10 facts about the body's response to extreme and dangerous conditions

We have all heard of people who were burned at the stake, frozen and ground up with powerful presses. What actually happens to the human body when it is subjected to such extreme tests?


Gravity never really affected humans until the end of World War I, when pilots mysteriously began to faint in flight. Thanks to US Air Force Officer John Stapp, people then learned a lot about how the force of gravity and in general overload affects the human body.

Stapp put himself to the test of forces at 35 g, which is equivalent to an acceleration of 343 meters per second squared. His bones broke, and his dental fillings came out. But the real effect, he found, was in his blood.

When acceleration occurs along the horizontal axis, the body experiences the G-force comparatively well because the blood flow remains in the same horizontal plane. When gravity acts vertically on the body, things are not so good. After a certain threshold (4-5 g for some people), our systems do not have enough strength to pump blood.

Negative gravitational forces cause the same problems by obstructing blood flow and causing blood to accumulate very quickly in one place. Overload suits help to cope with this. Pneumatic chambers in the suits hold the blood in place, preventing pilots from losing consciousness.

Stapp survived his last launch, when he accelerated to 1017 kilometers per hour, stopped for one second and weighed more than 3500 kilograms for a few moments. He died at home, quietly and peacefully, at the age of 89.


Decompression sickness, well known to divers and divers, begins when the human body senses a sudden drop in ambient pressure. Blood cannot effectively dissolve gases such as nitrogen. Instead, the gases remain in the bloodstream as bubbles. In severe cases, bubbles build up in blood vessels and block blood flow, causing dizziness, lethargy, or even death.

A mild form of decompression sickness, DCS I, usually results in joint pain and tissue swelling. Divers who subject themselves to constant pressure changes can miss the moment and damage their joints. CST II can kill at all. People affected by this type of illness experience dizziness, paralysis, and shock.


When the body temperature drops to 30 degrees Celsius, all body functions slow down. Fatigue, clumsiness and delayed response to external stimuli are some of the first symptoms.

One of the first systems to fail at around 30 degrees is thermoregulation, or the body's ability to maintain its core temperature. The heart will gradually slow down along with lung function while the rest of the body suffers from a lack of oxygen. In addition, the kidney system quickly breaks down, flooding the body with a diluted version of urine. This substance seeps into the bloodstream and other organs, causing shock or other heart problems.

Slow metabolism and the functioning of body systems lead to hypothermia and require careful treatment.


Heatstroke occurs when your core body temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius. Classic heatstroke develops slowly with exposure to heat, for example, during the summer heat. Heatstroke also affects people who perform physical tasks in hot conditions, such as industrial workers and athletes. In any case, only about 20% of those affected survive without treatment, and many survivors experience some degree of brain damage.

Humidity increases the chances of heatstroke because it keeps sweat from evaporating, which slows the body's ability to rid itself of heat. Once the temperature of the cell nucleus reaches 42 degrees Celsius, they are destroyed in just 45 minutes. Tissues swell and toxins enter the body. In milder cases, called heat exhaustion, only the circulatory system slows down. With complete heatstroke, the nervous system stops working properly, leading to shock, seizures, and dizziness.


Hot air and moisture can seriously damage the body. The fire, unsurprisingly, will lead to serious damage, destruction and death of the body.

Researchers from the University of West Florida set fire to the corpses (of course, the owners of which bequeathed themselves to the experiments) and documented everything that happens to them. An ordinary human body burns up in seven hours. First, the upper skin burns, drying out and cracking, and then igniting. The dermal layers of the skin are burned in about five minutes.

Then the fire is taken over the fat layer. Fat is a very efficient fuel, like burning fuel or wood in a fire. It burns like a candle, melts, is absorbed into the "wick" and burns out in hours. The flame also dries up the muscles, contracts them and makes the body move.

Usually the fire burns until only bones are left, unless they crack, exposing the brain. The teeth, by the way, do not burn. In the course of the study, fire was simulated from a crime scene. But during cremation, the fire is much hotter and the body burns out faster. Most cremation processes take place at a temperature of 600-800 Celsius. Even at this temperature, it can take several hours for the body to completely turn to dust.

Scientists say the burning body smells like pork ribs on a barbecue.


We know hunger kills, but the details are even worse. The stomach shrinks physically, which means that sometimes it can be uncomfortable to eat a normal amount of food again, even if it saves you. The heart and heart muscles physically decrease, which means that their functions decrease and blood pressure decreases. Prolonged fasting leads to anemia. Women may stop menstruating altogether.

