Monday, July 3rd - Sunday, July 9th
Stories from CNBC, The Guardian, LA Weekly, Motherboard, and Broadly.
Former Google engineer promises telepathy hats in eight years.
Mary Lou Jepsen left Facebook to found Openwater in 2016, a San Francisco-based startup currently developing technology to make M.R.I. scans more affordable by scaling down the components and housing them in something resembling a ski hat. When they reach this goal, the next one is to use these wearables to read and output thoughts.
According to Jepsen, they’re already pretty close. "If I threw [you] into an M.R.I. machine right now ... I can tell you what words you're about to say, what images are in your head. I can tell you what music you're thinking of," she said. "That's today, and I'm talking about just shrinking that down."
While traditional M.R.I uses magnetic fields to take images of internal organs, Openwater’s technology instead looks at the flow of oxygen in the body by illuminating the body with infrared light. "Our bodies are translucent to that light. The light can get into your head," Jepsen said.
She envisions the technology as a way to speed up creating, learning and communicating. "Right now our output is basically moving our jaws and our tongues or typing [with] our fingers,” says Jepson. “We're ... limited to this very low output rate from our brains, and what if we could up that through telepathy?"
Jepsen admits there are ethical implications, like whether the police, military, or parents can force someone to wear Openwater’s technology and have their mind read. “We're trying to make the hat only work if the individual wants it to work,” she contends.
A new study from John Hopkins University gives psilocybin to religious leaders.
Priests, a couple rabbis, and a buddhist have all been enlisted to test the effects of psychedelics on their religious outlook.
A total of around two dozen religious leaders from a wide range of denominations will take two powerful psilocybin doses, one of the first major experiments on the effects of psychedelics on religious experience since the famous Harvard “Good Friday experiment.”
Participants will spend the duration of their experience wearing eyeshades while lying on a couch and listening to religious music. They’ll be instructed to go within and collect experiences.
“With psilocybin these profound mystical experiences are quite common,” said Dr. William Richards, a John Hopkins psychologist involved with the study. “It seemed like a no-brainer that they might be of interest, if not valuable, to clergy.”
A full analysis will take place after a one-year follow-up with all the anonymous participants. The goal is to assess whether a transcendent experience makes the participants more effective and confident in their religious work.
“It is too early to talk about results, but generally people seem to be getting a deeper appreciation of their own religious heritage,” said Richards. “The dead dogma comes alive for them in a meaningful way. They discover they really believe this stuff they’re talking about.”
A Los Angeles all-girl cannabis network is changing the way weed is sold.
Cannabis women’s circles are sprouting up from Venice to Hollywood as each month, women gather with a bouquet of flowers, flickering candles and fruit to get high and have real talk.
Jessica Assaf, CEO of Cannabis Feminist, wants to dismantle the dispensary model and build a weed empire with women advocating for cannabis products in their communities. The canna-curious can try new products like topicals, flowers, or edibles in a safe and low pressure informal setting.
“It's not just women sitting in a circle talking about how they feel. It's a way for women to think about products they love in a new way,” said Assaf. She thinks that by having a network of women-reps sharing with their friends, Cannabis Feminist can learn more about what their customers need- like which preparation is going to help with a headache or a menstrual cramp.
Besides the women’s circles, the company offers consultations and “bake sales” where brands like Apothecanna, Medicine Box, MONDO, Hmbldt have pop-up booths. In June they launched a “coming out series” showcasing women’s varied relationships to the plant. "We show the faces of cannabis and feminize the culture, the act of smoking cannabis as something that's normalized,” Assaf said.
And underlying the mission of gender equality in the industry is the pot plant’s biology. While a cannabis plant can be male or female, only the female plants grow to maturity to be used for product. Their motto: “The future of cannabis is female."
Futuristic domed homes never took off, but they got some committed enthusiasts.
45-year-old Toronto resident and science fiction fan Ron Kelly thinks it would be awesome . “Any time I’m standing under a domed roof, I think about how fun my life would be if I lived in a dome or sphere,” he said.
Dome homes were inspired by in large part by visionary inventor Buckminster Fuller and were forecast as the “next big thing” for their energy efficiency and futuristic feel. Housing remains the largely unchanged, but domed houses do have a Facebook fan group called “I Love Geodesic Domes.”
And a British Columbian boutique "hotel in the trees” lets you stay in lavishly furnished spheres suspended from three Polysteel ropes tethered to surrounding trees. Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island is enormously popular and is booked through most of the year and has turned away 3,000 prospective guests since January.
And Ray Moulton, 47, actually lives in a monolithic dome. Eleven years ago, he moved into a cast one-piece form that looks like an igloo. His house was built by speciality company Great Lake Domes which has built 22 homes for Canadians in the last thirteen years.
Moulton’s initial attraction was savings on his energy bill by using a geothermal pump. According to a Virginia-based dome maker, utility savings are around $500 a year. But after moving in, he quickly became enamored.
"Let's not forget how cool it looks," Moulton said. "Think of where Luke Skywalker lived with his aunt and uncle on Tatooine—that moon base-type structure. It's not that much different here."
Confirming far-right Christian fears, pop culture is often a gateway to occultism.
For the last 40 or so years, extreme Christian groups have warned that pop culture is a minefield of satanic traps. Over the decades, evangelicals have aimed their crosshairs at everything from Dungeons and Dragons to Pokémon.
In 2008, the Vatican's official newspaper condemned the Harry Potter books for their occult themes, calling the series' positive portrayal of witchcraft "a grave and deep lie." The same year, right-wing activist Linda Harvey wrote a Christian “educational” book for parents called Not My Child: Contemporary Paganism And The New Spirituality.
“The last seconds of a countdown are ticking away before an explosion of radical pagan practices occurs among American children, yet many parents seem oblivious or only mildly concerned,” she warned the country. The book also condemns the popular science fiction series Animorphs, and calls the entire city of Seattle a gateway to the path of Satan.
But at witchcraft surges in popularity, with estimates of the number of self-identified witches in the United States at around a million, the paranoid fears of authors like Linda Harvey are coming true.
Annabel Gat, a professional astrologer attributes her magical awakening to popular fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. Katie Thokar, a rune reader who lives in New York, says it was the Lord of The Rings. Far from being a gateway to Satan, proposed reasons include open-minded attitudes around gender and sexuality and strong feminist leanings, compared with mainstream religions.
“That trite but true saying that 'representation matters' isn't any less true when we talk about the sacred,” said F. Jennings, one of the owners of Catland Books, an occult bookstore in Brooklyn.