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Thought-tober: Humans out of their element…

Humans are extremely adaptable creatures capable of living from pole to pole, desert to rainforest and canyon to mountain top. This is our scope of biology and has been developed over long periods of time. We are used to pushing the limits of adaptability and function.

What happens when we go too far, too soon, too quickly and too often? Have we really thought some of these things through?

Space travel has provided a number of problems for astronauts’ health but through some clever manipulation space programs have been able to mitigate and manage them to a certain degree. Since very few people will ever fly into space (at least for now) this may not be applicable to the average person but gives us some good insight into what happens when we get into extreme biologically unknown environmental situations.

Taking a step back from the extreme example of space travel, let’s look at something thousands of people experience every day: flight. We take this for granted now but ascending to, maintaining and descending from 30,000+ feet above sea level is not a normal experience for humans. Could there be some health implications from this, particularly people who do it a lot?

How about time zone changes? We have very intricate circadian rhythms that are not designed to get suddenly jarred or flipped. Jet lag happens and is tough for a reason, it is not a normal physiological experience. How much thought have we given to the impact of chronic time zone switching?

What about going underwater, especially deep and sustained? It would seem humans might be adapted to go under water for about the time and distance they can hold their breath. Any more and it seems we might be going into uncharted territory.

These are just a few examples I can think of that humans spend time doing for which we are not well adapted. Although dangerous, survival is likely yet long-term exposure is uncertain and might be dangerous. Nothing would surprise me when it comes to pushing the boundaries of human capability but I just wonder what kind of things we are messing with when we do stuff that far from our biological niche.

Fish out of water can live for a while but too long out of their element usually means pretty big trouble.

Thanks for thinking, have a great day!

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