#2. Los Angeles Saves a Reservoir With Millions of Plastic Balls
The Ivanhoe Reservoir in Los Angeles provides drinking water for over 600,000 people who would much rather be purchasing it in recycled bottles decorated with self-congratulatory jargon. The nearly 60 million gallons of water is treated with chlorine to keep it clean of any bacteria. Unfortunately, ground water also contains a chemical called bromide, and while the two are essentially harmless on their own, chlorine and bromide mixtures will react with sunlight to produce a boiling cauldron of cancer. This is a problem during the blazing summer months in California.
Chlorine, bromide, and smiling beams of sunshine collide to form bromate, which sounds like something a douchebag nicknames the person he splits rent with, but is actually a dangerous carcinogen that becomes gradually more harmful after prolonged exposure, a condition we assume extends to drinking it. Since the chlorine is vital to keep the reservoir clean and the bromide is naturally occurring, the only option available to keep Ivanhoe from slowly poisoning a sizable chunk of Los Angeles would be to somehow block out the sun during the summer months.
After all the entries in this article, we have no right to call this idea stupid.
Following brainstorming sessions that must have sounded like pitch meetings at the Hall of Doom, officials came up with two solutions -- build either a giant tarp or a huge retractable dome. Either undertaking would be obscenely expensive and take too long to implement (with the additional roadblock of being totally insane), so there seemed to be nothing they could do to prevent the reservoir's impending toxicity until somebody suggested, "What if we just dumped, like, millions of shiny floating balls into the water? That would keep the sun out, right?"
The Absurd Solution:
So, the city of Los Angeles poured millions of jet-black plastic balls into the Ivanhoe Reservoir, covering the entire surface with an inky floating shield.
"Wait, no, those are bags of spiders!"
The balls are coated in carbon, cost about 40 cents apiece, and perfectly block the sun's rays from reacting with the chemicals in the water. The cost-effective solution was actually co-opted from a technique airports use to keep birds from settling in lakes and ponds alongside runways and then flying into the paths of airplanes, a salient danger brought to light by the historical drama Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Hundreds of thousands of the balls were dumped in at a time to completely coat the reservoir, making the whole waterway look like an evil cranberry farm, while the city builds a more permanent shield over the next few years.
Via Gerd Ludwig, National Geographic
"OH MY GOD CAN WE JUMP IN JUST ONCE?"
#1. People Keep Tigers from Sneaking Up on Them by Wearing Backward Masks
For years, the people of the Ganges Delta in India have been trying to coexist with the Bengal tigers that live near the area. This is not an easy task when you're living next door to the largest population of wild tigers in the world, who over the years have come to discover that human beings are ludicrously easy to kill and eat.
People routinely enter the Tiger Zone to fish, gather food, and collect wood. The tigers then ambush the almighty bejeebus out of them, even going so far as to swim out into the water to surprise fishermen on their freaking boats, a tactic typically reserved for sharks, alligators, and sea monsters.
"Just stay still, Patrick. They'll think you're a log."
At one point in the mid-1980s, about 60 villagers in the Ganges were being killed by tigers every year. It was becoming far too dangerous to head into the jungle, but the people had no choice -- if they didn't, their livelihood would dry up. So what could they do?
Realistically, carrying weapons wouldn't help much, because 9 times out of 10 the tiger is going to burst out of a thicket or come blazing out of a treetop like a murderous hailstorm, giving you about half a second to fire a gun before it eats your head. Many of the victims had knives or woodcutting axes already, and those didn't do them any good. So the people tried making human dummies laced with live electrical wires to goad the tigers into attacking, the idea being that the electric shock would train the animals to leave people alone. That seemed to work somewhat, but wasn't making an appreciable dent in tiger-related fatalities.
"Are we being mocked? Because I feel like we're being mocked."
Then, a student at the Science Club of Calcutta pointed out, "Hey, did anyone else notice that tigers only attack when they think you aren't looking? What if we painted eyes on the backs of our heads, has anybody tried that yet?"
No, nobody had.
The Absurd Solution:
People venturing into the jungle began wearing masks on the backs of their heads to trick the tigers, and the effect was pretty incredible -- nobody wearing a mask was attacked by a tiger for the next three years. In fact, the only people killed by tigers in that time period were those who either flat-out refused to wear a mask or had taken their masks off while still in Tigeropolis. It is unclear whether the tigers were more confused by the seemingly two-faced Bengali people or the sudden appearance of Caucasian elf princes in their homeland.
AP via Thestar.com
Or possibly both.
Tigers are pretty sharp, however, and as the years have passed the effectiveness of the masks has dropped a bit below 100 percent. Still, it is rare that anyone ventures into the jungle without one, because as the saying goes, "'Tis better to be safe than pinned beneath the crushing jaws of a howling slaybeast."
"Man, these dudes never turn around. And they all look the same. That's too creepy for me, I'm going back to eating fish."