View Full Version : Which is Scarier- Space or Water?

Delilah Rehm
09-14-2009, 04:24 PM
In Vampire Planet (the novel I'm writing), I have a tech situation I wasn't sure about. My main character is on a space ship that crash lands on an uninhabited planet. They need to get a distress signal out, and in the first draft, my main character laments that it's harder to push the signal through the atmosphere than through space. I don't know if this is true and I ended up taking it out, but in my quest to figure out this bit of science, I discovered (and perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit it) there is no sound in space!

No sound. None at all. If someone is banging a drum behind you, you won't hear a thing. If it weren't for suit radios, you'd be completely cut off from any sound other than what you made in your own suit.

From a very young age (I blame a Houston public school second grade field trip to see Jaws III in 3D), I have developed an irrational fear of water. It wasn't just that invisible piranhas might be swimming in the bathtub, but the fact that I felt helpless in water. It's harder to move, to see what's around you, and you can't breath under it (unless you're Aquaman). Also, you can't tell were sound is coming from. If someone bangs on a pipe, you've got to do a 360 to try and find the source.

In water, it's hard to decipher the direction of sound (which also draws predators). In space, there is no sound (but also, no predators). You can't breath in either one.

I've tried hard for twenty-ish years to overcome my water fear, and I thought I'd done really well too... Until a few years ago when I had a panic attack snorkeling across a shark tank! I never wanted to be an astronaut, but now I wonder... Would I have been afraid of space? Which one is more scary?

My completely biased vote is for water.

09-14-2009, 05:14 PM
I want to answer your first query, it is easier to send radio signals through space than through an atmosphere, but not by much, the thickness of an atmosphere so as to not crush or otherwise kill(by denying essential light) humans on a planet is really thin, there's no major loss in signal strength, especially not when you consider that the strength of a signal follows the inverse square rule, if you move twice as far away it's 1/4 of the strength. This does depend though, my idea here was based on an earth like atmosphere, for a different atmosphere it could prevent radio waves completely(in the same way that the o-zone absorbs about 85% of UV radiation hitting earth). With the right atmosphere of large molecules of the right sizes you could stop most forms of useful radio waves.

Sound is carried by vibrations of air, in space there isn't much of anything(there's bits of dust and debris every so often, but most of that's in planets, stars(of all kinds) and black holes), so there's nothing to vibrate.
That's not to say you wouldn't hear an explosion, an explosion is a large blast going outwards, you'd still hear when the blast reaches you, you'd still feel the force of the expansion.

It is possible to tell where a sound comes from in water, you just have to get used to the distrotion that water presents first, in water the wavelengths are different and sound travels at different speeds, until your body get's used to this it is very hard for your body to make judgements as it does in air(where the volume and tiny time difference between each ear hearing it, as well as a few logical factors let you make a really well educated guess).

I say that which is scarier depends on the scale you are looking at, exposure to space without a space suit causes serious tissue damage(like catching a vacume cleaner on your skin, but all over and much stronger), as well as the lack of gravity causing lightheadedness and motion sickness(because your inner ear goes nuts 9/10 people suffer from sickness caused by the belief they're being thrown about randomly and can't stay still).
But on the other hand under water is the exact opposite, water that's too deep exerts huge preasure on the human body and can easily crush bones at huge depths...
I have to admit I'm a little scared of both, but logically I know space would be many times deadlier.

Delilah Rehm
09-15-2009, 09:32 AM
I feel like it would be easier to control the elements in space. Especially the part about no predators!

In my quest for conquering my fear of water, I learned to scuba dive and I never had a problem with anxiety while doing that. I could flip in any direction very quickly (unlike snorkeling) and see what's around me. I never saw any sharks in the ocean, which is what caused my panic attack in the shark tank.

If I went into space, I think I might be paranoid about tiny holes in my suit (or in the ship). Holes just don't feel as scary to me as sharks. :D

Delilah Rehm
09-15-2009, 10:11 AM
Thanks for answering my question about signals in space and atmo, scragar! I'm glad I took that bit of nonsense out of my story. :D I'll have to come up with another problem for them to get off that rock. ;)

09-16-2009, 12:13 AM
Water. One word:



Delilah Rehm
09-16-2009, 10:12 PM
Thanks for that pic. I am *so* going to have nightmares tonight! ;)