Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

People Won't Have To Blow Bubbles Anymore (And He's Not Happy About It)

I remember being a kid and watching some sort of science show.  A scientist was demonstrating a liquidfied breathable medium.  He had a beaker of the stuff.  He took a white mouse by the tail with a pair of tongs and dunked the mouse to the bottom of the beaker.  The mouse didn't die, it continued, long after when it could have conceivably held its breath.  He pulled the mouse out, holding it upside down so the liquid would drain from its lungs, and set the mouse down, which immediately began crawling around on the tabletop, apparently none the worse for wear.  It was billed at the time as the future of deep sea diving.  Being a science nut, I wanted to know more.  What was it?  How did it work?  Was there a finite amount of oxygen in there?  Tell me more!

Never heard anything further, so no idea if the whole liquid ventilation thing turned out to have a fatal flaw or not.  All I know is I never heard anything further.  And I simply figured something this intriguing, if there was more to the story, we'd have heard something by now.  After all, the American Free Press managed to dig up the Stealth bomber and the CIA comic book for the contras, I figured they'd find out about this.  Navy SEALS experimented with it in the 80's, but I'm guessing nothing came of it.  Doctors do use a version of it for premature babies (highly oxygenated perfluorocarbons, or PFCs), and it featured in the movie The Abyss.  But beyond that?  Nothing.

What's the big deal?  Allow me to drop some mad science on yo ass.  As water pressure builds, it tends to make certain gasses dissolve into the bloodstream.  Nitrogen is the biggest problem with this, given that it comprises most of our atmosphere.  Now, shallow depths, you don't have to worry about it, the pressure never gets that high.  But the deeper you go, the gas starts to bubble.  Surfacing too quickly results in decompression sickness or "the bends", which can be excruciatingly painful and potentially fatal if those bubbles are, say, in your brain cavity.  How can you avoid it?  No, singing won't do it.  Slowly rising is the only way.  To put this in perspective, the deepest dive on record is 318 meters, or 347.769 yards a.k.a. about a fifth of a mile (South African diver Nuno Gomes in June 2005).  It took him 14 minutes to descend to that depth.  It took 12 hours for him to safely reach the surface.  Jesus, any longer, you'd think a cabbie had him on the meter.  This is where liquid ventilation is getting all the fuss.  Because its liquified, there is no gas to change to bubbles under extreme pressure.  No bubbles means decompression sickness is a thing of the past.

Arnold Lande is an American surgeon and inventor.  And he has developed a scuba suit that uses liquid ventilation.  Just like for Ed Harris' character in The Abyss, the suit would be filled with the liquid that the diver would have to learn to breathe.  "The first trick you would have to learn is overcoming the gag reflex, but once that oxygenated liquid is inside your lungs, it would feel just like breathing air."  The suit has a mechanical gill that attaches to the femoral vein in the leg to remove the carbon dioxide waste gasses from the bloodstream and expell them outside the suit.

I'm sure he'll have no trouble finding someone to test it, but I'm very curious if it does exactly what it says on the tin.
Tags: science in action

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