Exploding Cell Phones
Last week, a young farmer was killed in India when his cell phone exploded. The newspaper reports said the Nokia phone “exploded while he was talking to someone for a long time,” possibly in the rain.
As strange as it sounds, cell phones have been known to explode–some reports say about one hundred people are injured each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While hoaxes abound (yes, it’s okay to answer your phone while it’s charging), do be careful if the battery pack gets extremely hot. Time to power down and walk away.
At a meeting in Japan, this Dell laptop burst into flames in the middle of the room. Fortunately, no one was hurt–the laptop was on a table instead of a lap. In 2006, Dell recalled nearly one million laptop batteries for overheating problems.
I remember being terrified of escalators as a child. Something about the long metal tines reminded me of robotic teeth. So it was extra-scary to see that 20 people were injured when an escalator reversed its course during a Japanese art show in 2008. From the "Wired News" report: “The escalator was packed from top to bottom, and its height made it nearly impossible for anyone to jump off. As a result, the falling crowd was thrown to the bottom. There, they met with the crowd coming down from the other side’s escalator.” This caused dozens of people to fall, and a few suffered broken legs.
A UK woman followed her satellite navigation system–straight into a river, destroying her Mercedes and almost losing her life. After ignoring signposts indicating the road was unsuitable for motor vehicles, she plowed her car into a swollen river and was swept immediately 200 meters downstream. The woman escaped by kicking the windows and squeezing out into the rushing water. This isn’t the first or the last time someone following the soothing tones of a GPS has found themselves in harm’s way. But I think it’s one of the more hilarious ones.
A leftover ball in a pitching machine hit 11-year-old Mitchell Anderson in the head. When the 70-mph ball struck him, Anderson was thrown to the ground and knocked completely out. Blood began pooling in parts of his brain, and surgeons had to drill holes to relieve some of the pressure and to prevent further injuries. Because seven areas of his brain had collapsed, there was a fear that permanent brain damage could result.
Luckily, Anderson had a complete recovery and returned to the game of baseball–and yes, even to the machines that nearly took his life–to be one of the best high school players around. Score one for the humans!
Caution: Coffee Machine
Even relatively banal machines, like the humble java maker, can cause grave injury. Last April, an exploding coffee machine in a tea stall in India took the life of the 18-year-old son of the shop’s owner. According to the report, the electric coffee machine started shaking, then exploded. Shards hit the man on his head, hands, and chest. Others in the shop were also injured.
If machines really were out to get us (which is the plot of oh-so-many science-fiction stories), my feeling is that the lawnmower would be in a good spot to cause major damage. The blades, the speed, the agility–there is something definitely creepy about grass-choppers. And there are statistics to back me up: 77,000 people go to the hospital every year after mower-related injuries.
Some of the grisliest accidents involve amputations, like this two-year-old girl whose legs had to be amputated after her mother ran them over with the riding mower, and this New Jersey man who lost two toes after he tripped over a garbage can and pulled the mower on top of him. The toes were found nearby, but they were too mangled for reattachment.
A woman in Australia was killed while walking to work after she was struck in the head by a piece of steel pipe sent flying by a lawnmower. And these incidents all happened in the past few months.
Cell Phone Meltdown
An Illinois teenager literally burned through her phone while texting her friends. The story is that the girl “woke up in the middle of the night to find a melted cell phone, a hole in her blanket, and burns on her abdomen,” according to WBBM. Something tells me that she might have woken up a little bit before the lithium battery began to singe her flesh, but in any case, her father is on a mission to warn other teens about the danger of overheating phones. The girl reported that it’s been hard on her not being able to text her friends.
Let the Laptop Go!
This is probably the worst way to get hurt in a tech attack: when other humanoids are the ones doing the attacking, trying to get better deals on laptops. A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede in 2005, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair, and nearly driven over. The Fox News story reported that “one woman went so far to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line,” which could be the inspiration for the iPee, a new gadget from Apple.
When TV Cameras Attack
Bear Grylls is more known for his mountain-man style and ability to live on water squeezed from animal poop, but he had a moment of fame as the victim of a tech-attack a few weeks back. The worst injury of his four-year TV career occurred when he was struck in the leg by a camera while sliding down a mountain. The camera nearly missed his head, and the injuries he sustained to his leg were enough to warrant an airlift off the mountain. It’s a jungle out there.
Going for a Ride Washing Machine
My brother and I liked to run the washing machine with questionable items inside. Stuffed animals, remote controls, and books were shoved in, and we tried to get the family cat to play, but he was unimpressed. But one little girl in Orange County, California, wasn’t so lucky. She died last year after climbing into a front-loading washing machine and tumbling inside for several minutes when her 15-month-old brother turned it on by accident.
Fortunately, this isn’t a common occurrence–a recent study in the "British Journal of Medicine" cited 496 washing machine accidents causing injuries, but fewer than 10% of them required admission to a hospital. LG is now trying to invent safety locks on its washing machines to prevent them from running if a child is inside.
Remote Control Heli-disaster
A teenager walking through a Florida park met the nasty end of a remote-control helicopter–the three-foot-long robot smashed into her head, arm, and hand at astounding speeds. Both her hand and arm were badly cut. She ended up with 17 staples in her head to stop the bleeding and needed reconstructive surgery on one of her hands. To top it all off, the men who were flying the offending copter flew the coop when she was on the ground.
It turns out that lots of people are hurt when stuff explodes. Explosions are caused by a confluence of heat, pressure, and all too often, stupidity. Here are some of the best:
A 16-year-old boy in Chile was badly hurt when an aerosol bottle of deodorant exploded in his hand.
When a beer keg explodes, there's usually a teenage boy to blame. This one decided that putting a beer keg in a fire pit was a great idea.
Note to self: the DIY lifestyle is great, but it’s really not recommended to build your own homemade fireworks. A man built a homemade rocket by “tying together a bundle of sparklers, then putting it inside a concrete cinder block to brace it.” Brilliant.
This cop was just working the beat when his flashlight exploded, nailing him in the face with glass.
Six people in the UK were injured by an exploding fondue pot, which really just sounds like an deep-rooted attack from the French.
And a rugby star in the UK was injured when an egg he was poaching in the microwave exploded in his face. You’re right, this one isn’t even technological. Wait, you can poach an egg in the microwave?
Ten people in France and the UK claimed their iPhones had spontaneously combusted, but the company denied that there was a problem, blaming the meltdowns on “external force.” The European Commission started an investigation last August into the claims against iPods and iPhones, and the results are not yet published. So far, no reports of the iPhone 4 exploding, so let’s hope that the flying bits of glass and plastic are a thing of the past.