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Perspectives

Four-color map of the united states
Four-color map of the united states (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just read this on Twitter, from @SciencePorn:

“If the Sun was scaled down to the size of a white blood cell, the Milky way would be the size of the continental United States.”

I started thinking about that. If the sun is the size of a white blood cell (which, by the way, is about 1/700 the size of a red blood cell), the earth would be so tiny it would be nearly undetectable. The sun would be 10-12 micrometers in diameter, and the undetectable earth would be orbiting 93 inches (less than 8 feet) away from it (if I calculated my ratios correctly).

So, consider this for a moment. If you are an alien being who is capable of “flying” across the continental United States, exactly how are you going to “find” a planet that is undetectable to the naked eye, a mere 8 feet away from a star that is also undetectable to the naked eye?

This is why I have such a problem with so-called “alien encounters” and other UFO reports. It’s not that I reject the notion of life elsewhere in the universe – it’s just that I doubt very much if we would be noticed. Granted, it’s possible someone in a nearby neighborhood (the equivalent of “out in the yard” or perhaps “across the street” might notice something, but they would have to be centuries ahead of us to be paying us a visit.

It’s just not very likely.

The reason these stories keep coming up, and are so readily believed by many, is simple. We, as humans, have a hard time visualizing and comprehending things that are “big”. Big distances, big numbers, and long time periods are very difficult for us. For example, this video shows how hard it is for us to truly comprehend big numbers (like trillion dollar budgets):

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Here is another video that reveals our limited mental capabilities in reference to time. This is from the original Cosmos series narrated by the great Carl Sagan. In a similar fashion to how SciencePorn illustrated the size of our galaxy, Carl compresses the history of the universe down to what we can comprehend – a 12 month calendar. Known human history comprises mere seconds during the last minute of the last day of the year:

Finally, as an exercise in comprehending quantity vs. distance, I calculated this some time ago. There is a TV commercial by Brita filters claiming enough water bottles are discarded each year to stretch around the earth 190 times. Check it out:

Because a couple of relatives of mine said they did not believe it, I calculated the following. Brita claims 39 billion are discarded each year in the U.S alone. Other sources I’ve found reduce that number to about 22 billion (6o million per day).

Using the latter figure – let’s use 6 inches as the length of the average water bottle. I think the average would be slightly more than that, but we’ll be conservative. At 6 inches – 10,560 bottles laid end to end would equal a mile.

If we multiply that number by the earth’s circumference in miles (rounding up to 25,000), we see it would take 262,954,560 bottles to circumnavigate the earth once.

Divide 22 billion by that number, and we get 83 times. (Of course, if we use Brita’s number of 39 billion, we get closer to their number at 148). Brita, of course, is selling something so they are not being as conservative as I.

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Comments

    • Hope Brown
    • February 23, 2014
    Reply

    High White Blood Cell Count? I have been to the doctor 4 times to check my blood, and every time it turns out with a lhigh blood cell count. I had a back injury due to sports, and popped my hip, and shoulder blade out of place. I have had a pain in the lower right side of my stomach for about 4 days, and have recently started spiking a fever of a 103.5. What could my high blood cell count mean?
    I’ve been having my blood checked since January, so I’m pretty sure its not an infection

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      • Admin
      • February 23, 2014
      Reply

      Whites blood cells carry oxygen to every cell in the body. Having a high white blood cell count is way safer than having a low one. When you lack in iron your core weakens and goes out of place, this often causes back and hip injuries (weakening the joint) . When you lack in iron you also can suffer from anemia. This is a very sharp pain in your stomach and can be quite uncomfortable. (This usually occurs without vomiting or having diarrhea). Anemia isn’t life threatening and more often than not isn’t serious and it is definitely not leukemia or your doctor would have told you otherwise.

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    • Ratix
    • February 28, 2014
    Reply

    What Happens If Foreign White Blood Cells Are Introduced To Blood? If a person gets a whole blood transfusion or gets pricked by a used needle, what would happen to the foreign white blood cells that enter that person’s blood? Would they be seen as invaders by the body’s native immune system and destroyed or simply continue their short life span until they die? Could their presence alter the body in any way?

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      • Admin
      • February 28, 2014
      Reply

      Residual white cells in cellular blood products may interact with the recipient in one of the following ways:

      1) The patient’s immune system recognizes the WBC’s as foreign and triggers cellular and/or humoral immune mechanisms to remove the foreign cells without incident.

      2) The patient’s immune system recognizes the WBC’s as foreign and triggers cellular and/or humoral immune mechanisms, leading to a febrile, non-hemolytic transfusion reaction, a common occurrence following transfusion. FNHTA may be prevented by the use of leukoreduced blood components.

      3) The patient is exposed to donor white cells and develops anti-HLA and/or anti-neutrophil antibodies. These antibodies have been associated with organ or marrow rejection, and have also been identified in cases of Transfusion Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI).

      4) The recipient and the donor of the cellular blood products share HLA haplotypes, and the donor WHC’s are not recognized as foreign. Lymphocytes from the donor may become active, replicate, and trigger Transfusion Associated Graft vs. Host Disease, a serious and potentially deadly reaction (>90% mortality). TA-GVHD is extremely rare, and may be prevented in at-risk patients by irradiation of cellular blood products.

      Many additional clinical situations (such as immune modulation) may occur with white cell contamination of transfused products. Information on transfusion reactions, including following the transfusion of residual white cells, may be found at the National Library of Medicine web site, listed below:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2265/

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    • Paulo t
    • March 4, 2014
    Reply

    Red Blood Cells? I know that red blood cells can be used in investigations in rapes, murders, and other crimes, but can you tell me how they provide information about the people who did the crimes and things like that? Specific information and websites will be very helpful. 10 pts :]

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    1. Reply

      Red blood cells actually don’t provide any info as they have no DNA. They are the only cell without DNA, and this adaptation allows them to carry more oxygen per cell. However there are other cells in blood, such as white blood cells or t cells; and these contain genetic material.

      These and any other tissue found at a crime scene can provide information on the vicitms, the perpetrators and anybody else who had been there as they may allow a DNA profile. This is a set of genetic markers within the DNA which in a very good sample can indicate whether a person was there or not by comparing their DNA. A genetic marker is a gene that is easy to identify in a sample, and contains information that varies across the population.

      The more markers that match the greater the likelihood the two DNA samples are the same. We all share similarities, but when there are identical markers or a vast number of similar markers then it becomes clear you have a match. The scientists will then give a probability of what the chance is that the person under investigation is the same person who committed the crime depending on how many of these matches are found.

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    • Ratix
    • April 23, 2014
    Reply

    What Happens If Foreign White Blood Cells Are Introduced To Blood? If a person gets a whole blood transfusion or gets pricked by a used needle, what would happen to the foreign white blood cells that enter that person’s blood? Would they be seen as invaders by the body’s native immune system and destroyed or simply continue their short life span until they die? Could their presence alter the body in any way?

    View Comment
    1. Reply

      Residual white cells in cellular blood products may interact with the recipient in one of the following ways:

      1) The patient’s immune system recognizes the WBC’s as foreign and triggers cellular and/or humoral immune mechanisms to remove the foreign cells without incident.

      2) The patient’s immune system recognizes the WBC’s as foreign and triggers cellular and/or humoral immune mechanisms, leading to a febrile, non-hemolytic transfusion reaction, a common occurrence following transfusion. FNHTA may be prevented by the use of leukoreduced blood components.

      3) The patient is exposed to donor white cells and develops anti-HLA and/or anti-neutrophil antibodies. These antibodies have been associated with organ or marrow rejection, and have also been identified in cases of Transfusion Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI).

