Thursday, April 23, 2009

29) Which Has More Moving Parts: A Bacteria Or New York City?

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For people in a big city like New York. sit across from a large apartment building in the city. start counting how many bricks it takes to get from the left side of one window to the next. count how many windows across the building there are. multiply to find how many bricks are all the way across the building. lets say the building is square and lets be generous and pretend the building is entirely filled with bricks. so if we take this number, say it is 250, lets multiply it by itself to get how many bricks there are laid flat in one layer all the way through the building. now count how many bricks from the bottom of one window to the bottom of the next window. multiply that by how many floors. that's how many layers of bricks there would be if the building were entirely filled with bricks. multiply this number of layers by the number of bricks in a layer. that's A LOT of bricks!
Now how many buildings are there in that block? you can multiply again. walk up the street or avenue and count. maybe 4X10? so multiply that by how many bricks per building!

Now how many blocks in your city? multiply again! how many streets long by how many streets wide is it? you may need to get a full sized map and count, approximate! for NYC, I figured 200 streets from the bottom to the top times 10 avenues wide gives me 2000 blocks in Manhattan then I multiply by 5 for all 5 boroughs of my city.
so how many bricks do you get? you may want to use scientific notation to write it down.

here's the fun part. imagine ALL those bricks in your minds eye. now, how many molecules are there swirling around in an E. coli bacteria? how do we count that? from our chemistry section we learned that one mole of molecules contains 6X10^23 molecules. Let's start with how large a bacteria is. from our microscope explorations we figured it was about one micron X micron X 3microns long. that's 3cubic micrometers. lets convert to cubic cm! multiply by 1cubic mm per 10^3x10^3x10^3 micrometers =10^-9 mm^3 x 1cubic cm per 10x10x10 mm = 10^-12cm^3 x 1mol/18cubic cm H2O *5/100= 5x10x 6x10^23 molecules/mol =

[now the question is: do i just suggest the methods or do i also show the worked out answers:

there are more atoms in the simplest bacteria than there are bricks in NYC. there are more enzymes huffing and puffing doing their work and taking part in construction projects in that bacteria than there people in NYC (8million) there are more ribosomes in that bacteria than there are buildings in NYC churning out new enzymes every second.

a bacteria is busier place than all of NYC!

there is a mole of atoms in my finger approximately:
10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them. think of each group of three zeros as another level of complexity. the reality of Avogadro's number is that it takes that many levels of complexity to grow my finger (and the rest of me) and repair my finger when it is cut, and to maintain it and make it act.

Avogadro's number is a wild part of our knowledge of reality that has NOT yet entered popular consciousness.

let's see, E. coli: let's say 3cubic micrometer. so 6*10^23 molecules/18cm^3 H2O is
10^23 molecules/3cm^3
10^23 /3cm^3
10^23/3000 mm^3
10^20/3*10^9 micron^3

that's 100billion.
now a million ribosomes*60proteins*1000 aminos*10H2O= that's 60billion right there. must be a high estimate.

if a protein is 12,000 H2O's into 10^11 that could be 10 million proteins/enzymes

10bricks laid across a window, 20 high that's 200 * 10 *10 windows that's 20,000 *100 deep that's 2million bricks per building if it were solid. times 5 * 10 buildings per block is 100million *200 *10 blocks per Manhattan is 200billion * 5 boroughs that's 1000 billion. oops more bricks than molecules. but if you don't imagine buildings to be solid.. well anyway the numbers are comparable

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almost native to new york state. teacher and storyteller. email: