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Bionics

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Bionics is a science that combines "biology" and "electronics".[1] A surgery is performed to allow the biology of the recipient's body to control electronic implants or prostheses.[2] Once completed, a Bionic person has enhanced abilities. The Bionics Program; also called Bionic Sciences or Project Cyborg was overseen by Rudy Wells in conjunction with Oscar Goldman. The Bionics Program, apart from overseeing the rebuilding of bionic agents provided follow up care and maintenance to the bionic systems of their agents also acted as a research and development program for various projects. It is unclear what role the Bionics Program played in the latter part of the 1990's apart from providing necessary care and maintenance, because no mention is ever made of ongoing research and development efforts into the next generation of bionics or new bionic agents.

History

Developed by Dr. Rudy Wells, in collaboration with multiple scientists.

Bionic Ability

Following the procedure, the time needed to recover varies per individual. Rehabilitation can take several months, during which time the body is trained to master the control of the bionic implants. Adjustments to the bionics may be necessary as the system adapts to the technology.

Although the bionic default is to provide recipients with some degree of superhuman abilities (particularly strength and speed), it is possible to "dial down" bionic powers to a human level if necessary.[3]

Depending upon the extent of the bionic replacement, recipients tend to enjoy greater stamina due to the fact their hearts and lungs only need to power their organs and remaining limb(s).[4]

The maximum running speed achieved by Steve Austin is not definitively known, but is at least 60 mph.[5] Later bionic recipients, such as Michael Austin, are known to have well exceeded Steve Austin's speed.[6] Within the television series, there is also at least one incident indicating that Jaime Sommers was capable of exceeding 100 MPH while running.[7]

Arguably the bionic component with the most versatility is Austin's bionic eye. During the course of his adventures, aside from the restoration of vision it provided Austin (a major feature in and of itself) its abilities ranged from 20:1 telescopic zoom and night vision (the most common uses) to more esoteric functions such as the ability to see individuals cloaked by invisibility[8], targeting ability [9], and even detecting heat waves given off by an astronaut.[10][11] A bionic eye which, among other features, was capable of emitting a stunning laser was possessed by Michael Austin, while Jaime Sommers was also granted a form of bionic night vision later in her life.

Complications / Limitations

Despite the increased abilities that accompany bionic implants, the recipiant may endure a variety of complications. To remedy such effects, bionic recipients can be changed from bionic strength to normal strength, however following the operation, the body needs time to adjust fully before doctors can fine tune the bionics.[12]

Bionics do not function correctly in cold temperatures, such as that below 32°F or 0°C.[13] Bionics also give off trace amounts of radiation, enough to be detected by a Geiger counter.[14], and a danger of radioactivity existed were a bionic limb to be cut open improperly[15]. However there's no indication that Steve or Jaime suffered ill effects from this by the time of their wedding in the mid-1990s, roughly two decades after their transplants.

Physical

see also: Bionic Rejection

Bionic implants are powered by a compact nuclear power source. The power source can be best described as a nuclear battery as it resembles a watch battery. The useful lifespan of the power source is unknown. Whenever the battery is removed, the person in question must be placed on a life support system. The reason why life support must be used when the power source doesn't regulate or control vital life functions is never explained. It is possible that the use of life support systems is just a precaution to ensure that the individual undergoing treatment does not experience undue physical or psychological stress. Another reason for the use of life support systems may be that there is an implant of some sort in the subject's body that somehow assist in regulating necessary body systems in relationship to bionic functions which must be powered or lastly that there is a biological/bionic interdependence which exists and the systems, both biological and bionic depend on each other. It is possible to damage bionic limbs through use beyond their design specifications, or through various forms of trauma. Severe damage to the bionic legs has the potential to be fatal.[16]

The functionality of bionic limbs deteriorates at sub-zero temperatures. [17]

Austin also experienced an unexpected malfunction in his bionic systems during his first trip into space following his operation, but adjustments to his bionics afterward prevented this problem from recurring.[18]

Both series offer inconsistent accounts as to whether or not Steve and Jaime can feel pain through their bionic limbs, although it's clear that given sufficient damage, some form of pain is felt by them (i.e. Steve in "The Return of the Bionic Woman"; Jaime in "The Deadly Missiles").

Above all, bionic limbs are not indestructible. While Steve and Jaime are able to deflect large and heavy objects with their arms without apparent damage [19], they can be damaged and disabled if struck hard enough or aggressively[20].

Psychological

Steve Austin briefly experienced a stress-related malfunction in his bionic arm.[21] Jaime Sommers' rejection of her bionics was initially thought to be a manifestation of the same thing.

Psychological adjustment to being bionic is a potentially dangerous time. While Steve Austin adjusted almost immediately, as did Jaime once her bionic rejection issues were resolved, and Michael, such was not the case for the second known bionic man, Barney Hiller, who turned rogue after his transplants.[22] Possibly due to this, Jaime Sommers later assisted the OSI in helping later bionic people Michael Austin and Kate Mason adjust to their new abilities.

Recipients

Bionic Recipient Arm(s) Leg(s) Other
Maximillian -- -- all four legs, jaw
Steve Austin right both left eye[23]
Barney Hiller both both --
Salka Pal-Mir -- -- heart transplant
Jaime Sommers right both right ear; later, both eyes[24]
Andy Sheffield -- both --
Michael Austin right both right eye, chest (a micro-chip computer interfaced with the legs),

spine, and ribs (ten)

Kate Mason -- -- entire body
Alan Devlin -- -- entire body

Nomenclature

In Martin Caidin's novels, bionics are always referred to in the plural, whether referring to the science in general ("the science of bionics") or an individual prosthetic ("Steve Austin's bionics arm", "his bionics eye"). The TV series, comic books and novelisations, while still referring to the science as bionics, uses a singular form when referring to the individual replacements ("Steve Austin's bionic arm", etc.).

References

  1. Sommers, Jaime. Biofeedback. In a conversation with Darwin Jones.
  2. Austin, Steve. The Bionic Woman (episode). In a conversation with Jaime Sommers.
  3. Barney Miller's bionics are reduced in power in "The Seven Million Dollar Man" (see also "The Bionic Criminal", and this option is also discussed as a possible way to address Jaime's rejection of her bionics in "The Bionic Woman (Part II)".
  4. As explained in the 1973 pilot, an evidenced in many episodes, though it's possible that as the recipients age this stamina decreases, as witnessed in Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman.
  5. This often-cited number is based upon a speedometer shown in the original pilot film, and later opening credits, reading 60 mph. In point of fact, a maximum speed was never definitively established for either Austin or Sommers, with non-canonical spin-off media (such as the Power Records release "The Man from the Future" suggesting much greater speeds were possible. On television the episode "Burning Bright" shows Austin reaching 66 MPH on a treadmill.
  6. Steve remarks on this in The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman
  7. Winning Is Everything, in which she is explicitly shown outpacing a race car going 100 MPH
  8. The Secret of Bigfoot
  9. numerous episodes, including "Bionic Ever After?
  10. The Pioneers
  11. In Martin Caidin's novels, the bionic eye was somewhat more primitive and did not restore or enhance Austin's sight. Instead, it initially contained a miniature camera. In the first issue of the Six Million Dollar Man comic book, Austin had the ability to fire a laser from the eye
  12. Wells, Rudy. The Bionic Woman (Part II). In a conversation with Oscar Goldman during which reducing Jaime's strength to human-normal is considered as a potential remedy for her rejection of them.
  13. SMDM: "", "", "", ""; BW: ""
  14. SMDM: ""
  15. SMDM: ""
  16. Jaime's legs explode after she attempts a landing from a high building in part 1 of "Kill Oscar", while Austin requires bionic reconstruction to this legs and rehabilitation after they are damaged in part 1 of "The Return of the Bionic Woman". Both occasions are depicted as having grave consequences for Jaime and Steve's health.
  17. Dr. Bacon. Population Zero.
  18. The Rescue of Athena One
  19. "Doomsday, and Counting", "Canyon of Death", for example
  20. "Dr. Wells is Missing", "The Pioneers"
  21. Wine, Women and War
  22. SMDM: ""
  23. This applies to the television version of the character only. In Martin Caidin's novels, Austin also received a reinforced jaw and skull, and several ribs were replaced, one of which housed a radio antenna. Also, Caidin's version of the character had his left arm replaced by a bionic limb, not his right.
  24. Jaime acquires bionic vision in Bionic Ever After? though it is not explained how this was accomplished other than it being described as an upgrade to her systems. It is assumed both her eyes were augmented, but this is not explicitly confirmed on screen; it may have been only one eye.
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