The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

CNHI Specials

September 12, 2013

14 oddball reasons you're not dead yet

Lifespan has doubled in the United States in the past 150 years. This ridiculously wonderful change in the nature of life and death is something we tend to take for granted.

When we do think about why we're still alive, some of the big, fairly obvious reasons that come to mind are vaccines, antibiotics, clean water, or drugs for heart disease and cancer.

But the world is full of underappreciated people, innovations and ideas that also save lives. A round of applause, please, for some of the oddball reasons, in no particular order, why people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.

Cotton. One of the major killers of human history was typhus, a bacterial disease spread by lice. It defeated Napoleon's army; if Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture were historically accurate, it would feature less cannon fire and more munching arthropods. Wool was the clothing material of choice before cotton displaced it. Cotton is easier to clean than wool and less hospitable to body lice.

Satellites. In 1900, a hurricane devastated Galveston, Texas. It killed 8,000 people, making it the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston. Its winds were less powerful at landfall than those of the 1900 storm, but its storm surge was higher, and that's usually what kills people. This time we saw it coming, thanks to a network of Earth-monitoring satellites and decades of ever-improving storm forecasting. More than 100 people died, but more than 1 million evacuated low-lying coastal areas and survived.

Fluoride. There were plenty of miserable ways to die before the mid-20th century, but dying of a tooth abscess had to be among the worst — a slow, painful infection that limits your ability to eat, causes your head to throb endlessly, and eventually colonizes the body and kills you of sepsis. Now it's a rare way to go, thanks to modern dental care, toothbrushes, and (unless you're in Portland) fluoridated water.

Text Only
CNHI Specials
  • barbour021614.jpg No shows escaped death by Craigslist killer

    The young woman who says she was driven by satanic spirts to commit a cross-country murder spree over the last six years says authorities are not taking her claims seriously and that she tried to lured other central Pennslyvania men into her death snare with online companionship ads but they didn't show up.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • ent_jimmyfallon.jpg Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show' debut: Social media reacts

    Jimmy Fallon kicked off a new era on "The Tonight Show" Monday night and garnered mostly positive reviews. Here's a sampling of reaction on social media.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • b_tuesday_eisenhower_20110405sg3371.jpg Augusta National removes 'Eisenhower Tree' after ice storm

    A 65-foot tree named after the nation's 34th president on the 17th hole at Augusta National Golf Club was removed over the weekend after sustaining "irreparable damage" during an ice storm at the home of the Masters Tournament.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140218-AMX-GUNS171.jpg Will smart guns transform the gun industry?

    One of California's largest firearm stores recently added a peculiar new gun to its shelves. It requires an accessory: a black waterproof watch.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • ten-10-dollar-bill.jpg VIDEO: Groupon claims 'President Hamilton' promotion an intentional mistake

    Groupon says a President's Day promotion mis-identifying Alexander Hamilton as a U.S. President was an "intentional" humorous mistake.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Samoas, Thin Mints and business ethics

    But these lessons aren't learned when Scouts sell outside grocery stores or via mobile app, or, even worse, when parents ask their colleagues to purchase Girl Scout cookies, a query I recently received at a casual work lunch. My friend wasn't prepared for the lecture that followed. I'd be more than happy to buy cookies from his daughter, I said, but only if she called me on the phone to personally ask for the sale.

    February 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 12.27.23 PM.png VIDEO: Just how easy is it to buy a drone?

    Businesses can't wait for drone rules to be issued by the FAA. They really can't. Estimates on business drone usage are in the tens of thousands...and they're overwhelming the FAA, which is still trying to come up with rules for flying them.

    February 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-01-14 at 4.42.12 PM.png VIDEO: Man falls through golf shop ceiling; everyone plays it cool

    After a man falls through the ceiling of a professional golf shop both the patrons and the employees react as though everything is completely normal.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • ClarkTheCub.jpg Clark the Cub takes his place among pro sports' worst mascots

    The Chicago Cubs have broken 138 years of mascot-free tradition by introducing Clark the Cub, who will entertain young fans at Wrigley Field beginning this season. Judging from reaction on the Internet, Clark instantly deserves a place on the list of pro sports' worst mascots. Here are our ideas for some other entries.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 4.09.29 PM.png VIDEO: Texting crash caught on dash cam

    A 23-year-old Florida man admitted he was texting behind the wheel when his car veered off the road and crashed into a tree.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo