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Old 09-07-2017, 05:01 PM   #1
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Alright, this is going to be a bit of a weird one (in case the title didn't clue you in). So, a flesh pocket is a useful way to smuggle objects, keep your cash where it's pretty much impossible to pickpocket, and so forth. It's also, by its very nature, a dark, warm area that may be prone to getting damp - in other words, a prime breeding ground for bacteria. Now, in ultratech settings, this is likely to be an inserted pouch (rather than a literal pocket of flesh), meaning it's probably made of materials with antimicrobial properties.

The issue I'm having is that I've imported this concept into a ~TL4 setting, where a race of minor shapeshifters* finds growing such to be useful. Such pockets also likely don't seal as well as UT examples, making them more prone to getting damp. A wealthy - or at least settled - individual may have sufficient access to bathing facilities to keep the flesh pocket clean and dry, but an adventurer on the road is unlikely to. This is likely to take the form of a stench on anything they opt to store in the flesh pocket, as well as increased potential for infections and otherwise getting sick. Complicating things further is the fact that petroleum doesn't exist (or at least isn't available) in the setting in question, meaning sword oils and the like are made from biological** sources, which are a potential food source for such flesh-pocket-bacteria, and one of the characters I'm designing keeps an unsheathed sword hidden in a dedicated flesh pocket in his arm (think Baraka, from MKII).

One thing that could work, although this may be reaching, is to keep some copper and/or silver coins in the flesh pocket, to take advantage of the antimicrobial properties of those metals. If this would work, it would probably be done as a semi-superstitious "good luck charm." In the case of the sword, making it out of bronze rather than steel might work, but I'd rather have other options. Perhaps some sort of stable antimicrobial/poison could be diluted into the sword oil?

How likely is the copper/silver coin trick (and/or the bronze sword) to work? What are some other options?

*They shapeshift rather slowly compared to what one would expect, essentially slowly reprogramming their bodies.

**I consider petroleum to be sufficiently removed from the organisms it was produced from to not count as "biological."
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Old 09-07-2017, 05:08 PM   #2
sir_pudding
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Boiled linseed oil has antibacterial and and antifungal properties and is a pretty traditional sword oil
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Old 09-07-2017, 05:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
How likely is the copper/silver coin trick (and/or the bronze sword) to work?
Generally speaking, things that are bad for bacteria are also not great for skin. If the shapeshifters form pockets like this naturally, they probably have a biological means of keeping them clean that gradually pushes contaminants out (assuming they're dry enough that a sword won't rust, it's probably oil or wax).
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Old 09-07-2017, 05:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

I'm really not sure this is an issue.

Marsupials not only have the archetypical flesh pockets, they keep babies in them (notorious germ magnets), and the babies poop in the pockets. They have to clean them out by licking, the poor things.

Despite this, marsupial pouches aren't a hive of scum and villainy. They're not even sweaty smelling, because they don't have sweat glands in the pouch (not really big on sweat glands in general, those marsupials).

The key factor is that they're not wet. A flesh pouch, such as a marsupium (the marsupial pouch) is not a mucus-membrane lined cavity, like the mouth or various other body parts I won't mention. There's no pools of saliva, mucus, food debris, or body waste, just skin. The baby is a bit messy, but the saliva from washing does dry up pretty promptly, after which the pouch can be kept more carefully closed when necessary. I don't know about you, but my various sphincters are pretty darn good at keeping things out of my mouth when I want them to, and letting air into or out of my mouth when I want them to.

Now, if you have someone keeping a sandwich in there, all bets are off.


EDIT: I presume, as a shapeshifter-made pouch for keeping stuff in, they're not optimized for keeping a baby in them, and therefore don't have to be designed to always let enough air in for the baby to breathe. Another comparison is a baboons cheek pouches, which are drier than you think and fairly immunologically active. As long as they aren't keeping human garbage food in them they're generally fine.
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Old 09-07-2017, 06:17 PM   #5
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
Boiled linseed oil has antibacterial and and antifungal properties and is a pretty traditional sword oil
Awesome.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
If the shapeshifters form pockets like this naturally, they probably have a biological means of keeping them clean that gradually pushes contaminants out
"Naturally" doesn't really apply, as they are basically a race created by magical experimentation that mashed together aspects from various species (some of which have supernatural qualities themselves). The Feuyaner are simply able to reshape their bodies in a variety of ways. Flesh pockets aren't one of the "preprogrammed" options (unlike the reflex-style armor they can grow), but are simple and handy enough that most opt to grow them.

