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Health, Spatialized and Tagged
Proton Therapy Center

Disease is in the air, so we thought we'd offer up all our disorganized musings on spatializing health by way of tags. You can scan through tidbits about the politics of pollen, disease tours, subterranean pharmlands, reconfiguring the sky to combat suicides and the hilarious 2007 World Infection Tour of Andrew Speaker.

Tagging our posts is something we have always wanted to implement here but have only recently done so when we redesigned the blog's layout. In other words, there may be some stray epidemiological posts that we haven't yet labeled — in fact, there are still so many posts that need tagging — but what has already been stamped with the health tag should be enough to encapsulate our M.O. in this subject.

Proton Therapy Center

Meanwhile, as we are wont to do, we decorated this post with a couple of images taken from an old New York Times article about a cancer therapy using proton accelerators.

The machines accelerate protons to nearly the speed of light and shoot them into tumors. Scientists say proton beams are more precise than the X-rays now typically used for radiation therapy, meaning fewer side effects from stray radiation and, possibly, a higher cure rate.

If a particle accelerator calls to mind the Large Hadron Collider, then you can imagine the sheer gargantuan size of these anti-cancer machines. One of these machines can weigh 222 tons, costs $100 million and requires “a building the size of a football field with walls up to 18-feet thick in which to house it.” In other words, it's “the world’s most expensive and complex medical device.”

One wonders how much energy it needs, and whether hospitals had simply connected it to the electrical grid or had to build a dedicated power generator. If it's the latter, did they also put up another building to house it in?

We may be overimagining the logistics here as usual, but our minds are reeling into hyperdrive as they imagine clusters of buildings connected together by arrays of electromagnets and miles of wirings, swarming with technicians and operators, buzzing with the grinding gears of three-story tall gantries, all overseen from a cavernous control room of wall-to-wall LED monitors. And the central focus in the entire sprawling complex is just a narrow beam of invisible protons.

Given the extent some people in the U.S. are willing to go through to cure their illnesses despite the costs, and how the medical industry is an all-too willing pill pusher — and of course, these proton accelerators just prove that — we can't help but wonder when we might see a new cancer treatment regimen so incredibly complex, an entire city has to be built for it. When a patient starts treatment, it draws energy from all around, even from deep inside the earth. The whole landscape shudders and contracts.

Have you seen the planet destroyer in the trailers for the new Star Trek movie? Will it be like that, though with a finer but still mindbogglingly powerful beam? Somehow we think the indescribably absurd American health care system will make it happen and beat the equally preposterous American military industry to the punch.
  • Anonymous
  • April 30, 2009 at 1:29:00 PM CDT
  • In short, it's an inverse Death Star!

  • TomF
  • May 10, 2009 at 11:26:00 AM CDT
  • Oo, I was just reading about Anatoli Bugorski today, the researcher who got shot through the head by a particle accelerator. He was a 'poster boy' of Soviet and Russian radiation medicine for a while (despite the hole through his head).

    The rest of the article then details the building, and potential sinking, of Soviet science towns, in a way you guys might appreciate :)

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