December 29, 2007

Today's quiz

This one comes via a friend who recently shared this vexing question.

The subject is human hair and its apparent intelligence, for lack of a better word.

Let's take the hair on one's arm, for the sake of illustration.

The hair begins to grow at some point, reaches it's prescribed length, determined through centuries of evolution and dictated by it's location on the body.

So it's reached it's length and somehow knows when it's time to stop growning.

How does it know when it's reached it's prescribed length and to stop growing at that point?

My wild guess would be something to do with hormonal signals. But that's not the real question here. It gets better.

Now say that you accidentally singe off a patch of hair on your arm. Or for some reason it gets shaved off.

Here's the real mystery.

How do individual hairs:

A. Tell that it's been cut or burned off, and
B. What causes the hair to then begin growing again until it reaches its set length, and then stop growing?

Being perpetually curious, this one has me utterly stumped. I'd bet that biological science has solved this one, though I've never learned the answer.

Any of my many learned readers care to speculate as to how our hair appears to have a mind of its own? Or better yet, provide a plausible answer?

13 Comments:

At 12/29/2007 12:47 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair

 
At 12/30/2007 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes God has things figured out that we do not fully understand.

I know that you'll hate this answer, then make a crass remark, but that is ok...

 
At 12/30/2007 9:39 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Hmmm, you mean like the concept of God? No one understands that either, and it's entirely likely that man invented the concept to account for the unexplainable, such as lightning, death, the sun, etc.

When the figured out the earth wasn't flat and was suspended somehow in space, they couldn't figure that out either. At the time it was one of the things "we do not understand" that you refer to in your comments.

Some figured that the earth must be held up on the back of a gigantic turtle, and others thought it was held on Atlas' shoulders.

And of course there were centuries where the earth was considered to revolve around the sun. and as with all unknowns throughout history, God was thrown in there somewhere to take account of the unknown. Sort of like the figure "x" in algebra I suppose.

To suggest otherwise was definitely crass and many people were put to death for daring to put forth a different explanation.

We've figured out a lot of the things that had previously been explained as God's mysterious and unknowable work for centuries, but there's still a lot that's unknown and unknowable (as far as we know).

(which reminds me of Rumsfeld's infamous "unknown knowns" and "known unknowns" etc.)

And chalking up the unknown to God is a handy way to stop trying to figure anything out and remain in ignorance.

Perhaps the saddest is when people are visited by the most wrenching tragedies and routinely find comfort by attributing it to "God's will". That's good that that idea provides comfort. Thank God for that.

But if you subscribe to that line of thought, that all inhuman tragedy and calamity are done at God's will, He must be a downright sadistic diety with a pretty twisted sense of humor.

And to quote the great Frank Zappa, if God made us all in his image, then He must be "dumb all over, and a little ugly on the side".

How's that for crass?

 
At 12/30/2007 9:50 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Hmmm, you mean like the concept of God? No one understands that either, and it's entirely likely that man invented the concept to account for the unexplainable, such as lightning, death, the sun, etc.

When we figured out the earth was suspended somehow in space, they couldn't figure that out what held it up. At the time it was one of those God things "we do not understand" that you refer to in your comments.

Some figured that the earth must be held up on the back of a gigantic turtle, and others thought it was held on Atlas' shoulders.

Nearly every religion which ever existed or exists on earth have stories to account for some of the biggies, like the creation of life and what happens when we die, and they're all wildly different for the most part if they evolved independently of other religions.

And of course there were centuries where the earth was considered to revolve around the sun, and as with all unknowns throughout history, God was thrown in there somewhere to take account of the unknown. Sort of like the figure "x" in algebra I suppose.

To suggest otherwise was definitely crass. So crass that many people were put to death for daring to put forth a different explanation.

We've figured out a lot of the things that had previously been explained as God's mysterious and unknowable work for centuries now, but there's still a lot that's unknown and unknowable (as far as we know).

(which reminds me of Rumsfeld's infamous "unknown knowns" and "known unknowns" etc.)

And chalking up the unknown to God is a handy way to stop trying to figure anything out and remain in ignorance. And of course, following religious teachings to tell you how to think relieves folks of the strain of realizing that there's a lot we don't know and that's kind of scary.

Perhaps the saddest is when people are visited by the most wrenching tragedies and routinely find comfort by attributing it to "God's will". That's good that that idea provides comfort. Thank God for that.

That's the good part of religion. It gives people comfort and serves to make sense out of the senseless, if you're willing to believe a lot of things "on faith."

But if you subscribe to that line of thought, that all inhuman tragedy and calamity are done by God's will, He must be a downright sadistic diety with a pretty twisted sense of humor.

And to quote the great Frank Zappa, if God made us all in his image, then He must be "dumb all over, and a little ugly on the side".

How's that for crass?

I'm not anti-religion per se, unless they try to dictate how everyone else must believe or behave based on particular religious beliefs, but I find it a bit lazy to simply attribute anything you can't figure out to God and leave it at that. Handy yes, but not too honest.

