Link About It: This Week’s Picks

NYC's autonomous vehicles, Pittsburgh's beer festival, a device that reads your thoughts and more

Reflecting on Toni Morrison’s Life, From Her Point of View

The first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer prize winner for penning Beloved and a mentor to millions, among many other things, Toni Morrison lived unapologetically but with unmatched empathy, intelligence and insightfulness. She famously told Terry Gross (of NPR’s Fresh Air) that she “regret[s] everything” about her life. She explained in a 2015 interview, “Now that I’m 84, I remember everything as a mistake, and I regret everything. It’s not profound regret. It’s just a wiping-up of tiny, little messes that you didn’t recognize as a mess when they were going on.” If nothing else, Morrison’s readings are life lessons in their own right: beautiful balancing acts of life’s light and darkness. The world mourns her passing. Read, or listen to, the full 2015 interview at NPR.

Millions of Books Entered the Public Domain

Thanks to a project funded by the New York Public Library (and spearheaded by two of its employees), millions of books published before 1964 will soon be free to download and read. Historically, books published before 1964 were subject to a 28-year copyright term and after those years passed, the books would (likely, aside from exception) become public domain if the publisher or author did not renew the copyright. According to NYPL’s research, approximately 80% of books published between 1923 and 1964 did not have their copyrights renewed. Thus, they became free to download—but the computers tasked with decoding their status and uploading them for readers couldn’t manage the duty. Now, because NYPL converted the archived list to XML, libraries (like the NYPL, the HathiTrust, Project Gutenberg and more) can upload them with ease. Read more at Motherboard.

Artificial Tongue Detects Counterfeit Whisky

Designed to taste the subtle differences between whiskies—and ultimately detect counterfeit products—the University of Glasgow’s “artificial tongue” uses sub-microscopic slices of aluminum and gold as tastebuds. A checkerboard of these “buds” absorb light differently when in contact with different whiskies. They can identify individual liquids with 99% accuracy. As Slash Gear reports, this technology can also be used “in food safety testing, quality control, security, and any area where a portable and reusable method of tasting would be useful.” Read more there.

NYC’s First Self-Driving Shuttle Service Optimus Ride Commences

This week NYC’s first-ever autonomous vehicle shuttle service began operation in Brooklyn. Known as Optimus Ride, the organization features a half-dozen, six-passenger electric vehicles. Running on a continuous loop, the shuttles trek 1.1 miles from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the New York City Ferry dock on the East River. They aim to service 500 passengers per day from the compound which houses 400 companies and more than 10,000 workers. For the foreseeable future, every vehicle will also have two safety attendants onboard, one behind the wheel and one to monitor progress. Read more at The Verge.

Recreating a Perfume Worn in Ancient Egypt

Amidst an excavation of the ancient Egyptian city Thmuis, researchers uncovered the ruins of a fragrance factory dating back to 300 BC. The site contained tiny glass perfume jars, imported clay amphoras and an ancient sludge. The latter was brought to ancient Egyptian perfume experts who then replicated residue based on recipes—featuring myrrh, cardamom, green olive oil, and cinnamon—found in materia medica texts. (An act that follows the recent bread baked from recovered 4,500-year-old Egyptian yeast.) It is speculated that Cleopatra herself—who made her own perfume in a personal workshop—may have worn this fragrance or something similar. Read more at Atlas Obscura.

AlterEgo Listens to the Voices in Your Head

24-year-old inventor Arnav Kapur’s wearable device AlterEgo, which we previewed during this year’s Ted Fellows announcement, aims to assist people with communication problems by reading the voices in their head. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the technology does so through “a system of sensors that detects the minuscule neuromuscular signals sent by the brain to the vocal cords and muscles of the throat and tongue.” These work even if we make no sound—if we simply think about talking. AlterEgo’s AI then translates the signals into words and lets the user listen. Read more about Kapur, AlterEgo, and its ability to extend our cognition at Smithsonian Magazine.

Audi’s Skateboard-like e-tron Electric Scooter

With a range of 12.5 miles and a max speed of 12.5mph, Audi’s concept electric scooter, the e-tron, rides like a skateboard—with users controlling the 26-pound vehicle by shifting their weight. That said, a handlebar grants one-handed use and also solves a problem with scooters: user inability to deliver hand signals. It will be priced at €2,000 upon release in 2020 and comes with several lights, including a headlight and brake light included. It also folds up for easy carrying. Read more about the features at TechCrunch.

Pittsburgh’s Fresh Fest Beer Fest Celebrates Black Brewers and Drinkers

From 9 to 11 August, the second annual Fresh Fest Beer Fest will honor black brewers and drinkers. Hosting 28 black-owned breweries, 45 collaborative beers, six musical acts (Nappy Roots included) and 20 food vendors, the fest—taking place at Nova Place in Pittsburgh—is set to celebrate diversity and incredible beer. Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver and Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver will be in attendance and the festival’s founder, Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture, will be popping into panels featuring numerous black brewery owners—Celeste Beatty of Harlem Brewing Company, Kevin Blodger of Union Craft Brewing and many more included. Read more about the festival and get tickets at their site.

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