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Natural Gas to Offer Breakthrough in Suspended Animation? 133

Kingcanute writes "The BBC is reporting that American scientists are claiming that sewer gas may be successful at inducing suspended animation. The results were achieved using mice but further studies are needed" From the article: "The problem with hypothermia is it's not that easy to cool down the human body so if we can find another method to inhibit metabolism that would be very useful"
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Natural Gas to Offer Breakthrough in Suspended Animation?

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  • by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @05:54PM (#16371591)
    So, finally a decent theory may be developed as to why farts increase lifespan. (Quick check - ok, farts do contains hydrogen sulfide)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by LinuxGeek ( 6139 )
      Wow! No wonder time seems to really drag by when I pull my finger...
    • by hullabalucination ( 886901 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:51PM (#16372835) Journal

      Actually, it's not that the lifespan of the gas releaser increases. It's that the lifetimes of those in close proximity to the gas releaser tend to be shortened, thus making the releaser's own life seem longer by comparison. This is known to biologists as the Fluglemann Effect. Biologists also note a related phenomenon: the Gas Density Relative Dispersal Effect (known by its acronym, GDRDE), wherein a population of animals or people will tend to disperse into the environment over time in vectors orienting away from the position of the gas releaser. Biologists are still debating the cause of the effect, although the phenomenon itself is easily observable and quantifiable.

      Some easy experiments you can perform yourself to investigate these phenomena:

      • Release gas in the broom closet at the end of the hall (you know, the one next to the upstairs bathroom that nobody ever uses). Lock your kid sister in there by blocking the door in some fashion. Release her from the closet after exactly 10 minutes have passed, and ask her to estimate how long she thought she was locked in. Now, repeat this experiment 3 times a week for the next 60 years and record the date of her death, then compare with the average lifespan for women in your same country within the same ethnic group and of the same social class, income level and access to health care who were born in the same year.
      • Release gas in the lobby of a large theater during intermission (a movie will do; an opera is better) and plot the exact movement of every other person in the lobby as a function of time. EXTRA CREDIT: try to convince the manager to give you a refund on your ticket because the theater "smells funny."

      * * * * *

      I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.
      --Mae West

      • The lifespan, and quality of life, of the gas releaser may indeed be increased, when compared to gas non-releasers. I believe Dave Barry [davebarry.com] is an expert in this field of research. His theory is that women tend to be more uptight than men because they tend to "bottle up" their emissions for later release, rather than allowing them to escape in a natural, relaxing manner.
    • by Walt Dismal ( 534799 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:55PM (#16372859)
      This explains the incredible lifespans of bean-eating gurus in the Himalayas. Swami Mongo Bin Putrid claims to be over 120 years old, though no one can get close enough to him to check.
  • Incomplete science (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @05:54PM (#16371599) Homepage Journal
    So, this is pretty interesting, but this smells like (LOL, H2S.... get it?) incomplete science in that they appear to have gone to the press without first, doing the real experiments that would tell them more about what is going on here. Simply looking at core body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure will not tell you the status of organ function, nor will it tell you anything about potential organ system damage. Dr. Chris Pomfrett's letter is right on where he questions: "My big question about this work is: is it reducing brain metabolism or simply having a toxic effect on the brain stem?", but he only gets part of it right in his suggestion to perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) as well.

    Additional tests can not simply be EEG combined with standard histology as you need to know something about how the tissues are responding in metabolic space, especially as how they are introducing a new small molecular species to the mix. EEG is only going to tell you the global overall status of the tissues, but it too will be altered in ways that may or may not be informative. I would suggest looking at early immediate gene expression profiles for apoptotic pathways and performing experiments designed to actually look at and document the metabolic profiles of these cells/tissues.

    I am thinking specifically of some of the techniques we have developed (pictures of some tissues using these techniques can be seen here [utah.edu]), but there are many, many other traditional biochemical and metabolic assays that could have been performed for these studies like HPLC, MassSPEC etc...etc....etc....

    • Science in Motion (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) *
      I disagree that this is incomplete science. This is the way science works. Scientists do a study, publish their results, and get overexcited about what the implications could be. Other scientists do peer-review, make sure the study is on the level, and suggest what could improve data quality, and further experiments to test/revise current hypotheses. Also, I think you are too quick to blame the scientists behind a study for what is usually oversimplified reporting.
      • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:17PM (#16371823) Homepage Journal
        I am well aware of how science works as I am a scientist [utah.edu] who has spent some time working in the metabolic space. What I am objecting to is the fact that this was brought to the press before they really understood what was going on, bringing back memories of cold fusion and all that. Furthermore, it sounds like other scientists who have reviewed the paper are asking similar questions, so...... no, I don't think I am being too quick to criticize the study. Before making claims such as these, there simply needs to be more work done, and one should not do this kind of science in the popular press. That is what I was objecting to.

        • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:04PM (#16372337) Journal
          "and one should not do this kind of science in the popular press."

          Especially when one is competing for the same funding as you? Whether they excite the press or not has no impact on the validity or lack thereof of the study or the results. Your other points do, although they are all additional research and tests to be performed, nothing you said actually detracts from the work that has already been done.

          Stoking the press is entirely about funding, and all is fair in love and funding. After all, if your results are exciting enough to make headlines, they are exciting enough to pay for.
          • by adinb ( 897001 ) *
            Why is it that I never have mod points when I see a post like yours???
          • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:51PM (#16372829) Homepage Journal
            Actually, they are not remotely in the same funding structure as we are and we are not competing for the same research funds. It just so happens that the technologies we've developed are able to inform metabolic questions to a degree other technologies cannot even hope to touch. However, we are applying them to entirely different questions.

            Stoking the press is entirely about funding, and all is fair in love and funding.

            Actually, that is not the way I prefer to work. Only after the work has been done and you are confident of your results do you go to the scientific press, then the popular press.

            • "Actually, that is not the way I prefer to work. Only after the work has been done and you are confident of your results do you go to the scientific press, then the popular press."

              That is an honest enough response. But first consider a possibility and understand I propose the possibility without even beginning to look at the researchers to see if it might apply in this specific case. You are working on promising research that could well have a large range of almost immediately implementable applications tha
              • I think I saw that movie. It ends when Jeff Goldbloom eventually is able to stop his mad colleague from conducting the dangerous human trials in a last scene lab fight. Unfortunately the whole lab and the research go up in a fire that results from the fight.

                Seriously, why do you have to resort to ridiculous movie-plot science in an attempt to understand this? I doubt many grants are issued because of newspaper articles. It's more likely that either the researchers wanted some fame and sent out press re
                • "I doubt many grants are issued because of newspaper articles."

                  You win grants the same way you win anything else; in a popularity contest. The more popular the research you are doing is, the better your chances are of getting it funded. One way to get your area popular is to get press coverage.

                  Did you think they were awarded based on merit or something? On paper they are. Just like everything else in life, the real story never matches the paper.

                  "Seriously, why do you have to resort to ridiculous movie-plot
          • I have to disagree with you. Science must maintain its credibility with the public in order to keep any funding at all in the future. All might be fair in love and funding, as you say, but to mix metaphors, when playing chess, you shouldn't smash the board.

            Bringing results to the press (and especially sensationalizing them) before they are ready (peer-reviewed, etc.) will result in a much higher rate of retractions, simply because scientists are sometimes wrong. This is why we have peer-review in the f
            • I agree 100% and wish that the press understood what science was as well as you did. Somehow, they manage to remain pathetically stupid.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) *
          I understand your point. However, from the article, this research was presented at a conference of the American Physiological Society. Does that affect the situation? Anouncing research at a scientific conference hardly seems like 'going to the press'.
          Also, I tend to be more wary of what the media is implying. The only portion of this that is actually attributed to the original researchers is quantitative data. The two scientists mentioned by name don't necissarily have any involvement with the researcher
          • This is exactly why some conferences don't allow the press to attend (although I don't know if that's what happened here). I've been to some conferences where you have Scientific American or other science writers from news orginazations sit in the audience and ask some questions where it's clear they are making some huge leaps in what the results imply. Even after they are told they are way off base they will go write a sensational article and the researchers are put in a position of defending their work
        • by jarich ( 733129 )
          Sounds like it's just a PR bid then... maybe the involved scientists need to land some grants in the next six months?
          • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *
            maybe the involved scientists need to land some grants in the next six months?

            I'll tell you that it is a scary world out there in science funding right now. NIH paylines have been cut from ~33% to ~14% over the last five years, so that scientists applying for funding under that system are less than half as likely to get their grant as they were five years ago. Senior researchers I've talked to are scared and junior scientists like me are terrified.

      • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:27PM (#16371927) Homepage

        Other scientists do peer-review, make sure the study is on the level, and suggest what could improve data quality, and further experiments to test/revise current hypotheses.

        Peer review should be done before the research reaches the public, not after. The point of peer review is to prevent indefensible or incomplete research from publication.

        • How will the peers review it before it is publicised?
          • you submit it to them for review. scientists aren't reading the BBC news website looking for new and interesting possible findings to review, things should be pretty polished before they make it out of the scientific journals. consult your local grocery store checkout aisle if you're looking for the type of "newspapers" that publish unreviewed materials
    • This results *are* incomplete science, in that they were presented at a conference American Physiology Society. The scientists themselves might not have any responsibility for the press coverage - i.e., other scientists acknowledge that data presented at conferences is interesting but not peeer reviewed. The news media, on the other hand makes no such distinction...

      An EEG will be marginally useful - you don't care what's going on during the metabolic manipulation - what will be useful is markers of toxici
    • by Uzik2 ( 679490 )
      If I recall correctly there was an article many months ago in a major magazine.
      I don't recall if it was Discover or Scientific American. They go into more
      detail about the research they did do and this piece is a very poor recap of
      an old article.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    somewhere in a small lab...

    Scientist1: Well, we've tried freezing, that didn't work..
    Scientist2: Yah, this is a pretty tuff one ya know, suspended animation?
    Scientist3: GUYS I GOT AN IDEA!
    Scientist1&2: ?!?
    Scientist3: Will bathe the subject in farts
    Scientist1: worth a shot.
    Scientist2: Gentlemen, we may have cracked this one.
  • C'mon bullshit folks! Exactly how is suspended animation on a massive scale useful?

    Sure, manybe a few people need to be placed in suspended animation to be sent into deep space or such, but for such small numbers freezing is probably OK.

    • by Aqws ( 932918 )
      Well, it's simple, if you go into suspended animation by the time you wake up everyone else would have solved all of life's problems. So if everyone does it, when they wake up all their problems will be solved... oh wait...
      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        Saw an old comic book horror story about that. Rich man is dying from a rare disease and puts himself in suspend animation until science has the technology to cure him. Years later he's revived so his limbs can be harvested for the veterans of the recent war. So, yes, all of life's problems got solved -- but not for him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeremi ( 14640 )
      Exactly how is suspended animation on a massive scale useful?


      Hmm... as a solution to prison overcrowding, perhaps?

      • by db32 ( 862117 )
        I'm not sure how this would help. I mean yeah they take less space...but it kinda defeats the purpose of prison. Prison is a PUNISHMENT. So I get in trouble...I sleep a few years, wake up and ready to crime again in a world that went for a few years without me being aware of anything.
        • "Prison is a PUNISHMENT."

          Yes. So you slept for 20 years and aged 5 while in prison. But your wife aged 20 years, your mother and father died. Your friends and family aged 20 years. That is still a punishment, everything you know is gone or changed and you lost 5 years of the only resource you can't get back. Believe it or not the worst parts of prison are things that AREN'T supposed to happen, being gang raped in the shower or worrying about being killed for an extra helping of mashed potatoes is not part o
          • by db32 ( 862117 )
            Absolutely, I mean why would we want them to do anything that may be good for them, like get educated and get a job. We want them to be completely out of touch with the last 2,5,10, or even 20 years of the world, so their only option is to go back to crime!. As far as punishment I'm not talking about all the bad failures stuff, I'm talking about the same way you punish a child. You go sit in the corner and think about what you did. Watching them their friends and family age as opposed to just bamf punis
            • "like get educated and get a job"

              Right, because we all know ex-con's get a fair shake in the job market. As for getting educated, I am not willing to pay for con's to get a free ride. I would rather invest that money in the younger generation.

              "so their only option is to go back to crime"

              You can argue until you are blue in the face. The current system results in almost every convict going back to crime. In fact, the crimes they commit usually escalate after doing time. It would be tough to come up with a sys
              • by db32 ( 862117 )
                Ex con's getting a fair shake in the job market has a whole lot to do with what they went in for, and when. As far as not paying for their "free ride" I should remind you that public education is the same "free ride". As far as going back to crime...well I suggest looking at some hard facts on that...because you are wrong and right depending on the crime. You are talking about cons like the guy that stole the car, the serial rapist, and the guy that got caught in a bad situation are all the same.

                So...n
        • by Skater ( 41976 )
          I didn't like TekWar either.
      • The problem is that when you wake up, the world will have become a pussy-whipped, Brady Bunch version of itself run by a bunch of robed sissies. [imdb.com]
    • Well it depends. If it's used for space travel, I guess it depends on how common space travel becomes in the future. On the other hand, many of the real-life uses for suspended animation I've heard of are for things like surgery, where the doctor wants to operate on the heard, but it would be a lot easier if it weren't doing that pesky beating thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Unequivocal ( 155957 )
      The real appeal of this method of suspending animation is that it could be used in trauma cases. Assuming it actually works safely for humans (big if), this method is so easy that it could be applied in the field by paramedics. Someone with a massive heart attack or stroke could possibly be placed into suspended animation until they are in the right location for full diagnosis and treatment. Also, someone with critical organ failure could be suspended for a few days/weeks until the right organ turns up.

