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Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Volcanoes on Venus, the history of reggaeton, gravity-free drinking in space and more from around the web

The First Complete Map of an Insect Brain

A team led by John Hopkins University and the University of Cambridge have completed the most expansive map of a brain to date. The diagram, which traces every neuron and connection of a larval fruit fly (whose biology is comparable with humans), took 12 years to map and is expected to inform future brain research. To survey the brain, scientists sliced it into hundreds and thousands of tissue samples, imaging each one to reconstruct an accurate portrait—a process which takes about a day per neuron. Afterward, the team spent three years developing code (which is available for public use) that can analyze the brain’s connectivity. “If we want to understand who we are and how we think, part of that is understanding the mechanism of thought,” says Joshua T Vogelstein, a Johns Hopkins biomedical engineer and one of the authors of the study. “And the key to that is knowing how neurons connect with each other.” Learn more at The Hub.

Image courtesy of John Hopkins University/University of Cambridge

NASA’s Space Cup Holds Liquids Without Gravity

Drinking in space is typically tricky, as liquids separate into droplets without Earth’s gravitational pull. However, researchers at NASA have devised a way to drink from an open-top cup without gravity or a straw. The Space Cup, part of NASA’s Capillary Flow Experiment, combines cup geometry and fluid dynamics to allow astronauts to sip liquids as if on Earth. Designed by astronaut Don Pettit, physicist Mark Weislogel and mathematicians Paul Concus and Robert Finns, the cup features channels that run throughout, including from the bottom to its rim. As liquid is piped into the container, it flows into the channels and builds near the bottom of the vessel through capillary action—a property found in liquids that occurs because water has a sticky quality that allows it to bind together. When astronauts sip from the cup, the liquid is drawn to their mouths which dictates the quantity of liquid consumed. Learn more about the innovative design and view it in action at Mashable.

Image courtesy of NASA

Puerto Rican Reggaeton’s First-Ever Digital Archive

The musical genre of reggaeton (oftentimes diminished as misogynistic and repetitive) has a history and impact that’s largely remained unexplored, until recently. In 2019, Patricia Velázquez created the Hasta ‘Bajo Project, the first digital archive dedicated to Puerto Rican reggaeton. The catalog explores the significance of the genre to the island, revealing how its emergence in the ’80s came out of low-income and marginalized neighborhoods. The early style confronted these socio-economic conditions and gave a street-level view of what was happening in Puerto Rico. Through the fan-collected archive assembly process, a greater appreciation for women’s impact within the genre is also rising to attention. Now, Velázquez is collecting physical objects with the hope of creating a museum dedicated to the genre. Learn more at NPR.

Image courtesy of Ivy Queen

New Findings Prove Venus Is Volcanically Active

Scientists have long sought out data to support the belief that Venus is volcanically alive. The planet’s unique atmosphere has made this quest challenging, as noxious clouds prevent visibility and the dangerously hot surface means any spacecraft that touches down can survive there for two hours maximum. Many did not expect to find this evidence until 2030 when two cutting edge spacecrafts—NASA’s VERITAS and the European Space Agency’s EnVision—are set to touch down, but new findings from NASA’s 1991 Magellan spacecraft have provided a surprising breakthrough. “Recorded memories” from the spacecraft show a vent on Venus changing shape, expanding and overflowing with molten rock. This discovery suggests that the planet’s pre-existing and vast bodies of water were vaporized long ago by apocalyptic eruptions caused by changes in climate. As Earth’s “twin” planet, the findings will help inform scientists’ understanding of the fates of both worlds. Learn more at National Geographic.

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL

Reusing Old Electric Vehicle Batteries to Power Cities

When some electric vehicle batteries near the end of their life, they get recycled through a smelting method that emits chemicals into the air. As an alternative, the European Union’s Interreg North-West Europe Programme and the British company Connected Energy have come together to create a circular economy in Nottingham, England, powered by old EV batteries. Dubbed E-STOR, this energy storage system features 40 two-way electric vehicle chargers that are connected to solar panels and hubs containing 24 old batteries. For each of these hubs, up to 300kW of power (enough to provide energy to 12 homes) can be extracted. The city sends this energy, combined with solar-generated power, into the national grid during peak hours to reduce stress on the grid. Learn more about the project at Reasons to be Cheerful.

Image courtesy of Connected Energy 

“Cosmic Concrete” Could Be Used to Build Habitats on Mars

Scientists at the University of Manchester have succeeded in creating a building material that can be used for construction on Mars. This “cosmic concrete,” called StarCrete, is made up of potato starch and salt that, when mixed with dust from Mars, forms a material twice as strong as regular concrete. It’s an efficient and viable recipe, as 55 pounds of potatoes could create half a metric ton of StarCrete, aka 213 bricks. “Since we will be producing starch as food for astronauts, it made sense to look at that as a binding agent rather than human blood. Also, current building technologies still need many years of development and require considerable energy and additional heavy processing equipment which all add cost and complexity to a mission. StarCrete doesn’t need any of this and so it simplifies the mission and makes it cheaper and more feasible,” says lead researcher Dr Aled Roberts. Learn more about the innovative material, which can also be used as on Earth, at Interesting Engineering.

Image courtesy of Dr Aled Roberts

JuneShine Hard Kombucha Collaborates With Evan Mock on Hawaii-Inspired Flavor and “Mock’s Magazines” Pop-Up

For the development of JuneShine‘s new Hawaii-inspired flavor, POG (an acronym for passionfruit, orange and guava), the celebratory SoCal-based hard kombucha brand partnered with skateboarder, actor and Wahine founder Evan Mock, who also crafted a collaborative zine. The print publication and the delicious ready-to-drink beverage debuted at a pop-up within SoHo’s Iconic Magazines bodega, dubbed “Mock’s Magazines” and populated with mega-watt friends of the brand, including G-Eazy, ASAP Ferg and more. “I wanted to create a flavor that reminded me of Hawaii when I read it, hear it and most importantly taste it. POG
covers all the bases,” Mock, who was born in Waimea Bay in Hawaii, says of the vibrant new release. Read more on JuneShine‘s site.

Image courtesy of Rommel Demano/

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 NASA/JPL


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