1. Why Costco dessert platters feature four rows of desserts, when only one of them is worth having. Why don’t they just sell whole platters of the lemon ones?
Pictured: Two rows of caramel things (disgusting), one row of brownies (satisfactory), and one row of lemon coconut bars (heavenly).
2. Why microwaves come with a popcorn button, even though popcorn bags always say “Do not use the popcorn button.”
3. Why my phone autocorrects “Hi” to “Job” whenever I start typing an email.
4. Why streetcars exist. What do streetcars have that buses don’t? Buses can go anywhere, whereas streetcars are tied to a single track. And streetcars make these horrible screeching noises when they pull into a station (at least ours do). What’s the rationale here?
5. Why actresses wear such unflattering clothes on the red carpet. If I was rich and famous and I showed up at an event looking terrible, it would be by mistake. Yet celebrities frequently seem to be wearing such atrocities intentionally. Does it somehow help their acting careers, or are they just doing it for the brand sponsorships?
6. How opioids work. Do they only act as painkillers while you’re in pain? If you took a super small dose of heroin while in pain, would you get high from it anyway or would it just feel like taking an Advil? How small does the dose have to be to get high? Is it possible to get high once and not get addicted? How about crack/meth?
(These are all hypothetical questions, not ones I’m actively investigating.)
7. Why “It all went downhill from there” means something went badly. Downhill is generally the most fun direction to travel, whereas uphill is a tiresome slog.
8. Where all the hair goes in gym showers. The holes in the drain are always really wide—to let the hair go down, I assume—but then surely it must gather somewhere. Where? How do they clean it?
9. Why people spend so much of their lives following the news. Thoreau said it best, so I’ll just quote him (from Walden):
If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter—we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?
10. Whether it’s worth doing everything we’re supposed to do to help stop climate change (like recycling, bringing reusable coffee cups everywhere, turning down the air conditioner, etc.). If everyone did these things, how long would it take to make a difference? Would it make (enough of) a difference?
11. What would happen if every country had open borders.
(Update 2/10/2019: Here’s a great article from The Economist, A world of free movement would be $78 trillion richer.)
12. Why roads get potholes. Why haven’t we developed a pothole-proof road material by now?
13. Why people thought Palm Pilots were so great. What did they do exactly? (Maybe because they were infinitely-erasable notepads/calendars… but was that all?)
14. How athletes ever get started in certain Olympic sports. How would you even attempt ski jumping, luge, and skeleton for the first time without dying?
15. Why Gore-tex fabric is so expensive.
16. Why new parents have to be sleep deprived. Why can’t you just leave the baby to cry for 6–8 hours? I’m pretty sure it will still be alive in the morning.
17. Why people design watches without numbers on them. They’re unreadable. (My friend Eleana says the answer is “For people who can read them.” Thanks Eleana.)
18. How dangerous any given place is. All the lists I could find rank places by murder rate, which I don’t think would apply to me as a non-law-enforcement, non-criminal traveller.
19. Why I feel obliged to come up with 19 things just because Tim Urban did.
Why dogs’ noses don’t freeze when it’s cold out.
—My friend Karen
Why it’s only socially acceptable to run when you don’t need to be anywhere.
—My brother Henry
Why many foods can be pickled, but only cucumbers are special enough to be called “pickles.”
—My friend Thiera