Our bodies are the best technology we have ever taken for granted. This is from Bill Bryson's 20th book, "The Body: A Guide to Inmates" ($ 30, double day), which will be released on October 15. Having dealt with themes such as nature, living and linguistics, Bryson records life, death and everything in between. He spoke to Stephanie Kanowitz about his reasons for writing the book and what he learned. The interview was edited for reasons of length and clarity.
Q: Where did the impulses for this book come from?
A: I've always been fascinated by the human body – and especially my own, because it's a miracle to me that after all the years I've not taken good care of him, still take care of me.
Q: Learned through medicine, much remains about us, as you say, "a universe of mystery". Why is the human body so difficult to understand?
A: Because he is so complex. We are all composed of the same elements that you would find in a pile of dirt. In a heap of dirt all these things-copper and aluminum and oxygen and helium, all the little atomic elements-just lie there; They do not do anything. Yet, here on earth, some of them have come together to create life. We hardly understand a single cell and in the human body you speak of 39 trillion.
Q: They have wiped out some common myths by stating that vitamin C has little effect on colds and that we use well over 10 percent of ours Use brain. What surprised you most?
A: The most amazing thing I found out was that if you formed your entire DNA into a single fine strand, it would extend all the way to Pluto. I do not think I ever came across a fact that blew me away – that there is enough of me or you or anyone else to expand on Pluto. They contain 10 billion miles of DNA. That just seems incredible. The surprise is not that there is so much to understand about the body, but that we understand as much as we do.
Q: Despite the complexity, most of the time this is true.
A: The really extraordinary thing is that nothing is in charge. There is no type of command center in your body. Everything that happens in you is just chemical reactions that take place at the cellular level, and only small molecules that collide and react in a programmed way that is chaotic and seemingly random. And yet, of course, the result is not just life, but life, which for the most part works incredibly well, and for the most part works incredibly well for decades.
Q: Which body part or function did you find most? fascinating?
A: The brain is the most extraordinary in the universe, and more extraordinary when you think back that 75 to 80 percent of it is water, and the rest is mostly water fats and proteins. But look what it can do. Imagine bringing together all of the world's leading scientists and giving them all the components that can be found in your brain, such as a few liters of water, some fats and proteins, and make something that works. They could not do anything. Your mother has built up your brain in nine months without thinking about it.
Q: "Dying is the last thing your body wants," you wrote, but it does anyway. How did the writing of this book affect your thoughts about death?
A: I think you can spend most of your life pretending that you are living forever and not thinking about it. But once you've reached my lifetime, when you get back to the '60s, it's pretty obvious that you're counting the years – the more reason to take care of yourself. I never thought that I would be so happy when I was old. There are certain satisfactions to grow old and to feel that you have done your job. They have given birth to their children, and if they are doing well in the world, it is a feeling of contentment. And the pressure on ambitions for life and all that is gone. I do not know if it's a psychological thing, if it's some kind of body that gives you some kind of payoff for all the hard work you've done to get to that point.
Q: Did you do that? Does the lifestyle change through the search?
A: I still have the meaning, but I'm doing the book promotion tour now, which means I'm traveling. This means you have to eat at the wrong times and eat by plane – and at the end of a long day, you feel like you're entitled to a drink. It is very difficult to be terribly virtuous, but I promise you that once I have everything behind me, I will be an absolute saint.
Bill Bryson will speak about the beauty and glory of the human body 19h October 15 at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St NW, Washington; $ 40 for a ticket and a book or $ 50 for two tickets and a book.