      4) The recipient and the donor of the cellular blood products share HLA haplotypes, and the donor WHC’s are not recognized as foreign. Lymphocytes from the donor may become active, replicate, and trigger Transfusion Associated Graft vs. Host Disease, a serious and potentially deadly reaction (>90% mortality). TA-GVHD is extremely rare, and may be prevented in at-risk patients by irradiation of cellular blood products.

      Many additional clinical situations (such as immune modulation) may occur with white cell contamination of transfused products. Information on transfusion reactions, including following the transfusion of residual white cells, may be found at the National Library of Medicine web site, listed below:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2265/

      View Comment
    • Rosemariestewart64
    • May 3, 2014
    Reply

    1. Which State Is The Northernmost State In The Continental United State? 2. Which state is the southernmost state in the continential united state?

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    1. Reply

      1. Minnesota

      The northernmost state of the continental USA (the term continental means this excludes Hawaii and Alaska) is Minnesota. This state has a small enclave at its most northern point that take a neat bite out of the Canadian Province of Ontario, making it the most northerly.

      2. Florida.

      Florida is the most Southern Continental State.

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    • HighSociety
    • May 7, 2014
    Reply

    Red Blood Cell, White Blood Cell & Platelets? Hi all, have been learning about blood and platelets lately. Can someone enlighten me by giving me some insight on these topics?

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    1. Reply

      Red blood cells are the most common type of blood cell and the vertebrate body’s principal means of delivering oxygen to the body tissues via the blood. The cells are filled with hemoglobin, a biomolecule that can bind to oxygen. They take up oxygen in the lungs or gills and release it while squeezing through the body’s capillaries. The blood’s red color is due to the color of hemoglobin. In humans, red blood cells develop in the bone marrow, take the form of flexible biconcave disks, lack a cell nucleus, subcellular organelles and the ability to synthesize protein, and live for about 120 days.

      White blood cells (WBCs), or leukocytes (also spelled “leucocytes”), are cells of the immune system defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials. Five different and diverse types of leukocytes exist, but they are all produced and derived from a multipotent cell in the bone marrow known as a hematopoietic stem cell. Leukocytes are found throughout the body, including the blood and lymphatic system.

      Platelets, or thrombocytes, are small, irregularly shaped anuclear cells, 2-4um in diameter, which are derived from fragmentation of precursor megakaryocytes. The average life span of a platelet is between 8 and 12 days. Platelets play a fundamental role in hemostasis and are a natural source of growth factors. They circulate in the blood of mammals and are involved in hemostasis leading to the formation of blood clots. Like red blood cells, platelets have no nucleus.
      If the number of platelets is too low, excessive bleeding can occur; however, if the number of platelets is too high, blood clots can form (thrombosis), these can block blood vessels, and may cause a stroke and/or a heart attack. An abnormality or disease of the platelets is called a thrombocytopathy, which could be either a low number (thrombocytopenia), a decrease in function (thrombasthenia) or an increase in number (thrombocytosis).

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    • Anonymous
    • May 16, 2014
    Reply

    Facts About Red Blood Cells….? Any facts you no about red blood cells would be helpful.. ty ?

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    1. Reply

      Red blood cells have the important job of picking up oxygen from the lungs and carrying oxygen to all of the other cells of the body.
      The cells of the body use oxygen as the fuel they need to do their jobs.
      Red blood cells also give you color. If your skin is white the red blood cells give you the pink color in your skin. They also give your lips a nice pink color.

      EVERYBODY HAS IT, EVERY BODY NEEDS IT
      This red liquid is living tissue that carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body, and carries carbon dioxide and other waste products back to the lungs, kidneys and liver for disposal. It fights against infection and helps heal wounds, so we can stay healthy.

      Blood Components
      Blood may be transfused as whole blood or as one of its components. Because patients seldom require all of the components of whole blood, it makes sense to transfuse only that portion needed by the patient for a specific condition or disease. This treatment, referred to as "blood component therapy," allows several patients to benefit from one unit of donated whole blood. Blood components include red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitated antihemophilic factor (AHF). Up to four components may be derived from one unit of blood.

