Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Holy Shit, Corrupted Blood!

There's this game you may have heard of called World of Warcraft. You know, the most successful Massively Multiplayer game of all time? The one with over 10 million active players at its peak?
Yeah, that's the one.

About a year after it was launched, developer Blizzard Entertainment added a new dungeon raid to the game. The boss of this dungeon used a debuff power called "Corrupted Blood," which dealt significant damage over a short amount of time and could pass from player to player. For high-level players in the dungeon it was a mere annoyance, but if it were to hit a low-level player, they would almost certainly die. That shouldn't have been a problem, as the dungeon was intended for high-level players.

However, Blizzard failed to account for teleportation. It only took one or two players teleporting out of the dungeon for the debuff to spread like a disease. Someone ended up in Ironforge, a major city, while they were affected. From there, all hell broke loose. Corrupted Blood infected the entire city before long, and anyone leaving in a hurry simply brought it with them. Within days, the entire server was brought to its knees. Ironforge was almost literally paved with the bones of fallen players.
Paris Catacombs
Games are fun!

It was an all-out plague. Some players volunteered to help direct traffic away from hot zones. Some were more hands-on: healers offering their abilities to the stricken. Some treated the whole thing like what it technically was: a game. They intentionally contracted the disease and then charged headlong into healthy clusters of people. Word got out to the real world, and the behavior of players in the game piqued the interests of epidemiologists and, since the more cavalier players were treating the disease like a biological weapon, counter-terrorism experts.
Blizzard dropped the ball when they failed to implement this armor

After quarantines, public bulletins, and tightened security failed to stem the tide of the Corrupted Blood Plague, Blizzard decided that it was time for a hard reboot. They were unwilling to risk losing subscription revenue over what was, in hindsight, a pretty bitching role-playing opportunity, so they shut down the server and removed the debuff.
The time-honored Etch A Sketch Solution

There have been a few similar incidents since then. Some were intentional, some were similarly caused by glitches and exploits. None of them were on quite the same scale. Today, prominent minds in the field of epidemic research believe that something similar to the Corrupted Blood incident could solve the major problems of their study models.

That's right. A video game, and a notorious one to boot, could be partially responsible for saving the world from a plague one day.

Holy shit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Holy Shit, Juliane Koepcke!

Juliane Koepcke in Wings of Hope

On Christmas Eve in 1971, LANSA Flight 508 was flying 10,000 feet over the Peruvian jungle when it suddenly took an unexpected detour in several different directions. The plane was struck by lightning, and it broke into pieces. In the aviation industry, they like to call this situation "really, really shitty."
Lockheed L-188A Electra
Like this, but completely disintegrated

Juliane Koepcke was a seventeen-year-old student and a passenger on that ill-fated flight. When the plane disintegrated, her seat detached from the cabin and fell (ten thousand goddamn feet, mind you) to the ground. When she hit the ground, she broke her collarbone, got a gash on her arm, and found her eye swollen shut...and that's it.
Empire State Building
After she fell roughly seven of these

10,000 feet is almost two miles. That's the kind of falling height where you'd have around one full minute of time to consider what's happening to you before you hit the ground. All she had going for her was the thin cushioning of her chair, and if you've flown in a small aircraft before you know that those aren't exactly known for their softness.
Airline seat
Though I hear they float

Combined with the jungle canopy, it was enough. She survived the fall and started wandering the aforementioned Peruvian jungle. After surviving for 10 days on some candy she found, she eventually made her way to a stream that led her to a boat, where she waited for several hours. The owners, a group of lumberjacks, came back from their work and presumably flipped a shit at seeing a random injured teenager sitting in their boat in the middle of the goddamn rainforest. They took her back to their camp and got in touch with a pilot, who airlifted her to the nearest hospital.

Juliane Koepcke was the only survivor of LANSA Flight 508. She fell almost two miles out of the sky through a dense jungle canopy and survived. Then she went ten days without any food but candy, constantly plagued by insects and parasites, and survived. Finally, she escaped back to civilization, where she eventually became (and still is) the librarian for the Bavarian State Zoological Collection in Munich.

So I guess the moral of this story is that librarians are badasses.
The Librarian
I could have told you that.

Holy shit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Holy Shit, Lupercalia!

This time of year always calls to mind certain old traditions that surround the concepts of gender interaction and fertility. I speak, of course, of Lupercalia.
Wolf Head
Season's Greetings!

Lupercalia was a Roman holiday celebrated on February 13th-15th back in the day. By "celebrated," I mean, "Men got bare-ass naked and ran through the streets whipping people." No really. That's how it was done. Roman holidays were hardcore.
It's just how they rolled.

The naked men dancing through the streets may have donned wolf skins (though not enough to cover any important bits of their physique), and they whipped anyone they encountered, especially women. Women ran away in terror at the horrifying display. Just kidding, they scrambled to be among the lucky ones to receive the lashings.

You see, the point of this orgiastic parade, and the point of most pagan holidays, centered around a very crucial concept:
This guy.
Babies. Specifically, the creation and delivery of babies. Pregnant women who were whipped by naked men during the incomprehensible sausage-y festival of Lupercalia believed their pseudo-violent encounter would bless them with a safe and peaceful labor. Non-pregnant women believed, and let me lay out these details carefully lest we forget, that a naked man smacking them with a whip would magically grant them a superbly fertile womb.
Bull whip
Ancient fertility drug?

Like most awesomely bizarre pagan festivals, Lupercalia was doomed by the rise of Catholicism. Some say (without any tangible evidence other than the convenient date know...fertility...) that Valentine's Day was meant to replace it. More likely is that the convenient date was just a coincidence, since Valentine's Day had nothing to do with romance or fertility until about a thousand years after Lupercalia was abolished.

The point, though, is that Romans were weird. Don't think modern society is going to get off easily. We have weird enough festivals that we'll get into later.

But running through the streets in the buff, merrily whipping willing young women?

Holy shit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Holy Shit, The Most Astounding Fact!

I'm just going to let Neil deGrasse Tyson take this one, because I'm lazy and he puts it more eloquently than I could ever hope to.

Holy shit.