Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Penn Station redesign, Scott Campbell's Mexican prison tattoo guns, Google Nutrition and more in our weekly look at the web


1. Google Blimp Wi-Fi

Gone are the days of blimps being used solely for advertising at the Superbowl. Google is currently developing technology that will provide Wi-Fi to over one billion people in Africa and Southeast Asia using a mix of hardware—including blimps. The technology has already been piloted in the US but is part of a larger effort to focus on emerging markets through high-speed internet access and inexpensive smartphones. Keep your eyes to the sky and your smartphone at the ready.

2. The Nano Issue

Mother London’s latest issue of “Something For The Weekend” takes a look at the term “nano” and the myriad ways people are working within this tiny dimension. From using nanotechnology to coat surfaces so they repel water to British micro-sculptor Willard Wigan who works between pauses of his own heartbeat to create sculptures smaller than a human blood cell, nano-related applications go far beyond iPods—which actually aren’t nano at all.

3. Google Nutrition

This week, Google added yet another category to its inexhaustible repertoire of information. The company announced that it can now answer a range of nutrition-related questions for over 1,000 different foods. Though it’s limited and only available in the US for now, be prepared to get all the dietary information you could ever want when Google adds “more features, foods and languages” in the near future.

4. Topping 200 MPH in a Replacement Aston Martin

It’s the end for the Aston Martin V12 Vantage—perhaps the company’s last manual car with a V12 engine. There’s no time to mourn, however, as its replacement, the even faster Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is all about moving forward. The V12 Vantage S has the potential to go 0-60 in under four seconds and reaching a maximum speed of 205 mph, and Aston Martin is hoping their switch to semi-automatic transmission takes the back seat, with all eyes focused on torque and topping out.


5. Prison Tattoo Guns

On a trip to Mexico City’s prisons, world-renowned tattoo artist Scott Campbell became fascinated by the improvised tattoo guns used by inmates. His new show LA show, “Things Get Better,” features paintings of “Frankenguns” inspired by his time spent, and exhaustive research carried out, at the prisons. With guns utilizing everyday items such as combs and toothbrushes, this series is worth a look for both ink-enthusiasts and the non-tattooed alike.

6. Talk to the Hand

Recently unearthed newsreel footage from 1930 reveals the unique and extremely close relationship between Ann Sullivan and Helen Keller. The video is especially captivating because Keller relies on her sense of touch to hear and speak; seeing the amount of trust these two women have in each other is incredible and inspiring.

7. Freewheeling

With so many digital synthesizers and software instruments imitating the sound of strings (but not quite well enough to deceive our ears), the Wheelharp is a surprising return to traditional instrument innovation. A new invention from Jon Jones and Mitchell Manger of LA-based Antiquity Music, the mechanical keyboard instrument plays bowed strings using a rotating wheel. The sample recordings are not only convincing and evoke warmth, but the Wheelharp also has a hauntingly distinctive timbre that sets it apart from violins and cellos.

8. Ai Weiwei: Captivity in Diorama

After being held captive by the Chinese government for 81 days in 2011, artist and activist Ai Weiwei—along with a team of sculptors—released a series of dioramas that depict his life in captivity in startling detail. While Weiwei’s work is generally characterized by layers of metaphors and symbolism, the stark, literal quality of this work is a new departure for the controversial artist. The series is currently on show in combination with Venice Biennale, and, since Weiwei is confined to China, it remains a mystery as to how his work was transported to Venice.


9. R/C Car-Quadcopter

This ageless off-roading guy toy, the brainchild of UK designer Witold Mielniczek, is a remote controlled car-quadcopter hybrid. The B is capable of takeoff and landing while in drive or at rest, and its durable construction and flexible materials were designed with punishing terrain and hard landings in mind. This high-tech toy can even shoot and record up to 32 gigs of HD video. Check out its Kickstarter pitch so you can buy two—Dad won’t be able to let go.

10. Life

An interaction design student studying comics for a semester at Malmö University, Philipp Meyer has used his multidisciplinary skills to create a clever way for blind and partially sighted people to enjoy graphic novels. The industrious young designer experimented with various paper types and then used simple shapes to tell a story without words, which the reader can identify and follow with their finger. The upshot, a comic book called “Life,” is as beautiful as it is progressive.

11. A New Vision for Penn Station

More controversy swirls around Penn Station than tourists. The 1963 demolition of the original station spawned NYC’s architectural preservation movement, but the current building is boring, arguably ugly and overwhelmed with foot traffic. Now, five top architecture firms have released renderings for the Municipal Art Society’s Penn Station redesign competition to change that. From Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “city within a city” to SHoP’s “urban bowl,” the proposals are future-forward and pedestrian-aware. What’s the controversy here? It all hinges on Madison Square Garden’s permit expiration, which is slated within the next ten years. The kids haven’t even moved out yet but the parents are already making big, bold plans.

12. Development, Unarrested

All 15 episodes of the fourth season of the cult-followed sitcom Arrested Development were released on Netflix this past Sunday, and what to better accompany it than an obsessively intricate app that details and cross-catalogs every recurring joke (including those that are in the background or are foreshadowed) throughout the seasons, from Tobias as a “never-nude” to Buster “loves juice.” Surprisingly, this project was done by NPR-staffer Adam Cole, who spent six months studying each episode. He then collaborated with NPR developers to create the insane, but quite useful, app that allows fans to never miss another joke.