Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Super-fluffy pancakes, inflatable concrete, Baroque photojournalism and more in our look at the web this week


1. Seeing is Hearing

MIT engineers have developed a technique to “listen” to sound without the use of a microphone—audio can be recovered just from video by analyzing how an inanimate object (such as a bag of chips or a plant’s leaves) responds to sound vibrations. This means combining and filtering movements as small as 1/1000th of a pixel to retrospectively piece back conversations that took place near the object. By simply observing vibrations from a headphone cord connected to a computer, they were able to detect the song and recover the sound. The surprising discovery is that while the MIT engineers primarily used high-speed cameras, audio could also be recovered from video recorded on consumer-quality digital cameras. Spying just reached a whole new level.

2. Seal “Hangs Fin” with Local Surfers

The internet was abuzz this week with animal cuteness from an unlikely critter. A curious baby seal joined a group of surfers in the chilly waters of the North Sea near Northumberland, UK for a surf session. The friendly mammal hopped up on longboards, played with the surfers and even did a bit of bodysurfing of its own. After an hour the surfers headed into the beach only to be followed by their new friend. Seals are normally avoided by surfers as they draw the attention of larger predators like sharks—luckily for everyone involved (seal included) the North Sea is largely void of the apex predators.

3. Web Fonts and the Global Economy

Before web fonts, designers were bound to whatever came bundled with software. For English, the Latin alphabet and commonly used scripts this didn’t pose a major hurdle. But, building a webpage for Farsi readers posed a real problem. Web fonts make it so users don’t need pre-bundled alphabets in order to see a page, browsers download the fonts automatically. Whether it’s a proprietary font in a common alphabet or a more specialized alphabet, web fonts have increased both the communicative power of the internet and its reach. A look at most downloaded fonts reveals the developing world doesn’t just want to build their own internet, they want it to look good.

4. How To: Fluffy Pancakes

Everyone loves pancakes, but not everyone knows how to make a quality
stack. From inside his home in Toronto, Chef Matty Matheson takes
matters into his own hands with a hilarious, helpful and mouthwatering how-to video via Munchies, VICE’s
food channel. After just over eight minutes you’ll know the secret to the fluffiest flapjacks ever—and who wouldn’t want to know that?


5. An Indigo Addict’s Organic Dyes

Malian artist and modern preservationist Aboubakar Fofana uses an (increasingly rare) organic dying technique to create his richly hued indigo textiles. The time-honored but long-forgotten West African process puts crushed leaves through a fermentation process, which results in an astoundingly brilliant dye. The self-proclaimed indigo addict’s intensive work is now on view in an exhibit exhibit at NYC’s Atelier Courbet.

6. Inflatable Concrete Housing

What may seem to be an impossible concept, inflatable concrete housing is absolutely real life. Not only that, but it was invented decades ago by Dr Dante Bini, who created this Binishell system in the mid 1960s. The process is as follows: “Buildings are created by pumping wet concrete onto an inflatable dome, reinforced with steel. Once the concrete has set—which takes about an hour—the inflatable dome can be deflated to start on the next Binishell.” Not only fast and simple, it could be one of the cheapest and eco-friendly approaches to affordable housing. Plus, these structures aren’t going to fall apart, according to Bini’s son, Nicoló, Binishell buildings have “survived even extreme environments—such as the lava, ash and constant earthquakes on Mount Etna—for almost 50 years.”

7. Navdy HUD

Navdy is a clever little heads up display (HUD) device that mounts
onto your car’s dash to keep you informed, headed in the right direction
and connected to your smartphone. Controlled by voice and gestures and
featuring native apps for iOS and Android, Navdy projects all relevant
information at what appears to be a two-meter distance, so your eyes
never have to leave the road. You can make and answer calls, send tweets, find
directions and monitor your speed with the same technology ariline
pilots use.

8. Photojournalism’s Accidental Renaissance

History—or art history for that matter—repeats itself in a couple of news photos that ignited the Twittersphere for their unintended references to Baroque and Renaissance masterpieces. Architects and artists like Michelangelo used the Fibonacci sequence and the closely related Golden Ratio to create aesthetically pleasing proportions in their work and allude to the divine. The Guardian explores how a few photographs (one of the Ukrainian Parliament in a physical brawl and another of English midfielder Frank Lampard post goal) allude to centuries-old forms. The beauty here doesn’t come from the painter’s strenuous efforts but the cameraman’s happenstance.

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