Monday, May 2, 2016

ATI Wisdom Booklet 3: Science - The Elements of Our Body

Let's see if we can guess the science topic of this month's Wisdom booklet from the introduction:
Place your bets now!  

Feel free to hedge your bets if needed....

Did anyone guess Chemistry?  I did not.  I had assumed it would be something about human behavior or biology.  

In my teaching classes in college, the idea of introducing a topic and keeping that topic fresh in the mind of students was hammered home.  Clearly, this lesson is missing that idea.

As always, one of the questions above is not a science question.  My answer for one of the remaining three questions was viewed as wrong according to the lesson.  

Interestingly, this little side foray into the root of the word "man" in Hebrew should be redundant.  My Bible has this root explained in a footnote.  There's also a tiny bit of irony: the first three workbooks   Wisdom Booklets have been working on teaching Greek in the language section....

Huh.  I've never heard of "life" or "alive" being defined as "the presence of the Breath of God" before.    My biggest concern is that kids are going to be freaked out when they accidently step on an insect or a plant since those are being kept alive through the Breath of God.

If the authors are going to put a price tag on the elements in the human body, they really should show their math.  
  • They include a diagram later that estimates the total weight of various elements found in a 165 pound person.  If this is supposed to be a stand-alone curriculum, some math could be inserted by having students find the weight of each element in a person of their size.  
  • They could then use the current prices of various elements through Sigma-Aldrich or another chemical supply company to determine what the chemical scrap value of their body is worth.  

  • Partial credit for 92 natural elements on Earth.  The way people find that answer is counting all the elements on the periodic table from hydrogen (1) to uranium (92) on the theory that uranium is the cut-off point for naturally occurring elements.
    • The problem is that scientists have found really small amounts of elements 93-98 in ores of uranium on Earth along with tiny amounts of technetium (43) bringing us to a total of 98 elements on Earth.
  • No credit for 18 elements in the human body.  Scientist are arguing about the usefulness certain elements like strontium, but 28 or 29 seems to be a very safe number.

  • I mentioned this before, but giving the students the completed math is a cop-out.  Have the kids do it for their own weight.  
  • The unit of mass used in science is the gram or kilogram and getting students familiarized with that unit is important.  Using grams or kilograms will also make finding the cost of the elements easier since that's the unit used by suppliers.
  • Some elements missing from the list that surprised me:
    • Selenium
    • Lithium
    • Molybdenum
    • Cobalt

  • I have a major pet peeve about mixing units that can't be compared.  This section has an egregious example in using gallons of water and pounds of remaining elements.  A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds at room temperature in the US.  That means that a person who is made of 25 pounds of solids would have  17 gallon x 8.34 pounds per gallon = 141.78 pounds of water in them.
  • Doing the calculations in metric is actually easier!   
    • One gallon = 3.79 liters so 17 gallons of water x 3.79 liters per gallon = 64.43 liters of water
    • One liter of water weighs 1 kilogram so 64.43 L of water = 64.43kg of water.
    • 2.2 pounds are in one kilogram so 25 pounds x 1kg/2.2 pounds = 11.36kg of solids
  • Interesting tidbit missed: The damage done by lack of water is so severe at the cellular level that people will have sustained fatal and irreversible damage within 3 days.  

  • I have a theological objection to the question "How can God....few elements?"  The question implies that God is constrained by laws of nature.  In the Abrahamic religions, God is clearly NOT constrained by laws of nature.
  • Using "the characteristics of carbon atoms" as an explanation of why carbon forms chains is a major cop-out.  Carbon forms long chains because carbon has an arrangement of outer electrons in the atom that allows it to form up to 4 stable bonds at once.  
  • The explanation of the body making hundreds of substances is a tad underwhelming when you realize that organic chemistry has MILLIONS of known carbon containing compounds and is discovering new chemicals daily.
  • So...hemoglobin is made (generally) of four units called hemes bonded together.  The diagram above is showing a single heme unit.  I don't know why heme is in quotes or why the caption implies that there is one heme in hemoglobin.
  • I have NO IDEA what that waste product shown at the right is.  I've run the chemical drawing through several sites to see if I could identify it and have come up empty handed.  The term "identifies" is in quotes...and that annoys me.  
    • See, the kidneys go through a two-stage process of filtration.  The first pulls all sorts of chemicals out of the blood including needed ones like sugar, proteins and water.  The second stage reabsorbs the useful portions and shunts the waste products to the bladder.
    • When the body is no longer able to identify wastes compared to useful products, a person develops severe kidney failure.  Treatment options include dialysis and a kidney transplant.  Failure to treat kidney failure leads to death.

  • First, the hormone also known as "growth hormone" is misspelled.  The correct spelling does not have an 'h'.
  • Secondly, the authors skirted a raft of issues surrounding human growth hormone (HGH).  Some, like athletes doping using HGH, probably arose after publication.   Others, like the fact that HGH for human use hinges on using recombinant DNA placed in bacteria to make HGH, should have been on the editors' radar if this was published after 1980.
  •  Third, some elements are much more important than others in terms of human medicine.  Some of the trace elements in the body are hard for people to get enough of while others have no known deficiencies. Case in point: most adult women will be tested for iron deficiency at least once during their reproductive years while no one will ever be tested for a copper deficiency 

  • Look, death is the cessation of biological processes.  While most religions agree with the statement that the spirit - or whatever term is used for the supernatural portion of a human - leaves the body around the time of death, not all do.  Equally importantly, the spirit isn't part of scientific studies.
  • The quack definition of death wreaks havoc in the rest of the paragraph.  If the spirit is needed for correct immune function, does that mean people with AIDS and leukemia are missing their souls?  How about the biological havoc that ensues in a brain-dead patient?
  • I don't want to do the research needed to figure out if their order of bodily decomposition is right, but I do see at least one problem.  The brain is highly guarded against bacteria.  A bacterial infection of the brain is a massive medical emergency.  How, then, does the brain manage to decompose first if the only decomposition agent is bacteria?
    • The real answer is more complicated, but refers back to something covered previously.  Life exists because life continually adds energy into the body to prevent the second law of thermodynamics - overly simplified means: Everything falls apart over time - from being in effect.  When someone dies, the second law of thermodynamics comes raging back into effect.  Even in the total absence of bacteria, the cells of the body will degrade (and do so quite quickly).

  • Not wrong, but very strange that the first law of thermodynamics isn't referenced here.  The kiddos were (allegedly) taught in the last booklet that evolution can't happen because energy cannot be created or destroyed, just transformed.  This would be a great place to introduce the Law of Conservation of Matter: Matter cannot be created or destroyed.   (For HS aged kiddos, you should combine the two to cover nuclear physics and get "Neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, only converted.")
Next up: ptosis!

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