Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Episode 595 (9-20-21): Water and the Human Skeleton

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:40).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-15-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 20, 2021.  This revised episode from October 2015 is part of a series this fall of episodes on water connections to the human body and human biology.

MUSIC – 16 sec – Instrumental

That’s part of “Halloween,” by John McCutcheon on his 1998 album “Autumnsongs.”  In this first week of autumn, with Halloween merchandise already in stores and on some people’s minds, that organ music sets the stage for exploring a vital human organ system that’s also one of Halloween’s most familiar spectres.  Have a listen for about 15 second to some mystery sounds, and see if you can guess that organ system.  And here’s a hint: we couldn’t move at all, much less rattle around, without this remarkable framework.

SOUNDS  - 13 sec

If you guessed the skeleton or skeletal system, you’re right!  The rattling you heard was from a plastic Halloween skeleton, accompanied by some creepy laughter from a talking skull decoration.  Since ancient times, human skeletons have been used in art, literature, and culture as symbols of danger, death, and dryness. In fact, the word “skeleton” comes from Latin and Greek words meaning “dried up.”  But there’s nothing dead nor dry about a functioning human skeleton.  Our 206 bones contain active cells and tissues that continually take in and release calcium and phosphorus while producing new bone, blood, and fat cells.

Bone is about 25 to 30 percent water by weight, with the rest consisting of minerals plus connective protein fibers called collagen.  Water is the main component of cartilage, the relatively flexible tissue in our nose and ears and between bones, including in the disks between the vertebrae in our spine.  In those spinal disks, cartilage fibers enclose a watery core, and this water’s resistance to being compressed helps vertebrae move while not being pushed together.

Ligaments and tendons join bone and cartilage in the complex, multi-purpose skeletal system.  Aided by water, the skeleton supports the body; protects internal organs; produces cells; and provides levers, pivot points, and cushions to the forces acting on and within the body.  All that, and it’s also a classic Halloween image!

Thanks to John McCutcheon and Appalseed Productions for permission to use this week’s music, and we get the jump on the season of scary skeletons with about 25 more seconds of “Halloween.”

MUSIC – 28 sec – Lyrics: “For just one night, I’m allowed to fantasize.  Halloween, here we go.”


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  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 Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 287, 10-26-15.

“Halloween,” from the 1998 album “Four Seasons: Autumnsongs” on Rounder Records, is copyright by John McCutcheon/Appalsongs and Si Kahn/Joe Hill Music, used with permission of John McCutcheon.  More information about John McCutcheon is available online at  Thanks to Erin Grace Deedy of Appalseed Productions for her help in acquiring permission to use this music.  More information about Appalseed Productions is available online 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


Structure of human long bones (bones that are longer than they are wide).  Illustration from National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, SEER Training Module, “Skeletal System/Classification of Bones,” online at

Skeleton-themed items, including those shown in the two photos above, were part of the Halloween merchandise for sale at a Blacksburg, Va., store on September 15, 2021.


The following information is quoted from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, SEER Training Module, “Skeletal System/Introduction” online at

“Humans are vertebrates, animals having a vertebral column or backbone.  They rely on a sturdy internal frame that is centered on a prominent spine.  The human skeletal system consists of bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons and accounts for about 20 percent of the body weight.

“The living bones in our bodies use oxygen and give off waste products in metabolism.  They contain active tissues that consume nutrients, require a blood supply, and change shape or remodel in response to variations in mechanical stress.

“Bones provide a rigid framework, known as the skeleton, that supports and protects the soft organs of the body.

“The skeleton supports the body against the pull of gravity.  The large bones of the lower limbs support the trunk when standing.

“The skeleton also protects the soft body parts.  The fused bones of the cranium surround the brain to make it less vulnerable to injury.  Vertebrae surround and protect the spinal cord and bones of the rib cage help protect the heart and lungs of the thorax.

“Bones work together with muscles as simple mechanical lever systems to produce body movement.

“Bones contain more calcium than any other organ.  The intercellular matrix of bone contains large amounts of calcium salts, the most important being calcium phosphate.

“When blood calcium levels decrease below normal, calcium is released from the bones so that there will be an adequate supply for metabolic needs.  When blood calcium levels are increased, the excess calcium is stored in the bone matrix.  The dynamic process of releasing and storing calcium goes on almost continuously.

“Hematopoiesis, the formation of blood cells, mostly takes place in the red marrow of the bones.

“In infants, red marrow is found in the bone cavities.  With age, it is largely replaced by yellow marrow for fat storage.  In adults, red marrow is limited to the spongy bone in the skull, ribs, sternum, clavicles, vertebrae and pelvis.  Red marrow functions in the formation of red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets.


Used for Audio

Joseph Hammill and Kathleen M. Knutzen, Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement—Third Edition, Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, Md., and Philadelphia, Penn., 2009.

Harry N. Herkowitz et al., The Spine—Fourth Edition (Vol. I), W. B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, Penn., 1999.

W. Henry Hollinshead and Cornelius Rosse, Textbook of Anatomy—Fourth Edition, Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1985.

Evelyn Kelly, The Skeletal System, Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 2004.

Lakeland Community College, “The Skull and Skeleton in Art: Folk Art to Pop Culture,”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Skeleton,” online at

National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, SEER Training Module, “Skeletal System,” online at

Icy Sedgwick, “Skeleton Folklore,” published by Folklore Thursday, October 26, 2017, online at

Walt Disney Animation Studies, “The Skeleton Dance,” 1929, online at

For More Information about Water and the Human Body 

Mayo Clinic Health System, “Water: Essential to your body,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body,”


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 on connections of water to human biology.  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in fall 2021; in those cases, the respective links below will have information on the updated episodes. 

Episode 195, 1-6-14 – Water thermodynamics.
Episode 393, 11-6-17
– Disease: Influenza.
Episode 466, 4-1-19
– Water intake and sports.
Episode 517, 3-23-20
and Episode 519, 4-6-20 – Disease: Water connections to COVID-19.
Episode 592, 8-30-21
– Overview of water’s roles in the body.
Episode 593, 9-6-21
– Circulatory system connections to water.
Episode 594, 9-13-21
– Neurological system connections to water.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-3 plus 5: Matter
K.4 – Water is important in our daily lives and has properties.

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
1.5 – Animals, including humans, have basic life needs that allow them to survive.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.

Life Science
LS.3 – There are levels of structural organization in living things.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem.

Physical Science
PS.8 – Work, force, and motion are related.

BIO.2 – Chemical and biochemical processes are essential for life.
BIO.3 – Cells have structure and function.

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

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

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 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.