The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek honor, originating in Usenet newsgroup discussions around 1985. They recognize individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions.
The project became more formalized with the creation of a website in 1993, and followed up by a series of books starting in 2000, authored by Wendy Northcutt. The criterion for the awards states, "In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival."
Accidental self-sterilization also qualifies; however, the site notes: "Of necessity, the award is usually bestowed posthumously." The candidate is disqualified, though, if "innocent bystanders", who might have contributed positively to the gene pool, are killed in the process.
The Darwin Awards books state that an attempt is made to disallow known urban legends from the awards, but some older "winners" have been "grandfathered" to keep their awards. The Darwin Awards site does try to verify all submitted stories, but many similar sites, and the vast number of circulating "Darwin awards" emails, are largely fictional.
Type of site
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The origin of the Darwin Awards can be traced back to posts on Usenet group discussions as early as 1985. An early post, on August 7, 1985, describes the awards as being, "given posthumously to people who have made the supreme sacrifice to keep their genes out of our pool. Style counts, not everyone who dies from their own stupidity can win." This early post cites an example of a person who pulled a vending machine over his head and was crushed to death trying to break into it. Another widely distributed early story mentioning the Darwin Awards is the JATO Rocket Car, which describes a man who strapped a jet-assisted take-off unit to his Chevrolet Impala in the Arizona desert and who died on the side of a cliff as his car achieved speeds of 250 to 300 miles per hour (400 to 480 km/h). This story was later confirmed to be an urban legend by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The official Darwin Awards website run by Northcutt does its best to confirm all stories submitted, listing them as, "confirmed true by Darwin." Many of the viral emails circulating the Internet, however, are hoaxes and urban legends.
The website and collection of books were started in 1993 by Wendy Northcutt, who at the time was a graduate in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She went on to study neurobiology at Stanford University, doing research on cancer and telomerase. In her spare time, she organized chain letters from family members into the original Darwin Awards website hosted in her personal account space at Stanford. She eventually left the bench in 1998 and devoted herself full-time to her website and books in September 1999. By 2002, the website received 7 million page hits per month.
She encountered some difficulty in publishing the first book, since most publishers would only offer her a deal if she agreed to remove the stories from the Internet. Northcutt refused to do so, saying, "It was a community! I could not do that. Even though it might have cost me a lot of money, I kept saying no." She eventually found a publisher who agreed to print a book containing only 10% of the material gathered for the website. The first book turned out to be a success, and was listed on The New York Times bestseller list for six months.
Not all of the feedback from the stories Northcutt published was positive, and she occasionally received email from people who knew the deceased. One such person wrote, "This is horrible. It has shocked our community to the core. You should remove this." But Northcutt said "I can't. It's just too stupid." Northcutt kept the stories on the website and in her books, citing them as a "funny-but-true safety guide", and mentioning that children who read the book are going to be much more careful around explosives.
The website also recognizes, with Honorable Mentions, individuals who survive their misadventures with their reproductive capacity intact. One example of this is Lawnchair Larry, who attached helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and floated far above Long Beach, California, in July 1982. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet (4,900 m) but survived, to be later fined for crossing controlled airspace. Another notable honorable mention was given to the two men who attempted to burgle the home of footballer Duncan Ferguson (who had four convictions for assault and had served six months in Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison) in 2001, with one burglar requiring three days' hospitalization after being confronted by the player.
This may be subject to dispute. Potential awardees may be out of the gene pool because of age; others have already reproduced before their deaths. To avoid debates about the possibility of in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, or cloning, the original Darwin Awards book applied the following "deserted island" test to potential winners: If the person were unable to reproduce when stranded on a deserted island with a fertile member of the opposite sex, he or she would be considered sterile. Winners of the award, in general, either are dead or have become unable to use their sexual organs.
The candidate's foolishness must be unique and sensational, likely because the award is intended to be funny. A number of foolish but common activities, such as smoking in bed, are excluded from consideration. In contrast, self-immolation caused by smoking after being administered a flammable ointment in a hospital and specifically told not to smoke is grounds for nomination. One "Honorable Mention" (a man who attempted suicide by swallowing nitroglycerine pills, and then tried to detonate them by running into a wall) is noted to be in this category, despite being intentional and self-inflicted (i.e. attempted suicide), which would normally disqualify the inductee.
Killing a friend with a hand grenade would not be eligible, but killing oneself while manufacturing a homemade chimney-cleaning device from a grenade would be eligible. To earn a Darwin Award, one must have killed oneself, or rendered oneself sterile; merely causing death to a third party is insufficient.
