Tagged With giz asks

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.

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.

Move over Ewoks, there's a new critter in this galaxy. Star Wars: The Last Jedi marks the debut of porgs, a species of alien birds that chill with Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To as he trains Rey in the ways of the Force. They may be cute, but we can't help but wonder: How do they taste?

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"?

As long as there has been a Joker - and we're going on 80 years with this guy - there has been, as well, a Joker venom. It debuted alongside him, in 1940s Batman #1, and has been a part of his arsenal ever since.

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.