Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

Contributed by
Jan 31, 2012
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[Note: Every week I hold a live video chat on Google+ where I answer questions from readers. I call it Q&BA, and when I get a question that stands alone, I'll make it its own video. ]

A lot of people, it seems, have morbid thoughts about space. Why else would I get asked this so much: "What would happen to the human body exposed to the vacuum and cold of space?"

Of course, this sort of thing is depicted in scifi movies a lot, and people are curious about it. And even though the movies always get it wrong -- you don't explode, or freeze instantly -- it does make folks wonder about it. And while the reality isn't maybe as gooey as in the movies, it's still pretty nasty.

I wrote about this in my review of the movie "Mission to Mars", as well as answering a question many years ago from a reader. And even though it's an icky thing to think about, it does give me a chance to talk about heat transfer, which is pretty, um, cool.