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What If You Survive the Apocalypse and Only Have One Pair of Contacts?

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My biggest fear goes something like this: The apocalypse or an apocalyptic event happens. There are earthquakes, asteroids, nuclear wars—whatever, it doesn’t really matter. After the flames finally stop raining down and the world has settled into an ashen plain of sorrow I come to a startling realization: My glasses are at home and I’m wearing monthly disposable contact lenses.

I would be at a competative disadvantage should I ever have to enter "survival mode" without the aid of glasses or contacts. Even the smallest and weakest of children who happen to be blessed with normal eyesight would leap above me on the food chain. I would be susceptible to naturally occurring apocalyptic hurdles and booby traps —a comically obvious net placed on the ground could very easily be my downfall.

Assuming my glasses (as well as the home in which they were sitting) were washed away by a river or lava or something equally inconvenient, I would be reliant on the lenses hugging my eyeballs to guide me through the end of the world.

How Long Will My Contacts Last?

If properly cleaned and stored overnight, my contacts remain comfortable for about a month. Given that the apocalypse will probably be pretty dusty, I can't bank on having that much time. In order to prepare for this scenario, I spoke with Gary Heiting, OD, the Senior Editor of AllAboutVision.com. He said that, depending on the person, a pair of monthly contacts can be worn anywhere from one to three months (although three is pushing it). Wearing contacts longer than recommended greatly puts you at risk for serious eye infection.

In fact, infection is the greatest contact lens-related threat I'd face after the apocalypse. Acanthamoeba keratitis, for example, is caused by a one-celled organism that can dig its way into your corneas and eventually eat away at your vision. According to Dr. Heiting, the most likely causes of this kind of ailment are handling lenses with unclean hands or direct exposure to contaminated water.

Cleaning Contacts In The Filthy Apocalypse

I assume clean water will be tough to come by after the apocalypse (especially if I am in some sort of Waterworld-type scenario—surrounded by water but none of it is suitable for washing my hands, the cruel, cruel irony), so Purell would have to do. Dr. Heiting said that, in a pinch, antibacterial hand wash is fine, but you have to be very careful to ensure that all traces of alcohol have completely evaporated before making contact with your eyes. Still, soap and water is always the best bet.

I'll be able to loot a drugstore for saline solution (and snacks and sports drinks), so, for a couple of months, I will have good enough vision to wander the charred Earth and look for roaming bands of survivors whose trust I will undoubtedly have to earn with a series of daring deeds ("That was close..." "You're telling me!" That kind of thing).

What About Fresh, Packaged Lenses?

Even with Purell and fresh saline solution, my contacts won't last forever—soon, it will come time to find replacements. Naturally, I’m going to want to loot either A) an optometrist's office or B) a contact lens manufacturing plant (by this time I will have become very good at looting). Unfortunately, even in sealed packaging and taken directly from the assembly line, these contacts won't last for an eternity.

Contact lenses have expiration dates, and I asked Dr. Heiting how concrete those were. According to a source in the contact lens industry, manufacturers must prove that the lenses are stable up to that date (usually around three years after production). It's not like milk, in that the lenses will necessarily go bad once that time comes, but it's still a risk to wear expired contacts. Dr. Heiting said he can't recommend wearing expired contacts, "except perhaps in cases of dire emergency when the risk of very poor uncorrected vision outweighs the possibility of lens parameter changes or possible contamination."

Well well well, looks like I'm in business. A pair of factory-fresh lenses will last around three years, so I should be okay until civilization is rebuilt. When that time comes, I can visit my optometrist for a long-overdue checkup.

How To Ensure You're Never Up Apocalypse Creek Without A Paddle

Now, there are precautions one can take to ensure that they don't have to worry about their contact lenses during the apocalypse. Dr. Heiting recommends that you consider eyeglasses an "emergency medical device." Keep a pair on you at all times and you'll never have to worry. Still, having glasses isn't a 100% guarantee that the end of the world will be a breeze:

The best bet for a comfortable and crystal-clear apocalypse is LASIK or other types of refractive surgeries. Dr. Heiting says that many firefighters, police officers, and other first responders get these procedures done because they are faced with harrowing situations daily that can be made all the more difficult by cumbersome glasses or finicky contact lenses.

See you after the apocalypse—I'll be the guy dodging booby traps and reading faraway street signs with no trouble.

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Big Questions
Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell Funny?
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The asparagus has a long and storied history. It was mentioned in the myths and the scholarly writings of ancient Greece, and its cultivation was the subject of a detailed lesson in Cato the Elder's treatise, On Agriculture. But it wasn't until the turn of the 18th century that discussion of the link between asparagus and odorous urine emerged. In 1731, John Arbuthnot, physician to Queen Anne, noted in a book about food that asparagus "affects the urine with a foetid smell ... and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys." Benjamin Franklin also noticed that eating asparagus "shall give our urine a disagreeable odor."

