Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Sentient sex robots, a plant-covered ghost town and more in our weekly look at the web

1. How Valentina Tereshkova Became the First Woman in Space

Yesterday, 16 June, marked the 52nd anniversary of the day Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. At the time, many wondered how the Russians were able to beat the US when NASA already had an impressive roster of highly qualified female astronauts. In a Life Magazine issue headlined “She Orbits Over the Sex Barrier,” writer Clare Booth Luce offers a simple answer: communism. Because of the USSR’s communist ideals, men and women were treated more equally while the US struggled to imagine putting a woman in space.

2. South India’s Old-Fashioned Cinemas

Between 2010 and 2013, artists Stefanie Zoche and the late Sabine Haubitz traveled to South India (and seemingly back in time) to photograph the country’s multitude of old-fashioned theaters. Each cinema they captured “displays an unusual mixture of Modernism, local architectural elements, a strong use of color and, in the case of some older cinema halls, of Art Deco,” writes the duo. The retro theaters could easily fit into a scene from a Wes Anderson film and, in a world where monstrous entertainment complexes are constantly popping up, they’re a romantic reminder of simpler times.

3. “Queens of Kings” Explores Brooklyn’s Drag Scene

Just in time to celebrate NYC Pride Week, Refinery29 and filmmaker Nicholas Heller have debuted a YouTube docu-series that spends a day in the life of various Brooklyn drag queens. Titled “Queens of Kings,” the thoughtful series features five-minute webisodes that follow the borough’s favorite queens as they transform from daytime civilians to glamorous evening divas, performing in many of Brooklyn’s most popular venues.

4. Oculus Rift Now Lets Users Touch

After strapping on an Oculus Rift headset, one of the first things people want to do is reach out and feel around in their new virtual world, but, until now, their pokes and prods have gone unanswered. Oculus hopes to fill this void in the VR experience with a new gadget called Oculus Touch. Announced alongside the consumer version of the Rift, Touch features two sensor-laden, hand-held remotes that produce vibrations when touching something in a virtual world. The controllers are currently in development and are likely to ship to consumers sometime next year.

5. Futuristic Floating Farms

A rapidly expanding global population, combined with water scarcity in prevalent farming areas make for a grim future. To address impending food shortages, Javier F. Ponce and Jakub Dycha have designed a futuristic floating farm that isn’t too far from reality. The three-story structure incorporates aquaculture, hydroponics and photovoltaics to sustainably and dependably produce a range of crops and fish that, in theory, could feed entire cities—as long as they’re located near a fresh water source. Though it’s still just a concept, some feel it’s a viable alternative to land-locked farms.

6. California’s Homeless Find Peace in Libraries

In a world dominated by the internet and social media, being homeless often means being detached from anything that’s not happening in the immediate vicinity. For many of the homeless people living in California, public libraries serve as a type of sanctuary where many go to learn, imagine and connect with the world. In 2014, National Geographic traveled to several of these Californian libraries, profiling patrons who were browsing everything from nursing manuals to bibles, war fiction and tomes on philosophy.

7. A Green Chinese Ghost Town

The term “ghost town” usually brings to mind a dusty, barren set of structures devoid of any life, but one abandoned village in China is quite the opposite. Located 40 miles outside of Shanghai, a former Chinese fishing village on Shengshan Island has become enveloped by local vegetation, transforming the empty town in a naturally beautiful way. Lush, leafy vines have found their way across nearly every exposed surface, returning the buildings’ white and brown bricks to the deep green of the surrounding hillside.

8. Creating the World’s First Sentient Sex Doll

The latest episode of The New York Times’ “Robotica” video series explores the science and philosophy behind creating the world’s first sentient, animatronic sex doll. Matt McMullen—whose company Abyss Creations has already sold thousands of silicon sex dolls—is using robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to allow his RealBotix dolls to blink, speak and, one day, think like real humans. His ultimate goal is to develop a doll that can transcend physical pleasure and engage people on an emotional level that rivals love. Watch the full video on the New York Times.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily in Link and on Twitter, and rounded up every Saturday morning.