Link About It: This Week’s Picks

An alien probe, ancient bathroom humor, the mistaken history of chocolate and more

Ancient Bathroom Humor Discovered Uncovered this week in Turkey, inside what was once a Roman latrine, are a bunch of dirty jokes that date back to the second century. Two mosaics depict well-known Greek and Roman characters, Narcissus and Ganymede—only the scenes are a little different than the myths we know. In one, Narcissus is staring down at his penis, obsessed; in the other, Ganymede (who was …

Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Saying goodbye to Kepler, an upstate Witch Camp, Halloween in Tokyo and more in our look around the web

Farewell to NASA’s Kepler Telescope Kepler—the beloved NASA telescope responsible for discovering 70% of the 3,800 confirmed “alien worlds” to date—officially met its end yesterday. After nearly a decade of exploration, the telescope ran out of fuel and can no longer transmit data or focus on transient objects in space. During its time in flight the Kepler was able to study nearly 150,000 stars simultaneously and …

Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Badass taxi drivers, helping the trans community, Leonardo da Vinci's eye condition and more in our look around the web

Help the Transgender Community Fight Harmful Policies

In a new memo, the Trump administration (through the Department of Health and Human Services) is attempting to “legally define gender as a biological condition determined by a person’s genitalia at birth”—an inherently transphobic act. This will strip trans, non-binary, and intersex people of many deserved rights. Of course, in times like this it’s crucial to speak, act and remain hopeful—and Teen Vogue has offered up a list of ways we can all support the transgender community. From rallying to donating money or simply reaching out to friends, the list is comprehensive and helpful. Read more at Teen Vogue.

The Badass Costumed Taxi Drivers of Nairobi

In Nairobi, motorbike taxis—known as “boda-bodas”—are oftentimes the best option for avoiding traffic. During a recent visit, photographer Jan Hoek noticed that noticed a well-designed, almost costumed boda-boda—it looked a lot like Nicholas Cage’s motorcycle in Ghost Rider. Inspired to create a photo series, Hoek teamed up with Ugandan fashion designer Bobbin Case, and seven drivers in the Kenyan capital got costumed to match their bike. The result is badass—and best of all, many of the riders have continued to wear elements of their costumes while driving around Nairobi. See the series at Wired.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Ultra-Rare Eye Condition

According to new research, Leonardo da Vinci’s ability to understand distance and depth is the result of an ultra-rare eye condition known as exotropia. This condition turns one pupil outward, limiting the traditional understanding of depth when looking at things—which essentially would have turned the world around da Vinci into a flat canvas. This unique perspective, the new study claims, made it easier for the artist to convert the world he saw into the artwork he created—establishing fascinating takes on structural dimension. Read more at CNN.

Over 400,000 Registered to Vote Through Snapchat

Snapchat revealed to the New York Times that during a two-week period the application encouraged (and succeeded) 418,000 users register to vote. With a new button on each user’s page, the application directed them to site called TurboVote—where a survey gauged their views, determined their location and then directed them to the local outlets where they could register. “There is no more powerful form of self-expression than the ability to vote,” Jennifer Stout, Snap’s global head of public policy, says. Read more about the initiative Snap—and other platforms—are running at the New York Times.

Ford’s Driverless Car Fleet to Launch in Washington DC

Starting next year, Ford will test a fleet of self-driving cars throughout Washington DC. This comes before launching a full, commercial autonomous driving program in the city (and others) come 2021. Many developers of similar programs are vying for cities of their own—Uber in Pittsburgh and Google’s Waymo in Phoenix. Regulation over self-driving vehicles is quite loose right now, and it will be interesting to chart developments in the nation’s capital. Read more at the Washington Post.

Thousands of Swedes Opt for Microchips Under Their Skin

For $180 it’s possible to get a microchip, roughly the size of a grain of rice, inserted between one’s thumb and forefinger. In fact, about 4,000 Swedes have done this so far, with a company like Biohax International or its competitors. Designed to “speed up users’ daily routines and make their lives more convenient—accessing their homes, offices and gyms is as easy as swiping their hands against digital readers,” the microchip contains identification information, emergency contact details and more. It could even connect to social media profiles or e-tickets. But for all the hyper-connectivity it offers, concerns center around hacking. Read more about the process, developments and fears at NPR.

The McLaren Speedtail

McLaren unveiled the Speedtail today, their first-ever “Hyper-GT.” It’s the fastest, most aerodynamic and most powerful McLaren ever, and all 106 of the $2,250,000 cars are already spoken for. Its three-seat formation (with the driver in the center) isn’t street-legal in the US because its design eliminates the space where side airbags are installed, and it boasts retractable cameras where side-view mirrors usually are. Read more about the rules one would have to follow in order to own one at Road and Track.

