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Is there a reliable estimate of the number of cells on Earth?

Is there a reliable estimate of the number of cells on Earth?


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A quick Google search didn't turn up any reliable sources. An awkward Cosmoquest thread gives a rough estimate of 10^25 to 10^32, but this is just a bad extrapolation of the number of cells in a human body. Also, I recently learned that we don't even know the number of cells in humans to good precision.

Has anyone ever made a serious attempt to figure this out? If not, does anyone here want to make a quick calculation?


Okay so I looked around a bit, and there are surprisingly few papers related to this question.

This paper is the best I cold find, but it's almost 20 years old. There's also this one, which slightly updates the other one, but they both focus on bacteria. For those the total number is estimated to be somewhere in the range of $10^{30}$.
For humans the latest published number is $3.72 imes 10^{13}$, so even with a few billion in total ($10^9 imes 10^{13} = 10^{22}$) we probably don't even matter for the total cell count. Since smaller more abundant animals have a much lower number of cells, they probably don't matter either.

Now to the only thing I'm not sure about: plants

The number of plants on earth is really elusive, only more elusive is the number of cells per plant. This study claims around 3 trillion ($10^{12}$) tree's on earth. Since tree's are bound to have (many) more cells than humans, we're probably getting closer to the number of prokaryotic cells by now (I guess the number of 'tree cells' will be somewhere around $10^{27} - 10^{30})$.
So far I didn't find anything about grasses or other plants (neither numbers nor cell counts), so it's really hard to say whether these matter or not.
This study seems to give an average number of cells per growth ring in tree's, but I'm not sure how to get a number of cells / tree from that.

In total the estimated number of bacteria ($10^{30}$) is probably a good measure for the number of cells on earth. Even if plants manage to come to that level, the order of magnitude will probably not change (by much).


About $10^{30}$ prokaryotes (Whitman et al. 1998).

It is an extremely vague estimates of course! Not that every eukaryotic cell contain about $10^3$ mitochondria, so of course eukaryotic cells would have to be negligible in counts even if you consider only the mitochondria. I don't know if Whitman et al. 1998 counted bacteria but it does not change much given the accuracy of their estimate.


Highly related posts


1.3: Classification - The Three Domain System

  • Contributed by Gary Kaiser
  • Professor (Microbiology) at Community College of Baltimore Country (Cantonsville)
  1. Define phylogeny.
  2. Name the 3 Domains of the 3 Domain system of classification and recognize a description of each.
  3. Name the four kingdoms of the Domain Eukarya and recognize a description of each.
  4. Define horizontal gene transfer.

The Earth is 4.6 billion years old and microbial life is thought to have first appeared between 3.8 and 3.9 billion years ago in fact, 80% of Earth's history was exclusively microbial life. Microbial life is still the dominant life form on Earth. It has been estimated that the total number of microbial cells on Earth on the order of 2.5 X 10 30 cells, making it the major fraction of biomass on the planet.

Phylogeny refers to the evolutionary relationships between organisms. The Three Domain System, proposed by Woese and others, is an evolutionary model of phylogeny based on differences in the sequences of nucleotides in the cell's ribosomal RNAs (rRNA), as well as the cell's membrane lipid structure and its sensitivity to antibiotics. Comparing rRNA structure is especially useful. Because rRNA molecules throughout nature carry out the same function, their structure changes very little over time. Therefore similarities and dissimilarities in rRNA nucleotide sequences are a good indication of how related or unrelated different cells and organisms are.

There are various hypotheses as to the origin of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Because all cells are similar in nature, it is generally thought that all cells came from a common ancestor cell termed the last universal common ancestor (LUCA). These LUCAs eventually evolved into three different cell types, each representing a domain. The three domains are the Archaea, the Bacteria, and the Eukarya.

Figure (PageIndex<1>): A phylogenetic tree based on rRNA data, showing the separation of bacteria, archaea, and eukaryota domains.

