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Mercurial Balance Enhancement

Fill the inner ear with Mercury...
  (+4, -2)
(+4, -2)
  [vote for,

The inner ear is the principal organ responsible for making sure that various animals are able to orientate themselves in a useful manner. Otherwise entropy takes over and all the world's giraffes are on their sides. The system is a series of tubes bent around, full of liquid. I don't know exactly what the liquid is, but I do know biology, so I'm guessing it's salty water. The point of the liquid is to sort of stay still while the ear moves around it. You get the same effect if you turn a bowl full of liquid. The periphery of the inner ear is lined with sensors to detect the movement or the liquid relative to the inner ear. Problems arise, because the system can't know whether the ear is moving of the liquid. So if you slosh your head about enough, you can easily overwhelm the inertia of the water, then you have a mess.

Now, we can improve this: replace the water with mercury, which, rather pleasingly is 13.6 fold denser. That's 13.6 fold better at staying still. It is a little more viscous than water, but only a tad.

The net result should be more sensitive balance, a robust resistance to spinning fairground rides and insanity.

bs0u0155, Jun 30 2015

Endo and Perilymph composition http://www.cochlea....lea/cochlear-fluids
[bs0u0155, Jul 01 2015]


       Metallic Mercury injected into the cranium ... what's not to like ?   

8th of 7, Jul 01 2015

       //That's 13.6 fold better at staying still.//   

       Can you elaborate on this section me old fruity?
pocmloc, Jul 01 2015

       This is a very excellent idea. [+]
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 01 2015

       //Can you elaborate on this section me old fruity?//   

       Yes. So, objects don't accelerate unless you apply a force. How much acceleration you get depends on how much mass there is. F = ma or a = F/m in that example. Mercury has 13.6 times more mass per unit of volume. So you need proportionally more force. With solids, it's simple. Push it, the whole thing moves. With fluids it's more complex because it's not held in a rigid matrix. If you push it, the bit near your finger moves, the rest of the liquid will be affected, how much depends on the viscosity. Now, make a coffee, leave it to settle for a couple of mins* and splash in a little milk. Don't stir it, because who has time for that? You can use the milk as a marker of what's going on in the liquid. If you rotate the cup, the liquid MOSTLY stays still. It moves a little bit, because the interface between the cup and liquid provides some friction. That friction is able to transfer enough force to accelerate the mass a little bit. Now, if the cup were filled with mercury, the interface would still be transferring only a small amount of force, but would have 13.6 fold more mass to move, so the acceleration of the mercury would be proportionally lower. The balance sensing in the ear, places sensors** at the interface to detect the difference in movement between the liquid and their anchor. The denser the liquid, the bigger the signal to noise ratio and the better the sensitivity.   

       *conversation about the misuse of the word "optogenetics" optional.   

       **mechanically gated potassium and calcium channels... amazing, I didn't know about cellular potassium INflux, normally sodium is the overwhealmingly dominant extracellular ion.
bs0u0155, Jul 01 2015

       //pleasingly is 13.6 fold denser// Argh-huff-sigh: the end of the world approacheth! Your abuse of mathematics and language, it will destroy us all! Or at least some of us. OK, annoy, rather than destroy.   

       //13.6 fold denser// --> 12.6 fold denser

       [by an underemployed pedant with an infected tooth]
lurch, Jul 01 2015

       ah, yes, well done, I was wondering who would spot that first. Ahem.
bs0u0155, Jul 01 2015

       Uh, I hate to be the clever one here, but if the density of mercury is 13.6g/cm3, and the density of water is 1g/cm3, then mercury is 13.6 times denser than water.   

       But I digress. It turns out that cave-dwelling swifts (who fly about in near-total darkness) have their balance organs filled with a liquid which is saturated with potassium chloride, and considerably denser than water whilst being not much more viscous.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 01 2015

       13.6 times denser than water
(13.6 * 1.0) + 1.0 = 13.6? No, that would be 14.6...
lurch, Jul 01 2015

       //by an underemployed pedant with an infected tooth// Rather lame excuse if you ask me.
blissmiss, Jul 01 2015

       //have their balance organs filled with a liquid which is saturated with potassium chloride, and considerably denser than water whilst being not much more viscous//   

       It turns out that all of the balance organs are like this. The composition is almost exactly the same as the intracellular fluid, with a slight boost so that potassium influx can occur at relevant rates. Fascinating stuff <link>.
bs0u0155, Jul 01 2015

       And there I was thinking I was making this shit up.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 01 2015

       //13.6 times denser than water (13.6 * 1.0) + 1.0 = 13.6? No, that would be 14.6 ///   

       OK, here's the deal. I will give you two one-pound coins. In return, you will offer me one one-pound coin. I will say "no, I need two times as much as that", and you will offer me three one-pound coins.   

       We will continue this process until you understand.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 01 2015

       "two times as much", that's 2*1, and isn't the same as "two times more than that".   

       In what version of English does "as much as" mean the same thing as "more than"?
lurch, Jul 01 2015

       I still am suspicious. If it was harder to get moving, it would also be harder to stop.
pocmloc, Jul 02 2015

       Because the inner ear must have channels to maintain the fluid, could drugs be used to alter the channels and increase the fluid density? No big needles or mercury necessary.
wjt, Jul 02 2015

       Like g-string, g-spot, or gigging
pocmloc, Jul 02 2015

       //In what version of English does "as much as" mean the same thing as "more than"? //   

       "It costs two times as much as that" is generally considered equivalent to "it costs two times more than that".   

       Good luck shopping.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 02 2015

       We have a similar issue in a certain art or exercise of which I partake. A sequence of operations is to be enacted, say, three times in succession. The sequence is written out in full once; and then (to save space) the instruction "repeat twice" Cue much pedantry over whether "twice" should or should not be excised and be replaced with "three times".
pocmloc, Jul 02 2015

       If you said "repeat twice", it would technically mean that you should do the exercise two more times (three in total). If you said "repeat three times", it would technically mean that you would do it a total of four times. However, given the lamentable lack of pedantry and verbal precision amongst the great unwashed, this might not work.   

       It would be clearer to say "repeat twice more".
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 02 2015

       That is a clever solution but I think it would be ruled as "cheating".
pocmloc, Jul 02 2015

       //Fill the inner ear with Mercury...//   

       "Ah, Mr. Zeugma, we've got the results of your MRI back and... I said 'WE'VE GOT THE RESULTS...'"
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 02 2015


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