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Volume 408

Do you feel lucky, punk? This week’s coolsh*t is bringing you homicidal home entertainment, felicific fungi, and a conspiratorial Christmas confectionary campaign. Plus a boss-level episode of the podcast.

Holy Shiitake.

Feeling a bit miserable about the cold weather? Here’s a solution: you should get absolutely twisted on shrooms – because science said so. The results of a trial this week revealed that psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in ‘magic mushrooms’ can help alleviate severe depression when combined with psychotherapy. Nearly a third of patients in the trial went into rapid remission after just a single 25mg dose of psilocybin (which is, technically speaking, ‘eff all, according to my sources). Perhaps ‘absolutely twisted’ was the improper phraseology then – let’s go with moderately mangled instead. With 8.3 million adults in the UK alone currently being prescribed anti-depressants, it is hoped that this study may just slightly open the interdimensional door to a viable alternative. It’s time to turn on, tune in, and cheer up.

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Bounty Hunters.

Mars created quite the furore last week when they announced that the much-loathed Bounty bar would be excluded from this year’s Christmas Celebrations tub. But Mars left out one minor detail: they’re are a bunch of bloody liars. The Bounty will indeed remain in most tubs for this Christmas, but Mars are releasing a limited range of Bounty-free boxes in specific Tesco stores. So, much ado about nothing, you may be thinking – but this was actually an illuminati-esque masterclass in conspiratorial PR. Mars never had any attention of removing the Bounty; they just made it seem as if they were going to in order create an illusion of scarcity and instigate an organic outpouring of public support from the few filthy perverts who actually enjoy a Bounty. And it worked a treat – even Piers Morgan started crying over spilled coconut milk, claiming that Mars had “ruined Christmas”. Well played, Bounty. Shame it’s still absolutely grim.

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World's Fastest Shoes.

Behold: the world’s fastest shoes. Or, to word it in a somewhat less impressive fashion, behold: the world’s slowest roller skates. Pittsburgh-based robotics and engineering company Shift Robotics has just unveiled its battery-powered sneakers — the Moonwalkers. Slightly grubby connotations to the name, but oh well. At least they haven’t called them ‘The World’s Greatest’ or anything – although they weren’t far off. The Moonwalkers are supposedly what will see us gliding into the future, said to boost walking speeds by 250%. They can be used in multiple terrains, are fully charged in 1.5 hours, have a range of six miles, and can be set in “Lock” mode for stairs – presumably a feature added after a few early accidents. While purportedly revolutionary, the comparison with skates isn’t lost on Shift, as CEO Xunjie Zang has issued a statement saying they should be thought of as travellators for the feet and that “Moonwalkers are not skates. They’re shoes. The world’s fastest shoes actually.” Fair enough, mate. Bit touchy. Plus they are a bit like skates…

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Trees: you can climb ‘em, you can burn ‘em, you can write on ‘em, and apparently you can even power a battery with ‘em. Stora Enso, a renewable-materials company based in Helsinki, is powering up electric vehicles using batteries made from trees. Lignin is a by-product of cellulose fibre production in trees, which Stora refine into a fine carbon powder that can serve as an active material for the negative anode of a battery. The hard carbon powder is used to produce electrode sheets and rolls which are then fused with positive electrodes, separators, electrolytes, and other components to transform them into a lithium-ion battery. To be completely honest with you, the bulk of that explanation was entirely copy and pasted and I have very little idea what it means. Sounds pretty good though.

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Game Over.

Have you ever been playing a video game and thought, “boy, I sure wish my life was at stake here”? Well then, good news. The bloke who created the Oculus Rift before selling it to Meta for an absolute fortune has now created a VR headset that kills you in real life if you die in a video game. The device is connected to 3 explosive charges, and should your character ever reach 0 points in the game, the charges will detonate and your mother will have quite the clean-up job on her hands. Not that everyone who plays video games still lives with their mother – just most of them. The inventor, Palmer Luckey, says that raising the stakes to the ultimate level would “force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players inside it”. Obviously, this sounds rather potty. But is it so different from, say, free solo climbing? Yes, of course it is – but in both cases should something go wrong, you’re not walking away afterwards. So perhaps there are some parallels – but for whatever reason, one just intuitively feels like a rejected scene from a Saw film. This is only a prototype at the moment, but Mr. Luckey has claimed that once they work out the kinks, he will be the first to try it for real. Let’s hope he lives up to his name.

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AI-lands in the Stream.

We’re quite aware that going on about another new use for AI is likely becoming rather tiresome – but if you think that’ll stop us from doing so, you’re sadly mistaken. However, you’ll be relieved to know we’ve at least strayed away from DALL-E and AI art this week, venturing instead into the metaworld of AI-generated music. Holly Herndon has recently released a cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ – except she isn’t actually singing. Well, it is her singing. But it also isn’t. See, meta. The cover was created using an AI-generated version of Holly’s voice being sung by Holly’s deepfake twin, Holly+. But wouldn’t it be more exciting if the real Holly had explosives strapped to her head that would detonate should Holly+ hit a bum note?

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The Coolsh*t Podcast - Episode 29.

Is there a creativity crisis in Christmas campaigns?

Listen to the Podcast