A while ago I got this in the mail...
>> "Darwin Award" Nominee: You all know about the Darwin Awards -- it's an
>> annual honor given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest
>> service by killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way.
>> Last year's winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke (tm) machine,
>> which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda
>> out of it.
>> And now there are warnings on Coke machines; you've seen 'em?
>> This year's award winner:
>>       The Arizona (U.S.) Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smoldering
>>       metal imbedded into the side of a cliff rising above the road,
>>       at the apex of a curve.
>>       The wreckage resembled the site of an airplane crash, but it was a
>>       car.  The type of car was unidentifiable at the scene.
>>       The boys in the lab finally figured out what it was, and what had
>>       happened.
>>       It seems that a guy had somehow got hold of a JATO unit, (Jet
>>       Assisted Take Off, actually a solid-fuel rocket) that is used to give
>>       heavy military transport planes an extra 'push' for taking off from
>>       short airfields.  He had driven his Chevy Impala out into the desert,
>>       and found a long, straight stretch of road.  Then he attached the JATO
>>       unit to his car, jumped in, got up some speed, and fired off the
>>       JATO!!
>>       Best as they could determine, he was doing somewhere between 250 and
>>       300 mph (350-420kph) when he came to that curve....
>>       The brakes were completely burned away, apparently from trying to
>>       slow the car.
>>       NOTE:
>>       Solid-fuel rockets don't have an 'off'... once started, they burn at
>>       full thrust 'till the fuel is all gone.

Someone made this story up; its an urban legend.

But the story reminded me of a particular Road Runner cartoon. In this episode, Wile E. Coyote's plan is to ride an Acme® Little Giant rocket, droping an Acme® 50-pound anvil on Road Runner. As an added measure, Wile E. has attached several sticks of dynamite to the anvil with a length of stout rope.

I'm sure you remember what happens: in mid-flight the rocket sputters and comes to a halt. It slowly totters forward, pointing nose-down just at the moment the engine suddenly catches again. Rocket and Wile E. zoom down, down, down and punch a coyote-shped hole in the desert floor. The anvil (remember the anvil?) falls impossibly far and crashes squarely in the hole. Lucky for Wile E., the T.N.T. only lands next to the hole. Unfortunately, Wile E. accidently tugs on the rope while trying to climb out of the hole, pulling the sticks of dynamite in. BLAM!

How many of you remember this particular episode?

No you don't; I made that one up.

I also made up the following


Tune: "Wernher von Braun" (c) 1965, 1966 Tom Lehrer

Gather 'round while I tell you the tale of a clown:
An avid devotee of Wile E. Coyote.
Though it's only in death he has gained his renown,
His story shall live - 'till I'm run out of town.

Guess he wanted to become a hero,
But his IQ was too close to zero.
And now, it turns out, he has no laural crown,
Instead he's got wings, a gold harp and a gown.

He was much too pleased as he drove out of town.
Had a JATO from Acme
® - alas and alack he
ignored the stern warning from Wernher von Braun:
"Vonce this rocket iss lit, there's no vay to slow down."

Might have lived had that desert been longer.
Used his brakes but the JATO was stronger.
He Impala'd a cliff he could not steer around,
And we all were impressed by the wreckage strewn 'round.

If you think you might fill the shoes of this clown,
And can't wait to handle explosive and anvil,
Take a moment to think if your theories are sound...
or if you'll end up six feet under the ground.

'Cause a JATO has the power in it -
To propel you at five miles a minute.
So never forget as you're destiny bound -
All the songs we will sing - once your body is found.

Lyrics: Copyright 1995, Rich Brown (?subject=re:%20www.FreeMars.org/filk/jato.html">)
(details below)

Update: User Friendly picks up the JATO story.

Mark A. Mandel also writes about the Darwin Awards.

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