When your body lacks sugar, it starts breaking down fats. Sounds good to some of us, but when stored fat burns quickly, it releases compounds called ketones along with energy. Ketones build up, leading to nausea and fatigue, and bad breath.

Your bones can also weaken for a long time after temporary fasting. The effects on the brain are also quite surprising. Without vital nutrients like potassium and phosphorus, brain damage is guaranteed. You can physically lose your brain gray matter - even if you re-feed. Some losses will be permanent, as will brain dysfunctions.

Growing children and adolescents may later in life face health problems, women - with the inability to carry a child before term. Perhaps more bizarre is the fact that people who suffer from long-term starvation often develop a thick layer of tiny, soft hairs called lanugo, which help the body regulate temperature.


Even if you are not afraid of heights, you will surely experience a slight dizziness if you look from the edge of a high-rise building. For the most part, it's psychological, but it can't be helped.

Balance is a tricky thing. When we are on the ground, we are guided by stationary stable objects. When we are at the top of a 16-story building, balance does not work. The nearest stationary object (except for the floor underfoot) is so far away that the body cannot use it to calm itself.

The building roll adds to the problem as well. When you are high enough, everything wiggles slightly, and your body notices it, even if your mind doesn't. The higher we are, the more pitching and the harder it is to maintain balance. If the pitching is too strong (for example, already at a height of 30 floors), this can confuse our center of gravity.

People who don't judge distances well suffer from acrophobia. The study found that those who overestimated the height of a building experienced a stronger reaction at the top. The findings suggest a direct link between perception and fear.


Hydrogen sulfide is a rather unpleasant thing. You know him by the smell of rotten eggs. In large quantities, hydrogen sulfide may have killed dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. But all living foods produce this chemical in very small quantities, and it helps regulate the rate at which our internal processes take place. More recently, a new use of hydrogen sulfide was discovered - mice were placed in a state of suspended animation.

When given the correct dose of hydrogen sulfide, it slowed the metabolic rate in mice and lowered the temperature well below the hypothermic threshold. All bodily functions, including blood circulation and pulmonary activity, almost stopped.

In animal tests, hydrogen sulfide suppresses the normal functioning of the body, which is arguably an invaluable tool in slowing the damage caused by burns and illness until the person can receive proper treatment.


Radioactive decay releases energy into the environment. This energy interacts with the cells of the body, either killing them on the spot or causing them to mutate. Mutations develop into cancer, and some types of radioactive materials seriously affect specific parts of the body. For example, radioactive iodine builds up in the thyroid gland, causing thyroid cancer, especially in children.

However, in order to increase the risk of developing cancer, a person must be exposed to a relatively large amount of radiation exposure. The average person is exposed to 0, 24 - 0, 3 rem of radiation per year. To increase your cancer risk by 0.5%, you need about 10 rem.

At the level of 200 rem, radiation sickness begins. Radiation sickness causes short-term effects - vomiting, low red blood cell counts, and bone marrow damage. Bone damage causes other, more hidden problems: the bone marrow is responsible for the production of platelets, which are needed in the blood clotting process.


Feeling lonely is normal. Even in the most crowded rooms, we can feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness. However, chronic loneliness can have a very real effect on our body.

According to psychologists at the University of Chicago, people who complain of feelings of loneliness have severely suppressed immune systems for an interesting reason. Because lonely people see the world as a dangerous, unfriendly place, their immune systems are fixated on fighting bacterial infections. Gradually, it becomes unable to produce so many antiviral antibodies, and the body becomes more susceptible to viral diseases.

Lonely people are also more susceptible to high blood pressure, as tension in the arteries is associated with chronic loneliness and trouble sleeping. Constant stress leaves us more vulnerable to heart disease and strokes.

Water (bonus)

We all know the dangers of dehydration, but how dangerous is excess water in the body?

Water intoxication causes all sorts of problems, of which the most dangerous and deadly is hyponatremia. When the kidneys can't get rid of the extra water, they push it into the bloodstream, where it thins the blood and causes severe electrolyte drops. Without enough salt in your bodies, you will suffer from headaches, exhaustion, vomiting, and disorientation.

After the blood can no longer cope with this, water rushes into the cells, which swell. When the cells lack the capacity to expand, for example, in the brain and spinal cord, the situation becomes fatal. Cerebral edema, coma, convulsions and death will begin.

Drinking too much can lead to another problem. There may be contaminants in the water. If you regularly drink more water than recommended, the impurities from the water will migrate into your body in such a volume that the body will not be able to cope with the situation.