Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Sperm, Universe, Fingerprints

Matt:

Why do humans produce so much sperm if only one will fertilize an egg? And why are they in competition with each other? It would seem simpler to have fewer with less competition.

— R.C., Escondido

When the system was created, simpler didn’t seem to be the object, I guess. One of the big design flaws, if there is one, is the distance sperm have to travel to get to where they’re going. It’s quite a haul for something so small. Consider that rat sperm is more than four times longer than human sperm and you’ll see what they’re up against. It can take up to one hour for freshly ejaculated sperm to stagger through the mucus-lined passageways to the finish line in the fallopian tube. So the competition is to see which sperm has the stamina to reach the egg. Like a long-distance run rather than a brawl among armed soldiers.

But at the beginning of the race there certainly are a lot of competitors. As many as 400 million, with an average around 280 million (same as rabbits; go figure). If you’re a mouse, not a man, the count is only 50 million. The number is high to make sure at least a few get to where they’re going. Not all sperm are created equal. Some don’t swim at all. Some swim in circles, which is pretty useless. Some don’t have the energy to make it and swim very slowly until they just poop out. And even if they make it to an egg, they find that the thing’s covered with a coating that actually keeps sperm at bay. There’s evidence that some sperm sacrifice themselves to make a frontal assault on the egg and batter away until one Wondersperm makes it through to fertilization.

Another bit of research is even stranger. It could be that sperm follow a scent to find the egg. Odorous molecules are released by the egg, and the sperm sniff along the trail. If that’s how it works, that’s a whole new thing for you to wonder about. Call me if you come up with a reason why.

Hey, Matt:

A long time ago I read a sci-fi story that was based on the idea that our universe is really just an atom in some huge universe and we’re only a tiny part of it. I’ve thought a lot about that. So is there any chance that it’s true?

— J, San Diego

What, like our universe is just an atom in the toenail of a giant? A speck of a cheese grater? A tiny corner of a birthday cake? Hmmm… I don’t think anybody can say that’s absolutely not true. But if we compare atoms and the universe, there are a couple of differences. First of all, atoms aren’t held together with gravity as the universe is. And in spite of the fact that most scientific illustrations make an atom look like the universe, atoms aren’t solid bodies circling a big center. Electrons are actually described as “fuzzy” and “smeared-out bodies” that live in standing waves inside the atom. There really isn’t any part of an atom that is like our universe. But if you want to ignore the scientists, go right ahead. Nobody can really say you’re wrong.

Matt Hew:

Say I was planning a life of crime and I wanted to hide my identity. Is it possible for me to change my fingerprints from those I was born with and involuntarily gave to the DMV and several banks? Can I cut them away and not have fingerprints at all? This is important for my future.

— Colita, via email

You’re not the first criminal to come up with this scheme. Most of them have found it to be more difficult than they thought, but a couple managed to do it. If you want to retain fingerprints, just make them not match anything on record, then try what a Miami drug dealer did about ten years ago. He cut his fingerprints into little squares and transplanted the squares to other fingers, giving him a crazy, whirligig finger pattern. I also have to believe he loaded up on pain meds, since the skin transplant would require a deep cut.

Not too long ago, an Arizona drug dealer asked a local physician to somehow change his fingerprints. The creative doc transplanted the dealer’s toe tips to his fingertips, and the dealer figured he was home free. Unfortunately, he was captured while lounging in bed, recuperating from the surgery. How about obliterating your fingertips completely? A bad guy and a surgeon figured a way to transplant skin from the crook’s side to his fingers. It required cutting wounds on all surfaces, taping his fingers to his sides and holding them there until the skin regrew. It worked, but he was caught soon after because he didn’t change his face and a cop recognized him.

An acid bath or deep knife cuts are always good too. Good luck with your career.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

What makes a home in San Diego

Cedar fire, wary of Clairemont, rooming with my son in North Park, last vacant beachfront lots, building paradise above Rancho Santa Fe

Matt:

Why do humans produce so much sperm if only one will fertilize an egg? And why are they in competition with each other? It would seem simpler to have fewer with less competition.

