Nearly 3000 athletes have made their way to the Winter Olympic this month, and probably at least a couple are cursing the day they ever decided to become world-class bobsledders: Reports out of Pyeongchang list the temperature at or around a murderous -18C, putting this year's games on track to be the coldest since 1994 - with matters not much helped by the fact that, in their haste to get a stadium in shape, South Korea's builders neglected to include a roof.
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Predicting the future is near impossible -- but that doesn‘t stop us all from having a red hot go. Human beings have been predicting the future since the beginning of history and the results range from the hilarious to the downright uncanny.
One thing all future predictions have in common: they‘re rooted in our current understanding of how the world works. It‘s difficult to escape that mindset. We have no idea how technology will evolve, so our ideas are connected to the technology of today.
The first Bitcoin transaction ever was by man who bought two pizzas. That arrangement would be worth over $123 million today. Regret was baked into Bitcoin from the beginning. Last year, somewhat inexplicably, Bitcoin's price rose more than 1000 per cent. That number has since dipped, but a single Bitcoin is still, as of this writing, worth around $13,760.
Let's say your house is on fire, or overrun by a gang of psychotic raccoons. You don't hesitate - you take out your phone, and you call the fire department, or animal control, and then firefighters/snake-wranglers are promptly dispatched to your home. These are well-established protocols, essential to the maintenance of a mostly not-on-fire, feral-animal-free society.
If you've decided, this year, to start working out, you might have noticed a strange phenomenon: You'll leave the gym feeling fine, and then two days later wake up sore. This weird time-lag appears unique to exercise, and is, when you think about it, kind of inexplicable - like stubbing your toe, feeling nothing, and then two days later suddenly yelping in pain.
Can you eat yourself to death in one occasion of very excessive eating? We know that our eating problem is bad, albeit gradual: No one's ever died from eating three Big Macs, but plenty of people may have died from eating three Big Macs twice a week for thirty years (some, miraculously, have managed to avoid that fate). But what about the bingers? The people who, during Thanksgiving, or after receiving a bit of horrific personal news, find themselves eating way more than they're used to? You don't need to be an addict to overdose on drugs; might the same apply to food?
Earth might be looking a little worse for wear, after the last four-hundred years of reckless wide-scale resource extraction, but to its credit it hasn't collapsed entirely. Despite our best efforts, it continues to gamely welcome our rapidly expanding population, barring the occasional earthquake. Whether the planet might be a little better off with fewer of us is a different question, a freighted one.
Corporeality can be, at times, pretty great. And yet for all its advantages, there are certain downsides to being trapped in a sack of rotting limbs and organs and eye-juice. For instance: Allergies. There are innocent people out there who can't pet a friendly dog without sneezing, or eat a peanut without instantly dying.
To be a giraffe among giraffes, or a pigeon among pigeons, is to live at all times in that scene from Being John Malkovich - a world in which everyone you know looks pretty much exactly like you. However wondrously varied the animal kingdom might be, on a species-level its residents tend to look more similar than not - at least, from a human perspective. I'm not saying that all squirrels look identical - just that being a squirrel, and trying to distinguish your squirrel-spouse from your squirrel dad from your squirrel-mailman, seems like it would be pretty hard work.
Within 20 to 40 years, sex will no longer be the preferred method of reproduction. Instead, half the population with decent health care will - not kidding you - have eggs grown from human skin and fertilised with sperm, then have the entire genome of about 100 embryo samples sequenced, peruse the highlights, and pick the best model to implant. At least that's what Stanford law professor and bioethicist Hank Greely predicts in The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction. But skin-grown humans aside, how long until we have "designer babies"?
You live and then you die and then you rot in a hole - or so say the elites, with their glasses, and their PhDs in neuroscience. This bummer reality has never appealed to many people. For example, 72 per cent of Americans believe in some kind of afterlife. It's a comparatively rarer, though still sizeable, breed of person who believe in some spectral middle ground, in which, instead of rotting or going to Hell, you float around and freak out your kids, or the new residents of the house where you were brutally murdered a hundred years ago.
There was a time not so long ago when, for fun, or just for something to do, millions of people would tune in to watch non-actors eat worms for cash. It felt good, watching strangers wreck their intestines. Things might not have been going your way, but at least you weren't competitively chewing cockroaches on prime time television.
A disgusting factor which separates consuming human flesh from consuming muscle tissue of non-speaking animals is that you can't separate eating dead humans from eating live humans. In the way that you call a baby cow "veal" or a pig "pork," human flesh is just human flesh -- you wouldn't think about eating Dave's "rounds" or his "snout," you would think about eating Dave's arse and face.
There are currently 96,559 candidates on the list awaiting a kidney transplant in the US, and over 1500 people on the waiting list in Australia. In major cities in the US, the average wait is five to ten years. In Australia, the average wait is over three years. For those on the list, there are meagre options to get off it. They could receive a kidney donation from a relative or a friend. Internationally, some have opted for a murkier route. In 2012, the World Health Organisation reported an influx of people taking "transplant tours" to countries such as China, Pakistan or India for often poorly regulated and illegal operations. (Currently, Iran is the only country where it is legal to sell your organs, but not to foreigners). The WHO estimated 10,000 operations involving "black market" organs per year.
The feds began monitoring the potency of the United States' pot supply in the 1970s by drawing samples from stashes seized by law enforcement, and boy was it schwag. The percentage of THC -- the main psychoactive component in cannabis -- averaged from less than 1 per cent in 1975 to just under 3 per cent a decade later, according to the data. These notoriously low levels reflected the times, as the weed subculture in America was just starting to take root and could help explain why some of the most memorable old school brands have names like Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, Afghani, Thai stick, and Jamaican sensi; they were all originally cultivated outside of the country.
Online dating apps, pornography, advertising, and the continued existence of the human race all testify to a healthy, ongoing interest in sex among human beings, despite the fact that millennials appear to be having less of it. Until the day pills or radiation extinguish the last embers of human horniness, sex will likely continue to shape and govern society in all kinds of ways.
With their fanciful costumes and comedic personas, clowns seem like the epitome of joy. But these figures of fun also provoke a horrified response and have even inspired their own phobia. Although it isn't officially recognised in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 categorisation of disorders, coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, is one of the most commonly known phobias in the public perception. It's easy to see why clowns are sometimes viewed as icons of fear. Permanent, frozen smiles and uncanny, mask-like makeup inspire nightmarish visions.