Hi! Do you remember blogs? Well, this used to be one. Now it just serves as an archive for my multiple Twitter accounts.

13 February 2003

Waiting to exhale

It’s a recurring debate—the last instance I remember was when a Stargate SG1 episode was aired several months ago. Would it be possible to survive a sudden decompression?

I always thought the human body should be resistant enough, adaptable enough to go through that. Well, it turns out that not only has the question been largely documented, but it looks like it did happen once in real life, which allows scientists to be pretty sure about what happens:

In 1966 a technician at NASA Houston was decompressed to vacuum in a space-suit test accident. […] He lost consciousness in 12-15 seconds. When pressure was restored after about 30 seconds of exposure, he regained consciousness, with no apparent injury sustained.

This pretty much settles that. You double in size for a while (it’s written elsewhere in the article), but afterwards everything’s fine (there are risks of temporary blindness and stuff, but globally you have a fair chance of surviving it unharmed). Isn’t the human body an extraordinary machine?

Oh, and a tiny detail for those of you kids who might be tempted to try this at home:

Note that this discussion covers the effect of vacuum exposure only. The decompression event itself can have disasterous effects if the person being decompressed makes the mistake of trying to hold his or her breath. This will result in rupturing of the lungs, with almost certainly fatal results.

So the Stargate version, where Carter told O’Neil and Teal’C to exhale in sync with the decompression, was as realistic as can be. Except that, when they were in vacuum, they should have swollen to double their normal volume, but I guess it would have looked too nasty for TV.

While we’re at it, the same memepool post points to a live-action remake of the famous gore scene in Alien 4, only with a crab instead of the alien. And I’ve got only one word to describe that: Eww. I can only hope the poor thing is in crabs paradise by now.

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