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May 2, 2011

S.C.A.D. — Suspended Catch Air Device

There are two of them in the U.S., one in Wisconsin and one in Dallas, Texas (above and below).

I only learned of their existence yesterday when I read about them in Burkhard Bilger's sprightly New Yorker profile of David Eagleman, a Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist who employed the unique fear-inducing property of the Zero Gravity Amusement Park ride in an investigation attempting to quantify the perception that time slows down when we fear we might be dying.


Long (but well worth reading if you've got the time or interest — of course, that's true of anything, isn't it? ... but I digress) article short: Eaglemen strapped a playing card deck-sized "perceptual chronometer" with an L.E.D. display to a subject's wrist, where it would flash a number at a rate just faster than the normal threshold of perception.

"If time slowed down, Eagleman reasoned, the number would become visible."


In fact, none of his 20 subjects ever saw the number, answering one question but raising others which prompted subsequent investigations.

Any reader(s) ever take the S.C.A.D. plunge?

If so, what was it like?


Scaredy-cat blogger would like to know, as would his readers.



May 2, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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I can't see this operation lasting long. Insurance? I think not...

As for long falls - people survive them. I took over a 100' fall on the Diamond direct route on Colorado's Long's Peak in 1976. Fell and unzipped these new protection devices called "chocks" - about 6 of them before one of my better placements held. Greg, my climbing partner, was about 6'3" and had 60 lbs on me. He held that fall.

What's a long fall like? I knew that I was coming off - but expected to fall less than 20' - the amount of rope between me and the last piece of protection. Then, the chock popped with a jerk and instead of slowing to a stop I kept falling. We were more than 500' above the large ledge called "Broadway" and the face is overhanging - so I fell without hitting the face as chock after chock (every7-10') popped. I was climbing on a 165' rope and was about 90' above Greg, my partner and belayer, when I fell. About 60' down the protection held and with rope stretch (all climbing ropes stretch - that's how you survive a fall - the robe absorbs the impact and distributes it slowly across your harness and your butt) I fell ~ 100' winding up a few feet below Greg's belay.

I never felt like I would die. I came to a nice, springy, seated stop about 20' out from the wall. It felt like Tinkerbell coming to a nice rest.

Of course, I felt fine and we completed the climb. Many years later I woke up with paraesthesia and sciatica on my left side. I had a wedge-shaped piece of my L-4 disc impinge on the nerve root. Best guess: crush injury from that fall finally displaced.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | May 2, 2011 6:32:15 PM

Why did they let her breath helium before the drop?

Posted by: Joe Peach | May 2, 2011 4:49:49 PM

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