Ant Towers, Mattering in the Cosmos, and Magic Mushrooms: Lux Recommends #89

By Sam Arbesman, PhD

Welcome to Lux Recommends #89, the newest edition of what we at Lux are reading and thinking about (and want to receive this by email? Sign up here).


What we get wrong about technology: “Whatever the technologies of the future turn out to be, they are likely to demand that, like the factories of the early 20th century, we change to accommodate them. Genuinely revolutionary inventions live up to their name: they change almost everything, and such transformations are by their nature hard to predict.” — Sam

Do we matter in the cosmos? “Humanity is nothing more than a microscopic blip in the universe. But does that mean we are insignificant?” Fascinating. — Sam

In the Deep, Dark Sea, Corals Create Their Own Sunshine: The big takeaway is that some deeper corals actually convert blue light into other wavelengths to support the algae growing in their tissues: “Over billions of years they’ve worked out a special arrangement with algae: Corals give them shelter and algae convert light into food for the corals. Corals do other things for the algae, too. Deep inside their tissue are little proteins that take the sun’s ultraviolet light and turn it into a glowing green sunscreen, shielding from the sun these corals that live just below the water’s surface.” — Zack

How Nature Solves Problems Through Computation: “The evolutionary biologist Jessica Flack seeks the computational rules that groups of organisms use to solve problems.”— Sam

Burning Fossil Fuels Almost Ended All Life on Earth: “A road trip through the geological ruins of our planet’s Earth’s worst mass extinction.” — Zack

Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient — for science: “Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore enlists priests, rabbis and a Buddhist to test the effects of psychedelic drugs on religious experience” — Adam K

The Story Behind the World’s Most Famous Desktop Background: “Microsoft dubbed it Bliss, and, since Windows XP was released in 2001, it’s been seen by at least a billion people.”— Sam

Scientists Discover the Secret Behind Incredible Ant Towers: “In an extraordinary example of this collective behavior, researchers have shown how fire ants, when confronted by a barrier, swarm together to create towers with their bodies, allowing the lucky few at the tip of the structure to escape.”— Adam K

How to Attach a Video Camera to a Humpback Whale — Adam K

And Curious to crack the neural code? Listen carefully by Lux’s own Shahin Farshchi.


Baby Driver: You should go for the soundtrack alone! — Adam G

Lion: Heartbreaking and inspiring true story of how time and technology can try to heal the chaos of loss and being lost. — Josh

The Founder: The intensity was high, the integrity was low, yet Ray Kroc brought the world McDonalds. This is classic 1 to n scaling of a high integrity, high quality operation that was replicated and rolled out into a commercial behemoth (void of soul). — Josh


Fauda: Intense, fast-paced drama with English subtitles in Hebrew and Arabic at the epicenter of tensions in the Mideast. If you liked Homeland you’ll love this.— Josh


Kevin Kelly on the Future of Tech in conversation with Diego Rodriguez — Peter

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