Tagged With giz asks

Everyone, from time to time - or at every single moment of every single day - wishes they could somehow escape technology. It isn't ultimately that fun to be inundated at all hours with the collapse of society, the weekend activities of people you barely knew 10 years ago, bad memes, worse TV, and so on.

You can smash your phone, or delete those apps most obviously harmful to your mental health, but people will resent you for it, and besides, you won't actually be escaping anything. You can close your eyes in a burning building, but you'll still feel the flames.

Not all superheroes wear capes, but many do, and it's a long-established fact that these capes are crucial when it comes to flying around town to fight crime and brood and whatnot. And yet the people still don't know, with anything approaching certainty, how exactly capes facilitate this process (at least, the capes that aren't themselves imbued with the power of flight).

The world is filled with disgusting toilets. You might personally prefer toilets that smell ok and aren't covered in filth, but try telling that to whichever organs are involved in making you really need to use the bathroom. It has happened before, and it will happen again: you'll be at a bus stop, or a music festival, or the apartment of a man under the age of 26, and you'll realise, suddenly, that you no longer have any choice.

Most social media users know that bot accounts are among us, whether as fake voters with loud opinions or obsessive re-tweeters of a single corporation's content. When it comes to telling many 'fake' accounts from real ones, however -- or just knowing how many non-individuals are active online -- even savvy users are mostly in the dark.

Animal rights activists have done stellar work in foregrounding the question of creature-consciousness: no meat-eater is now ignorant of the fact that their food once lived, breathed, maybe nuzzled its kin in a blood-soaked slaughterhouse. Environmentalists have a harder go of it. Fracking footage will always be less upsetting than your average fast food expose: Plants, after all, can't wail frantically as they're mowed down by the millions. But does that mean they're not conscious? Is it sensible, or desirable, to start anthropomorphizing crabgrass and dandelions, or are plants really as insensitive as we all instinctively assume?

I never thought I'd see the day, but vaping - the bejeweled fedora of nicotine delivery methods - is starting to seem a lot less ridiculous. Or, at least, somewhat less ridiculous. Juuling teens are still reliably funny. But at the same time, there are real, credentialed doctors out there making a case for vaping as a viable alternative to conventional smoking. One doctor, speaking to the New Yorker, claimed that if 10 per cent of the cigarette smoking population switched over to e-cigs, 6.6 million lives would be saved. Of course, we're still unclear on what the long-term risks might be - some studies have suggested that e-cig vapour can be carcinogenic, and contain arsenic and lead.

So if we're all going to switch over to vaping, it might be useful at least to know, in the short-term, if it could possibly kill you.

When separates us from the animals? Is it the burden of consciousness, the terror of knowing that one day we will die, along with everyone we've ever loved? Or is it our big weird asses?

Cats are enigmatic little creatures. It's hard to get a read on them. Does your cat love you, or would it gladly stab you in your sleep, if only it had thumbs and a slightly larger brain? The cat never tells - it thrives on inscrutability. But it can't help betraying certain signs of its inner life: It's hard to play things totally cool when you have a large, ungainly tail sticking out of your back, swishing this way and that for no immediately clear reason.

It's an orgy of geometry, here on Earth. You got all kinds of shapes: Squares, trapezoids, even the occasional rhombus. Apples, desk-chairs, and dandelions - just an abundance of shape-having stuff. Outer space, in contrast, is minimally decorated: asteroids, stars, planets, galaxies. Big-picture stuff. We know the Earth is round - or, at least, most of us do - but what about the other stuff? What shapes are twirling around up there, and why do they look like that?

Animals fatally maul, sting, trample and chew about a million humans per year. Pretty nice of them, given the numbers on our side - the average of 551 million chickens killed in Australia every year, for instance. In an ideal world, no one would ever get mauled by a bear, or contract rabies from a feral squirrel. But for this week's Giz Asks, we're asking which creatures are most desperate for our blood (or, in fairness to the animal kingdom, which are most likely to kill us by accident).

In 2018, nearly everything is in place for a descent into a Ready Player One-style dystopia. The way things are going, we should be destitute and beaten down by climate change long before the 2040s. All we're missing, for now, is the technology.

Two decades of healthy growth, followed by four to eight decades of slow-motion physical and mental collapse - that's life, for most of us, despite the efforts of various deluded cranks and tech billionaires. Time spares nothing, and seems particularly to have it out for our faces, paying just as much attention to skin-level deformations (worry-lines, wrinkles, tumorous outgrowths) as it does to the large-scale hollowings and saggings which, over time, change the actual shape of our faces.

Ever since the 19th century, when disease was first linked to sewage-contaminated water, humans have gone to great lengths to escape their own filth. Meanwhile, animals have gone on revelling in the stuff - eating it, strategically dropping it, flinging it around just to pass the time, and so on. Same goes for mud, piss, vomit, blood and rotting carcasses of every make and vintage. Most creatures just don't have our hang-ups.

History's littered with lost ears: Van Gogh's, Evander Holyfield's, that ear Kyle MacLachlan finds in a field in Blue Velvet, and so on. Or maybe ears is the wrong word. The weird little flesh-whorls that jut out from the sides of most of our heads are just small components of a much larger, delicately interconnected system. Remove part of that system with a razor-blade upon learning that your brother is getting married, and you risk seriously compromising it.

Vibranium's the lifeblood of the Black Panther universe - the metal that helped propel Wakanda into a hyper-advanced technological society and granted Black Panther his superheroic abilities via a Vibranium-mutated heart-shaped herb. The Wakandan strain, sheared off a meteorite hundreds of years ago, has a number of useful properties - primarily, its ability to store more energy than any known terrestrial substance. As armour, it renders its wearer unstoppable; as sneaker material, it can neutralise leaps from tall buildings.

Humans do the wildest things to animals - stick them with experimental drugs, mash them into cheap nuggets, mount their severed heads on dining room walls. Against this backdrop of chaos and mass extermination the Puppy Bowl seems fairly benign, as do all those other events, such as the Melbourne Cup, where animals are forced to play sports for our amusement. We know that humans like these games, especially when their bets pay off; but how do the animals feel? What's on a horse's mind when it finishes first in a race? Can an animal have some sense that it's won something, or, for that matter, lost?

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.

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.