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Space Medicine

Astronauts' Hearts Change Shape In Space 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the feeling-round dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Astronauts who go into space come back with rounder hearts. Scientists who had astronauts regularly take images of their hearts with ultrasound machines found that the organ becomes more spherical in space by a factor of 9.4%. The researchers believe the change in shape, which is temporary, indicates that the heart is performing less efficiently in zero gravity."
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Astronauts' Hearts Change Shape In Space

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  • by QilessQi (2044624) on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:41PM (#46625735)

    ...do any other, ahem, organs become more spherical? Because that could be a deal breaker.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by kruach aum (1934852)

      With a spherical penis I could knock up (down) all the bowling pins in the world.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...do any other, ahem, organs become more spherical? Because that could be a deal breaker.

      Lucky for you the effect is temporary.. So go ahead and take the virgin trip...

    • We need to put Lucie Wilde into space for further, um, experiments. Science experiments, that is.
    • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday March 31, 2014 @09:24PM (#46627277)

      The effects on the penis are documented.

      You will be happy with the results, the penis becomes engorged far easier and a bunch of other things resulting in a pleasant surprise to the kind of guy who thinks having his member be a little larger is going to resolve his performance issues.

      Likewise the woman's sex organs also fill with blood easier, making them more sensitive.

      This is all documented by NASA and other space agencies.

      The only thing I question is who they know some of the things they've documented without having a couple astronauts come back and say 'yea, we spanked it in space' or the married couple that went up on one of the shuttle missions really did have sex ... probably while the crew members watched since there really isn't anywhere to be alone. They insist its never happened though ...

    • ...do any other, ahem, organs become more spherical? Because that could be a deal breaker.

      How so? I thought the general consensus was that girth is always preferable to length.

      • That's assuming that girth increases to match length, instead of vice versa. That could be very, very bad.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      do any other, ahem, organs become more spherical? Because that could be a deal breaker.

      There's a reason it's called Virgin Galactic.

    • ...do any other, ahem, organs become more spherical? Because that could be a deal breaker.

      Considering that you'd be booking on a trip with a company named Virgin, I don't see how that would be a problem. ;)

  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:42PM (#46625753) Homepage Journal

    I O U

  • Here's a catalog of the old and new shapes: http://www.briarpress.org/?q=s... [briarpress.org]

  • Great. How will the Hallmark card go for this one? You've completely ruined yet another "Hallmark holiday"! How will we stay in business?

    • by Wycliffe (116160)

      If you haven't noticed yet, the "heart shape" isn't really shaped like a real heart at all.
      There are plenty of theories about how it came to be. Many of the leading theories are
      that it may be originally based on a different organ entirely.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        If you haven't noticed yet, the "heart shape" isn't really shaped like a real heart at all. There are plenty of theories about how it came to be. Many of the leading theories are that it may be originally based on a different organ entirely.

        Different cultures do have alternate ideas about the seat of emotion and have ascribed this function to various parts of the body.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:49PM (#46625819)
    So, we will need to have a spinning station that will create an artificial gravity. (As seen in '2001 A Space Oddessy')
    • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nexusuk . o rg> on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:56PM (#46625877) Homepage

      Spinning stations need to be large in diameter: the smaller the diameter, the faster you have to spin it, and the coriolis force starts to really screw with the people inside it. Great if you want the astronauts throwing up all the time. So spinning stations have to be big, which means expensive.

      The alternative is to tether two stations together, but NASA have a history of serious problems with tethers.

      • Great if you want the astronauts throwing up all the time

        So THAT'S why the typical rotating amusement-park space station is smaller than your other typical rotating space stations!

      • Just to put it in perspective, IIRC from my high school days as the president of the school's Space Settlement Design Team [spaceset.org] (don't laugh, we qualified for the international-level finals every year we competed back in the very early 2000s!), a torus a mile in diameter needs to rotate once a minute in order to achieve 1g. Tethers or not, it's hard to keep something like that together.

        • by JeffAtl (1737988)

          Tethers or not, it's hard to keep something like that together.

          How come? Seems like keeping it together with a tether would be the easy part and putting the whole thing in motion would be the hard part.

          • 1g is roughly 9.8N/kg. With a torus a mile across, that's a lot of mass, meaning that's a lot of force pulling away from the center. I was suggesting that not only would it be difficult with the tether that was being discussed, it'd be difficult period. Spinning it up wouldn't be particularly difficult, it'd just take some time and a lot of fuel.

        • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:43PM (#46626721) Homepage

          All ofthe NASA designs from the 60's were 10KM across at the smallest. building a tiny one at 1Mile across would be silly 10Km will be a rotational speed of 0.02 Radians per second. or 1 revolution every 6 minutes (Appx)

          Spinning is not the hard part, building it so that it can withstand the 1G of pulling force across the spokes that will have to exist is the hard part. you need to have a safety factor of at LEAST 2 to 1 of the spokes in case of failure.

