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Another week, another treadmill

This week’s Project X was all about heat and I was tasked with looking at how heat affects the human body. As always, the experimental subject was me, and we again returned to DRDC Toronto, aka the Torture Chamber.

Instead of being spun around in the centrifuge, I got to check out the very shiny and very hot climate chamber – a room where the temperature and humidity can be set to just about anything. The centrifuge guys had warned me about this place – in the past, they’d been recruited to test out a combat suit in conditions simulating a hot desert environment. They had to walk on a treadmill until they passed out from exhaustion AND they had to do it with an anal-probe thermometer up their butt.

Fortunately the climate chamber guys were a little easier on me – I only had to do two sets of 30-minute exercise, walking at a brisk pace at a slight incline – and they monitored my core temperature with a radio pill and not a butt probe (though that was plan B – B for butt? – if the radio pill somehow failed to broadcast.). The pill was actually pretty neat – it’s about the size of a large vitamin and is coated in a smooth rubber, and is pretty easy to swallow. I took it a few hours before heading to DRDC so that it would be nicely lodged in the core of my digestive system come exercise time. A receiver I was wearing picked up the temperature signal being broadcast by the transmitter in the pill, and that information was then sent to a computer to be graphed.

(In case you’re curious, the radio pill exits your body within a day or two, which is good because I was getting on a plane not too long after we shot this and didn’t want to have to explain that one at the airport metal detector!)

Even though I wasn’t going through the same torture my centrifuge buddies had been subjected to, it wasn’t exactly pleasant in there. It’s funny how much you take fresh, circulating air for granted – the air was heavy, hot and perfectly still in there and there was no relief to be had until I had finished my high-humidity pass and was finally allowed to dip my arteriovenous anastomoses (great Scrabble word!) into the cool water. And boy did it work. Just like our in-studio guinea pig (did any of you recognize him? He was Sample 6 in the Armour episode’s sweat experiment!), my body’s radiators managed to bring my core temperature down quickly and I had fully recovered shortly after the treadmill was shut down for the day.

Although some of the stuff we cover on Project X is a bit too advanced to try at home – ever try stopping light in your garage or isolating peptides from the gator in your yard? – this episode nicely illustrated how knowing a little bit of biology can help anyone cool down on a hot day. Turns out all those people who set up lawn chairs in kiddie pools were right! The AVAs in the soles of your feet work just like those in your palms, so dipping your feet in a cool pool will do the trick.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, when I’m spared another treadmill but end up going from +35C temperatures to more like -35C.