Aquarium crocodile swallows cell phone

A visitor to an aquarium in the Ukraine was trying to take a picture of a crocodile with her cell phone when she dropped it right into the creature’s mouth, the BBC reports.

Last month at an aquarium in Dnipropetrovsk, Rimma Golovko reached her hand towards Gena the crocodile in order to get a good shot as it opened its mouth. She fumbled and the phone fell right into the Gena’s gullet. The reptile then gulped it down. She told the aquarium staff but at first they didn’t believe her. It was only after Gena’s tummy starting ringing that they realized the crocodile had, indeed swallowed the cell phone.

Funny? Well, yeah, but not for the croc. Gena has since lost its appetite and energy. Considering all the harmful chemicals involved in making a cell phone (they’re considered hazardous waste, after all) it’s not surprising the critter is feeling a little under the weather.

The aquarium’s vet has tried giving Gena laxatives-laced meat, but the it didn’t take the bait. Now he’s considering an operation.

And Ms. Golovko? She says she wants her Sim card back. Well, too damn bad, Ms. Golovko. I’m sympathizing with the giant predator on this one.

[Photo courtesy user MathKnight via Wikimedia Commons]

Seven reasons cell phones kill people on road trips

Even though Thanksgiving is behind us, there are still plenty of reasons to road trip before the end of the year. Well, there’s one reason, really, and that’s Christmas. But, a lot of people are going to get behind the wheel or whine in the back seat. Of course, we can expect a lot of people to be on their cell phones while they’re driving about, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s blog.

Do the math on this: cell phone + car + stupidity = dead people

It really is that simple, but there are some reasons for this equation. In fact, even though I go over seven of them here, the Insurance Information Institute has pulled together an impressive list of distracted driving statistics and insights, and I just lost interest in making the list any longer than it already is (so I suggest you take a peek over on the institute’s blog) … but check out my stuff first:1. Distracted driving: the number of people killed in distracted driving incidents is up a whopping 22 percent from 2005 to 2009. Fortunately, not as many people seem to be dying from cell phone-impeded driving in the recent past, though.. The Department of Transportation reported a 6 percent decline in distracted driving deaths in 2009, which means people are either doing it less or have gotten better at it.

Of course, traffic crashes declined slightly overall for that period, which means the share of them belonging to distracted drivers actually increased. So, there’s no way to rationalize yourself out of this one: stay off the damned phone while you’re driving.

2. Leading cause: cell phones are the top reason for distracted driving, with a variety of perspectives considered. For the future though, texting appears to be the next big killer.

3. Texted to death: 18 percent of drivers in the United State have done it in the past 30 days, according to a recent study by the Insurance Research Council. Drivers 25 to 39 are most likely to be guilty: 41 percent of them copped to it, compared to only 31 percent of drivers 16 to 24.

4. Banning it does nothing: the Highway Loss Data Institute “found that texting bans may not reduce crashes,” writes the Insurance Information Institute. Collisions actually increased slightly in three of the four states examined (but the change was not statistically significant).

5. Complacency: teens are more ready to blame drunk driving than texting for traffic accident fatalities. According to the Insurance Information Institute: “The survey seems to indicates that despite public awareness campaigns about the dangers of distracted driving many teens still do not understand the risk.”

6. Hypocrisy: even though 62 percent of AAA Foundation for Safety survey respondents feel that cell phone use while driving is “a serious safety threat,” close to 70 percent admitted to talking on their phones. Twenty-four percent read or sent text messages.

7. Teenagers are stupid: while 84 percent said in a Seventeen magazine survey said “they were aware that distracted driving increased the risk of a crash,” writes the Insurance Information Institute, 86 percent engaged in distracted driving behavior related to a cell phone.

[photo by inhisgrace via Flickr]

Mt Everest now has cell phone service

Nepali cell phone company Ncell announced this week that they have activated a cell tower in Mt. Everest base camp, providing reliable 3G coverage on the mountain for the first time. To commemorate the launch of the service, the technicians completed the highest altitude video call ever from 5300 meters (17,388 feet) on the mountain.

Ncell’s service will replace expensive, and often unreliable, satellite phones, which can be easily disrupted by bad weather and technical issues. Sat phones have been the defacto standard on Everest for years but the new cell service offers not only improved voice communications, but also a relatively speedy data connection all the way to the summit, located at 8849 meters (29,035 feet). That data connection will allow for photos, audio, and even video to be shared by climbers.

The new cell tower won’t just provide coverage for climbers and trekkers on and around Everest however. It will also give Nepali citizens living in the Khumbu Valley the ability to make phone calls for the very first time. The remote region has few modern conveniences, but in a country that only has cell coverage for about a third of its people, this is a big step forward for communications. Ncell, and it’s partner TeliaSonera, plan to spend about $100 million to expand coverage to 90% of Nepal’s population by the end of next year. Considering the challenges of travel in the Himalaya, that will be quite a feat.

