Best of CH 2019: Link About It

Scientific breakthroughs, surprising design collaborations and beyond

As we publish our own original articles throughout the year, we also share insightful stories and videos from publications we respect. Crucial for our growth as writers, these pieces inform us as readers, listeners and learners. From the inspiring and interesting to the challenging and counterpointing, we promote these stories in our ever-growing Link About It section. There, they spotlight significant changes in our world, document events from the past and signal what’s to come in the near or distant future. To honor the year’s end, we have chosen some of our favorite articles that cover everything from scientific breakthroughs to surprising design collaborations and beyond.

Human Bacteria May Be the Secret to Athletic Endurance

A study published in Nature Medicine reveals that the secret to athletic endurance and heightened performance, isn’t creatine, chia seeds or beet juice, but rather a group of bacteria found in the gut of elite-level runners. By isolating the group, known as Veillonella, researchers were able to test its impact on mice post-ingestion—and those that ingested the bacteria ran 13% longer than mice that were given a different strain. The Veillonella survive by consuming lactate, the byproduct of intense exercise that induces fatigue. Scientists hope, now that they’ve honed in on this bacteria, that they can produce a probiotic drink or supplement that will improve everyday athletic performance and endurance. Read more at NPR.

Deep Sea vs Deep Space

Earth’s vast oceans have forever fascinated, but since the mid-20th century afforded people trips into space, the cosmos have dominated our desire to voyage. We know more about (and have created better maps for navigating) space than our oceans. In fact, a remarkable 95% of the sea remains undiscovered by humans. To save our oceans, we must reignite public interest in it: our stories, films, books and dreams must return to the sea and when they do, funding for scientific research, preservation and discovery will follow. As JFK said in a speech months before his death, the oceans are “of the utmost importance to man everywhere.” Read more at Quartz.

The History of the Iconic Moka Pot

The single-serve espresso machine first appeared in Italy in 1901. More than 30 years later, Alfonso Bialetti popularized an even more democratic coffee maker for home use: the Moka Express. This version (now patented) became an iconic symbol of Italian coffee culture—simple yet dignified. The historically significant eight-sided machine helped to make at-home coffee brewing possible at a much larger scale. Today, the Moka Express can be found in institutions like the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and in homage-like variations, such as Alessi’s Moka which appeared at Milan Design Week this year. Learn more at MOLD.

Legendary Art Director Peter Saville Designs the New PornHub Award

PornHub has revealed their new award, created by legendary English art director and designer Peter Saville. Eschewing the cliche and crass, the bright orange trophy is based on the molecular structure of sex hormones—resulting in an abstract and appealing shape. Saville tells Ad Age, “My intention was to maintain a degree of ambiguity in the final form the award took, with respect to the sexual spectrum so impressively encompassed by the award category line-up.” The designer is not only known as the founder of Factory Records, but also the creator of iconic album covers like Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. Read more at Ad Age.

The Teenage Inventor of a Blind Spot Solution

14-year-old Alaina Gassler’s “Improving Automobile Safety by Removing Blind Spots” project, which took first prize for STEM excellence at the Broadcam MASTERS competition, eliminates blocks in vision created by obstructive interiors. In essence, Gassler has eliminated a driver’s blind spot. Using a webcam, projector, and 3D-printed materials, Gassler configured a camera to capture the area blocked by the a-pillar and the projector to display the feed onto the interior panel (which needed to be treated with a reflective coat). Gassler also had to design—and subsequently 3D-print—a piece that assisted the projector in maintaining focus at such close range. A very impressive invention, especially considering she doesn’t even drive yet. Read more at Mashable.

Artist Doug Aitken’s Mirror-Surfaced Hot Air Balloon

Set to travel from Martha’s Vineyard to the Berkshires, a mirrored hot air balloon will reflect Massachusetts back upon itself this July. As part of Doug Aitken’s “New Horizon” public art installation, commissioned by the oldest land trust in the world (known as the Trustees), the nomadic sculpture will tether at site-specific, art-oriented celebrations. The flight path of the mylar-covered aircraft will also grant many of the people in-between an opportunity at awe. Read more at Travel + Leisure.