More recently various fusion hypotheses have begun to dominate the literature. One proposes that the diploid or 2N nature of the eukaryotic genome occurred after the fusion of two haploid or 1N prokaryotic cells. Others propose that the domains Archaea and Eukarya emerged from a common archaeal-eukaryotic ancestor that itself emerged from a member of the domain Bacteria. Some of the evidence behind this hypothesis is based on a "superphylum" of bacteria called PVC, members of which share some characteristics with both archaea and eukaryotes. There is growing evidence that eukaryotes may have originated within a subset of archaea. In any event, it is accepted today that there are three distinct domains of organisms in nature: Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya. A description of the three domains follows.

There is a "superphylum" of bacteria called PVC, referring to the three members of that superphylum: the Planctomycetes, the Verrucomicrobia, and the Chlamydiae. Members of the PVC, while belonging to the domain Bacteria, show some features of the domains Archaea and Eukarya.

Some of these bacteria show cell compartmentalization wherein membranes surround portions of the cell interior, such as groups of ribosomes or DNA, similar to eukaryotic cells. Some divide by budding or contain sterols in their membranes, again similar to eukaryotes. Some lack peptidoglycan, similar to eukaryotes and archaea. It has been surmised that these bacteria migh be an intermediate step between an ancestor that emerged from a bacterium (domain Bacteria) and an archael-eukaryotic ancestor prior to its split into the domains Archaea and Eukarya.

Figure (PageIndex<2>): Electron micrograph of the bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus, a planctomycete noted for its highly complex membrane morphology, illustrating representative morphologies. Scale bar = 500nm. Santarella-Mellwig R, Franke J, Jaedicke A, Gorjanacz M, Bauer U, Budd A, et al. (2010) The Compartmentalized Bacteria of the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae Superphylum Have Membrane Coat-Like Proteins. PLoS Biol 8(1): e1000281. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000281


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I can't believe that there are millions of proteins! And what's even more amazing is that each of these proteins have its own function. So no two proteins do the same exact thing! I can't even completely grasp what that means!

If what @burcidi said is true, that there are billions of proteins in one single cell, can you imagine how many proteins are at work all the time for our organs, our entire body to function?

My class notes say that there are at least one hundred trillion cells in the body. So one hundred trillion times ten billion gives us the total number of proteins in our body. The result comes out to be: one times ten to the power of twenty four. I'm not even sure what that means! I guess ten, followed by twenty four zeroes?! That's a lot of protein! burcidi June 19, 2012

@anon26424-- That looks like a straight-forward, easy question but it isn't. Scientists actually don't know the exact number or variety of proteins in a cell. And I'm sure it ranges from one cell to the next. But it is estimated that there are about ten billion proteins in one human cell.

The reason your question is tricky is because you asked "different proteins." These ten billion proteins are definitely of different varieties, thousands of them. But like I said, we don't know the exact number.

If you need this information for homework, I think it's safe to say that there are approximately ten billion proteins of at least ten thousand types in one human cell. SteamLouis June 18, 2012

@mankygoat, @ElizaBennett-- I don't know the exact answer, but my instructor was talking about a chemist's book in class recently. This chemist, I think his name was deDuve, estimated that there were around three million combinations of proteins (different proteins) on earth.

He calculated this based on the information that each protein is made up of anywhere from less than one hundred amino acids to more than one thousand. He assumed that a typical protein would have around two hundred amino acids. And since there are twenty different amino acids, the possible combinations would be a calculation of twenty to the power of two hundred.

So I think @ElizaBennett is right. To calculate the space of proteins, you can estimate the length of a typical protein and then calculate the possible combinations. ElizaBennett June 2, 2011

@anon137829 - What does the RNA do if it doesn't create protein? I'm seeing pretty much what the article says, that each gene codes for one protein.

@mankygoat - I have the same question. I would assume that it involves taking the minimum and maximum practical lengths of a protein and seeing how many combinations could exist within that range made of up the 20 amino acids. anon154021 February 19, 2011

What is the total number of amino acids in the human body? Is there a way to calculate this? A rough estimate will do. mankygoat July 31, 2009

How was the total space of possible proteins calculated? And on what basis was this calculation performed? anon26424 February 13, 2009


Scientists Bust Myth That Our Bodies Have More Bacteria Than Human Cells

It's often said that the bacteria and other microbes in our body outnumber our own cells by about ten to one. That's a myth that should be forgotten, say researchers in Israel and Canada. The ratio between resident microbes and human cells is more likely to be one-to-one, they calculate.

