Sunday, June 30, 2013

Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness:  While I have been told on more than one occasion that my hair is perfect[1], it may come as a surprise to some of you that as a whole, I am not. [2]

If it turns out that life is in any way like a giant RPG, way back at character creation I clearly took a few disads, to gain more awesome abilities and super powers. [3]  One of those was clearly motion sickness.

If you like to think of life in more genetic terms, I have my mother to thank for this. [4]  As she and all of my siblings get it as well.

For those of you who don't really know what it is, let me explain.

Whenever motion sickness occurs, I basically feel nauseated in the extreme.  If I don't stop whatever it is that is causing it, I eventually break out in the cold sweats, the blood rushes from my head and I feel like I really, really, really, really, really want to lose my lunch. [5]  Fortunately or possibly unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I never actually do blow chunks. [6]

So you ask, what causes this motion sickness?  Well let me tell you.

Basically it is a problem with your inner ear and your eyes communicating with your brain.  Way down deep in your ear there is a little chamber partly full of liquid.  Your brain uses this chamber [7] to keep track of whether you are right side up, upside down, on your side or whatever.  When you are walking around, gravity keeps the liquid on the bottom of the chamber and your inner ear reports back that you are right side up.

Should you go upside down, the fluid will now be on the side of the chamber that used to be the top[8] and your inner ear will report to the brain that you are upside down.  If you should wreck your car and do a barrel roll, the liquid will slosh all over the place and your inner ear will tell your brain that things aren't going so well.

The problems start when your brain starts comparing that data to the data from your eyes.  When your inner ear says, "Brain we are upside down." and your eyes are reporting back data that confirms that, there is no problem.  But when those two sets of data don't coincide, there can be trouble.

I say "can be trouble" because for many people there isn't.  The brain sifts through the data figures out why they aren't both reporting the same thing and moves on.  But for some people, the incongruity of this data means motion sickness.  It goes a bit like this:

Eyes: Brain, we appear to be flying upside down in a jet plane.
Inner Ear: Hate to argue with the eyes, but that's simply not true, we are in fact right side up.
Brain: Okay you two, calm down.  We are watching a movie about Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot.  There's no problem here.  Except perhaps the acting, plot, etc.
Stomach: LET'S THROW UP!!!!!!
Everyone else: What?  NO!!!!
Stomach: Increasing sweat production, 500%!

As that little scenario clearly shows, for some it can be something as minor as a movie.  Fortunately for me, it takes more than just a standard movie.

Also, it can work in other ways.  For instance if it is pitch black, you can get something like this:

Eyes: Brain, nothing is going on.
Inner Ear: What are you blind!  Everything is flipping around like crazy.  Are we trapped in the dryer again!"
Brain: We're on a roller coaster in the dark.  Calm down everyone.
Stomach: LET'S THROW UP!!!!!!!!!

Finally, it can be set off if your eyes and inner ear are reacting too much to unanticipated changes.  Like when you are a passenger in a vehicle and you can't get a good look at the road to see how the car is going to move in the future.  And not just big turns and curves, the minor wheel adjustments the driver does subconsciously are actually worse.

Eyes: On the one hand, based up the completely stationary headrest in front of me, I posit we are not moving.  However, the trees moving by at a rapid pace out the window seem to indicate fast movement.
Inner Ear: I got some slight variations in the chamber liquid [9], so nothing to indicate great speed, but I also don't think we're sitting still.
Brain: We're in the back seat of a car.  There's no problem.
Inner Ear: We've got some definite tilt of the fluid plain.  We seem to be banking left.
Eyes: Nope, headrest is still not moving.  Though those trees are really going.
Brain: The road is a little curvy that's all.
Stomach: LET'S THROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!

For the most part, it really isn't that much of a problem.  I just make sure that I'm the driver whenever I can.  And if I can't I sit where I can see the whole road. [10]  I avoid certain rides at theme parks and I just suck it up and hope for the best if I have to go on a plane. [11]

Because I know you're dying to know, here's a list of some of the things that can make me regret my current life choices and a relative rating of how bad the motion sickness will be on a scale of 0-10: [12]

- Riding in the front passenger seat: 0-4 (depending on the driver)
- Riding in the back passenger seats: 3-8 (depending on the driver)
- First person shooter video games that are realistic [13]: 2-8 (depending on how recently I've eaten and how long I play)
- First person shooter video games that are not realistic at all [14]: 0-3 (depending on how recently I've eaten and how long I play)
- Theme park rides that spin around a lot [15]: 5-10
- Theme park rides that are in the dark: 4-8
- Theme park rides that are in those simulator pods that move the entire pod around to match the movie/ride [16]: 8-10
- Airplane rides: 3-10 (depending on length of ride, turbulence, and other factors)
- Boat rides: 0 (boats don't bother me, go figure).
- Circle Vision 360 movies: 8-9
- 3-D movies: 1-4 (depends on how much movement is going on and how realistic the movie is)
- 3-D, IMAX movies: 2-5
- Virtual Reality anything: 1-10 (again depending on how realistic but usually more on the 10 side of the scale.)
- Anything in the world if I am overly hot and/or hungry: +5 to scale
- Riding backwards: +3 to scale
- Riding in the passenger seat to the hospital with a major inner ear infection while my wife is driving: 27,000 [17]

To sum up, while it is an annoying problem, if I avoid certain situations it's not a big deal. [18] Of course, if you say, take a week long vacation to Disney World, those usually unavoidable things, suddenly become much less unavoidable.  But hey, it's a small price to pay for a perfectly coiffed do.

Motion Sickness: D+

[1] - I'm actually serious.  People have told me that.  Go figure.
[2] - Perfect that is.
[3] - Like wicked smarts, dashing good looks and perfect hair.
[4] - Thanks mom!
[5] - That means throw up.
[6] - I say possibly unfortunately because I often feel like I would probably feel a lot better if I did.
[7] - I'm sure it has a technical name and I'm not even 100% sure it's a chamber, but I'm too lazy to look it up.
[8] - But is now the bottom, because you're upside down.
[9] - I really should have looked up what that stuff was called.
[10] - Which basically means I end up hogging the front seat.  Sorry 'bout that.
[11] - There are anti-motion sickness medicines, but for me they make me feel worse than the motion sickness, but in a completely different way.
[12] - 1 being minor queasiness and 10 being a state akin to, "I wish I was dead".
[13] - Skyrim, Call of Duty, etc
[14] - Original Duke Nukem and the like
[15] - Mo-mo the monster, drunken barrels, Mad Hatter's Tea Cups
[16] - Body wars, Back to the Future Ride and I'm led to believe the Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios is that way too, but I can't confirm that.
[17] - Including actual puking!
[18] - Just realize that if you invite my family over, we're all coming in separate cars.

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