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Eaten Alive is Everything Wrong with Popular Science

Eaten Alive is Everything Wrong with Popular Science

So like millions of other viewers Sunday night my morbid curiosity sucked me into watching a Discovery Channel special called Eaten Alive. Suffice to say there should be a medical term for how much dumber myself and the rest of the viewing public are for watching this show.

It's hard to know where to start. Even if you set aside your feelings about snakes you have to marvel at the technology, engineering, and scientific resources that were wasted on this ratings stunt. Is this the only way to get the rest of us interested in science? I might forgive it if there had actually been useful information delivered, but as it stands all I have to show for it is two hours where I could have been doing anything else more enriching ... like the dishes.

Here's the basic premise: Naturalist/conservationist Paul Rosolie (he says he's one so he must be) travels to a remote part of the Peruvian rainforest called the Floating Forest (located somewhere between “Who cares?” and “Stop asking questions.”) under the auspices of raising awareness about snakes, the Amazon rainforest, and ... things.

And what could be a better, more scientific way of studying the majestic anaconda than by allowing himself to get eaten alive by one?

You can't make this stuff up. See, on a separate expedition to the Amazon, Rosolie once encountered a green anaconda that was the largest he'd ever seen. It got away, but now he's back with a vengeance and he's brought a team (including his wife) and a Discovery Channel camera crew along on his mission to throw himself down the monster's throat.

How does he plan on doing this? By donning a custom suit of armor, dousing himself in pig's blood, and antagonizing a snake to the point that it constricts him and swallows him whole. Once inside the plan is to record video (for science!) until the snake eventually regurgitates him back up. If all of this is still sounding like an intelligent thing to do ... keep reading.

Here's the suit in a nutshell: It consists of layers designed to protect Rosolie while also recording video and taking readings of how much pressure the snake is exerting on the suit.

The first layer is a shirt with a Bluetooth-enabled biometric device so that Rosolie's team can constantly monitor his heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. Above this is a cooling vest that circulates cool water to maintain Rosolie's core body temperature. Next is a Tychem suit layer to protect against the snake's digestive acids.

The next layer? Chainmail. Yes, good 'ol fashioned medieval chainmail designed for shark suits that will keep Rosolie safe from the snake's bite.

Above that – carbon fiber constriction armor to keep Rosolie from being crushed by the snake.

The armor is also equipped with a pressure-sensitive pad to measure how hard the anaconda is constricting. According to the show the highest recorded reading from a snake constriction is 90 psi. The Eaten Alive team is hoping to crush (pun intended) that record – thus adding further evidence to the long-held assumption that bigger animals are stronger.

Add a helmet, equipped with a breathing mask and microphone, and wrap the whole thing in neoprene and Rosolie comes out looking like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It's quite a feat of engineering. But do they think a snake could swallow this?!

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