Link About It: This Week’s Picks

The world's "weirdest" languages, spy planes spot archaeological sites, making museums more accessible and more from around the web

Open-Source Software Making Museums More Accessible

Oftentimes, the process of visiting a museum begins at an institution’s website, and not all of them are accessible to people with disabilities. In fact, several notable NYC institutions’ websites are not readable by visitors with loss of vision. Those museums should take a tip from Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art whose open-source software—a tool that can be added to any website—”seamlessly integrates image descriptions into its online platform.” One feature is the “image description” option, which explains an artwork or artifact to the user. For example, “A work by Doris Salcedo is described as: ‘Four murky sepia-toned images of shoes embedded on a white wall by what appears to be surgical stitching.'” These descriptions can then be read aloud. Read more at Artsy.

English and More of the World’s “Weirdest” Languages

Using information from the World Atlas of Language Structures, researchers surveyed the features of 239 languages to determine which are “weirdest”—meaning in sound, the number of features and sentence construction. Out of 239, English ranked 33rd. Citing its abnormally high number of phenomes (most languages have around 25, but English has 44) and the odd way English-speakers assemble questions, the study unbiasedly shows how English sounds to non-speakers. For now, the study is just for surface-level perusing, as there are 6,800+ languages excluded from the results. That said, it’s a significant takeaway for those English-speakers who think other languages sound “strange.” Read more about it all at Quartz.

Brilliantly Playful Artist Websites

While many artists opt for minimal, straightforward websites (with a CV, About and Exhibition/Work pages), several artists are creating trippy online delights. Chaotic animations, ’90s era internet motifs, beautiful shapes, splashes, glitter, drips, illusions and various thoughtful and playful approaches to their web presence is more and more common in the art world. Artsy has listed some of their favorites—from Marisa Olson to Petra Cortright and Darren Bader, who says, “A website is a website much like a photograph would be a photograph and a miniature would be a miniature: all are representations of something, and independent of that something.” See more at Artsy.

World’s Largest Airplane’s First-Ever Flight

Weighing 500,000 pounds and boasting two fuselages and a wingspan of 385 feet, Stratolaunch‘s behemoth of a plane—which will launch rockets into Earth’s orbit—took flight for the first time ever this past weekend. Taking off from the Mojave Air and Space Port, the Stratolaunch ascended to 15,000 feet, reaching speeds up to 175 MPH, before landing successfully two hours later. “It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight,” Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd tells The Verge. Read more there.

Jumbo App Manages Your Various Privacy Settings

According to Fast Company, the average person has 191 accounts to keep track of—a statistic that carries tremendous privacy management expectations and repercussions. iPhone app Jumbo plans to curb this as it becomes a sole interface for everyone’s privacy settings. From deleting old tweets and Instagram posts to clearing Google search history, Jumbo’s capabilities are necessary—and the company’s mission is quite ambitious. Further, all processing happens on one’s phone, so Jumbo never has access to personal data. Read more at Fast Company.

Spy Planes Spot Ancient Archaeological Sites

Using images taken by American U-2 spy planes between 1959 and 1972, researchers and archaeologists have been able to uncover archaeological sites in the Middle East that have since been developed over. Though only the final five years worth of photographs are of a high enough resolution to decipher, pre-urban sprawl imagery presented scenes of 5,000 to 8,000 stone structures with clarity. Read more about the discovery and the practice of “space archaeology” at Smithsonian Mag.

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