C.S.I. In Space

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C.S.I.: Miami went where no episode has gone before this past week: into space! Specifically, the world of commercial space tourism. Maybe you caught the preview during Sunday's Super Bowl Game. If not, here's the gist:

A dead man falls from the sky onto the hood of a car that just happens to be in the midst of being carjacked. The intrepid Horatio and his team eventually determine that the victim was a passenger on a private spaceflight along with a fictional action star and two pilots.

Really, it's only a matter of time before a couple of team members find themselves aboard the "Vomit Comet," trying to recreate the same zero gravity conditions aboard that doomed spaceflight so they can study blood spatter patterns. And you just know one of them has to live up to the hype and lose their lunch (in this case, the unfortunate Omar — right after bragging about having an iron stomach, too). [SPOILER ALERT!] It made for a fascinating experiment: apparently blood just doesn't spatter that easily in the vacuum of space. It took a gunshot to do the trick.

It took awhile for Horatio's team to figure out the gunshot method because the body showed all the signs of having been exposed to the vacuum of space while the victim was still (barely) alive. This is something that has been studied quite a bit by scientists. In fact, I wrote a post over a year ago about the effects of vacuum on the human body. (after taking a handy online quiz). It would not be a pretty sight:

My ear drums would burst, for starters. Since water will spontaneously convert into vapor in the absence of atmospheric pressure, the saliva on my tongue would start to boil, along with any natural moisture in my eyes. Within 30 seconds the nitrogen in my blood would form gaseous bubbles — deep sea divers know this as "the bends" — and the evaporation of the water in my muscles and soft tissues would cause bloating so severe that some parts of my body could expand to twice their normal size. On the upside, I'd be unconscious for most of this; asphyxia sets in around the 10-15 second mark, causing loss of vision, impaired judgment, and finally a merciful loss of consciousness. In fact, unless I had the good sense to exhale in the first few seconds, my lungs would rupture and kill me in mere seconds, as the gas in them expanded rapidly. That might be preferable to what follows. My heart and brain would remain undamaged until around the 90-second mark, at which point my blood pressure would be so low that my blood would begin to boil. Death would follow soon after. But at least I wouldn't burst at the seams and splatter my surroundings with gooey innards. The body's skin is strong enough to keep from bursting in the vacuum of space.

It's not a nice way to shuffle off this mortal coil. But it certainly made for a novel plot twist for the series.

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