Despite the magic in their origins, I don't want a magic-based solution - most Feuyaner aren't mages, and permanent magic items in the setting are addictive if one is overly exposed to them (and keeping a Gem of Minty Freshness in one's flesh pocket all the time would certainly qualify).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruno View Post
The key factor is that they're not wet. A flesh pouch, such as a marsupium (the marsupial pouch) is not a mucus-membrane lined cavity, like the mouth or various other body parts I won't mention. There's no pools of saliva, mucus, food debris, or body waste, just skin. The baby is a bit messy, but the saliva from washing does dry up pretty promptly, after which the pouch can be kept more carefully closed when necessary. I don't know about you, but my various sphincters are pretty darn good at keeping things out of my mouth when I want them to, and letting air into or out of my mouth when I want them to.
The material lining the pouch is simply thick, leathery skin (without sweat glands, fortunately), and it has a decent but not perfect seal. I had assumed incidental moisture - sweat dripping in from elsewhere on the body, rain, etc - wouldn't come out on its own, which would result in such pouches often having some degree of dampness to them. Considering cheek and marsupial pouches, however, implies you're likely right that this is unlikely to be an issue.

The "flesh sheath" for the sword is more problematic, as that is likely to get biological fluids like blood in it, but I intend the character to not make heavy use of that (it's a backup weapon), and to do his best to give it a thorough cleaning anytime he does spill blood with it.
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Old 09-08-2017, 04:58 AM   #6
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
... I had assumed incidental moisture - sweat dripping in from elsewhere on the body, rain, etc - wouldn't come out on its own, which would result in such pouches often having some degree of dampness to them. Considering cheek and marsupial pouches, however, implies you're likely right that this is unlikely to be an issue.....
Yep, if nothing else there could be specific body adaptation around the opening to prevent sweat and rain (something analogous in function to eyebrows or eyelashes)
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Old 09-08-2017, 05:56 AM   #7
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
I had assumed incidental moisture - sweat dripping in from elsewhere on the body, rain, etc - wouldn't come out on its own, which would result in such pouches often having some degree of dampness to them.
They can have a hydrophobic pocket. That would keep water out just fine.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:53 AM   #8
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

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Originally Posted by Tomsdad View Post
Yep, if nothing else there could be specific body adaptation around the opening to prevent sweat and rain (something analogous in function to eyebrows or eyelashes)
Again, this is just a pocket of skin they create using their abilities, not a natural adaptation. Growing hair around the pocket to discourage water might be possible, but would make the pocket more obvious and is also aesthetically fairly displeasing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nereidalbel View Post
They can have a hydrophobic pocket. That would keep water out just fine.
Skin is already hydrophobic, but something like gecko skin could work in theory. I don't think any of the species that went into making the Feuyaner had such an adaptation, however, and seeing as we're only just now figuring out the bit about geckos I doubt a Feuyaner is going to puzzle out how to make such a thing on its own. Something to consider, at least.
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Old 09-08-2017, 10:03 AM   #9
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Skin is already hydrophobic, but something like gecko skin could work in theory. I don't think any of the species that went into making the Feuyaner had such an adaptation, however, and seeing as we're only just now figuring out the bit about geckos I doubt a Feuyaner is going to puzzle out how to make such a thing on its own. Something to consider, at least.
Anybody doing enough research to create a new species would have probably noticed the oil ducks rub on their own feathers. Magically grafting that into a race with flesh pockets really isn't much of a stretch at this point.
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Old 09-08-2017, 11:28 AM   #10
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Default Re: Flesh Pocket (UT211) Hygiene

Copper alloys are antibacterial - brass is I understand a better choice than bronze (I don't know if zinc is also a good metal, or it just interferes less). It's traditionally used in door handles and some door knockers, and it turns out this is a good idea.

The Greeks and Romans understood copper, bronze, and brass to be "blessed" choices for surgical instruments, ie patients who had surgery done with these instruments fared better than others. It's certainly within the ability of a TL 3-ish society to notice this sort of thing.

Its protective properties are limited to the proportion of copper in the alloy, as well as the cleanliness of the object. As the object oxidizes (builds up a patina) the surface will be less reactive and thus less protective. It will also leave gross greenish stains which IIRC are irritating to skin.

Keeping e.g. a copper rod in the flesh sheath along with the blade would help, but I have no idea if the copper itself (or the copper oxide forming on the rod) would damage it (or accelerate it rusting). I know just enough to know that two dissimilar metals can have bad reactions, but not enough to know which ones are bad combos.

Silver suffers a patina on the surface as well, and can blacken the skin if not kept clean. It would need regular polishing just like a copper/brass item.

While it's certainly likely that people think keeping a copper or silver object in the pockets is good luck or even specifically wards off sickness, keep in mind that they will also think random other things are lucky as well.

Don't forget herbs - putting fresh herbs in containers to keep them smelling sweet is an ancient practice, and some have anti-microbial or anti-parasitic properties as well (if fresh and changed regularly). Cedar fronds are a good choice, but you will find recommendations for anything fragrant - lots of people still think covering up foul smells to be just as good as cleaning off whatever is causing the smell.
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