Darwin Awards contender? Almost

Darwin Awards contender? Almost
Date:7 June 2009 Author: Alan Duggan Tags:, ,

I suppose just about everyone has heard of the Darwin Awards, which salute the improvement of the human genome by honouring those who accidentally remove themselves from it. In order to qualify for a Darwin Award, we’re told, a person must extract himself from the gene pool via “an astounding misapplication of judgment”.

If you saw the video posted on PM’s site last week, you might have been inclined to nominate me as a worthy recipient of this honour (which is generally awarded posthumously). It shows me taking Yamaha’s breathtakingly quick R1 superbike for a ride while filming the action with a handheld video camera – then apparently losing it in spectacular fashion. Hence the Darwin Awards.

In fact, the “crash” was not quite what it seemed. Although I was indeed holding the camera in my left hand, I did not drop the bike, a fact that should make the Yamaha people very happy (not to mention our accounts department). The dramatic end to the video was occasioned by my realisation that a stop street was approaching rapidly, and unless I hit the brakes (and clutch) quite soon, I risked becoming an interesting statistic. The ensuing visual and sound effects made it appear that something had gone seriously awry.

Was this the act of an intelligent person? Did it occur to me that riding a 290 km/h machine in an urban area with one hand might be dangerous? Is this leading anywhere, or is this blog essentially an orgy of rhetoric and cathartic confession?

Actually, it’s mostly about the nifty ATC-2K Action Cam that we acquired a while back from Oregon Scientific (since superseded by the ATC-3K). This compact instrument can be strapped, taped, clipped or otherwise attached to virtually anything – bike handlebars, surfboard, crash helmet – to record the minutiae of your leisure activities. It’s even water-resistant, which means it can be used to capture that amazing ride through the tube at Kommetjie.

The camera comes with a pathetically small (32 MB) built-in memory that provides just enough time to announce your name before shutting off. We installed a 2 GB SD memory card, bought from a local camera shop for a couple of hundred bucks, and were much happier. Basic specs: Focus from 1,5 m to infinity; LCD readout for functions; auto shut-off after 10 minutes; 640 by 480 pixels at 30 or 15 frames per second; works off two AA alkaline batteries; dimensions: 40 mm by 110 mm.

Will I use the ATC-2K rather than a hand-held camcorder when I next test a motorcycle? Yes. Does this mean my wife is less likely to roll her eyes? Yes.

* For the uninitiated, the Darwin Awards reflect some amazing feats of human stupidity. Here’s an example extracted from the official Web site: “A 63-year-old man’s extraordinary effort to eradicate moles from his Baltic Sea property resulted in a victory for the moles. The man pounded several metal rods into the ground and connected them – not to household current, which would have been bad enough – but to a high-voltage power line, intending to render their subterranean realm uninhabitable. As it turned out, his manoeuvre electrified the very ground on which he stood, and he was found dead some time later. Police had to trip the main circuit breaker before venturing on to the property.”

South Africa also features in the line-up, by the way. In October last year, according to , Johannesburg office workers watched over a period of several days as a demolition worker slowly chipped away at a pillar supporting the concrete slab above him. One observer said: “I wondered how they would drop that section.” The walls were gone, and only the supporting pillars remained.

I quote from the report: “Dozens of observers watched the slow and senseless demolition proceed. Finally, the only possible outcome concluded this epic battle. The besieged support collapsed, crushing man and machine beneath a pile of rubble.”

Related material:
* To watch the video of PM’s editor “testing Yamaha to destruction”, click here
* For more information about Yamaha’s YZF-R1, click here
* Relive the action: Oregon Scientific’s AT18 Action Cam

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