2014-07-15

Caffeine: Count her into it, if . . .

Did you know that caffeine slows your heart?

No, really.

That's just a reminder of my old point that if Ben Franklin were watching a documentary of modern life and didn't always know what was really going on, he'd be confused about some things . . . maybe even make fun of it.

Imagine he was watching some highly advanced medical facility where someone was being tested for heart trouble.  He sees the person in discomfort, sees the incredible 'special effects' of the person's heart being shown on a monitor in black-and-white, and then . . . the medical professional overseeing the event hands the person coffee and tells them to drink it to slow their heart rate.

Sounds absurd, doesn't it?   Ben might, if he were a jackass, sit there and try to make fun of the silly bullcrap being shown.

Of course, a better Ben might take an alternate approach.   Suppose he hypothesizes that in this universe he's watching, perhaps a drug was applied offscreen that did something else strange to the patient's cardiovascular system, and somehow caffeine reversed the effect.   (One is reminded in this case of synthehol . . . some substance that gets you drunk but the effects can be dismissed if needed.)

Of course, Better Ben has no mechanism to work with, what with the limited state of his 18th Century science, so the Lesser Ben (the jackass) might be more likely to ridicule Better Ben.

Nevertheless, Better Ben's more imaginative version of events happens to be correct.

Regadenoson is a drug which, when administered, acts as a vasodilator . . . it opens up the bloodways.  Due to certain reasons, this causes the heart to crank itself up to 11.

Caffeine, as we know and Ben doesn't, is a vasoconstrictor . . . it closes up the bloodways.   This serves to negate the effects of the vasodilator, despite the fact that caffeine and similar drugs are known to make your heart beat faster under normal circumstances.

So, counterintuitive as it may seem even to modern folk, caffeine can be used to slow the heart rate.

While we're on the topic of caffeine, it seems to me that in the not-too-distant future, the growing nanny state . . . if allowed to continue apace . . . will eventually lock on to caffeine as a target.   This would suggest that obvious events like Janeway's caffeine addiction may, at some point, be viewed as a strangely backwards part of the old Star Trek series, as peculiar to the eyes of later viewers as it would be to us now if Kirk and Spock were smoking cigarettes on the bridge.  (Maybe they should've called it caffehol!)

Indeed, that was a rather far-sighted choice in the 60's when almost half of Americans smoked (even if a "no smoking" transporter room sign in the TOS films undercut the non-smoking depiction a bit).  I was blown away the other day when near a television that had Ghostbusters running and I stopped, seeing how casually all the characters were just sitting around smoking.   Today that would be unconscionable and the powerful and well-funded anti-smoking lobby would be up in arms.

Is caffeine really that different?   I would say no.  It's just another addictive drug that happens to be culturally-accepted.  They both have similar effects in some ways, though the common and ancient nicotine delivery system is rather more noxious than the usual caffeine delivery systems.

Of course, some of the newfangled nicotine delivery systems replace noxious fumes and fire with electronics and huge blindingly-dense huge clouds that are probably just as rude to nearby people as the stinky clouds.

As entertaining as it may be to act as one's own personal fog machine (and Batman, eat your heart out), the notion of having a drug-delivering machine like that reminds me a little too much of the soldiers of "Encounter at Farpoint" . . . for those who like to claim that Star Trek predicted everything, there you go.

That said, it also opens up the possibility that the Benzites are perhaps not the sweet innocent folk we like to think they are. Consider that the first Benzite we saw was taking an exam to enter Starfleet Academy, another was on an exchange program, and the other main one we saw was an actual Starfleet officer.

The last one of those didn't have the little Benzite breather units.   All the others did.   Commonly, it's assumed that those doodads deliver critical atmospheric gasses that those Benzites needed, but that there was some sort of advancement allowing the female on the runabout to not need one.  (Did we ever see a female with one anyway?)

But suppose that's not for medical purposes at all, but is instead their equivalent of vaping (electronic smoking)?   It could be as big a deal in their society as smoking was in ours sixty years ago.when about half the population did it.

It isn't beyond the pale to imagine that Starfleet might allow non-aligned Benzites to have such devices and even use them for a time aboard ship but that they are expected to kick the habit if they actually join up.  After all, you'd hardly want a commonly-cracked-out Benzite on your landing party suffering withdrawals if the ship's away for a few extra days or something.

But then, that would seem awfully species-ist . . . after all, why not let Benzites have their electronic crack pipes if you're letting Janeway jones on her liquid crack?   If I was a Benzite told I couldn't have my electro-weed all up in my face all the time, I'd be pretty ticked if I then saw that humans were drinking their weed tea.

Perhaps the solution is obvious . . . it isn't that Benzites were ordered to get off the smack.   Perhaps, like Janeway, they were just allowed to drink it.

2 comments:

  1. Caffeine addiction is a real thing, but rarely happens. It sounds like Jainway was getting more then a few cups of coffee worth of caffeine, and possible popping tablets of the stuff.

    It might explain some of her behavior.

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  2. Coffee and bacon are the greatest gifts we have given ourselves. HANDS OFF MY COFFEE!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete