Calliope’s photo of baby mushrooms
Calliope’s photo of baby mushrooms

Cosmic Queries – The Fungus Among Us with Merlin Sheldrake

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About This Episode

Can mushrooms take over your mind? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Matt Kirshen explore the weird world of fungi with fun-guy fungus expert and ecologist, Merlin Sheldrake. Could inactive spores survive space?

Who discovered mushrooms can affect us psychologically? You’ll learn about the origins of the classification of the kingdom fungi and the use of psychedelic mushrooms. Can psilocybin be synthesized? We explore the world’s great mycelium network and how fungi connect ecosystems. How many spores are in the air at all times? What are the differences between plants and mushrooms? Which one evolved first? There are fungi that like to eat whiskey? 

Can fungi hijack animals? Will the zombie apocalypse be fungi-related? Could fungi potentially seed another planet? Find out how different fungi affect the people and animals who interact with them. What are telltale signs of a poisonous mushroom? Why will some mushrooms kill you and others not? You’ll learn about how some fungi create waves of electrical activity like neurons.

Discover Matt’s accidental mushroom cultivation and how our world is not so different from the world of James Cameron’s Avatar. Are there still mushrooms being discovered? We explore existing theories about psilocybin’s impact on human evolution. Is it possible that psychedelic mushrooms gave humans the creativity to make fire? How can we use psychoactive mushrooms for depression? Are there ways mushrooms can help us combat climate change? All that, plus, where’s the weirdest place fungi have been found?

Thanks to our Patrons Bradley Sheldrake, Marc Armstrong, The Warzone12, Luis Cruz, Ely, Andrea Sperini, and 1x4x9 for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.


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