Heads up: You're going to die! I mean, we're all going to die someday. What I'm saying is that there's a good chance you're going to die in the immediate future, if not right now. Again, that could still mean all of us, but wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of advance warning, so that maybe you could Final Destination your way out of death and carry on to see another shitty sequel? Good news! Those warning signs exist all around us -- you just have to know what to look for. We talk about some of the lesser-known signs of impending doom on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by Cracked editor Alex Schmidt and musician Danger Van Gorder. I'm also talking about them in this column. Who would've seen that coming?
5The Animals In Your Neighborhood Go Missing
Are all the good puppies and kitties in your neighborhood disappearing? Right off the bat, it's probably aliens, in which case you're just going to have to ride it out until they have their way with your community. If you're able to rule out extraterrestrial explanations, though, don't discount that you might be getting ready to die in a natural disaster of some sort.
Sure, the evidence that dogs and cats can sense impending earthquake danger days or weeks in advance and plan their mass exodus accordingly is anecdotal at best. But even websites that end in ".gov" agree that pets with keener senses can pick up a particular earthquake wave that humans can't, and that it arrives seconds before the earthquake we actually feel starts. That's the most likely explanation for this famous video ...
... in which a verrrrry good girl named Sophie can be seen sniffing the floor ...
... and then taking off at full speed to look for her owner ...
... seconds before a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit Eureka, California in 2014.
So your pet at least has that going for them in the event of an earthquake, although that three-second jump on things probably isn't going to help you too much, seeing as how the average dog will react the exact same way to seeing a squirrel in the front yard. Still, dogs and cats aren't the only animals, and earthquakes aren't the only natural disasters.
Science has discovered at least one animal that's capable of predicting when the weather is about to turn deadly. A postdoctoral researcher named Henry Streby was conducting what I imagine was the cutest study of all time to determine if a bird called the golden-winged warbler was capable of wearing a tiny backpack transmitter.
They sure are!
In combing through data from the birds he'd tracked, he noticed something strange. Days before a massive supercell storm devastated the Great Plains region of the United States, all of the golden-winged warblers packed up their shit and moved to Florida. All of them, as a team, some of them wearing darling little backpacks. I can't stress that last part enough.
The theory is that they were picking up something called "infrasound" -- a low-frequency noise produced by the storms that humans aren't capable of hearing. In this case, the sound was such that it compelled them to flee the area. This was a capability never before seen in birds up to that point, and it only happened when we were hit with a storm the likes of which we hadn't seen in decades, if not centuries. So it might not be that animals can't predict when a natural disaster is about to happen; maybe we just don't realize they can yet.
Oh, and since we're on the subject of your only friends in life ...
4The Dog Is Sniffing You More Than Usual
You know what dogs are able to smell better than humans? Just about everything. Sense of smell has been dogs' go-to super power for a long time now. They use their highly-tuned honkers to sniff out everything from bombs to cocaine. Now, they're expanding their reach beyond the War on Terror and the War on Drugs to fight another seemingly unwinnable battle: the War on Cancer.
As it turns out, there are chemicals in cancerous cells that some dogs are able to detect through smell, and doctors at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia are working to harness that power. Their ultimate goal is to produce nanotech sensors that can detect even the tiniest bits of cancerous tissue, sometimes as small as 1/100,000th the thickness of a sheet of paper. Or, to put that in layman's terms, we'll all look back someday and rue the moment we decided to create the tiny robots that eventually turned on us and gave us all incurable cancer.
Michael Knight/iStock/Getty Images
Damn you, science!
In one display of this remarkable ability witnessed by a New York Times reporter, a verrrrry good boy named McBaine moved around a large wheel with 12 protruding arms, each grasping a vial of blood plasma, one of them laced with a scant amount of cancerous tissue. Amazingly, he was able to detect the cancerous vial, and all he wanted in return was the chance to play with a tennis ball.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
He does it for the love of the game.
The pups are especially proficient at sniffing out ovarian and prostate cancer. So, women: If your dog is spending an inordinate amount of time with its nose nestled in the area of your baby-making machine, get that shit checked.
Men: If your dog is constantly sniffing your ass ... it's probably just being a dog. They do that a lot. Either that or you're on the verge of dying like a tech legend. You might want to have someone look into it. Especially when you consider that in one study, dogs were able to detect prostate cancer just by sniffing urine, with an accuracy rate of 98 percent. That's a better rate of return than we're currently getting from the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test that doctors use now to detect the disease early. Sounds super comforting until you realize that it blows wide open the possibility that your dog will be right and science will conclude otherwise, rendering all of that purposeful ass sniffing useless in the end.