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Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast you’re not too upset about being played loudly beside you. Where you might learn something, but chances are you just laughed.
I’m your host this week, Shea, and with me are…
I’m Steve and helping my wife set up her container garden on the back patio has reminded me that it’s so, so much cheaper to just buy vegetables, not to mention a lot less effort. “Hey dear, I have an idea, let’s spend $120 so we can grow $20 worth of tomatoes that we can’t eat until August.” I guess we make up for it with the time we spend together… or something.
I’m Aaron, and this week I learned that your perception of step mothers is likely to be very skewed depending on your movie habits. For example, if you watch a lot of Disney she’s probably evil, but if you watch a lot of Brazzers she’s probably… not…
I’m Jenn, and this week I learned that the world’s tallest man (8’11 Robert Wadlow) was so tall that he had no feeling in his feet and lower legs. There was too much space for the nerves to travel to his brain’s pain sensors. It’s also why he died at the young age of 22; his specially made leg braces rubbed sores on his legs that became gangrenous, unbeknownst to him until too late.
This week the True Crew tests to see who knows the most about obscure inventions that killed their inventors.
We had a great inventor recently succumb to his crazy contraption, you will probably back in February, Mike Hughes, or Mad Mike to most, attempted to prove the Earth was flat in a homemade steam powered rocket. Obviously because I’m talking about him, he died in a horrible crash when his chute opened during launch rather than at the end of the flight. Following Hughes’ death, Darren Shuster, his public relations representative, stated:
“We used flat Earth as a PR stunt… Flat Earth allowed us to get so much publicity that we kept going! I know he didn’t believe in flat Earth and it was a schtick.”
I’m, however, a bit sceptical.
I have a few deadly inventions to test your dearth of knowledge on. Wrong answers will lose you points but correct answers will get you lots of them, bonus points awarded at my discretion because this game doesn’t really matter and no one wins anything but our fans undying love and affection.
A tailor by profession, this French inventor, Franz Reichelt, used to devote all his free time in designing and developing his invention, inspired by the idea of airplanes as they were just emerging on the horizon. After the considerable amount of successful tests with various mannequins, he was emboldened to try it himself. By seeking permission from French authorities, this Flying tailor jumped off the Eiffel Tower wearing his invention. As you would assume with this quiz, he quickly fell 187 feet and was described by police as a shapeless mass. So, squadron, panel is so overrated, what was the Flying Tailor trying to invent?
The Parachute. Newspapers described the suit as “only a little more voluminous than ordinary clothing resembling a sort of cloak fitted with a vast hood of silk.
Thought to be potentially fictional, that’s never stopped me, Wan Hu, a Chinese official who lived around 2000 BC, became the first astronaut after he devised a plan to go to the moon. The plan was simple and after the smoke cleared, neither Wan Hu, or the invention were to be found. As much as I’d like to believe that he reached his destination, I’m guessing he didn’t. This story is so legendary, they even named one of the actual craters on the far side of the moon after him, Wan-hoo crater! So, how did Wan Hu get to the moon? What did his spacecraft look like?
Wan Hu’s pioneering spacecraft was built around a sturdy chair, two kites and forty-seven of the largest gunpowder-filled rockets he could lay his hands on. Come the launch day, Wan Hu, the Chinese astronaut, dressed himself in his imperial finery, strapped himself in the chair and called upon his forty-seven servants, each armed with a flaming torch, to light the forty-seven fuses. Their job done, the servants speedily retreated to a safe distance and waited. What came next, the legend goes, was an enormous bang. When the smoke eventually cleared, Wan Hu, the Chinese astronaut and his chair/IFO (identified flying object) were nowhere to be seen.
Henry Smolinski was a brilliant engineer, with a small inski, I assume, to compensate he wanted to start a company which focused on a unique design melding two popular forms of transportation into one. After much trial and error he created the AVE Mizar in 1971. By 73 his creation was a hit and expected to hit the market soon to an eager and wealthy clientele. Unfortunately while trying to fix a few glaring flaws the inventor struck a tree and died in a fiery explosion. After this ghastly incident, the idea was discarded and today we don’t have an unholy mash up of what two methods of transportation/ Bonus points if you know the models of either.
He took wings of the Cessna 337 aircraft and attached them to a Ford Pinto. During testing it was discovered there was a problem with plane wings. As it was driving down the driveway, the Cessna wings detached from the car. The inventor was in mid-air in his “Pinto Craft” when it struck the top of a tree and crashed into a pickup truck before bursting into flames.
Sylvester Howard Roper was an American inventor and a pioneering builder of early automobiles and motorcycles. Created in 1867, The Roper steam velocipede may have been the first motorcycle. On June 1, 1896, Roper rode one of his later velocipede models to the bicycle track, where he made several laps, pacing bicyclists there, and generally showing off at his 73 years of age. Roper was clocked at 40 mph when he was seen to be unstable and then fall on the track, suffering a head wound, and was found dead.What was Roper’s cause of death?
