Link About It: This Week’s Picks

East Coast skate culture, expanding reproductive health access, protein pulled from air and more news

Producing Protein From Air Using Solar Energy

Helsinki-based cellular agriculture pioneer Solar Foods intends to produce 100 tonnes of their alternative protein, Solein, per year upon the forthcoming opening of their commercial-scale factory. This output could be transformed into four or five million meals annually. The food-tech company utilizes microbes harvested from soil, along with solar-powered electricity and air to create Solein. Pasi Vainikka, the CEO of Solar Foods, explains that their mission is to replace animal-based protein. He also tells TechCrunch, “The taste is very mild, very neutral.” Read more about the process behind Solein at Interesting Engineering.

Image courtesy of Solar Foods

William Strobeck’s Films Showcase the Art of Skateboarding

Play Dead is a recently released 53-minute skateboarding video by William Strobeck featuring Supreme team members Beatrice Domond, Sage Elsesser, Mark Gonzales, Tyshawn Jones and more. Like many of Strobeck’s films, Play Dead depicts more than impressive tricks (though they are abundant in the film); the filmmaker captures the excitement and concentration of the skaters who often turn to the hobby as a way to escape difficulties at home. “I just remember, looking back—being around the energy, and how excited they were, killed everything else that I wanted to do. It was the best, because I was like, what these kids are right now is what I believe is the most original, authentic thing about skating,” says Strobeck. Often highlighting undiscovered talent and East Coast skate culture, the filmmaker has been credited with helping launch several younger skaters’ careers. Play Dead is the first of his films to be shot entirely in NYC. Learn more about it at The New York Times.

Image courtesy of William Strobeck

Ultra-Thin Solar Cells Turn Any Surface Into a Power Source

Researchers at MIT have developed lightweight yet durable solar cells that can be applied to any surface to create a power source. Thinner than a strand of human hair and one-hundredth the weight of solar panels, these cells vastly improve the versatility and adaptability of solar energy, fitting onto the sails of boats, wings of drones or tents and tarps during emergency situations. They also generate 18 times more power per kilogram than traditional panels. To create the cells, researchers used ink-based electronic nano-materials and screen-printed an electrode onto a solar cell structure that is coated with the ink-based material. Then, they adhered the module onto a material called Dyneema, a high-strength, flexible and light fabric that weighs only 13 grams per square meter. Learn more about the invention at MIT News.

Image courtesy of Melanie Gonick/MIT

FDA Approves Retail Pharmacies to Offer Abortion Pills

This week, the Food and Drug Administration revealed its decision to allow retail pharmacies—which includes mom-and-pop drug stores as well as major chains like Walgreens and CVS—to sell the two-prong abortion pills, mifepristone (which blocks the principal hormone for pregnancy, progesterone) and misoprostol (a pill taken 24 to 48 hours after the former to expel the pregnancy). Patients will still need a prescription and pharmacies will have to opt in to carry the drugs, but the move will make it easier for people to access abortion as previously only certain mail-order pharmacies and specified clinics were legally allowed to provide them. Because the combined pills cause what is essentially a heavy period, they mitigate the risk of heavy bleeding and have even been used to treat miscarriages. “By allowing brick-and-mortar pharmacies to dispense medication abortion care, the FDA is treating medication abortion like the safe, effective, time-sensitive care that it is,” Kirsten Moore, the director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access project, tells The New York Times, where you can learn more about the first-of-its-kind decision.

Image courtesy of Robin Marty/Flickr

Sony’s First Accessible Game Controller

Project Leonardo, Sony’s first accessible game controller, is a customizable, first-party device for PlayStation. Developed thanks to input from members of the disabled community, the controller features a split design, enabling thumbstick repositioning, an ease of use without having to hold the device and flexible buttons. This means players exert less energy when moving between gears. The layout is also changeable, from the shapes and sizes of caps to where they are on the remote. “Because players can customize it according to their needs, there is no one ‘right’ form factor. We want to empower them to create their own configurations,” Sony Interactive Entertainment designer So Morimoto tells Wired, where you can read more about the re-designed controller.

Image courtesy of Sony

Hominids Sailed Hundreds of Thousands of Years Before Homo Sapiens

Research in the Quaternary International journal suggests that ancient hominids (early ancestors of Homo sapiens) crossed the Mediterranean half a million years ago—a staggering revelation that prompts reevaluation of our understanding of human development. There is widely accepted evidence that Homo erectus hominids migrated from the African continent and visited Aegan islands. Though it has long been believed this occurred during glacial periods that formed ice-bridges, the new study includes figures that demonstrate this to be unlikely. “Therefore, the Aegean land/seascape motivated the archaic hominin to develop the necessary cognitive capabilities such as spatial awareness way-finding strategies and sea-craft building,” according to the author. Read more about the timeline at Salon.

Image of Homo erectus skull found in Koobi Fora, Kenya, dated to ca. 1.8 million years old. (Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington, DC), courtesy of hj_west

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