Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Things They Should Teach In College, aka, What I Really Do With My Life, aka, Things I'm Terrified Of

It's not uncommon for me to glance up at the clock while on my computer "doing work" or "studying" and find that it's three hours later than the last time I've looked, and I've gotten no papers written, and no reading done.

In fact, it just happened now.

So, I figured, if I'm going to spend all my time looking up these things that I have no real reason to presently know, I might as well be useful and blog about it. I can't help it--it's the student in me. But here's the thing. I don't spend all my procrastination time on the fbook, or on celebrity gossip sites, or online shopping. I read about a lot of things that interest me and some of which are actually academic...now if only they could offer classes about these things:

(Note: I'm morbid and terrified of everything, so a lot of them reflect that. This post could also probably be titled "Things Michelle Is Scared of Dying From.)

1. Supervolcanoes

Supervolcanoes don't get any credit. Sure, the chance of them happening is only really once every million years, and Yellowstone last erupted 640,000 years ago. There's no way to predict a pattern and therefore when the next eruption will be (the last ones before that were 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago), but that ALSO means that, really, it could happen any time! Hello! That's terrifying! Okay...well...it's not like it would happen overnight. There'd be warning signs, like earthquakes, minor eruptions, earth bulges, etc. But there are a lot of supervolcanoes around the world, and the results of their eruptions, while doing enormous damage to the immediate surrounding areas, could affect global climate. AKA it snows a lot and then my brothers in California won't be able to say "Hey, it's 70 degrees and sunny AGAIN here today, wouldn'tcha know?" And then I'd mock them...and then we'd all die.

2. Asteroids on a Collision Course With Earth

So I guess I wasn't as obsessed with all things that may-or-may-not be out to kill me in 2004, or maybe in my high-school prime I wasn't watching the news as often, but I didn't hear about Apophis when it was discovered in 2004. Good thing, because I probably would have had anxiety attacks for years to come. (Even though I guess I'm in the same place now I would have ended up?) Anyways, Apophis is a nasty little chunk of rock that initially was predicted to have a 1 in 37 chance of hitting the earth in 2029. 1 in 37. To put that in perspective, your lifetime, averaged odds (so not counting how often you engage in a particular activity, where you live, or any other outside variables) of dying from other things are:

1 in 38 from hospital infections
1 in 63 from the flu
1 in 197 from resistant bacteria infection
1 in 5,051 from a plane crash
1 in 60,453 from a shark attack

So, for a short time in 2004 a giant asteroid hitting the Earth and killing millions of people, possibly changing our global climate and plunging the earth into an impact winter had a greater chance of occurring than, well, anything else. I don't see how it's possible that this didn't cause mass hysteria/a panic attack for me. But shortly thereafter the collision odds were reduced to 1 in 45,000 and then afterward to 4 in 1 million. The threat of a collision in 2029 has been ruled out but a possible collision in 2036 still exists, depending on the way the path of the asteroid is changed when it enters into the Earth's gravitational pull in 2029. SCARY SHIT.

3. If a Zombie Apocalypse is Actually Scientifically Possible

Okay, let's get real here. Obviously the most extreme, Hollywood-zombies...the ones that come back from the dead...are (probably) not possible. But this obsession with the idea of zombie-types created by some sort of medical malfunction began to take root in my phobia-prone mind sometime after I read The Hot Zone, a fact-based account of the Ebola virus and how it almost killed everyone in the world (I hope you've noticed my penchant for hyperbole by now), which actually resembles zombies in a way, and the movie I Am Legend. Anyone who knows me just a little, and knows my tendency to become obsessed and terrified of pretty much anything remotely scary, and my complete inability to watch scary movies without having to revert to 5-year-old behavior for weeks afterward, knows that I should not have been allowed to watch this movie. But I was told it "wasn't scary" (wtf? Was The Descent (my #1 pick for scariest movie of all time) not scary? Was It not scary? What IS scary, if I Am Legend isn't?!) and so fell victim to obsessing about zombies for weeks afterward.

Cracked.com says that there's five scientifically-based ways zombie outbreaks could occur:

(1) Brain parasites
(2) Neurotoxins
(3) The Real Rage Virus
(4) Neurogenesis
(5) Nanobots

You can read the article for yourself (and you should, if you're not prone to bouts of anxiety and unjustified paranoia like I am), but it's not completely ridiculous.

4. Stockholm Syndrome

Being obsessed with Stockholm Syndrome is probably more morbid than being obsessed with death, but there's something about it that's just so unbelievably chilling to me. For those who don't know, it's the phenomenon by which a victim pledges loyalty to, refuses to see the bad in, or sometimes even falls in love with their captor. It isn't common, and 73% of victims never display any signs of it. But the idea that there are people who not only don't take the opportunity to run away from their kidnappers when afforded it, but actually choose or at least attempt to remain with them in the face of rescue or even reuniting with their parents or family is simultaneously horrifying to me, yet I'm not judgmental about it at all because clearly it's a really, really messed up psychological disorder.

So, there we go. I've gotten absolutely no work done, but still feel productive, since I've managed to share with all of you the crazy things I spend my time reading about when I'm supposed to be studying. It's much more gratifying than simply wasting time with nothing to show for it. Maybe I'll make this a new feature...

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