What Keeps Me Up At Night: There's Only One Reason Octopuses Haven't Taken Over Yet

Humans still have the edge… for now.

Life got a foothold on Earth a long, long time ago. The first signs of life appeared barely a billion years after the planet congealed out of the elemental gas and dust and rock left over from the Sun’s formation five billion years ago.

However, life then spent almost the entire period since creating nothing more complex than algae, before finally conditions were right for Earth to bring forth all sorts of cool stuff like trilobites and dinosaurs and insects and Steve.

Settle down there, Steve.

And among the countless hundreds of millions of different species on Earth, exactly one has developed complex language, tool use and technology. And the general thinking is that there are other species which are smart (dolphins, crows), or are great at delicately manipulating objects with prehensile bits of their bodies (marmosets, moose), but only a few that have both qualities.

Elephants do, and apes. And, perhaps most of all, octopi.

And we should notice that, because they’re so very much better than humans in almost every way imaginable.


They have better eyes. They have their brain spread out through their entire body. They can squeeze though any space big enough for their beak to fit. They regenerate when wounded. They can change colour and texture in milliseconds to the point that you could be surrounded by them RIGHT NOW and have no idea.

And they watch, and they learn.

Stories about octopi escaping from labs and aquaria are legion, if often wildly exaggerated, but what’s not in doubt is that they can look at things in their environment and go “hey, I can totally use that.”

You know, like people do.

“Hey, these wood-pants are awesome!”

So what’s preventing them from overthrowing us and becoming the planet’s dominant species? There are a few things.

One suggestion is that it’s hard to see an obvious path to technological society without dabbling in the useful properties of fire, which is a big ask for an aquatic species. Another is that octopi don’t play well together, with many species tending to eat one another rather than team up to take on us land-jerks.

But the biggest reason is probably the most practical: they die real quick.

Even the mighty giant Pacific octopus is estimated to cark it at around the five year mark. And I’ve dealt with a lot of five year olds in my time – I was one myself for about 12 months – and much of their technology is strongly cardboard and paint-based. They pose little threat.

On the other hand…

But evolution is nothing if not unpredictably zany.

All we need is one tiny random tweak to the right octopus gene – a mutation which is perhaps happening right now in our fathomless deeps – and suddenly we could be facing a long-lived species of camouflaged stealth hunters waiting with giant brains and time on their hands (tentacles?), just waiting for the sea levels to rise and make our largest cities the domain of the Kraken.

So we should keep poisoning the oceans the way we’re doing, is what I’m saying. Think of it as a pre-emptive strike.

Your Phone Has Found Another Way To Destroy Your Life, And You Don't Even Have To Be Awake

It's almost like we should go back to rotary landlines.

Orthosomnia. That’s the name for obsessing over having the perfect sleep, and it’s a hell of a good word.

Also, it turns out that a lot of us are orthosomniacs given the booming market in sleep apps.

What does the data say?

You can, of course, do proper sleep studies in a lab where you get covered in sensors that measure everything about you – your heart rate, your movement, your breathing – in the least comfortable and natural environment possible.

So many of us go for the cheaper and more convenient option of using sleep apps, which largely use the internal gyroscope in the phone to measure how unsettled we are at beddy-byes.

And now actual sleep experts are warning that sleep apps aren’t perhaps as accurate as we might hope, much like actual fitness experts keep saying annoying things about how we taking ten thousand steps a day doesn’t actually have the effect that we think it does and YES WE GET IT JANE.

She will bury us all.

There are question marks about the veracity of the data, and the very act of having a phone in your bed is attributed with having disrupted sleep whether that’s increasing tendency to look at it, or having lights flash on or vibrations letting you know that the thing’s recharged because when else are you going to do it?

“People will shell out 200 bucks for some sleep device, but we’re not willing to just shut off our phones and go to bed,” Dr Seema Khosla, medical director of the North Dakota Centre for Sleep, told the New Daily.

And maybe that’s the lesson here. You should use your sleep app if you like and look at the general trends, but don’t obsess over the details.

And maybe just hurl your phone into the corner and see if that doesn’t help you get some proper shuteye.

Mariah Carey Won A Nobel Prize According To This Cake Decorator And, Fair

All I want for Christmas is… um, a unifying theory on gamma radiation.

Generally speaking it is best, when ordering a custom-decorated cake, to do so in person.

But there are times when one must do so over the phone – as when one’s officemate desires a birthday cake celebrating their love for Mariah Carey, and then… well, this happens.

At least one of those cupcakes had better be radioactive.

For those unfamiliar with this pioneer of science, Marie Curie is credited with discovering two elements (polonium and radium) and forging the first comprehensive theory of radioactivity. She was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and is beloved for hits like ‘Hero’, ‘Fantasy’ and ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Sorry, not that last bit. Man, this is an easy mistake to make.

To be fair to Mariah, she has long had a keen interest in physics. Her 2008 album E=MC2 was, after all, essentially a musical thesis on cosmology, with ‘Side Effects’ a detailed discussion of the effects of gamma radiation on human tissue, ‘Touch My Body’ being a primer on the electromagnetic force between atoms and ‘Migrate’ exploring theories on solar system evolution and the relative positions of the gas giants, featuring T-Pain.

“Touch my body, put me on the floor / Pi to two decimals is 3.14…”

However, the most impressive thing about this cake – aside from Mme Curie’s baleful stare – was that they correctly spelled “Siobhan”. I have a niece with that name and goddamn, they deserve a tip purely for not icing it “Happy Birthday Shivorn”.

In any case: salut, unknown cakesmith. You have done the culture a solid.

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