October 24th, 2012
When I heard that a man would free-fall from the edge of outer space in order to break the sound barrier, my first reaction was that we had another Lawn Chair Larry on our hands. “Lawn Chair Larry” Walters was a Californian who strapped 45 weather balloons to his patio lounger, dubbed it Inspiration I, and attempted to fly 30 feet above his home. Once he reached 16,000 feet, I think he was mighty thankful for that Miller Lite and sandwiches he prepared for his leisure cruise. Now, I’m not a scientist, but even I can see that his landing strategy – shooting the balloons with a pellet gun – was a bad one. Fortunately for him, he didn’t quite meet the qualifications for the Darwin Awards, though their “At-Risk Survivor” salute guarantees that his injudicious innovation will remain in public memory.
But no, Felix Baumgartner – who I affectionately refer to as “Mach Man” – was no Lawn Chair Larry. Every angle and precaution was taken when he took the plunge from a helium balloon just two Sundays ago. Diving 23 miles and reaching 833.9 mph, he made history: the first man to create a sonic boom without being inside an aircraft. If you missed the live video feed on the internet, check out YouTube for a replay. It’s mind blowing.
Today marks the 111th anniversary of another bold dive. A 63-year-old named Annie Edson Taylor made a name for herself – “The Queen of the Mist” – when she decided to improve her station in life with a feat of daring. Annie plunged down Niagara Falls in a corked, 160-pound barrel and lived to tell the tale, though the achievement arguably gave her a bigger headache than bank account.
Have you checked out the Publisher’s Weekly Nonfiction Bestsellers List recently? Guinness World Records is #6! Flipping through the 2012 edition, I learned that a person will spend 23,973 hours during their lifetime reading newspapers, books, and comic books. That’s almost 1,000 days! I don’t know – with all of the people I see on a day-to-day basis, I suspect that our library patrons far exceed that amount!
Do you have any special talents that could get you into the record books?
How many hours do you think you’ve spent reading?