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Breathe Out, So I Can Breathe You In

When I bag and board my comics, I put a label on the front of the bag in the upper right corner.  It has the title, issue number, what series, publisher, printing, story title, a synopsis, and anything special about it (signed by whoever, appearance by Squirrel Girl, if it's especially funny, etc.).  This is to make it easier to find favorites in my boxes without searching through a kajillion issues.  Just look at the upper corner.

So, in order to complete the information, I have to read the comics so I can do the plot synopsis.  I mean, read them.  This can be difficult with some titles (I won't get into specifics because I don't want to seem like I'm taking cheap shots, but mornblade  has seen a couple like that).

Now, you have to keep in mind that I am a writer.  I understand economizing with the facts or even doing things that don't make sense but keep the plot moving.  This is why I don't feel guilty about Sound Waves.  The series' central mechanic is that discovering your own personal song and being able to sing it enables you to harmonize with the water and you won't drown, you can talk, etc.  Does it make sense?  No.  Do I sweat it?  No.  People buy the origin of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.  He was a detective who was knocked unconscious by hard water fumes and woke up with super speed.  The day that makes more sense than Rhapsody and Melody's gig, I'll start sweating it.

One of the titles I'm reading as I organize my books is Marineman from Image Comics.  Three issues so far, I've picked them up but haven't started reading them until now.  I just figured it was an attempt to make the Aquaman concept work (sort of like how Fathom is Aquaman with telekenesis and BEWBS).  However, I stopped at the first page.  Not because it was bad, it actually uses a television interview to bring people up to speed on the science of being underwater (I'm guessing Ian Churchill, the creator/ writer/ artist, dives himself).  But because it mentions something that made me go, "Huh?"  The interviewee mentions the "mammalian dive reflex" and how it's still a part of humans.

This wasn't the first time I'd heard of it.  Movie geeks will recall it came up in James Cameron's The Abyss.  Cameron may be a science nut, but come on.  Movies tell me X-wing fighters fly aerodynamically and make noise in space.  Comic books tell me that gamma radiation doesn't cause cancer but gives you super powers.  Admittedly, you never really know what is made up in movies and what isn't (the "drunken recall" in Beerfest wasn't just a plot device, there is research indicating it's real.  Which just blows me away).  So I wanted something more to go on than that.

Well, a little looking, and what do you know?  There really is such a thing as mammalian diving reflex.  It enables people to survive longer underwater.  The heart rate drops by 10-25% (bradycardia), which preserves oxygen in the bloodstream for other organs.  Next, the capillaries start closing off, first in the fingers, then in the arms and legs, sometimes triggering cramping, to enable more bloodstream oxygen to be available for the brain and heart (peripheral vasoconstriction).  And then, if the dive is really deep, blood shift occurs.  Organ and circulatory walls change so that water and plasma can pass freely through the thoracic cavity, equalizing pressure so the organs aren't crushed.  The alveoli (the air sacs in the lungs) will fill with blood plasma that gets reabsorbed once the subject leaves the pressurized environment.  Scientists studying deep divers have determined this kicks in during a freedive (no tanks) at 300 feet/90 meters.

So, what triggers this?  Water to the face.  Seriously.  The reflex occurs with water that is less than 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) hits the face.  It has to be the face and under 70 degrees, other parts of the body and higher temps don't do shit.  This is why you experience a momentary shock if you splash cold water on your face in the morning to wake up.  It's also the principal behind waterboarding.

So there you have it.  Something in comics that sounds like bullshit but actually isn't.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
ozma914
Feb. 28th, 2011 09:45 am (UTC)
We receive training on this in EMT and firefighting classes. The lesson: Just because a body is cold doesn't mean you should give up on cold water drowning victims.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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