Becoming stardust : The future cemetery

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Imagine strolling through a cemetery at night, the wooded path softly illuminated by a canopy of glowing pods filled with human remains suspended overhead and transforming decomposition into electricity until the body is finally gone. The cycle of life complete, the light then dims to dark, the pod taken down and replaced by a bright new body shining down upon the path from its star-like grave.

While this may sound like the stuff of science fiction, in reality it’s a reimagined cemetery of the future called the Sylvan Constellation, a system where microbial fuel cells facilitate the body’s decomposition and transform it into light. More than a ghostly fantasy, this project from DeathLAB — a Columbia University–based interdisciplinary research and design initiative rethinking how we live with death in the metropolis — is a potential solution to one of the biggest problems cities are facing: We’re running out of space to store the dead, and the way we do it now is environmentally disastrous.

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