A 'reference man' (one who is 70 kilograms, 20&ndash30 years old and 1.7 metres tall) contains on average about 30 trillion human cells and 39 trillion bacteria, say Ron Milo and Ron Sender at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and Shai Fuchs at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

Those numbers are approximate&mdashanother person might have half as many or twice as many bacteria, for example&mdashbut far from the 10:1 ratio commonly assumed.

&ldquoThe numbers are similar enough that each defecation event may flip the ratio to favour human cells over bacteria,&rdquo they delicately conclude in a manuscript posted to the preprint server bioRxiv.

The 10:1 myth persisted from a 1972 estimate by microbiologist Thomas Luckey, which was &ldquoelegantly performed, yet was probably never meant to be widely quoted decades later&rdquo, say the paper&rsquos authors. In 2014, molecular biologist Judah Rosner at the US National Institutes of Health at Bethesda, expressed his doubts about the 10:1 claim, noting that there were very few good estimates for the numbers of human and microbial cells in the body.

Milo, Sender and Fuchs decided to re-estimate the number by reviewing a wide range of recent experimental data in the literature, including DNA analyses to calculate cell number and magnetic-resonance imaging to calculate organ volume. The vast majority of human cells are red blood cells, they note (see 'Counting human cells').

Faecal factor
A particular overestimate in Luckey&rsquos work relates to the proportion of bacteria in our guts, Milo and colleagues say. Luckey estimated that guts contain around 10 14 bacteria, by assuming that there were 10 11 bacteria in a gram of faeces, and scaling that up by the one-litre volume of the alimentary canal, which stretches from the mouth to the anus.

But most bacteria reside only in the colon (which has a volume of 0.4 litres), Milo and colleagues point out&mdashand measurements suggest that there are fewer bacteria in stool samples than Luckey thought.

Putting together these kinds of calculations, the researchers produce a ratio for microbial to human cells for the average man of 1.3:1, with a wide uncertainty. Milo declined to comment on the paper, because it is in review at a scientific journal.

&ldquoIt is good that we all now have a better estimate to quote,&rdquo says Peer Bork, a bioinformatician at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, who works on the human and other complex microbiomes. &ldquoBut I don&rsquot think it will actually have any biological significance.&rdquo

This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on January 8, 2016.


3.4.3 Genetic diversity can arise as a result of mutation or during meiosis

Opportunities for skills development

Gene mutations involve a change in the base sequence of chromosomes. They can arise spontaneously during DNA replication and include base deletion and base substitution. Due to the degenerate nature of the genetic code, not all base substitutions cause a change in the sequence of encoded amino acids. Mutagenic agents can increase the rate of gene mutation.

Mutations in the number of chromosomes can arise spontaneously by chromosome non-disjunction during meiosis.

Meiosis produces daughter cells that are genetically different from each other.

The process of meiosis only in sufficient detail to show how:

  • two nuclear divisions result usually in the formation of four haploid daughter cells from a single diploid parent cell
  • genetically different daughter cells result from the independent segregation of homologous chromosomes
  • crossing over between homologous chromosomes results in further genetic variation among daughter cells.

Students should be able to:

  • complete diagrams showing the chromosome content of cells after the first and second meiotic division, when given the chromosome content of the parent cell
  • explain the different outcome of mitosis and meiosis
  • recognise where meiosis occurs when given information about an unfamiliar life cycle
  • explain how random fertilisation of haploid gametes further increases genetic variation within a species.

Students could examine meiosis in prepared slides of suitable plant or animal tissue.

  • use the expression 2 n to calculate the possible number of different combinations of chromosomes following meiosis, without crossing over
  • derive a formula from this to calculate the possible number of different combinations of chromosomes following random fertilisation of two gametes,

How Many Species on Earth?


Eight million, seven hundred thousand species! (Give or take 1.3 million.)

That is a new, estimated total number of species on Earth—the most precise calculation ever offered—with 6.5 million species found on land and 2.2 million dwelling in the ocean depths.

Until now, the number of species on Earth was said to fall somewhere within the large range of 3 and 100 million.

The new study, published yesterday in the open access journal PLoS Biology, says a staggering 86% of all species on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.

Says lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada: “The question of how many species exist has intrigued scientists for centuries and the answer, coupled with research by others into species’ distribution and abundance, is particularly important now because a host of human activities and influences are accelerating the rate of extinctions. Many species may vanish before we even know of their existence, of their unique niche and function in ecosystems, and of their potential contribution to improved human well-being.”

“This work deduces the most basic number needed to describe our living biosphere,” says co-author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University. “If we did not know—even by an order of magnitude (1 million? 10 million? 100 million?)—the number of people in a nation, how would we plan for the future? It is the same with biodiversity. Humanity has committed itself to saving species from extinction, but until now we have had little real idea of even how many there are.”

The team refined the estimated species total to 8.7 million by identifying numerical patterns within the taxonomic classification system (which groups forms of life in a pyramid-like hierarchy, ranked upwards from species to genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom and domain).

Analyzing the taxonomic clustering of the 1.2 million species today in the Catalogue of Life and the World Register of Marine Species, the researchers discovered reliable numerical relationships between the more complete higher taxonomic levels and the species level.

Carl Zimmer explains the method in his Discover blog, The Loom:

The method is based on Linnean taxonomy. While we have lots of new species left to find, we may have found most of the classes, orders, and phyla. It turns out that for a number of groups–mammals, birds, and so on–the numbers of each of these rankings rise as you descend the hierarchy.


(See the graph above, courtesy of the Census of Marine Life, via The Loom.)

(In case you lost track… Organisms in the eukaryote domain have cells containing complex structures enclosed within membranes. The study looked only at forms of life accorded, or potentially accorded, the status of “species” by scientists. Not included: certain micro-organisms and virus “types,” for example, which could be highly numerous.)

But not everyone buys into this calculation. First of all, it doesn’t include the entire picture of life, according to Nature News.

The method does not work for prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) because the higher taxonomic levels are not well catalogued as is the case for eukaryotes. A conservative ‘lower bound’ estimate of about 10,000 prokaryotes is included in Mora's total but, in reality, they are likely to number in the millions.

Jonathan Eisen, an expert on microbial diversity at the University of California, Davis, said he found the new paper disappointing.

“This is akin to saying, ‘Dinosaurs roamed the Earth more than 500 years ago,’ ” he said. “While true, what is the point of saying it?”


But one of their biggest fans, the well-respected Lord Robert May of Oxford, past-president of the UK’s Royal Society, published a commentary adjacent to the study, praising the researchers’ “imaginative new approach.”


Discussion

In this article, we have shown how order of magnitude estimates in conjunction with the accessibility of measured numbers of biological significance provide a useful picture of a vast array of biological problems, although this approach is only one of many and we are not advocating it as the unique or “right” way to study living systems. Through a series of illustrative (rather than comprehensive) case studies including: (i) one of the great mysteries of cell biology, namely, how from one cell come many, (ii) the mechanisms governing the regulated flow of materials in and out of living cells, and (iii) a study of the carbon budget in photosynthesis both at the scale of biosphere and individual cells, we see that biological numeracy can be a powerful tool for understanding the living world that complements the powerful tools based on qualitative reasoning that have given rise to modern biology.

It is fair to wonder whether this emphasis on quantification really brings anything new and compelling to the analysis of biological phenomena. We are persuaded that the answer to this question is yes and that this numerical spin on biological analysis carries with it a number of interesting consequences. First, a quantitative emphasis makes it possible to decipher the dominant forces in play in a given biological process (e.g., demand for energy or demand for carbon skeletons). Second, order of magnitude BioEstimates merged with BioNumbers help reveal limits on biological processes (minimal generation time or human-appropriated global net primary productivity) or lack thereof (available solar energy impinging on Earth versus humanity's demands). Finally, numbers can be enlightening by sharpening the questions we ask about a given biological problem. Many biological experiments report their data in quantitative form and in some cases, as long as the models are verbal rather than quantitative, the theory will lag behind the experiments. For example, if considering the input–output relation in a gene-regulatory network or a signal-transduction network, it is one thing to say that the output goes up or down, it is quite another to say by how much (53).

