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My question is: What needs to be added or improved in the human body so that my genetically modified people can fully withstand temperatures of several degrees below zero ( — 40 ° Celsius) for a long time, and can also survive at temperatures greater than +100° Celsius ?

As I understand it, this requires compacting the skin, making it more airtight, and significantly improving the heat exchange process at high temperature. ( The energy dissipation of the human body varies from ~100 W to ~1600 W )

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    $\begingroup$ How exactly long is a "long time"? Also, -40C is not just several degrees below zero (if you mean Fahrenheit), it is -40F as well. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ They should feel normal, as we do at a temperature of 7-10 degrees Celsius. (well, or at least survive for a few days, without clothes at all ) Celsius. $\endgroup$
    – user71408
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ Humans usually cant's survive a few days at 7-10C without clothes, shelter or fire. But I've got your point. They also should be able to survive a few days at temperatures above 100C? Can they drink cool water during that time? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ It is undesirable, but it is possible to improve the process of heat exchange and storage of water in the body to avoid dehydration. $\endgroup$
    – user71408
    Mar 3, 2020 at 18:12

2 Answers 2

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Staying warm is easier than staying cool.

Let's begin with the easy part: keep warm at -40°C. We can take as example animals, especially mammals, living in polar regions. There are two main things that help them: fat and fur. Fur is the way to go here: it traps air, which is a GREAT insulator, and it's something we already have the ability to produce (to a limited extent, body hair). A couple of examples? Polar bears have hollow hair in their fur, allowing for extra air to be trapped inside and make for more insulation. Otters have such a dense fur that air bubbles can't escape it, creating an insulation air layer between the fur and the skin that allows them to stay dry (and warmer) even when they get in the water.

Now the hard part: staying cool. Let me start by saying than NOTHING, with the exception of some bacterias, can survive at temperatures greater than 100°C for more than a few moments, if at all. Most animals, even those who live close to active underwater volcanoes, have a hard time surviving temperatures over 50°C over long periods of times (aka hours). So if you're looking for a realistic way to survive at 100°C without the help of external gear, I'm afraid I can't help you. That being said, if we wanted to make it easier to survive in hot climates, you could look at some of the animals that live there. The main concern in a hot environment is water preservation. Our way of preventing overheating (sweating) is very ineffective when it comes to saving water. In order to reduce water loss, you would have to modify their genes in order to sweat as little as possible. Some desert animals go as far as retaining water from their breath when exhaling, in order to consume as little water as possible. That could be another of your genetic modifications. Insulation still is a way to go, since it works for both heath and cold.

By my knowledge, that's pretty much it. You might be able to find a way to survive at 50°C, but not at 100°C. Not through genetic modification alone.

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  • $\begingroup$ Humans can not only survive but even work in dry air up to 120 °C (250 °F) for a few minutes, and up to some 70 °C (160 °F) for a few hours if they have access to cool water. In humid air, not so much -- at 100% humidity we cannot resist for any significant length of time if the ambient temperature is above 35 °C (95 °F). Our evaporative heat-shedding system works quite well if the air is dry enough. After all, we are basically savannah animals. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 3, 2020 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I couldn't find the informations you're giving me, but I assume that's with the help of technical gear. What he's looking for is genetic predisposition (in the form of genetic alteration), so probably without the need of extremely specialised equipment. In any case, a few minutes (or even hours) don't really fall in the "fully withstand" category. That being said, thanks for the info. If you could provide me with a link to read up on it I'd appreciate it. $\endgroup$
    – Mr_Bober
    Mar 3, 2020 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Sauna temperatures commonly range from 80 to 100 °C (with very low relative humidity) and people spend routinely half an hour (or even more) is that environment, most usually stark naked. They do seat profusively, but that is the purpose. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 3, 2020 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ You may also want to research the conditions in deep mines before the enlightened post-WW2 times. For example, R. H. Bird, "Notes on Subterranean Temperatures in Metal Mines", in British Mining, No.3, 1976. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 3, 2020 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ This does not meet the requirements of the hard science tag $\endgroup$
    – user71408
    Mar 4, 2020 at 17:32
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They would not be humans

The bark beatle can manage temperatures of -50°C by replacing almost all water with an antifreeze compound to survive. Of course it can't move, just remains in stasis. The Wood Frog also has impresive resistances to low temperatures, capable of freezing and thawing when conditions improve.

On the other hand, Pompeii worm can handle heat in the order of 80°C thanks to a symbiotic bacteria.

Then we have the champion, the water bear that can survive anything, as long as it's not a predator, or being crushed by 2 grains of sand. The point is, the modified human would need a complete overhaul of their biology to whistand such resistances. Source: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/07/30/5-animals-that-can-take-the-extreme-heat-and-cold/

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  • $\begingroup$ To be clear, the Pompeii Worm cannot survive at 80°C for long. Even at temperatures as low as 50-55°C, it can only last an hour or two before suffering irreparable tissue damage. $\endgroup$
    – Mr_Bober
    Mar 3, 2020 at 19:56

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