Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Saying goodbye to legendary figures, Google's self-driving car, the scientific lure of bacon and more in our weekly look at the web


1. Massimo Vignelli Remembered

The world lost a true visionary this week in Italian designer Massimo Vignelli. Working with his wife Lella, the Modernist creator’s formative works will have a lasting legacy across a wide range of design fields, from homewares to logos. In this republished story, former Vignelli Associates employee Michael Bierut (now partner at Pentagram) recounts his experience working in the designer’s space on the west side of Manhattan.

2. Lomography’s Instafilter Camera

With the Kickstarter debut of Lomo’Instant, well-known and well-loved camera brand Lomography has entered the world of instantaneous output—filters and all. The camera uses Fuji Instax Mini film and comes with a lot of additions, including a wide-angle lens, bulb mode and the ability to shoot multiple exposures. The Lomo’Instant is slated to sell for $150, but with support on Kickstarter you can grab one early for $80.

3. Google’s Self-Driving Clown Car

For five years Google has been working on self-driving cars. Yes, they’ve modified Lexus SUVs in the past, but now—for the first time ever—they’ve built one from scratch. The new little two-seater is all Google and it’s not so far in looks from a clown car—tiny, cartoonish, and all too cute. With just two buttons (one to start the car and one for emergency stopping), the pre-programmed ride can reach speeds up to 25mph. As the pièce de résistance, the car recognizes obstacles and responds accordingly—slowing, stoping and modifying its course.

4. Maya Angelou, a 1990 Interview

In this on-stage interview between The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton and Maya Angelou, the renowned poet and author shares her thoughts on the English language (“English remains the most beautiful of languages. It will do anything,” she says), regularly writing in a hotel room and becoming mute after believing her voice killed her rapist. Both Plimpton and Angelou have now passed on, but it is our great fortune to have such timeless, inspiring conversations as this one, and Angelou’s eye-opening words, permanently preserved on paper and online.


5. Bianca Chandôn’s Alex Olson on Skateboard Culture

Inspired by art, fashion, Fire Island and drag culture, Bianca Chandôn is not your conventional skateboard company. Founded by pro skater Alex Olson, the brand (making soft and hard goods) tests social norms within skate culture, bringing an air of rebellion back to an activity that’s largely lost its edge. To dig a bit deeper, recently spoke with Olson about the ins and outs of his new venture.

6. The Sweet Smell of Bacon

In a riveting, deliriously delectable new video, the American Chemical Society goes in depth on the 150 volatile organic compounds that come together to give cooked bacon its signature scent. From the excitable sugars percolating at the touch of a piping hot pan to the hydrocarbons in melting fat, there’s a lot of science in those aromatics. While it’s nitrogen that lends bacon that extra meaty edge, there’s no arguing that the scent makes carnivores’ mouths water.

7. To Catch a Bike Thief

San Francisco police officer Matt Friedman and his anti bike-theft unit are cracking down in their hometown, using unconventional, high-tech methods to capture thieves. With “bait bikes” equipped with GPS trackers (hidden to find stolen bikes, and those who did the deed) along with simple stickers announcing any bicycle can be a bait bike, they’re seeing results. Additionally, Friedman uses Twitter to offer tips on locking up and to publicly shame those caught in the act by tweeting their mugshots.

8. Colonizing Space by Printing Humans

Establishing human life on other planets is sure to drum up some esoteric ideas. However, the latest from NASA suggests skipping human space travel altogether by printing humans on other planets—and with recent advances in bio-printing tissues for organs, this might not be so far off. It works like this: human genetic information is encoded on bacteria, then sent to another planet. We know that the journey is possible, it’s only a matter of time before the sequences are worked out.


9. Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Climate Change

Climate is the longterm average of weather over years, shaped by global forces that alter the energy balance in the atmosphere. This is the simple explanation given by everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, who along with an adorable dog, explains the reality of climate change in episode 11 of his celebrated but controversial show “Cosmos.” By using simple analogies and declarative statements, Tyson hopes to make the issue easy to understand, even to blind deniers.

10. Goodbye Bunny

This week we bid adieu to Bunny Yeager, the beautiful model who later moved behind the camera to become a successful photographer. She was an important figure in dissolving gender stereotypes in the world of pin-up photography, but more importantly, she was seriously talented. Yeager’s photos of Bettie Page in particular graced many magazine covers—a testament to how she thoughtfully and beautifully teased out her models’ femininity and unique personalities.

11. Microsoft and Skype Translate Languages in Real Time

A longtime favorite of science fiction authors, universal translators are generally reserved for Star Trek and galaxies far, far away—until now. Microsoft and Skype recently unveiled a working prototype of their Skype Translator, a tool that uses neural-network technology to translate between languages as they are spoken. Though the number of languages supported are still few, Microsoft expects beta-versions to be available to customers as soon as the end of 2014.

12. Hacking the Nervous System

More than 15 years ago, neurosurgeon Kevin Tracey began experiments to find a link between nerves and the immune system. He demonstrated that the nervous system was like a computer terminal: commands could be sent to stop problems such as acute inflammation, by stimulating the vagus nerve with electricity (at precise intervals and intensities). Thus, the nervous system tells the body to heal itself. Being developed as a more effective and safer alternative to drug treatment, the growing field of bioelectronics offers hope (and convenience) for patients with incurable diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Read more in this in-depth NYT magazine piece to learn about the future of this innovative field.

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