The scientist who lived in a cave and made discoveries for NASA

At the age of 23, a young French scientist named Michel Siffre performed crucial experiments for NASA in the context of the space race with Russia. Beginning his research in the 1960s, he contributed significantly to knowledge about biological rhythms, with data useful to astronauts.

In 1962, Siffre, now 85 years old, went 130 meters underground into the Scarasson abyss, located in the Ligurian Alps. Equipped only with a torch and without any device for measuring time, Their goal was to explore how the lack of external cues, such as sunlight, would influence human biological rhythms.

During this experiment, this scientist was guided only by the needs of his body. He slept and ate when he felt necessary instead of following conventional schedules. After 63 days he emerged with discoveries that laid the foundations of chronobiology, revealing that human beings have internal biological clocks.

In an interview with the magazine Cabinet In 2008, Siffre reflected on his research: “I had this idea that became the idea of ​​my life. I decided to live without a watch in the dark with no notion of time. I notified my team when I woke up, ate, and before going to sleep. They couldn’t call me so I had no idea about the weather outside. “Unknowingly, he had created the field of human chronobiology.”

During the confinements, Michel Siffre only had a light bulb and material to read and study. (La Nación / Argentina / GDA)

The cave environment was hostile, cold and high humidity. He spent his time reading and studying, while his team on the surface monitored his pulse and conducted daily psychological tests. One of these tests, which involved counting from 1 to 120, revealed that his perception of time had altered, taking five minutes to count what he would normally take two.

This finding was corroborated at the end of the experiment when Siffre was surprised to learn that the end day had arrived, while he believed he still had a month left. “My psychological time had been reduced by half”he explained to the magazine Cabinet.

Michel continued to explore the nature of weather in extreme conditions carrying out a second expedition funded by NASA ten years later. He spent six months in a cave in Texas, where he discovered that without time cues, people adapted to a 48-hour cycle instead of the usual 24.

Siffre’s research not only helped NASA, but also considerably expanded scientific understanding of human biological rhythms, marking a milestone in the history of chronobiology.

*The writing of this content was assisted with artificial intelligence.

 
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