Zero Gravity Surgery... Just 'Cause We Can

from the totally-eXtreme-surgery dept

Zero gravity flights have been growing in popularity over the last few years, as they've become available to the public. It involves a modified plane that parabolic arcs, basically creating a giant roller coaster, that gives the folks in the plane the feeling of zero-gravity for a short period of time (it can also induce feelings of nausea, which is why the original version for astronauts-in-training was referred to as the "vomit comet"). However, some surgeons in France are about to take one such flight to perform a zero-gravity surgery. Why? Well, that's not explained. It might have something to do with understanding how to do surgery in space. Or seeing if you can do different types of procedures with zero-gravity. But, really, we have no idea. And, neither does anyone else, apparently. According to the article: "It was unclear how exactly the surgery could be useful in space, or whether there would be any broader medical use for the procedure." The head surgeon involved makes some vague statements about how an astronaut on a space station might need an emergency surgery which couldn't be done, but others admit there don't seem to be very much practical applications outside of that to be learned. There's some talk about robot surgeons, but again, it's totally unclear. To be honest, it sounds like this is just something that some surgeons thought would be kind of fun, and so they went forward with it. The specific surgery is to remove a tumor from the patient's arm, and the surgeons say they chose an avid bungee jumper so that he might better be able to handle the rapid changes in direction. Maybe next time they'll try to do the surgery while bungee jumping.


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  1.  
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    RantMax, Sep 25th, 2006 @ 11:41pm

    Media Attention Seekers

    It's insane not to try this on animals first, plus we're not talking zero g here, but 30 seconds zero g, 30 seconds double g.

    Imagine the flying scalpels as the plane changes directions.

    Not only they will fail to remove the tumor properly but might end up wounding or even killing themselves.

    Idiots.

     

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  2.  
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    Steve E, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 12:31am

    As mentioned above how do they expect to perform surgery in the tiny window of time when they will experience zero gravity?? Sounds like a crazy idea!

     

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  3.  
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    Jo Mamma, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 12:45am

    Gotta be fake

    Seriously, what kind of "doctor" would agree to do this, let alone a patient. They should all be committed to a mental hospital, but more likely their just fakes.

     

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  4.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 5:11am

    Why?

    Why? Why?!?! do you even need to ask why? it's the french... they don't need rational explanations. c'mon. i'm glad you also mentioned that this isn't really zero gravity. it's just the illusion of zero gravity.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 5:44am

    i can see implications where this could be useful. imagine a tumor in a section of spinal cord. now either you go in from the front or back. depending on where the tumor is, and what's around it. in zero g, the body is just "floating" there. so maneuvering inside the body could possibly be easier, and less harmful to damaging "healthy" organs. however, with things floating, it is possible for items to "float" back into the body. just one risk instead of another.

    i'd wish they'd do this on the iss with test animals first. not some 30 second pop onboard some aircraft.

     

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  6.  
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    pudro, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 5:55am

    Re: Why?

    With a name like PhysicsGuy, I'd expect you to have a better understanding of gravity than that (though I'll forgive Techdirt). Gravity is relative. The way gravity is defined on Earth is 9.8 m/s². This ignores the gravity of the Sun that acts on us. Why? Because the Earth is in free-fall around the Sun, so the Sun's gravitational effect on us is zero. Gravity is what you feel. In free-fall, you feel nothing (inside of a plane, where you don't feel the friction of moving through the air). That IS zero gravity. It's all about the frame of reference.

     

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    Sanguine Dream, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 6:01am

    But...

    Won't it be harder to sterilize the operating space? And what about the random cough, sneeze, or twitch? At normal gravity these things can be easily adjusted for but in no gravity?

     

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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 6:44am

    Re: Re: Why?

    I'd hope you'd have more understanding as well. Gravity is the attraction of matter to other matter. And before I go into an entire lecture on weightlessness and gravity here... http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Lrotfram.htm ... hopefully this will help clarify what weightlessness is and why it isn't literally zero gravity.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 6:49am

    If you were to *read* the story...

    You'd see that

    a) they have done it on a rat already
    b) it'll take 3 hours with 30 "slots" - they're not trying to do it in one slot
    c) it's not unreasonable to give it a shot, as a v minor, local anasthetic op has been picked
    d) are we saying that, in our humble opinions, that even a small op in microgravity will *never* be necessary, so let's not find out how to do it?

    I love comments that feed off themselves rather than from the story itself ;-)

     

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  10.  
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    chris (profile), Sep 26th, 2006 @ 6:59am

    why not?

    one of the dangers of space exploration (and deep sea exploration, and any sort of remote destination) is the fact that you can't get medical attention in the event of an emergency.

    if you combine research in zero gravity medicine, along with research in telemedicine (medicine where the medical staffis not present) using remote monitoring and robotics, you can increase the safety of space exploration.

    once space travel is safer, it will be open to more people.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 8:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Why?

    Know what I got from that page?
    "weightlessness (or zero-g)"
    Gravity is a relative measurement. In this case the object is move in the exact opposite direction of the Earth's forces.

    Object's acceleration towards Earth = X
    Earth's gravitational force = -X
    -X + X = 0

    When someone is pulling 3 G's in a jet, they are experiencing 3 times the force of gravity, 3 G's of force is being exerted on their body, word it however you want to. It is also possible to experience negative G's. In between positive and negative is a little round thing I like to call zero. For all intents and purposes, in this frame of reference gravity has gone away, though it remains unchanged from your fixed position on the Earth.

    I don't have a meaningless URL to point you to in return, but maybe if you look into relativity it will clarify to you why an object experiencing zero gravity doesn't mean the Earth's forces have stopped applying to it.

     

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  12.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why?

    Seriously, for someone claiming to have an understanding of relativity your knowledge of basic concepts is absurdly lacking. what is it about "weightlessness will occur in any frame of reference which moves freely, subject only to gravity" that you can not understand? weight is caused by gravity on our mass in relation to the force pushing against gravity of the scale. if you're standing on the ground you have a specific weight because the ground is pushing up with an equal force to that of the gravity pushing you down. you know, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? you experience weightlessness (or what is termed as zero g) because there isn't another force pushing against the pull of gravity.

    "zero g" does not mean there is no gravity. when someone experiences a "g force" it has nothing to do with gravity other than having a specific relation to gravity's magnitude. usually g forces have to do with the occurence of acceleration. yes, acceleration can be indistinguishable from gravity but this does not mean acceleration is gravity. if a pilot does a turn in air and experiences so many g's it is a relation of the intertial force exerted upon him caused by acceleration in a different direction to the force of gravity, it is not actual gravity that the pilot is experiencing. i don't know if i can stress this enough, a g force is a unit of force equal to the force of gravity, it isn't gravity!!!! people experiencing "zero g" are experiencing what it would be like if there were zero gravity, they're NOT experiencing actual zero gravity.

    i can understand, due to your obvious lack of comprehension skills, why you took it upon yourself to try to argue against something in which you had no real argument. nowhere in my first post did i say that a zero g force doesn't exist. however, zero gravity, literally taken, does not exist. as the article headline simply says zero gravity surgery, i took it upon myself to point out that this isn't literally such a thing zero gravity. unfortunatly you were unable to comprehend this. maybe your physics teacher never stressed that a g force isn't actual gravity. or that weightlessness doesn't mean that there isn't gravity involved. objects experience the illusion of zero gravity, but as long as there is matter there is gravity. maybe you should go back to that site i gave the link to and read through it again, put some thought into it this time...

     

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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 9:22am

    one part of that sounded off:

    if a pilot does a turn in air and experiences so many g's it is a relation of the intertial force exerted upon him caused by acceleration in a different direction to the force of gravity

    to clarify the relation is of the intertial force to the force of gravity, the inertial force felt is due to the acceleration.

     

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    anonymous coward, Sep 26th, 2006 @ 5:33pm

    how apropos

    "bleeding edge" seems to be a fitting category for this particular story

     

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    pudro, Sep 27th, 2006 @ 1:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why?

    I can sum up your mistake in this argument by quoting one sentence: ""zero g" does not mean there is no gravity." That is factually correct. Your mistake is assuming that I meant otherwise. When speaking of gravtiy on the Earth, we ignore the gravity of the Sun. Why? Because the Earth is experiencing the "weightlessness [that] will occur in any frame of reference which moves freely, subject only to gravity". So when we talk about an object with a similar relatinoship to the Earth, we say it is experiencimg "zero g". You act like "zero g" is a misnomer because Earth's gravity is still acting on it. Well I have news for you: that object has an infinite amount of gravity acting on it. The gravity of a mass extends outward infinitely, always getting weaker, but never getting to zero. The universe is infinitely large, and can be assumed to have an infinite number of objects with mass. This all adds up to infinite gravity acting on everything. As far as what you did and didn't say in your first post, you said: "it's just the illusion of zero gravity." You fail to recognize that "zero gravity" is a measure within an objects frame of reference (i.e. what it "feels" or "experiences"), not a measure of the gravity acting upon it. In fact all gravity measurements are, but since your physics book never taught you about an object experiencing changing gravitational forces (or anything apart from Earth's "constant") you refuse to see this.

     

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  16.  
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    First Anonymous Coward In This Thread, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 3:25am

    Take it outside, girls

    The docs did, the guy's fine, all's well. Gravity, shmavity...

     

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  17.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why?

    [sigh] and you still fail to understand... it's all semantics... zero gravity is a measurement within the objects frame of reference, yet there is still gravity acting upon it. therefore it is illogical to take the statement zero gravity literally. only that measurements within a frame of reference involving initial velocity, acceleration, and gravitational forces give a net effect of zero gravity. you can therefore come to the conclusion that zero gravity means one is presented with the illusion that there is no gravity acting upon it, simply because there is still gravity acting upon it. it's all semantics.

    i won't even bother to argue with your cosmological errors either, you can't logically conclude as a fact that the universe is infinitely large and you definetly can't logically conclude that there's an infinite amount of mass in it.

     

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  18.  
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    destiny, Nov 7th, 2007 @ 5:37am

    good idea

    i like the idea of this it rocks

     

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