Friday, September 4, 2009

SMORGASBORG #6: Endoskeletons part A

Before we get started on the cyborg thing, I'd like to introduce a new term I coined last week due to a wicked cold (or maybe it was H1N1...). What is this term? Boughing. Cough so hard you try to barf, and there you have it. It's practical and combines two signs(1) of illness into one convenient word.

RoboCop isn't smiling because he's sensitive about his teeth

Might RoboCop bough? Certainly. He has a digestive system(2), such as it is, and a respiratory system. Just because he is mostly metal exoskeleton doesn't mean he can't catch a cold.

Might the Terminator bough? No. He has no respiratory system that involves lungs, and no digestive system providing an esophagus for vomit. Come to think of it, he doesn't eat food, and therefore has no vomit. Come to think of it, we don't know that he even has a functional transversus abdominis(3), the muscle that does most of the work during forced exhalation, like coughing.

Transversus abdominis is the deepest (and most petulant)
of the muscles at the waist.

Exo- means "without" or "external" while endo- means "within" or "internal." Marcus (Terminator Salvation) and the Terminator (from the great state of California) are excellent examples of cyborgs with endoskeletons.

A variety of Terminator endoskeletons

It seems that the Borg don't necessarily have to have endoskeletons per se(4). Some of them appear mostly organic with a new eye and exoskeletal structures. The Queen, however, has an endoskeletal cranium and vertebral column mounted in a machine structure with other fleshy parts. She's hard to figure out.

The remains of the Borg Queen

The implantation of fabricated devices into the cyborg is what interests me about the whole endoskeleton thing. Even Pearl from Cyborg(5) has this type of physiological intimacy with technology. This is really where the metal hits the meat.

For decades, people have been walking (and running and dancing) around with all sorts of artificial devices imbedded in their bodies. The list runs from simple screws to hold broken bones together, to artificial joints, to cochlear implants, to artificial corneas... and don't forget the occasional misplaced hemostat!

Why would some people say he was a cyborg? Because he has a cochlear implant.

Scissors in a patient, from an interesting blog called The Sterile Eye

As long as surgeons have been implanting devices (accidentally and on purpose) they have also been taking copious notes about the substances those devices are made of. It turns out that finding the right material to do the job is harder than you'd think.

Next time we look a different physiological reactions to implants.

1. Remember, signs are objective, observable, data like coughing or vomiting. Symptoms are subjective, like a sore throat or nausea.
2. It just occurred to me. RoboCop/Murphy has teeth but eats the equivalent of babyfood. If he doesn't chew and exercise his teeth, they will get soft and weak. Do they give him dentures in RoboCop 2?
3. The transversus abdominis, along with two other muscles at the waist, the external and internal obliques, are commonly known as bacon in our porcine friends. Hey... it's a theme! H1N1 is swine flu, and now I've mentioned bacon!)
4. If anyone proficient in Borg lore wishes to comment and educate me, please do!
5. What a bad movie that was.

1 comment:

  1. I gotta get me one of them cochlear implants -- that kid is adorable!