Maybe We Could Hibernate Until The Covid-19 Pandemic's End

Tired of social distancing? Weary of sheltering in place? Wish it was all over? How about Hibernation in the Age of Covid-19?

“It’s very possible that humans could hibernate,” says Kelly Drew, a professor at the University of Alaska’s Institute of Arctic Biology. Drew studies arctic ground squirrels, chunky little creatures that disappear into burrows for eight months of the year. When she and I spoke, it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (without wind chill) at her lab in Fairbanks, at 2:00 in the afternoon (just before sunset). Suddenly my case for hibernation felt trivial.

The essence of hibernation, Drew explains, is body-temperature regulation. Dropping the body’s core temperature induces a low-metabolic state of “torpor,” in which animals require almost no food. Most of the calories we “warm-blooded” animals burn go into maintaining our body temperatures—our basal metabolic rate. The squirrels Drew studies, for example, curl up into little balls and plummet from 99 degrees to 27. This drops their basal metabolic rate by about 99 percent.

(Via You Could Probably Hibernate.)

Sounds wonderful. How about it, science fiction writers? Robert Heinlein writing in his terrific 1941 novel Methuselah's Children thought that it was the perfect answer to boredom on long space flights; he called it cold-rest:

The ship slipped back into the same monotonous routine that had obtained during the weary years of the first jump. Most of the Members went into cold-rest; the others tended them, tended the ship, tended the hydroponds. Among the somnolents was Slayton Ford; cold-rest was a common last resort therapy for functional psychoses.

Perhaps a few months in the old hibernaculum, from Arthur C. Clarke's 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey:

Sometimes Bowman, as First Captain of Discovery, envied his three unconscious colleagues in the frozen peace of the Hibernaculum. They were free from all boredom and all responsibility; until they reached Saturn, the external world did not exist...

Most fascinating of all were the EEG displays - the electronic signatures of three personalities that had once existed, and would one day exist again. They were almost free from the spikes and valleys, the electrical explosions that marked the activity of the waking brain - or even of the brain in normal sleep. If there was any wisp of consciousness remaining, it was beyond the reach of instruments, and of memory...

When the electrodes had been attached to his forehead, and the sleep-generator had started to pulse, he had seen a brief display of kaleidoscopic patterns and drifting stars. Then they had faded, and darkness had engulfed him...

Sounds perfect. Bring it on.

(Via You Could Probably Hibernate.)

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