It’s always interesting to find out what people are searching for on Google. Often, they’ll ask questions they deem too silly to ask anywhere else – such as whether it’s possible to stop thinking entirely or to age backwards to get younger.
A lot of the time, though, the sillier the question, the more interesting the answer. For this list, we looked at the questions people are asking and picked out 10 of the best.
10. Is it Possible to Alter Fingerprints?
Altering fingerprints is actually fairly straightforward but it tends to be very painful. Common methods include cutting with razors, scrubbing with sandpaper, burning on a stove, and scarring with acid. According to the FBI, hundreds of criminals have done this and they’re just the ones they know about. Many of the mutilated prints in their database belong to deportees who attempted to re-enter the United States, often by slicing vertically through their fingerprints to disrupt the pattern.
But fingerprints are fixed before birth and usually grow back within a month of superficial damage.
For permanent alteration, you’re going to need greater commitment. One criminal, for example, had the central whorl of his fingerprint cut away from each finger and the skin stitched back together. Another chewed frantically on his fingertips while he was actually being arrested. Yet another had a sample of smooth skin from his chest surgically grafted onto his fingertips (although he was later identified by the markings around the edges).
In the end, it’s probably not worth it. After all, anyone going to that much trouble to avoid detection is likely to draw attention. Even if your fingerprints disappear accidentally – as was the case of one Singaporean chemotherapy patient detained by US customs – you’re bound to arouse suspicion.
9. Is it Possible to Control Your Dreams?
There are several techniques for gaining control of your dreams, also known as lucid dreaming. The key is to become more aware of when you’re actually dreaming in the first place. This can be achieved by setting up the habit of “reality testing” while awake, for instance by reading and re-reading text to see if it changes. According to studies, text in dreams changes 95% of the time that it’s re-read twice.
The idea is to engage in this habit so often in your waking life that it carries over into dreams and ultimately prompts self-awareness.
Another option is to use a lucid dreaming mask fitted with LED lights programmed to blink on and off while you’re asleep. Incorporated into whatever dream situation you find yourself in, the flashing lights are meant to serve as a reminder that it’s time to take control.
Upon realizing this, people do all kinds of things. In fact, they can do whatever they want. Flying through the air, indulging in sexual fantasies, creating whole worlds out of nothing, and exploring the labyrinth of one’s own psyche are all common pastimes of the average lucid dreamer.
Being able to control dreams is also useful for overcoming fears or nightmares (and also for fighting Freddy Krueger). One person who found themselves locked in the iron grip of an ogre, for instance, was able to calmly and lovingly dissolve the monster when they realized it was only a dream.
8. Is it Possible to Not Dream?
Some people claim not to dream at all, or only to dream under very specific circumstances. But the truth is that everyone dreams all of the time. Some are just better at recall.
According to a French research team in 2015, people who don’t remember their dreams – and therefore say they don’t have them – display complex speech and behavior patterns while asleep, just like anyone else. These include speaking, arguing, and lashing out during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the cycle of sleep in which dreams occur.
Apparently, the key to high dream recall is frequently waking up (although the waking up itself is usually forgotten). One study found that people who remember their dreams best spend an average total of 30 minutes awake during the night – compared with just 14 minutes among low recallers.
7. Is it Possible to Not Think?
We’ve all had times when we’d like to switch off our brains, and perhaps even switch off entirely. But, like any other organ in the body, the brain is constantly working. If you’ve ever tried to get into meditation but given up due to a constant flux of thoughts, you’ll know the difficulty of attaining a totally quiescent mind.
Of course, the reduction of mental chatter isn’t the same thing as brain death. It is possible to do, after all, as countless monks will testify. But as for not thinking at all, humans are in fact evolutionarily incapable of doing so. Like our prehistoric ancestors, we’re continually on the lookout for predators, threats, and escape routes, albeit in different forms.
And, as social creatures, we’re naturally disposed to constantly assess our relationships, status, and influence, as well as opportunities to enhance them all. In fact, thinking is such an important part of our existence that it takes up 20% of our resting energy – despite the brain making up just 2% of our body weight.
6. Is it Possible to Sell Your Soul?
Despite the prevalence of “selling one’s soul” as a trope in Christian folk tales (and Simpsons episodes), the Bible doesn’t say much about it. A number of verses could, loosely, be interpreted as referring to a deal with Satan, such as Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” but in general, there are no warnings or proscriptions against.
Even the Church of Satan rejects the notion, saying “there are no souls—and nobody to buy them. If you want something out of life, get off your lazy butt and work for it.”
Yet there are many, besides the fictional Dr. Faust, who supposedly sold their soul for real. One is the blues legend Robert Johnson, who, according to contemporaries, was a terrible guitarist until he made a deal with the devil. As far-fetched as it sounds, he did apparently go missing for a while before emerging with his talent fully formed. And at the age of 27, not long after recording his songs for posterity, he died under mysterious circumstances.
If you’re looking for tips, Johnson is said to have made the bargain at the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
5. Is it Possible to Run on Water?
Walking or running on water, like human flight, is one of those animal kingdom “superpowers” that feels like it should be within reach. After all, more than 1,200 species are able to do it, even including heavier ones like tail-walking dolphins.
The basilisk lizard in particular seems a good candidate to show us how it’s done, dashing across the water by slapping with its feet. Researchers analyzing this movement found it has three phases: the forceful slap, a stroke, and a recovery. Much like riding a bike, lizards have to keep moving to stay upright – in this case at speeds of roughly 5 feet-per-second.
Unfortunately, humans would need to reach speeds of around 67 MPH in order to match this feat. That’s almost as fast as a cheetah and nearly three times as fast as the world’s fastest man.
4. Is it Possible to Die of Boredom?
There are two ways to answer this question, and both are basically “kind of.”
First, people kind of die from boredom when they do dangerous things to combat it. And people who get bored easily are more likely to take higher risks. They’re also more prone to drug addiction, alcoholism, aggression, and other compulsive behaviors that carry the danger of death. Worse, they tend to need more and more of the same risky stimulus over time to achieve the same effect – namely, the flux of endorphins that help to escape boredom.
People also appear to kind of die directly from boredom itself. In the 1980s, thousands of British civil servants aged between 35-55 were surveyed on their boredom levels over the previous four weeks. Then, in 2009, researchers checked to see who had died, as well as when – excluding all those with existing cardiovascular disease. What they found is that those who reported higher levels of boredom at work were more likely to die younger from heart problems, and also to rate their health worse overall.
While these results are far from conclusive – since other factors may have been involved – the impact of negative mind states on the body is well known. Stress, loneliness, and depression, for instance, can all devastate a healthy immune system.
3. Is it Possible to Change Your Voice?
Research consistently points out the obvious with regard to the impact of voice: the deeper the tone, the more dominant it sounds. This is why Margaret Thatcher was told to lower her otherwise shrill tone of voice to win the 1979 general election. Thatcher changed her voice with the help of a voice coach, but there are other, more drastic measures available.
“Voice-lift” surgery is a little more complex than it sounds, but it essentially involves making an incision in the neck and inserting an implant to bring the vocal cords (the vibrating folds that produce the voice) closer together. Stomach fat, collagen, or synthetic fillers can also be injected to plump and limber them up.
Although the procedure is primarily aimed at patients whose voices are damaged, and then only as a last resort, it’s become increasingly popular among older people who want to sound a bit younger. According to one surgeon, many are looking to improve their telephone voice for the workplace, while others just want to sing.
Of course, if you’re looking for something less permanent, you might want to try out an app.
2. Is it Possible to Erase a Memory?
Not only is it possible to erase a memory, it’s also possible to implant one. Thanks to recent advances in our understanding of the way memory works, drugs and therapies that erase, change, or replace bad memories are now a very real prospect. Because if life absolutely needs to imitate art, it could do worse than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we guess?
Contrary to popular belief, recalling a memory isn’t like accessing a filing cabinet. It’s more like blowing glass. Like molten glass, memories are malleable as they’re being formed and only later come to hold their shape. Then, each time a memory is recalled, it becomes malleable once again through a process known as reconsolidation.
It’s during this process that memories can be intercepted and either changed or erased entirely. Although the technique hasn’t been tested on humans, there’s every reason to think it will work. In 2014, researchers used lasers to manipulate neurons in mice, successfully erasing memories of electric shocks to the feet.
As for implanting false memories, psychologists have long understood the power of suggestion. By manipulating memories during the malleable state of reconsolidation, people can be convinced of just about anything – such as guilt for crimes they never committed.
1. Is it Possible to Age Backwards?
Scientists are beginning to think of aging as a process of “epigenetic changes,” much like cancer, as opposed to something inexorable. The same changes can be caused by smoking, pollution, and other environmental factors – all of which contribute to the down regulation of cell activity and the deterioration of our bodies.
According to researchers at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies, by altering certain genes, we may be able to reverse these genetic alterations and rejuvenate adult cells. In fact, they’ve already demonstrated this on human cells in vitro. They’ve also been able to repair damaged muscles in mice and increase the lifespan of a mouse with progeria (rapid aging syndrome) by 30%.
Epigenetic reprogramming works by “aging” cells in the direction of their embryonic state. And although the science is far from there yet, researchers believe that even 100-year-old human cells could one day be made young again.