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#1
Old 09-28-2002, 04:11 AM
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The human body: implode or explode?

I've never seen a clear answer on what would happen to a human being if, say, he took off his helmet in space.

Would he implode or explode--or what? How long would it take? Also would this hold true in a vacuum chamber on earth, or just in space? Could the temperature of space have any bearing on it?

I'm also curious about the opposite.: if for some reason at, say, the depth of the Titanic (2-odd miles), the submersible's hatch suddenly were to open, what would happen to the occupants? I've heard that at that depth a gas canister was crushed to the size of a marble. Would you suddenly be squeezed into a shape the size of a small stuffed toy?

Not that I'm volunteering for either experiment, mind you, but I was wondering if perhaps research had been done on small mammals to show what would happen in either case.
#2
Old 09-28-2002, 06:38 AM
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In space:
My guess is that you'll start sweating blood and and maybe burst since your body pushes outwards at the force that is equal to what used to be pushing on it in a normal atmosphere. (Which is 4 pounds per square inch. *its just a guess at the pounds, i'm probably very wrong*)

In deep sea:
I guess you'll probably implode with every ounce of non-water material compressed into donno what.
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#3
Old 09-28-2002, 06:40 AM
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Yet another guess: Both will probably happen in a split second.

(Sits and waits for people to correct my mistakes)
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#4
Old 09-28-2002, 06:47 AM
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Oh yar, your blood will vaporize in space due to the low pressure lowering its boiling point(hence more likely to burst). But if its in deep cold space.....not sure.....maybe burst and immediately freeze as tiny little pieces?

Either way, you won't know it happened.

Guess we should wait for the experts !
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#5
Old 09-28-2002, 06:49 AM
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You wil EXPLODE if depressurized in space.

You will IMPLODE at a water depth of two miles without sufficient protection.

Neither sound very pleasant. Are you planning a trip that we might want to follow with interest?

BTW Nishroch Order, I believe it's about 15 psi at sea level.
#6
Old 09-28-2002, 06:56 AM
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there have been human experiments in vacuum. Typically if I remember correctly the surface blood vessels in the eyes and skin tend to swell and may burst, eardrums tend to blow out because of high internal pressure against such a thin membrane. A need to void both the bladder and the rectum becomes very strong or overpowering depending on how full or in the case of the rectum/colon how much gas is retained. there really is not enough internal pressure in the head to cause it to burst as shown in a lot of movies, though some sinus damage can occur. Damage to the lungs is probably the single largest concern, while the air in your lungs would be forced out pretty quickly, trying to hold your breath, or very full lungs as you enter the vacuum can cause serious damage. After only a few seconds the gases in the blood will try to seperate and the "boiling" effect shown in high altitude flights will occur.
#7
Old 09-28-2002, 06:59 AM
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hmmmm. "experiments" may not be the word I was looking for, maybe "studies"?
#8
Old 09-28-2002, 08:00 AM
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Horseflesh is right, atmospheric pressure at sea level is nominally 14.7 pounds per square inch. You don't have to be anywhere near 2 miles deep to get crushed, at least not if you're wearing a diving helmet and suit. This arrangement supplies you with continuous air through a rubber hose attached to the helmet, and the suit is completely sealed against the sea, giving the diver a dry environment to work in. If the air supply gets blocked or otherwise fails, you can be crushed to death by as little as 30 feet of sea water. The suit is flexible and the helmet is rigid, and the pressure of the water will attempt to force your body up into the helmet unless there is air pressure preventing this.
#9
Old 09-28-2002, 08:21 AM
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The words "explode" and "implode" don't quite apply here. The human body isn't a bag of air. It's mostly water, which is not compressible. You won't get crushed into a tiny ball under the sea, and you won't blow up into pieces when exposed to vacuum.

Of course there is air in your lungs so if you suddenly found yourself on the ocean floor, the pressure will force the air out. But if you pump air into your mouth at a great pressure (namely the same pressure as the surrounding water), you will be able to breathe. That's how scuba gear works.

As for the effects of vacuum,here's Cecil's column on this topic.
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Old 09-28-2002, 09:02 AM
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For the physicists here — isn't there a difference between imploding and being crushed? I was under the impression that they weren't the same.
#11
Old 09-28-2002, 09:50 AM
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Hmm . . . many answers but not quite the ones I was looking for. Yet, perhaps that is the reality. I (fantasize) think that such simplistic definitions do not apply.

My theory is that in space, the temperature would render you unconscious in a fraction of a second, even before you could "expand like a balloon released from its compression." I imagine that, although all the air would be forced from your lungs immediately, you would not explode, nor anything approaching it, since you are not a bag of air, but water, which would freeze before it had a chance to explode. Therefore, you would be a wheezing block of ice more or less holding your pre-dead state, perhaps trailing small whiffs of still-gaseous vapors as you condensed into a permanent freeze-dried condition.

My imagination of what would happen down below is that you would be rendered unconscious (then die) in a fraction of a second but that your body would condense into a form so compressed to your skeleton (which would only minimally compress, due to its cells lacking fluids) that you'd practically only have two or three millimeters of what used to be musculature/internal organs on top of bone.

Not a pleasant thought, but then again, you wouldn't be around to contemplate it.

Next thought: not two miles, but just 1000 feet down/5 miles up?
#12
Old 09-28-2002, 10:39 AM
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You don't explode in space, and you don't lose conscioness immediately. Vacuum has no temperature, for one thing - it's a pretty good insulator. From experiments done with animals in vacuum chambers and the unfortunate example of the Soyuz 11 crew whose capsul depressurized on the way back to earth, it apears that you remain alive and aware for some time less than a minute upon depressurization, before lack of oxygen kills you.

http://sff.net/people/Geoffrey.Landis/vacuum.html
#13
Old 09-28-2002, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by tonbo0422
Hmm . . . many answers but not quite the ones I was looking for.
You are looking for the truth, right? If you just want someone to agree with you, you came to the wrong board.

The body does not cool in vacuum in "a fraction of a second." In space the only way to lose heat is through evaporation and radiation; there is no air to carry away the heat via convection. You will die of asphyxiation long before your body freezes solid. Actually it may never freeze solid if it's in orbit around the earth and/or in sunlight. (The earth, being warm, emits a lot of infrared radiation.)

As for down below, as I said earlier the human body is mostly water which does not compress very well. To squeeze water out of your body, you need to apply differential pressure - for example, if a car falls on your belly then your blood may get squeezed out of that section. But a uniform pressure will not squash things. Uniform pressure only shrinks gas and other compressible material. So you can dive as deep as you want, as long as you have a supply of compressed air to pump into your mouth. The only limit is the change in chemical reactions that result from breathing air at too high a pressure. Switching to special gas mixtures you can extend the range a bit. The current record depth is around 2300 ft. That's a pressure of about 70 atmospheres, if I'm not mistaken.
#14
Old 09-28-2002, 06:39 PM
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The Master has spoken

https://academicpursuits.us/classics/a3_147.html
#15
Old 09-28-2002, 06:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Joe Mahma
Horseflesh is right, atmospheric pressure at sea level is nominally 14.7 pounds per square inch. You don't have to be anywhere near 2 miles deep to get crushed, at least not if you're wearing a diving helmet and suit. This arrangement supplies you with continuous air through a rubber hose attached to the helmet, and the suit is completely sealed against the sea, giving the diver a dry environment to work in. If the air supply gets blocked or otherwise fails, you can be crushed to death by as little as 30 feet of sea water. The suit is flexible and the helmet is rigid, and the pressure of the water will attempt to force your body up into the helmet unless there is air pressure preventing this.
I think you might be a little off here. I've dived to below 100ft with a wet suit and only pressurized air to inhale and, IIRC, I didn't inmplode. Also, I think free divers routinely go below 30 ft w/o imploding and they don't even have pressurized air to breathe.

