Can you cry underwater? Can you cry in space? I saw both of these questions popping up in several forums, so I wanted to conduct the research and provide a clear answer. In this article, I’ll describe whether or not you can cry underwater or in space.
Can you cry underwater? You cannot cry underwater because real emotional crying is often accompanied by rapid breathing. So if you were to actually cry underwater, you would inhale water and drown. Your tear ducts also won’t release tears underwater because the density and pressure of the water won’t let them come out.
Can you cry in space? You can cry in space, however, gravity won’t allow your tears to stream downwards. Instead, your tears will stick to each other and form a liquid ball. When tears in space build up enough mass, they will break free from the eyes and float around.
Read on to learn more about crying underwater and crying in space, as well the science behind it.
Can You Cry Underwater?
Crying is not just a symptom of grief. Tears in your eyes can be triggered by a whole range of emotions, from joy and happiness to sadness and anger. If you cry underwater just as you would on land, you would die from drowning – unless of course, you are wearing an underwater breathing helmet.
Crying is usually accompanied by heavy breathing. If you do heavy breathing underwater, your mouth, and eventually your lungs, will be flooded with water. In other words, you will drown. Always remember that tears don’t just wallow up in your eyes without a stimulus.
You also would not be able to produce tears underwater. The pressure from the water is denser than the pressure of air. So this liquid pressure will prevent your tear ducts from releasing tears.
Why Do We Cry?
Normal tears come out of your eyes because of some emotions that you are feeling inside. It is part of the crying process, influenced by your emotions. Induced tears also come out of your eyes when they react to the chemicals emitted by certain substances, such as toxic chemicals and onion peelings.
The tear-producing mechanism of your eyes does not stop just because you’re underwater. That means you can still cry even if you submerge your whole body in the water. Your tears will just mix with the water. The thing that will kill you is if you won’t stop crying underwater.
Crying and Your Emotions
We cry for a reason. A certain emotion almost always induces crying. This emotion is so intense that we are induced to cry. Most of the time, intense emotions are accompanied by heavy breathing. Moreover, there’s no way that you can do heavy breathing underwater.
If you do, you can swallow a large amount of water. It will flood your lungs and cause drowning. If you are wearing scuba gear, you will be able to do heavy breathing. So, if you are going to cry underwater, ensure that you are wearing an underwater breathing apparatus!
Yes, you will be able to start crying underwater. But pretty soon, you have to breathe because you have to inhale the amount of air that you had breathed out when you started crying. Thus, you will be forced to stop crying right after. But if you have a snorkel, you might be able to continue crying.
Crying is also very similar to shouting underwater. Some have felt the need to shout underwater out of fear or shock. When you see a shark coming to attack, you would be screaming at the top of your lungs. And you can cry out for help once. But you can’t possibly repeat it the second time because you have to breathe in air to shout again.
Three Types of Crying
You also cry because you are expressing sadness or anguish. There are three distinct types of crying. One of them is weeping, the other is sobbing, and the last one is wailing.
- Weeping – is subtle with tears coming out of your eyes. Its influence on your breathing is very minimal.
- Sobbing – is a little more intense than weeping. There are more muscles involved in this type of crying. It would agitate your breathing cycles and is usually accompanied by subdued vocal outbursts.
- Wailing – is the most intense of the three. Your whole being is involved when you are wailing. It will really cause you to breathe heavily. You will not be able to control yourself, and you may even shout at the top of your lungs.
No matter what type of crying you are doing underwater, for as long as you can completely control your breathing cycle, you will not drown. But as you can see, controlling your breathing when crying is next to impossible. So, wait until you have risen out of the water before you continue crying.
Can You Cry in Space?
Yes, you can cry in space as you are able to underwater. But this time, it will cause you some physical discomfort. When in space, tears well up in your eyeballs. However, they will not be able to drop because you are in a place where there is near-zero gravity. Your tears will remain stuck in your eyes until they form like a water ball and detach from your eyes.
Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, clearly explained this. He said that our eyes can still produce tears in space. But the experience of producing tears in space is not exactly pleasant. When there is no gravity, tears will not flow downwards from the eye and wash away irritants as they do on Earth. They will combine into a tiny liquid ball that will hang out in your eyes. He also added that space tears sting.
How Tears Form in Space
When the liquid balls have gathered enough liquid mass, they will break free from the eye and float around. And if space tears sting, you would force yourself not to cry in space. This happened to Andrew Feustel, another astronaut, in his spacewalk in 2011. He got a flake in his eye from the anti-fogging solution in his helmet.
Feustel endured it for five hours during his seven-hour spacewalk. He knew that tears from his eyes won’t help in getting the flake out. So, he rubbed his face against a piece of foam inside the helmet to remove the flake. When tears well up in astronauts’ eyes, they use wipes to dry them out. Astronauts in space have to be careful when it comes to tears coming out of their eyes.
Chris Hadfield had another unusual experience with his tears during a spacewalk. Something entered his eye and caused the formation of a big tear ball on his eyeball. Hadfield was unable to wipe the tear ball out in his spacesuit, so he had to endure over 30 minutes of itching. He was able to remove the tear ball and regain his clear vision after introducing a rapid flow of oxygen through his helmet.
Tears on Earth Vs. Tears in Space
Another astronaut, Clayton C. Anderson, recounted some of his tearful experiences while he was in space. He admitted that he cried in space several times because of very emotional experiences. Apparently, there were several occasions when he shed tears in space.
He said that crying is very similar to crying on Earth. The only difference is that tears don’t fall down since there is near-zero gravity. He was supposed to write his experiences in a book that he said would come out in 2015. Perhaps if you want to know the details of what happened to his tears, you can get it from his book, which should be out by now.
Tears in Space – A Relief or Discomfort?
Tears are supposed to soothe, not sting. But in space, it seems to be the other way around. Human vision is somewhat negatively affected by near-zero gravity. A theory that tries to explain this phenomenon is that body fluids shift towards the head, especially during long-term exposure to microgravity.
Space causes humans to experience dry eyes. Another discomfort is the formation of liquid in the cornea when triggered by emotions or stimuli. Instead of gravity pulling the tears down, a liquid ball will form around your eye and cause a burning sensation.
We’ve answered, ‘Can you cry underwater?’ Also, we’ve answered, ‘Can you cry in space?’ Next, let’s look at the science of crying.
What Is the Science of Crying?
One thing that separates humans from other earthly species is their ability to produce tears because of the emotions that they are experiencing. Other creatures on Earth shed tears because of irritation or pain. Human babies cry and produce tears to attract attention from their mothers.
Crying is more than a sign of sadness. All kinds of feelings, ranging from grief, anger, and empathy to surprise, can trigger crying. Shedding tears is one way of telling others what we are feeling inside. It is the focus of the latest approach to the science of crying.
Different Theories of Crying
In the early 1600s, the theory is that emotions, particularly those related to love, heated the heart. This reaction would generate water vapor so that the heart will cool down itself. This vapor from the heart will rise to the head, condense near the eyes, and come out as tears.
Niels Stensen’s Theory
But in 1662, Niels Stensen, a Danish scientist, found out that the correct point of origin of tears is in a person’s lacrimal glands. His findings started the race to discover the possible evolutionary advantage of this fluid from human eyes. The theory of Stensen was that tears are produced to keep our eyes moist.
William Frey’s Theory
William Frey, a biochemist, also developed a theory in 1985 about the origin of tears. He postulated that crying takes away the toxic substances from the blood that accumulated during times of stress. Although his theory was not proven true, it still became popular.
Jonathan Rottenberg’s Theory
Newer and more plausible theories have come out lately. One of these theories says that tears trigger human connection and social bonding. Jonathan Rottenberg, a University of Florida Professor of Psychology and an emotion researcher, is credited with this theory.
Rottenberg says that crying is a means to show other people, as well as yourself, that you have a problem, which seems to be temporarily beyond your control. He also adds that it is an outgrowth of the origins of crying.
Other scientists have also discovered that emotionally induced tears from humans are chemically different from the tears they shed while chopping or peeling onions. This distinction may explain why crying sends powerful signals of emotions to others.
Chemically speaking, aside from the electrolytes, metabolites, lipids, and enzymes, human tears induced by emotions, have more protein. This higher amount of protein, according to one hypothesis, makes emotional tears more viscous. In other words, emotional tears strongly stick on your skin and flow down slower. So, there’s a great chance for other people to see these tears easily.
There’s another colder theory about tears. This theory posits that crying is one way of manipulating others. Humans learn early on that crying can affect people powerfully. For instance, a woman can neutralize her husband’s anger by crying.
Randy Cornelius’ Theory
Another theory that lacks proof is that after crying, you will feel relieved. A Vassar College Professor of Psychology, Randy Cornelius, disagrees. He cited the results of a lab experiment where researchers asked their subjects to watch a sad movie. Immediately after watching the movie, the subjects’ moods were measured. Those who cried were in worse moods than those who didn’t.
Ad Vingerhoets’ Theory
A Tilburg University professor and a leading expert on crying, Ad Vingerhoets, is the author of the book called “Why Only Humans Weep.” He said that tears are extremely relevant to humans because we cry to signify our need for other people.
Conclusion – Can You Cry Underwater? Can You Cry in Space?
So, to summarize everything: Can you cry underwater? Crying is often accompanied by rapid breathing. So, if you are emotionally influenced to cry underwater, there is the likelihood that you will drown from taking in water in your mouth and lungs.
Can you cry in space? You can cry in space but not in the same way you do on Earth. Tears can come out of your eyes but due to no gravity, they won’t stream down. The tear molecules will stick to each other and form a liquid ball. When tears in space build up enough mass, they will break free from your eyes and float around.