Given the flood of data emanating from new molecular techniques there is every reason to believe that more and more quantitative hints will be available for ever more sophisticated inferences about the mechanisms of biological action. We hope that readers of this article will be inspired to join us in our enthusiasm for the quantitative approach advocated here and make their own submissions to the BioNumbers database and similarly, will use simple order of magnitude estimates as a way to discover previously uncovered linkages or call attention to paradoxes and conundrums in their own research areas.


First-Ever Scientific Estimate Of Total Bacteria On Earth Shows Far Greater Numbers Than Ever Known Before

ATHENS, Ga. -- They're everywhere. Bacteria are the huddled masses of the microbial world, performing tasks that include everything from causing disease to fixing nitrogen in the soil. Now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the University of Georgia has made a direct estimate of the total number of bacteria on Earth -- and the number makes the globe's human population look downright puny.

The group, led by microbiologist William. B. Whitman, estimates the number to be five million trillion trillion -- that's a five with 30 zeroes after it. Look at it this way. If each bacterium were a penny, the stack would reach a trillion light years. These almost incomprehensible numbers give only a sketch of the vast pervasiveness of bacteria in the natural world.

"There simply hadn't been any estimates of the number of bacteria on Earth," said Whitman. "Because they are so diverse and important, we thought it made sense to get a picture of their magnitude."

The study was published in June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U. S. Department of Energy. Co-authors of the paper from the University of Georgia were Dr. David Coleman of the Institute of Ecology and Dr. William Wiebe from the department of marine sciences.

When people think of bacteria, they likely first consider the nasty ones that cause disease, but the bacteria inside all animals combined -- including humans -- makes up less than one percent of the total amount. By far the greatest numbers are in the subsurface, soil and oceans.

Scientists prefer to call bacteria "prokaryotes," a term that describes a single-cell organism without a nucleus. Prokaryotes are extraordinarily diverse and range from plant-like cells that produce molecular oxygen in the oceans to soil-borne bacteria responsible for fertility.

Scientists have found these cells 40 miles high in the atmosphere and beneath the ocean floor some seven miles deep..

In order to estimate the total number of bacteria on Earth, the group at Georgia divided the Earth into several areas, including oceanic and other aquatic environments, the soil, the subsurface of soil, and other habitats such as the air, inside animals and on the surface of leaves. The study brought some surprises.

"By combining direct measurements of the number of prokaryotic cells in various habitats, we found the total number of cells was much larger than we expected," said Whitman.

After making a list of known habitats for bacteria, the group searched scientific literature for direct measurements of cell numbers and the amount of carbon in cells from these habitats. They found that the great majority of bacteria are in sea water, soil, and oceanic and soil subsurface and so began to examine these habitats further.

Numerous direct measurements have been made for the total number of bacteria in the oceans, and median values were chosen to represent the three major oceanic habitats: the upper 200 meters, the deep ocean, and the upper 10 centimeters of deep ocean sediments.

Soil was divided into forest and non-forest types. The researchers then used detailed direct measurements from two studies representative of these soil types to calculate the total number of soil bacteria. Only nine data sets were available for the subsurface, but Whitman used indirect evidence to complete the picture of subsurface bacteria.

"We estimated that about 92 to 94 percent of the Earth's prokaryotes are in the soil subsurface," said Whitman. "We consider the subsurface to include marine sediments below about four inches and terrestrial habitats below about 30 feet."

Another important part of the study was an estimate of carbon content in bacteria. Carbon, of course, is a crucial element in numerous natural processes, so knowing the amount of it could contribute substantially to knowledge of carbon cycles. Scientists assume that carbon in the bacteria that live in soil and subsurface takes up about one-half of their dry weight. The team thus found that the total amount of bacterial carbon in the soil and subsurface to be yet another staggering number, 5 X 1017 g or the weight of the United Kingdom..

