Am I 1% Nacho?
100 Comments


Hello and welcome to this SciShow Quick Question
where we answer questions the internet asks. The following was asked on my tumblr a while
back: “If I weigh 99 pounds and I eat one pound of nachos, am I 1% nacho?”
Sounds like not a very complicated question, but it turns out to be, like, super complicated,
because buried in this question are a number of other, bigger questions. First: what is nachos? We can safely say that
this is a plate of nachos, invented by the way in Mexico for Americans. It is not a traditional
Mexican dish. So this is nachos, and this is me. If I put
this, mmmm. Now the nachos are inside of me, but are they still nachos? What about after
my digestive system dissolve them into a mushy acidic goo, are they nachos then? I would
venture to say, that like if you took what was in my stomach an hour after I ate nachos
and put it on a plate, zero people out of 7 billion would call that nachos. However
for the sake of argument, let’s say that the atoms and molecules that comprise the nachos
are still nachos after you masticate and begin to digest them. In that case the other question is: what is
“you”? If I put this ping pong ball in my mouth, is it me now? It is not, it’s just
a ping pong ball in my mouth. But what if I swallow the ping pong ball, which I will
not, by the way, be doing, would it then be part of me? I think we’d get various answers
here, but I’m gonna venture to say that no, it’s not part of me.
Likewise if you weigh 99 pounds and you eat a one pound lump of copper, I’d tend to say
that you’re not 1% copper. In fact, your digestive system is sort of not inside you, it’s just
a long complicated tightly controlled tube of outside, that runs through your inside.
When embryos first develop, one of the first things they do is punch a hole down the middle
spherical cluster of cells, making that cluster a doughnut shape. That middle hole is of course
outside the embryo, and that hole becomes the digestive system. But if you take out
all the stuff in your digestive system there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t you, including the
several kilograms of bacteria that live inside your gut. By mass, the average human is about
3% gut bacteria. In the end though, after digestion, about
a third of your nachos will never have left your digestive system, and they will be in
your feces within a day or two. The rest of the atoms and molecules will be breaking down
more slowly to feed you, some of them expelled in your urine and feces, others expelled in
the carbon dioxide that you exhale. The truly amazing thing is that by simple
virtue of the fact that there are so many atoms and molecules in a single pound of nachos,
some of those atoms will remain with you forever, ensuring that you are at least some percent
nacho for the rest of your life. Thank you for watching this SciShow Quick
Question, and an extra special thanks to our Subbable subscribers, without whom I would
not have been able to answer this question, and how could we have afforded the nachos!?
If you have any questions you would like us to answer, we’re on Facebook and Twitter and
down in the comments below. Don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe.

100 thoughts on “Am I 1% Nacho?

  1. Forever? That sounds incorrect. Aren't all of our cells eventually replaced? Minus neurons which are… more complicated.

  2. I have never thought of the digestive tract as being a tube of outside, inside of a human. That's an interesting way to put it.

  3. I'd say everything that is connected to the numerous systems in your body IS you. That means bacteria, recently swallowed food and even (controversially) cybernetics, poison, diseases and cancer.

    Cosmetic implants or things you swallow that aren't digested though? They're not you.

  4. Good to know … otherwise I would be Eggs Over Easy, Hash Browns, Bacon and Sausage Gravy on a Biscuit
    (week ends I would evolve in to the above, just toss in a couple of Pancakes)

  5. I though he was going to go in tangent about how we share some of the carbon in our bodies that originally belonged to corn, through the way of corn consumption directly from food and drink to indirect consumption from beef and milk from corn fed cows. Also corn derivatives in many products.

  6. In short: Speaking SOLELY in terms of math and mass at the moment you finish eating, Yes. Yes you would be one percent nacho. Start breaking things down into percentages and adding in the time factor and a hint of philosophy…MAYBE.

  7. Would that mean that if every human to have ever lived would eat 1 lbs of nacho's that we would be more then 10% nacho?

  8. Is anyone else triggered by the fact that the thumbnail of this video is of guacamole and not nachos? like how fucking hard is it to use an accurate thumbnail picture amateurs

  9. This…. is an example of something that I never really needed to consider, but now I can't stop thinking about.

  10. this is kinda shitty information. i have done a lot of substances i regret. not just fast food either. this shit is stuck with more forever huh?

  11. This is by far my favorite SciShow episode! I have referenced it and/or thought about it many times in the past 3+ years.

  12. We are all deuterostoms, which means that in the cluster of cells stage we form our arsehole first. Some of us never outgrow that stage.

  13. Turns out American tourists are generally uncomfortable with the traditional foods of countries with rampant poverty and organized crime. Who'd'a thunk.

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