Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.

– Bill Nye


Featured artist: Adil Khanna

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 209!

View/share online

I finally had time to catch up with a bunch of climate-related podcasts in my queue. Here are three episodes worth your time:

1 – The Australian ABC has a new show called Who’s Gonna Save Us?, a light-hearted podcast about everyday people who are leading the shift to a carbon-neutral future. It’s fantastic – even if you’re not from Australia.

My favourite episode so far looks at one of modern France’s boldest sociopolitical experiments: a citizen assembly for climate. In 2019, 150 randomly selected French citizens were asked to come up with their country’s climate policy. With access to climate experts, they produced 149 concrete policy proposals that included pretty bold ideas to radically cut emissions.

Sadly, many of the proposals were watered down before they were adopted by the government, if at all. And so in some regards the experiment failed. However, it’s been a hugely successful proof of concept. It showed that citizens from vastly different backgrounds and political persuasions can – when they have access to expert knowledge – be trusted to come up with not just good but sometimes better policy ideas than politicians or experts themselves. Overall, a really interesting, exciting concept that I hope other countries will adopt and build on!

2 – From the same show, this episode with inventor, scientist and author Saul Griffith, who advises governments and private companies on how to transition into a carbon-neutral economy. He’s a friendly, likeable character and I loved this particular insight about the impact of on-site electricity generation on local communities:

“A typical Australian suburb spends about $4m on petrol and diesel per year. That creates half a job at the local petrol station which is mostly selling sugar and tobacco anyway – that’s like three things that can kill you in one store! Anyway, if everyone is driving electric vehicles and producing their own electricity, those $4m will stay in the community. We know from spending behaviour that 55% of that money will be spent locally, creating a huge number of jobs. Not just energy jobs, but it’ll be paying for better bakeries, new classrooms, a fresh coat of paint for the sports club, etc. I don’t think we ever really thought about just what a screamingly good thing that would be for every community.“ (Slightly paraphrased for brevity)

Here’s an inspiring story about a small country town in Australia that already reaps the benefits of local energy production.

3 – And, finally, this episode of The Ezra Klein show is perhaps the most eloquent conversation I’ve ever listened to about the huge, systematic changes that our energy systems need to undergo in order for us to remain within reach of a 1.5–2C warmer world.

Jesse Jenkins is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering – a rocket scientist! – who has a remarkably deep understanding of decarbonisation. The conversation is US-centric and quite geeky, but no matter where you’re from, you’ll learn a huge amount about energy systems and why the transition to a carbon-free system is such a colossal challenge.

Enjoy! – Kai


Become a Friend of DD →

With a modest yearly contribution you’re not only helping keep Dense Discovery going, you also receive special discounts and get access to the DD Index, a searchable catalogue of past issues.


Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of design, technology, sustainability and culture, read by over 43,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


The Business Behind the CultureSPONSOR


Trapital →

Gain insights from music, media, and culture

Trapital’s free memo keeps you ahead of the trends that shape the business world. Learn from Trapital founder Dan Runcie as he explores companies like Rihanna’s Fenty empire and Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment. You’ll enjoy it if you love the business behind the culture, but you’ll get even more out of it if you don’t.


Apps & Sites

Collate →

Open letter exchange

“Collate is a platform for political, cultural and intellectual leaders to have digital letter correspondences with each other and the public, in public.” An interesting idea to engage with people in positions of power. I wonder whether/how this concept would scale with popularity, but a neat experiment nevertheless.

Hark →

Discover podcast highlights

A reader recommendation that I like the sound of: Hark is a mobile app in which editors curate amazing podcast moments into unique playlists. A mixtape of podcast highlights, if you will. A lovely idea for discovering new shows.

Lofi →

Ambient focus sounds

This is one of the many ‘lo-fi’ sites that play continuous ambient music suitable for working/reading/studying. There are paid plans if you get tired of the background image.

Parkulator →

Calculate parking density

“The Parkulator calculates the area of the selected region being used for parking, and tells you how many houses could have been built in the space instead.” I’ve checked for Inner City Melbourne and found that there are 172.8 hectares of parking on which we could build housing. That’s 17,280 homes at London density, 51,840 homes at Paris density or 86,400 homes at Barcelona density.


Worthy Five: Jacopo Perfetti


Five recommendations by Oblique.ai co-founder and author Jacopo Perfetti

A concept worth understanding:

Adaptability quotient: a measurement of someone’s ability to adapt. I believe in our fast-changing world, the adaptability quotient (AQ), rather than the intelligence quotient (IQ), is becoming a key factor in our success and survival.

A word worth knowing:

Gambiarra is a wonderful Brazilian word that could be translated as ‘the ability to change fate by turning weaknesses into strengths and facing adversity’. It is a word that summarises very well the typical approach to life of an innovator: anything that happens is an opportunity to think innovatively and find solutions that others have not found yet.

A book worth reading:

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr is a celebration of independent thought in the age of algorithms and artificial intelligence. Carr writes: “One of the greatest dangers we face as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system is […] a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity.”

A question worth asking:

‘What makes us feel alive?’ This is something we should ask ourselves every morning. Our age is only a number; what matters is how alive we feel.

A quote worth repeating:

Albert Einstein is often quoted for having said: “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” In our age of instant gratification we rarely stay alone with our thoughts. We choose an idea, come to a conclusion or make a decision simply because it is the first one that came to mind, forgetting that creativity takes time.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Jacopo Perfetti in one click.)


