Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Human "Technology"

I have been bothered for a while by the calories in/calories out model of weight thinking. I have finally articulated at least to myself why I have difficulties:

  • My scale doesn't weigh "calories" it is all about mass.
  • Energy seems to be a proxy for weight (and no I am not in the e=mc^^2 realm of thinking because that deals at entirely the wrong level!)
  • The energy in/energy out doesn't account for a few things (which I will detail out in the body of this posting)
So, here's the fundamental set of thinking. Please comment and point out the holes.

Taking the assumption that I am interested in what the scales say, I should be thinking in terms of the total inputs/outputs. Even without understanding any digestive processes.

Weight at any point in time = weight at previous point in time + weight of all inputs since that time  - weight of all outputs since that time.

It's the all inputs/all outputs that we need to worry about.

At the simplest level the inputs consist of:
  • All solids (food)
  • All liquids (drink)
  • All gases (air breathed in, water vapor in the air, etc.)
  • Supplements
At the simplest level the outputs consist of:
  • All solid (fecal) material 
  • All liquid (urine) material including dissolved solids
  • Vomit
  • Sweat
  • Respiration products (gases, especially Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide, but total of all gases)
  • Water vapor in respiration products
  • Anything else we can think of (dead cells, sputum, tears, ear wax....)
It's no wonder we use energy as a proxy!

Now for the area where I have trouble with energy in/energy out. There is a move afoot to extract energy from human waste. That must mean that there is some residual energy in some of our outputs. Especially, I suspect in our feces. But maybe elsewhere too.  So the big questions for me are:
  • How much of the available energy is in our waste products?
  • Does the amount of available energy in our waste depend on our eating habits? If so how?
  • Does the amount of available energy in our waste depend on any conditions (eg Celiac disease) we have? If so how much effect?
Any thoughts/comments gratefully received.


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