Introduce…”During a 120-year space journey, a hibernating astronaut was mistakenly woken up by a computer monitoring his vital signs after just 30 years and unable to return to his torpor-like state. In desperation, the astronaut realizes that the rest of his life on the ship will doom the rest of the passengers to starvation, as he will consume all the resources on board before dying of old age. “. This script is inspired by “passengers“The 2016 film by Norwegian Morten Tildum has just gone on sale. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Sci-fi scenario tested by science
“How realistic is this sci-fi story?”, biologist Roberto Nespolo of the University of the South of Chile and his colleagues Carlos Mejias of the Millennium Integrative Biology Institute and Francisco Bozinovic of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile ask with the greatest seriousness. The trio is not aiming for the Ig Nobel Prize, that prize that since 1991 has rewarded incredible or ridiculous science by embarking on a futuristic equation. Initially, researchers studied the relationship between body weight and energy expenditure in hibernating animals. But their findings, unexpected and unfavorable to humans, have shaken the dream of sending researchers into space immersed in a state of artificial hibernation, a scenario that, in particular, the European Space Agency (ESA) is considering.
What did the Chilean trio discover? In naturally hibernating mammals (e.g., bats, many marsupials and rodents, echidnas, and lemurs), body temperature plummets, heart rate and respiration slow down, and metabolism drops sharply, allowing them to reduce energy expenditure by 98% by compared to normal activity. To survive, these lethargic people burn off body fat stores, losing more than a quarter of their weight in the process.