It is impressive that visitors to Mt. Everest can now make a phone call, even while standing on the summit. Now if only AT&T could eliminate the dead zones in my home town. Then I’ll be really impressed.

New international travel phone service from National Geographic

National Geographic and Cellular Abroad have joined forces to introduce a new option for those who need to stay in contact while traveling the world. The National Geographic Travel Phone includes an unlocked Motorola handset, a charger that comes complete with international outlet adapters, and a Nat Geo SIM Card, all for just $99. A second phone, dubbed the National Geographic Duet, is also available and includes all of the above, plus dual SIM Card slots, a larger screen, upgraded performance, and additional features for $179.

The new pay-as-you-go service works in more than 150 countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa, and includes free incoming calls in more than 70 countries, plus 30 minutes of credit for outgoing calls in most countries as well. The service comes complete with two phone numbers, one based in the U.S. and the other the U.K., and both are always active and do not require a monthly fee. The U.S. based number also works for text messages and call-forwarding too.

For more information on both handsets and the Cellular Abroad service check out this page. You’ll not only find a list of countries in which the phones will work, you’ll get a breakdown on the costs and services, and a handy calculator to help you determine just how much you’ll pay when calling from one country to another.

For frequent travelers, this looks like a great option for staying in touch while abroad. The list of countries where these phones work is quite impressive, which can save you time and hassle when looking for SIM Cards after you arrive at your destination.

Galley Gossip: The REAL reason for no cell phones in flight

Recently someone asked me what the real reason was for no cell phones in flight. My reply, “Does it matter? You still have to turn it off and put it away.”

There are three things flight attendants should not discuss with passengers. They are religion, politics, and the reason why cell phone use is not permitted in flight. This is because everyone has their own opinion and people feel strongly about what they believe to be true. It’s not easy for some to agree to disagree and be done with it. The last thing we need in flight is a passenger who wants to argue. Trust me, we get enough of those without engaging in controversial conversations.

When it comes to why cell phones aren’t allowed on airplanes, a lot of passengers have come up with conspiracy theories. These grand theories all revolve around money. Call me crazy, but if the airlines could make a buck off of cell phone use in flight like they do with wi-fi, don’t you think they would have figured out how by now? And regardless of what I say, these same suspicious passengers are still going to do what they want to do – until I ask them to turn it off!

In 2006 Scientific American published a report that stated an average of four calls were made per flight. With so many people unable to “turn it off” literally, can you imagine what that number would be today! On a flight from Dallas to Oklahoma City I had remind sixteen passengers – sixteen! – not once, not twice, but three times to turn off and stow their electronic devices after we had backed away from the gate. And those were only the passengers I had caught red handed. These days passengers are pretty sneaky with their electronic devices. It’s impossible to check under every thigh and inside passengers pockets to make sure passengers are complying with only a few minutes left before take-off.

“When I forget to turn off my phone by accident, I notice the plane still finds the airport,” said one reader.

Thank God for that!

Do I think one phone will affect the outcome of a flight? No. Do I think several phones “accidentally” left on will bring an aircraft down? I don’t know. Maybe it depends on the number of cell phones that are left on and the aircraft equipment type. All I know for sure is I’d rather not find out the hard way. While there hasn’t been a case of a crash caused by cell phone interference, there are numerous reports that cell phones do in fact interfere, especially on smaller planes “where instruments are more sensitive because they rely on small changes to indicate direction,” explained a pilot.

Whenever I start to discuss cell phones in flight someone always brings up Myth Busters Episode 49: Cell phones on planes. Personally, I wouldn’t put a plane full of passengers lives in jeopardy because of what a television show had to say. And while they considered the theory “busted” the caveat was: why take the chance.

“Some European carriers allow mobile phones in flight – certified by the aircraft maker. They’d never approve it if it were unsafe,” said our very own Gadget Guy, Scott Carmichael, during a recent conversation.

May I point out we’re not in Europe! And batteries get run down searching for a signal. Signals are intermittent at best because the plane is moving at four to five hundred miles per hour. On top of that, “European carriers have pico cells on board to make sure in-flight calls are safe. US aircraft aren’t equipped,” explains Mary Kirby, Flight Global’s Runway Girl.

Why aren’t US carriers equipped like European ones? I think it’s safe to assume it’s because that would cost money. A lot of money! Passengers already complain about ticket prices that are cheaper than they were twenty years ago. No joke! Are you willing to cover the cost that will no doubt be passed on to you, the consumer, in the form of higher ticket prices when you’re already angry about having to pay for checked bags? That’s what I thought.

Now just for a moment let’s pretend cell phones have been proven to be safe to use in flight. Do you really want to sit next to the blathering idiot going on and on about how important he is, or the kid who wants to know what the “mutha F’er” did next, or the elderly woman discussing her rashes and lab results with a loved one? Didn’t think so. As for me, I’d rather not have to start policing passenger’s conversations when they become too loud and bothersome to those seated around them.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images and Jung Hong