This being Sunday, the 11.30 sung mass at the French Church in Soho is ever a pre-dim sum option. It will be packed, though - the congregation of fashionable young French professionals in London these days swamping the few elderly black-coated French women who used to attend. Jean Cocteau's mural of Roman soldiers, a surprise for visitors and one of my Secrets of London, always cheers me up. Anyway, a question for the scientists.
A website called Scientific Britain gives the maths behind the pint of water wonder; that is, the wonder that if you poured a pint of water into the sea in Suffolk, and waited a year or two, that you could pull a pint of water out of the sea anywhere in the world and it would contain a molecule from the original pint. If fact, the boffins tell us, it would probably contain 8,100 molecules from the original pint.
Say a Roman soldier drowned off the coast of Suffolk, his body taken to the bottom by the weight of his armour. eaten by the fish, and dissolved by the waves, every molecule of him, every drop of water, gramme of salt, pinch of protein would be distributed, broken down, circulated. It would evaporate and fall as rain, swelling the crops in the fields, dry as powdery dust on shorelines and be blown by the wind, turn from fish to bird to man and back again to molecule. The scientists can work it out, but I'll bet that I can't eat a slice of bread or drink a cup of wine without it containing a few molecules that once made up that Roman soldier.
The wonder is that there are many more molecules in a single Roman soldier than there are cups combined of water and biomass on earth. It's almost miraculous.