Of course, YMMV,

PC
#16
Old 09-28-2002, 07:36 PM
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Joe Mahma is talking about the old diving suits with the roughly spherical metal helmet that enclosed the whole head. This is quite different from the diving you describe, PosterChild.
#17
Old 09-28-2002, 09:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by rowrrbazzle
Joe Mahma is talking about the old diving suits with the roughly spherical metal helmet that enclosed the whole head. This is quite different from the diving you describe, PosterChild.
ok, I guess I just didn't understand how 30 feet of water would crush you if you were in one of those suits, but not if you were out of it. I sort of figured that that pressure around you would be the same at 30 feet down whether or not you wore a suit with a helmet or not. Is there a vacuum if the air supply gets cut off that increases the pressure difference somehow? Now that I think of it, I thought the main purpose of those suits now is to allow longer dives and AFAIK only the rigid constant-volume suits that look like space suits actually go to depths that would be dangerous without the suit (not counting cold and lack of O2).

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#18
Old 09-28-2002, 11:18 PM
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by scr4
[B]

You are looking for the truth, right? If you just want someone to agree with you, you came to the wrong board.

What I meant from the comment "many answers, but not the one I was looking for" was just that I was looking for an answer that seemed to make sense; as in, explained logically and scientifically, coincidentally exactly in the manner you proceeded to post

I was trying to puzzle the problem through and voicing my (no doubt quite ill-informed) hypotheses so that others could expand or contract upon my theories. Which makes perfect sense, given the subject matter

However, it appears that there is no unified answer on what happens in either circumstance. This is good, I guess, since the only way we would know for sure would mean that something would have to die.
#19
Old 09-28-2002, 11:29 PM
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Sorry,

Too hasty a reply. After reading the links provided above I see that there are concrete answers to my question. It's kind of reassuring to know that one does not explode like a ripe banana with inserted firecracker, but just fades away amicably, eyeballs intact (who researched Total Recall, anyway?)
#20
Old 09-29-2002, 01:33 AM
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Total Recall was bullshit on many levels; for one thing, Mars HAS an atmosphere. It's too thin for us, but not THAT thin.
#21
Old 09-29-2002, 06:10 AM
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The thing is your body is pressurised to counteract the normal atmospheric pressure on earth.

If you are suddenly subject to a vacuum, say in space, this pressure will push outwards. Your skull might not explode, but your soft tissues will have problems.

This is called "explosive decompression."
#22
Old 09-29-2002, 12:37 PM
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PosterChild, I also found it hard to believe that 30 feet of water has enough pressure to kill you. Here's how it goes: The diving suits have an area of roughly 2 square meters. This is about 3050 square inches. For every 33 feet you go down (underwater), the pressure goes up by 1 atmosphere, or 14.7 pounds per square inch. At 30 feet, you have roughly 40,350 pounds of pressure exerted over your whole body (30/33 times 3050 times 14.7). If that pressure is balanced by an appropriate amount of pressure through your air hose, no problem. If something happens to the pump and there's no pressure (above the normal sea level pressure that the end of the hose above the water would see), you have 40,350 pounds of pressure trying to squish the flexible suit and your body up into the rigid helmet. This makes quite a mess. It has happened to some unlucky people, and is quite thoroughly fatal.
cite:Principles and Practice of Occupational Medicine by Carl Zenz, second edition.
#23
Old 09-29-2002, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Joe Mahma
PosterChild, I also found it hard to believe that 30 feet of water has enough pressure to kill you. Here's how it goes: The diving suits have an area of roughly 2 square meters. This is about 3050 square inches. For every 33 feet you go down (underwater), the pressure goes up by 1 atmosphere, or 14.7 pounds per square inch. At 30 feet, you have roughly 40,350 pounds of pressure exerted over your whole body (30/33 times 3050 times 14.7). If that pressure is balanced by an appropriate amount of pressure through your air hose, no problem. If something happens to the pump and there's no pressure (above the normal sea level pressure that the end of the hose above the water would see), you have 40,350 pounds of pressure trying to squish the flexible suit and your body up into the rigid helmet. This makes quite a mess. It has happened to some unlucky people, and is quite thoroughly fatal.
cite:Principles and Practice of Occupational Medicine by Carl Zenz, second edition.
There are two things I don't understand about that. I have a little trouble adding up the pressure per sq. inch to come up with the pressure "over your whole body." Because it is the whole body, shouldn't it "stay" divided over the surface area.
Now that I re-read it, I think I see what you're saying. The rigid helmet prevents the pressure from being transmitted to its interior except through the neck opening. If the air pressure decreases (which shouldn't happen if the air is blocked, but only if the pressure in the hose has "access" to surface pressure) then the pressure becomes lower in the helmet than around the body.
So, it's not that 30 feet of water makes a person implode, but if you set up a differential at 30 feet with a rigid helmet you'll get squished into the helmet.

