Dear experts,

My question is about the book "Thing Explainer" written and illustrated by Randall Monroe. It's literally hot off the press, so I wasn't able to find an answer to my question online nor does it seem right to ask the author for an explanation since he must be extremely busy, what with just having published this fascinating book and all.

In "Thing Explainer", Monroe explains how complicated "stuff" works by drawing detailed illustrations, clarifying what each part does using simple words: the 1000 most used words in the English language. One of his drawings is of a human cell (or, "Tiny bags of water you're made of" as he likes to call them :). Every single element is explained very clearly, and the simple vocabulary makes for an interesting and often hilarious read.

However, there is one part in the cell that Munroe describes as follows:
"Strange Boxes: There are lots of these little boxes in our water bags. We don't know what they do." The text is pointing at a few very small round objects that float inside the cell's plasma. The way he draws them they kind of look like seashells, or some sort of closed end whelk if you will. There seem to be many of them in the cell's plasma.

I'm dying to know what is meant by these "strange boxes" and why it is that we don't know what their function is.

Thank you so much!

Kind regards,
Carmen Ket
the Netherlands

Post's pictures

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It's a bit difficult to decipher these figures and know what the author is referring to - my guess (but I may be completely wrong) would be some type(s) of 'coated pits' or endocytotic vesicles, membrane blebs/invaginations that are involved in such things as phagocytosis, pinocytosis (cell 'drinking') and/or receptor-mediated endocytosis/receptor recycling. If they represented these structures then we do know something about what they do! I would contact the author and see if he can provide further details!