are packaged by the Golgi apparatus so that they can leave the cell. The Cytoplasm consists of a fluid material and organelles, which could be considered the cell's organs. The endoplasmic reticulum transports materials within the cell. Mitochondria generate energy for the cell's activities. Lysosomes contain enzymes that can break down particles entering the cell. Centrioles participate in cell division.

Related cells joined together are collectively referred to as a tissue. The cells in a tissue are not identical, but they work together to accomplish specific functions.The body's functions are conducted by organs. Each organ is a recognizable structure—for example, the heart, lungs, liver, eyes, and stomach—that performs specific functions. An organ is made of several types of tissue and therefore several types of cells. For example, the heart contains muscle tissue that contracts to pump blood, fibrous tissue that makes up the heart valves, and special cells that maintain the rate and rhythm of heartbeats. The eye contains muscle cells that open and close the pupil, clear cells that make up the lens and cornea, cells that produce the fluid within the eye, cells that sense light, and nerve cells that conduct impulses to the brain

Now we will approach the human body at a atomic level, the average 70 kilogram adult contains about 67 Octillion ( followed by 27 zeroes) atoms and is composed of 60 chemical elements.

Out of which 98.5 % comprises of 6 elements in terms of Mass ( Oxygen - 65, Carbon-18, Hydrogen - 10, Nitrogen - 3 , Calcium - 1.5 and Phosphorous -1)For the entire list of 60 elements and their proportion in the body refer the link

First we looked at the cells and later the elements that make up the Human body, but none of these elements exist in its original elementary form , they exist as complex compounds (In chemistry, a compound is a substance that results from a combination of two or more different chemical elements, in such a way that the atom's of the different elements are held together by chemical bonds that are difficult to break. These bonds form as a result of the sharing or exchange of electron s among the atoms. The smallest unbreakable unit of a compound is called a molecule).

This is the estimated composition in terms of the chemical break up of compounds in one cell

Water - 65 % ( Hydrogen & Oxygen)
Other Inorganics - 1.5 %(ions like sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate)
Lipids - 12 %
Other Organics - 0.4 % -Carbohydrates such as glycogen and glucose
Protein - 20 %
RNA -1.0 %
DNA - 0.1 %

Human body : There are two systems that make up the structure of the human body: the skeletal system (206 bones) and the muscular system (with over 600 muslces. The skeleton is made up of the axial skeleton, which is the skull, spinal cord and rib cage and the appendicular skeleton which includes the arms and legs. The skeleton protects vital organs and serves as points of attachment for muscles.

The muscular system is made up of muscles, tendons, and ligaments and is responsible for flexing and extending which allows the body to move. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to produce force and cause motion. of the thigh. Muscles are predominately powered by the oxidation of fats and carbohydrates.
Every human body part is made of several chemical compounds & mixtures -
Teeth - hydroxylapatite, calcium phosphate, proteins
Blood - blood in itself is not a compound - it's a mixture of Plasma, which constitutes 55% of blood fluid, is mostly water (91% by volume and contains dissolved proteins, glucose, mineral ions, hormones, carbon dioxide.
Hair - hair fiber is keratin. Keratins are proteins, long chains (polymers) of amino acids
Muscles - made of fibres. Each fibre is made up of long thin cells which are packed in bundles. The fibres have two kinds of protein, myosin and actin
Bones - Organic material a protein called Collagen and Inorganic -calcium phosphate / carbonated hydroxyapatite.

So atoms of various elements (Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen etc) make up the compounds (Proteins, Fats, Inorganic compounds, Water) that help create the various types of cells that builds various organs that make up the Human Anatomy... atoms to anatomy ..

And inspite of the fact that no two humans look and usually (think) alike but at a cellular level we all have the same 100 trillion cells and at an atomic level consits of 67 octillion atoms of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, calcium, phosphorous etc. In Conclusion I can state "Though we would like to consider each one of ourselves as unique & different but at an atomic level we are all the same" !!

And the force of attraction between two humans is similar to the force of attraction that keeps the atoms in our body attached together in an molecule --- Chemistry !!!

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