          Plus you will want the torus to be at least 10km across otherwise you will get a significant difference of gravity from the feet to head and a tiny 1 mile across torus will actually make is so you can feel the spinning in your inner ear.

          This is all off the cuff calculations, I cant be bothered to grab my calculator. but it does not have to be a solid ring, you can start by building a double ended counterweight of two identical sections connected by a single spoke to a hub.

        • Just to put it in perspective, IIRC from my high school days as the president of the school's Space Settlement Design Team [spaceset.org] (don't laugh, we qualified for the international-level finals every year we competed back in the very early 2000s!), a torus a mile in diameter needs to rotate once a minute in order to achieve 1g. Tethers or not, it's hard to keep something like that together.

          Wikipedia suggests that you probably want to keep the speed at or below 2 rpm and certainly no more than 7 rpm.

      • by khallow (566160)

        The alternative is to tether two stations together, but NASA have a history of serious problems with tethers.

        It doesn't have much of a history with tethers. And the only one where they actually tried to generate a small amount artificial gravity (on the Gemini 11 mission [wikipedia.org] in 1966), they did get to work after some tribulation.

        Gordon's first EVA, planned to last for two hours, involved fastening a 100-foot (30 m) tether, stored in the Agena's docking collar, to the Gemini's docking bar for the passive stabilization experiment. Gordon achieved this, but as with previous Gemini EVAs, trying to do work for an extended period proved more fatiguing than in ground simulation, and the EVA had to be terminated after only half an hour.

        The passive stabilization experiment proved to be a bit troublesome. Conrad and Gordon separated the craft in a nose-(Agena-)down position, but found that the tether would not be kept taut simply by the Earth's gravity gradient as expected. But they were able to generate a small amount of artificial gravity, about 0.00015 g, by firing their side thrusters to slowly rotate the combined craft like a slow-motion pair of bolas.

    • by AudioEfex (637163)
      That's also the conceit Star Trek uses, although the entire ship doesn't spin, just a plate within it. Like many space travel issues, we know how to do it, or at least have a reasonable idea of how it can be done, but it's difficult because even if we had the funding, the only ways in which things are possible would have the side effect of turning us into mush/killing us in the process. It's force fields that are the ingredient we really need to make a lot of this stuff work around our fragile human bodi
      • What Star Trek are you watching?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The don't really work.
      I know people love them in sci-fi, but in reality there is no "ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY" You step off one and you..float.
      They need to be large, spinning, and the object it is in needs to be accelerating. If it isn't accelerating the way you are walking, then you just float off.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Erm no. We have really not much idea about gravity, other than it is there and it's affects. Artificially controlling gravity will likely be no more difficult than sending a signal via wireless transmitters, or atomic power, or computers, once we learn how gravity actually works, from that one little bit of understanding many things will grow including getting huge masses cheaply into orbit, enabling very large space stations that will of course not need to rotate, other than perhaps controlling solar ener

    • The Babylon Project was a dream, given form. Its goal: to prevent another war, by creating a place where humans and aliens can work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call – home away from home – for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens, wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal. A self-contained world five miles long, located in neutral territory. A place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and al
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      We could just replace their hearts with artificial models.

  • What shape did the gallbladder become?
  • But do they need it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday March 31, 2014 @06:28PM (#46626171)
    I would be curious to know if the heart even has to be as efficient in micro gravity.
    • by kinnell (607819)
      More to the point, I wonder if a more spherical shape isn't more efficient in micro gravity and this is what drives the change. The heart no longer has to pump blood uphill, so it would stand to reason that a shape which generates less force while using less energy would be optimum, and out bodies tend to be pretty good at finding the most energy efficient way of adapting to the environment they are in.
  • I'll be that guy and point out that in low Earth orbit (indeed, any orbit) we experience *microgravity*, not zero gravity. Nowhere in the universe is gravitational force zero.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      And I'll be that other guy and point out that in LEO, you have not increased your distance from the center of the earth enough to make much change in how much force gravity applies to you. You're just in a really long freefall.
      • And I'll be the third type of guy and point out that the reason they say "micro-gravity" instead of "zero g" is because across larger man-made structures, such as the ISS, there is sufficient tidal force for different ends to experience more than one millionth of 1g of force.

        Engineers and controllers need to remember this when they design and use reaction-control systems - because the station wants to "hang" perpendicularly to the ground, its most stable position.

        Likewise researchers need to know what force

  • If hearts became more rounded through increased muscle mass then that could be evidence that hearts performance inefficiently in zero-g. Unfortunately, the teaser articles doesn't say that. Just changing shape could simply mean that heart development is normally distorted by gravity and without gravity, you naturally get a more rounded shape. A third possibility is that the longer shape is muscle mass needed to counteract gravity. Without gravity, there is no need so that extra muscle is lost. I suppo

  • ...or just efficient for zero g?

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