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The number of years for which each particle has existed is so great that each has been part of countless billions of other objects, no doubt some of them organisms, before it was part of us. And of such an order is the number of particles needed to make up a human being — such, also, the biochemistry of human reproduction — that huge numbers of the particles that constitute each one of us have almost certainly belonged to other people.

Ultimate Questions, Bryan Magee

I have 2 questions to ask:

Does the word "of" before "such an order" mean "relating to"?

Could you explain to me the use of "such" in the text between two dash? Does it the contraction of "such as"?

1 Answer 1

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Let's start by rewriting the sentence in question into a more standard order without the interjection:

The number of particles needed to make up a human being is of such an order that huge numbers of the particles that constitute each one of us have almost certainly belonged to other people.

The meaning of "order" in this sentence is a reference to a mathematical one, which very roughly means the size of the number. The preposition that we use to connect the number to "order" is "of". So, "This number is of order X" means the same as "The order of this number is X".

As for the part I removed:

such, also, the biochemistry of human reproduction

It's hard to be sure without more context, but I believe it's saying the biochemistry of human reproduction involves very high numbers, but it's poorly written and doesn't make literal sense.

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