Is human survival on photosynthetic skin possible? What would be the challenges that mankind will face if it happens at all? Here we delve into a crucial scientific explanation to dissect the crux of this theory while taking significant cues from the science-fiction world.
Mother Nature is one of the most curious happenings on the Earth with the unusually bizarre phenomenon that seems to perplex mankind every then and now. Despite the advancement of science, we human beings are still miles and miles away from completely understanding the planet we live on. Besides that, there might be varied forms of species in the biosphere that are still hiding from the human gaze.
Following the series of speculative mysteries encompassing mother nature, we take a deep dive into some of the most enticing events from science-fiction. One such creative element from science-fiction that bewildered us the most is humans having green skin. Now, this might be sounding like an insane idea to you, but delving into its scientific contours can lead all us to the ambit of the whole new discoveries.
Now, if you are thinking that only plants use photosynthesis for their food production, then to your utter dismay, you are completely wrong. There are many animals on our planet who utilise sunlight for varied purposes as well. One such example is the usage of sunlight through solar-powered molecules by animals. Certain pigments in those solar molecules generate Adenosine Triphosphate with the help of sunlight that indeed triggers the process of cell reactions in those animals.
Animals surviving solely on photosynthesis:
Insects such as Oriental Hornet do convert light into electricity which further helps in explaining the fact that these insects are active during the middle of the day. Oceanic creatures like Elysia Sea Slug do poses the ability to thrive on chloroplast that it steals from algae. In this way, they can survive solely on the process of photosynthesis. Following that, many corals partners with microbes performing photosynthesis to receive oxygen from them to survive.
Now the crucial question that arises here is: Whether humans can also benefit from sunlight-led photosynthesis or not?
As per a plant ecologist at the University of Oxford if the skin of a woman thriving on photosynthesis has been like a leaf, then it would have fulfilled only 1 percent of her daily energy requirements. Therefore, a photosynthesising woman will require skin equivalent to the total area of a tennis court.
Other than that, photosynthesis also requires carbon dioxide which plants can easily absorb through pores based on stomata. If such a process was supposed to happen with human beings, they would have gotten penetrable pores on their skin which could have absorbed carbon dioxide but could have led to the leakage of various other bodily fluids and substances.
The world of science-fiction:
Well, in the world of science-fiction, such realities of photosynthesising humans have already come true. Let’s take a clue from John Scalzi’s novel ‘Old Man War’ – the bodies of soldiers were optimised in accordance to that of a plant which helped them in getting extra energy to fight the war in a combative form. While most of this energy was utilised by their brains, it would have obviously provided three to five percent of energy to them free of cost.
Now let’s consider the fact that if humans get photosynthetic skin – even in that case, it will be efficient only up to five to six percent of total energy being produced in the human body. Secondly, it will not be going to make us humans abandon our staple food habits as we gain maximum energy from vegetables, animal products, and grains.
We also cannot stop breathing oxygen despite getting a leaf-like skin because to convert a huge amount of food into energy – oxygen will be a key factor for our survival, unlike plants who solely depend on sunlight, air, water, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide.