The Pulse


The Keeping You Alive Project

by Patrick Reynolds

You probably don't think about it much, but a large portion of society's time and energy is going into keeping your dumb ass alive.

Air travel is a simple example. At current safety levels, you'd have to fly once a day, every day, for 22,000 years before you'd be involved in a fatal accident on a commercial airplane. Think about everything that goes on behind the scenes to get us to that statistic. The armies of safety review boards, engineers, mechanics, and skilled pilots who work decade after decade to keep you from plummeting to a fiery death. 


The same thing goes for safety on the road. Below is a chart of US auto deaths per percent of population since the introduction of the automobile.

In the US, where I could find statistics, there are about as many people killed in car crashes each year now as were killed in the 1930s (about 33,000 a year), despite the US population being nearly 4 times as large. How did we do that? With a lot of people working very hard to innovate and improve car design; seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, collapsible steering columns, crumple zones, and in the near future self-driving features that will take safety to a whole new level.

Zoom out a bit and you can see the "keeping you alive project" goes even deeper.

This is Andrea Hodge. She's a materials scientist who's using nanotechnology to create new  composite metals. These are the hi-tech materials that will make the next generation of  airplanes and cars even safer. For Andrea to be able to devote her life to this research took a  lot of things happening. She grew up in a society that provided safety and education. Her life  wasn't disrupted by war or famine. She was able to attend universities dedicated to advanced  engineering. Each of these steps required tens of thousands of people coming together to  make the world the kind of place where Andrea could become a materials scientist, so that she can give you safer transportation options. I don't know Andrea Hodge. Her name came up in google. She is literally a random sampling from millions of scientists and engineers who are working hard right now to keep your ass alive. These are real people!

This is a CT scanner. It takes three-dimensional scans of your body. Pretty standard technology. Almost boring.


Here's how a CT scanner looks without its shell.

The amount of technology crammed in there is mind-boggling. Add to that the complex computer software that goes into translating raw x-ray wavelengths into useful visual data for the doctor. Someone had to design this machine. Someone had to write the software. Someone had to write the textbook that the doctor studied to be able to diagnose that dark spot as early stage cancer. And when the surgeon cuts the cancer out, you can be sure the incision is made with an ultra sharp scalpel made possible by material scientists like Andrea. Actually, I'm joking about that last part. Most tumor removal these days is done with lasers. LASERS.

But plane crashes and cancer are so dramatic. How about the more mundane stuff? Clean water. Food that doesn't poison you. Traffic signals that allow you to cross the street safely. A stable society that means you don't have to worry about marauding bandits killing you for your possessions.(That got dramatic again, oops!)

Once you start looking at things like this, you'll see that the comfort and safety of your life isn't a matter of chance, it's the cumulative effect of billions of people making proactive choices that keep you healthy and alive.

Which all leads us to this question:

Are you doing your part in the "keeping you alive project"?

You don't need to design advanced medical devices. You don't need to calibrate the airbag expansion rate in your car. Your part in this project is almost too easy.

Help out the engineers who devote their lives to making you a safer car. Buckle your seat belt.

Help out the doctors who deal with your illnesses and injuries. Eat a balanced diet of fresh foods. Get enough exercise. Keep your body fat under control. Keep your stress levels reasonable. If something feels wrong in your body, get it looked at before it becomes a bigger problem. This short list will literally add ten years to your life.

The comfort and safety of your life isn't a matter of chance, it's the cumulative effect of billions of people making proactive choices that keep you healthy and alive. 

I hear a lot of excuses for why people don't get in shape. But the one that drives me crazy is "what's the point, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow."

Yes, you could get hit by a bus, but a whole lot of effort has gone into making sure that doesn't happen. Crosswalks have been painted. Drivers have been trained. Brakes have been fine-tuned. But if all these safeguards fail, and that bus is bearing down on you, wouldn't you rather be in an agile, alert body with powerful leg muscles that give you the chance to jump out of the way?

Yes, you may get diagnosed with cancer. Wouldn't you rather fight it with a strong body that's built on solid nutrition and exercise? Wouldn't you rather recover from surgery faster because you have a high base level of fitness? Don't you want to help these people help you?

So come on! Join the millions of people participating in the project to keep your dumb ass alive!

What have you got to lose*?

*Disclaimer. There will be side-effects if you eat right and train your body as part of the "keeping you alive project". These include but aren't limited to the following: More energy. Sharper focus. Clearer skin. Better sleep. Improved digestion. Clothes that look good on you. Admiring looks from passers-by. The ability to keep up with small children. Longer participation may result in higher self-confidence and elevated levels of happiness. You've been warned.



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