Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Another one bites the dust

The Peterson jury foreman got sent to his room without supper. 3 down so far; 3 alternates left. It might be time to consider calling this one and trying again. I guess the judge will give them another week at least, in the interest of saving money and time. What else can go wrong? Stay tuned; it ain't over yet.

Vampire metabolism reconsidered

A very basic consideration that I neglected: the Laws of Thermodynamics - conservation of energy (energy can neither be created nor destroyed) and entropy (energy "leaks" out of a system over time).

"What goes in must come out." Vampires drink blood. How much depends on whose variation of the mythos you use, but the drinking is a constant. The blood must go somewhere, or the creature would bloat like a tick. Since total energy must be conserved (and energy=matter, E=mc2), the excess blood cannot just disappear into thin air. I know that supernatural forces are at work, but the Universe still has to remain in balance.

The 2nd Law, entropy always increases, requires a constant input of energy to keep a system running. That means that some of the blood must be used for fuel. Since there are only three ways to extract energy from matter (oxidation, reduction, and nuclear fission/fusion), our choices for metabolism are limited. Nuclear reactions we can rule out immediately. If this were the source of a vampire's energy, a single feeding would last virtually forever. There would also be an enormous amount of heat to dissipate. Reduction is also unlikely, since this reaction requires hydrogen, and hydrogen is not readily available, as a general rule. That leaves oxidation, which requires oxygen. The best and most likely source of oxygen is air. Therefore, vampires do breathe. They also need to excrete waste byproducts (since blood is hardly the "perfect food" that it is sometimes said to be) and excess "fuel". This idea catalyzed by Stephen King's "Night Flier" in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in which the protagonist watches in a mirror as a stream of bloody urine appears from nowhere and splashes into a urinal.

We can postulate that depriving a vampire of sustenance causes a severe, though non-fatal, debilitation. I think we can make the same postulation about oxygen. Depriving a vampire of oxygen would therefore be a valid method of weakening the creature.

Another implication is that normal activities, e.g., walking, consume a base level of energy, but the enhanced abilities of speed, strength, and shapeshifting must require sudden, enormous inputs of energy. This energy could be stored in the body, but prolonged use of these powers would soon deplete the reserves, again leaving the vampire weakened.

Thus, an experienced vampire would likely use stealth and fear as its main weapons with short bursts of speed and strength. Shapeshifting, the most energy intensive activity, would be restricted to urgent need. A "rookie", on the other hand, may not understand these things, especially without a mentor to show it the ropes, and would waste energy profligately until it learned better control. Should it live (or unlive, if you will) so long. For a real horror, imagine a vampire that has exhausted its energy reserves trapped in some way without access to blood and with limited, if any, air. Some way to spend eternity, huh?

In Washed in the Blood, I have two vampires at war with each other, so the sword cuts both ways. They are both subject to these limitations. Thomas (the bad guy) still has the advantage of experience. He has been around a long, long time (since pre-Christian times). John will need all the help he can muster just to break even in this fight. And no cheating by Divine Intervention, either.

Probably more later. A mind is a terrible thing.


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