Number 7: Gravity Research Subject
They´re strapped down so astronauts can blast off
Spend time in outer space, and the lack of gravity will earn you the bloated look astronauts call puffy face, as well as atrophied muscles and bone degeneration. Researchers hope to combat these symptoms by developing artificial-gravity therapies for long voyages. But the only way to approximate the effects of weightlessness is by having volunteers lie still-for weeks on end.
Liz Warren, a researcher at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, managed to convince 15 men to spend 21 straight days in bed. They were tilted head-down at a 6-degree angle, which, along with their inactivity, mimicked the restricted muscle use and increased blood flow to the head experienced in space. The subjects showered using handheld hoses, relieved themselves in bedpans, and were occasionally wheeled out to a common area to socialize with other bedridden guinea pigs.
For actor Tim Judd, it was a life-changing experience; the $6,000 payday gave him enough cash to move to Los Angeles to pursue his film career. It´s a good thing he had such a strong motivation. "Your body cavity is upside down, and after the first day you can feel your internal organs start to shift toward your head," he says. Although Warren´s study is now complete, NASA is still far from a full understanding of how to mitigate the effects of weightlessness. "We´ve got a whole wing at the University of Texas hospital in Galveston," Warren says, "and it´s always full of NASA bed-rest subjects."single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.