One square inch of …

Ever since reading Lewis Thomas’ Lives of a Cell, I’ve been thinking smaller, curious as to the life that teems unseen all around and in me.

In keeping with this blog’s mashed-up name (Squinch = square inch), I got to wondering what might fill one square inch of …

Soil – go plunge your hands into the dirt as you garden – do you know what you’re getting into?  In one square inch of soil live over 4 billion organisms, including one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to the more complex nematodes and micro-arthropods.

Night sky: looking from earth at a pin-prick sized dot of black night sky, the Hubble telescope found over 3,000 spinning, twinkling, colourfully dazzling objects; 4 of them were stars and the rest galaxies – yes, galaxies!  All in one tiny pin-head speck of night sky that appears like empty black space to the human eye.  Read Psalm 8 with an image of Hubble Deep Field in your hand to get a sense of your small and lofty nature.

Skin: 65 hairs, 9,500,000 cells, 4 meters of blood vessels, 95 sebaceous glands, 650 sweat glands, 5 meters of nerves, and over 1000 nerve endings to record pain.  No wonder you’re so touchy!

Tongue: sitting on one square inch of what is considered the strongest muscle in the body is anywhere from 11 – 1,100 taste buds, each a cluster of cells resembling a flower bud under the microscope.  That’s one mighty taster perched in your mouth.

Blood: a cubic inch of healthy blood has 75 million red blood cells, those lovely doughnut-like cells, 108,000 white blood cells, and 4.3 million platelets suspended in plasma fluid with various disolved proteins, mineral ions, and glucose.

Water – most of you is made up of water (60%, in fact, and 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water).  So what is it that makes most of you up and covers most of earth’s crust?  A graceful set of elements, oxygen and hydrogen, paired in a beautiful, simple v-shape of 104.5 degrees (exactly), which allows for the elegant hexagonal shape of snowflakes.  In one sip (a cubic inch) of water is approximately 5.48 x 1023 molecules of H2O.

Air – one square inch of air, the stuff you unthinkingly breathe, the environment you scarcely notice, weighs 14.7 lbs. at sea level.  Now this square inch column of air is 50 miles high, pretty much the outer limit of earth’s atmosphere.  Who would’ve imagined that air would weigh even that?

Kitchen sink dish cloth – yes, this is disgusting so change out that dirty rag already.  There are around 134,000 bacteria per square inch wriggling, swimming and clambering all over that dish cloth you keep using to wipe down counter-tops and kids faces.

Coffee – one cubic inch of coffee is simply not enough.

Silence – one square inch of silence is full of the voice of God and so much more – but you’ll never know until you gear down and actually find silent spaces.  Check out the fascinating “One Square Inch of Silence” project, dedicated to preserving natural soundscapes by locating the “quietest place in the United States” in the Olympic National Park, WA.

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  1. #1 by Keith Shields on July 29, 2011 - 8:55 am

    One square inch of Phil’s writing, awesome!

    • #2 by phil on July 29, 2011 - 10:58 am

      Thanks so much Keith!

  2. #3 by Damien Frost on July 31, 2011 - 1:43 pm

    Thank you for the information, particularly the OSIOS portion at the close of the post, and for the laughs. Well-written piece, well-placed environmental portion (I say well-placed because if you had led off with the “Silence-” bit, you’d likely have lost some readers, maybe even me, before I had a chance to laugh, which I think is what you want most from this article, and ultimately the blog.) I gave up my own blog long ago, though I do still write: short fiction, poems, infrequent, anonymous articles for sites, and occasionally, what I hope will be received as a sincere compliment. I enjoyed reading what you wrote here.

  3. #4 by Joe Nelson on August 12, 2011 - 9:35 am

    Sadly most of us loose our Childlike and God given tendency for being inquisitive for the sake of focus. I think that a little ADHD when it comes to the world around us is good for the soul.

    Thanks for renewing the inquisitiveness

    • #5 by phil on August 14, 2011 - 10:17 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Joe.

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