This week in science: human cryogenic freezing looking more likely, sneezing is far more disgusting than you realized, grocery stores vow to start selling prescription-free heroin antidote, and the creation of life-saving mini-brains.
High-Speed Cameras Reveal That Sneezing Is Way More Gross Than You Thought
This sequence illustrates the evolution of the multiphase turbulence cloud that suspends droplets emitted during a sneeze. Shown here are times ranging from 7 to 340 milliseconds post sneeze onset. Image Source: From the paper, “Visualization of sneeze ejecta: steps of fluid fragmentation leading to respiratory droplets,” by B. E. Scharfman, A. H. Techet, J. W. M. Bush, L. Bourouiba.
You thought — understandably so — that sneezing was gross when it seemed as if it was only a light spray of air and mucus. However, the high-speed cameras used during a recent study at MIT reveal that, when we sneeze, we actually expel a sheet of fluid.
The results continue: “As a person sneezes, they launch a sheet of fluid that balloons, then breaks apart in long filaments that destabilize, and finally disperses as a spray of droplets, similar to paint that is flung through the air.”
Now, all this research isn’t merely meant to gross us out, but instead to better understand how infections spread and which people might have especially explosive sneezes that make them “super spreaders.”
If you didn’t think the simple sneeze was worth scientists’ time, think again. The power of the sneeze can, in just 200 milliseconds, expel sometimes dangerous germs over 200 times farther than they would have gone without it.
Watch the sneeze’s journey at MIT.