      I'm
    • ... and of course everyone is thinking about sending frozen bodies of austronauts to some remote star, but in reality it should be useful when a soldier is hit in, say, some remote desert and it takes 15 hours to airlift him to more advanced places where an operation can be performed. Source of HS4 can be portable and if his metabolism is three times slower it would feel like an 5 hour flight.

      Paul B.
    • RTFA? The article gives reasons as to why this is useful.
    • by misleb ( 129952 )
      but for such small numbers freezing is probably OK.


      Since when is freezing a viable method of suspended animation? We can't freeze a body without causing massive cellular damage. And even if you could, how would you revive it from such a state?

      -matthew
      • by AxelBoldt ( 1490 )
        Since when is freezing a viable method of suspended animation?
        I think he means "cooling down the body", not actually freezing. And yes, that is a vialble method of suspended animation in humans.
    • Sure, manybe a few people need to be placed in suspended animation to be sent into deep space or such, but for such small numbers freezing is probably OK.

      Good luck freezing anything larger than an embryo without destroying it. Freezing a human without killing him (and, almost as difficult, reheating said human without killing him) are about as far off into soft scifi fantasy land as you can get.
    • Dr Fumito Ichinose, assistant professor of anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School said that if the effects of hydrogen sulphide was confirmed in larger mammals it could be useful in helping to sustain the functionality of organs in patients undergoing cardiac surgery or in patients with severe trauma. "There was a large study published last year of patients who had cardiac arrest. They kept them in a hypothermic state for a while and the outcome was much better. "The problem with hypothermia is it's not th
    • Everyone gets on, you put them is suspended animation wake them on arrival.
      See "Fifth Element"
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:07PM (#16371717)
    "Natural Gas" is usually interpreted to mean something other that just any gas that occurs in nature, like hydrogen sulfide.
    • Mod this up!

      That's right. When I read the headline I thought "natural gas" as being a naturally occuring hydrocarbon, the stuff you burn for hot water, stove, central heat.

      But maybe the orig poster thought hydrogen sulfide is considered part of "natural gas" because it is added into the gas line so that if there is a gas leak, you can smell it and get the hell out of there.

      Grump.
      • by crmartin ( 98227 )
        Actually, it's ethyl mercaptan anyway.
        • Good info on C2H6S! I took organic chemistry over the summer and I remember the professor takling about -SH and gas lines and whatnot. It was a 3 week class, I didn't really pick up much, sadly.

          Anyway, the only reason I remember -SH is because the prof told a story of his former boss terrorising a K-Mart with it over a bad microwave they wouldn't take back. The store thought they had a gas leak and the fire dept was out there and everything.
          • by crmartin ( 98227 )
            My family used to have a propane gas company (no, I'm not Bobby Hill) in our tiny little Colorado town.

            He was good friends with the guy who ran the local newspaper. They used to fill the paper with mentions of Ethyl Mercaptan --- the Society pages, the Women's section. She even crept into local news stories, once or twice being quoted.

      • And much effort is spent removing sulphur [naturalgas.org] from the raw gas...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I pulled a Dutch oven on my SO and she didn't regain consciousness until half way to Alpha Centuri.
  • This looks like a dupe from an earlier post located here: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/2 2/0228226 [slashdot.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) *
      This is a dupe scientific study, not a dupe slashdot post. That post refers to a different instance of a very similar experiment.
      • This is a dupe scientific study, not a dupe slashdot post.

        Stop beating around the bush and say he's full of gas.
  • I mean, what it takes to figure that any amount of sewer gas would be amount to take you to suspended animation ?

    Even one single piece of fart does that.
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:16PM (#16371811)
    The reason they are not funny is because you all are overdoing it, tripping over each other to tell us how funny it is that swamp gas might be related to a fart.

    Apparently the belief is that immense mental power is required to produce a fart joke, hence we should be roflmaoing and lolling choking with our own spit at you.

    Flashnews: fart jokes, just like farts themselves, are only funny in moderation. And since they're only funny in moderation, I urge all moderators to mod them down versus mod them funny, and see where the discussion takes us on this, otherwise intesting, article.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Pharmboy ( 216950 )
      And of course the fact that you are modded Funny makes the fart jokes even funnier. Hell the only reason I entered the comments for this article WAS for the fart jokes.

