8 Great ‘Screw-It’ Moments in History

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8 Great ‘Screw-It’ Moments in History

Because they seem like legends plucked out of a history book, we can sometimes forget that the humans of the past were just that: humans. People that shared the same emotions and thoughts that modern humans do, even if they might have been about slightly different subjects. In the vein, even the most famous among us had that same moment many of us do most days: the moment where you just think, “Fuck it, why not.” Not only does that sudden flood of relief feel phenomenal, occasionally it works out well for everybody else, too. Other times, not so much.

Either way, here are eight great “fuck-it” moments from history.

Attalus III Leaves His Empire to the Romans

Marcus Cyron

You cant conquer me! I quit!

Attalus III was the king of Pergamon, which, during his lifetime, was very notably not under Roman control. Given that it was in the general area, the Romans no doubt would have had their eyes on it as a possible conquest. Traditionally, such a transfer of land and rulership would only happen through negotiation, bloodshed or a little bit of both. Attalus III, in a move that surely would have pissed off Attalus I and II to no end, decided he didnt want any part of that whole mess. Instead, having no living heirs, he bequeathed the kingdom of Pergamon upon his death to Rome. To which I assume they responded, “Uh, that was easy.”

Elisha Otis Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

Even today, when we know them to be extremely safe, theres a moment when any elevator lurches that everyone inside is suddenly filled with a sudden distrust of a lifetime of convenience. We start wondering if that thing where you jump when the elevator hits the ground actually works (it doesn't). So you can imagine that when elevators were still fairly new, they were terrifying. Elisha Otis looked to solve this by inventing a device that would stop an elevator if the rope broke, and figured the best way to prove that it worked would be to get in an elevator at the Worlds Fair and have someone cut the rope while everyone watched. If you want to know if it worked, just take a look down in the doorway of most elevators you ride today and youll see a name engraved there: Otis.

Jonas Salk Trying His Own Vaccine

Another man who figured hed rather sack up and show everyone his invention was safe firsthand instead of some long-winded assurance was Jonas Salk. The invention was a pretty major one: the polio vaccine. He was confident in its efficacy, but it hadnt yet been through human trials. Luckily, Salk and his family were human, and he was happy to volunteer. His wife and childrens opinions on the matter might have been more lukewarm, but given the distinct lack of a child crutch market these days, the experiment was a success.

Tilting the White Sands

U.S. Naval Institute/Twitter

“Well, Ill be damned.”

Okay, that heading might sound like the name of an installment in some sort of fantasy trilogy set in a fantastical desert, but the reality is still pretty cool. On October 4, 1975, a boat named the White Sands needed to pass through the Ballard Locks. Without further information, this sounds like nothing more than another day of low-stakes seafaring. Locks are meant to let boats through; therefore, no problem. Except that the White Sands was wider than the lock, meaning there was no physical way to get it through, outside of a strategy that must have been reacted to with a “theres no way that would work… would it?” It would, and the strategy was tilting the entire, massive boat on its side and sliding it through like some sort of large-scale Tony Hawk trick.

John Snow Singlehandedly Cures (Some) Cholera

John Snow is now often known as one of the fathers, if not the father, of epidemiology. This means that he was pretty much the best guy you could have around if a disease was screwing with your local population. In 1854, however, not everyone knew to trust the guy. So when a cholera outbreak was running rampant through the streets of London, his claims that it could all be traced to an infected water pump on Broad Street werent taken as gospel, especially given that people still thought cholera spread through the air. To this, Snow said, “bet and had the pump handle removed, putting that pump out of operation. The cholera outbreak immediately ceased, and I assume more people started listening to which pumps he said to drink out of.

Aimo Koivunen Says Bottoms Up

Public Domain

The eyes suggest the Pervitin might still have been active when this was taken.

Finnish soldier Aimo Koivunen was, to put it lightly, fucked. He was, with his squad, skiing through the countryside, fleeing Soviet pursuers. He was also very, very tired. Luckily, he had a secret weapon tucked in his pocket. An army-issued stimulant named Pervitin. He decided it was exactly time to try it out, but as you can imagine, navigating a pill bottle in less-that-dextrous winterwear isnt ideal. At which point, facing an unpleasant alternative, he just downed all 30 pills at once instead. Thirty pills of Pervitin, which you probably know better as methamphetamine. He then, in various stages of consciousness, and at one point somehow surviving a landmine, skied 250 miles straight back to Finnish territory, where his heartbeat was recorded at 200 beats per minute.

Louis Slotin s Unfortunate Screwdriver Mishap

Youd think that if you were to do any experiments on a nuclear core, there would be plenty of suits, shielding and oversight involved. In modern times, youd be right. In 1946, however, for the scientists working in Los Alamos in New Mexico, things were a little fast and loose, and a man named Louis Slotin taught everyone how dangerous that was. While doing an experiment referred to as “tickling the dragons tail,” he would wedge a regular old screwdriver in between two beryllium-coated hemispheres, almost completely enveloping a sphere of plutonium. Not completely enveloping, because that would cause the core to go critical and thoroughly irradiate everyone and everything in the vicinity. The screwdriver, which again, isnt some special screwdriver designed for this purpose, but basically something out of the junk drawer, was what would prevent this. Well, one day the screwdriver slipped. Slotin would spend the next nine days dying an excruciating death due to radiation poisoning.

Alexander Cutting the Gordian Knot

Public Domain

Hey! No knives! We said!

The tale of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot might be a little more legend than fact, but its truly one of the most essential uses of the “fuck-it approach to problem-solving ever told. According to the story, in the city of Gordium, there was a knot, or an amalgamation of a swarm of knots, so tangled that they said no one could ever untangle it. Alexander took this as a challenge, given that if your nickname is “The Great” you better be able to handle pretty much every knot ever. He fiddled with it to no avail, and in a moment of ultimate triumph, cut it in half with his sword. You know at least one Gordian must have muttered, “I didnt know that was allowed.”

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