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The Reel Deal and Other Bad Jokes
Monday, April 19, 2004
 
Never break wind in space unless you want to bring new meaning to the word "rectum."
"Rectum? It damn near killed 'im!"


I watched "Outland," a sci-fi movie made in the early 80's, the other night. In a nutshell, it featured Sean Connery (the older version) as a marshal (or is that Marshall? I forget) aboard a mining outpost on Io, a moon of Jupiter. Something nasty is going down, because miners are committing suicide in really bloody ways. It turns out to be drugs, and Connery suspects that the distribution is company-santioned.

Or in the simpler terms of a western: "One man. One sheriff. One very crooked town. And only one day."

The plot isn't much to speak of. It has a few twists, but I've seen better. The acting is pretty good. I especially enjoyed the conversations that Connery had with the caustic doctor, played by Frances Sternhagen. The sets were fairly realistic. Basic, utilitarian, very corporate. A few notches higher than "Total Recall."

Something that the DVD Special Features bragged about was "Intravision" or some such. "Seamless transition from miniatures to live-action." I don't know about that, I caught at least one of these so-called transitions. Still, for a while before I was born, not a bad movie. Didn't quite measure up to, say, Star Wars, but then...whaddaya gonna do, Star Wars is Star Wars.

One fairly prominent bit of physics that the movie featured was that if you open your suit in space, you explode. I know if you come up too fast when deep sea diving your lungs explode, but I don't know if that would be quite as bloody as Outland portrayed. I also know that if you shoot a hole in an airplane window you get sucked out through it (hey, it happened to Goldfinger) due to the difference in pressures, again. I saw one space movie where an astronaut (William H. Macy, something to do with Mars) committed suicide by pulling off his helmet in vacuum, creating instant frozen astro-stick. But I read a Rogue Squadron novel where a pilot was exposed to vacuum, and he pulled through (though his lekku were numbed a bit).

I asked a knowlegeable buddy of mine, Jimmy, about the subject. You can check out his xanga here. It's amusing, and sometimes funny or even laugh-inducing. Click on the damn link and and decide for yourself.

Here's what he had to say about what happens when a human being is exposed to vaccuum.

Jimmy: Two things happen automatically, either one can kill you-One, all the air is pulled out of your lungs so fast that you end up with those lungs sticking out of your TEETH...
The other sucks the blood out of your body before it can freeze, leaving your corpse a bloody, mutilated mess. Well, that's not really instant, but it does happen pretty fast.

Me: It doesn't freeze inside?

Jimmy: Not for a good while, you're long dead before it does. Remember, astronauts are fine up there with just big padded suits. It can't be THAT cold. What kills you first is the vacuum. It's what does that to your lungs and blood.
If you empty all the air in your lungs you can and are only out there for a few seconds, you can theoretically remain in space for a very brief period of time.

Oh, forgot one OTHER important thing you'd need to make that survival-Earplugs.

Me: Because?

Jimmy: Your brain would get sucked straight out your ears. If you fart while moving through space, expect rectal damage. No kidding. Generally, every orifice needs to remain shut.

Me: To maintain internal pressure, yes?

Jimmy: Yep. There is no pressure in space, only a vacuum. Anything that can be ripped through that vacuum will be done so in a painful, painful way. Even your pores, though that takes a little while to be lethal.


So, according to Jimmy, Outland didn't exactly have its science right. Not exactly out of the ordinary for Hollywood, but I found the question intriguing enough to inquire about. If you my so-called reader base have something to say on the subject, leave a comment, send an e-mail or an IM. Any of these are subject to reposting.

That's all very interesting, but when you see a guy's head swell up like a balloon inside his helmet you can be pretty sure it's not scientifically correct. If that sounds like something you'd like to see, go rent Outland. It wasn't bad, for old science fiction.

Lastly, go check out "Life at TJ's Place," blogged by the talented Kevin. I have to confess that this is the blog that inspired me to start one of my own. Whether Kevin can continue to inspire me in this way remains to be seen. Keep on bloggin', Kevin.
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