11 December 2003

These Squirrels Are Super Cool

Arctic ground squirrels are one the coolest critters around -- literally. That's because during their hibernation in arctic climates, they can cool their body to below freezing and still survive.

They manage this through a process called supercooling, in which a liquid can reach sub-zero temperatures but still remain fluid. This is possible by reducing the temperature very slowly.

The arctic ground squirrel can drop its internal temperature to as low as minus 6 degrees Celsius. While another animal's blood would freeze in its veins, the hibernating squirrel's keeps right on flowing.

Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks want to tap into these supercooling talents for human use. One of the applications they foresee is long-distance space travel.

'Humankind is destined to be imprisoned on Earth until we can devise a way to induce a hibernating-like state in people,' said lead researcher Brian Barnes, from the university's Institute of Arctic Biology.

Phooey. The Australian government has been using this technology for several years. Does anyone seriously believe that warm blood flows in the veins of Inquisitor-General Ruddock?

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