9780452284012

The Darwin Awards II Unnatural Selection

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780452284012

  • ISBN10:

    0452284015

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 3/25/2003
  • Publisher: PENGUIN

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Summary

The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection brings together a fresh collection of the hapless, the heedless, and the just plain foolhardy among us. Salute the owner of an equipment training school who demonstrates the dangers of driving a forklift by failing to survive the filming of his own safety video. Gawk at the couple who go to sleep on a sloping roof. Witness the shepherd who leaves his rifle unsecuredonly to be accidentally shot by one of his own flock. With over one hundred Darwin Award Winners, Honorable Mentions, and debunked Urban Legends, plus science and safety tips for avoiding the scythe of natural selection, The Darwin Awards II proves once again how uncommon common sense can be.

Author Biography

A graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in molecular biology, Wendy Northcutt began collecting the stories that make up the Darwin Awards in 1993. Her award-winning Web site www.DarwinAwards.com is one of the most popular humor pages on the Web. The Darwin Awards have been profiled in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. Wendy is the author of the international bestsellers The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action, The Darwin Awards 2: Unnatural Selection, and The Darwin Awards 3: Survival of the Fittest.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Are They? 1(2)
What Are They?
2(1)
Rules and Eligibility
3(3)
Darwin's Theory of Evolution
6(2)
Surviving Stupidity
8(1)
Where Do Darwins Come From?
9(2)
Penance: Seven Deadly Sins
11(14)
Discussion: Kismet, Karma, Destiny
12(2)
Darwin Award: Vanity: Liposuction Tragedy
14(1)
Darwin Award: Vanity: Perilous Pose
15(1)
Darwin Award: Wrath: Throwing Stones
16(1)
Darwin Award: Greed: Crystal Daze
17(1)
Darwin Award: Sloth: Sleepfalling
18(1)
Darwin Award: Envy: Flames of Passion
19(1)
Darwin Award: Envy: Moscow Marauder
20(1)
Darwin Award: Gluttony: Ethanol Schmethanol
21(1)
Honorable Mention: Gluttony: Men Eating Chili
22(1)
Personal Account: Lust: Emergency Room Excitement
23(2)
Women: Femme Fatalities
25(18)
Discussion: Civilization Memes
26(3)
Darwin Award: Fast Food Fatality
29(1)
Darwin Award: Enraged Elephant
30(1)
Darwin Award: Rubbish!
31(1)
Darwin Award: Christmas Tree
32(1)
Darwin Award: Testing Faith
33(1)
Darwin Award: That Sinking Feeling
34(1)
Honorable Mention: Aircraft Airhead
35(1)
Darwin Award: Fatal Footwear Fashion
36(1)
Honorable Mention: Explosive Mix of Girls
37(1)
Honorable Mention: Snow Bunnies
38(1)
Honorable Mention: Dumb Drunk
39(1)
Personal Account: Eat the Young
40(1)
Personal Account: Brush with Stupidity
41(2)
Water: All Washed Up
43(14)
Discussion: Weed Seeds and Biodiversity
44(2)
Darwin Award: Fishing with No Compass
46(1)
Darwin Award: Duct Tape
47(1)
Darwin Award: Dodging Drink Dues
48(1)
Darwin Award: Walking on Water
49(1)
Darwin Award: Dive to Death
50(1)
Darwin Award: Passionate Plunge
51(1)
Darwin Award: Show-Off
52(1)
Honorable Mention: All Aboard
53(1)
Honorable Mention: Sewer Shower
54(1)
Urban Legend: Brewery Mishap
55(2)
Technology: Engines of Destruction
57(26)
Discussion: Car Safety
58(3)
Darwin Award: Do It Yourself, Do Yourself In
61(2)
Darwin Award: Two Avalanche Alaskan
63(2)
Darwin Award: Forklift Safety Video
65(1)
Darwin Award: Electrifying Stunt
66(1)
Darwin Award: Intersecting Darwins
67(1)
Darwin Award: Power Punch Proves Fatal
68(1)
Darwin Award: Scooter Snuff
69(1)
Darwin Award: Circular Reasoning
70(1)
Darwin Award: Sweet Release
71(2)
Darwin Award: Snowball's Chance in Hell
73(1)
Darwin Award: Sand Surfing
74(1)
