The human tolerance for sound is, on a galactic level, puny. Volcano eruptions, jackhammer-intensive construction work, My Bloody Valentine concerts — these tinnitus-inducing phenomena are barely whispers besides the majestic, roiling bursts and collisions going on in outer space.
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Corpse-freezing hasn’t exactly gone mainstream, but most people are now familiar with the concept: you lay out a ton of cash, sign some papers, and spend a couple post-death decades in a cutting-edge meat locker, calmly awaiting the conditions for your eventual revival. Over 300 cold, dead Americans — or dead, cold American brains, depending on which procedure they opted for (whole-body vs. brain-only) — can currently be found in storage facilities across the country. All of them took a gamble — one that was pretty cheap, metaphysically speaking: the worse case scenario here is just continued death.
The sex robot community — the people who make the sex robots, and the people who want to have sex with the sex robots — suffered a blow this past week, when the Houston City Council voted to preemptively ban what would’ve been the first sex robot “brothel” in the US.
But even those council members must know that their gesture was futile. Soon the stigma will fade, and Target will sell these things in 60 different flavours. Which of course means that, sometime in the future, you’ll almost certainly be able to buy a BDSM robot.
Let’s say your long-term relationship totally implodes. Browsing for a new apartment, or a therapist, you hear your dog bark in the other room — and realise, with a start, that it isn’t actually your dog. Once you’re all moved out, the dog will be out of your life, too.
Stewing in self-pity, you think — and subsequently become convinced — that this dog, who you’ve fed and bathed who knows how many times, and coined several adorable nicknames for, will forget you ever existed by the start of next autumn.
Wrangle up the right studies and you can make anything look deadly. Breakfast cereal — at least, the kind without cartoon mascots — might seem innocuous, and might be marketed as healthy, but that’s no reason to think that every naturally-flavoured bite isn’t speeding you towards the grave. Nothing, in this world, is above suspicion — not even tasteless health-store bran flakes.
It’s easy to feel smug around kids. You might not have it all together — you might, in fact, be rapidly disintegrating professionally and psychologically — but at least you can spill some apple juice without wailing inconsolably for six hours. Comparatively terrible things happen to you all the time, and you don’t freak out about it, or if you do, you do so quietly, not right there in the gym/office/Macca's parking lot.
But are you really feeling any less, or have you just become more adept at deceiving others, and/or yourself?
Dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves. Cats — or at least some cats, some of the time — can spend years at your side without making it totally clear that they know, or care, who you are. An expression vaguely resembling contentment flits across their face and you think, triumphantly, "See! My cat doesn’t despise me."
The supervillains who torment, thwart and otherwise mess with the universe’s well-meaning superheroes are, on the whole, a pretty foul bunch. But which of these supervillains is best at what they do? Put otherwise: if what supervillains do is try to inflict as much misery as possible on the largest number of people, which supervillain is most capable of pulling that off? Think of Darkseid, from DC Comics: instead of trying to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, he goes around trying to subject every single person in the universe to his screwed up will.
An entire industry—with its own spokespeople, podcasts, best-sellers, retreats, truisms, etc.—has sprung up around sleep. Give or take a contrarian or two, the message of most of this stuff seems to be that sleep is good and that if you’re not sleeping seven or eight hours a night, you should be. And since you’re probably not sleeping seven or eight hours a night—since, in all likelihood, you can barely focus on this sentence, having sacrificed one or two or all of your needed eight hours to soothing your newborn, or streaming bad TV, or snorting cocaine—what all this stuff is really saying is: sleep more.
Every life-stage has its share of novelty — first kiss, first tax return, first twinge of certain death — but when it comes to new experiences most of us peak in infancy. Just laying there, gargling and soiling our nappies, we as infants cycle through thousands of firsts.
It would be nice to remember some of them, as our lives slow down — as we settle into the same office chair for the 200th time, and sip from the same novelty coffee mug. But infancy scans as a blank for most of us.
At the peak of summer, when just walking to and from the corner store necessitates a shower and a change of clothes, air-conditioning can seem almost too good to be true. It is one of the few staples of modernity without severe and readily apparent downsides: All it does, or all it seems to do, is make things cooler, while generating a soft, lulling noise redolent of childhood afternoons spent indoors watching cartoons.
What’s the catch? How exactly are these things slowly killing us, like every other good thing in the world?
The modern age has brought one of the most nightmarish inventions in all of human history — the atomic bomb. These weapons harness the power of physics, releasing an immense amount of energy from a relatively small amount of mass to generate unfathomable fire, disease and death. The have the power to end the world as we know it.
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.
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.