After autopsy, the cause of death was found to be heart failure, although it is unknown if the crash was the cause of the stress on his heart, or if his heart failed prior to the crash.
Near and dear to us, this death comes to us from Denver Co. just a few hours south. Luis Jiménez was an American sculptor best known for his large-scale, brightly colored sculptures steeped in the Mexican-American culture. Unfortunately at age of 65 he was killed when a large section of a 32 foot sculpture pinned him against a steel support. The sculpture was based on the eight-foot-high sculpture Mesteño on display at the University of Oklahoma. The “Cursed” statue is currently on display in Denver and admired daily by many Flugreisender. At what major Denver location can you see this sculpture?
Blue Mustang, or as many call him Blucifer, lives at the entrance to DIA (Denver International Airport). Some conspiracy theorists believe Ol Blue represents one of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse though the airport assures us he just represents the spirit of the west.
We have Alexander Bogdanov to thank for blood transfusions, at least to a degree because I’m sure his methods were less than desirable in the 1920’s when he founded the Institute for Haematology and Blood Transfusions. Later transfusion cost him his life, when he took the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis, thus infecting himself and later succumbing to the disease. Also accredited as a Soviet physician, philosopher, science fiction writer, and revolutionary. Why was Alexander so interested in studying the transfer of blood?
He was hoping to achieve eternal youth. Lenin’s sister Maria was among many who volunteered to take part in Bogdanov’s experiments. After undergoing 11 blood transfusions, he remarked with satisfaction the improvement of his eyesight, suspension of balding, and other positive symptoms. His fellow revolutionary Leonid Krasin wrote to his wife that “Bogdanov seems to have become 7, no, 10 years younger after the operation”.
With innovation comes danger and idiocy and that is really obvious when you strap a heavy duty aircraft propeller to a light weight train car. Valerian Abakovsky had a dream, a dream to travel to Moscow as quickly as possible. In the 1920’s he created the Aerowagon for just that purpose, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine. On its way back to Moscow it derailed at high speeds killing 6 including its inventor Valerian. Who can get closest to the train’s top speed?
It produced speeds of up to 85 miles per hour, wow, super fast. The Aerowagon was originally intended to carry Soviet officials, very fast like…
The death of Sabin von Sochocky should have been a big red flag for his invention that went on to kill and maim many woman horologists. What did he invent?
The first luminous paint formula that included radium, Dr. Sochocky is quoted as saying in 1921 that “the time will doubtless come when you will have in your own house a room lighted entirely by radium. The light, thrown off by radium paint on walls and ceiling, would in color and tone be like soft moonlight.” Nothing like a nice glow in a radioactive room. This formula would eventually lead to the Radium Girls, watch face painters that were plagued by radiation poisoning later in life.
Another potentially fictitious inventor from antiquity was Perillos of Athens who thought of an incredibly creative way of executing criminals. After what I’m sure he thinks to be his best idea ever he quickly had his worst idea ever and gave the idea to the tyrant king of Sicily. After being commissioned and building the execution device, Perillos was shoved head first in and was said to have bellowed until he expired from immolation. What was his device called?
The Brazen Bull. The bull was said to be made entirely out of bronze, hollow, with a door in one side. According to legends the brazen bull was designed in the form and size of an actual bull and had a bunch of pipes that converted screams into the sound of a bull. The prisoners were locked inside the device, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside was roasted to death. Yummy!
Jim Fixx may have created the worst and most deplorable thing on this list… The American fitness revolution. In 1977 Jim wrote a best-selling book that discusses the physical and psychological benefits of exercise as well: increasing self-esteem, acquiring a “high”, and being able to cope better with pressure and tension. Less than a decade later Jim was enjoying his daily exercise routine when he caught a heart attack and died. To be safe what specific exercise should we refrain from doing?
Jogging, Jim Fixx is well known for his book “The Complete Book of Running”
Enter anything unique to this week’s show here.
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I think we can all agree that the problem with the inventions Shea introduced us to was marketing.
I thought the 3-step murder bot process was well known: 1. Rebrand your busted invention a “terminator”, 2. …, 3. Profit!
Such was the plan for Lithuanian artist and at-the-time PhD candidate Julijonas Ubronas. Pretty sure he’s got the fud now, but since he hasn’t done anything wiki-worthy since, who cares.
Juli, as I’ll call him going forward—because let’s face it, me continuing to try to say his name is only going to get sadder but more insulting—heard the call from John Allen, president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, who described the “ultimate” roller coaster. And what would the prez of one of the world’s oldest roller coaster companies call “ultimate”? A coaster that, quote, “sends out 24 people and they all come back dead”. So consider that the next time you hop onto a roller coaster in Pennsylvania I guess.
