Stories tagged survival


Ice storm Jan 09
Ice storm Jan 09Courtesy flickrized

Nearly 1 million still without power from ice storm

Imagine what you would do if you had no electricity, heat, or water for almost a week. Utility crews are trying to get power back on for nearly a million customers left without electricity by an ice storm that crippled parts of several states.

Lots of emergency aid is needed

American Red Cross said their organization had opened more than 34 shelters for some 2,000 people. One administrator is asking people to pack a suitcase and head south and find a motel because the elementary school cannot hold the 9000 needing shelter.

The storm that began in the Midwest had been blamed or suspected in at least 42 deaths, including 11 in Kentucky, nine in Arkansas, six each in Texas and Missouri, three in Virginia, two each in Oklahoma, Indiana and West Virginia and one in Ohio. Most were blamed on hypothermia, traffic accidents and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Another Katrina for FEMA?

Local officials grew angrier at what they said was a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA has shipped 50 to 100 generators to the state to supply electricity to such facilities as hospitals, nursing homes and water treatment plants. Emergency Management Director Randell Smith said the 25 National Guardsmen who have responded have no chain saws to clear fallen trees.

Learn more about Jan 09 storm

Source article: Yahoo News
Yahoo News has a slide show of more than 150 winter storm '09 photos.

Zombies - not so impossible?: Image courtesy lebovox via Flickr.
Zombies - not so impossible?: Image courtesy lebovox via Flickr.
Okay, I'll grant that the scientific research conducted by Cracked magazine may not be the most top notch stuff, they do have links to some pretty cool articles that have actual science in them in this totally awesome article about how zombies could actually happen. I love zombies and zombie stories. And Halloween. This article is perfect joy for me. Though readers beware, they do use some off color language occasionally.

UPDATE MARCH 2011: Popular Science answers the question: Could Scientists Really Create a Zombie Apocalypse Virus?

Zombie Update
Ahoy, Buzzketeers, ahoy and aloha. JGordon here.

It’s a zombie heavy time of year. We’re well into the season of Halloweeny, zombie-themed events are happening left and right (apparently zombies are also into getting drunk?), and dozens of zombie apocalypse scenarios are shambling through your heads like so many reanimated corpses. And that’s all great, but I’m updating this post to tell you two things. Briefly:

1) You’re wrong. Y’all are dead.
2) This is a science blog, so lets do our best to rein it in a little. In a sciencey way, you know?

Ok, to my first point—come on, folks, really? A gun shop? Go to a gun shop? That’s the plan? Let’s think about this. What’s more dangerous, a staggering, slack-jawed zombie, or a desperate scared person, who will do anything to get/keep a firearm? Probably the crazy person with the gun. Clearly you aren’t the only person to think, “gun store,” so… you want to head to the place where there will be lots of freaked-out people and relatively few guns? Hmm. You’ll have to tell me about it later, because I think I’ll skip that.

Or a zombie-plow? It’s a delightful thought, but, I dunno… I’ve never actually had to drive plow through a crowd of un-feeling undead, but I wonder how long you could go before that plan fell through. Not to get too morbid, but that stuff is going to get stuck under your car, and some point you’re going to have to deal with it. Plows are for snow, not for hundreds of bony, 160-pound zombies.

Let’s separate ourselves from the future lunchmeat by being a little original. Which brings me to my second point: science, dudes, science!

We’re walking on thin ice already, what with this being a science blog, and zombies not being very sciencey. But perhaps we can use critical thought and scientific reasoning to effectively plan for the coming zombie apocalypse. Think outside the box here, because everyone inside the box is going to get eaten. (And I consider guns to be very much inside the box.)

We can still post zombie plans here, but only if they show a little more creativity and careful reasoning. Here are some things to think about:

Are you really going to pull off that headshot when the pressure is on? Have you ever considered how hard it might be to destroy the brain of a zombie with your old Louisville Slugger? Maybe you’re not the fighting type. (I’m not.) Or maybe you can fight zombies until the cows come home, but what about everyone else in your group? So how are you going to keep yourself alive? Invest some thought into zombie evasion. What techniques could you use to avoid inviting the attention of the hungry dead? Might there be a way to avoid their detection all together? Do zombies find you through sight? Or smell? Do they hear you? How would you disguise yourself, and how would you test out your methods without getting eaten?

Unfortunately, humanity doesn’t have a lot of real-world experience with zombie attack. But maybe we could find a useful analogy in nature. How do other organisms cope with the constant threat of being eaten? What survival techniques have kept them alive? How could we mimic them, or adapt them to the zombie threat?

