# Drinking Caesar’s Urine

By Bobby Neal Winters

## My Burden

Every glass of water you drink contains a few molecules from
Caesar’s urine.

There, I have shared my burden with you. I first heard this myself more than 20 years
ago. A mathematician was talking in the
faculty lounge. He tossed it off, rocked
my world, and then the conversation rolled along into other esoteric matters
leaving me with this horrific bit of knowledge: I am drinking Caesar’s urine. Between the period on the end of the last
sentence and the “B” at the beginning of this one, I took a sip of coffee; more
water, more of Caesar’s urine.

For years I was able to blot this out of my mind, but then
it came back at me in the form of a question: how much? How much of this rare liquid am I getting in
every glass of water? I am a
mathematician, so I can do the calculations.
I did them. The answer is 2100
molecules in every eight-ounce glass of aqua not-so-pura. The point of this
essay is to explain how I arrived at that number and explore some of the territory
along the way.

Making this calculation requires an assumption, so I will
begin by explaining my assumption with the promise that later in essay I will
return to justify it. My assumption is
this: Caesar’s urine is uniformly scattered throughout all of the water in the
world. That is a big one, but it is
absolutely necessary to the calculation.
The calculation requires a simple formula—you knew it was coming—that I will give below:

C=fG

Here C is the amount of Caesar’s urine in a glass of water, f is the fraction of the world’s water that is Caesar’s urine,
and G is the amount of water in a glass.

The value for f is one that we will have to calculate. Here, I am going to limit the scope of my
study. I am only interested in the urine
that Caesar excreted upon his assassination.
Calculating the amount of urine Caesar produced over his lifetime would
introduce too many assumptions for my comfort-level which is going to be sorely
tested in any case. Consequently, I will
focus on that one last bladder-full.
Here I am also having to make the assumption that Caesar had an average
sized bladder and that bladder was full.

In any case, the average bladder has the capacity of 350
milliliters. This is almost exactly the
same amount of fluid in a can of Mountain Dew.
Coincidence? I think not!

I am not too worried about this figure as it is something
that I can verify for myself given soft drinks, time, and a calibrated beaker
that I am not using for anything else.
Much more of concern is the next number I need, which is the amount of
water available on the whole earth. This is a figure I had to look up: 1.36x10^9 km-cubed. That is to say about
one billion cubic kilometers. This
converts to 1.36x 10^21 liters.

Doing the math—dividing the amount of urine in Caesar’s
bladder by the amount of water in the
whole world—this gives us a figure of f=2.58x10^-22.

I have been using scientific notation here, which you might
not deal with every day. The figure for f is incredibly small.
Written out as usual, it would be

0.000000000000000000000258

I meant to have 21 zeros between the point and the 2. You can count to see if I got it right. In any case, you will agree that this number
is small, so one might wonder at this point whether this whole drinking Caesar’s
urine thing is plausible at all. In
order to justify this, I have to make a side trip to the world of the atom.

## Avogad Row: The Place Where Chemists on the Skids Wind up

At this point, I get into an area where I don’t feel very
comfortable: chemistry. I never had a
chemistry course in college. I took one
as a high school senior of which I only remember two things. I learned the metric system for the fourth or
fifth time and we put some aluminum in some nitric acid.

Putting aluminum in nitric acid was really, really
cool. I spilled some of the nitric acid
on my fingers and it turned them yellow and when we put the aluminum in the
acid it got all hot and it looked like it might explode. Learning the metric system for the fourth or
fifth time was somewhat anti-climactic to this.
And come on, we get all of this hype of how the metric system is so much
simpler than the so-called British system, but this why does it have to be
drilled-in over and over and over. When
I went to college, I couldn’t stand that I might have to learn the metric
system yet again, so I opted out of chemistry.
I took physics instead where the first thing they taught me was…the
metric system.

I paid for this deficit in my education a few years back
when I was made Acting Chair of the Department of Chemistry. Among the things I learned there was that
chemists are much more interested in blowing things up than they are in the
metric system, but to blow things up in a predictable orderly way they must
have an exhaustive knowledge of the metric system. That is neither here nor there.

I need chemistry because I want to know how many molecules
of water there are in a liter. Chemists
are interested in numbers of molecules because when they mix stuff together the
proportions they mix are important. The
reactions go on at an atom-to-atom level.

Chemists use a special unit to measure substances used in
chemical reactions. That unit is called
the mole. The mole is an odd unit
because it is not a unit of volume nor a unit of mass, though in controlled
circumstances it can be related to either of those. Instead, the mole contains a fixed number of
molecules. That number is called
Avogadro’s Number.

Avogadro’s number is the number of molecules in 12 grams of
pure carbon 12. Carbon 12 is an isotope
of carbon whose nuclei contain 6 protons and 6 neutrons giving it an atomic
weight of 12, hence the name Carbon 12. Does
one get kind of a funny feeling about chemists here? Do you get the impression they are strange
sorts of ducks? On one hand they have
this mind-numbing obsession with the metric system and a total lack of
imagination in naming their isotopes, but on the other hand they like to blow
things up.

