space
What’s at the Edge of the Universe?

It is a routine emotion in 2019 to urgently wish, four or five times in a day, to be launched not simply into space but to the very edge of the universe, as far as it is possible to get from the fever dream of bad weather, busted trains and potentially cancerous thigh lesions that constitute life on Earth. But what would be waiting for you, up at the cosmological border? Is it even a border, or is what we’re dealing with here more like a kind of inconceivably vast ceiling? Is there even a border/ceiling up there at all? For this Giz Asks, we talked with a number of cosmology-oriented physicists to find out. Read More >>

giz asks
How Fast Can You Travel Before It Kills You?

The human body can withstand a lot before giving up and dying: falls from second-story windows, years of fevered substance abuse, wolf attacks, etc. We have a pretty good idea of what it can’t tolerate, but some ways of dying instantly have received less attention than others, and speed is one of these. We’ve all seen pictures of people moving at top-speed – but is there a velocity beyond which those blown-back cheeks actually fly off your face? Read More >>

science
Is Permatripping Real?

For decades, every town had its spin on the story: the distant cousin or friend of a friend who took a bunch of acid and never came down from their trip. Rumour had it that many of these people were consigned to state asylums, unshakably convinced that they’d morphed into tall, precariously balanced glasses of orange juice—at least, that was the one that I heard. The dreaded “permatrip”: an urban legend sourced equally in Just Say No paranoia and teenage idiocy/credulousness. Read More >>

memory
Why Do We Forget?

To live is to forget – account numbers, names, the precise locations of keys and wallets, friends from childhood, peripheral characters from prestige TV shows, inside jokes, past ambitions, U.S. history, much else. Goldfish with guns: that’s the human race. But every frailty, we know, serves some larger adaptive purpose. So it is worth asking, as we wrack our brains for whatever it was we know we were supposed to do today: why must things be like this? Why do we forget? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of neuroscientists and psychologists to find out. Read More >>

science
What’s the Loudest Sound in the Universe?

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. Read More >>

science
What Was the First Recreational Drug?

Sex, war, and getting insanely high: Society might have changed in the last 60,000 years or so, but these interests have remained constant. In a way, this is a kind of golden age for the aspiring recreational drug user: putting aside the public health consequences of a market flooded with mass-produced speed, painkillers and anti-anxiety meds, and putting aside as well the cost (in terms of cartel violence, punitive War on Drugs sentencing measures, etc.) of our country’s readily accessible store of coke, heroin, MDMA, weed, and experimental Chinese research chemicals, the fact remains that there are more options out there than ever for those who’re looking to get (responsibly!) fucked up. Read More >>

science
What’s the Worst Pain?

Some people say that life is pain. Those people are optimistic: life isn’t pain, it’s pains, plural – tooth pain, back pain, breakup-pain, the pain of watching your parents grow old and die, the pain of downwardly adjusting your expectations for life, stomach pain and sinus pain, pain you can’t quite trace to any one single source – a thousand different strains of this stuff, some not-insignificant percentage of which you’ll almost certainly experience before your (likely painful) death. Read More >>

giz asks
What’s Wrong If You Have a Red, Shiny Nose?

All this talk about whether or not Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is problematic has obscured a very important question—i.e., what was actually wrong with Rudolph’s nose? Like, medically? Did no one ever think of taking him to a doctor, to see if there everything was okay with his nose, before being mean to him about it? Read More >>

giz asks
What’s the Newest Animal?

Bears. Donkeys. Fat, friendly dogs. These animals—animals, generally—have been around for an extremely long time, long enough to feel like a fixed part of the landscape. It’s easy to forget that these creatures weren’t always there, and didn’t always look like they do now. On human—as opposed to geologic—time, forms seem more or less fixed; sexual mores and national attitudes towards fascism might change in the course of one’s lifetime, but zebras stay more or less the same. Taking the long view, though, it’s worth wondering—which of these animals, as we know them now, has been around for the least amount of time? Read More >>

animals
Do Animals Deceive Each Other?

Ours is a dog-eat-dog world – but is the same true for dogs? I’ve seen dogs tussle over discarded bits of hamburger meat, but I’ve never seen one try to enlist another in a shady multi-level marketing scheme, nor have I seen one dog try to distract another dog while a third dog steals the second dog’s rat carcass or whatever. Excepting the snake who allegedly screwed over Eve, animals in general would seem to lack the complex powers of thought which allow us humans to more or less constantly scam, defraud and double-cross one another. Read More >>

science
What’s the Smartest Plant?

Compared to even the dumbest human being, your average tulip is a moron. But you’d have to be dumber than a tulip to deny that something – maybe not intelligence in its dictionary definition, but some guiding, autonomic power – is at work among the members of the plant kingdom. And if we grant plants this quasi-intelligence, then we have to concede that some of them must be smarter than others – cannier absorbers of bugs and sun, better users of their varied environments. Inevitably, then, the question is: which one’s smartest? Read More >>

science
How Much Human Skin Does a Person Ingest Over the Course of Their Lifetime?

The average American – and presumably a British person too – eats almost a tonne of food a year. This breaks down to roughly 630 of milk, cheese and ice cream, 185 pounds of meat, and an increasingly high dosage of anti-depressants. But where does human flesh fit in? Humans shed something like 500 million skin cells a day. The fact is that these literal millions of shed cells are making it right into our mouths, often – especially – when we think we’re only eating a couple of eggs or whatever. Read More >>

giz asks
How Will We Know the World Is Ending?

Visions of the end of the world tend to extremes—the planet fatally fracked, flooded, hurricaned, nuke-cratered. No survivors, or maybe one or two survivors, dazed and dust-grimed, roaming a wasted landscape, eating canned beans, rotted squirrels, each other. But the truth is we might be in for a slow burn, apocalypse-wise. The “end of the world” entails not just the actual end, that last gasp of human breath, but all the agony leading up to it, too. How, though—without the fire-and-brimstone theatrics—will we know that the planet is truly terminal? Read More >>

giz asks
Will Cryogenically Frozen People Ever Be Revived?

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. Read More >>

dreams
Why Do We Remember Some Dreams but Not Others?

If you’ve ever woken up on the brink of a heart attack, drenched in sweat and convinced you’ll never live down the shame of sprinting nude through downtown Pittsburgh, you know that some dreams are more memorable than others. Most dreams, in fact, seem totally unmemorable – at least in the sense that we can’t remember them. And yet every now and then a dream will linger into breakfast and well into the day, or month, or year – will become a memory like any other. Read More >>