And what about the endgame? Do you simply run from empty gun store to empty gun store until your luck or your food runs out? If you fortify an area, making it zombie proof (and how would you do that, exactly?), what could you do to ensure that you had food, water, and power for years to come? Or do you want to save the world? How are you going to figure out what’s causing the zombie infection? How are you going to cure it? If most of the world is infect… can it be cured? Or must it be quarantined?

There’s a lot of things to consider here, and “my dad has a gun” isn’t one of them.

So, people, lets use our brains before the zombies do. (As it were.) How are science and scientific knowledge going to get you through the zompocalypse?
Only science will save us from the zombie apocalypse! And only science will save your comment from being deleted. Let's see some zombie science!

**Update: Huge new zombie developments! Zombie problem solved forever?! See this comment for references!**


I don't give these out to just anyone: Otzi has one just like it.  (Photo by Sarodeo on
I don't give these out to just anyone: Otzi has one just like it. (Photo by Sarodeo on
Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou, two brothers working in a Chinese coal mine, were trapped underground with no supplies after the mine they were working in collapsed. The mine, located in Beijing’s Fangshan district, was illegal and had no oxygen, ventilation, or emergency exits. Officials called off the rescue effort after only a day, determining that there was no chance that the Meng brothers could have survived, and that further attempts to extract the bodies would only put the rescue workers at risk themselves. Family members placed food offerings at the collapsed entrance to the mine, and burned “ghost money” for the men to use in the afterlife.

Picture everyone’s surprise, then, when the Meng brothers clawed their way out of the mine five days later, weak and dehydrated, but alive. It seems that Xianchen and Xianyou didn’t give up when they heard the rescue workers stop digging, but instead started digging in the direction of the last sound. They had some small light for the first two days, thanks to their cellphones, but when the batteries died they resorted to listening and feeling around with their fingers. To survive, the brothers... (wait for it)... ate coal and drank their own urine! Oh, and they dug through 66 feet of coal and rock with their picks and hands.

With that, Xianchen and Xianyou have officially dug their way on to my very exclusive list of People Way Way Tougher Than Me. The Meng brothers are now in the good company of Otzi the Iceman, The Mad Monk Rasputin, and Jack Palance (which makes them, I suppose, the only living people officially “Way Way Tougher Than Me”).

Let’s examine the achievement:

The dig - As I said, 66 feet of rock and coal, dug at a 75 degree angle (steep). The shaft was so narrow that only one Meng could dig at a time. They averaged about one yard for every six hours of digging, having to constantly shore up the walls and ceiling of their tunnel to prevent debris from sliding back on them.

Survival - The main problem would be the lack of oxygen, especially in an unventilated illegal mine like theirs. The article I read doesn’t say much about this, but it seems that there was either air trapped in the mine already, or sufficient oxygen filtered down from the blocked opening. Either way, it did the trick. The coal that the miners ate would have had no nutritional value, but it probably gave them a “full” feeling. They get points for eating it, though, and bonus points for being quoted as saying “We ate coal and thought it tasted delicious.” The brothers also used two empty water bottles they found in the mine to save their urine. Almost no one likes drinking urine, but the Mengs did it anyway. Urine drinking can keep a person alive for several extra days if no other liquids are available. I had always assumed that the more times one drank their own urine, the worse it would be. It turns out that the opposite is true - the body absorbs a little bit of the toxins from consumed urine, and so the kidneys have a slightly smaller amount of toxins to filter out into the next batch of urine. Therefore, the urine becomes a little more potable and water-like each time it is consumed, but there’s less of it (as the body absorbs some of the water too). So the problem with drinking one’s own urine is that it can’t be done indefinitely, because eventually one will just run out. Also, one’s body is forced to reabsorb all the toxins it had tried to get rid of. Also, there’s the whole drinking pee issue.

Anyway, it all worked out for the Mengs, who have since declared that their 20 year mining careers are now over. Enjoy your place on the wall of fame, guys. We salute you.

I'm recommending this New York Times article about turtles and their amazing abilities to withstand adversity. They can go without food and water for months at a time, their armored bodies can withstand the impact of a stampeding wildebeast, and they're among the longest-living creatures on Earth. And they don't succumb to old age: if they didn't get eaten, smashed by cars, or pick up diseases, they just might live indefinitely. But for all that, at least half of all turtle species are in trouble, and some of them may be extinct within the next decade.