HAT’S in a drop of water, besides a tiny piece of the world? Every drop contains a part of all of us. This is not some kind of mystical connection, it is scientific and real.
Since our bodies consist mostly of water, the water that is in us is part of us as long as it is in us. But the average person consumes about three liters of water a day. This is processed through our bodies, mainly via our circulatory system, continually replacing the water existing within us with new.
After it leaves it is dispersed. Some of it might evaporate, returning in the form of precipitation, but most finds its way down rivers to oceans. Either way it’s soon mixed with the other water on the planet, save for a small percentage frozen deep in ice caps or locked in natural underground reservoirs.
Molecules of it plunge down Niagara Falls. Others join the fish in the Great Lakes, or help float ships through the Suez Canal. Many if not most eventually lose themselves in deep ocean currents, some even drifting through what remains of the Titanic, miles below the surface of the North Atlantic.
So a curious question presents itself. When you are situated in a quiet house, and happen to be distracted by the plink, plink of a faucet not quite turned off, are any of those drops likely to contain molecules of water that were once part of you, yet had now traveled the world and returned to break your silence?
This can be answered using some simple calculations, although the numbers are quite large. What keeps the inquiry interesting is that water molecules are very small, and there are an amazing lot of them.
The first value needed is the quantity of water there is everywhere on earth, roughly 1.4 x 10²¹ liters. Written out, this is 1,400,000,000,000,000,000,000. A small percentage of this, perhaps 2%, represents water locked in ice or underground, but this is not enough to significantly affect general calculations.
At three liters per day an average individual processes about 1,000 liters of water a year through their bodies, which is part of their body while it is in them. This includes water taken in the form of food and beverages. Thus a person fifty years of age has used roughly 50,000 liters of water during his lifetime.
By dividing the number of liters on earth by the number of liters consumed by the hypothetical fifty-year-old, a ratio can be determined— the number of liters of water extent on earth that are not of or from that person for every one liter of water that is or has been a part of that person. This ratio comes out to be 28,000,000,000,000,000 to 1.
Since this is a ratio it works whatever the unit of measurement, liters or molecules, provided like units are of consistent size— which they are. One liter is the same size as another liter, one standard water molecule is the same size as another standard water molecule.
The number of molecules in a liter of water is about 334 x 10²³. By dividing this by the ratio number, the number of molecules belonging to or having once belonged to the fifty-year-old in a typical liter of free water drawn anywhere on earth can be determined. This number works out to be about 1,190,000,000 molecules.
To get the number of subject-molecules in a drop of water the above result is further divided by 20,000, the number of drops in a liter. This results in 59,500 molecules per drop of water, or roughly 60,000.
This number would vary widely depending on the age of the individual, but could be estimated at about 1,200 molecules per year of age. Even with this modification it is likely that any drop of water contains at least a part, if only a few molecules, of virtually every person on earth— including newborns, since they used water while in the womb.
Considering the number of drops of water (and therefore molecules) now in our own bodies, which themselves consist mostly of water, we can pretty much say we contain parts of everyone and are ourselves a part of everyone, at least in substance. For adults that means billions of molecules of each and every other adult, past and present.
In the case of historical figures, actual numbers of molecules can be estimated based on lifespan in years. For example if tradition is right about age then approximately 40,000 molecules in every drop of free water on earth were once part of the body of Jesus. No need anymore for that old shroud— it’s fake anyway. Just touch your own body.
Obviously though on a less uplifting note each drop also contains about 67,000 molecules which once belonged to a man who lived nineteen centuries later and who tried to conquer the world, while calling himself Führer.
Besides parts of all people past and present, each of us has within us varying numbers of molecules that were once part of all the countless billions of larger individuals from all major life forms, plant and animal, that live or have ever lived on earth.
To this extent at least we are all one in substance with each other and with nature.
© 2010 Warren Farr for the Unitheist Fellowship — revised 5/12