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Link About It: This Week’s Picks

The history of ghost stories, the tallest residential building in the world and more

The Man Behind Modern Ghost Stories

Born in 1862, Montague Rhodes James was an acclaimed intellectual who published a handful of stories (from short quips to long, academic papers) that are widely regarded as the basis upon which modern ghost stories are built. Not entirely for the narratives, but rather the topics: his stories are unpredictable and based on haunted objects, unfamiliar beings and odd circumstances. Cynthia Zarin, of The New Yorker, writes “Scholarly efforts have been made to unearth the early trauma that would account for James’ succession of wraiths, screeches, hairy faces, and skeletal hands creeping out from under the pillow. He reported his own childhood as happy.” Read more about the author at The New Yorker.

This Airline Wants to Calm Your Flying Nerves

Regardless of all the statistics about flying being the safest way to travel, the anxiety for many is unavoidable. Rather than drinking booze or taking a pill (or just enduring the nervous sweats), Virgin Australia wants its customers to start practicing mindfulness while flying. Starting next year, people can let the airline know they’re nervous travelers and they will be sent “calming communications before the flight and support them during the flight.” With guided meditation, the airline hopes to offer a stress-free trip. Read more at CNN.

NYC’s Central Park Tower to be the Tallest Residential Building in the World

Topping out at a 1,550 feet, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture‘s forthcoming Central Park Tower will set a new precedent for Billionaires’ Row, aka West 57th Street in NYC. 179 two-to-eight bedroom residences will start on floor 32. Designed by Rottet Studio, they’ll range from 1,435 square feet to over 17,500 square feet. It’s the ‘Central Park Club’ that may be most appealing however, as it offers amenities (such as a bar and swimming pool) on three of the building’s floors—including floor 100 (over 1,000 feet up). Read more at designboom.

Bringing Extinct Species Back From the Dead with Gene-Editing

American scientist Ben Novak has spent the past six years working on a process referred to as de-extinction—with the goal of bringing back the passenger pigeon species that died off in 1914. In Melbourne, Australia Novak has used gene-editing to weave the Cas9 gene into the reproductive organs of common pigeons. Cas9 enables the use of CRISPR, a tool that acts as molecular scissors and enables a cut-paste of DNA. Soon, perhaps, Novak will see to the passenger pigeon’s return. This could lead to the reemergence of the dodo or even the woolly mammoth—and that will bring up greater questions over what it means to bring an extinct species back, whether we should, and what happens if re-extinction occurs. Read more about the process at the Wall Street Journal.

Palm’s Minuscule New Mobile Phone Sidekick

In an effort to revive the Palm brand—one synonymous with the PalmPilot and Personal Digital Assistants and so many other widely-embraced developments in the ’90s and early aughts—a California company has released a new device under the name. It’s the first release with Palm branding since HP acquired and shuttered the brand—and it’s not what one would expect. The Palm smartphone is being touted as an Android-powered sidekick to your first phone. It has nothing to do with the original Palm tools, opting instead to be a Verizon-exclusive aluminum and Gorilla Glass phone for when you do not want to carry your primary phone. Read more about Palm’s vision and the device’s specs over at Endgadget.

Stephen Hawking’s Last Book Offers Brief Answers to Big Questions

In his collection of final thoughts, published 16 October, physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking addresses nothing less than the future of humanity. The book, called Brief Answers to the Big Questionsemphasizes the importance of regulating artificial intelligence, implementing clean nuclear fusion power and preparing for asteroid collision. He also predicted that gene editing tools will create an advanced race of superhumans—and so much more. In many ways, it’s a parting gift from the world-famous thinker and humanitarian. Read more about the book on Quartz.

Revolutionary Self-Lubricating Condoms

Other than gimmicky changes like colors, textures and flavors, condoms have remained relatively the same over the past 50 years—Lelo‘s efforts at a structural overhaul with HEX aside. However, a new self-lubricating condom, designed as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s competition, might just revolutionize the industry. Created to encourage safer sex, this condom remains lubricated for “1,000 cycles (scientific speak for thrusts), which works out as 16 minutes” unlike others whose “slipperiness” wears off quickly. With apparently just 1/3 of men in the US using condoms regularly, this invention might radically reduce STIs and keep countless people healthy. Read more at Dazed.

