Odds and Ends Questions

One of my responsibilities at the Science Museum is to collect the paper questions visitors submit to our featured Scientists on the Spot. Sometimes the questions don’t quite mesh with the featured scientist’s background, but are good questions anyway, or are entertaining, or fun, and I thought this would be a good forum to answer some of the questions that would otherwise go unanswered. So, here we go!

Q: How many people are there in the world?

A: According to the World Population Clock from the United States Census Bureau, as of 3:30pm on June 2, 2006 there are approximately 6,519,746,485 people in the world. This number is constantly increasing, so for the most current number, you should visit the link above.

Q: How many bones are there in the human body?

A: The adult human skeleton has 206 bones, but they don't all start out as single bones. Even long bones (like your femur) start out with the epiphyses separate from the main shaft, and these unify with time. There are 800 centers of ossification in the skeleton that unite with age, and as such, the number of bony elements in a subadult can vary greatly.

Q: What is a spider monkey?

A: From the Wikipedia entry on spider monkeys:

Spider monkeys are New World monkeys of the family Atelidae, subfamily Atelinae. Found in tropical forests from southern Mexico to Brazil, spider monkeys belong to the genus Ateles; the closely related woolly spider monkeys, are in the genus Brachyteles.

Here’s a picture of one kind of spider monkey.
Spider Monkey: Image courtesy dgphilli.

Q: How long does it take to digest gum?

A: My parents always told me not to swallow my gum because it would take seven years for it to be digested. That’s just not true. Chewing gum has five basic ingredients - sweeteners, corn syrup, softeners, flavors and gum base. The first four ingredients are soluble, meaning they dissolve in your mouth as you chew or in your stomach when you swallow. Gum base doesn't dissolve – it just passes through us with the rest of our waste a day or two after you swallow it.

Q: How old do you have to be to donate blood or anything else? Can you be under 18?

A: Well, if you are deceased and a minor the decision to donate you organs is made by your parents or legal guardians. Licensed drivers can make a personal commitment to organ and tissue donation by indicating their wish to donate on their driver's license application. This lets families and emergency personnel know your wishes. Donation information is available in all driver's license bureaus in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. In these states, if you indicate your wish to become a donor on your driver's license, it is legally binding. Parental authorization is required for individuals under the age of 18.

To give blood for the Red Cross, you must be at least 17 years old. For more information visit the American Red Cross blood donation site.

Q: What are nails made of?

A: I am going to assume the question is regarding finger or toe nails. Fingernails and toenails are made of a protein called keratin. Keratin is the major protein component of hair, wool, nails, horns, hoofs, and the quills of feathers.

Q: Do you like bubble gum?

A: Not really. My favorite gum when I was a kid was Big League Chew. Now I prefer Swedish Fish.

That’s all for now. Do you have any odds and ends questions you’d like us to try to answer? Leave them for us – we’ll try our best to answer them for you.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have an odd question. I was chewing my fingernails (totally disgusting, I know) and a thumbnail became lodged in a cavity in my tooth (double disgusting) and eventually went deeper into my jaw area. It formed a ridge on my gum line and eventually the ridge disappeared. My question is: Did it dissolve? or could it possibly have moved to another area in my body? It was half-moon shaped and sharp and my fear is that it is still somewhere in my body. ACK!!!

posted on Wed, 06/14/2006 - 7:54am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

spider monkeys rock my world

posted on Thu, 12/07/2006 - 9:35am
`george of the jungle f's picture
`george of the jungle f says:

I love spidermonkeys

posted on Thu, 12/07/2006 - 1:08pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

One of my co-workers children is taking biology in college. She can get extra credit in the class if she finds out how many bones are in a monkey. Several of us have attempted to help her, but no one can fine the answer. So my question is.....How many bones are in a monkey's body?

posted on Wed, 02/14/2007 - 8:23am
bryan kennedy's picture

Well, I can't find a quick answer to your question. The skeleton of a normally developed adult human 206 bones. But that's not what you asked....so. I might try emailing the good folks over at Skulls Unlimited. They sell skeletons of all sorts for display and might be able to tell you how many bones they have in their monkey kits.

