Scrubbing the Gene Pool

Have you ever heard of the Darwin Awards?  As the website explains:

The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of
the human genome by honoring those who
accidentally remove themselves from it…

For example, one of the 2014 awards was a double for two men who tried to take a selfie with a wild elephant in Kenya.  “The two men were actually touching the elephant’s face while taking the photos.”  Not surprisingly, they were trampled to death.

Almost 400 “citations” are available for reading on the website.  Ironically, the first award I’d heard about has been proven untrue and is officially an urban legend. It’s the story of a former Air Force sergeant who supposedly hooked a JATO bottle to his car. JATO stands for Jet-Assisted Take Off and is basically a solid-fuel rocket attached to heavy cargo planes to help them take off from short runways. (When I was in the Air Force, there was a distinction between JATO and RATO, or Rocket-Assisted Take Off, which seems more accurate in this case, but the distinction has become blurred.)  According to the legend, our enterprising motorist attached the bottle to his 1967 Chevy Impala and (ruining the suspense, sorry), reached a speed of between 250 and 300 miles per hour before slamming into a cliff face at a height of 125 feet.  It’s such a good story that it refuses to die, even though it’s listed as “confirmed bogus” on the website.

What reminded me of all this is a rather depressing note in Science magazine* claiming that 88.7% of the Darwin Awards have been won by men.

So the next time you do something really dumb and need cheering up — especially if you’re a woman — check out the Darwin Awards.


* Science, 19 December 2014,  p 1435




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