I sincerely hope "Don't fuck with tornadoes" is not new and helpful information to any of you readers. We've all seen Twister, and though we know that they were exaggerating a little bit with the special effects -- whole, intact houses and boats don't really whirl about cartoonishly thousands of feet in the air -- it's still a pretty scary phenomenon. As it turns out, however, Twister was actually a tastefully understated flick. Here's an actual tornado in Dallas, Texas, whipping full-size big rigs thousands of feet in the air like a giant invisible toddler throwing a tantrum.
That just doesn't look real. It looks like a physics glitch in a video game. It's like the cosmos turned on Hacks; like somebody forgot to CGI in Godzilla.
But this is an article about people braving the fury of the natural world -- tiny little Davids spitting in the eye of Mother Nature's Goliath. So where's the human element here? Well, you have to look closely at that video again, at about 1:25, on the lower right:
And you'll see a little white car cruising by -- not even speeding, mind you -- just moseying along Main Street. Now turn your gaze a few inches up and to the left, and observe a goddamn semi hurtling through the air. Sure, there are other cars later in the clip, but they're much farther out and might not be aware that traffic conditions are currently "in the sky." Really look at the angles of that screencap with the white car again; this isn't somebody caught unaware. They can clearly see the 18-wheeler that just took these broken wings and learned to fly again ... and they do not care. They do not give one lonely shit that somebody just up and reversed gravity on them. They're going to goddamn Blockbuster, come hell or high trailer.
Holy shit, did they just ... did they just signal?
For anybody who's ever stopped to really consider it, the mere existence of space -- with its fathomless depths and incomprehensible scale -- is enough to trigger a fire hose of existential fear vomit. I once saw a diagram of the actual distance between Earth and the moon and spent an hour hiding beneath my bed. In contrast, here's Joseph Kittinger, gleefully jumping the bitch:
Kittinger was part of Project Excelsior, an experiment to study extreme high altitude bailouts. The project involved an open gondola suspended by helium balloons that brought Kittinger up over 100,000 (not a typo; one hundred thousand) feet in the air. That's 19 miles, straight up. In a previous, lower altitude jump, his limbs generated G-forces more than 20 times that of Earth's gravity. Once he left the gondola, it took him nearly 15 minutes to hit the ground. He broke the speed of sound ... with his torso. That image of the distant curve of the Earth up there at the start of this entry? That's not taken from the space station. That was Joseph Kittinger's helmet cam.
Source."Haha, I'ma git you, Earth!"
I went skydiving once. They had me crawl out onto the wing of a shaky little prop plane, wind howling and ripping at my clothes, and when I was far enough out, the instructor said: "Now, let go." To which I answered: "Fuck you." Joseph Kittinger went up in a tiny balloon, and when he reached space, somebody said, "Now, step out there and try to aim for the planet." And he said, "Sure thing!"
I've actually pinpointed it: The bravest nanosecond in human history. Those are his white boots up top, just leaving the platform.
It takes enormous balls to even get on that vehicle -- what is, essentially, a rickety little basket with no handrails, tied to a bunch of balloons. It takes even bigger balls to voluntarily ride that son of a bitch higher than air goes. It takes balls of incomprehensible proportions -- balls whose non-Euclidean geometry simply cannot exist on our earthly plane -- to look down at a planet so far below you that you can actually make out the shape of continents, then step outside for a stroll.
Those kinds of balls do exist, but only in an alternate dimension, parallel to ours but wholly separate, of which we mere mortals can comprehend only the smallest piece. The avatar of that vast dimension comprised entirely of great and majestic testicles has a name, but it cannot be pronounced by the human tongue. So you can just call him "Joe."
You can pre-order the next episodes of Rx right here, or buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Brockway, check out The 5 Weirdest Drug Experiments Performed on Animals and 5 Lovable Animals You Didn't Know Are Secretly Terrifying.