Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Cows milking themselves, China's influence on English, Pulitzer prize-winner Tyler Hicks and more in our look at the web this week


1. Truth Facts

First World problems become permissibly hilarious when shown in satirical charts and graphs. “Truth Facts” are the brainchild of Danish duo Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler, the writers and artists behind the comic strip “Wumo.” Skim through the bunch and see just how many times you catch yourself nodding at clever diagrams like, “The Biggest Lies on the Internet,” or “The Most Dangerous Foods According to Dietary Experts” and “The IKEA Blueprint.”

2. Behind the Photo: Pulitzer Prize-Winner, Tyler Hicks

When Islamist militants attacked a Nairobi shopping mall last September, New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks happened to be picking up some framed pictures nearby. After learning that the nature of the attack was terrorist-related, he gathered his equipment and made his way into the chaos to document it for the rest of the world. In this in-depth NPR interview, Hicks discusses the touching story behind the photo that earned him the 2014 Pulitzer in Breaking News Photography. The woman in the awarded photo—sheltering her young children from gunfire—contacted Hicks after seeing herself on the New York Times. The account of their connection adds greater emotional depth to the already jarring, poignant image.

3. Cup, Cone or Book?

Photographer Luke Stephenson is on a mission to deliver a new sort of ice cream experience. His forthcoming book “99 x 99s,” delivers a photographic exploration of the UK’s iconic soft-serve 99 ice cream cone. Moved by all of the experiences he had with the people he met along his journey, Stephenson decided to pair each sweet treat opposite the location it was consumed. The extensive cloth-bound book can be yours for just £25 in support, via Kickstarter.

4. The Price of In-Flight Entertainment

The New Yorker’s David Owen recently took an in-depth look at the highly specialized world of designing premium aircraft seats. The art of “delethalization” isn’t easy (or cheap) especially when it comes to the in-flight entertainment system. Owen reports that because the electronics have to be fireproofed and completely isolated from the plane’s own wiring, the seat-back video screen runs around $1,000 per square inch (or $10,000 a screen). The astonishing price doesn’t really make up for the person intently tapping on the back of your seat because the touchscreen’s sensitivity is lost, but hopefully modern advancements in engineering will soon fix that—until then, have another miniature bottle of booze.


5. To Borrow a Phrase

English is a language that constantly borrows from others; from Yiddish to French and Italian, there are plenty of words and phrases that have been seamlessly added to our collective vocabulary. But English speakers have not acquired many Chinese words, until now. (Save for “ketchup” which may surprise many as having Chinese origins.) China’s state media suggests we will soon be using their terms more—with many already added to UrbanDictionary. China Real Time suggests a few: mafan (meaning “a hassle”), mamahuhu (“so-so”) and the very useful: “You can you up, no can no bb” which reflects the Chinese phrase meaning if you can do it, do it; and if you can’t—don’t criticize others.

6. IDEO Designs on Aging

The sixth edition of IDEO’s design innovation platform, “Designs on Aging” sees 19 concepts
presented around the idea of an aging population and soon-to-be
elderly creative community. Ideas presented include a sleek
bicycle-inspired walker, floating swimwear, pitstop posts for tired
walkers and even Instagran; a personalized TV station that streams
images by loved ones. With Japan facing a rapidly aging population and
parts of Europe seeing an unsteady economy putting pressure on
pensioners, the ideas could hardly be more relevant.

7. Micro Robot Swarms

It’s time to exhale; the beginning of the reign of our robot overlords has begun. The firm SRI International (with funding from DARPA) has created a new technology called Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation. Using magnets the DM3 can control large groups of tiny robots, directing them around a surface (think: computer chip) and have them complete tasks either as individuals or a swarm. Apparently it will be ideal for prototyping and biotech applications, but we all know these little buggers are headed right for our cerebral cortex.

8. Classical Pop Ups

Turn off the Jambox and, as an entertainment alternative, consider hiring a chamber ensemble for your next house party. By organizing intimate concerts in apartments, with plenty of booze and snacks, Boston-based startup Groupmuse is rethinking the outdated business model behind classical music concerts and making them more desirable for millennials—and also creating a rare, unforgettable moment. As one participant notes, “You can hear their fingers move, you can hear them breathe, inhale and exhale.” And the best part is that these front row, floor seats are based on donations.


9. Let the Cow Decide

Thanks to advancements in farming robotics, cows in Upstate New York are now milking themselves. The dairy-rich state has been short on laborers, but exposed to plenty of new technology, allowing for farmhand-free feeding and milking. While this hints at an end to farmers rising early to milk the cows, the bovines seem quite pleased to dictate their own hours. The responsive radar sensors attached to their udders take it from there.

10. The Lost Art of Corporate Identity

Before the days of editorialized brand histories and fluent social media personalities via Twitter and Instagram, corporations and major organizations like NASA relied on a steadfast “Corporate Identity”—a trademarked visual image complete with strict design guidelines for color palettes, typefaces and art direction, which were passed down from designer to designer. A new book from London-based Unit Editions compiles the design tomes from some of the world’s most iconic brands, and an essay in The Atlantic by revered art director Steven Heller takes readers through the historical significance of these “intensely detailed printed manuals.”

11. All Strings Attached

New service Kitestring is offering a safety plan that doesn’t require the user to alert the app if they find themselves in trouble. In a way, it’s a stopwatch: the user sets an amount of time on Kitestring if they’re going out or are heading home. Then, if the timer isn’t switched off once the user arrives to his or her destination safely, one of their chosen emergency contacts is alerted with a pre-written, custom message. A super-smart and potentially life-saving service—though in an ideal world we wouldn’t even need it.

12. Anti-Altitude Sickness Business Cards

Lima, Peru’s Kokopelli hostel has made what we can only assume is
the world’s first anti-altitude sickness business
—a clever marketing tool for standing out among the many
hostel offerings, and a useful asset for tourists. The edible cards are
made of coca leaf, which locals have been chewing for
generations to combat altitude sickness in Cuszco—a stunning place that stands at 11,152 feet above sea level.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily on Twitter and published weekly every Saturday morning.