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Friday High Five: Vaccination Art and Advice from Murakami

Read Friday, 13 Feb 2015

Michael Pollan on psychedelic drugs. Haruki Murakami’s advice column. Writers turn to illustrating for charity. Vaccination becomes art. And what it’s like to regain your senses, with technological help. 

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Michael Pollan on the ‘renaissance’ of psychedelic drug research

Image:  Psilocybin mushroom
Image by Alan Rockefeller (via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the New Yorker, Michael Pollan investigates the resurgence of once-prolific research into the possible uses of psychedelic drugs (between 1953 and 1973, the US government funded 116 studies of LSD, involving more than 1700 subjects). Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is being administered to cancer patients, in trials, to relieve anxiety and ‘existential distress’. And researchers plan to use it to treat anxiety, addiction (to smoking and alcohol) and depression.

Mr Murakami’s Place

Cult favourite Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has launched his own advice column, on a website called Murakami’s Place where he solicited questions from readers, on any topic they like. The results ranged from questions about his favourite coffee shop (Dunkin Donuts is a candidate) to the nature of love.


Murakami-san, I would like to ask: how does one fall in love?


Basically it’s an accidental collision. It is unpredictable and inescapable. So, always fasten your seatbelt.

Donaldson’s beloved creation, The Gruffalo.

Writers draw for charity

Writers are celebrated for their talent with words rather than pictures. But to raise money for epilepsy, some of the world’s most noted writers have risked embarrassment and donated their doodles for an online auction.

Images include Julia Donaldson’s sketch of her iconic character The Gruffalo (with apologies to official illustrator Axel Scheffer). (If you’re a fan, you can be entertained by Julia Donaldson in person next Tuesday at Melbourne Town Hall, or next Wednesday in Geelong.)

The art of smallpox

As the vaccination debate reaches fever pitch, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have just sponsored the creation of 38 works of art designed to educate the public about the power of vaccines. One of those works of art, Flowers, by Vik Muniz and Tal Danino, is remarkable as much for its medium as its message: what appears to be a beautiful floral wallpaper is composed of liver cells that have been treated with the smallpox vaccine.

Smallpox wallpaper print
The print, by Vik Muniz. (via Wired)

Regaining your senses

What’s it like to regain your sense of smell, taste or touch – or experience it for the first time? Wired shows how new technologies that mimic or reactivate the senses work, and how users experience them.

‘Before, the only pleasure I got out of food was in texture – I couldn’t tell what the flavor of ice cream was if you blindfolded me. After, I remember savoring every bite of a mixed salad, picking out a little bit of red cabbage or a garbanzo bean. It was like in The Wizard of Oz, where the world turns from black-and-white to Technicolor.’

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