The nominee must be at least past the legal driving age and free of mental defect (Northcutt considers injury or death caused by mental defect to be tragic, rather than amusing, and routinely disqualifies such entries). After much discussion, a small category regarding deaths below this age limit also exists. Entry into this category requires that the peers of the candidate be of the opinion that the actions of the person in question were above and beyond the limits of reason.
However, in 2011, the awards targeted a 16-year-old boy in Leeds who died stealing copper wiring (the standard minimum driving age in Great Britain being 17). In 2012, Northcutt made similar light of a 14-year-old girl in Brazil who was killed while leaning out of a school bus window; however, she was "disqualified" for the award itself because of the likely public objection due to the girl's age, which Northcutt asserts is based on "magical thinking".
The story must be documented by reliable sources: e.g., reputable newspaper articles, confirmed television reports, or responsible eyewitnesses. If a story is found to be untrue, it is disqualified, but particularly amusing ones are placed in the urban legend section of the archives. Despite this requirement, many of the stories are fictional, often appearing as "original submissions" and presenting no further sources than unverified (and unreliable) "eyewitnesses". Most such stories on Northcutt's Darwin Awards site are filed in the Personal Accounts section.
In addition, later revisions to the qualification criteria add several requirements that have not been made into formalized 'rules': innocent bystanders cannot be in danger, and the qualifying event 'must' be caused without deliberate intent (to prevent glory-seekers from purposely injuring themselves solely to win a Darwin).
Adam Whitney Savage (born July 15, 1967) is an American special effects designer/fabricator, actor, educator, and television personality, known as the former co-host (with Jamie Hyneman) of the Discovery Channel television series MythBusters and Unchained Reaction. His model work has appeared in major films, including Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and The Matrix Reloaded. He is a prominent member of the skeptic community. He lives in San Francisco with his twin sons and his wife, Julia. Savage has a new show, titled Savage Builds, that premiered on the Science Channel on June 14, 2019.Chris Penn
Christopher Shannon Penn (October 10, 1965 – January 24, 2006) was an American actor. Penn was typically cast as a tough character, featured as a villain or a working-class lug, or in a comic role and was known for his roles in such films as The Wild Life, Reservoir Dogs, The Funeral, Footloose, Rush Hour, Corky Romano, True Romance, Beethoven's 2nd, Short Cuts, The Boys Club, All the Right Moves, At Close Range, Pale Rider, and in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Penn was found dead in his condominium on January 24, 2006, at the age of 40. An autopsy revealed the primary cause for his death was "nonspecific cardiomyopathy" (heart disease).Death messenger
Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.Death of Garry Hoy
Garry Hoy (January 1, 1955 – July 9, 1993) was a lawyer for the law firm of Holden Day Wilson in Toronto notorious for how he died. In an attempt to prove to a group of prospective articling students that the glass windows of the Toronto–Dominion Centre were unbreakable, Hoy threw himself at a glass wall on the 24th storey and fell to his death after the window frame gave way entirely.Dignified death
Dignified death is a somewhat elusive concept often related to suicide. One factor that has been cited as a core component of dignified death is maintaining a sense of control. Another view is that a truly dignified death is an extension of a dignified life. There is some concern that assisted suicide does not guarantee a dignified death, since some patients may experience complications such as nausea and vomiting. There is some concern that age discrimination denies the elderly a dignified death.Finn Taylor
Finn Taylor (born July 4, 1958) is an American film writer and director.Incompetence
Incompetence is the inability to perform; lack of competence; ineptitude.
Aspects of incompetence include:
Administrative incompetence, dysfunctional administrative behaviors that hinder attainment of organization goals
Incompetence (law), a person not of sound mind or mentally impaired, unable to make decisions for himself or herself
Military incompetence, failures of members of the military
Social ineptitudeIncompetence may also refer to:
Incompetence (novel), a comedy novel published in 2003 by Red Dwarf co-creator Rob GrantJATO Rocket Car
The account of the JATO Rocket Car was one of the original Darwin Awards winners: a man who supposedly met his death in a spectacular manner after mounting a JATO unit (a rocket engine used to help heavy aircraft to take off) onto an ordinary automobile. It was originally circulated as a forwarded email.
In 1996, after numerous inquires, the Arizona Department of Public Safety issued a news release posted on their website concerning the story. It termed the story "an Arizona myth."
The story was also debunked in 2003 on the pilot episode of MythBusters, titled "Jet Assisted Chevy".Jamie Hyneman
James Franklin Hyneman (born September 25, 1956) is an American special effects expert who is best known as the co-host of the television series MythBusters alongside Adam Savage. He is also the owner of M5 Industries, the special effects workshop where MythBusters was filmed. He is known among Robot Wars devotees for his robot entry, Blendo, which, for a time, was deemed too dangerous for entry in the competition. He is one of the designers of the aerial robotic camera system Wavecam, used in sports and entertainment events.Joseph Fiennes
Joseph Alberic Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (; born 27 May 1970), known as Joseph Fiennes, is an English film and stage actor.
