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### Course: Math (NSDC) - English > Unit 7

Lesson 6: Scientific notation word problems# Scientific notation word problem: red blood cells

Vampires and math students want to know: How many red blood cells are in the a human body? We can find the answer using scientific notation. Created by Sal Khan.

## Want to join the conversation?

- Why wouldn't you just divide the 9 into 2 and have the quotient of 0.22 there instead of ''borrowing'' the 10?(21 votes)
- You could do that, and have 0.222 * 10^14. But then, to get it into official scientific notation, you would need change it to 2.22 * 10^13. So Sal is just doing the conversion into scientific notation in the earlier step. In both cases you would end up with the same answer,(43 votes)

- Why was 1/10^-14 the same as 10^14? Not quite sure.(14 votes)
- Well, you can think it as (1/10)^-14. Then, according to the rule (a/b)^c = ((a^c)/(b^c)), you can use the distributive property:

((1^-14)/(10^-14)

When a fraction has either a numerator or denominator or both with a negative exponent, you need to switch the position. Meaning the numerator with a negative exponent would switch to the denominator for a positive exponent, and vice versa.

((1^-14)/(10^-14)) = ((10^14)/(1^14))

And since we know that 1 with a positive exponent is still one, it becomes:

(10^14)/1

And since division by one means the quotient is the dividend, it becomes:

10^14

Hope this is helpful.(10 votes)

- I realize I am the only person having trouble understanding this, but why did we divide by volume of 1 red blood cell rather than multiplying? total volume of 1 red cell/ volume of 1 cell = # of blood cells??

I understand the calculation itself just confused on the formula(11 votes)- It's asking how many individual red blood cells does it take to make up the total volume of blood cells (2 liters), if each blood cell is 90x10^-15 liters. Multiplying 90x10^-15 by 2 would give you the volume of 2 red blood cells.(4 votes)

- why would a math student want to know how many red blood cells are in the human body??!! I mean i get it for the vampires but.........(6 votes)
- Because it is just a scientific number that we are learning.(8 votes)

- At1:48in the video, you start to mention that 90 isn't in scientific notation because it isn't less than ten, which I agree with, but under that understanding, wouldn't 10^-15 technically not be in sci.n. because it isn't less than ten?(1 vote)
- 90 isn't in scientific notation because the
*coefficient*isn't less than 10. Since 90 is just a number, 90 is the coefficient which isn't less than 10.

With 10^-15, the coefficient is 1 which is less than 10.

However, it should be noted that to be in scientific notation, the coefficient must also be greater than or equal to 1.

I hope this clarifies what Sal meant!(13 votes)

- How did 10^-14 became 10^14?(4 votes)
- The 10^(-14) is in the denominator, so it is 1/10^(-14). Properties of exponents tell us that 1/x^(-n) = x^n/1 of just x^n. We can change from a negative exponent to a positive exponent by using the reciprocal of the base.

Thus, 1/10^(-14) = 10^14/1 or just 10^14. When this is multiplied with the other parts of the fraction, the 10^14 ends up in the numerator of the original fraction.

Search for "negative exponents" to get more details about working with them.

Hope this helps.(5 votes)

- Please explain i am soo confused😕.(7 votes)
- At0:40, Sal wrote "5 (liters) x 40%". Can someone show me how to work this out? ( You don't have to include the liters)(5 votes)
- I zoned out the second he started talking about red blood cells. I was never able to focus in science. Are we going to need this in our day-to-day life, other than those who have to specialize in math?(5 votes)
- @Queen Burger,

Sal is not teaching a science lesson. He just has an example, that happens to involve red blood cells. For your second question, scientific notation makes it easy to manipulate very large numbers. So yes, we will need these skills, even if we aren’t going to be Einstein.

Hope this helps!(1 vote)

## Video transcript

A human body has
5 liters of blood, 40% of which is red blood cells. Each red blood cell has a volume
of approximately 90 times 10 to the negative 15 liters. How many red blood cells
are there in a human body? Write your answer in
scientific notation, and round to two decimal places. So they tell us the total volume
of blood in the human body. We have 5 liters. And then they tell us that 40%
of that is red blood cells. So if we take the 5 liters
and we multiply by 40%, this expression right here
gives us the total volume of the red blood cells, 40%
of our total volume of blood. Now this is the total
volume of red blood cells. And we divide by the volume
of each red blood cell. Then we're going to get the
number of red blood cells. So let's do that. Let's divide by the volume
of each red blood cell. So the volume of
each red blood cell is 90 times 10 to the
negative 15 liters. So let's see if we can simplify. So one thing that we
can feel good about is that the units
actually do cancel out. We have liters in the numerator,
liters in the denominator, so we're going to get
just a pure number, which is what we want. We just want how many red blood
cells are actually in the body. So let's just focus
the numbers here. So 5 times 40%-- well 40%
is the same thing as 0.4. So let me write that down. This is the same thing as 0.4. 5 times 0.4 is 2. So our numerator
simplifies to 2. And in the denominator, we have
90 times 10 to the negative 15, which definitely is not
in scientific notation. It looks like it, but
remember, in order to be in scientific
notation, this number has to be greater than or
equal to 1 and less than 10. It's clearly not less than 10. But we can convert this
to scientific notation very easily. 90 is the same
thing as 9 times 10, or you could even say 9
times 10 to the first. And then you multiply that
times 10 to the negative 15. And then this
simplifies to 9 times-- let's add these two exponents--
10 to the negative 14. And now we can actually divide. And let's simplify this
division a little bit. This is going to be the same
thing as 2/9 times 1 to t over 10 to the negative 14. Well what's 1 over 10
to the negative 14? Well that's just 10 to the 14. So this right over here is just
the same thing as 10 to the 14. Now you might say, OK, we just
have to figure out what 2/9 is and we're done. We've written this in
scientific notation. But you might have
already realized, look, 2/9 is not greater
than or equal to 1. How can we make this
greater than or equal to 1? Well we could multiply it by 10. If we multiply this
by 10, then we've got to divide this
by 10 to not change the value of this expression. But let's do that. So I'm going to
multiply this by 10, and I'm going to
divide this by 10. So I haven't changed. I've multiplied
and divided by 10. So this is equal to 20/9 times
10 to the 14th divided by 10 is 10 to the 13th power. So what's 20/9? This is going to
give us a number that is greater than or equal
to 1 and less than 10. So let's figure it out. And I think they said round our
answer to two decimal places. So let's do that. So 20 divided by 9--
9 doesn't go into 2. It does go into 20 two times. 2 times 9 is 18. Subtract. Get a remainder of 2. I think you see where
this show is going to go. 9 goes into 20 two times. 2 times 9 is 18. We're just going to
keep getting 2's. So we get another
2, bring down a 0. Nine goes into 20 two times. So this thing right over
here is really 2.2 repeating. But they said round
to two decimal places, so this is going to be
equal to 2.22 times 10 to the 13th power.