Lethal exposure to radiation

Discussion in 'The Next Generation' started by Flake, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. Flake

    Flake Commodore Commodore

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    So in Booby Trap and Final Mission the Enterprise is bombarded with radiation. The obligatory countdown clock is added to the episode to increase tension and as always the crew fix things just in the nick of time - seconds to spare.

    Only...

    With radiation poisoning, surely they should be on the floor rolling around in agony and bleeding from every orifice by that point and face months of rehabilitation as 24th century medicine regenerates their body?

    Assuming the countdown was missed and they got exposed to the lethal amount, do they just drop dead at zero? Or the week after? Or what...?

    :vulcan::wtf:
     
  2. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think it's a tv show...
     
  3. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Beverly was really handy with a hypo.
     
  4. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, she "cures" them from radiation a lot with those hypos. Does she have one that like... prevents fire from burning you too? :p
     
  5. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    It's possible radiation treatments in Trek's time is pretty advanced. Besides "lethal exposure" doesn't mean "time at which you die" it means "time at which we can't do anything for you."
     
  6. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    ^Yep, the enviromental systems might have had Hyronalin mixed into the atmosphere, or the crew where injected with it by medical staff to help fight against it.

    Besides where would the drama be without the "Exact Time to Failure"?
     
  7. MikeS

    MikeS Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This.
     
  8. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    What was that great nitpick book? I always found it funny that the author was also famous for a music notation program he wrote.
     
  9. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    Nitpickers Guide(s) by Phil Farrand. He did two guides for TNG, including the entire series and Generations. A book for TOS, including all six movies, and partial book for DS9. I believe no further books were made because in the mid 1990s some companies were kitting skittish about unauthorized books prompting law-suits, even though the Guides were protected by Fair Use the publisher was still uneasy.
     
  10. Mojochi

    Mojochi Commodore Commodore

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    And this
    The environmental systems were always compensating for things in episodes. So much so, that they may have not even bothered to mention it on occasion. I'll have to pay more attention to when they do & don't from now on
     
  11. Minuet

    Minuet Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    This is an issue as well in "Final Mission," where the Enterprise is towing the radioactive garbage scow. The computer is counting down "lethal exposure in five seconds!" and in the nick of time the scow is released into the sun.

    The way I rationalize it is this: the countdown specifically refers to the point in which hyronalin ceases to work. It's possible that hyronalin can only compensate for radiation damage up to a certain point, and then its efficacy drops very sharply. After this point, the chance of serious, lethal damage skyrockets. It's not certain that exposure will be lethal after that point, but every second or so past that point, the chance of lethal exposure rises exponentially. If the countdown hit zero, you'd start seeing everyone getting a spectacular tan, and then the usual radiation poisoning symptoms you are probably familiar with.

    I have no idea how something like hyronalin works, but we barely even know how radiation damage works in the first place, at least yet. If the damage isn't instantaneous, but due to deadly by-products (like free radicals) formed by the radiation, it's possible that hyronalin could some how clean those out. There's of course a point where the damage would approach instantaneous, and hyronalin would simply be too slow. Then, of course, you'd need really, really fast nanites. ;)

    Or, you know, metaphasic shielding. That probably would have helped.
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    One possible way for Hyronalyn to work is to inhibit those cellular processes in which radiation might create harmful mutations; essentially, it puts the cells to sleep so that even if there is damage, it doesn't get propagated since the cells aren't dividing. There would then be a limit to how long you can keep the cells from doing their work until the cure becomes worse than the disease.

    On the other hand, or in addition, Hyronalyn might perform cellular culling and/or repair, at a rate that can compensate for certain levels of radiation exposure but not for others.

    But we know that at least 24th century medicine, and perhaps also its Kirk-era equivalent, can utterly defeat radiation damage simply by rewriting the entire genome of the patient. We see medical miracles like this in "Identity Crisis" and "Genesis", but also in subtler cases. It seems this is chiefly done by something you can inject with a hypospray. Wouldn't seem out of the question at all that Starfleet employees could indeed be radiation-proofed by additives in their breathing air or food or drink. Since "Genesis" basically involves a cure like this running amok, there may be limitations to how much curing the additives are allowed to do before they become too dangerous...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    But still... nothing prior to the lethal exposure point?

    No sickness, no symptoms, no effect at all until

    BAM!! LETHAL EXPOSURE !!

    Now you're dead.

    It is really that black-and-white?

    Was the radiation propagating like a ray of light across the hull, where you're okay in the darkness and you're dead when the light hits you? Was it like the baryon sweep?
     
  14. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    No. It's, "here, this medication can protect you from radiation for x-hours. After that there's nothing that can be done and you'll begin absorbing the radiation and feeling the effects of it, after which you'll be dead within a day."

    It wasn't a countdown to death it was a countdown to the time when there's nothing that can be done medically to protect you from the radiation exposure.

    Doctors in hospitals wear a little pin called a dosimeter. It's basically a piece of film that changes color depending on how much radiation exposure it (and thus the wearer) has while wearing it. So a doctor accidentally walks into a room while an X-Ray is on and the thing changes color a little bit, telling the doctor he's been exposed to radiation so he knows to either get treatment or be careful as his body recovers from the exposure.