      Whole Blood is a living tissue that circulates through the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries carrying nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the body’s tissues. Whole blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets suspended in a fluid called plasma.

      If blood is treated to prevent clotting and permitted to stand in a container, the red blood cells, weighing the most, will settle to the bottom; the plasma will stay on top; and the white blood cells and platelets will remain suspended between the plasma and the red blood cells. A centrifuge may be used to hasten this separation process. The platelet-rich plasma is then removed and placed into a sterile bag, and it can be used to prepare platelets and plasma or cryoprecipitated AHF. To make platelets, the platelet-rich plasma is centrifuged, causing the platelets to settle at the bottom of the bag. Plasma and platelets are then separated and made available for transfusion. The plasma may also be pooled with plasma from other donors and further processed, or fractionated, to provide purified plasma proteins such as albumin, immunoglobulin (IVIG) and clotting factors.

      Blood Cells Are Produced In Bone Marrow
      Red Cells, White Cells And Platelets Are Made In The Marrow Of Bones, Especially The Vertebrae, Ribs, Hips, Skull And Sternum. These Essential Blood Cells Fight Infection, Carry Oxygen And Help Control Bleeding.

      Red Blood Cells are perhaps the most recognizable component of whole blood. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a complex iron-containing protein that carries oxygen throughout the body and gives blood its red color. The percentage of blood volume composed of red blood cells is called the "hematocrit." The average hematocrit in an adult male is 47 percent; the average hematocrit in adult females is 42 percent. There are about one billion red blood cells in two to three drops of blood, and, for every 600 red blood cells, there are about 40 platelets and one white cell. Manufactured in the bone marrow, red blood cells are continuously being produced and broken down. They live for approximately 120 days in the circulatory system and are eventually removed by the spleen.

      Red blood cells are prepared from whole blood by removing the plasma, or the liquid portion of the blood. They can raise the patient’s hematocrit and hemoglobin levels while minimizing an increase in volume.

      Patients who benefit most from transfusions of red blood cells include those with chronic anemia resulting from disorders such as kidney failure, malignancies, or gastrointestinal bleeding and those with acute blood loss resulting from trauma or surgery. Since red blood cells have reduced amounts of plasma, they are well suited for treating anemia patients who would not tolerate the increased volume provided by whole blood, such as patients with congestive heart failure or those who are elderly or debilitated.

      Improvements in cell preservative solutions over the last 15 years have increased the shelf life of red blood cells from 21 to 42 days. Red blood cells may be treated and frozen for extended storage (up to 10 years).

      White Blood Cells are responsible for protecting the body from invasion by foreign substances such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The majority of white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, where they outnumber red blood cells by two to one. However, in the blood stream, there are about 600 red blood cells for every white blood cell. There are several types of white blood cells; Granulocytes and macrophages protect against infection by surrounding and destroying invading bacteria and viruses, and lymphocytes aid in the immune defense.

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    • Ibrahim Mustafa
    • May 27, 2014
    Reply

    What Happens When Our Red Blood Cells Are Placed In 3 Different Types Of Solutions? Explain what happens when our red blood cells are placed in 3 different types of solutions?

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    1. Reply

      When animal cells such as red blood cells are placed in a hypotonic solution (distilled water), water molecules diffuse into the red blood cells by osmosis. The red blood cells gain water and swell and finally burst because they have no cell walls. the red blood cells are said to undergo haemolysis.

      When red blood cells are placed in a hypertonic solution such as 4% sodium chloride solution (salt solution). water molecules diffuse out of the cell by osmosis. Water is rapidly lost. The red blood cells will shrivel and probably die. This process is called crenation of red blood cells.

      If red blood cells are immersed in an isotonic solution (0.85% sodium chloride solution), water molecules flow across the membrane at the same rate in both directions. There is no net movement of water molecules across the membrane. The red blood cells maintain their shape. The concentration in the red blood cells is the same as the concentration in the environment, that is 0.85% sodium chloride solution.

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