AC Lung, Space Stairs, 3D Guns and the Quietest Place on Earth: Best Gizmodo Stories of the Week

Illustration: Gizmodo (Various)

August 2018 rolled in with a bang, literally, as explosions rocked Caracas, Venezuela on Saturday during a speech by President Nicolas Maduro—and government officials later said bomb-carrying drones were to blame. If the accounts of an attempted assassination using unmanned aerial vehicles is confirmed, the New York Times wrote, it would be the “first such known use of drones against a head of state,” though no proof of said drones has yet emerged.

In other words, pretty ominous! In this week’s best of Gizmodo, we have other tech mysteries of varying levels of malevolence to investigate: Is your air conditioner actually a deadly disease incubator? Why are sci-fi settings so full of stairs? Is anyone with a 3D printer going to be able to print a firearm soon? What the hell are U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials doing about foreign meddling in elections? And is a $100 phone worth all the frustration?


All this and much more below:

Can You Get Sick From Air Conditioning?

Illustration: Sam Woolley ( Gizmodo)

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?

For this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to a number of biologists and occupational and health scientists to find out whether A/Cs can make you sick. Which, as it turns out, they very much can—though it happens rarely, and the cost-benefit analysis here suggests you can safely keep yours around, as long as it’s not filled with mold.


Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?

Illustration: Angelica Alzona (Gizmodo)

Space, as we all know, is the final frontier. It’s the star-spangled playground in which our imaginations run amok, and the setting for stories that made us fall in love with sci-fi. Some of us spent hours pretending we were the Doctor’s companions, helping him find Gallifrey from the TARDIS. Some of us imagined the Millennium Falcon jumping to hyperspace when we shouted, “Punch it, Chewie!” Some of us swore we could hear the communicator beeping when we asked our favorite Federation starship to beam us aboard. The characters that roam space have built homes in our hearts and allowed those of us who are trapped in Earth’s gravity-well to fulfill some of our wildest fantasies. Space remains a vast, untamed place, penned in only by the limits of our own imaginations.

So why the hell are there so many staircases in space?

The Battle Over 3D-Printed Guns Is Getting Serious

Gif: Jim Cooke ( Gizmodo)

Five years ago, a lot of people thought Cody Wilson was a wild-eyed fanatic. The New Yorker described his rhetoric about making blueprints for 3D-printed guns available to anyone on the internet as “divorced” “from any practical reality.” Yet here we are in 2018, and Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, is still in the news being branded as a threat to national security. President Donald Trump weighed in this week, and just yesterday, a federal court blocked the 30-year-old from relaunching his website. What the hell is happening?

The website in question is, an online repository for 3D-printed gun designs. In theory, anyone with a 3D-printer could log on to this website, download a file, and print a gun out of plastic or other materials. “I think access to the firearm is a fundamental human dignity,” the self-identified crypto-anarchist told CBS This Morning. “It’s a fundamental human right.”


The Kaijuspotters Guide to the Wonderful Titans of Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Millie Bobby Brown encounters Mothra in the King of the Monsters trailer.
Image: Warner Bros.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ first trailer didn’t just bring the big G with it: it promised, well, monsters. Several of them, actually, all ready to challenge him for his title. For fans of Godzilla’s many Japanese films, these foes are some iconic familiar faces, but if you’re fresh to the world of Kaiju outside of the 2014 Godzilla movie, here’s what you need to know.

The Secrets We Learned From the Avengers: Infinity War Home Release

Avengers: Infinity War is available in your home right now.
Photo: All Images: Disney

In the three months since its release, Avengers: Infinity War has become a staple of pop culture dialogue. Thanos, his snap, and the jokes are already integrated into our everyday lives. So you’re probably wondering, is there really more we can learn about this massively successful movie? It turns out the answer is a very big yes.

Avengers: Infinity War is out on digital download today with the physical disc just two weeks behind on August 14. It comes with about 30 minutes of featurettes, 10 minutes of deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a commentary track featuring directors Joe and Anthony Russo along with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. And while we obviously recommend you explore all of it for yourself, we took a deep dive and came back with a ton of new facts and behind-the-scenes nuggets about the making of this epic film.


