giz asks
How Will Our Bodies Change from Being Inside for Months?

According to multiple ads I’ve seen, we are in this thing together. “Together we will prevail,” the ads say. You lay there – alone, in a shirt stained with who can say what – and think: nothing. What is there to think? If you were going to have an interesting thought, you would’ve had it weeks ago. Better to wreck yourself with caffeine and awful snacks, is my take, which diverges somewhat from the advice in our latest Giz Asks – an investigation into what exactly this quarantine might be doing to our bodies, and how we might mitigate some of those effects. Read More >>

giz asks
Is ‘Lucid Dreaming’ Real?

Reality has plenty of exit-hatches: strong drugs, streamed television, certain corners of social media. But the most immersive reality-dissolver might be lucid dreaming, wherein the dreamer recognises they’re dreaming and proceeds to reshape their dreamscape per their own specifications. A slight disreputableness clings to the phenomenon – it sounds like a schoolyard fiction, the kind of thing a kid would make up to impress his friends. But there are thousands who claim to experience them regularly, and countless guides online purporting to teach you how to achieve them. So is lucid dreaming real? And – if it is – what’s the science behind it? To find out, for this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to a number of experts in the interrelated fields of sleeping and dreaming. Read More >>

mark zuckerberg
Which Historical Figure Was the Mark Zuckerberg of Their Time?

Purely on the level of physical appearance, Mark Zuckerberg is unprecedented; I doubt he’s ever once heard the phrase “you know who you look like?” unless the follow-up was “an unfinished police sketch left out in the rain.” But if we’re talking about Zuckerberg the man – or, more precisely, the nihilistically expansionist tech mogul – the historical record is rich with equivalents. There are other people who, like Zuck, inaugurated or sped along some paradigm shift in communications and in the process – or as an integral part of the process – wrecked this or that aspect of society. For this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to a number of experts for their pick for the quintessential proto-Zuck. Read More >>

Why Does Spending Money Feel So Good?

Assuming that you don’t have an infinite supply of money – assuming your supply of money is, like most personal money-supplies, limited, and closely-hoarded, and essential to your survival – then diminishing what you have in any way should be a painful undertaking. And yet blowing loads of cash on stuff you don’t need tends generally to feel great, at least in the moment. What explains this phenomenon? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out. Read More >>

Why Do We Use Dark Humour to Deal With Terrifying Situations?

Life’s hard for the humourless – loved ones die, hurricanes and infections ravage the planet, and all they can do is sit around and grieve about it. Some of us, meanwhile, watching our houses burn down and our spouses succumb to hazily-understood pancreatic ailments, can at least leaven the pain with a well-timed joke. As distraction, coping mechanism or aid to acceptance, dark humour has helped millions through crushing personal and/or world-historical ordeals. For this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to a number of experts to suss out the reasons behind this dark phenomenon. Read More >>

giz asks
Why Do Cute Things Make Me Mad?

A couple years back, a team of research psychologists ID’d a phenomenon called “cute aggression,” wherein the sight of something cute (an infant, a puppy) paradoxically yields statements like ‘I just want to kill it!!’ The term pinpointed something universal and more or less instantly went viral, and a couple of years later a team of neuroscientists verified its basis in the brain. As the term settles into the small glossary of psych-terms widely known by non-professionals, for this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to members of both teams, as well as a few experts in the burgeoning field of ‘cute studies,’ for a definitive handle on how it all works, and where research in the field may be headed. Read More >>

Which Ancient Medicines Turned Out to Be Real?

From the historical record, it would appear that the medical profession in ancient times was a death cult with a body fluid fetish, whose members passed the bulk of their workdays draining patients’ blood and/or slathering them with animal droppings. Of course, to fault them for getting it wrong would suggest that we’ve gotten it right, when in reality we’re still very much in the dark. Plus, it wasn’t all pigshit and sterilised bloodletting – plenty of the ancients’ advancements still have some value today, or served as crude but useful prototypes for current medical practices. For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts for a runthrough of some of these. Read More >>

giz asks
Which Superstitions Are Based on Facts?

