Spaced Out

“The Final Frontier” is becoming closer to us all. For your entrepreneur with everything, you can now fill in an online booking form (1) for a Virgin Galactic flight for his or her birthday. Currently, this is only for a short trip, as is appropriate when we realize that such successful entrepreneurs will need to get back to their gadgets and minions fairly quickly if they are to stay ahead.

Man is not very well designed for space and we suffer worrying side effects if we are out there too long, such as calcium loss from our bones and our muscle atrophying. Certainly in space, 70 is not the new 50 but more like the new 90. The problem is lack of gravity and not knowing which way is up. To shed further light on the 'which way is up' problem, a joint US and Russian program (2) has been going on in a rather slow fashion by sending snails up to wait in a space station for the next vehicle to come along.

Snails are good at telling which way is up. The have a chunk of calcium carbonate inside them that dangles and pushes on tiny hairs. This organ is called a statocyst and doesn’t seem to cause motion sickness as our ears can.

In fact when we return from an extensive trip to the frontier, we fall about rather as though the celebration was excessive. Our snail friends do not have this problem. They have a heightened awareness of the proprieties of being upright and respond to slopes and tilts faster than their earthbound brethren.

There is a strong suggestion that snails might make a good model system for the further investigation of gravitational modification to organisms. In addition they can be away from their desks for longer than any of the passengers of Virgin Galactic, who are living life at a slight faster pace than the snails.


One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Who'd have thought that snails would be setting the bar for upright acuity?
    Personally, I am not interested in speeding up my aging any faster that it already is rushing by, heading into space for any length of time. I'll leave the early aging to those entrepreneurs! :)

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