Monday, October 30, 2017

Episode 392 (10-30-17): Water's at the Heart of Blood

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:58).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-27-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 30, 2017.  For Halloween week, we repeat a 2014 episode focused on a vital, water-based fluid that’s a feature of many-a scary Halloween image or story.

SOUND - ~3 sec

Why is a human heartbeat a water story?   Have a listen for about 25 seconds to the following mystery sounds, and see if you can guess the heart-and-water connections they represent.  And here’s a hint: if you have the energy, you could follow many branches to this solution.

SOUNDS - ~23 sec

You’ve been listening to sounds from a platelets donation at the American Red Cross’ New River Valley Donor Center in Blacksburg, Virginia.  A blood-pressure measurement, a needle stick into an arm vein, and the machine separating blood components and recirculating fluid to the patient illustrate three connections between the human circulatory system and water.

First, the heart provides energy and a force—measured by blood pressure—to keep blood circulating around the body, like the sun’s energy powers evaporation and winds that help keep water circulating around the earth.  Second, arm veins are part of an intricately branched system of arteries, veins, and capillaries, resembling a watershed’s branching pattern as one travels uphill from ocean to river to headwater streams.   Humans have an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 miles of blood vessels, compared to Virginia’s approximately 100,000 miles of rivers and streams.  Finally, blood’s components are mostly water: plasma is a solution of water and many biochemicals, mixed with water-based red and white blood cells and with platelets.  As a result, blood in the human system has water’s physical and chemical properties for transporting materials and regulating heat, like water does within ecosystems.

Cells and transported substances make blood “thicker” than water, just as the saying goes.  But the water we borrow temporarily from the global water cycle is at the chemical and physical heart of blood and the circulatory system’s vital functions.

Thanks to staff at the New River Valley Donor Center for participating in this episode, and thanks to for making the heartbeat sound available for public use.

SOUND - ~3 seconds


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode is a revised repeat of Episode 236, 10-20-14, which has been archived.

The human heartbeat sound was recorded by Mike Koenig and made available (9/14/09 upload) online at the Web site,, for public use under the Creative Commons license “Attribution 3.0”; for more information on Creative Commons licenses, please see; information on the Attribution License specifically is online at

Other sounds heard in this episode were recorded at the American Red Cross New River Donor Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, during an October 19, 2014, platelet donation by Virginia Water Radio host Alan Raflo.  Thanks to the staff at the Donor Center for their help and for allowing the sound recording. For information about blood and platelet donations, please visit the American Red Cross’ “Donating Blood” Web site at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Two photos above: Blood plasma (upper) and platelets (lower) from a platelet donation at the American Red Cross New River Valley Donor Center in Blacksburg, Va., in October 2014.

Dracula gives back at the New River Valley Donor Center in Blacksburg, Va., October 29, 2017.


Used for Audio

Adrian Bejan, Shape and Structure, from Engineering to Nature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 2000.

Cleveland Clinic, “Heart & Blood Vessels: How Does Blood Travel Through Your Body,” online at

The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, Penn., “Blood Vessels,” online at

Leslie Mertz, The Circulatory System, Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 2004.

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, “Smooth or Wiggly Blood Vessel Shape Reveals Disease,” 8/31/09, online at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Draft 2016 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report,” Chapter 2: State Background Information; available online at

For More Information about Blood and Circulatory Systems

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Blood Safety,” online at

Idaho Public Television, “Blood: Facts,” online at

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Facts About Blood and Blood Cells,” online at

U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, SEER Training Module, “Leukemia/Anatomy,” online at

U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine, “Blood, Heart and Circulation,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Science” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes focusing on human biology:
Episode 93, 12/19/11 – water in the human nervous system.
Episode 287, 10/26/15 – water and the human skeleton.


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.3 – cellular organization, including cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 - influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

Biology Course
BIO.2 – water chemistry and its impact on life processes.
BIO.4 – life functions (including metabolism and homeostasis) in different organism groups, including human health, anatomy, and body systems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOL:

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to previous Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 249 (1-19-15) - on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 250 (1-26-15) - on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 255 (3-2-15) - on density, for 5th and 6th grade;
Episode 282 (9-21-15) - on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten;
Episode 309 (3-28-16) - on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade. Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.