The week of May 1, 2016

The return of the rest

By Jesse Hicks

In this issue of the Kernel, we’re looking at the things that get lost, only to be later rediscovered and repurposed. From a man who found himself transformed after swimming in a patch of discarded plastic, to spending a month surrounded by a collection of cast-off clowns, to a forgotten children’s book that reveals the ’90s Internet, it’s stories of things that disappear, only to return in new and often strange shapes.

First, Rosie Cima reports on Sean Ironstag, the man who wants to build a new society on floating cities while simultaneously saving our oceans from a smog of discarded plastic. The idea came to him after an unwitting dip in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive gyre that’s captured tons of plastic, becoming one of the most potent symbols of our polluted oceans. Most scientists say there’s no way to clean up the patch; we simply have to stop polluting and wait for the oceans to flush out the garbage. Ironstag thinks he has a better solution: build platforms that can float above the patch, harvesting the plastic and using it to 3D-print new materials. His radical plan, while deeply improbable, has gotten people talking.

Jennifer Swann talks to Christopher Sebela, a comic book writer who thought it would be a terrible idea to begin a Kickstarter campaign supporting a 30-night stay in the infamous Clown Motel. What started as a lark became a reality when his backers responded with over $10,000; Sebela soon found himself in small-town Nevada, surrounded by clowns both animate and not. Then things got weirder, and soon enough, he was livetweeting his wandering through the lonely desert, following a map sent to him by an unknown “fan.”

Finally, Mark Hill tracks down the creator of the Cyber.kdz books, a series that introduced Hill to the wonders of the Internet. These stories, about a globe-spanning group of teens working together on email-based adventures, today offer a revealing portrait of how the 1990s saw the technology that’s now pervaded our lives. The “kdz” were tech-savvy at a time when the Internet was still novel, a place often seen as strange and frightening. As Hill recounts, in reading about kids just like him, who lived stories that were both amazing and plausible, he imagined an online world bursting with possibility. Today the Internet often seems more mundane, but perhaps that’s only because we’ve forgotten that still-extant potential.

Enjoy the issue.

Photo via stocksolutions/Shutterstock