Books & Accessories


Inclusive Design Communities →

Creating welcoming spaces

I heard so many good things about this latest launch by A Book Apart: Sameera Kapila explores how we can make our communities – from classrooms to workplaces to meetups – welcoming to all. “Whether you’re a student, educator, practicing designer, manager, recruiter, mentor, or organizer, you’ll learn to notice subconscious bias, interrogate your values, and actively create welcoming spaces for all.” Friends of DD enjoy a 10% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.


From the Ground Up →

Local efforts for resilient cities

The creation of equitable, livable communities is often driven by grassroots activism and organisation. This US-centric book offers valuable lessons on how we can transform the places we live in that apply to cities around the world. “Sant shows how US cities are reclaiming their streets from cars, restoring watersheds, growing forests, and adapting shorelines to improve people’s lives while addressing our changing climate. ... Advocates, non-profit organizations, community-based groups, and government officials will find examples of how to build alliances to support and embolden this vision together.”


Overheard on Twitter

By 2040, 90% of coders will be making productivity software. The other 10% will be making productivity tools for the people who make productivity software. When the sea levels rise we’ll float through our cities on Kanban boards like Venice while discussing new agile practices.



Food for Thought

Rewilding Cities →


What do industrial farming, car-centric cities and certain tech companies have in common? They all enable monocultures to thrive. While their singular focus is highly efficient, they ultimate leave behind a weak, fragile world. “In the same way that monocropping corn creates weaker, less resilient land, monocropping our streets with cars creates cities that aren’t as vibrant as they ought to be. We often don’t notice it, because we’ve trained ourselves to think of streets as ‘almost exclusively for cars’. But if you think of all the things you could do with streets, you realize how weird it is that we have, for decades now, used them mostly only for vehicles. If we can rewild the landscape, why not rewild city streets? Why not transform them so cars are only one part of what they’re used for?”

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter by resurrecting traditional architectural techniques →


Have you ever noticed that skylines of big cities look very similar no matter where you go? It’s called ’duplitecture’. For thousands of years, people living in parts of the world used to high temperatures have deployed traditional passive cooling techniques in the way they designed their buildings. However, in the 20th century, cities even in very hot climates began following an international template for building design that meant cities around the world often had similar looking skylines. This ramped up the cooling load due to an in-built reliance on air conditioners. This podcast talks about why we’re copying a template that is inappropriate for so many climates and how some ancient ‘passive cooling’ techniques could offer hope.

The World Needs Uncles, Too →


Reading this piece feels like a warm hug: Isaac Fitzgerald writes about not wanting kids but instead cherishing being the ‘fun uncle’ for his friends’ kids. “Whenever I spend some time, even a little bit of it, goofing off with a friend or family member’s kid, I can see the small respite it gives to the parents. And let’s not forget my own selfishness. I feel a lightness of being – an unanchoring in my heart – that seems harder and harder to come by these days. It’s a feeling I relish. I revel in it. To be fair, in certain ways, not having a child is a very selfish act on my part: it allows me great financial freedom, the ability to travel more and focus on my own life, instead of doing my damnedest to raise a healthy little one. But the non-selfish part of not having children for me is that I can literally show up for people who need the help, especially in this country where healthcare and finances don’t make it easy to raise a child.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

The Instagram account of architectural photographer Sebastian Weiss is a treasure trove of delightful shapes and colours in the urban context.

❏ ❏

These adorable ceramic blob characters are part of Monsieur Cailloux’s ‘tribe of pebbles’ of which there are now hundreds. They come in all sorts of shapes, colours and glazes. Cute. (via)

❏ ❏

I’m fascinated by the absolutely mind-bending art of illustrator Boris Pelcer. “He creates his work as a way to explore the intangible complexities of human emotions, thoughts, ideas and behaviors. Deep down, it is all an effort to better understand his human experience.”

❏ ❏

Oceanic draws inspiration from the 18 and 19th century fat faces with upright contrast, like Bodoni, but adds odd and quirky details, like the capital R and K that are designed to stand out and make you feel a little uncomfortable.


Notable Numbers


Among more than 1 million UK-based OkCupid users who responded to the question, ‘Would you consider having an open relationship?’ in the app, 31% percent said yes in 2022, compared to 29% in 2021 and 26% in 2020.


A new study about Bitcoin found that for 2016–2021 the per-coin climate damages were increasing, rather than decreasing with industry maturation, and that, on average, each $1 in BTC market value created was responsible for $0.35 in global climate damages.


As a result of Paris’ radical reimagination of urban transport, the proportion of journeys by car has dropped about 45 percent since 1990. The use of public transit has risen by 30 percent and the share of cyclists has increased tenfold.



Below Radar is a space for business owners, freelancers and marketers who don’t want to rely on Facebook, Google or marketing techniques that fuel surveillance capitalism.

Fresh van Root Newsletter: Going down a rabbit hole... for marketing nerds, creators, curious entrepreneurs. Hand-picked reading tips & tested apps in your inbox. Free/twice a month.

Want proven strategies to grow your audience and business? Join the 19,000 creative entrepreneurs who read the free For The Interested newsletter each week.

Creative Wayfinding is a weekly newsletter exploring how to navigate our way to our creative potential in a world filled with noise, distractions, and shiny objects.

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by our 43,000 subscribers each week.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


Reply or tweet at DD with your favourite GIF and it might get featured here in a future issue.