Miracle Mushrooms Power the Slums of Mumbai

If you want to see rough-and-ready experiments in residential architecture and neighborhood construction, look no further than the world’s largest slums. Every day, straitened conditions and high density force the millions upon millions who live in them to improvise creative solutions to the challenges of urban survival using whatever materials and power — both terms broadly defined — happen to lay at hand. In his short New Mumbai, filmmaker Tobias Revell turns his lens toward India, host to some of the most vast and complex slums around, and discovers a highly unconventional material, a sort of organic infrastructure, in use in the knocked-together neighborhoods of Dharavi: giant mushrooms.

Actually, Revell doesn’t discover the mushrooms; he invents them, telling a science-fiction story, if not a terribly far-fetched one, in the plainspoken, street-level style of a developing-world documentary. He even comes up with a semi-plausible explanation for how each of these miracle mushrooms generates enough power to run an entire building: biological samples leak from Amsterdam into the Mumbai gangland, and a few shadowy types struggle to engineer them into a new kind of narcotic. When that doesn’t work, Dharavi’s science-savvy residents — refugees from a religious war — get to work on adapting them to a variety of life-improving uses. Revell, no stranger to speculative projects that tap into modern currents of thought, has taken the zeitgeist’s notions of a new partnership between the city and nature, but run them to an intriguing extreme. And you can’t deny how cool those mushrooms look sprouting from the rooftops.

via @cinnamon_carter

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Face to Face with Carl Jung: ‘Man Cannot Stand a Meaningless Life’ (1959)

Carl Gustav Jung, founder of analytic psychology and explorer of the collective unconscious, was born on July 26, 1875 in the village of Kesswil, in the Thurgau canton of Switzerland. Above, we present a fascinating 39-minute interview of Jung by John Freeman for the BBC program Face to Face. It was filmed at Jung's home at Küsnacht, on the shore of Lake Zürich, and broadcast on October 22, 1959, when Jung was 84 years old. He speaks on a range of subjects, from his childhood and education to his association with Sigmund Freud and his views on death, religion and the future of the human race. At one point Freeman asks Jung whether he believes in God, and Jung seems to hesitate. "It's difficult to answer," he says. "I know. I don't need to believe. I know."

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Related Content:

Carl Jung’s Hand-Drawn, Rarely-Seen Manuscript The Red Book: A Whispered Introduction

The Famous Letter Where Freud Breaks His Relationship with Jung (1913)

Carl Jung Explains His Groundbreaking Theories About Psychology in Rare Interview (1957)

Carl Jung’s Fascinating 1957 Letter on UFOs

Great Cities at Night: Views from the International Space Station

During his time on the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Don Pettit endeared himself to me in two ways. First, he invented a handy-dandy “zero-g coffee cup" that lets you drink coffee in space without using a straw -- something we'll all hopefully use one day. Next, between 2002 and 2008, he took some striking images of great cities and their lights shining at night. The opening minutes explain how the shots were actually taken. Then, at the 1:45 mark, the tour begins. Zurich, Milan, Madrid, Athens, London, Cairo (including the Pyramids), Jerusalem, Mecca, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Las Vegas (the brightest spot on earth) -- they're all included on the tour.

Pettit narrates the entire video. And, along the way, he takes care to underscore an interesting point -- each culture creates its cities in its own way, using differently geographic layouts and technologies. Those differences we can see on the ground from one perspective, and from outer space from yet another vantage point.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains What Happens If You Fall into a Black Hole

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What a Hurricane Looks Like From Outer Space

The Science of the Olympic Flame; Ancient Style Meets Modern Technology

For all the recent scandal and the trauma of past Games, the Olympics remain a pageant of grandeur and glory, and there is no greater symbol of its ideals than the Olympic Flame. The video above, from the Ontario Science Centre, explains the evolving technology that keeps the flame burning from its lighting to the closing ceremonies. It’s a pretty cool story, set to a bombastic soundtrack worthy of its subject and carried by an animated runner who just peeled himself off of an ancient Athenian vase.

Introduced in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, the flame revives a symbol from antiquity, commemorating Prometheus’s audacity and reminding warring city states to put aside hostilities for as long as it burned. In the modern Olympics, between the lighting and the opening ceremonies, the flame, in its stylized torch, makes a pilgrimage to the host city via relay, a practice that began with the 1936 games in Berlin. This year’s relay started on May 19th in Land’s End in Cornwall and ends this Friday, the 27th at the opening ceremony in London. The torch will have traveled through 1,000 places in the UK, covered a total of 8,000 miles (and passing through 8,000 hands), moving over land, air, and water, without once having to be relit.