Rather surprisingly, the group at Georgia found that the total carbon of bacteria is nearly equal to the total carbon found in plants. The inclusion of this carbon in global models will greatly increase estimates of the amount of carbon stored in living organisms. The new estimates could also change assumptions about the relative amount in plants of other essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

"It had been estimated before that one-half of the living protoplasm on Earth is microbial, but our new figures indicate that this estimate is probably much too conservative," said Whitman.

The study could open new areas of inquiry, especially about the rate of mutations and how bacteria operate in nature. The new numbers also point out once again that events that are extremely rare in the laboratory could occur frequently in nature. In the meantime, despite the new estimate of total bacteria, researchers have their hands full just listing the number of bacterial species.

In the meantime, consider this problem: Because the number of bacteria is so large, events that would occur once in 10 billion years in the laboratory would occur every second in nature.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University Of Georgia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Mathematical proof for the designer requirement

That a complex structure such as a living organism could be formed by chance without intelligent input has never been demonstrated in the lab or anywhere else. Given enough time, the naturalistic worldview reasons, anything is at least possible. The problem with this view is that the degree of information and complexity required for living organisms to be able to “live” is such that, aside from deliberate intelligent design, from what we know now, no matter what the conditions, time alone will not allow for the naturalistic construction of life. Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould stated that even if evolutionary history on earth repeated itself a million times, he doubts whether anything like Homo sapiens would ever develop again (Gould, 1989 also see Kayzer, p. 86, 1997).

Many researchers have concluded that the probability of life arising by chance is so remote that we have to label it an impossibility. For example, Hoyle (1983) notes that the probability of drawing either ten white or ten black balls out of a large box full of balls that contains equal numbers of black and white balls is five times out of one million! If we increase the number to 100 and draw sets of 100 balls, the probability of drawing 100 black or 100 white balls in succession is now so low as to be for all practical purposes impossible.

To illustrate this concept as applied in biology, an ordered structure of just 206 parts will be examined. This is not a large number—the adult human skeleton, for example, contains on the average 206 separate bones, all assembled together in a perfectly integrated functioning whole. And all body systems—even our cells’ organelles—are far more complex than this.

To determine the possible number of different ways 206 parts could be connected, consider a system of one part which can be lined up in only one way (1 x 1) or a system of two parts in two ways (1 x 2) or 1, 2 and 2, 1 a system of three parts, which can be aligned in six ways (1 x 2 x 3), or 1, 2, 3 2, 3, 1 2, 1, 3 1, 3, 2 3, 1, 2 3, 2, 1 one of four parts in 24 ways (1 x 2 x 3 x 4), and so on. Thus, a system of 206 parts could be aligned in 1 x 2 x 3 … 206 different ways, equal to 1 x 2 x 3 … x 206. This number is called “206 factorial” and is written “206!”.

The value 206! is an enormously large number, approximately 10 388 , which is a “1” followed by 388 zeros, or:

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Achievement of only the correct general position required (ignoring for now where the bones came from, their upside-down or right-side-up placement, their alignment, the origin of the tendons, ligaments, and other supporting structures) for all 206 parts will occur only once out of 10 388 random assortments. This means one chance out of 10 388 exists of the correct order being selected on the first trial, and each and every other trial afterward, given all the bones as they presently exist in our body.

If one new trial could be completed each second for every single second available in all of the estimated evolutionary view of astronomic time (about 10 to 20 billion years), using the most conservative estimate gives us 10 18 seconds the chances that the correct general position will be obtained by random is less than once in 10 billion years. This will produce a probability of only one out of 10 (388–18) or one in 10 370 .

If each part is only the size of an electron, one of the smallest known particles in the universe, and the entire known universe were solidly packed with sets of bones, this area conservatively estimated at 100 billion cubic light years could contain only about 10 130 sets of 206 parts each. What is the possibility that just one of these 10 130 sets, each arranging their members by chance, will achieve the correct alignment just once in ten billion years? Suppose also that we invent a machine capable of making not one trial per second, but a billion-billion different trials each second on every single one of the 10 130 sets. The maximum number of possible trials that anyone could possibly conceive being made with this type of situation would permit a total of 10 166 trials (10 130 x 10 18 x 10 18 ). Even given these odds, the chance that one of these 10 166 trials would produce the correct result is only one out of 10 388 , or only one in 10 222 trials for all sets.