Superstitions – passed down through generations, or developed spontaneously on certain online forums – gobble up thousands of productive hours yearly. But it would be wrong to say that all that time spent avoiding ladders or cracks in the pavement is wasted. For one thing, we’d probably just be spending that time on some equally useless activity, like working. For another, superstitions are essential binding agents between people, generations, and some vague notion of the Past, from which most of these superstitions sprang, and where, presumably, they made somewhat more sense. To learn more about which superstitions have some basis in fact, for this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to a number of experts in the field. Read More >>

giz asks
What’s the Softest Thing?

There are a lot of soft things out there: cats, infants, expertly-laundered sweaters. If there was some kind of omniscient softness guide, ranking every item in the universe in order of softness, these three items would for sure land towards the top. Of course, such a guide would be very difficult to assemble: as softness is at least partly subjective, you’d need teams of volunteer softness-assessors to handle each item, and some fair/statistically sound way of averaging all their reactions. And at some point, one of these softness-assessors would surely ask why exactly they’re doing any of this in the first place, lowering morale and jeopardising the whole project. Which is why, for this week’s Giz Asks, we’re keeping things simple: four materials scientists, representing no one but themselves, weighing in on their choice for the absolute softest thing. Read More >>

Is Mould Dangerous?

Pretty much everyone can agree that mould looks disgusting, or worse than disgusting. It lays claim to hummus tubs and shower curtains with what feels like intent – it looks alive, possibly because it is. But does this colonising fungus, beyond its surface-level repellence, actually mean us harm? If you just bit into the refrigerated remains of a sandwich, and came away with a mouthful of mould, should you head to the ER or just vigorously brush your teeth? With instances of mould-linked deaths reported recently at Seattle’s Children Hospital, it’s apparent that how, when, and what kind of mould you encounter (and who you are) matters. For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts for clarity. Read More >>

Will My Data Be Online Forever?

We’ve all pretty much reconciled ourselves to the fact that a handful of unaccountable technology executives have, with our help, generated the largest repository of personal information ever assembled, housed in vast fortified complexes around the globe and sifted continually for the benefit of corporations, federal agencies, political campaigns, etc. Less clear is the lifespan of everything they’ve gleaned. Are they really going to hold on to this stuff forever? And if they are, and if we’d rather they didn’t, is there anything we can do about it? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out. Read More >>

What’s the Most Toxic Chemical?

People say America doesn’t make things anymore. But what about toxic chemicals? We make so many of those, we throw half of them in rivers, for free. The problem is, it can be hard to get a handle on which of those chemicals are extremely toxic and which of them are merely somewhat toxic. If one or another shows up in a scan of your stomach, should you freak out or just be grateful it wasn’t something worse? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out what the most toxic chemical is. Read More >>

What is the Best Exercise?

There are countless questions the novice exerciser should be asking themselves before their first day at the gym. I have no idea what those questions are, but I do know that, in exercise as in everything else, it is important to cut corners and maximise one’s leisure time. Read More >>

Why is Social Media So Addictive?

Social media is awful and whatever pleasures it confers in the form of mildly amusing memes or a fleeting sense of community/belonging are massively outweighed by its well-documented downsides whose psychic consequences are of interest to its owners only in the sense that past a certain threshold people might turn away from their platforms and cut off the endless stream of monetisable private data that sustain their business models and corrode conventional ideas about privacy, self-determination, etc. Read More >>

giz asks
Is the “Death Drive” Real?

Statistically, at least ten people reading this article will be dead within sixteen months. I just made that statistic up, but if you felt a little flutter of excitement at the prospect of your imminent demise, you might be verifying the death drive – Freud’s theory, postulated in 1920, that each consciousness is dually saddled with a will-to-live and its fatalistic opposite, the latter best-expressed by way of such self-annihilating activities as war, cigarette smoking, etc. Read More >>