Survival isn't just a matter of stockpiling food and water purification tablets. This guide is for situations more extreme than that. Find out how to defuse a nuclear bomb, survive a 3500 foot plunge, and surf down a lava wave.
Photo courtesy of the United States Geological Survey
When watching action movies, many a viewer has wondered if they could do what the hero was doing. If it came right down to it, could they rise to the same stunning level of mental and physical adroitness in a crisis? The answer, of course, is no. No one could, unless they were in the world of Movie Physics, in which case a golden retriever can outrun an explosion. Those viewers who find this piece of news too disappointing can take comfort in the guide below, which teaches ridiculous action movie survival skills.
How to survive a fall from a plane
Let's say your plane suddenly disintegrated. Let's say a couple of goons tossed you out of a jet. Let's say you're Jonny Utah, and when you've thrown yourself out of the plane to bring in the bank robbers and save Tyler, you accidently miss Bodhi and keep falling. This is awkward. What now?
If you can't grab Bodhi, grab anything else. Plane wreckage, dead or living goons, surprised birds; snatch up everything you can get your hands on and pull it around you. One of the best ways to survive a fall is with a little free-floating fall cocoon. Now is the time to be a hoarder.
Next, push yourself into a ‘prone' position, parallel to the earth. This will slow you down as much as possible, and make it easier for you to maneuver by steering with your arms and legs. Maneuvering takes practice, but you have a few minutes and it will help pass the time between violent, spontaneous bowel evacuations. When you maneuver, try to steer towards vegetation, soft ground, and minor obstructions like power lines or canopies. At all costs avoid concrete or water, as neither can be compressed to provide give.
At impact, there are two ways to hit; feet first or full body. If you go full body, try to angle so your head is away from the ground and shield your skull. If you choose feet-first, push your feet out below you so you hit the ground on the balls of your feet, bend your knees, and lean forward slightly at the hips. When you land, try to make the hit a controlled roll to your back or side. It's worth a shot.
You've done all you can do. Try to relax your body as much as possible and enjoy the view on the way down.
How to survive a falling elevator
Of all the scenarios, this is least likely. It's everyone's nightmare, and a horror movie staple, but most people get killed on elevators because they step, absentmindedly, into open shafts when the doors malfunction. Others get parts of their body wedged between the elevator and the shaft, or stuck in doors, and are killed when the elevator moves. What I'm saying is; don't fear elevators. Fear their doors.
If, however, you are the victim of cruel fate, you shouldn't jump just as the elevator is about to hit bottom. There's a misconception that jumping at the last minute somewhat mitigates your fall. First of all, it's hard to push off the floor of a free-falling elevator. Secondly, jumping under the best of circumstances would only decrease the rate you're falling by however fast you can jump. Unless you're in the NBA, it won't help much.
The solution to your problem is structural, not dynamic. What you need most is padding to lessen the impact. All elevator shafts have a crumpling pad at he bottom to lessen the impact. That pad won't help if you've jumped. What you want is to use your body to supplement that pad. Pick whichever side of you is chubbiest, and press it to the floor. Protect your head and hope for the best.
How to defuse a nuclear bomb
This is a very important skill. Not only will it save you and everyone around you but, as we've seen in The Peacemaker, it may be your one and only chance to impress George Clooney. The good news is, nature is giving you a little head start, perhaps because even Nature herself loves George Clooney. To explode, the bomb has to compress a certain amount of plutonium. Less than that amount, and it won't sustain a reaction big enough to make you a mushroom cloud. The bad news is, it has to be compressed sharply and forcefully, which is often achieve through other explosions.
There are several different types of bombs, but most can be recognized and jammed with a few odds and ends and some ingenuity. The first type is a big round sphere, covered evenly with explosive panels or charges. The Peacemaker used this kind of weapon as its macguffin and defused it the right way. For the bomb to explode, the plutonium has to implode evenly. Those panels are supposed to explode all at once, pushing the plutonium inwards. The movie only knocked off one panel. To be safe, you want to knock off a few. That way, instead of exploding, the plutonium will just be shot sideways, like a banana out of a peel, and you will be safe.
The second device is a demolition derby deal, with two smaller loads of plutonium being shot into each other by pistons. Deflect, remove, or damage one of the pistons so it doesn't go off, or doesn't go off at the right time, and the bomb is no more.
The third kind of bomb is the most complicated; a Teller-Ulam device. The Teller-Ulam bomb looks, inside its casing, like a lollipop hovering just above its stick. The lollipop is an implosion bomb, like in The Peacemaker. The stick is more plutonium, encased in foam. When the lolly goes off, it will explode outwards and make the foam into plasma. The hot, dense plasma will compress the material inside it, setting off another explosion. So, defuse the lollipop first. The stick can wait. Get back to knocking off panels, and quickly.
How to surf on lava
Sometimes it's not enough to survive. Sometimes you have to look cool while doing so. This is so cool that you may want to put yourself in peril just to get out of it. Plan ahead, though, because you'll need equipment.
First of all, you'll need a sturdy ‘board' made of metal on the bottom and an insulator on the top. Secondly, you'll need to make some adjustments to the board, drilling holes through it and connecting those holes to a tank full of water. Finally, you'll need some kind of device that allows you to pump water from the tank into those holes.
Come the day, down some booze or some anti-anxiety medication, or do both together. (You're going to surf on lava. It's not like sobriety will increase your chances for survival by any appreciable amount.) Find a lava flow, start the pump, and kiss everyone you love goodbye.
The pump will push water down through the holes in your board. Once it hits the lava, the water will vaporize and rise upwards as steam. The push of the steam will push you up so you'll glide across the lava like a puck across an air hockey table. In theory. In practice – io9 is not legally responsible for lava injuries. Be advised.