Since then, there has been debate over what is responsible for the stinky pee phenomenon. Polish chemist and doctor Marceli Nencki identified a compound called methanethiol as the cause in 1891, after a study that involved four men eating about three and a half pounds of asparagus apiece. In 1975, Robert H. White, a chemist at the University of California at San Diego, used gas chromatography to pin down several compounds known as S-methyl thioesters as the culprits. Other researchers have blamed various "sulfur-containing compounds" and, simply, "metabolites."

More recently, a study demonstrated that asparagusic acid taken orally by subjects known to produce stinky asparagus pee produced odorous urine, which contained the same volatile compounds found in their asparagus-induced odorous urine. Other subjects, who normally didn't experience asparagus-induced odorous urine, likewise were spared stinky pee after taking asparagusic acid.

The researchers concluded that asparagusic acid and its derivatives are the precursors of urinary odor (compared, in different scientific papers, to the smell of "rotten cabbage," "boiling cabbage" and "vegetable soup"). The various compounds that contribute to the distinct smell—and were sometimes blamed as the sole cause in the past—are metabolized from asparagusic acid.

Exactly how these compounds are produced as we digest asparagus remains unclear, so let's turn to an equally compelling, but more answerable question:

WHY DOESN'T ASPARAGUS MAKE YOUR PEE SMELL FUNNY?

Remember when I said that some people don't produce stinky asparagus pee? Several studies have shown that only some of us experience stinky pee (ranging from 20 to 40 percent of the subjects taking part in the study, depending on which paper you read), while the majority have never had the pleasure.

For a while, the world was divided into those whose pee stank after eating asparagus and those whose didn't. Then in 1980, a study complicated matters: Subjects whose pee stank sniffed the urine of subjects whose pee didn't. Guess what? The pee stank. It turns out we're not only divided by the ability to produce odorous asparagus pee, but the ability to smell it.

An anosmia—an inability to perceive a smell—keeps certain people from smelling the compounds that make up even the most offensive asparagus pee, and like the stinky pee non-producers, they're in the majority.

Producing and perceiving asparagus pee don't go hand-in-hand, either. The 1980 study found that some people who don't produce stinky pee could detect the rotten cabbage smell in another person's urine. On the flip side, some stink producers aren't able to pick up the scent in their own urine or the urine of others.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Legal Authority Does Judge Judy Have?
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While Judith Sheindlin was a real, live judge—New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed her to family court in 1982 and then made her Manhattan's supervising family court judge in 1986—she's not acting as one on her show. Neither are any of the other daytime TV judges (whether they passed the bar and served as actual judges or not).

TV court shows don't take place in real courtrooms and they don't feature real trials, though they are usually real cases—the producers often contact parties who have pending litigation in small claims court and offer them the opportunity to appear on TV instead. What you're seeing on these TV court shows is really just arbitration playing dress-up in small claims court's clothes.

Arbitration is a legal method for resolving disputes outside the court. The disputing parties present their cases to a neutral, third-party arbitrator or arbitrators who hear the case, examine the evidence, and make a (usually binding) decision. Like a court-based case, arbitration is adversarial, but generally less formal in its rules and procedures.

The power that Judge Judy and the rest of the TV arbitrators have over the disputing parties is granted by a contract, specific to their case, that they sign before appearing on the show. These contracts make the arbitrators' decision final and binding, prevent the disputing parties from negotiating the terms of the arbitration, and allow the "judges" wide discretion on procedural and evidentiary rules during the arbitration.

TV judges make their decision on the case and either decide for the plaintiff, in which case the show's producers award them a judgment fee, or with the defendant, in which case the producers award both parties with an appearance fee. This system seems to skew things in favor of the defendants and gives them an incentive to take their case from court to TV. If they have a weak case, appearing on the show absolves them of any financial liability; if they have a strong case, they stand to earn an appearance fee along with their victory.

If one party or the other doesn't like the arbitrator's decision, it can really only be successfully appealed if it addresses a matter outside the scope of the contract. In 2000, Judge Judy had one of her decisions overturned for that reason by the Family Court of Kings County. In the case B.M. v. D.L., the parties appeared in front of Sheindlin to solve a personal property dispute. Sheindlin ruled on that dispute, but also made a decision on the parties' child custody and visitation rights. One of the parties appealed in court, and the family court overturned the custody and visitation part of the decision because they weren't covered by the agreement to arbitrate.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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