Honorable Mention: House Hunting Gone Awry
75(1)
Honorable Mention: Coors Light and the UltraLight
76(1)
Urban Legend: Mad Trombonist
77(2)
Personal Account: Robot Reaper
79(1)
Personal Account: Prop Arc Safety
80(1)
Personal Account: Miracle Mile
81(2)
Men: Male-functions
83(26)
Discussion: Online Safety
84(3)
Darwin Award: Rappin' on Heaven's Door
87(1)
Darwin Award: Fantastic Plastic Lover
88(1)
Darwin Award: Bulletproof?
89(1)
Darwin Award: New Dating Technique
90(1)
Darwin Award: God Saves?
91(1)
Darwin Award: Settle the Score
92(1)
Darwin Award: Hardheads
93(1)
Darwin Award: Ur-inate-iot
94(1)
Darwin Award: A Fell Death
95(1)
Honorable Mention: Cheez Whiz
96(2)
Honorable Mention: Trash Compactor
98(1)
Honorable Mention: Archery Practice
99(1)
Honorable Mention: Tied to His Work
100(1)
Honorable Mention: Chicken with a Train
101(1)
Honorable Mention: Toilet Trap
102(1)
Urban Legend: The Bricklayer
103(2)
Personal Account: Tourist Trap
105(2)
Personal Account: Tube Snake
107(2)
Animals: Pall of the Wild
109(16)
Discussion: Dogs and Darwinism
110(4)
Darwin Award: Hornet Challenge
114(1)
Darwin Award: Fish Gag
115(1)
Darwin Award: Sheep Sleep
116(1)
Honorable Mention: Doggone Foot
117(1)
Urban Legend: Cactus Tales
118(3)
Personal Account: Polar Bear Lesson
121(1)
Personal Account: Feeding the Dolphins
122(1)
Personal Account: Horsing Around
123(1)
Urban Legend: Lobster Vasectomy
124(1)
Explosions: Out with a Bang!
125(24)
Discussion: Intelligent Design Theory
126(3)
Darwin Award: Out with a Bang!
129(2)
Darwin Award: Grenade Juggler
131(1)
Darwin Award: Fireworks Fiasco
132(1)
Darwin Award: Shell Shot
133(1)
Darwin Award: Guitars `n' Guns
134(1)
Honorable Mention: Kaboom!
135(1)
Honorable Mention: Plane Stupid
136(1)
Urban Legend: Fifteen Minutes of Flame
137(2)
Personal Account: A Medieval Tale
139(2)
Personal Account: Workin' on the Railroad
141(1)
Personal Account: Man and Cactus
142(1)
Personal Account: Man with Gas Can
143(2)
Personal Account: Instant Sunrise
145(4)
Outlaws: Crime and Punishment
149(24)
Discussion: City Living
150(2)
Darwin Award: Human Popsicle
152(2)
Darwin Award: Ski Theft Backfires
154(1)
Darwin Award: Escaping Conviction
155(1)
Darwin Award: Killing Time
156(2)
Darwin Award: Just Say No!
158(1)
Darwin Award: Stab in the Dark
159(1)
Darwin Award: You Said a Mouthful
160(1)
Honorable Mention: The Sting
161(1)
Honorable Mention: Ferguson 2, Thieves 0
162(1)
Honorable Mention: Morsel of Evidence
163(1)
Honorable Mention: Call Girl
164(1)
Honorable Mention: Bodacious Bud
165(1)
Honorable Mention: Siphon!
166(1)
Honorable Mention: Planning Ahead
167(1)
Honorable Mention: Sobriety Test
168(1)
Personal Account: Medical Misadventures
169(4)
Disqualified: Losing Is Its Own Reward
173(16)
Not a Darwin: Do Bikes Float?
174(1)
Not a Darwin: Underwire Bras Deadly
175(1)
Not a Darwin: Texas A&M Bonfire
176(2)
Not a Darwin: Body Canyoning
178(2)
Not a Darwin: Our Brightest Cheerleaders
180(1)
Not a Darwin: Fatal Case of Hiccups
181(1)
Not a Darwin: Ice Floe Frolic
182(2)
Not a Darwin: Shotgun Pepsi
184(2)
Not a Darwin: Mania Strikes Back
186(3)
Classic Dozen: Better Read than Dead
189(24)
Discussion: Speciation
190(3)
Darwin Award: JATO
193(2)
Darwin Award: Junk Food Junkie
195(1)
Darwin Award: Midnight Special
196(1)
Darwin Award: Wrong Time, Wrong Place
197(1)
Darwin Award: Count Your Chickens
198(1)
Darwin Award: The Last Supper
199(1)
Honorable Mention: Lawnchair Larry
200(3)
Honorable Mention: Revenge of the Gopher
203(1)
Urban Legend: Frog Giggin' Accident
204(1)
Urban Legend: Metallica Concert Misadventure
205(3)
Urban Legend: Scuba Divers and Forest Fires
208(2)
Urban Legend: Dog and Jeep
210(3)
Appendices
213(9)
1. Website Biography
213(2)
2. Author Biography
215(1)
3. Forum Decorum
216(5)
4. Godwin's Law
221(1)
Story Index 222

Excerpts

Chapter One


Penance:
Seven Deadly Sins


The tree of life is self-pruning.


