Weird Universe Blog — January 8, 2021

Longest fall without a parachute

On January 26, 1972, stewardess Vesna Vulovic was working on a Yugoslav Airlines flight when a bomb blew up the plane. She fell 31,000 feet and miraculously survived. No one else on the flight did. She eventually made a near-full recovery and went back to work at the airline, though not as a stewardess. She died in 2016. To this day, she maintains the world record for having made the longest fall without a parachute.

Pittsburgh Press - Jan 29, 1972

Vesna Vulovic. Source: wikipedia

Vulovic is part of a small group of human marvels who have survived very long falls. Another member of this group is English tail gunner Nicholas Alkemade who, in 1944, survived a fall of 18,000 feet out of a Lancaster bomber.

The question of how people are able to survive very-high falls has attracted some scientific interest. The most famous study on this topic, that I'm aware of, was published by Hugh De Haven in 1942: "Mechanical analysis of survival in falls from heights of fifty to one hundred and fifty feet". I've pasted a summary of his study below, taken from Newsweek (Aug 24, 1942). But basically his conclusion was that, if you're falling a long distance, hope that something breaks and cushions your fall.

A woman jumps out of a sixth-story window and walks away uninjured. Another slips on a banana peel and is killed. Why? That was the question Hugh De Haven asked himself...

Obviously, De Haven couldn't subject human guinea pigs to experimental accidents in a laboratory. Instead, he analyzed the records of some remarkably lucky and well-documented falls—cases where men and women dropped from as high as 320 feet (the equivalent of 28 stories) and survived. A few of them:

--A 42-year-old woman jumped from a sixth floor. Hurtling 55 feet, she landed at 37 miles an hour on her left side and back in a well-packed plot of garden soil. She arose with the remark: "Six stories and not even hurt." Her body had made a 4-inch hollow in the earth.

--A 27-year-old girl dropped from a seventh story window and landed head first on a wooden roof. She crashed through, breaking three 6- by 2-inch beams, and dropped lightly to the ceiling below. None of her neighbors knew about the fall until she herself appeared at the attic door and asked assistance. And although one of her vertebrae was fractured, the girl was able to sit up in bed the same day.

--Another woman fell 74 feet, landing flat and face down on an iron bar, metal screens, a skylight, and a metal-lath ceiling. The impact made a 13-inch bend in the 1.5-inch bar, but she suffered only some cuts on her forehead and soreness about the ribs. She sat up and climbed through a nearby window.

--After a 72-foot drop, a 32-year-old woman landed in jackknife position on a fence of wire and wood. She picked herself up and marched to a first-aid station but was unhurt.

--A 27-year-old man fell 146 feet onto the rear deck of a coupe. Some of his bones were broken, but he remained conscious and was back at work within two months.

--A man dropped from a 320-foot cliff to the beach below, bouncing from a sloping ledge halfway down. Although his skull was fractured, he fully recovered. DeHaven noted that the man wore a large coat, which may have slowed his fall by a slight parachute action.

--A woman fell seventeen floors onto a metal ventilator box, landing in sitting position and crushing the metal downward 18 inches. Though both arms and one leg were broken, she sat up and demanded to be taken back to her room.

In this evidence, De Haven observed that (1) in each instance the blow was distributed over a large area of the body, and (2) the fall was not halted abruptly—in the ventilator case, for example, it was slowed through a distance of 18 inches and the impact was thus decreased. Even so, she had survived a force of more than 200 times gravity. By contrast, a person slipping on a sidewalk might crack his skull because hitting the unyielding concrete pavement generated a force of more than 300 times gravity.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 08, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Human Marvels | World Records | 1970s

Mystery Gadget 91

What's going on here?

The answer is at the source.

Or after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jan 08, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Technology | 1920s

January 7, 2021

Donald Campbell, the man who couldn’t stop talking

In 1933, Donald Campbell, a truck driver, fell from his truck and hit his head. A year later he developed a bizarre condition. He started talking incessantly, non-stop. His talking was so compulsive that he couldn't even sleep. His talking was perfectly rational. He answered questions clearly. But he couldn't stop.

Doctors attributed his condition to encephalitis, or brain swelling. After about a month his non-stop talking subsided, and doctors thought he had recovered. But within four months he was dead. Strangely, the cause of his death was cancer and seemed to be unrelated to his non-stop talking.

