Link About It: This Week’s Picks

From biomimicry breakthroughs to advancements in quantum computing, our roundup of the internet this week

The US Air Force Leans on Biomimicry for New Body Armor

The US Air Force plans to research whether or not body armor can replicate the strength of an arapaima’s exterior. This Amazonian fish, native to places like Brazil, Peru, and Guyan, is capable of fending off deadly piranha with its scales. This natural self-defense system is courtesy of evolution over millions of years, and has made the fish’s body protective and incredibly flexible. Naturally, the defense organization has wondered if this same composition in each individual scale could be mimicked in armor for humans and even planes. Read more at Popular Mechanics.

Extinction Rebellion’s Roger Hallam Speaks With ACT UP’s Peter Staley

As Extinction Rebellion’s two-week international protest came to a close, a conversation between its founder, Roger Hallam, and ACT UP’s Peter Staley appeared on Document Journal. Within, the two activists, guided by writer Elizabeth Rush, discuss similarities between the climate and AIDs crises, the potential extinction of the human race, and how mass movements can alter history. Hallam also insists that Extinction Rebellion aims to bring awareness to more than changing temperatures and rising sea levels: the climate crisis is the beginning of a societal collapse, he argues. Both agree that there’s no other option than speaking up. “You’ve just got to cause a lot of shit and be absolutely courageous and absolutely clear that you’re right and communicate the ferocity of your rage that massive injustice is being committed. Somewhere along the lines, the system cracks, and you get a deal,” Hallam says. Read more at Document Journal—and see the story in magazine’s FW19 print issue.

Nikon’s Microscopic Photography Competition Winners

Formally titled the 2019 Small World Photomicrography Competition, Nikon’s Microscopic Photography Competition calls for entries as “a means to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope.” Thus, that means all of the images are shot under a microscope, using some variant of photomicrography. This year’s winning shot, by Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler, depicts a turtle embryo in vibrant hues, courtesy of fluorescence and stereo microscopy. Some 20 other winning images (including a tiny portrait of a small white-hair spider, a pregnant planktonic crustacean and more) were chosen from 2,000+ submissions from 100 different countries. See more at The Atlantic.

UK Government May Incentivize Going Electric

In hopes of convincing car owners to opt into electric models, Britain is considering awarding green drivers benefits for being eco-friendly—thus allowing “civic authorities to give the greenest vehicles preferential treatment, such as allowing them to drive in bus lanes, use special parking spaces, or access areas that are barred to more polluting alternatives.” Plus, the government would allow electric vehicles to be adorned with green license plates, a visual reaffirmation of their considerations. This accessory could eventually be an all-access pass to transportation, giving these cars the green light to continue operating while gas-guzzling ones get sidelined. Read more at CityLab.

Ozone Hole is The Smallest It’s Ever Been

NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have monitored the ozone hole since 1982, and are now reporting it shrunk to its smallest recorded size in late September. Currently measuring 3.9 million square miles, the hole decreasing in size is great news (especially for the Southern Hemisphere) as the ozone layer protects our planet from “harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants.” The hole shrinking is being attributed to recent weather abnormalities that heated up temperatures in the stratosphere. Paul Newman (chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) says, “It’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.” Read more at NASA.

Skin for Computers Modeled After Real Human Flesh

Bristol Interaction Group’s biomimicry research project, Skin-On Interfaces, has delivered the uncanny: skin for electronics that’s modeled after and closely resembles real flesh. Composed of silicone layers, molded with human-like wrinkles, the epidermis can be squeezed, stroked and twisted. These actions trigger a reaction from the grid of electrode wires (the same as you’d find in any smartphone touchscreen) beneath the skin. In many ways, it opens technology up to emotions that can only be expressed through touch—a loving caress, an antagonizing pinch. Read more at Fast Company.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Adds Yayoi Kusama Balloon

Conceived of by beloved artist Yayoi Kusama’s studio and built by Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s balloon specialists, the large-scale floating artwork “Love Flies up to the Sky” will join this year’s televised extravaganza. Measuring 30 feet long by 36 feet wide and 34 feet tall, the personified sun balloon, surrounded by red tentacles, is covered in more than 300 white polka dots, a Kusama signature. It appears as part of the parade’s Blue Sky Gallery program, which invites artists like Kusama (and in past years, Jeff Koons, KAWS and Takashi Murakami) to participate. Kusama is the first woman artist to be invited. Her inflatable work will be seen by the roughly 3.5 million in-person viewers and on average 50 million more on television. It also coincides with her latest exhibition at David Zwirner in Chelsea (opening 9 November). Read more at ARTnews.

The Universe is Purportedly Made of “Spacetime Foam”

Recent considerations may render everything we think we know about the cosmos untrue. Researchers currently ponder whether or not space, which was once considered constant and guided by the arrow of time, is actually made up of an ever-changing mass of bubbles that contain mini-universes—which they’re referring to as “Spacetime Foam.” This phenomenon could explain plenty of gaps in various research fields—from physics and quantum computing to many others. Read more about the information fueling this theory at Vice.

Google Announces Breakthrough in Computing Speed

Since the 1980s, Google has been developing technology called “quantum supremacy” that could revolutionize computing speeds. This past week, “a mathematical calculation that the largest supercomputers could not complete in under 10,000 years was done in three minutes 20 seconds.” Atypical from the computers we use every day, this device relies on complex scientific processes to power its computations—which could potentially include powering future artificial intelligence innovations or penetrating encryptions we currently deem uncrackable. Don’t expect to see this new technology powering tablets or smartphones soon, though—because of its strength, both the US and China deem “quantum supremacy” a national security threat. Read more at The New York Times.

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