We Are All 33% Mushroom: Bizarre Science to Boggle Your Brain



It’s thanks to the simple sewing needle that us humans dominate planet Earth.

But let’s not get too big for our boots. Because if we squeezed all the empty space out of the atoms which make up the entire human race, the global population could fit into a sugar cube.

These are just a couple of the brain-boggling science facts highlighted in new book. What a Wonder­ful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff explores the wonders of science and the universe which surrounds us.

Here are a few more facts to blow your mind…

We are all 33% mushroom. Yes, humans are related to fungi, sharing a third of our DNA with them.

You age more slowly on the ground floor of a building. This is a consequence of Einstein’s theory of gravity, which says that time flows more slowly in strong gravity. So if you want to live long and prosper, move to a bungalow.

Slime moulds have 13 sexes. And each can mate with all the other sexes.

Today your body will build about 300 billion cells. That’s more than there are stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Which helps explain why you feel tired even when you haven’t done anything.

In the process of conception and development, every one of us spent half an hour as a single cell.

You could fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube. That’s because atoms are 99.9999999999 per cent empty space. So if you squeezed out all the empty space from all the atoms in all the people in the world you could indeed fit the human race in the volume of a sugar cube.

Almost all your cells get replaced every seven years. This might explain the seven-year itch because by then you are a completely different person to the one who got married.

British physicist Sir Joseph “JJ” Thomson won the 1906 Nobel Prize for proving the electron is a particle. His son Sir George Thomson won the 1937 Nobel Prize for proving it isn’t. Bet that was fun for the rest?of the family at Thomson family gatherings.

Ever wonder what happens to all the energy absorbed from the Sun? It’s re-radiated into space. If this was not the case, the Earth would just get hotter and hotter until it pretty much melted.

Everyone on Earth, even the most macho of males, was female for the first 40 days of their existence.

Humans are one of only three species known to experience a menopause. The others are killer whales and short-finned pilot whales.

The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea looking for a rock to cling to. Upon finding one, however, it no longer needs its brain. So it eats it.

For 1.4 million years – that’s 60,000 generations – there was no improvement in the design of stone hand-axes. Palaeo-anthropologists call this the ‘1.4 million years of boredom’.

The crucial advantage that humans had over Neanderthals was sewing. No one has ever found a Neanderthal needle. It is thought that the sewing of baby clothes gave human babies a crucial one per cent survival advantage in the ice-age winters and this may explain why humans out-competed Neanderthals. Around 2.5 per cent of the DNA of modern humans living outside of Africa is believed to be Neanderthal.

The bodies and brains of Cro-Magnons, our ancestors in Europe, were between five and ten per cent bigger than ours.

If tinkered with, the electrical energy in the atoms of a single mosquito is enough to cause global mass extinction.

The brain uses up about 20 per cent of the body’s entire energy, which is why meat-eating humans have excelled over time. We evolved bigger brains because we had access to greater energy resources.

Per square centimetre of our skin, humans have, on average, as much hair on our bodies as chimpanzees.

Due to the turning earth people living on the equator travel at twice the speed of a Boeing 747 – about 1,038mph.

Due to the movement of plates on the surface of the Earth, the Atlantic Ocean is widening by about five centimetres a year. Britain and the United States are in the midst of a long goodbye.

One reason humans have dominated the Earth is down to our bottoms. These powerful muscles at the tops of our legs enable us to stay upright and run fast, potentially over long distances.

Evidence suggests that humans have been cooking their food for the past 1.5 million years. It should be done by now…

Because of the speed at which light travels and the huge distance involved, when we look up in to the night sky and see the Andromeda Galaxy – the most distant object visible to the naked eye – we see it as it was when our Homo Erectus ancestors were first venturing out onto the African savannah. That’s 2.5million years ago.

Around one per cent of the static – or ‘snow’ – on your TV screen is leftover heat from the Big Bang which created the universe.

NASA launches its rockets from Florida because its closeness to the equator, where Earth turns more quickly, gives them the maximum “boost’ into space.

By dating radioactive meteorites on the planet’s surface (the builders’ rubble left over from the creation of the solar system) scientists believe the Earth is about 4.55 billion years old.

The electrical current in the National Grid is transported around the UK at a shocking 110,000 volts and is reduced via transformers to 240 volts so it can be safely used by us in our homes.

All these facts and more can be found in What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff, by Marcus Chown. Published October 3 in hardback by Faber & Faber