Further, all the parts must both first exist and be instantaneously assembled properly in order for the organism to function. For all practical purposes, a zero possibility exists that the correct general position of only 206 parts could be obtained simultaneously by chance and the average human has about 75 trillion cells! The human cerebral cortex alone contains over 10 billion cells, all arranged in the proper order, and each of these cells is itself infinitely complex from a human standpoint. Each of the cells in the human body consists of multi-thousands of basic parts such as organelles and multi-millions of complex proteins and other parts, all of which must be assembled both correctly and instantaneously as a unit in order to function. This required balance and assembly must be maintained even during cell division.

This illustration indicates that the argument commonly used by evolutionists “given enough time, anything is possible” is wanting. Evolutionary naturalism claims that the bone system happened as a result of time, luck, and “natural” forces, the last element actually holding the status of a god . Time, the chief escape that naturalism must rely on to support its theory, is thus a false god . Complex ordered structures of any kind (of which billions must exist in the body for it to work) cannot happen except by design and intelligence, and they must have occurred simultaneously for the unit to function. Scientists recognize this problem, and this is why Stephen Jay Gould concluded that humans are a glorious evolutionary accident which required 60 trillion contingent events (Gould, 1989, see also Kayzer, p. 92, 1997).

Of course, the naturalistic evolution assumption does not propose that the parts of life resulted from an assembly of bones, but instead proposes that an extended series of stepwise coincidences gave rise to life and the world as we know it. In other words, the first coincidence led to a second coincidence, which led to a third coincidence, which eventually led to coincidence “i,” which eventually led up to the present situation, “N.” Evolutionists have not even been able to posit a mechanistic “first” coincidence, only the assumption that each step must have had a survival advantage and only by this means could evolution from simple to complex have occurred. Each coincidence “i” is assumed to be dependent upon prior steps and to have an associated dependent probability “Pi.” The resultant probability estimate for the occurrence of evolutionary naturalism is calculated as the product series, given the following:

N the number of stepwise coincidences in the evolutionary process
i = the index for each coincidence: i = 1,2,3 …
Pi the evaluated dependent probability for the i’th coincidence
PE = the product probability that everything evolved by naturalism.

Innumerable steps are postulated to exist in the evolutionary sequence, therefore N is very large (i.e., N …). All values of Pi are less than or equal to one, with most of them much smaller than 1. The greater the proposed leap in step i, the smaller the associated probability Pi 1, and a property of product series where N is very large and most terms are significantly less than one quickly converges very close to zero.

The conclusion of this calculation is that the probability of naturalistic evolution is essentially zero. Sir Fred Hoyle (1982) calculated “the chance of a random shuffling of amino acids producing a workable set of enzymes” to be less than 10 40,000 , and the famous unrealistically optimistic Green Band equation gives the chance of finding life on another planet in the order of only one in 10 30 .

These probabilities argue that the chance distribution of molecules could never lead to the conditions favorable for the spontaneous development of life. The reasoning that leads us to this conclusion is that living molecules contain a large number of elements which must be instantly assembled in a certain order for life. The probability of the required order in a single basic protein molecule arising purely from chance is estimated at 10 43 (Overman, 1997). Since thousands of complex protein molecules are required to build a simple cell, probability moves chance arrangements of these molecules outside the realm of possibility. The smallest proteins have an atomic mass of 100,000 or more atomic mass units (AMU), which is equal to 100,000 hydrogen atoms (Branden and Tooze, 1991). And this calculation evaluates only the necessary order of parts, not a functional arrangement, i.e., one that works. Even if the gears of a clock are arranged in the correct order, the clock will not function properly until the gears are properly meshed, spaced, adjusted, the tolerances are correct, and the system is properly secured.

