Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.
Take a listen and discover what mushrooms can do for the planet besides feed people! Find out why Stamets claims the preservation of old growth forests is a matter of national security. It's a fascinating 17 minute listen that offers a history of fungi as well as a number of key possiblities, including cleaning the soil, treating small pox and the flu, creating natural insecticides, and more...
Also check out Fungi Perfecti, founded by Stamets >>>
The placebo effect. You think you're taking some medicine, and after a few days of treatment, you begin to recover from your illness. Low and behold, that medicine you were taking was really just a sugar-pill. Pharmaceutical companies rely on double-blind tests wherein one group of subjects receives a new medicine, and the other group receives a sugar pill. Neither the subject or the scientist know who receives what pill until after the test is complete (hence the double-blind label). This has been a time tested procedure to figure out the efficacy of a new medication - an anti-depressant for example. What has baffled science for decades is the fact that there is always a percentage of test subjects who receive the sugar pill and still experience the results expected from the actual medicine - the placebo effect.
"Many test subjects treated with the medication felt their hopelessness and anxiety lift. But so did nearly the same number who took a placebo, a look-alike pill made of milk sugar or another inert substance given to groups of volunteers in clinical trials to gauge how much more effective the real drug is by comparison. The fact that taking a faux drug can powerfully improve some people's health—the so-called placebo effect—has long been considered an embarrassment to the serious practice of pharmacology."
The reasons are only just beginning to be understood. A network of independent researchers is doggedly uncovering the inner workings—and potential therapeutic applications—of the placebo effect. At the same time, drugmakers are realizing they need to fully understand the mechanisms behind it so they can design trials that differentiate more clearly between the beneficial effects of their products and the body's innate ability to heal itself. A special task force of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health is seeking to stem the crisis by quietly undertaking one of the most ambitious data-sharing efforts in the history of the drug industry. After decades in the jungles of fringe science, the placebo effect has become the elephant in the boardroom.
What's great about Dowie's discussion is his optimism about Detroit claiming another "first" as well: being the first 100% food self-sufficient city.
From the article:
There are more visionaries in Detroit than in most Rust-Belt cities, and thus more visions of a community rising from the ashes of a moribund industry to become, if not an urban paradise, something close to it. The most intriguing visionaries in Detroit, at least the ones who drew me to the city, were those who imagine growing food among the ruins—chard and tomatoes on vacant lots (there are over 103,000 in the city, sixty thousand owned by the city), orchards on former school grounds, mushrooms in open basements, fish in abandoned factories, hydroponics in bankrupt department stores, livestock grazing on former golf courses, high-rise farms in old hotels, vermiculture, permaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, waving wheat where cars were once test-driven, and winter greens sprouting inside the frames of single-story bungalows stripped of their skin and re-sided with Plexiglas—a homemade greenhouse. Those are just a few of the agricultural technologies envisioned for the urban prairie Detroit has become.The idea has some foundation in efforts already being put forth by local activists and organizations. In the 1980s, the "Gardening Angels," a network of older, African-American, Southern migrants, brought their farming skills to the city, "and set out to reconnect their descendants, children of asphalt, to the Earth, and teach them that useful work doesn’t necessarily mean getting a job in a factory." More recently, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network has been working with soil remediation: getting rid of abandoned house foundations and removing toxic debris from empty industrial sites. Among other local efforts, an international organization, Urban Farming, has set up their headquarters there, aiming to triple the amount of farmed land in the city, all the while giving away the food to poverty-stricken Detroiters.
Read the entire article here.
Image: Farming in Detroit from the Memphis Flyer
Will newspapers survive the economic downturn? This question has plagued the industry for awhile now -- the consensus seems to be that if they quit relying on an outdated business model, there is still hope. Two alternatives that have surfaced are requiring payment for online content or going non-profit -- the former hasn't worked so well yet, and it would be safe to assume the corporations that own the papers wouldn't be happy with the latter. Nonetheless, the industry clearly needs to change with the times.
One problem with the newspaper business model is its reliance on advertising. Without ads, newspapers have no revenue. After begging, pleading, offering ad space for 1/4 of last year's price, or auctioning ad space with starting bids of 99 cents, do they expect to return to the rates that made the model viable a few years ago, once the economy turns?
An article on good.is, "Conspicuous, but not Consuming," argues that American society has reached a crucial turning point away from conspicuous consumption to conspicuous expressionism. Interesting to think how newspapers could benefit from acknowledging this shift. If people are responding less and less to ads that play off of conspicuous consumerism, perhaps accommodating their readers' desire to conspicuously express will save them in the long run.
One thing is certain. The newspaper industry is unlikely to receive government help (although it's interesting to place their crisis next to those of the auto and credit industries). "Freedom of expression" is at stake, supposedly.
Lately, there have been a series of (unrelated) articles discussing "free press" -- and the role of government in media, the role of media in government, and how these two dynamics shape and control public opinion. Earlier this month, critics lambasted the announcement of a "media crimes law" introduced in Venezuela, denouncing it as "the most comprehensive assault on free speech in Venezuela since Chávez came to power." In this context, others compared the states of media in Venezuela to the U.S., arguing: "there is a much more oppositional media in Venezuela than in the US, and a much greater range of debate in the major media. This can be seen simply by looking at the most important media in both countries." (Check out the full page ad in the Columbia Journalism Review criticizing the Associated Press' treatment of Hugo Chavez.)
An interview with Roberto Hernandez Montoya, president of the Romulo Gallegos Foundation Center for Latin American Studies in Venezuela, likewise explored "freedom of expression" in what he terms "media totalitarianism." He defines the concept as: "Yesterday, there was an engaged press, on the right as on the left, and even religious. But it was not organized the way the big corporations are. That press had ideological and political tendencies, but it was not a global monolith in the sense that today, several media outlets - The Washington Post, Fox News, CNN - set the rhythm for the news and its contents."
While many of the newspapers on the brink of bankruptcy are the local press, many of them nevertheless are owned by one of a few large companies. It would be interesting to see if these smaller publications could break from these corporations, would they be able to attempt a different business model, and a more engaged and more engaging news model?
In Goodman's interview, K'naan talks politics: his relationship to Somalia, the current climate of his country, U.S. involvement in the region and Obama, and piracy. He talks about his life story: how he moved just before war broke out to New York, then Toronto, how he taught himself English, and how music played a role in his healing process. And he talks about how the two--the personal and the political--are intertwined through music: the potentiality in rap to remain relevant, his lyrics, and the meaning behind some of his songs.
In this excerpt, he talks about the relevance of rap, how it has and can be used as a medium for the marginalized:
I think that hip-hop’s strength has always been when it was kind of the journalism of a community that’s otherwise inaccessible to major—to mass media or mass culture. And so, I think that if it—when it continues to be that way, it will still be relevant. But for a long time, it’s been taken over by corporate interests, really, and so the hip-hop that you’ve been getting for a while has been more of—you know, employed, I think, for more production and more things, more—when it comes from the have-nots, I think, when it goes global, like with what I’m doing with it, I think it’ll continue to have its relevance in some way.
Be sure to check out this great interview, or read the transcript.
Also be sure to keep up on K'naan's tour dates!