He is known for his portrayals of William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love (1998), for which he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Sir Robert Dudley in Elizabeth (1998), Commisar Danilov in Enemy at the Gates (2001), and Monsignor Timothy Howard in the second season of the TV series American Horror Story (2012–2013). His role in the 2017 TV drama series The Handmaid's Tale was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.List of inventors killed by their own inventions
This is a list of inventors whose deaths were in some manner caused by or related to a product, process, procedure, or other innovation that they invented or designed.List of things named after Charles Darwin
Several places, concepts, institutions, and things are namesakes of the English biologist Charles Darwin:
PlacesCharles Darwin National Park
Charles Darwin Foundation
Charles Darwin Research Station
Charles Darwin University
Darwin College, Cambridge
Darwin, Falkland Islands
Darwin, Northern Territory
Darwin Glacier (California)
Darwin Guyot, a seamount in the Pacific Ocean
Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands
Darwin Island (Antarctica)
Darwin Sound (Canada)
Mount Darwin (California)
Mount Darwin (Tasmania)Things named after Darwin in relation to his Beagle voyageCordillera Darwin
Mount Darwin (Andes)Scientific names of organismsSome 250 species and several higher groups bear Darwin's name; most are insects.
Darwinilus, a rove beetle
Darwinius, an extinct primate
Darwinopterus, a genus of pterosaur
Darwinula, a genus of seed shrimp
Darwinivelia, a water treader genus
Darwinysius, a seed bug
Darwinomya, a genus of flies
Darwinella, a sponge genus
Darwinsaurus, a dinosaur
Darwinhydrus, a diving beetle
darwini (multiple species)
darwinii (multiple species)
Ingerana charlesdarwini, a frogPhilosophiesDarwinism
Social DarwinismOtherDarwin, a unit of evolutionary change
Darwin, an operating system
Darwin (ESA) (a proposed satellite system)
Division of Darwin, a former electoral division in Australia
1991 Darwin, a stony Florian asteroid
Darwin (lunar crater) a lunar crater
Darwin (Martian crater) a martian craterMegadeath
Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.Northcutt
Northcutt may refer to:
Dennis Northcutt (born 1977), American football wide receiver and punt returner
Glenn Northcutt, leader in comparative vertebrate neurobiology and evolutionary neuroscience
Kevin Northcutt (born 1973), American professional wrestler
Sage Northcutt (born 1996), American mixed martial artist
Wendy Northcutt (born 1963), the creator of the Darwinawards.com website and author of five books on the Darwin AwardsRoss Patterson
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The Darwin Awards is a 2006 American adventure comedy film based on the website of the same name written and directed by Finn Taylor, the film premiered January 25, 2006, at the Sundance Film Festival. The film features Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, David Arquette, Juliette Lewis, Wilmer Valderrama, Chris Penn, Julianna Margulies, Robin Tunney, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Brad Hunt, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman and Metallica. This was Chris Penn's last movie before his death on January 24, 2006, the day before the film's premiere. The film includes several full and partial re-enactments of "Darwin Awards", the earliest of which were fictitious, most notably the debunked JATO Rocket Car story.This is True
This Is True is a syndicated weekly newspaper column and electronic mailing list written by American humorist and journalist Randy Cassingham. The column describes strange-but-true stories culled from news sources around the globe, each ending with a humorous observation. Cassingham reports that there are more than 44,000 subscribers to the mailing list for True.Frequent themes in This is True include absurd governmental actions or policies, unusual or badly phrased newspaper headlines, and injuries and deaths due to outrageous negligence (similar to the Darwin Awards). Cassingham particularly favors stories of outrageous effects of zero tolerance policies in schools, such as children expelled (under drugs rules) for sharing cough drops.Wilmer Valderrama
Wilmer Eduardo Valderrama (; Spanish: [baldeˈrama]; born January 30, 1980) is an American actor, producer, singer and television personality. He is best known for the role of Fez in the sitcom That '70s Show (1998–2006) and as Carlos Madrigal in From Dusk till Dawn: The Series (2014–16). He was also host of the MTV series Yo Momma (2006–07), the voice of Manny in the children's show Handy Manny (2006–13) and has had recurring roles on Grey's Anatomy as well as The Ranch (both in 2016). He also has a role on NCIS as Nick Torres.
Valderrama has further performed in several prominent feature films, including Party Monster (2003), Beauty Shop (2005), Fast Food Nation (2006), Unaccompanied Minors (2006), Larry Crowne (2011), and The Adderall Diaries (2015). He voiced the character of Prince Charming in the family animated film Charming (2018).