    But say he walks in on, I dunno, the room where the CAT machine is and explodes or something. The dosimeter goes, "Holy FUCK!" and shows whatever represents lethal exposure. This tells the doctor he got a heavy dose of radiation and that he's fucked. He doesn't die right away, he just knows that his death is imminent from the lethal exposure. The dosimeter being more vulnerable and quicker to reveal the exposure than the cells in his body are to start failing and cause sickness.

    That's what the "countdown" is. It's the Enterprise's dosimeter. It's not counting down to death it's counting down to "point where there's nothing we can do." Hell, I don't think there's ANY level of radiation exposure that causes instant death, maybe at most it'd be in the terms of hours. But not instant.

    During the episode Crusher was doing what she could do to stay off the radiation effects. (Whatever drugs/methods that may be.) Afterwards there may be things she can do to reverse the damage. The computer was counting down to the point where medical science simply couldn't do anything for you, you've been exposed to too much, get your affairs in order.
     
  15. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Also, "lethal exposure" is probably given in statistical terms, with the weakest in mind. Lucky individuals would still be fine perhaps hours past the lethal exposure milestone, and even average Joes would probably not be in danger at the indicated moment yet, but the alert would be tailored so that even the particularly unlucky would get their due warning before they were beyond rescue.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  16. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    I suspect that't the case. It was probably in a "worst possible scenario" type of case in terms of people's health or the radiation resistance of their species, etc. It was a "point of no return" of sorts, a point where things were only going to get worse and a full recovery for everyone was becoming increasingly unlikely. As someone above said at that point whatever is in place for radiation treatment the effectiveness of it drops sharply past the "lethal exposure" point.

    The boat is taking on water but you can keep afloat by continuing to bail out the water, but you need to find land. At some point, however, the boat is going to take on more water at a rate faster than you can bail out. There might be a "maybe" in there but it's not looking good.

    In the real world, also, radiation effects in terms of the dangerous kinds of radiation are cumulative. You can only exposed to, for example, so much X-Rays, ever. Your body never recovers from the exposure. There's a lifetime limit. (Something else I believe people who work around radiation for a living a lot have to look out for.)

    But in Trek's time it's possible any and all radiation effects are reversible. With transporters and miraculous medications it's certainly possible radiation damage at the quantum level can be repaired, again, to a point. "Lethal exposure" being extensive enough damage where it'll take longer to fix than you have to live. (The bailing out of the boat thing.) In "Disaster" Crusher mentions exposure to radiation from a blown conduit will cause her and Geordi to have to take a few DAYS worth treatments after only a couple of hours of exposure. (That, again, may be another situation of "after [some point] there's nothing we can do.") So it takes days to repair/reverse radiation damage after comparatively short exposure.
     
  17. throwback

    throwback Captain Captain

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    I would think that by the time that humans are building starships, they have discovered materials that are radiation-resistant. These materials, which would be built into the hull, would handle the radiation in normal space and subspace. If these materials failed, then I would think that the crew is already exposed to a harmful level of radiation.

    Scientists and engineers are studying ways of reducing cosmic radiation which could be fatal to astronauts on a Earth-Mars-Earth run.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/astron...ws-cosmic-radiation-disease/story?id=18104305
     
  18. Flake

    Flake Commodore Commodore

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    Maybe...

    When 100% dose is reached this medication has some form of reaction and explodes inside the cells of the host and that means instant death? Maybe this medication is somehow intercepting and storing this radiation or its by-products but when its 'tanks' are full they are no longer effective and they 'explode' and kill the host?
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Well, we never saw anything approaching "instant death". Which isn't a problem here; it's an absence of a problem...

    The towing subplot of "Final Mission" has many unexplainable and dubious aspects to it, but the concept of a countdown to a radiation-induced health hazard isn't among them. Sure, the countdown is to a second, but we never get the impression that something bad would happen at that very second; Riker seems to view the approach of the fateful zero quite calmly, and might not be all that worried if things proceeded past the zero and to a countup. There would be lives at definite risk then, but that would be a small price to pay in a situation where many more lives on the planet are at risk already.

    FWIW, the big WTF issues with the towing plot:

    1) The barge is a risk to the planet only when on its initial, low orbit. The heroes manage to tow the barge away from that orbit early on. What's the hurry after this?

    2) The barge needs to be steered clear of an asteroid belt. Why? What possible trouble would result from the barge hitting the asteroids and contaminating them? It's not as if there are people living there or anything.

    3) The barge needs to be dropped into the local sun. Why? The sun is no different from any other random spot in space: it cannot "burn away the radioactivity" or anything like that. Placing the barge at the distance of one local AU would supposedly solve the problem regardless of whether that spot was inside the sun, or in the very opposite direction - distance is the only thing that could possibly matter. If the barge can't be safely parked in spot X because of fear of it disintegrating, then parking it inside the sun is not a good idea because it will assuredly disintegrate there!

    4) The barge is in any case only in danger of breaking up at all sorts of inconvenient locations because our heroes are wrangling it with their tractor beam. Why keep doing it, then? The only reason to keep applying the beam would be to constantly accelerate the load - but the heroes could allow it to merely coast just as easily. They are only in a hurry because the radiation is threatening them - but if they released the beam and merely guarded the coasting barge against asteroid strikes from a distance, the threat and the hurry would go away.

    Timo Saloniemi