Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Inventing transparent wood, saving a language, how emoji is changing the way we communicate and more in this week's look at the web

1. How Empowerment Became a Purchasable Product

Originally used by social workers to encourage marginalized communities to rise up from poverty and oppression, the term “empowerment” has taken on completely different definitions in recent years. It’s been transformed into a mass-marketing tactic—especially when pertaining to women—flaunted by corporations (like the #StrengthHasNoGender campaign from Brawny paper towels, a company owned by Koch Brothers who have spent millions funding anti-abortion programs) with the sole intent of moving more product. An article in the NYT contemplates the sincerity and meaning of this new “empowerment,” arguing that its diluted nature can actually be disempowering.

2. How One Man is Reviving an Aboriginal Language

Stan Grant is one of last speakers of Wiradjuri, the tribal language of Australia’s second-largest Aboriginal tribe that goes by the same name. In an attempt the revive the lost language, the 75-year-old has teamed up with anthropologist John Rudder to revise the nearly 600-page “A New Wiradjuri Dictionary”—a book he had originally written back in 2005—as well as a few grammar books. “I was told when you revive a lost language, you give it back to all mankind,” he told the New York Times.

3. A Rare $178M Caravaggio Painting Found in an Attic

After climbing into the attic to check on a leak, the owners of a home discovered a rare painting by Italian master painter Caravaggio estimated to be worth $178 million. Experts believe the painting—which depicts the heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general—was completed around 1604 in Rome and was probably forgotten in the attic, preserving it for over 150 years. French authorities have barred it from leaving the country due to its historical significance.

4. How Emoji is Obscuring the Way We Communicate

Emoticons were initially created to help illustrate hard-to-explain emotions in text, but as it turns out, they’re actually obscuring the way we communicate. A study from the University of Minnesota’s GroupLens laboratory reveals that when two people look at the same emoji, they often have differing opinions on what it depicts. This discrepancy is further exacerbated when viewing emoji from different platforms, as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung all have their own way of illustrating the same emoji. Head to New York Magazine to see most misconstrued emoticons on any platform.

5. The Impossible Project’s New I-1 Instant Film Camera

Continuing its quest to revive instant film photography, The Impossible Project has created a brand new instant camera called the I-1. The company previously collected and refurbished old Polaroid type 600 cameras to sell online, but starting May 10th, their very own take on the instant camera will be up for sale. The I-1 merges the old-school allure of instant film with high-tech features of modern photography, like an LED ring flash and a dedicated app that provides full manual control of shutter speed, aperture, flash strength and remote firing. The I-1 will be priced at $300 upon launch.

6. Researchers Find a Way to Make Wood Translucent

Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a translucent wood paneling called Optically Transparent Wood (TW) that could transform the way we incorporate sunlight into architecture. It’s created by removing the chemical lignin from the wood veneer and then impregnating it with a transparent polymer. Lars Berglund, a professor at KTH, believes the new material could be used in anything from windows to the surfaces of solar cells.

7. Alluring Images of LA’s Vibrant Courtyards

LA-native TJ Tambellini tracks down the uncomplicated beauty of Los Angeles’ vibrant patios and balconies in his photo series “Court Yard.” Zooming in on lush details like a turquoise lawn hose or a set of sun-drenched pool chairs, the images deliver an alluring look at behind-the-scenes SoCal through thoughtful framing and pleasing color pairings. It’s “not a straight documentation of these central courtyards, but rather an abstract observation of the property details and seemingly causal relationships between organic and inorganic,” he reveals.

8. Mexico’s Mar Adentro Hotel is a Utopian Paradise

In San José del Cabo, Mexico, a futuristic hotel property called Mar Adentro Hotel has opened overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Designed by architect Miguel Ángel Aragonés, it features a striking collection of stark white buildings surrounding a vast, reflective infinity pool navigable by winding walkways. The 143-suite space offers guests more than just immaculate architectural and natural views, though. It includes a private beach club, a luxury shopping plaza, five restaurants, a spa and art gallery.

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