Blow Your Mind: The Werewolf Principle

The Werewolf Principle (© Ian Miller)

Outer space is rough. If it had a Yelp profile, users would probably give it one star, raving about the view but decrying the nausea, bone loss and nightmare toilets. But is this common sense or diva-like behavior? Instead of changing space or terraforming other worlds to meet humanity's ridiculously specific backstage rider, should we maybe just change the space traveler?

Yep, in the latest episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I contemplate what sci-fi author Clifford D. Simak dubbed "The Werewolf Principle" -- the concept of using technology and medical science to alter the human form to better meet the harsh demands of space travel.

Simak's novel hit the shelves in 1967, following up on the very serious, very non-fiction "Cyborgs and Space" by Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline. This is where we actually get the term "cyborg," in contemplating how "Altering man's bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space."

The authors presented quite a few revolutionary and in some cases bizarre examples of how we might just retrofit the human body for space. For instance, should we reroute a space traveler's digestive track so it passes through a filter and then right back into the blood stream? Should we install automatic drug pumps to keep him or her pumped, sane and rad-free? And what of space yoga?

Tune into the podcast and you'll hear Julie and I discuss such wonderful topics as space flatulence and the dream of a poop-free human. If you're game, I highly recommend Simak's novel as well. It contains no actual werewolves, merely a human being engineered to shape shift in response to different planetary environments.

Oh, and you might want to ask yourself whether you're already a cyborg. Consider the following:

So there you have it! As always, you can find the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast on iTunes, Zune and the RSS feed. And don't forget the free HowStuffWorks iPhone App.

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About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.