By gosh, I think I've got it.

PC
#24
Old 09-29-2002, 03:53 PM
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Now THAT'S a story I've never heard before--the pushed-up-into-the-helmet story. Extremely bizarre . . . are you sure that's not just some urban legend?
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Old 09-29-2002, 04:20 PM
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Now THAT'S a story I've never heard before--the pushed-up-into-the-helmet story. Extremely bizarre . . . are you sure that's not just some urban legend?
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Old 09-29-2002, 08:38 PM
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Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre, but such a case is mentioned in the medical text I cited.
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Old 09-29-2002, 08:38 PM
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Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre, but it's mentioned in the medical text I cited.
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Old 09-29-2002, 08:45 PM
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Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre, but it's mentioned in the medical text I cited.
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Old 09-29-2002, 08:51 PM
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Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre, but it's mentioned in the medical text I cited.
#30
Old 09-29-2002, 09:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by tonbo0422
Now THAT'S a story I've never heard before--the pushed-up-into-the-helmet story.
Imagine getting trapped in a huge pressurized gas tank, with just your head sticking out from a small hole. If you increase the pressure of the tank the pressure will squeeze your body out the small hole, with rather unpleasent consequences. It'd be the exact same situation if you have a diving helmet with much lower pressure than the surrounding water. In each case, the cause is not high pressure alone but the difference in pressure.
#31
Old 09-29-2002, 10:06 PM
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Arthur C. Clarke used the idea of people going through vacum without a spacesuit at least four times -- The Other Side of the Sky, Earthlight and 2001: Space Odyssey. It as discussed in The Fountains of Paradise, and Clarke discused it in some of his science fact books, as well (The View from Serendip and The Lost Worlds o 2001, I believe, in which he justifies the scene n the movie where Bowman re-eners the Discoery without his helmet.). Other writers have used the idea, as well. Some of them, like Pierre Boule and martin Caidin (who should have known better) got it wrong, and have the body blowing up (in Five Came Back). Clarke cites NASA stusies on monkeys and chimps.


I think Total Rcall and Outland and the James Bond movie icense to Kill had people exploding because it's an interesting visual, and damn the inaccuracies.
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#32
Old 09-30-2002, 07:34 PM
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Sorry for the multiple posts. Dang hamsters.tonbo0422, here are actual quotes form the text I cited, Principle and Practice of Occupational Medicine, second edition, chapter 25. Page 384: "Whole body squeeze can be a fatal complication of using the classic copper-helmeted deep-sea dress. If gas pressure in the helmet becomes less that the pressure surrounding the flexible dress, the entire body may be crushed and forced into the helmet." Page 397:"As long as the pressure inside the diving rig equals the sea pressure without, no problem occurs, but should the diver fall from the surface to 10 feet without admitting more air to the rig a pressure of 4 tons will be exerted on the flexible portion of the rig, tending to drive the entire body into the helmet and breat plate. "(Note that this is less pressure than I calculated, but still vey large. "A serious squeeze will cause the whole body to be crushed. In ann accident reported in the East River at a depth of 30 feet, where the pressure in the helmet suddenly became equal with atmospheric pressure, the 12 tons of squeeze necessitated the diver's remails being dug out of the helmet with a spoon (italics mine). Reportedly, in a similar accident following a fall off the bow of the Empress of Ireland in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the diver was unable to reach his air supply in time and the softer parts of his body were found 12 feet up the aitline." I know it sounds unbelievable, but these are direct quotes from the book.
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Old 09-30-2002, 07:45 PM
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Well, direct quotes with spelling errors. That should be breastplate, not breatplate, and airline, not aitline. Sorry.
#34
Old 10-08-2002, 09:07 PM
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Bumping to repeat my question --

Quote:
For the physicists here — isn't there a difference between imploding and being crushed? I was under the impression that they weren't the same.
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