A problem with understanding the concept “life” is that although we now have identified many of the chemicals which are necessary, researchers do not yet know all of the factors necessary for life “to live.” Further, even assembling the proper chemicals together does not produce life. The proper arrangement of amino acids to form protein molecules is only one small requirement for life. Most animals are constructed of millions of cells, and the cell itself is far more complicated than the most complex machine ever manufactured by humans.

The famous illustration “the probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop” argues that information and complex systems cannot come about by chance, but can only be the product of an intelligent designer. Books likewise do not come about by chance, but are the product of both reasoning and intelligence (although some books may cause us to wonder about the author, but this is another problem!). Even Darwin admitted in his writings that it was extremely difficult, or impossible, to conceive that this immense and wonderful universe, including humans with our capacity of looking far backward and far into the future, was the result of blind chance.


How to Find More Fun Untamed Science Human Biology Information

We’ve organized the Human Biology portal into the major organ systems:

To find out more information about each of these systems, simply click the link here or in the sidebar at right. Within each organ system, you can find more in-depth articles about different components of the system. An article on blood could be under the circulatory system, for example, or an article about stomachs could be found under the digestive system page.

At the bottom of each organ systems page, we even have links to more relevant, fun articles. For example, an article about gluten-free diets can be found under the digestive system page. And throughout, our signature videos to help explain the concepts.


Fun Facts about the Blue Whale!

As the largest animal on earth – even larger than any known species of dinosaur to have ever lived – it is no surprise the blue whale continues to fascinate. Despite relatively little being known about it, there are still many fun facts and interesting biological concepts that can be explored with the species.

Long Life

With so little being known about the blue whale and its life history, you may wonder how scientists can estimate the species’ lifespan with any degree of certainty. Although there are several ways to do this, one of the most novel, reliable, and fascinating techniques is the use of the animal’s ear wax, known as cerumen.

Throughout the whale’s life, cerumen is deposited in the whale’s ear canal eventually forming long ‘plugs’. These are layered in visible light and dark sections, each indicating a switch in diet between feeding seasons. By counting these layers much like the rings of a tree, researchers can effectively count each year that the whale visited its winter feeding grounds. Each chronologically deposited light and dark layer (lamina) indicates a switch between fasting during migration and feeding, with one set laid down each year. Thus the number of these layers can be used as an indicator of age.

Before the development of earplugs as an aging method, layers in baleen plates were used. However, these wear down and are not as reliable as a metric. Also, estimates were often made by counting corpora albicantia, fibrous masses on the ovaries of female blue whales. These scars record the number of ovulations (or perhaps pregnancies) for the individual and have been used in the past as an estimator of age.

Large and Loud

Not only is the blue whale very large, but it is also very loud. They are known for emitting a series of pulses, groans, and moans in their communications with each other. These are often so loud that may allow them to hear each other from as far as 1,000 miles away under the right conditions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also have an excellent sense of hearing.

In addition to communications between individuals, scientists also believe that blue whales may use this powerful vocalization and a keen sense of hearing in combination as a type of sonar-navigation system, bouncing sounds off of the ocean floor and navigating based on their ‘echoes’. This may be a particularly useful ability in the darkest depths of the oceans where light does not reach, making vision largely useless for navigation purposes.

The Biggest of the Big

At about 100 feet long and nearly 200 tons, the blue whale is the largest animal species in the world. However, not all populations and subspecies of blue whales are created equal. In fact, of the five known subspecies of blue whales, members of the Antarctic (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) populations tend to be even larger than other blue whale subspecies. While most blue whales grow to about 90 feet long, these Antarctic behemoths can grow to about 100 feet long, weighing roughly 170 tons (330,000 pounds).

Skin Prints

Besides its size and shape, the mottled skin of the blue whale is also a distinguishing feature. These patterns on the skin of the whale are present on their sides, back, and belly, and are unique to each individual. While the size and shape can usually help to easily distinguish the blue whale from other species of whale, for example, the mottling on their skin can be used to identify individuals within the species or group of whales (pod). This is particularly helpful for researchers of the poorly understood species as it allows them to be confident in classifying their observations of particular individuals.