Monthly Archives: August 2011
A Comical Science piece I wrote years ago…
Amidst the ring and ting of a busy city life – here I lay. Amidst the shouting and the singing – here I lay. Amidst the smoke and the dirt, the hustle and bustle, the executive reports and the medical analysis – here I lay, served daily onAmerica’s favourite hour – lunch. Here I lay, privileged to be America’s, no the world’s favourite dish – the Hamburger Dish. Amidst everything grave and sickly, I will forever be an essential to humankind – forever packed with proteins, fats and carbohydrates. My popularity will never be beaten, unless humankind creates a dish far economically and bodily pleasing, I will forever stay on the daily lunch menu – next to the possibly genetically altered potato fries and the Coca-Cola. I am here to stay!
The clock strikes twelve and in floods the customers:
“One hamburger dish to go please, I must leave now, I have contracts to sign and people to fire!”
Success! I will be sold! I will be a nourishing agent to the pompous young man in the “fly” blue suit. I will be and addition to his possibly reckless lifestyle! Good, jolly good!
Amidst these thoughts, I soon realise that I am shoved into a brown paper bag – “Eat smart, Eat at Bart’s!” it bellows. But I do not let this distract me, for I am eager to make the journey. I have been prepared for this, lectured for this by fellow burgers and have prayed to the ultimate Burger God to make a safe trip. I have heard many unsuccessful stories of vomit and diarrhoea and do not wish to suffer the same fate. Once I am set onto the customer’s plate, I stare longingly at my new master. He shoves me into his buccal cavity and bites hard into me. Juices flow into me – juices which are not my own. This salivary juice gives me a new sensation, a powerful, energetic sensation. I am repetitively chewed upon – mastication is the term. I can feel my starch molecules break up, literally exploding into tiny maltose molecules – it is the enzyme amylase causing such disintegration. Acting on my every being is lysosome, the antibacterial enzyme, mucus, the moistening agent and mineral salts which act as coenzymes to increase enzyme efficiency. The tongue pushes me to the back of the buccal cavity and into the pharynx. This cavity between the mouth and windpipe serves as a passageway both for food (such as me) on its way down the alimentary canal and for air passing into the windpipe. I move towards the oesophagus in a certain shape called “bolus”, formed by the action of the tongue. I move down this muscular tube not by own will, but by this grand machine be, through a process called peristalsis. This mechanism works by sending an alternate wave of contraction and relaxation caused by the relatively large longitudinal and circular muscles.
Once the final wave of peristalsis is sent out, the cardiac sphincter relaxes, forming an opening through which I can pass into the “room”. Then the muscle contracts, closing the opening to preventing any of my being from moving back into the oesophagus. The oesophageal sphincter is the first of several such muscles along this alimentary canal. These muscles act as valves to regulate the passage of food and keep it from moving backward.
I am in a new room, a dismal, pungent sack-like room with strong muscular walls. Now, in this bag, I remember being repetitively encouraged by my mentors to have no fear about the size of the room, for it can expand significantly to store all the food from a meal for both mechanical and chemical processing. The stomach, as I should call it, contracts about three times per minute, churning the food and mixing it with gastric juice. This fluid, by thousands of gastric glands in the lining of the stomach, consists of water, hydrochloric acid; an enzyme called pepsin, and mucin (the main part of mucus). The acid is secreted by the parietal cells while the zymogen cells secrete the inactive form of pepsin. Hydrochloric acid creates the acidic envirois secretednment that pepsin needs to begin breaking down my proteins into polypeptides. It also kills any micro-organisms that may have been ingested with me. Mucin, as I noticed, coated the stomach, protecting it from the effects of the acid and pepsin.
I remain in this tomb, for what seems an eternity, but in reality it is a mere three to four hours. After being chemically processed I feel drained, but am still able to tell you of my journey through the remainder of the canal. According to the rules of biology I am now a semi-digested liquid called chyme. I am passed a little at a time through the pyloric sphincter into the duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine. Then on from the duodenum to the small intestine, where I am again experience the action of the body’s juices. Structures called Brunner’s glands secrete mucus to protect the intestinal walls from the acid effects of digestive juices. Bile is secreted from the liver into the small intestine through the bile duct. Bile acts as an emulsifier, breaking my large fat globules into small droplets, which enzymes in the small intestine can act upon. Pancreatic juice, secreted by the pancreas, enters the small intestine through the pancreatic duct. Pancreatic juice contains enzymes that perform hydrolysis reactions, specifically – amylase breaks down starches into maltose, lactase breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose, sucrase breaks down sucrose into glucose and fructose and maltase breaks down maltose into glucose. Lipase breaks down my fats into fatty acids and glycerol, and trypsin breaks down my proteins into amino acids. Additionally, chymotrypsin and carboxypeptidases breaks down polypeptides into amino acids. These nutrients, my nutrients, are what the intestine absorbs.
The small intestine’s capacity for absorption is increased by millions of finger-like projections called villi, which line the inner walls of the small intestine. Each villus is about 0.5 to 1.5 mm (0.02 to 0.06 in) long and covered with a single layer of cells. Even tinier finger-like projections called microvilli cover the cell surfaces. This combination of villi and microvilli increases the surface area of the small intestine’s lining by about 150 times, multiplying its capacity for absorption. Beneath the villi’s single layer of cells are capillaries (tiny vessels) of the bloodstream and the lymphatic system. These capillaries allow nutrients produced by digestion to travel to the cells of the body. Simple sugars and amino acids pass through the capillaries to enter the bloodstream. They are then transported to the liver via the hepatic portal vein. Fatty acids and glycerol are absorbed into the epithelial cells of the villi, where they are reconverted to lipids. These are wall converted to lipoproteins which are secreted into the lymph vessels found in each villus from where they are carried in the vessels to the point where they are placed into the bloodstream.
I now feel separated and torn apart, my goodness separated from my badness. I know that my nutrients are in proper use, though some may be in excess, I know the body will be able to care and counteract any deviation from the norm. I am able to sense this, like a mother senses her child from miles off. My “badness” as I phrase it, is a watery residue of indigestible food and digestive juices remain which are unabsorbed. I learnt that I can spend an average of twelve to twenty-four hours here, given the correct conditions. From what I have been though and what I have learnt, the large intestine forms an inverted U over the coils of the small intestine. It starts on the lower right-hand side of the body and ends on the lower left-hand side. Again I am drained; this large, hollow tubing absorbs large amounts of water and salts from the residue, until it forms a solid. In addition, bacteria in the large intestine promote the breakdown of undigested materials and make several vitamins, notably vitamin K, which the body needs, for blood clotting. I am now faeces—waste material that consists largely of undigested food, digestive juices, bacteria, and mucus. I am moved towards the rectum for storage where I am now in full awareness of my fate. I can now feel the two sphincter muscles, contracting and relaxing. I creep slowly towards the anus, I see the light, but it is a light I wish to turn away from. I know I cannot cower, I have prepared for this, I am the ultimate dish, and I can end the journey -: “Splat!”
- Which structure is responsible for storing bile (wiki.answers.com)
- After you eat, you feel tired? (cookingislife.wordpress.com)
- What happens as blood passes through the intestines (wiki.answers.com)