To kick off my first article on thrilling trivia, I will talk about something I have always wondered myself - do you explode in space? Seeing as the answer to this question is of paramount importance to daily survival (who doesn’t sometimes try quantum leaps into another dimension, potentially accidentally ending up in space?), it is the one I will discuss first.
For a very long time I was under the impression that you do explode in space. Basic physics tells you that under approximately 1 bar, the pressure in which we live on ground level, the air presses in on you with a force of around 1 kilogram per square centimeter of your body surface. The average person has a body surface of around 2 square meters, resulting in a total pressure of around 20,000 kilograms - that’s two medium-sized trucks. I wouldn’t want to find myself under even a single one of those. Luckily, nature made our bodies press back with exactly that same force, resulting in a constant pressure equilibrium. One might think, therefore, that finding oneself in space, where there is no air to push back against your skin, you would explode with that same force of 20,000 kilograms. Ouch - so that is what grapes feel like before they are squashed for wine making.
But no, you don’t explode in space. Yes, all the above is true, and your skin actually does press out with that much force in a vacuum. However, your skin is extremely tough and flexible. There is a reason that leather, or cow hide, is so tough as well. Look at it the other way around: instead of explode, do you implode when you add instead of subtract 1 bar, to a total of 2 bar? No, you don’t. Humans can easily withstand a pressure of 2 bar (10 meters under water) or even 16 bar (150 meters under water), with a pressure of nearly two Jumbo Jets. We don’t implode so easily, and we don’t explode so easily either. What does happen is that your oxygen leaks out of your skin so quickly that you might only survive for half a minute, and if you have a rather salivous tongue, the water might start to boil. Your body will also, very quickly, increase in size roughly 1.5 times. Eventually, after a minute or so, you will pass out from hypoxia.
The above nearly happened once, when someone, during a pressure test, found himself in a near-vacuum in a leaky spacesuit, the pressure around .06 bar. Luckily, the team was alert enough to re-pressure the cylinder after 15 seconds, and the man, who then regained consciousness, was unharmed.
The biggest worry straight out the door! More thrilling trivia coming up soon. Viper out.