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Ltryptophan's avatar

If you were the size of a common fire ant could you still be anthropomorphic, and if so could you make a camp fire suitable to your diminutive size?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10902points) September 20th, 2011

Honey, Is it possible for me to start a fire?

Can you have a little fire? Around the size of maybe, a quarter of a jelly belly? Seems like it would burn up to fast.

Say I make myself a cord of lumber that is scaled down to the size of a tiny man. Then if it was set on fire, wouldn’t it just burn up in seconds??

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19 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

It must be some really good stuff, hey?

erichw1504's avatar

What is this. I don’t even…

jerv's avatar

The Square-Cube Law says that out wouldn’t last long.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The initial fire, if we stay in scale, would be really small. It would take a while to get large enough to consume the wood.

Blueroses's avatar

Don’t bogart that joint, my friend…

On reflection, this is actually a really great question. Would your perception of time be relative to your diminutive size? So a few scraps of sawdust would “seem” to take hours to burn?

wundayatta's avatar

Fantastic Voyage: you could be eaten by white blood cells and escape the body in a tear.

erichw1504's avatar

I would have to say 42.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Blueroses I agree. I was thinking the same about time perception. Would time perception alter with a size change?

FutureMemory's avatar

I don’t know shit about science, but it doesn’t make ‘sense’ to me that scaling down the size would also slow down the perception of time.

thorninmud's avatar

Well, I had better get that fire going, because it would be virtually impossible for a warm-blooded animal that size to maintain its body temperature otherwise. There is a limit to how small warm-blooded animals can be. As body size decreases, the ratio of surface area to mass increases, which means that the animal loses heat faster through its skin than its metabolism can compensated for.

This is why hummingbirds have to eat what is essentially sugar water every 10–15 minutes. At night, it has to go into near- hibernation to keep from dying of hypothermia. The human digestive tract could never keep up.

Blueroses's avatar

@FutureMemory Does a Mayfly know it only has one of our days to live? Or does it do everything in that day that we do in a lifetime (go to college, have indiscriminate sex, play tag, get a mortgage, fall in love, learn the art of French cooking)?

Pandora's avatar

I would just hope I have a really tiny lighter.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Blueroses I have yet to meet a Mayfly that’s graduated college.

Blueroses's avatar

@FutureMemory I didn’t say “graduated” :P

ragingloli's avatar

Short answer: No.
Long answer: No. Neurons have a certain size, so I would have much less Neurons at that scale. Even if you could scale down the Neuron size, at some point you will not be able to shrink them down any further, because you will get to a hard limit of atoms you can pack next to each other, and I strongly suspect that point arrives long before you reach the ant scale.
Summary 1: I would not have the intelligence required to make fire at that scale.

The same miniaturisation limit applies to arteries and red blood cells. I think at ant scale the artieries would be so narrow that you could not even fit elementary oxygen through it, much less red blood cells. I would either die from suffocation, or the oxygen supply would be so low that even a fully functioning brain, which has already been established to be improbable, would not get sufficient oxygen to function properly.
Summary 2: See Summary 1.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Blueroses I knew I shouldn’t have said “graduated” :)

gasman's avatar

@jerv had it right. There are scaling factors at work that totally change everything. The difference between an ant and a man is at least two orders of magnitude.

A cow-sized ant would collapse under its own weight, would overheat from its own metabolism, etc. The whole scenario becomes preposterous if examined critically.

Likewise an ant-sized man would be torn apart by surface tension of water & would be unable to maintain normal body temperature. @ragingloli and @thorninmud explained other difficulties with inadequate respiratory, circulatory, nervous, & digestive systems. On the plus side, a person could lift many times her own weight and jump many body lengths in a single bound.

The real question is, do atoms stay normal size or do they reduced proportionately? If they stay the same size then we can confidently predict physical behavior & the complexity of the human body is unattainable.

If atoms shrink as well, however, then we first have to re-write the laws of physics and chemistry before even answering the question!

There are many fictional works that imagine people shrinking to microscopic size, or bugs becoming giant monsters, but they never realistically confront physical theory.

Ltryptophan's avatar

ok, first of all, no hallucinogenics were used during the development of this question. I’m not sure if that admission helps or hurts my case.

Second, I’m going to agree that I wouldn’t be there to see the fire.

So that leaves the fire. Let’s say that we can create a tiny robot person that we can live through vicariously on a tiny scale. We want to use our little miniscule avatar to build a camp fire. Won’t it also be impossible? The fire will simply quickly eat up any fuel at that scale,right? No slow roasting marshmallow molecule clumps, because the fire will just state change any fuel at that size instantly. No?

GabrielsLamb's avatar

This is one of the best questions I have ever read! I agree with Gasmans answer!

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