Interesting Ideas

One of the things I've noticed as I do research into how stuff works is that I get ideas that can only be described as "interesting"! I think they form because I am researching multiple topics simultaneously -- that forces concepts together in weird ways. These ideas are fun and interesting to me so, if I have one I really like, I write it up. I hope you enjoy them and that they spark some interesting ideas in your own mind!

- Marshall Brain

Have you ever noticed that when they bring an astronaut back from a long stay in a space station, he/she is rolled out on a stretcher? That happens because, in the zero-G environment of space, the body is having to do a lot less work than on Earth. Even though we don't notice it, the force of gravity on earth puts a tremendous and constant strain on our bodies. On earth your leg weighs 30 or 40 pounds, and an arm might weigh 10 or 15. Every time you want to move your arm or leg you have to move all that weight around, and that keeps your muscles toned. In space you don't have to do any work to move, and your muscles immediately start to degenerate.

Here's another thing. Have you ever noticed how athletes train? A lot of times they will do things like train at a high altitude. Or they will wear ankle or wrist weights all day. The idea of training at altitude is to get your heart and lungs used to a lower oxygen level, and to make them work around the lack of oxygen constantly. So the blood builds up more red cells to compensate. Then when the athlete comes down to sea level again where the air is thick and rich, the athlete has extra oxygen capacity. The idea of wearing weights all day is to get the body used to the extra weight being there constantly. When the weights are removed, the muscles - now used to moving the weight - think things feel much easier.

So here's the idea. What if we create a facility where athletes would live in an artificial 2-G gravity field? So a 200 pound athlete would feel like he/she weighs 400 pounds. All the time! He would live in this environment for several weeks, and his entire body would adapt to the stresses of the 2-G world by building up muscles and bones to handle it. It would feel horrible at first (imagine the first basketball game you played weighing 400 pounds!), but over time the athlete's body would adapt (just like the astronaut's body re-adapts when he/she comes home). Then, when the athlete emerged from the facility into the "normal" 1-G world, he/she would feel like an astronaut does on the moon - suddenly 1-G would seem like a piece of cake! Athletes would feel like they are floating on air! They would jump higher, run like the wind, throw the ball much farther, and so on.

This 2-G facility would be pretty easy to create. You could make a ring-shaped building on a turn-table. The floors would be slanted at 40 degrees. Think of a big ring-shaped mobile home including bedrooms, living rooms, kitchen, bath, basketball courts, etc. Then you would spin the whole thing up to simulate 2-Gs.

I imagine that within several years the entire dormatory structure at the U.S. Olympic training facility, as well as the athletic dorms at college campuses, will all be 2-G buildings!