July 31, 2014

You could bury your dead cat in your yard, but that's so cliche.     Photo: John Taylor/Flickr

Ground Control to Major Fido

Space burial company to offer service for pets

A Houston-based aerospace company named Celestis Inc., an affiliate of Space Services Inc., has for years offered memorial space flights for the cremated remains of our dearly departed.

The cost of its services varies: Your run-of-the-mill "Earth Rise Service" brings the remains back to Earth for $995, while the "Voyager Service" starts at $12,500 and promises to launch your loved one's ashes into deep space. Also available: the "Luna Service," which sends the remains into lunar orbit.

If that sounds a little flamboyant for your taste, brace yourself. The company announced earlier this week that it will offer similar memorial services for pets. That's right. For less than a grand, you can give your deceased hamster the ride of its life—after that life has ended.

Celestis is obviously no stranger to bizarre practices. The company is credited with conducting the first and only "lunar burial" in 1999, when it deposited some of geologist Eugene Merle Shoemaker's ashes on the moon in a capsule bearing the following lines from Romeo and Juliet:

"And, when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun."


It might not kill a lot of people, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't fear a flood.     Photo: welcomia/ThinkStock

Mother Nature's Most Fatal Weather

Death by flood less common than by lightning

Severe lightning storms, such as the one that killed one and injured at least seven on Venice Beach last Sunday, are incredibly rare events. Dying because of one? Even rarer. However, a report on extreme weather–related deaths released Wednesday found that death by flood is even more uncommon.

The data, collected by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers, showed that while lightning strikes killed 182 Americans between 2006 and 2010, flooding was directly responsible for 93 fatalities.

Despite record stateside flooding within the past year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported only 28 flood fatalies in 2013, most of which occured while victims were driving.

CDC researchers analyzed death tolls caused by five kinds of severe weather: heat, cold, storms, floods, and lightning. Overall, 10,649 people died as a result of extreme weather events over the five-year period. The CDC also provides data tables showing the likelihood of death based on gender and race. White males, it appears, are the most likely to die from severe weather across the board. 

Cold-related deaths were the most common. At least 6,660 people, or 63 percent, died as a result of either cold weather or hypothermia—when organ failure sets in as a result of core body temperature dropping below 95 degrees Fahreinheit.

Half as many people—3,340, or 31 percent—died as a result of hot weather or heatstroke, usually a result of both. As the Los Angeles Times notes, heatstroke occurs when you can't lower your body temperature by sweating.

The remaining 6 percent of deaths were traceable to lightning, floods, and catacylsmic storms such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

This data, compiled from death certificates, shows that the likelihood of all severe weather–related deaths increases by large factors with age.