WTF Fun Fact 13506 – Human Hair Can Hold Two Elephants

When considered collectively (by the head), human hair can hold two elephants! That’s right, it can support the weight of two giant creatures.

Let’s explain.

The Anatomy of a Hair Strand

To truly grasp the astonishing strength of human hair, we must first delve into its structure. Each strand is composed of keratin, a type of protein. This protein is arranged in coiled coils, a configuration that provides both flexibility and strength to the hair.

The innermost layer, known as the medulla, is surrounded by the cortex, which in turn is encased by the outermost layer, the cuticle. Each of these layers contributes to the hair’s overall resilience.

One individual hair strand, despite its tensile strength, is unlikely to impress anyone with its ability to support weight. However, the collective strength of hair is where the true marvel lies.

The average human head has approximately 100,000 to 150,000 hair strands. When working in tandem, these hairs can exhibit strength that belies their delicate appearance.

Why Human Hair Can Hold Two Elephants

So, how do we arrive at the claim that human hair can hold two elephants? Let’s break it down:

  • An average strand of hair can support about 100 grams in weight. This might not seem like much, but when multiplied by the average number of hairs on a human head (let’s take the midpoint of 125,000 strands), we get a total weight of approximately 12.5 tons.
  • An average adult elephant weighs about 6 tons. So, theoretically, the combined strength of the hair on a human head could support two elephants, amounting to 12 tons!

The capacity of hair to support immense weight is just one facet of its remarkable nature. Hair can stretch up to 30% of its original length without breaking when wet. This elasticity is yet another testament to its durability.

But beyond its tensile strength and elasticity, hair also serves as an indicator of our health, reacts to emotional stimuli (like standing on end when we’re frightened), and plays a vital role in regulating body temperature.

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Source: “Secrets of human hair unlocked at Natural History Museum in London” — The Guardian

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