I’ve got all sorts of questions here. Why carbon?
Why Carbon 12 in particular? Why
12 grams of Carbon 12? Were those two
12s chosen at random or is there more going on? Hmmm. Were the Knights of the Templar involved?

I must put those questions aside to focus on the task at
hand. What is Avogadro’s Number? Here it is:

NA=6.022x10^23.

Again this is in scientific notation and that 10^23 in there means that if I were to write in out normally there
would be 23 places between the 6 and the decimal. In other worlds this is a big number.

As chemistry arose out of alchemy, I might doubt the
veracity of number figured out by people who in their heart of hearts are still
looking for the Philosopher’s Stone, but as they love blowing things up so much
and this number is so important to that goal, I will accept it.

## Aqua Pura

A trip to www.wolframalpha.com will assure us that
a liter of water contains 55.5 moles of water, so a quarter liter will contain 13.875
moles and, therefore, 8.33x10^24 molecules. The fraction of those which are Caesar’s
urine is f=2.58x10^-22. Multiplying these
two numbers together rounds off to 2100, which is the number I gave at the
beginning of the article.

## Mixing

At the beginning of this article, we had to make the
assumption that Caesar’s urine was scattered uniformly throughout all of the
water in the world. I promised that this
would be justified later, and now is the time when the chickens come home to
roost.

I will start with things you already know. Rain falls from the sky onto the land; it
trickles down hill into ditches, creeks, and streams; it gathers into lakes and
rivers; it flows into the ocean; and at various points along the way it
evaporates back into the air where it turns again into rain. It is part of a cycle that has been going on
for billions of years.

Of course I’ve left out a few details such as at various places
along the way folks—like Julius Caesar for instance—take a drink and then pee,
putting it back into the cycle once again.

As a part of this system, many things happen to in and this
is where mathematical modeling comes in. In the part of mathematics called Ergodic
Theory, they model the behavior of such systems using a function called The
Baker’s Transformation. While this can
be described in mathematically excruciating detail—and nobody knows about excruciating
detail like a mathematician—you can think of it simply as follows.

A baker takes a ball of dough, stretches it to twice its
width, gives it a quarter turn, and then folds it back over onto itself. If you put a drop of red food coloring on
this, it will eventually be spread uniformly throughout the loaf.

The idea is that similar things happen to Caesar’s
urine. It flowed onto the street where
he lay dying; it evaporated into the air; wind sheared it and spread it around;
and, after a suitable interval of time, it is spread out everywhere.

Mathematicians study strong mixing, weak mixing, and
topological mixing depending upon the type of system they are interested in. The Baker’s Transformation and Caesar’s urine
are examples of strong mixing.

## Conclusion

It occurs to me that some folks might find the prospect of
drinking Caesar’s urine to be disturbing.
In that case, you probably shouldn’t dwell to long upon the fact that
you are also drinking the urine of Caesar’s horse, his dog, and of the beggar who
was lying on the street in front of Caesar’s house. We live in an interconnected world. I’m touched by people who lived thousands of
years ago and thousands of miles away.
Those people (or should I say pee-ple) are literally a part of me.

As the author Norman Maclean said, “Eventually all things
merge into one and a river runs through it.”

And that river will be carrying some of Caesar’s urine. I just thought you should know.

## 8 comments:

Wonderful! (She says, taking another sip of tea, and wondering what mysterious ingredient is lending that exotic piquancy to the flavor.) Somehow our blogging worlds seem to intersect in urine. I've often heard about the related claim that every time you breathe, you're taking in some molecules that were in Caesar's dying breath. I don't know if that's more or less appetizing -- maybe depends on how much garlic he was eating right before he kicked it.

I thought about taking the dying breath angle, but I am drawn toward the more earthy humor.

Thanks.

Bobby, any way of figuring how long it would take for one's urine to be uniformly dispersed around the world? Just that last, dying bladder full would be enough to know. It might be a bit of information worth a ponder in one's last moments. Maybe worth a chuckle, particularly if one is leaving an enemy or two behind.

Michele,

Using Caesar for this is calculation has the advantage of presumably giving enough time.

I keep worrying about some of the urine getting locked up in snow in a glacier somewhere or in a deep well beneath Rome and becoming fossil water. Neurotic, I know, bu...

Bobby

But to answer your question would require deeper research than my administrative assignment allows me to do.

Re: "We live in an interconnected world. I’m touched by people who lived thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away."

I find it more uplifting to think of breathing oxygen molecules that Jesus used.

I greatly enjoyed the implication that soft drink companies specifically chose the size of the standard aluminum can to exactly fill a bladder.

(Or was it an implication that Mountain Dew chose them to be exactly filled by a bladder? The world may never know...)

In a few years your children will be drinking my urine as well!

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