Top Scientists Explain to Senators Why We Must Look for Aliens

Martian landscape as photographed by Opportunity
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is holding a series of hearings leading up to another NASA authorization bill, which helps set goals and authorizes funding for the agency (2017-2018's bill is here). On Wednesday, scientists from U.S. universities, the Smithsonian Institution, and NASA answered senators’ questions about why Congress should fund the hunt for extraterrestrial life.

“I believe it’s one of the big questions of all of humanity,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, told the Senate committee. “This is how great nations make a mark—what they do for their citizens and how they move history forwards.”


10-Year-Old Boy Recovers Impressively After One-Sixth of His Brain Is Removed

A representation of the brain matter the patient had removed from his right brain hemisphere at age six.
Illustration: Liu, et al. ( Cell Reports)

A new case study from Pittsburgh highlights the resilience of the human brain. It details a boy who, despite losing one-third of the right hemisphere of his brain when he was six, is now a mostly ordinary 10-year-old. Though he can’t see past the left side of his face, his brain has compensated for the loss in some ways by forming new neural connections, allowing him to recognize faces and objects as easily as anyone else.

The boy, referred to as U.D. in the paper published Tuesday in Cell Reports, started having severe seizures at the age of four. The seizures were caused by a slow-growing brain tumor found in the occipital and temporal lobe of his right hemisphere. Eventually, after drugs and other treatments did little to alleviate his symptoms, the boy’s family opted for a radical option: Just before turning seven, the boy had his entire occipital and much of the temporal lobe removed, accounting for one-third of the right hemisphere.


The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Also Jumbled Shark Evolution

The great white shark is a lamniform shark, a group that dominated oceans in the Cretaceous Period.
Photo: Elias Levy ( Flickr)

More than 500 different shark species roam Earth’s oceans: from zippy little cookie-cutter sharks, to the iconic great white, to nightmarish goblin sharks, to 25-foot-long, filter-feeding basking sharks. And it seems that the current equilibrium of shark species we see today arose after the Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction event 66 million years ago, according to new research.

In the Cretaceous Period (between 142 million and 66 million years ago), an order of sharks called Lamniformes commanded the seas. Also known as mackerel sharks, modern lamniform sharks include the great white, thresher, and mako.


The Quietest Place in America Is Becoming a Warzone

Photo: Brian Kahn (Gizmodo Media)

N 47.51575°, W 123.52133°—Amid the panoply of greenery that makes up the Hoh Rainforest, a gap in the old growth forest arises. Well, more accurately it’s a gap in a tree—a hollow inside a towering sitka spruce that stands like an open door. Beyond it, a short game trail through ankle deep mud and pools of water accumulated from the week’s rains ends in a clearing lined with ferns.

Gordon Hempton guides a group to the clearing where, on a log dotted with the tiniest plants and mosses sits a red stone, roughly one square inch. Hempton walks up to it, opens his satchel, grabs another similar red stone and places it on the log while grabbing the original one. It’s like the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Hempton looks the part, except in a Northwest twist this Indiana Jones has swapped a leather jacket for a thick wool sweater and a whip for an umbrella. He turns and presses his meaty palm into mine, closing my hand around the burnt red stone slick with rainwater without saying a word.


Meet The Communities Fighting to Bring Back Their Stars

Illustration: Chelsea Beck (Gizmodo Media)

Those who live in urban areas inhabit a radically different night-time reality than those living far from city lights. Gaze up at the night sky from a metropolis like New York City and you’re greeted with a dusty glow punctured by a few bright pin-prick stars. Do the same from a spot only100 miles away and the Milky Way is visible as a thick ribbon stretching across a night sky swimming in stars.

Humanity has been steadily polluting the night skies since the advent of electric lights in the late 19th century, but where America’s last truly dark night skies still flourish—mostly in rural, western towns—communities are fighting to keep it that way. They’re enacting policies that protect their night skies from the bleeding glow of artificial lights, while at the same time protecting the plants and animals that rely on darkness. Astro-tourism is helping these communities by attracting dark sky enthusiasts from across the country. After decades of being carelessly wiped out, darkness is becoming a precious natural resource.


