Posts tagged ‘myth’

People Don’t Explode in Space

By Terry D Johnson

Countless science fiction films have exposed their characters to the vacuum of space – often, with explosive results. Outland’s victims of explosive decompression leave behind gory, reddened walls reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting. Perhaps most famously, in Total Recall Arnold Schwarzenegger played an increasingly bug-eyed Quaid when he ventured unprotected onto the airless plains of Mars. Grotesque decompression deaths are a staple of the genre.

These displays of spectacular tissue damage might seem like reasonable speculation, yet we’ve known otherwise for centuries. As early as 1660, the scientist Robert Boyle was exposing animals to vacuum without detonating them. Unconsciousness came quickly to the experimental subjects, but fresh air would quickly revive most subjects if administered before several minutes had passed. Those animals that died of oxygen deprivation did so without painting the walls.

There are several accounts of human beings accidentally exposed to near vacuum. Most dramatically, a test subject at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with a leaky spacesuit experienced a near vacuum. He was unconscious after 14 seconds and remembers feeling the saliva on his tongue beginning to boil, but after the test chamber was repressurized he recovered quickly.

If ever you’re exposed to space for a brief period, don’t try to hold your breath – the pressure difference between your air-filled lungs and the vacuum is likely to cause some damage. Don’t worry about the cold, either – space is chilly, yes, but the lack of air will make the transfer of heat from your body quite slow. There might be some painful swelling, but nothing so dramatic as a messy and very personal explosion.

Broken Secrets

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons (gnu)

Sources: NASA, WP An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, WP Robert Boyle

February 11, 2011 at 12:42 am 5 comments

Run When It’s Raining to Stay Drier

Sooner or later, everybody gets caught outside when it starts raining.

I used to have a long walk to school. I mention this because walking to school has the same affect on rainfall as washing your car — it only rains at the worst possible time and it stops immediately after you stop caring.

When you’re stuck in the rain, you might think about whether it would be better to run or walk. When you run, you collide with more rain but you also reduce the amount of time you are exposed to the rain. When you walk, you collide with less rain but for a longer duration. So which is better?

It turns out that running is the better option, assuming you run fast enough to reduce the time you are exposed to rain. Myth Busters tested this in episode 38 if you want to check it out.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Myth Busters, Wise Geek

July 1, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

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