Fun fact about Toboggans from Phili, like the sandwich, they’re mostly ill-considered, disappointing, and often indistinguishable from a landfill. Seriously, of 127 coasters built by PTC, only 25 remain in operation, and of those, only 6 were built in my lifetime… so there’s to hoping they have a hell of a maintenance plan.
The resulting 2010 marriage of design, engineering, and murdery-desires produced one hell of a roller coaster all right. Called the Euthanasia Coaster, the coaster itself is pretty no-frill.
The single-seat car rides the launch track a semi-impressive 510m or about 1670 feet to the peak of the Lift Hill, a slow 2 minute journey. Just before you crest the hill is your last chance to hop off the coaster and live to tell the tale because as soon as you get to the other side, gravity takes over. The plunge is a nearly 500m vertical drop. In roller coaster parlance, it’s what’s known as a scary-damn-drop. (ok, I don’t know if that term is accurate, but it’s definitely true)
Juli describes the drop as
“You relax and press the FALL button. Whirrr… swish – the ultimate surrender to gravity! No, you realize, in fact it is even greater than just giving up, as in the blink of an eye you enter the heart-line, the whirling element of the coaster track, where your heart stays roughly in line with the centre of the fall trajectory. In other words, your body spins around the heart while you fall. Gravitational choreography! The scooting gust of wind, goose bumps, suspension of breath, and vertigo — a set of experiences comprising a sort of fairground anaesthesia — prepare you for the fatal part of the ride.”
Once on the downward slope, or launch track, the coaster quickly accelerates to an impressive 220mph. The speed is obviously a bit much for a coaster, until you remember the goal is not at all to live through the experience.
For those doing the math, yeah, 220mph is pretty close to terminal velocity for this application. In context, the average speed of a belly-to-earth skydiver—when they spread their arms and legs out like in the movies—is about 120mph. When diving—like you see in action movies—one can easily obtain 200mph, or roughly the speed of a peregrine falcon.
For those doing the trivia, the current record holder among speed-skydivers, which is apparently a thing, is held by Felix Baumgartner who in 2012 jumped from a height of nearly 130k feet. Thanks to his streamlined pose, equipment, and the thin atmosphere, during his 4+ minute drop achieved a velocity of 840mph, which yes, is 52mph over mach 1 making him the first Terran to break the sound barrier with his face, but more impressively, without a vehicle… or dying of it.
Anyway, back to dying of it.
The speedy drop will quickly move into a series of seven loops. Each loop is a bit smaller than the one before it. The goal being to maintain the g-force on the rider, whereas normal coasters would have a loop or two but the car would either slow down in them or implement another design feature to give people a moment to let the blood leave their brains.
But again, different goals. The Euthanasia coaster is specifically designed to reach 10Gs, then stay there, inducing G-LOC or G-force induced Loss of Consciousness. If that sounds familiar it’s because you’ve probably heard of it before, at least in movies, when the fighter pilot hero has to pull those wicked G’s to save the day and in doing so nearly passes out. Real fighter pilots and astronauts train rigorously to avoid losing consciousness when experiencing extreme Gs. They also have special constriction wear designed to compress the bits of the body where blood might be poor.
None of that for coaster-goes though. The goal here is G-force induced cerebral hypoxia, of lack of oxygenated blood in the brain. The seven loops in total will inflict 10Gs for a full minute. Well past the time it takes you die of it all.
That said, as far as deaths go, one could do a lot worse. Typically the effects of g-force induced hypoxia are blurred vision, loss of coloured vision (grey out), tunnel vision, black out, and then death. Fortunately, mixed into all of that is an asphyxiation-style euphoria and, I assume, adrenaline boner that can only be described as the envy of all autoerotic asphyxiation officiandoes.
Or, in Juli’s words “a humane, elegant, and euphoric solution for those who have chosen to end their lives.”
Designs for the coaster can be seen on Juli’s website, linked in the show notes, but honestly he put way more effort into murder than site design—I had to customize the font on the site just to read it, I think he went with comic-coaster-sans. A far better place to see the designs, and a scale model, is MoMa.
Once the ride, and rider, are done the cart slowly makes it way back to the station where the bodies can be disembarked and new riders can be … ticketed… I guess?
So there ya go. If you find yourself on the side of death-with-dignity, I submit to you that dignity isn’t enough. Dignity yes, but also raging adrenaline boner!
Thanks for listening this week, join us next week for more things you didn’t know you wanted to know. So take this new knowledge and impress your coworkers on your next zoom calls, or finally have something new to tell your significant other.
I’m Shea, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and, of course, the True Crew.
Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.
Before we go I’ll leave you with a new lesson I learned this week: You can feed a lot more squirrels than you would expect into the pneumatic tubes at the bank before the teller can find the off switch.
The opinions, views and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms. All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.