California’s Death Valley Will Have the Hottest Month Ever Recorded on Earth

A 2013 photo shows the Furnace Creek Visitor Center thermometer. It reached 127 degrees Fahrenheit four times in July 2018.
Photo: AP

July has been one for extreme heat around the world, but every locale pales in comparison to what’s going on at Death Valley in California. Already one of the hottest places on the Earth, the heat has gone into overdrive this July. Death Valley is in line to set a record for the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.

Top National Security Officials Brief Bewildered Nation on Efforts to Combat Election Interference

Photo: AP

The glaring divide between the U.S. intelligence community and the Oval Office on the issue of Russian election meddling was never more conspicuous than at Thursday’s White House press briefing. Gathered to set the record straight—and get bombarded with questions about President Trump’s oft-contradictory statements regarding Russia—was White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and General Paul Nakasone, head of U.S. Cyber Command

‘We Are Not Bots’: Facebook Censors U.S. Activists After Falsely Claiming They ‘Unwittingly’ Planned Protest

Photo: Getty

Facebook on Tuesday announced its banning of eight pages, 17 profiles, and seven Instagram accounts that engaged in what it described as online political activity that was both “inauthentic” and ultimately an “abuse” of its platform. While the activity was not attributed to anybody specific, the implication was clear, and at several points, the company made comparisons to a Russian organization U.S. authorities accused of trying to influence U.S. voters during the 2016 election.

Mission: Impossible’s Box Office ‘Failure’ Shows Why We Need MoviePass


MoviePass apparently fucked up yet again over the weekend after complaints began pouring in that the app wouldn’t let users buy tickets to the new Mission: Impossible flick. But as analysts dog the much-hyped film’s box office performance, it’s becoming clear exactly why we need MoviePass to survive.

The death of MoviePass has seemed like an inevitability from the beginning, and everyone has just been counting down the days until the gravy train ends. Arguably, the death watch has been great publicity for the company, keeping it fresh in the minds of moviegoers every time it makes a desperate change or really pulls a boner. It has to be one of the only companies in the world that manages to remind customers that it offers a great deal every time bad news is reported.


I’m Amazed By How Much I Love These Earbuds

The $190 Jabra Elite Active 65t, which is water resistant, is on the left, and the $170 Jabra Elite 65t is on the right.
Photo: Adam Clark Estes ( Gizmodo)

A weird thing about reviewing gadgets for a living is that my neighbors notice. Sometimes they just call me out for getting a lot packages in the mail. Other times, they ask me for advice. One neighbor recently pointed out the $190 Jabra 65t Elite Active truly wireless buds I was wearing in the elevator. “What do you think?” he asked. After taking the earbud out of my head and asking him to repeat the question, I was honest and probably a little bit surprised by my candor. I said, “I love them. You should buy them.”

The Cost of Buying a $100 Phone

Photo: Patrick Lucas Austin ( Gizmodo)

No one gets a cheap phone because they want to have a sub-par experience filled with stuttering and lagging apps. People get cheap phones because they’re cheap, and usually work just enough to justify the low price point. Take the Alcatel 1X, for example. It’s neither novel nor intriguing. It’s not trying to impress you. Hell, it runs on an operating system designed explicitly for underpowered devices. But it’s $100, and that sure is cheap. Whether you can stomach how cheap it feels is another thing entirely.

Did Amazon Just Accidentally Confirm Samsung’s Unreleased Dual-Wireless Charger?

Photo: Sam Rutherford ( Gizmodo)

Amazon is really good at making it easy to buy stuff online, however it seems the company isn’t all that great at keeping secrets. That’s because last night at an Amazon holiday press preview event, among the hundreds of products it was trying to push as we slowly approach peak gifting season, the company had one unannounced product just sitting out on the shelves for anyone to come take a look at.

The Microsoft Surface Go Is Practically Perfect

Photo: Alex Cranz ( Gizmodo)

Look, $550 is a lot of money... unless you’re talking computers. Any computer you buy for that little is firmly a “budget” PC, as far as the people making them are concerned. They’re not impressive, or especially fast, or pretty. They’re purely functional—the Ford Fiesta of computers. The sheer mediocrity of the sub-$550 range of laptops is why the new $550 Microsoft Surface Go is so damn special. It’s a cheap laptop that’s actually nice.

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post

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