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Hello and welcome to part VIII of the 'Science Behind' series. If you're a regular reader of this column, by now you should be thinking like a scientist. So, let's see if you can use the techniques of analysis you've learned to help you identify a mystery object. Here are some clues: It is soft. We might use it to filter grain alcohol. If you did not have one, you would find it difficult to put your shoes on in the morning.
The answer, as I'm sure you've guessed, is your body!
Regular readers have done a lot of work limbering up their minds in the last few months, so anyone new to this column should not feel intimidated by the level of thinking required here. It's a new year and a fresh start for us all. Incidentally, I'm delighted to say I'm back home after some difficult times (please refer to columns I-VII), with only a very, very few restrictions on my movements, in the form of multiple restraining orders, an ankle tag and regular visits from my probation officer (Hi Barbara!). So, without further ado, let's jump feet first into the gut-churning, blood-spattered world of human anatomy and see what we can learn.
How does human anatomy differ from that of other mammals?
The surprising truth is that it doesn't! Other mammals - like cows, fish and crustaceans - share our red-coloured blood, wipe-clean outer coating of skin, and short, stubby tails. For this reason, human beings wear clothes, in order to differentiate ourselves from lesser mammals and also, so we feel better about eating them.
Think how clear glass is and subsequently, how easy it is to see through. Advances in medical science mean that bionic or 'glass' eyes can be fitted to almost anyone. Apart from the improvement in vision they offer, glass eyes come in a variety of interesting colours that can be matched to your shoes. In the future, it is likely that everyone will have glass eyes.
Why do they keep a model of a skeleton in anatomy classes?
Medical students are well known for being lazy and superstitious. The skeleton - an ancient symbol of evil whose origins are unknown, but which is associated with Halloween, pirates and suburban Goths - is there to strike fear into the hearts of these people and help them to focus on their studies.
How many bones are there in the human body?
Oh, if only if were that easy! But let's be scientific about this, people. If people had all the same bones in all the same places, there would be no need for x-ray machines or even doctors, really. It would be like, "Hello patient X. Where is your leg bone? Probably right here where the last person's leg bone was. Yes, there it is. I'll just tick that on my chart. I wonder why you even bothered coming in today." Anyone could be a doctor! All they'd need is a stethoscope and near-pathological self-belief - which gives me a great idea, but never mind that right now. In actuality, every person's bone structure is unique, just like their fingerprint or iris.
1. The heart and lungs: these organs keep you warm. Your heart is a thermostat that regulates body temperature. The lungs can best be understood as radiators, whose function it is to keep your chest from freezing over.
2. The stomach: this organ is only found in human beings and it allows us to digest things that other animals cannot, like glue, nails and Pop Tarts.
3. The liver: as its name suggests, your liver helps you to live. Without it, you would not.
4. The kidneys: don't worry about these right now. You have two of them. Once you get down to one, it might be time to get out the medical dictionary.
Some people might suggest that you read widely on the subject but a scientist should only accept information that he or she has verified through experimentation. You will quickly deduce then, that the only scientific way to find out what job each body part does is to remove it and see what goes wrong.
Obviously, in the case of anatomy, this is simply not practical and moreover, dangerous -
Why, what have you done?
Oh no. I think that might be your gallbladder. Have you got a needle and thread? Can you stick it back in and sew it up? This is not good. This is not my fault! Do you know I'm on probation? Do you know what Barbara, my probation officer said to me? She said: "No home surgery".
So I said, "How did you know? Is it the scalpel I'm holding? I have a rhinoplasty patient coming over at four."
She said, "Do you even know what rhinoplasty is?"
And I said, "No, but I feel very creative today and I think I should follow my dreams and besides, didn't Whitney sing, 'If I fail, if I succeed, at least I'll live as I believe?'"
Then Barbara and I hugged and cried a little.
But then she said, "Seriously, no home surgery, or you're going to jail."
Fun anatomy facts:
Drop Emma a line!
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OTHER HW ARTICLES BY EMMA ROWLEY
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Rowley is a Londoner. Maybe that's why she loves London Town.