Homeless in Vancouver: My Nature abhors a vacuum

“Like any properly trained man in good health, he could survive in vacuum for at least a minute—if he had time to prepare for it. But there had been no time; he could only count on the normal fifteen seconds of consciousness before his brain was starved and anoxia overcame him. Even then, he could still recover completely after one or two minutes in vacuum—if he was properly recompressed; it took a long time for the body fluids to start boiling, in their various well-protected systems. “

—From 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke (1968)

One of the most gripping scenarios in science fiction is when a person is forced to  get out of one spacecraft and into another by crossing through the cold, hard vacuum of space. We can imagine the incredible terror of enduring the near absolute zero of space. Brrr!

I experienced a taste of that this morning, waking up in my parkade. Between exiting my nice, toasty-warm sleeping bag and putting on my nice warm clothing, I thought, “Gee it’s a bit nippy this morning.”

But, as the warmth from my wide-open sleeping bag dissipated, and well before I had my duds on and done up, the true coldness of the morning began to sink in and the chilling realization crept over me that a simple zipper malfunction could be my undoing.

I didn’t panic. Like astronaut Dave Bowman I was calm and cool—definitely cool. First the T-shirt, then the pants over the Ren and Stimpy longjohns, then the My Little Pony socks, Thinsulate™ boots, and MEC winter jacket; finally the gloves. All ready for the perilous four-block trip to my morning coffee!

In McDonald’s, all any of the customers and staff could talk about was the cold. Few of them though were on such intimate terms with it as I was.

Wish it looked this good but it doesn’t!

I certainly don’t look that hot sleeping in the cold.

An artist named Nathan has a curiously amazing Bodies in Space series of artworks devoted—he says—to illustrating what happens to a body exposed to outer space. It's more like what happens to a pin-up.

There’s an illustration for each of 10 individual effects, though Nathan points out they would all happen simultaneously. The series is weird cheesecake, but it’s stylish and makes you think about the subject.

For more on surviving the vacuum of space, go here.

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