if all the people of the world could just work together and pool their resources

The post I put up the other day in which I confessed to saving my fingernail and toenail clippings for most of my young life, prompted a reader to send in the following unusual note.

Thank you for your post yesterday of the five things. Your finger/toenail idiosyncrasy reminded (me of one of mine). I don’t think I ever mentioned to you how I have a strong desire to see various bodily excretions, toenails and fingernails included (in fact the nails are the first thing I discuss when I bring this up, which apparently I do more than I should), in volume. For instance, I want to know what it would look like to have a collection of the fingernail clippings of the world for one day in a lump-sum pile somewhere. What would that look like? How big would it be? How dense would it be? Could you climb it? Would diving into it be like diving into sand? Further, if we took, say, a city or a state’s clippings for the day, for the week/month/year, what would that resemble? I’ve also wondered this about earwax, ejaculate, sebum from pimples, blackhead mush, sloughed off skin, etc. (not hair, though: that’s a bit too final solution for me). I mean, on the ejaculate side, what are we talking? Such a small amount individually (relatively speaking), but if combined, are we talking, what, like a small pond? A lake?

I’m not obsessed with this, mind you, and there’s nothing that I want to do with the stuff. And I don’t want tainted samples of stuff: in my imagination it’s rather sterile and not, say, toenails with the big-toe black corner gunk that’s smelly. The pimple-pop material wouldn’t contain blood, and I don’t try to imagine smell or any of that vile stuff. It falls into the benign “curiosity about quantity” realm.

In fact, and I’m sure you know this, it’s difficult to explain why this is fascinating. Freud wrote abound the unheimlich, or the sublime, and this is all tied up with the “what is inside should not be outside” fascination/horror. The topic in fact came up this morning again and I told my wife that sewage treatment plants are boring because it’s just a sludge. In fact, poop is boring, and a pile of that isn’t really something I want to see (a pile of hundreds of people’s poo). Piss and shit, really, are boring. It’s the smaller-quantity parts of bodily castoffs/expulsions/excretions that I find fascinating to some degree.

Not surprisingly, the reader told me that I could print his letter only if I did so anonymously. What he said was something like, “I don’t want everyone I know to look at me and think in the back of their mind that I’m daydreaming about lakes full of ejaculate.”

OK, I know it’s a bit disgusting, but it is an interesting question. So, what do you say — shall we dive in? It’s been a while since I’ve taken the S.A.T. and I could use the mental exercise.

So, how much semen would the men of the world produce, if it were carried to a central repository somewhere (preferably far enough away that it wouldn’t pose a threat to Ypsilanti’s ground water)?

Given that global population is estimated at 6.66 billion at the moment, it seems reasonable to assume that there are at least 3.3 billion males on the planet. If we assume that one third of those are of “semen producing” age, then that gives us 1.1 billion men. And let’s “low ball” it and say that they ejaculate on average of once per month each. As the average volume of semen per ejaculation is 0.41 to 1.22 US teaspoons according to Wikipedia, it’s probably safe to say that across the earth we could average about a teaspoon. (I imagine countries with better nutrition do considerably better in head to head competition of this sort, but, on average, we’re probably in the ballpark when we use 1 U.S. teaspoon… especially if these folks are just doing it once a month.) I’m not a mathematician, but 1.1 billion teaspoons sounds like enough to fill a pretty good-sized pond, or at least a municipal water tower or two.

OK, let’s keep going, shall we?

1 U.S. customary teaspoon = 1/6 U.S. fluid ounces

1 U.S. fluid ounce is 1/128 of a U.S. gallon

So, that would mean it would take 768 teaspoons to make a gallon, right?

Out of curiosity, let’s now go and check to see what the volume of an Olympic-size pool is….

“2,500,000 liters!” It’s a tall order, but I think we could do it if we all worked together.

Now, back to the math:

There are about 3.7854 liters in a gallon.

Which would mean there are about 660,430 gallons in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

So, to fill one, you would need 507,210,240 teaspoons.

So, if all of my calculations are correct, and if there are 1,100,000,000 men producing the stuff, we could fill an Olympic sized pool with less than half of them, only taking one turn each. It could be done in a day (assuming transportation could be worked out!

I hope that’s of some value to you, anonymous reader. Perhaps you can now move on to contemplate the feisibility of a hot tub full of puss or something.

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  1. Ted Glass
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    It took me and all of my neighbors threee years to collect enough ear wax to fashion a small 6-inch likeness of President Polk. (At the outset we were trying for Taft, but we just didn’t have enough.)

  2. mike_1630
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    This post was hilarious – and educational at the same time.

  3. mark
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    So, is no one going to challenge me? I was hoping that someone would want to debate me on my assumptions. I thought for sure I’d have an irate academic or two raising hell about my assumption that we’d average a U.S. teaspoon per participant.

  4. ol' e cross
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Swimming pools? What I really need to know is how much ejaculate it would take to fill Ypsi’s water tower. Think global. Jack local.

  5. mark
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t that be the greatest episode of “Punk’d” ever – one day all the people of a small Midwestern town wake up to find that Ashton Kutcher has collected the issue of every semen-producing male on the earth to replace the water in their giant phallic water tower? I can picture some great hidden camera shots of men and women leaping from their showers.

  6. mark
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I just linked to a “Rolling Stone” article on the front page a moment ago. The story contains the following paragraph:

    Smithfield Foods actually faces a more difficult task than transmogrifying the populations of America’s thirty-two largest cities into edible packages of meat. Hogs produce three times more excrement than human beings do. The 500,000 pigs at a single Smithfield subsidiary in Utah generate more fecal matter each year than the 1.5 million inhabitants of Manhattan. The best estimates put Smithfield’s total waste discharge at 26 million tons a year. That would fill four Yankee Stadiums. Even when divided among the many small pig production units that surround the company’s slaughterhouses, that is not a containable amount.

    Odd coincidence, isn’t it – their discussion of filling stadiums with pig shit at the same time we’re talking of filling swimmng pools with ejaculate?

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