Login

Join for Free!
117159 members


Humor me; can our bodies can be smaller but the same?

Discussion of all aspects of cellular structure, physiology and communication.

Moderator: BioTeam

Humor me; can our bodies can be smaller but the same?

Postby rusrus » Tue Jan 29, 2008 1:01 am

Working on some sci-fi and exploring the theory that there is redundancy in the human body, i.e., we could function with fewer cells, then fewer amounts of elements, and therefore less matter. Could we be “fine-tuned” and exist as a smaller version of ourself?
rusrus
Garter
Garter
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:53 am

Postby mith » Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:21 am

pygmies?
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
~Niebuhr
User avatar
mith
Inland Taipan
Inland Taipan
 
Posts: 5345
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 8:14 pm
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: Humor me; can our bodies can be smaller but the same?

Postby rusrus » Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:34 am

yeah, but in a sci-fi type story realigning/refining an existing body and removing redundancy, therefore, making it smaller? If your eye has say xxx number of cells, are all xxx number of cells really needed? Can the eye work with yyy number of cells in theroy. Does the human body have redundancy?
rusrus
Garter
Garter
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:53 am


Postby mith » Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:02 am

Your eye cells aren't redundant, if you had smaller eyes you'd have a smaller field of vision or see things with less resolution.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
~Niebuhr
User avatar
mith
Inland Taipan
Inland Taipan
 
Posts: 5345
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 8:14 pm
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: Humor me; can our bodies can be smaller but the same?

Postby rusrus » Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:44 am

I'm still not communicating my idea very well... A hawk’s eye is smaller than my eye, and may even have fewer cells, yet it is stronger. But that isn't the point really; in my research I've found that the bodies, all animals, have redundancy in the number of t cells, neurons, etc. as a way to fight brain injuries and virus. one could surmise that, in a sci-fi type work, reorganizing and reducing the dependency on this redundancy would allow for an existing body to lose cells, and size. What do you think? Leap of faith, movie wise?
rusrus
Garter
Garter
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:53 am

Postby MichaelXY » Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:36 am

Redundancy allows for failures without a system shutdown. Like redundant harddrives, one fails the other goes online and overall system continues to operate. Removing redundancy would result in a more likely system failure. That would be a poor design overall.
User avatar
MichaelXY
King Cobra
King Cobra
 
Posts: 885
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:03 pm
Location: San Diego, Ca

Re: Humor me; can our bodies can be smaller but the same?

Postby biohazard » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:01 am

With modern technology, I am pretty sure that humans could function perfectly well with a much smaller frame. Basically the only thing that has to be maintained about the same size is the brain, I think, since that is about our only real asset (well, mobile hands and good vision etc, but those can be achieved with small size as well). Humans are the size they are nowadays because it was evolutionally purposeful - large enough to have some chances of survival agains bigger predators, but not any larger than necessary. However, today the things are profoundly different. You could have half the muscle mass for example and still be able to use all the tools our society offers. Bones could be thinner if we made some sort of exoskeletons to support ourselves, and the overall body size probably only had to be big enough to accommodate our brain and the function of our hands - pretty much all else is secondary. Smaller organs would be sufficient for the smaller frame, just like in smaller mammals in general.

I know that the evolutionary trend is currently a bit different - since food is plentiful in many parts of the world, there is no need to be smaller in frame, and actually women even prefer taller men in general. Furthermore, many tasks still require at least somewhat adequate muscle strength. This being said, I still believe that a smaller human (measured in cell number and/or mass) would still be perfectly viable option, if there was a reason for such. Just the brains should probably be close to the size it is now, and the hands should have the same nibmleness and ability to manipulate fine details (lesser strength is okay, even now all the heavy duty stuff is done by machines). Heck, we could do just well without legs altogether, if we just designed our society to support it. Of course, then our bodies wouldn't be the "same" anymore :)

Then, if by "the same" you mean an exact copy of ourselves but just with fewer cells, then I guess the limit goes somewhere around the pygmy/small child level - they should have a big enough body size to support brains that have the same or near-to capacity than an adult brain (even newborns have rather large brains :))

Oh and then the other option: the number of cells would be the same, but the cell size smaller - well that would not work, for the cellular functions are so finely tuned to work in their current size frame, that, say, halving their size would result in an acute failure. I am pretty certain about this, although cannot come up with a good example right now :P

Finally, about redundancy - now that is a tricky topic, because what is actually redundant is probably impossible to determine. E.g. one could say that if you can live and function with only 50% of your muscle cells, half of your muscle cells were redundant. However, I am pretty certain that nobody thinks their muscles are useless, and would love to have some more. You could also remove teeth and the other eye and say they are redundant, because you can still suck a straw and be a cyclops!

I guess what is really redundant and what essential is largely determined by the environment - if you live in a tank with no threats from the outside and on an i.v. nutrition, then I guess much in us could be classified redundant. But as it stands now, when you cannot anticipate what threats and requirements the environment causes, it is better to have some spare parts, and in this case, it really is not redundant, is it? ;)
Last edited by biohazard on Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:20 am, edited 5 times in total.
User avatar
biohazard
King Cobra
King Cobra
 
Posts: 776
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2007 6:45 pm

Postby mith » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:10 am

Wouldn't the easiest way to have smaller size be impediment of growth hormones so you would have someone who is baby sized but fully developed.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
~Niebuhr
User avatar
mith
Inland Taipan
Inland Taipan
 
Posts: 5345
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 8:14 pm
Location: Nashville, TN

Postby MrMistery » Tue Jan 29, 2008 3:07 pm

there is a disease that does that: growth hormone insufficiency(GHI)
By the way, a hawk's eye does not have less cells, it has a more of them. It also has to foveas, to be able to see moving things with an incredible accuracy. But while a hawk can see terribly well it is almost blind during nighttime(unlike a human). So number of cells is not so well connected to function, at least in this example.
"As a biologist, I firmly believe that when you're dead, you're dead. Except for what you live behind in history. That's the only afterlife" - J. Craig Venter
User avatar
MrMistery
Inland Taipan
Inland Taipan
 
Posts: 6832
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:18 pm
Location: Romania(small and unimportant country)

Postby canalon » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:07 am

And if I guess a smaller version of some organs could probably be still perfectly viable, some would probably not work as efficiently (I suppose that a 2x reduction of the size of your lung would probably reduce the exchange capacity by 8x) or not at all (brain for example).
Patrick

Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without
any proof. (Ashley Montague)
User avatar
canalon
Inland Taipan
Inland Taipan
 
Posts: 3909
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:46 pm
Location: Canada


Return to Cell Biology

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron