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Ask Maxim: Dubai, Evolution, and Why New Jersey Stinks

126askMaxim_article.jpgWhy is Dubai building all that crazy crap in the desert?
Diego Garcia, Terre Haute, IN

Dubai’s vast wealth comes mostly from oil, but since their reserves could run dry in a few decades, they have spent billions transforming Dubai into a glittering tourist trap brimming with five-star resorts, man-made islands, and mind-blowing skyscrapers. And it’s paying off big time—tourism currently accounts for about 30 percent of Dubai’s growing GDP and is expected to rake in $115 billion a year by 2015. But Durham Univer­sity Dubai expert Christopher Davidson cautions that “a regional conflict or domestic terror attacks” could cripple Dubai’s thriving tourism business, meaning those sheikhs might have to start pumping the gas they produce to pay the bills.

Are humans still evolving?
Paul DeMartino, Babylon, NY

“There’s a lot of debate about whether or not humans are still changing,” says Don Prothero, a geobiology expert at the California Institute of Technology. “Fossils show almost no changes since Homo sapiens appeared about 100,000 years ago” (though he notes that “superficial characteristics” like skin color have changed a great deal). But at least now any further evolution won’t be driven by prehistoric predators. “When we were all small hunter-gatherer clans living in constant fear of carnivores, our weakest members—especially those who were very young, very old, or had handicaps or bad eyesight—would have probably been picked off,” Prothero says. As for male nipples and other useless accessories, whales had hind legs for 40 million years after they stopped crawling out of the ocean, so your beloved chesticles are here to stay, Paul!

What’s the most toxic place in the United States?
Nick Peterson, Akron, OH

New Jersey may be known as the Garden State, but it’s as renowned for toxic waste dumps as it is for delicious summer tomatoes. Dirty Jerz has 115 toxic or “Superfund” sites (the most of any state) on the National Priorities List designated by the Environmental Protection Agency. “The NPL is a list of sites known to have contaminated ground water, soil contamination, vapor intrusion, or other problems that require long-term remediation,” says Beth Totman, a spokes­woman for the EPA. The state’s nastiest locales are Middlesex and Burlington counties, with 14 and 13 sites, respectively. If you’re looking to avoid contracting unexplained illnesses and/or growing extra limbs, we suggest moving to North Dakota, where the amount of fun and the number of Superfund sites is the same: none.

I’ve got really high blood pressure, and I’m only 24. What can I do to lower it besides taking old man pills?
Daniel Eng, Wolcott, NY

While you could adopt a healthier lifestyle—lose weight, cut back on booze, stop eating table salt with a soup ladle—“the best you could hope for is a mild drop in blood pressure,” notes Dr. Franz Messerli, director of the Hypertension Program at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. He says that since the biggest factor is genetics, the only long-term solution is gobbling blood pressure pills. But that’s actually good news! “Modern therapy for high blood pressure has little, if any, side effects,” the good doctor says. And to think past generations of blood-pressure meds caused depression, nightmares, and penises that didn’t work. Having a nonworking penis doesn’t do much for lowering blood pressure, Daniel. Now go get pill-popping!