#3. A Tourist Lost on Ice Is Saved by a Webcam
St. Peter-Ording is a little town in northern Germany with some apparently beautiful coastlines, so much so that they've set up a live webcam feed for anyone in the world who wants to see for themselves, but not badly enough that they're willing to get out of their chair to do it. Of course, northern Germany in the winter is a blasted arctic wasteland, so viewers at this time of year aren't treated to the most impressive spectacle.
Yet, for whatever reason, somebody on the opposite end of the country happened to be watching the live feed one winter evening, because when you get bored enough on the Internet you'll watch anything. The unnamed woman, who we're assuming had another browser window open to, we don't know, play Bejeweled or something, somehow noticed an odd flashing light in the webcam feed. And somehow, she figured out that it was a goddamn person trapped on the fucking ice.
"If you can see this please send help ... preferably Batman."
A tourist in St. Peter-Ording had decided to wander outside to take some photographs of the sunset. Being that the North Sea was entirely frozen at the time, the photographer just kept walking until he realized he was standing on the ocean and couldn't figure out which direction land was. With the sun going down, any attempt to start walking was destined to end in him falling through the ice or freezing to death, or some combination of the two.
So, he did the only thing he could think to do under the circumstances, which was to use the flash on his camera in the hope that someone would see it up on the shore. But no one was there to see it. His only audience were faceless Internet viewers who under normal circumstances would worry only about how to turn his frozen corpse into a humorous image macro.
Instead, this anonymous watcher hundreds of miles away called the police and somehow was able to explain why these weird flashes she saw on a webcam feed justified a rescue effort in the area. The police headed out and realized that this was not some arcane 4chan prank, but an actual stranded hiker out on the ice. They were able to lure him back on shore by flashing their own lights at him to show the way. Then he probably went home and made a rage comic about it.
#2. Crowdsourcers Improve Cancer Treatment
For all our modern 21st century medical accomplishments, cancer still pretty much has us beat. The treatments involve a whole menagerie of chemicals that may or may not be effective depending on what kind of cancer a patient has. These millions of variables are what have kept an effective "cure" for cancer so elusive. Puzzling through it is the kind of task that would require a whole bank of supercomputers ... or simply harnessing the power of the Internet's boredom.
"Throw in some cat pics and I'm in."
Cancer Research UK created an online interactive database called Click to Cure that invites Internet users to aid in the fight against cancer, as long as they're willing to do a boring, repetitive task for free. Well, shit, that's what we were doing anyway!
The idea came from projects developed by astronomers to use crowdsourcing to document millions of galaxies. And even though slides of human tissue are, as a whole, a lot less enthralling to look at than the eternal mysteries of the deep cosmos, people seem to be taking up the cause. When users log in to Click to Cure, they are met with a quick tutorial that demonstrates how to racially profile the cancer cells by identifying their irregular shape and yellow color. After this, they're shown a series of slides and asked to identify what they see in each and note the proportion of irregular cells that exist. This information gives crucial insight to researchers in determining which treatments are effective for each different type of cancer cell.
"We were going to add a comment section, but figured it'd just be filled with bitching about it being a slideshow."
Remember, this is time that people could spend looking at free porn and YouTube videos of animals doing amusing things that they have instead been dedicating to trawling through boring images of cells and rating their yellowness. Hey, it's still better than working.
At the time this article went to print, the combined force of cancer hatred on the Internet has analyzed over 700,000 of these cancerous images, and Cancer Research UK is convinced that a major cancer breakthrough is buried somewhere within their data. They estimate that they can condense research that normally would have taken years into only a few months. Hell, if they could have found a way for us to masturbate while doing this, cancer would have been cured already.
#1. A Website Buys a Dream Home for a Wounded Soldier
On May 31, 2012, John Resig, co-owner of photo entertainment website TheCHIVE.com, took a break from posting his usual content of attractive women in skimpy bikinis to post the story of Taylor Morris. Morris had been in the U.S. Navy's Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit, the team that disarms al-Qaida's improvised explosive devices so that the military don't get themselves blown up -- precisely the job that was popularized in The Hurt Locker.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"I was really into Minesweeper as a kid."
In early 2012, near Kandahar, Afghanistan, Morris was leading a team of Army Special Forces when he stepped on a bomb and was put in the very unenviable position of having to watch all of his limbs fly off. After returning to the hospital to recover, Morris would have to adjust to living the remainder of his life a quadruple amputee, which is basically getting a full house in a game of Sucks To Be You Poker.
Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images / Photos.com
Morris' expenses were fully covered by the Navy, but in a conversation with Resig, he mentioned that it had always been a dream for him and his girlfriend to own a log cabin in the woods on a lake. Resig could have nodded and replied that he'd like to own a houseboat made of cocaine, but instead he went to the CHIVE to describe his friend's plight.
The goal was to raise $30,000 for a down payment on Morris' dream home. The actual raised amount 12 hours after the Chivers started donating was $250,000, which was more than enough for Taylor to build his dream home, as well as meet the president and be fitted with prosthetic limbs. This Internet thing might work out after all.
For more reasons the Internet isn't all that bad, check out 13 Awesome Photos That Will Make You Happy to Be Alive and The 12 Most Strangely Satisfying Videos on the Internet.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 6 Things We Already Know About the Next Iron Man Movie.