- ‘Stephen King meets Stephen Hawking’ in a new book uncovering grisly fates
- 45 short chapters reveal the scientific outcomes of random phenomenons
- Authors say it’s an urban myth that people can die from falling into quick sand
- They also discuss being fired from a cannon and being swallowed by a whale
AND THEN YOU’RE DEAD: A SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION OF THE WORLD’S MOST INTERESTING WAYS TO DIE
by Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty (Allen & Unwin £8.99)
Here’s a tricky question for you: on average, how many people die each year from falling into quicksand? The surprising answer is zero.
In fact, according to And Then You’re Dead, nobody in human history has ever died from falling into quicksand — because once you’re down to your waist, you simply float.
Or how about that other old classic: death by penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building? Again, the result isn’t what you’d expect.
Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty debunk the urban myths associated with some of the most grisly fates possible in their new book
Rather than having a hole drilled through your skull (an urban myth, apparently), you’d simply feel a slight sting.
But these are rare moments of cheer in a book where, everywhere else, any good news has to be dug out from an awful lot of bad.
It turns out, for example, that if you happened to be under a mile-wide meteorite when it hit the Earth, the impact wouldn’t kill you.
Unfortunately, though, that’s because you would be dead already. As it hurtled downwards, the meteorite would compress the air beneath, heating it to around 1,800c and melting you into a lump of coal.
The book consists of 45 short chapters that all have titles beginning with the words: ‘What Would Happen If . . .’ followed by a particularly grisly fate (the reader is addressed as ‘you’ throughout, for maximum scariness).
According to Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty it has never been documented that anyone has died from quicksand (file image)
Some of the fates, however unlikely, are ones you may have wondered about — though they duly prove to be even worse in reality.
If you were swallowed by a whale, your chances of a Jonah-like reappearance would be non-existent. Instead, you’d be pulverised to mash by the stomach walls, before being fried in acid.
If you were fired from a real cannon — as opposed to the circus kind — the acceleration from 0 to 3,800 mph in 1/100th of second would reduce you to ‘a small cylinder of reddish water with a thin scum of crushed bone and flesh’. And that’s before you leave the barrel.
AND THEN YOU’RE DEAD: A SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION OF THE WORLD’S MOST INTERESTING WAYS TO DIE by Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty (Allen & Unwin £8.99)
While the authors clearly enjoy chilling our blood, they’re careful to supply the science behind the various ways in which we’d be boiled, asphyxiated or crushed to a pulp.
They also show a touching respect for other scientists — such as Michael Smith, who systematically got himself stung by bees on different parts of his body so as to establish where the most painful stings occur.
(The inside of the nose was the worst, closely followed by the upper lip and genitals.) It’s somehow good to know, too, that ‘rigorous scientific study has confirmed’ banana as the slipperiest of all the fruit peels.
In the introduction to this hugely entertaining read, the authors hope that by combining ‘science and gruesome detail’, they’ll bring us a book where ‘Stephen King meets Stephen Hawking’. By the end, this mission has been triumphantly accomplished.