Pottsville Evening Herald - Aug 17, 1934

Pittsburgh Press - Sep 5, 1934

Cincinnati Enquirer - Jan 6, 1935

Update — A newspaper recorded an example of some of Campbell's rambling monologue:

Cigarets should never be taxed in Ohio. When I was a boy, Joe and I used to go swimming in Willow Creek together. Now he thinks cigarets should be taxed. Sometimes I believe that Joe doesn't realize how hard it is to be a truck driver in Columbus. But I am not getting any better. The radio seemed nice last night although truck driving wasn't mentioned. We will take the whole thing up when we get home, but I'm not getting any better, do you think?

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jan 07, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Health | Mental Health and Insanity | 1930s

January 6, 2021

Samsara Perfume

Samsara the perfume was created by Jean Paul Guerlain in 1989, and it's still for sale. Here's Guerlain's publicity blurb about the perfume:

In Sanskrit, Samsara means the eternal cycle of life. It is an imaginary place, sacred and mysterious, where Orient and Occident meet. Samsara is the symbol of harmony, of absolute osmosis between a woman and her perfume. It is a spiritual voyage leading to serenity and inner contemplation. The bottle, in the sacred red of the Orient, echoes the figure of a Khmer dancer in the Musée Guimet in Paris, her hands folded in a gesture of offering, expressing plenitude and femininity. The stopper evokes the eye of Buddha. A tantalizing floral-oriental perfume, Samsara is a harmonious blend of all-natural essences, including jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood and tonka bean.

I'm no expert on Hindu-Buddhist religion, but I'm pretty sure that Samsara isn't supposed to be a good thing. My understanding is that it's the endless, repeating cycle of birth and death from which we're supposed to hope to awake. Kind of like the endless cycle that Bill Murray's character, in the movie Groundhog Day, finds himself trapped in. Which makes it odd to name a perfume after this.

Of course, I'm over-analyzing this. Guerlain probably a) didn't understand the concept, and b) wouldn't have cared anyway because he just figured the name sounded exotic.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 06, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Religion | Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents

January 5, 2021

Anti-Suicide Nasal Spray

Back in 2012, the Army awarded a grant to Dr. Michael Kubek of the Indiana University School of Medicine to develop an "anti-suicide nasal spray". gives some details:

the spray would deliver an extra dose of thyrotropin-releasing hormone, (TRH for short) which causes a “euphoric, calming, antidepressant effect.” TRH has been used in the past to treat severe depression and bi-polar disorders. Between the quick-acting effect of the chemical and fairly direct delivery system, the drug might be able to literally stop people from killing themselves on the spot.

The Military Suicide Research Consortium offers some more info, similarly emphasizing that a primary benefit of the nasal spray was that it would be quick-acting. So I'm assuming the idea was that if someone was thinking about suicide, they could squirt the spray up their nose and the thoughts would go away. Although this suggests a problem. If someone was serious about suicide, wouldn't they purposefully not use the nasal spray?

The Army grant was for three years. But I can't find any follow-up indicating whether the spray was successfully developed. Although I did find that Dr. Kubek died in 2019.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jan 05, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Medicine | Suicide

January 4, 2021

Animal psychic clears dog of eating owner

After Dean Goodman crashed his car into a canyon in early 1978, something ate his body. His mother assumed it was his German shepherd, Prince, who had survived the crash and remained at the scene for three weeks until Goodman's body was found. She wanted the dog put down.

More details from Skeptical Inquirer magazine (Winter 1978):

this gross injustice was narrowly averted when North Hollywood psychic Beatrice Lydecker interviewed the dog and found that Prince had in fact been wrongfully accused. "I have this ESP with animals," Mrs. Lydecker explained. "Prince had been traumatized by the accident. All Prince could talk about was his dead master."

Coyotes and wild dogs, the German shepherd said, had eaten the body, despite Prince's valiant efforts to drive them off. The canine hero's life was spared, owing to this timely information. A local police sergeant observed, "She says she got the information from the dog—and I've no evidence to dispute that."

Santa Rosa Press Democrat - Feb 28, 1978

As far as I can tell, Beatrice Lydecker is still active, and still talking with animals. She's got a website where she sells various "natural products," as well as her book: You Too Can Talk With the Animals.

Beatrice Lydecker - 1988 press photo

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 04, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Paranormal | Dogs | 1970s

Artwork Khrushchev Probably Would Not Have Liked 31

Love Jan Zrzavý's look!

His Wikipedia page.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 04, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Art | Avant Garde | Europe | Russia | Twentieth Century

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