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Link About It: This Week’s Picks

O-faces around the globe, the image of a black hole, a font to improve memory and more

Butterfly Wings Explored Through Chris Perani’s Marco Photography

Layer upon layer of  iridescent scales, running along multicolored hairs, are revealed through Chris Perani’s marco photography of butterfly wings. The photographer employs a 10x microscope objective affixed to a 200mm lens in order to get such precision. The findings are perhaps unsurprisingly exquisite and thoroughly mesmerizing, but Perani’s method is certainly notable. See more imagery at Colossal, where Perani outlines his process further.

Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Renaissance Painting-Inspired Collection for Moncler

For Italian luxury skiwear brand Moncler, Valentino’s acclaimed creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli has delivered a capsule collection that harks back to the forms of early-Renaissance paintings. The full-body, lightweight down-filled-nylon pieces—zip-up hooded capes, layered over padded skirts and paired with gloves—are out today. According to Piccioli, it’s “an uttermost expression of my taste and a very personal effort.” To exemplify the inspiration, textile designer and photographer Suzanne Jongmans released an art series that puts the pieces in classic frame. See more of the imagery at designboom.

Orgasm Faces Around the World

According to a study published this week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesit seems orgasmic facial expressions vary depending on where in the world you’re from. When asked to decide which face was mid-climax, participants from Western cultures decided an orgasm looked more excited and outward (signified by an open mouth and wide-eyes) while Eastern participants believed that an orgasm looked like closed mouth smiles and gentle release. Read more about what their answers signify culturally on Ars Technica.

Yayoi Kusama’s Work From a Different Angle

Much of Yayoi Kusama‘s work draws inspiration from her lifelong hallucinations, obsessive-compulsive behavior and fears, with her narratives oftentimes firmly based around mental health. While the brilliant artist has, more recently, been reduced to and stereotyped as a “wacky” Japanese artist who makes installations that result in selfie mania, Kusama’s works and process are so much more. For World Mental Health Day this year, Jyni Ong at It’s Nice That explores Kusama’s work through a different lens. As Ong writes, “Yayoi’s immense creative output seems deeply therapeutic and intuitive to her sense of self-expression. However, there is also something to be said in how she uses her external expression of art as a means to further understand her inner-self.” Read more at It’s Nice That.

The Only American Company Making Paper Straws

Paper straws got a bad reputation as flimsy and funky-tasting, thanks in part to versions produced in China. But Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Aardvark returned to paper straw production in 2007, when demand required that they start up again (they invented the paper straw back in 1888). Not only are the products “green,” they’re also ideal to use. Much of the process behind them is secret, and the plant is close-doored, but a few things are known. First, the straws are sustainable—produced with paper sourced from trees Aardvark grows themselves. Second, demand is skyrocketing right now, according to David Rhodes, the company’s global business director. For those looking for plastic alternatives, this is one worth trying for yourself. Read more at Bloomberg.

Assembling an Image of the Shadow of a Black Hole

In a mind-boggling excerpt from Seth Fletcher’s book Einstein’s Shadow: A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable (published by Ecco), the author probes the meticulous process behind the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). In fact, a series of collaborative data sets collected in 2017 by eight telescopes around the planet, the EHT aims to create an image of the shadow of a black hole using vast amounts of cross-referenced and corroborated information. Fletcher’s insight and prose captivates as much the scientific developments, and the excerpt—published by the New York Times Magazine—frequently stuns with unimaginable facts.

Moog’s First Polysynth in 35 Years

In a short film featuring Dev Hynes, Mark Ronson and Ryuichi Sakamoto, among others, Moog teased the release of its first polysynth in 35 years. The Moog One (available in eight-voice ($5,999) or 16-voice ($7,999) versions) features three VCOs, two independent analog filters and a revamped collection of native effects. Moog hopes the new additions will allow users to form “deeply layered, evolving soundscapes.” Read more about the release and the rest of Moog’s upcoming products at Fact.

Long-Lost Eames Radio Design Realized

Vitra is bringing a long-lost Eames design to life: a molded plywood framed radio. With holes for speakers and a few knobs for tuning, the device has been made in an edition of 999, with the first 50 available at the MoMA Design Store. The design was never realized during the ’40s, when it was initially drawn up, because the design was deemed “too modern.” Now, with the help of Vitra and the office’s current director (and the duo’s grandson), the design is for sale—with WiFi and bluetooth capabilities included. Read more at Fast Company.

This Font Might Improve Your Memory

A new typeface—the result of a collaboration between RMIT University’s design school and its behavioral business lab—may increase the amount of information we retain from reading. Called Sans Forgetica, it was conceptualized for students cramming for big exams. With lots of backward slants and gaps, the type makes use of a design principle called “desirable difficulty” which slows the reader down, resulting in more retention and employs “deeper cognitive processing.” Read more at It’s Nice That.

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