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I was talking about insects with the third-graders the other day, and this one kid says, "cockroaches are the only thing that will survive a nuclear war."

"Where'd you learn that?" I asked him.

"I read it somewhere. Or saw it on TV."

I was... startled, I guess. It seems that everyone has seen the TV show that says cockroaches will be the only thing to survive a nuclear war.

I saw the show on television when I was maybe eight or nine years old. I don't know what the show was, but it was about nuclear war, and it showed atomic test footage, and it had the thing about the cockroaches.

Almost everyone I've ever met has seen that show. Everyone has seen the TV show about nuclear war that says cockroaches will be the only thing that survives. Nobody really remembers what the show was, the title, or any other details. Just the cockroach part.

Maybe it's not even real, that show. Maybe the cockroach thing is just some kind of subliminal messaging, or mass hypnosis or something. But everybody knows it, everyone learns it at about the same time in their life, but nobody remembers definitely where it came from.

I used to think it was a coincidental, local and generational thing. I mean, we only received three television channels back in the pre-cable days, so most kids were familiar with the same stuff.

Over time I became aware that the cockroach show transcended regional boundaries. It didn't matter where people were from, they'd seen it.

Now I see that it transcends generations too.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
but they say it on lots of shows dude.
Feb. 8th, 2007 02:22 pm (UTC)
microwave a cockroach and find out? :D
Feb. 8th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
Here's the science behind the claim... and you'll be happy to note that even if the adults survive, it will nuke any immature cockroaches and render the adults virtually unable to breed. So they wouldn't outlast humans by much.
Feb. 8th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC)
When I was really, really little, my reading material of choice was a Far Side anthology. The anthology contained no shortage of mushroom clouds or cockroaches. However, I don't remember anything about cockroaches being able to survive a nuclear war...

Wikipedia sez:
Cockroaches are notoriously hardy animals. Radiologists have found that the lethal radiation dose for a human is approximately 800 rems (where the typical lifetime exposure is about 16 rems). However, the lethal dose for an American cockroach is 67,500 rems and for the German cockroach it is between 90,000 and 105,000 rems.[5] For this reason, and their ability to bury themselves underground, cockroaches could be one of the few species to survive a nuclear blast. However, they would not necessarily inhabit the blasted remains of cities: cockroaches need more heat than is naturally available in the wintertime of temperate areas.
Feb. 8th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
It's intercontinental as well. I am prety sure I never saw it on TV but I do know the myth anyhow.

As the article victriviaqueen linked mentiones the cocroaches are not champions. But they are practially 'domestic' animals and in that cathegory they are most hardy.
Feb. 8th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
:: blinks ::

What's this about cockroaches?

Feb. 13th, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)
An episode of The Fairly Oddparents features magically intelligent cockroaches striving to cause a nuclear war, so that they would end the human plague and be the sole survivors. Perhaps the kid watched that.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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