— R.C., Escondido

When the system was created, simpler didn’t seem to be the object, I guess. One of the big design flaws, if there is one, is the distance sperm have to travel to get to where they’re going. It’s quite a haul for something so small. Consider that rat sperm is more than four times longer than human sperm and you’ll see what they’re up against. It can take up to one hour for freshly ejaculated sperm to stagger through the mucus-lined passageways to the finish line in the fallopian tube. So the competition is to see which sperm has the stamina to reach the egg. Like a long-distance run rather than a brawl among armed soldiers.

But at the beginning of the race there certainly are a lot of competitors. As many as 400 million, with an average around 280 million (same as rabbits; go figure). If you’re a mouse, not a man, the count is only 50 million. The number is high to make sure at least a few get to where they’re going. Not all sperm are created equal. Some don’t swim at all. Some swim in circles, which is pretty useless. Some don’t have the energy to make it and swim very slowly until they just poop out. And even if they make it to an egg, they find that the thing’s covered with a coating that actually keeps sperm at bay. There’s evidence that some sperm sacrifice themselves to make a frontal assault on the egg and batter away until one Wondersperm makes it through to fertilization.

Another bit of research is even stranger. It could be that sperm follow a scent to find the egg. Odorous molecules are released by the egg, and the sperm sniff along the trail. If that’s how it works, that’s a whole new thing for you to wonder about. Call me if you come up with a reason why.

Hey, Matt:

A long time ago I read a sci-fi story that was based on the idea that our universe is really just an atom in some huge universe and we’re only a tiny part of it. I’ve thought a lot about that. So is there any chance that it’s true?

— J, San Diego

What, like our universe is just an atom in the toenail of a giant? A speck of a cheese grater? A tiny corner of a birthday cake? Hmmm… I don’t think anybody can say that’s absolutely not true. But if we compare atoms and the universe, there are a couple of differences. First of all, atoms aren’t held together with gravity as the universe is. And in spite of the fact that most scientific illustrations make an atom look like the universe, atoms aren’t solid bodies circling a big center. Electrons are actually described as “fuzzy” and “smeared-out bodies” that live in standing waves inside the atom. There really isn’t any part of an atom that is like our universe. But if you want to ignore the scientists, go right ahead. Nobody can really say you’re wrong.

Matt Hew:

Say I was planning a life of crime and I wanted to hide my identity. Is it possible for me to change my fingerprints from those I was born with and involuntarily gave to the DMV and several banks? Can I cut them away and not have fingerprints at all? This is important for my future.

— Colita, via email

You’re not the first criminal to come up with this scheme. Most of them have found it to be more difficult than they thought, but a couple managed to do it. If you want to retain fingerprints, just make them not match anything on record, then try what a Miami drug dealer did about ten years ago. He cut his fingerprints into little squares and transplanted the squares to other fingers, giving him a crazy, whirligig finger pattern. I also have to believe he loaded up on pain meds, since the skin transplant would require a deep cut.

Not too long ago, an Arizona drug dealer asked a local physician to somehow change his fingerprints. The creative doc transplanted the dealer’s toe tips to his fingertips, and the dealer figured he was home free. Unfortunately, he was captured while lounging in bed, recuperating from the surgery. How about obliterating your fingertips completely? A bad guy and a surgeon figured a way to transplant skin from the crook’s side to his fingers. It required cutting wounds on all surfaces, taping his fingers to his sides and holding them there until the skin regrew. It worked, but he was caught soon after because he didn’t change his face and a cop recognized him.

An acid bath or deep knife cuts are always good too. Good luck with your career.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Covid-19 casts a pall over San Diego political money

Barbara Bry's daughter lends $5000
Next Article

Communion on the hood of a Humvee

The Apostle Paul says we see through a glass dimly
Comments
4

I cringed while reading that fingerprint part. ouch.

March 4, 2009

1 word Colita - gloves.

Feb. 13, 2009

Tikicult: Too sensible a suggestion for someone planning a career in crime, I guess. -- Matthew Alice

March 28, 2009

Ranzchic: Ouch, indeed. -- Matthew Alice

March 28, 2009

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close