English XI (Old Course)

Six Million Dollar Man – Summary | The Magic of the Words

It is a thought provoking essay. It is partially humorous because like an object a human body has been valued in money. The chemical value of a human body is six million dollars. It is also partly philosophical because it is an instrument to create art in the life of human soul. It is more precious than what the biochemists have assumed it to be.

                One year the essayist received a birthday card from his married daughter. It bore a caption that read according to biochemists the materials that make up human body are worth 97 cents. He found the price very insignificant, and decided to make a thorough study of it. He brought a catalogue of chemicals with their prices and started to read the prices of chemicals that make up a human body. He studied 14 chemicals and worked out the average value of all the components of the body. He calculated that the average value of a dry gram weight of body to be $245.54. Then he rushed to a gymnasium to measure his weight. He was 168 pounds i.e. 76.364 grams. With no delay, he subtracted the weight of 68% of water and his dry weight was 24.436 grams. He multiplied his weight by 245.54 and found $ 6,000, 015.44 as the price of his body. Thus he was a six million dollar man, and was elated because it was a great value.

                He found a wide gap between the two prices and attempted to have a balance between them. He consoled that information is much more expensive the matter. In the six million dollar figure he was paying for his atoms in the highest informational state in which they are commercially available, while ninety seven cent figures, there was informationally poorest form. In fact, it is information that costs more.

                In order to prove it, he took an example of proteins. The macromolecules of amino acid cost between $3 and $20,000 a gram in purified form. Yet, simpler and information poorer amino sells for about 25 cents a gram. The proteins are the linear arrays of the amino acids which must be assembled and folded. The assembling of the acids costs higher price. It means the six million dollar price of his body is much too low. It is because the chemical companies have not synthesized the components worth ninety seven cents into human body. So far human beings have been synthesized insulin and ribonuclease. The task is more difficult than we think it to be.

                One can buy all of the components of body but one cannot assemble them. Let alone adding life to them. For example, a freezer full of unstable molecules does not qualify to vote in elections. To assemble the molecules into organelles is very difficult. So far, the subunit of ribosome has been assembled from the protein and RNA constituents. The ribosome is perhaps the simplest organelle. Many intensive efforts are yet to be made. Therefore, human body in terms of synthesized cellular substructures would cost more than six hundred billion or perhaps six trillion dollars. Though the dry chest of a human being is full of organelles, it does not make love, complain or does not do all the things that constitute our humanity. The organelles must be assembled into cells, the cells into tissues, tissues into organs and organs into a person. It is much more difficult, and beyond monetary value. Therefore, we may come to conclude with Alfred North Whitehead that, “the human body is an instrument for the production of art in the life of the human soul”.

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