Because our bodies are with us from the get-go, most of us tend to forget how astonishing they are by the time we’re old enough to start noticing their wonders. It’s easy to take our physical forms for granted. But when you stop and consider that some 50 trillion cells are working in concert, it’s downright remarkable. In a nod to the human machine and all the crazy tricks it performs every day, here is an ode to some of the more remarkable feats.
1. The heart is a mighty mechanism.
2. The transportation system is vast.
Those 2,000 gallons of blood travel through a mind-boggling network of arteries, capillaries and veins. In one adult body, if you laid them all out end-to-end, they would stretch about 60,000 miles. That means that — brace yourself for this nugget — your blood vessels could wrap around the globe two-and-a-half times!
3. The kidneys are workhorses.
Each of our two kidneys are comprised of around a million filtering units called nephrons. Every day the kidneys filter 120 to 150 quarts of blood — up to nearly 13 pints an hour — and produce up to 2 quarts of urine.
4. Our intestines are loopy.
If stretched out, the small and large intestine combined would reach a length of about 25 feet. Fortunately, they loop around in such a configuration that they fit tidily into our abdominal cavity.
5. We spout a lot of spit.
We have salivary glands in and around the mouth and throat that serve to secrete saliva to moisten, initiate digestion and help protect our teeth from decay. While we are generally not aware of swallowing, we do so many hundreds of times daily — and during the course of our swallowing we rinse away up to 4 pints of saliva a day!
6. Our sneezes are turbo-charged.
Want to know why it’s so important to cover your mouth when you sneeze? A sneeze can deliver 40,000 droplets of moisture into the air at speeds of more than 100 mph. And in fact, some super sneezes have been estimated to reach 600 mph.
7. Nobody stinks quite like you do.
We all have a completely unique odor, as different from one another as a fingerprint … except for identical twins, who can smell the same.
8. We have a remarkable wrapper.
If you are an average adult, your skin covers an area of 21 square feet, weighs 9 pounds and plays host to more than 11 miles of blood vessels.
9. Our dead skin lives on.
All of that skin sheds 50,000 cells every minute. Which is beautiful if you think about it poetically in terms of regeneration. What’s kind of gross is that dead skin accounts for an estimated billion tons of dust in the atmosphere.
10. You are as hairy as a chimp.
Although we may look smooth and relatively hairless compared to our primate cousins, we actually have about the same number of hairs on our bodies as chimpanzees. But while their hair is useful, ours is useless and so fine that it’s nearly invisible.
11. We are energetic!
While the amount of heat produced by a body depends on its weight and activity level, for an average person who consumes 2,400 kilocalories per day, the heat produced is about 100 kilocalories per hour. That's the equivalent of a 116-watt light bulb.
12. We are smelling machines.
The human brain can process around 10,000 different smells in an area smaller than the size of a half dollar.
13. Our tongues are like tentacles.
While it’s a myth that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, it’s still a remarkable piece of work. The tongue is made up of eight separate muscles which, unlike other muscles, these don’t support a bone. Instead, they mingle to create a pliant matrix known as a “muscular hydrostat.” This structure is much like an elephant’s trunk or the tentacles of an octopus.
14. We have impressive numbers.
An adult is made up of around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.
15. We are stardust.
Hydrogen, the universe’s most common element and a major player in our bodies, was produced in the big bang 13.7 billion years ago. Other important components of “us” include carbon and oxygen — both borne of the stars and scattered through space when the stars exploded. Almost every element on Earth was formed at the heart of a star, so it makes sense to echo The Guardian's eloquent point: We are stardust!
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Anatomy model: Accord/Shutterstock
Boy with flower: Chubykin Arkady/Shutterstock