Sonos Conducted a Study on Audio’s Health Benefits

Referred to as the Brilliant Sound Survey, a comprehensive body of data derived from an online questionnaire highlights much of what many music-lovers believe to be true. Conducted by home audio company Sonos and several research partners, the survey incorporated insights from 12,000 people in 12 countries. Some of the stats astound: 74% of participants said listening to music helped them reduce stress, 58% believe music boosts their mood at work, and 40% admit that music has made them cry unexpectedly. Additionally, some 70% say that people with “good” music taste are more attractive. This information and much more can found at the Sonos blog.

Lamborghini’s Restored Arancio Miura P400

Made famous in 1969’s The Italian Job, this glorious Lamborghini Arancio Miura P400 was long-believed to be destroyed, as per the film’s plot. But a confession years later revealed that the on-screen collision involved a different Miura—one that was already damaged pre-shoot—and the hunt for the original began. With many aiding the search, the car surfaced, returned to Polo Storico (the brand’s classic division) and began a lengthy verification process that included consultation from Paramount, Enzo Moruzzi and other Lamborghini employees who had a hand in making the vehicle. Some 50 years later, chassis #3586 has been restored to its stunning current state. See more photos and get further details at designboom.

Danish Architect Dorte Mandrup’s The Whale Visitor Center in the Arctic Circle

A few miles from the shore of Norwegian town Andenes, on the island Andøya in the Arctic Circle, a deep-sea valley (called bleiksdjupa) frequently welcomes migrating whales. Breaching the dramatic landscape near the town, The Whale attraction will open its doors to visitors hoping to catch a glimpse. Inside, it will also tell the story of the magnificent marine mammals, their relationship to humans and their passage through the area. Danish Architect Dorte Mandrup’s parabolic design, imagined and developed in collaboration with Marianne Levinsen Landskab, JAC Studio, Thornton Tomasetti, AT Plan & Arkitektur, Nils Øien and Anders Kold, beat out many international powerhouse firms—and understandably so as it embraces the surrounding landscape. See more stunning images at Dorte Madrup’s site.

The Credit Card That Tracks Your Climate Impact

Using a calculation system called the Aland Index, Doconomy (in partnership with Mastercard) is offering credit card holders the opportunity to have their purchases tracked for carbon emissions—and ultimately, card users that exceed a set climate impact limit will have their spending capped. It’s an important reminder that everything—from apparel to plane tickets—comes with associated climate impact and carbon emissions. In fact, 60% of carbon emissions are a result of consumption. The card itself is kinder to the planet and is made from bio-sourced material with ink rendered from air pollution particles. Read more at Dezeen.

The Lifelong Benefits of a Single Psychedelic Trip

For decades, numerous scientific studies have set out to determine the benefits of psychedelic trips. From stabilizing moods to boosting creativity, substantial findings support the positive impact of psilocybin. But, a slew of recent work—specifically a survey conducted by Johns Hopkins—suggests that trips could do even more: they can instill newfound purpose and a sense of connectedness that lasts a lifetime. Often, these come as a byproduct of an encounter with “ultimate reality”—something that teeters between an internal revelation and an acknowledgment of a “God” figure. Read more about the studies and the lasting effects of a trip at Psychology Today.

NASA Unveils Two “Galaxy of Horrors” Posters

Just in time for Halloween, NASA has shared two posters featuring the distant exoplanets, HD 189733 b (Rains of Terror) and PSR B1257+12 c (Zombie Worlds). For this series, meant to showcase places “only sophisticated telescopes” can reach, the space agency borrows storylines from famed sci-fi films and pairs them with hypothetical real-life journeys. HD 189733 b is characterized as being “the killer you never see coming.” The other, PSR B1257+12 c is an “undead star” that holds a “horrifying grip” on a trio of planets. While the posters are playful and timely, they also feature plenty of navigable graphics. Plus, each print is available for download (in varying sizes) for free. See more at NASA’s site.

Hero image courtesy of Quartz