Ziya Tong, Author of The Reality Bubble


Cool Tools Show 176: Ziya Tong

Our guest this week is Ziya Tong. Ziya is an award-winning science broadcaster, best known for her work with Discovery’s flagship show, Daily Planet, as well as NOVA ScienceNow and Wired Science on PBS. She is the author of the forthcoming book The Reality Bubble, the Vice Chair of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, and a supporter of the Extinction Rebellion.

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Show notes:

case of bass
Case of Bass
There’s this guy named Ezra who works out of Portland and several years ago, I ended up getting a speaker system through him and it is just an absolute work of art. Basically, it looks like one of those 1980s boomboxes that he has photographed and placed inside of a sort of ornate frame. But inside and behind this frame is an actual boombox. So, it’s a little bit meta in the sense that you’ve got an image of a boombox that is sort of outfitted with a boombox behind it. But what’s really cool is he’s developed painting skins of these boomboxes. So you can change your art so you’ll have different boomboxes or different images and you’ll still have the physical boombox right there. Another thing that he has been doing lately is he’s been going to vintage stores and picking up old suitcases and old luggage. And the reason why is because he really likes repurposing things that people have kind of given up on and giving them a purpose again.

AFP FactCheck Twitter Feed
This Twitter feed is by AFP, the news organization, and it comes in French, in Spanish, and in Portuguese. What I love about it is, we live in the era of fake news of course as we all know. But not all of us have time when we come across something to immediately go to Snopes, unless we’re super keener nerds which some of us are, but at the same time, it’s nice to have this through your feed. In this instance, you have AFP using reverse Google Image search to look at a lot of the postings that are going through and going viral on all these Facebook news sites that are patently false. So there’s an image that I saw the other day and it was of a pig that is in Hungary. It says, “Here’s how Hungarian border police keep Muslims from crossing their borders.” And they have a giant pig there and a cop holding the pig and a whole bunch of refugees fleeing the border. And it’s just bullshit. And so, right next to it, they’ve got the image and it’s actually a doctored image from the Philippines of just somebody who’s with their pig and some piglets and a sow with some piglets and some people playing in the background.

The Extinction Logo
I think, we’ve all said for a long time that the revolution will not be televised. But I think the revolution is certainly happening for us right now on the internet. We’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction right now. We’re seeing loss of animals and vertebrate species around the world. At the same time, we’re battling a real planetary emergency. A lot of people are starting to protest in the streets. It’s a real form of joyful resistance and joyful rebellion. And a lot of this sort of emerged around a symbol and this was an extinction symbol that was developed a little while ago. It’s very simple. It’s being called the new peace symbol of our era. The circle represents the planet. In the inside, it looks like two triangles that kind of kiss and that’s the hourglass signifying that we are running out of time. And there are rebellions that are planned and taking place all around the world. People can go to the xrebellion.org website and sign up and find out what’s happening locally or start their own local chapter. And they can go to extinctionsymbol.info and that’s where you can actually download the graphic. And you can make anything you want out of it so long as it’s not for commercial purposes. People are making flags out of the symbol. I have a old sweatshirt that I put the extinction logo graphic on. It’s a lot like the peace symbol of yore but with a modern twist to it.

Signal is a wonderful messaging app that has end-to-end encryption on it. It’s just a really great tool if you’re talking to other activists because it gives you an opportunity to feel safe and free, and a free space with which to speak. So, a long time ago, think it was Hakim Bey who came up with the term TAZ or Temporary Autonomous Zones, and this notion of free space. And we live in a time now where there’s very, very little free space in the world. We’re not very aware of how little space there really is for us to freely communicate. In places around the world, of course, censorship is increasing, places like America, places like Asia. And so being able to communicate around the world with a tool like this is really wonderful.

Also mentioned:

The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World ($14, Kindle)
It’s kind of been described as a cross between Cosmos and The Matrix in the sense that I’ve been a science journalist and broadcaster for 15 years. So it’s been really wonderful getting to work with scientists and seeing so many different sort of realities that they’re able to see with the scientific lens. Like most recently, we realized that we can see black holes. Now we can see atoms. We can see all sorts of different things from telescopes to microscopes … So, I started to get really fascinated by the fact that what my naked eyes could see and what my common sense perceived was just a real tiny sliver of reality. And we created all these different lenses, especially with science to be able to see a world that I wasn’t able to see with the naked eye. But at the same time, what I kind of started realizing was in the 21st century, we have cameras everywhere, everywhere except where our food comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our waste goes. It’s really strange that fundamentally our society is completely blind when it comes to how it survives. So, I really wanted to get to the bottom of how we became the most powerful species on earth when we don’t know how we survive. That was the initial sort of thing that got me on this journey, and it’s trippy and I hope illuminating. And I’m just very, very excited for people to read it. It’s my very first book, and that’s sort of the entry into that space.


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