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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weightlessness watchers: Is gravity a downer?

(Weightless Hairdo)
Although plenty has been written about the effects of microgravity on humans, most of it does not sound very appealing.

Detailed descriptions of “space sickness” could even serve as a deterrent to those contemplating a Virgin Galactic birthday bash.  These off-putting descriptions include the following astrobiological symptoms:  head congestion, dehydration, “bird legs,” bone loss, kidney stones, muscle deterioration, anemia, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, flatulence, depressed immunity, and sleep disorders.  (Ironically, many of these symptoms mirror those of aging here on Earth.)

Why then would anybody in their right mind want to journey through space?  The answer might be that there is far more to human consciousness than most “right mind” definitions indicate.

During an interview with Claire L. Evans for her Universe blog, Frank White stated that the Overview Effect (a term he coined, which Wikipedia defines as “a transcendental, euphoric feeling of universal connection reported by some astronauts during spaceflight…”) is “definitely related to zero gravity.”  He pointed out that “zero gravity is an integral part of the experience,” and cited astronaut Charlie Walker as specifically relating “the lack of gravity to the feeling of euphoria that he and other astronauts did have in orbit.”

In a NASA article titled The Effect of Weightlessness on the Human Organism, Oberth's research findings are discussed.  Oberth noted that, at least temporarily, the experience of weightlessness is accompanied by an intense functioning of the brain and senses, quick comprehension, penetrating logic,
a feeling that time is slowing down, and “a unique insensitivity” to pain and displeasure.  These  accompaniments are later replaced by “a certain feeling of elevated vitality and physical fitness,” which then remains for an unknown length of time.


Copyright January 8, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

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