The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection

The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection

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by Wendy Northcutt
     
 

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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

Overview

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 unsecured—only 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Delightfully funny, The Darwin Awards, taken together, constitute a delicious sermon in support of common sense." —The Baltimore Sun

"The Darwin Awards is a riot to read.  Deeply entertaining." —San Francisco Weekly

bn.com
This hilarious book is packed with more than 100 new stories of foolhardy fatalities, plus a few honorable mentions to pay tribute those who didn't quite make it to the afterlife. The Darwin Awards, honoring those who have managed to die as a result of their lack of common sense, have become a major phenomenon, both on the hugely popular web site and now in a bestselling series of books. Unnatural Selection is morbidly entertaining, and definitely educational -- for those who weren't aware that juggling live grenades might kill you, that is.
Library Journal
Darwin humor? It seemed to work in the first volume, which spent five months on the New York Times best sellers list. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452284012
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/25/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
360,755
Product dimensions:
5.29(w) x 7.22(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

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 Darwin

September 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 Darwin

September 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 Darwin

11 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, Mexico Confirmed 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 Darwin

19 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 Darwin

17 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 Darwin

8 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 Darwin

May 2001, England

We'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 Darwin

May 1999, Philippines

Three men attempting to land in the Guinness Book of World Records were 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

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Delightfully funny, The Darwin Awards, taken together, constitute a delicious sermon in support of common sense." —The Baltimore Sun

"The Darwin Awards is a riot to read.  Deeply entertaining." —San Francisco Weekly

Meet the Author

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.

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Darwin Awards II - Unnatural Selection 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The Darwin Awards is a creative concept, but I'm not sure this book is written all that well or in that funny of a manner. I haven't read the other books in this series, so I can't compare it with them, but I didn't get that many laughs out of this one. And heck, maybe there's something wrong with you if you are getting laughs out of other people dying, whether they're dangling from a hanglider with a chainsaw in hand or what have you. I will say that some of the anecdotes are pretty funny, but the humor seemed a bit hit or miss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is filled with funny,stupid, or just plain ironic stories that are sure to make you laugh! This is a great gift I got it for my birthday and been reading it alot. Very funny and a great gift.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you liked The Darwin Awards, you will find this book to be another winner. Like The Darwin Awards, let me note that if you do not find witless death and mutilation humorous, avoid this book. Three of the mutilation examples have a sexual context and are pretty gross. If you find fatal and grisly mishaps funny, you will enjoy the book greatly. In fact, this has to be the best articulated book ever written about stupid ways to die and lose fertility. Anyone will feel smarter and better about themselves after reading these stories! This book is about people 'removing themselves from the gene pool in sublimely idiotic fashion' in ¿true accidental blunders.¿ The incidents involve ways that people ¿unthinkingly engineer their own downfalls, oblivious to warning signs that the rest of us automatically heed.¿ The book's premise is very well framed to put you in a humorous mood. The idea is that when people do stupid things that get them killed or keep them from having children, they thus perform a service by improving the gene pool for the remaining humans. Ms. Northcutt uses many witty essays and quotes to emphasize this point, and establishes the mood well. She has rules for these awards. To win the Darwin Award, you must (1) die or be unable to procreate after the incident, (2) show ¿an astounding misapplication of common sense,¿ (3) cause your own downfall, (4) have the ability to use sound judgment (are not too young or permanently mentally impaired) and (5) have the incident verified by someone else. If you don't meet all these tests, you can still get an honorable mention, or be described as an urban legend or a personal account. I thought these distinctions made good sense, because the story's focus and credibility weighs heavily on the interest it creates for the reader drawn to this subject. In an improvement over The Darwin Awards, Ms. Northcutt has shared feedback from her readers challenging the veracity of various urban legends, personal accounts, and honorable mentions. As a result, this book is tighter than The Darwin Awards. In another improvement, the stories much more carefully document the victim¿s involvement with illegal drugs and alcohol than in The Darwin Awards. In this way, the cautionary lesson about using these substances is brought home more correctly The stories are grouped around themes: violating the seven deadly sins, women as the genetically removed party, water misadventures, problems with technology, men acting macho, misadventures with animals, explosions, and criminal capers. There is also a chapter on stories that do not qualify, and a dozen of the all-time favorites of on-line readers. Here are a few of my favorite stories: The woman who pretended to have been robbed in her fast food restaurant, and died of hypothermia in the cooler pretending to be immobilized . . . even though she could have walked out at any time before she lost consciousness. The man who jumped off every bridge crossing a river, including a drop of 70 feet into 3 feet of water . . . without checking the depth in advance. The man who wanted to lift off in his lawn chair a few feet into the air with helium-filled weather balloons, and ended up at 16,000 feet along the air lanes into Los Angeles International airport. The heavy man who decided to save money on liposuction by having his neighbor who was not a doctor do the operation in his house. He died of an overdose of lidocaine. The construction workers who cut a hole in heavy concrete 100 feet up around the spot they were standing on. The man who killed himself operating a forklift unsafely while taping a safety video. The woman who drove her car into a canal and called 911 on her cell phone. Told that she should lower the windows or open the door and get out, she refused . . . hoping the water would stay out. She forgot that a back window was open, and drowned. The man who looked down the rocket la