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Has Science Refuted Religion? Sean Carroll and Michael Shermer vs. Dinesh D’Souza and Ian Hutchinson

Just yesterday, I sat across from a fellow wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the image of a gun-wielding Jesus blowing away Charles Darwin above the words "EVOLVE THIS!" At first I assumed he wore it to emphatically signal his belief that religion, specifically Christianity, refutes science, specifically biological evolution. Then, remembering that Jesus probably wouldn't have used a handgun even had they been available in his day, I took the shirt as a mockery of the blunter varieties of creationist rhetoric. Looking it up later, I found out that the shirt comes from the movie Paul, so the wearer probably meant nothing more than to express his appreciation for what I understand to be one of 2011's most underrated comedies. Yet the question lingers: has science refuted religion, or is it the other way around? The internet age provides us access to a virtually unlimited number of these debates, although you'll often search in vain for matches of cogent, well-articulated arguments. Just take a look at the science-religion squabbles currently roiling in YouTube comment sections. Keep out of the comments, then, and stick to the videos, such as the debate above. In two hours comprising short segments of argument, rebuttal, cross-examination, and audience questions, the program pits Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer and Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll against MIT physicist Ian Hutchinson and King's College president Dinesh D'Souza. In an unusually orderly, well-disciplined debate of this type, all four weigh in on one central proposition: "Has science refuted religion?" Carroll says that science, a "reality check" on human biases, offers the only explanations that work. Hutchinson blames not science but something he calls "scientism," a belief in the absolute supremacy of scientific knowledge, for a variety of social and intellectual ills. Shermer describes religious belief as an evolutionarily determined characteristic of human beings, and an increasingly useless one at that. D'Souza upbraids science for failing not only to find answers to questions about human purpose and life's meaning, but for throwing up its hands when presented them. All this offers a good bit of human drama as well, but in good fun; when I interviewed Shermer, a habitué of such debates, he mentioned often enjoying taking his ostensibly sworn intellectual enemies to beers and pizza afterward. Related Content: Richard Dawkins & John Lennox Debate Science & Atheism Does God Exist? Christopher Hitchens Debates Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig Animated: Stephen Fry & Ann Widdecombe Debate the Catholic Church Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Martin Scorsese Appears in New Apple Ad with Siri, Plays on His Chilling Cameo in Taxi Driver

In 1976, Martin Scorsese made a chilling cameo appearance in his thriller, Taxi Driver. Perhaps you remember the scene: Playing a bearded, nameless character, Scorsese enters a cab, bosses the driver around for a while, then proceeds to explain, in an uncomfortably matter of fact way, how he plans to kill his wife. It'll make your hair stand on end. In a new commercial for Apple, Scorsese plays a bossy back-seat rider again. But this time, there's no killing involved, just shilling. It's an ad for Apple's iPhone, and it's the latest in a new series of ads featuring celebs like Zooey Deschannel, Samuel Jackson and John Malkovich.

Of course, the parallel between the Siri ad and the 1976 film was spotted by Roger Ebert. All props to him.

P.S.: In case you think we're seeing a parallel that doesn't actually exist, it's worth noting that both cabs have the same number. Great spot by @sinyc.

Rare 1933 Film: The Great Storyteller Rudyard Kipling on Truth in Writing

"We who use words enjoy a peculiar privilege over our fellows," says Rudyard Kipling in this rare filmed speech. "We cannot tell a lie. However much we may wish to do so, we only of educated men and women cannot tell a lie--in our working hours. The more subtly we attempt it, the more certainly do we betray some aspect of truth concerning the life of our age."

The speech was given on July 12, 1933 at Claridge's Hotel in London, during a luncheon of the Royal Society of Literature for visiting members of the Canadian Authors' Association. Kipling was 67 years old at the time. The text of the speech (which you can open and read in a new window) was published in a posthumous edition of A Book of Words.

Rudyard Kipling was one of the most celebrated English writers of the late Victorian era. Henry James once said, "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. As a prolific author of short stories, poetry, and novels, Kipling was the foremost chronicler of the British colonial experience.

But as the British Empire faded in the 20th century, so too did Kipling's literary standing. His works for children, including The Jungle Book and Just So Stories (see below), are still widely enjoyed, but much of his other writing--even the classic novel Kim--is viewed with ambivalence. The literary genius praised by James is often overshadowed by our contemporary views on the cruelty and exploitation of colonialism.

"Mercifully," says Kipling later in his speech to the Canadian authors, "it is not permitted to any one to foresee his or her literary election or reprobation, any more than it was permitted to our ancestors to foresee the just stature of their contemporaries..."

You can download Kipling's works by visiting our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections.

h/t @Rachel_RK

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