Livin Studio // © Paris Tsitsos 2014
Livin Studio // © Paris Tsitsos 2014

Designers Grow Edible Fungus Out of Plastic Garbage

Livin Studio // © Paris Tsitsos 2014
Livin Studio // © Paris Tsitsos 2014

We’ve got a plastic problem. In 2012 alone, Americans produced 32 million tons of it and recycled only about 9 percent. Each year we create more and more, and it’s piling up fast. One Austrian design firm has come up with a way to chip away at the mountains of plastic, one meal at a time: the Fungi Mutarium, a product that helps garbage spark food growth.

Designers Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger of Livin Studio collaborated with microbiologist Han Wösten, whose work has focused on fungi’s plastic-digesting abilities.

“We wanted to work with material that has not or only little been considered as food so far,” the designers said. While fungus is a common food source all over the world, most cultures eat only the fruiting body (that’s the mushroom, truffle, or other fleshy part). But fungi also have root-like filaments called mycelia that absorb nutrients. Unger and Kaisinger wondered if they could make the mycelia into a food source.

The result of their experiments was the Fungi Mutarium, a device that converts garbage into edible mycelia. The mycelia are grown inside edible agar cups, which the designers named FUs. A Mutarium user will place a piece of sterilized plastic inside the FU, then add a few drops of fungal spores with a pipette. After a week or two, the FU will be completely covered in mycelia.

You can watch the process in the video below:

Fungi Mutarium: Prototype from LIVIN Studio on Vimeo.

The Mutarium produces two commonly eaten species of fungus: Pleurotus ostreatus, or the oyster mushroom, can be found on American supermarket shelves, and Schizophyllum commune, the split gill mushroom, is more popular in China, India, Mexico, and parts of Africa. “We found the taste to be neutral,” the designers noted.

They’ve since invented special utensils and recipes for preparing and eating the resulting FU growths.

Agar FU with mycelia, caviar, and seaweed.

The Mutarium is still in its prototype stage. While the plastic does degrade in the FU, the process is very slow, lasting months—a timeline the designers hope to shorten in future versions.

Images and video courtesy of Livin Studio // © Paris Tsitsos 2014

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

The Force Field Cloak
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.


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