You might also try contacting someone at the Jane Goodall Institutes's Center for Primate Studies At the University of Minnesota. While they specialize more in chimpanzee research, they might have some insight into monkey biology.

posted on Wed, 02/14/2007 - 10:03am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

258 bones

posted on Wed, 02/14/2007 - 11:42am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Wed, 02/14/2007 - 11:43am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

There may not be an answer to that question. There are 264 different species of monkey. I would suspect that some species may have more bones than others.

posted on Wed, 02/14/2007 - 12:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this is extra credit for me----
how long does it take gum to dissolve thx(thanks)
this site came from my google search or it

posted on Tue, 04/03/2007 - 6:29pm
Randa & Chey's picture
Randa & Chey says:

Hey this is the coolest girls ever*****....thank you for posting how long does gum digest....we have been arguing over that for a long time....We both lost....well thanks again!!!!!!!!

posted on Fri, 08/31/2007 - 8:40pm
Timothy's picture
Timothy says:

I had a question, If you took the worlds population and connected them in a line. How many times could you go to the moon and back with that line? I'm giving a speech on donating blood and i need some kind of interesting fact like that to use with a comparison. I'm comparing the worlds population to how many people have ab- blood type. Which is only 1% and i really need some kind of startling fact to compare that to make it more easily visible for the class? I really hope you can help me. Also i was wondering what other kind of questions can i ask because i have alot?
Thank You so much! :)

posted on Wed, 10/24/2007 - 8:43am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The Moon, on average, is about 384,000 miles away. At 5,240 feet per mile, that comes out to 2,027,520,000 feet.

There are more than 6 billion people on Earth. If they all stood in a line, and each person took up about one foot of space (which would be packing 'em pretty tight), they would stretch from Earth to the Moon, back to Earth, and back to the Moon again.

posted on Thu, 10/25/2007 - 11:07am
timothy's picture
timothy says:

how many people in the united states die each year from lack of blood that could of easily been donated

posted on Thu, 10/25/2007 - 10:11pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

I don't know Timmy. Here is some info from the Red Cross:

How much blood is donated each year?
According to the National Blood Data Resource Center, U.S. institutions collected more than 15 million units of whole blood and red cells in 2001, the most recent year for which data are available. Blood centers collected 93% of the donated units, while hospitals collected 7%. These donations were made by approximately eight million volunteer blood donors. The American Red Cross collects almost half of these donations across the U.S.

How much blood is needed each year?
According to the most recent data from the National Blood Data Resource Center, U.S. hospitals transfused nearly 14 million units of whole blood and red blood cells to 4.9 million patients in 2001 - that's an average of 38,000 units of blood needed on any given day. Whole blood can be separated into its components red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitate. The total number of units of all of these components transfused in 2001 was 29 million. And the volume of blood transfused is increasing at the rate of 6% per year. In emergency conditions such as war or disaster, the need for blood may change.

Given that information, it would seem that there is enough blood being donated, as 1 million units of donated blood were not used, though I suspect this information does not take into account regional and situational shortages, and is also probably only relevant to the US. I would suggest asking this question to the Red Cross.

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:44am
timothy's picture
timothy says:

I was wondering how many medical procedures (such as hip replacement, heart replacement, bone marrow transplant, ect....) have to be postponed each year in the United States due to shortage of blood supplies. This is probably a toughy but i sure would appreciate.

posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 8:33am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

Timmy, I don't have this data. I would suggest again that you contact the Red Cross as they are probably the best resource for this type of information. Sorry!

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:45am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Good question, Timothy!!

posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 10:02am
timothy's picture
timothy says:

I was just wondering if anyone might have any answers to my two latest questions. I know their hard but i was just curious. thanks for the effort by all who might answer.

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 12:38am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

See above!

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:46am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What are exoskeletons made of? I assumed bone at first, but isn't that a little...inflexible? Perhaps keratin (top of the page- and I've been using the wrong spelling!)? I
considered cartilage too; Then again, that may be the same thing as keratin- I'm not an expert. If different shells are made of different things, maybe...shrimp? It was
shrimp shells that got me thinking about this anyway.

posted on Wed, 01/27/2010 - 7:53pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

how long it takes for fallen hair to 'disappear' or dissolve ?

posted on Wed, 11/03/2010 - 9:46pm

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