Religions have long waged war against the seven deadly sins. Here's proof that evolution is fighting the same battle. Lust, vanity, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, and wrath: all are fatal when carried to excess. From sensual skunk play to the vanity of amateur liposuction, indulgence in the deadly vices leads to trouble.


Discussion: Kismet, Karma, Destiny


Are you superstitious?

    We enjoy believing in abstract balancing principles. There ought to be a force that gives each what he's earned, call it kismet, karma, or destiny. And yet we also believe in the opposite—lucky slot machines and winning streaks. Don't you sometimes walk around a ladder, or kiss your exam paper for good luck? Superstitious beliefs are imbedded in our personalities.

    The Darwin Awards celebrate another sort of religion—that of final justice according to the divine laws of nature. Darwin winners suffer a practical form of karma. They prove our theory that if you don't use your head to enhance your survival, you'll be fingered by the impartial hand of fate.

    There is a solid basis for the "religion" of the Darwin Awards: Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. In a single lifetime one finds ample proof that natural selection leads to evolution. We've seen evolution happen before our very eyes. Broccoli, dog breeds, nectarines, and modern corn all resulted from random mutations combined with natural (or artificial) selection.

    Weeds provide an example of evolution happening in your own front lawn.

    Dandelions are ubiquitous and very difficult to eliminate.

    A handful of wild dandelion seeds will grow into adults of assorted heights, which scatter their seeds far and wide to begin the process again. But weekly lawn mowing schedules are a new selective pressure! We created a new environmental hazard for dandelions. And they rose, or rather shrunk, to meet the challenge.

    Regular cutting of lawns selects for very short dandelions, ones that hug the ground too closely to be slashed by mower blades, and send up flowers that seed within days to avoid the reaper's scythe. A new short dandelion variant is branching off the general dandelion population. Over time the lawn dandelions may well diverge from the wild dandelions, increasingly specialized for the modern lawn environment, and a new species—the lawnlion?—will dawn.

    Because examples of natural selection are easy to come by, the "religion" of the Darwin Awards stands on firm scientific footing. The interesting and powerful mechanism of natural selection is a blindly omniscient tool to increase the long-term survival of the human race—and provide a measure of immortality to comfort our transient personal existence.

    The stories that follow show the Darwinian repercussions to those who ignore religious strictures, and indulge in the seven deadly sins.


Darwin Award: Vanity
Liposuction Tragedy

Unconfirmed by DarwinSeptember 1999, New York


David, a forty-four-year-old Mineola man, was more desperate to be rid of his flab than most. Why not save money and allow his friend to perform amateur liposuction on him in his garage? As you might guess, using a vacuum for liposuction is not the safest of weight loss programs. David died in the makeshift medical clinic, the victim of a lidocaine overdose. Anyone foolish enough to lie back and take the medical ministrations of a unlicensed liposuctionist in his garage workshop deserves to win a Darwin for heedless vanity.

    The fake physician apologized to the man's family.

Reference: Associated Press
* More vacuum peril: Fantastic Plastic Lover, page 88


"I don't think, therefore I am not."


Darwin Award: Vanity
Perilous Pose

Unconfirmed by DarwinSeptember 2000, Germany


The picturesque medieval city of Rothenburg was recently the scene of a dramatic artistic effort. A fifty-three-year-old man from Baden-Würtemberg was posing nude in front of his camera, balanced atop a stone wall, when he lost his balance and fell sixteen feet to the ground below. Unlike its erstwhile owner, the camera remained safely settled on the tripod on the wall, and police plan to develop the film for clues to the man's death. Darwin anticipates that this story will stand as a testament to the self-pruning nature of the tree of life.

Reference: Ananova.com
* Another poorly framed photograph: Enraged Elephant, page 30


Darwin Award: Wrath
Throwing Stones

Confirmed by Darwin11 October 2000, Samaria


The violent unrest in the Middle East has created a new Darwin Award winner. Three friends went to the Eli junction to enjoy a favorite activity: throwing stones at passing cars. They scored on a truck, then one walked into the street, stones in hand, to attack a passing car. The driver tried to swerve away from the man, lost control of his vehicle, and overturned, killing the stone thrower and severely injuring himself. Judea and Samaria district police jointly determined that the accidental crash was caused by the stone-throwing young men.

   Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Reference: Ha'aretz,Itim
* Throwing snowballs: Snowball's Chance in Hell, page 73


Darwin Award: Greed
Crystal Daze

2000, MexicoConfirmed by Darwin


Chihuahua, Mexico, is home to two hot caverns containing the largest natural crystals known to man. "Walking into either of these caves is like stepping into a sweltering, gigantic geode," described one awed observer. Some of the clear crystals of selenite are over twenty feet long.

    The newly discovered caverns buried twelve hundred feet below the surface of the earth carry a curse for those who seek to plunder their riches. A man recently tried to steal one of the magnificent crystals from the roof, and might have succeeded if he hadn't stood directly beneath it while chopping it free. He was crushed by the sparkling stalactite as it heeded the call of gravity.

Reference: Discovery Channel News
* Another thief thwarted by a natural force:
Ferguson 2, Thieves 0, page 162


"To be or not to be ..."


Darwin Award: Sloth
Sleepfalling

Confirmed by Darwin19 June 1999, Amsterdam


On a warm summer night in the Netherlands, an Italian resident who had picked up the habit of sleeping in the open air during sweltering Mediterranean summer nights decided to bed down on the roof. He climbed to the top of his apartment and arranged a comfortable bed, but paid little heed to the slope of the roof. Perhaps the night would have ended more happily if he had tucked himself in securely. Instead he fell asleep on top of his blanket, rolled down the incline, and plunged to his death.

Reference:Mobile Alabama Press Register
* Another fateful snooze: Sheep Sleep, page 116


A high IQ doesn't make up for
a lack of common sense.


Darwin Award: Envy
Flames of Passion

Confirmed by Darwin17 November 1999, Germany


Germany's image as a peaceful utopia has been tarnished by an acrimonious divorce. After bitter legal proceedings, Uwe of Brandenburg found that he had lost everything but his lederhosen knickerbockers. Among other possessions, the settlement demanded that Uwe turn over ownership of his house to his newly estranged wife.

    Enraged by his wife's unmitigated legal victory, the forty-year-old man decided to follow the sage advice of an obscure German proverb: "If life gives you lemons, burn them."

    Descending into the basement with his trusty drill, Uwe proceeded to bore several holes into a rather large oil tank. He then set fire to the fuel as it poured in erratic streams onto the floor. To his delight, the entire basement was engulfed in flames within seconds.

    His joy turned to ashes, however, when he realized that he was now in the middle of a Hindenburg-sized house fire. Despite a valiant effort to save himself, Uwe died in the flames of his own vengeance. His wife got the last laugh.

Reference:Düsseldorf Express
* More revenge gone wrong: Aircraft Airhead, page 35


Darwin Award: Envy
Moscow Marauder

Confirmed by Darwin8 September 2000, Russia


A man who threatened to "deal with" his wife and her lover, instead dealt with himself in a revenge attempt gone wrong. He blew himself up with a homemade bomb in the far eastern Russian city of Khabarovsk. The device exploded when the man tried to attach it to the door of the lovers' not-so-secret apartment boudoir.

Reference: Reuters, Tass
* More men playing with bombs: Shell Shot, page 133


Darwin Award: Gluttony
Ethanol Schmethanol

Unconfirmed by DarwinMay 2001, EnglandWe'll soon find out if I'm a scientist or not!
I'll drop a pellet of the compound I created
into this test tube ...

— Stan Lee's Spiderman, November 1963


With those murmured words, a Russian professor quaffed an aliquot of clear fluid from a beaker ... and slowly succumbed to alcohol poisoning. The Oxford University professor had been in the habit of drinking laboratory ethanol, until he unwittingly poured his last drink from a bottle of methanol.

    According to Usenet scientists, methanol is a common lab solvent that looks and smells like ethanol but is "five times as toxic and five times less intoxicating." Those who drink it invariably drink too much.

    The forty-four-year-old professor of ecology was said to have had poor vision, and probably misread the label.


Reference: solstice.crest.org,London Telegraph
* A gopher's experience with mind-altering substances:
Revenge of the Gopher, page 203


The line between genius and stupidity is very fine.


Honorable Mention: Gluttony
Men Eating Chili

Unconfirmed by DarwinMay 1999, Philippines


Three men attempting to land in theGuinness Book of World Recordswere hospitalized in Legaspi after eating excessive amounts of chili peppers. They were treated for acute gastritis and high blood pressure, and released with a warning to moderate their intake.

Reference: UPI,The Star
* Another try for the Guinness Book of World Records: Rubbish, page 31
* Another serious case of indigestion: The Last Supper, page 199

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