      Just remember, the farts are funnier when they are your own. And yes, the concept is interesting....sigh.
    • ...farts themselves, are only funny in moderation.
      I beg to differ. If someone farted in a meeting at work, that would be mildly entertaining. If they farted twice, it would be funny. If they farted 5 times it would be hilarious. And if they farted 20 times, the remaining survivors would write comedy epics about it.
    • Farts are only funny in confined spaces.
  • by joshsnow ( 551754 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:22PM (#16371879) Journal
    ...try running Doom3 on a 386sx with 1MB of RAM
    • by rune2 ( 547599 )
      ...try running Doom3 on a 386sx with 1MB of RAM

      Attempting to run Windows Vista will also cause this. Now if you want the ultimate try running Doom 3 on Windows Vista on that machine.
    • ...running Windows Vista.
  • ...then we should see some statistical bumps in the health or lifespan of the average sewer worker. Or of the average sewer-going animal, for that matter.

    Have we?

  • Buck Rogers (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:28PM (#16371949) Homepage

    Ha! I got a chuckle when I read this:

    Hydrogen sulphide, a toxic gas that smells of rotten eggs, occurs naturally in swamps, springs and volcanoes. But in mice, it was found to slow down heart rate and breathing and decrease body temperature, while keeping a normal blood pressure.

    You guys may not remember this, but the original Buck Rogers story from the comic strips was that Buck was exploring a cave when he was exposed to gases that put him to sleep. When he woke up and emerged from the cave he was in the 25th century.

  • This is just the mainstream press overhyping an interesting discovery. I doubt any of the scientists involved really want suspended animation, like you see in movies.

    However, there are real medical problems that could benefit greatly from drugs that reduce metabolism. For example, people who go into sudden cardiac arrest and are revived can often have irreversible brain damage due to lack of bloodflow to their brains. Essentially, without blood flow, nutrients in the brain are consumed more than they are de

  • This shit scares me stiff.
  • Natural Gas is a biproduct of the petrolium industry and the two are not related even though they both smell bad.
    • A mercaptan additive is put into natural gas to give it an oder:

      mercaptan (murkp'tn) [key]or thiol (th'l) [key], any of a class of organic compounds containing the group -SH

      That -SH group is the same on as in H-S-H better know as Hydrogen Sulfide gas.

      mercapton compounds are also made by decaying or decomposing organinic matter, which is gives the distinct oder to flatus

      http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0832739.html [factmonster.com]

      I use to work around mercaptans in the university, and later did work in a me
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by freeweed ( 309734 )
      Well, natural gas is a big choice target for the petroleum industry, not simply a by-product.

      And the two are very much related, as most natural gas deposits discovered these days are "polluted" with H2S. Lots of money is spent removing this highly toxic gas from CH4 supplies. See sour gas [wikipedia.org].

      Lastly, it's not surprising that H2S slows heart rate, breathing, etc. This is why it kills dozens of people in the petroleum industry every year :)
  • Why try the sewer gas, try just air, I made a post about this http://gavilan1010.wordpress.com/2006/10/07/car-th at-runs-on-air/ [wordpress.com]
  • I smell poo gas!
  • Wasn't this in Scientific American, like, two years ago? What has changed? http://www.sciamdigital.com/index.cfm?fa=Products. ViewIssuePreview&ARTICLEID_CHAR=B3AA39F1-2B35-221B -63CD1B9A1E124351/ [sciamdigital.com]
  • All the way down here - I really expected more funny replies to this post.
  • "The BBC is reporting that American scientists are claiming that sewer gas may be successful at inducing suspended animation." Must be why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles never became Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • > so if we can find another method to inhibit metabolism..

    Yeah asphyxation/suffocation.. that does it every time.
  • I am surprised about stinking, poisonous H2S gas that could have medical uses.

    How about trying tiny amounts of carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide? Maybe an interesting discovery will be made.............
  • 1. no medical institution would actually try this as hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic 2. obviously fake names such as dr. IchiNose
  • Natural gas? (Score:3, Informative)

    by crmartin ( 98227 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @10:08PM (#16373827)
    Uh, guys, "natural gas" is methane. Not hydrogen sulfide.
  • I think that this story is a dupe. http://science.slashdot.org/science/05/04/22/02282 26.shtml [slashdot.org]
  • So, what about all those already frozen folks?
    "Sorry, we will never find on how to unfreeze you, suspended animation is done using completely new method." :)
    I guess anybody who wants to be suspended and reanimated in the future will have to visit the gas chamber.
  • Funny, I remember from my childhood chemistry delinquency days that the stink of hydrogen sulfide would wake me right up.

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