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Artist and inventor Jae Rhim Lee has come up with an unusual way to confront our attitudes about death. At the TEDGlobal conference last week, she talked to New Scientist about the flesh-eating Infinity Mushroom she's trying to cultivate.
Why a mushroom? Why not a worm?
It could have been a worm. But I felt that mushrooms were special because I found out that they clean up environment toxins in soil. There's no single mushroom that kills all environmental toxins, but they cover a lot of ground. What also started it was the mycologist Paul Stamets who I studied with. He is kind of the grandfather of people who work with mushrooms. He talks about the mushroom as being the interface organism between life and death, that mushrooms are the master decomposers. So what better organism to work with?
Do you think that one day lots of people will have their own mushroom death suits?
That's the hope. I think of this in steps, and the next step is to get this to actually work... but it's something people could adopt on a wider scale. I fully acknowledge that this requires a cultural shift towards an acceptance of death and decomposition.
Because of vigorous reaction of quicklime with water, quicklime causes severe irritation when inhaled or placed in contact with moist skin or eyes. Inhalation may cause coughing, sneezing, labored breathing. It may then evolve into burns with perforation of the nasal septum, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Although quicklime is not considered a fire hazard, its reaction with water can release enough heat to ignite combustible materials.