But I'm guilty of the same thing myself. Take the question of abortion. I say people do the best they can do and operate under their own moral sense. It's not up to us to determine if God likes it or not. He'll figure that out later. In the meantime, we can only do the best we can.

And is it "wrong" somehow to be gay? I don't know. I sincerely doubt it. But I don't know how God feels about it, if there is one, and neither does anyone else. So let's err on the side of humanity and leave them alone and treat them with a measure of dignity and respect that we'd want for ourselves.

In other words, don't make the mistake of trying to speak for God and we'll get along just fine.

 
At 12/31/2007 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so if there is no God, if he were invented by man 'to account for the unexplainable' - please tell me,

How was the earth created?
How did man come to existance?

I know that this will lead to a 24-paragraph rambling, or you'll ignore it, but, please, can you answer me these questions?

 
At 12/31/2007 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you hate the idea of there being a creator? Is the fact that you do not want to answer for your negativity.

 
At 1/01/2008 9:21 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

For all the people who whine and cry that I'm nasty to people, this is why. This knuckle dragger can't bear to leave a comment without taking some nasty swipe. I find it curious that no one bitches at the commenters who routinely resort to name-calling and cheap shots, yet they cry like babies if I respond in a similar manner.

Screw that.

Here's my "24 paragraph rambling reply" to the cretin at 10:01 above.

Big Bang

Evolution


As to the other dimwit and their imaginative theory of my trying to avoid answering for my supposed negativity, I ask them who they're going to answer to for the negativity of trying to deny other people their rights, fighting to cut humanitarian aid, and cheer-leading a made-up war which kills and maims hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

Worry about answering for that, since you choose to believe in whatever someone told you to believe when you were a child.

I don't have to answer to anything but my own conscience, and I'm fine on that score.

 
At 1/02/2008 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evolution.
So you believe that your ancestors craweled out of the sea, and millions of years later invented computers, skyscrapers and the like - and you scoff at the thought of God?

As to your comment about 'answering for denying people their rights and killing and maiming hundreds of thousands, I would have to counter by saying that (1) yes, we all have to answer for many things and we all need to look in the mirror and decide how that conversation is going to go - I cannot judge you and you cannot judge me, because our standards are not God's standards, our minds and perspective is not His, (2) it seems sad to read 'maim and kill hundreds of thousands' from someone who is aggresively pro-abortion and actively supports the killing (not maiming) of 45-MILLION+/-.

But I do not expect one who believes that he is a decendant of an ape to have the same beliefs as I do on this issue.

Life is great when the Creator of matter (God) says that I matter! That is true Hope and Joy. I suppose the only warm-fuzzy that you get to experience is going to Niabi zoo and hanging with your evolution-ancestors.

I just don't understand how athiests believe that I am crazy for believing in God, The Creator, when they believe that,

1. 2 asteroids collided and created, over time, our Earth, and
2. Humans, long ago, were a single-cell organism, that evolved into something that could build a computer or a space shuttle!

Who created the asteroids?

 
At 1/02/2008 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll try again, as you seemed to 'misplace' my last comment...

Big Bang, Evolution?

You truely believe that you are a decendant of an ameba?

You think that you have a relative that was a single-cell organism?

You believe that two asteroids collided and created the earth - a planet that is so specifically designed that a smidge closer to the sun and we'd burn up - and a smidge further away, we'd be in an everlasting ice-age?

You think that all of this happened by chance????????

More to follow, but I don't want to give you more than you can handle at one time...

 
At 1/02/2008 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...I am back.

-denying people's rights?
-killing and maiming hundreds of thousands?

This coming from someone who is aggressively pro-abortion - a practice that has denied rights and killed 44-million+.

Are you kidding me?
(Censor away).

 
At 1/02/2008 11:34 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm not going to engage in any sort of serious discussion with you as you clearly are in a sorry state of ignorance of both science and what I believe or don't believe.

I suppose the earth is only a few thousand years old too, huh?

And just to try to raise you out of your ignorance, the big bang theory has absolutely nothing to do with "two asteroids colliding".

Look it up.

 
At 1/02/2008 11:41 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm not going to engage in any sort of serious discussion with you as you clearly are in a sorry state of ignorance of both science and what I believe or don't believe.

I suppose the earth is only a few thousand years old too, huh?

And just to try to raise you out of your ignorance, the big bang theory has absolutely nothing to do with "two asteroids colliding".

Look it up.

And please, don't bother gracing me with further evidence that you haven't quite evolved as far as some.

You're living proof of the axiom that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I can't say for certain where you're getting your information, but trust me friend, it's keeping you ignorant.

 
At 1/02/2008 11:45 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

PS. "Agressively pro-abortion"??!!!

What a fruit-loop.

And you can pull any ridiculous number out of your ass and say that's how many abortions have been performed. But yeah, I don't think stopping a clump of cells from developing is the moral equivilent of tearing men women and children limb from limb from 40,000 ft.

One's not a life, the other most definitely is by anyone's standard.

A little more concern with your own dim outlook on your fellow man and less rabid concern over what women you don't know choose to do with their lives might make the world a better place, in my humble opinion.

 

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