Link About It: This Week’s Picks

An orchid discovery in plain sight, upcycling 4,000 plastic bottles into a home, a collision of art and electronics and more

New But Ancient Orchid Species Discovered in Japan

Japan’s most recognizable orchid, the Spiranthes australis, has been cherished for centuries (it even features in The Man’yōshū, the oldest collection of Japanese waka poetry, dating back to 759AD) and it’s just been discovered to have an almost identical twin: the Spiranthes hachijoensis. The flower was actually hiding in plain sight—in private gardens, balconies, parks and more—and the common belief was “that all the Spiranthes on the Japanese mainland were a single species, when in fact there are two.” The flower’s delicate petals have been described as appearing like spun glass, and it was those petals that led to the discovery. Kobe University’s professor Kenji Suetsugu found that “some apparently common or garden Spiranthes had hairless stems while most were notably furrier.” Suetsugu looked further into it, and through “DNA analysis, morphology, field observations and reproductive biology” found that the common Spiranthes is actually two species. He says, “This discovery of new species concealed in common locales underscores the necessity of persistent exploration, even in seemingly unremarkable settings. It also highlights the ongoing need for taxonomic and genetic research to accurately assess species diversity.” Read more at The Guardian.

Image courtesy of Masayuki Ishibashi/Kobe University

Sculptor Shunsuke Kawasaki’s Art Speakers

Osaka-born artist Shunsuke Kawasaki’s upcoming show The Shape of Frequency at Somewhere Tokyo (on 14-30 April) will showcase his industrial, metal sculptures and functional speakers. Using aluminum, plastic, acrylic and wood, Kawasaki creates these striking pieces—some of which are retro-tinged, while others look like futuristic robots or have been inspired by ninja throwing stars—in editions of five. Bluetooth compatible and wired, these creations are beguiling works of art that also happen to be practical. See more at designboom.

Image courtesy of Shunsuke Kawasaki and Somewhere Tokyo

Scientists Reveal How The Brain Changes During DMT Trips

The hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine—better known as DMT—is used commonly to initiate vivid visions, remarkable feelings, near-death experiences and even to contact interdimensional beings. The psychedelic compound is found in various plants including Psychotria viridis, which is used to brew ayahuasca—a spiritual medicine utilized by Indigenous people in the Amazon basin. Only recently have scientists scanned and studied brain activity during a DMT trip. For their research, scientists used “brain-imaging (fMRI) and EEG to study the effects of the drug on 20 individuals” and found “increased connectivity across the brain, and more communication between different areas and systems.” Essentially, these feelings of functioning on a higher level make sense. Chris Timmerman, of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London tells VICE’s Motherboard, “We found that DMT generated a prominent alteration of the brain’s evolved areas and networks, which have been linked to human brain expansion in evolution, language, and semantics… These findings were related also to EEG effects which directly assess electrical activity induced by the brain, thus confirming them further.” Read more about the study at VICE.

Image courtesy of Milad Fakurian/Unsplash

The Twisting Chuzhi House, Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles and Mud

In rural South India, the Chuzhi house from Wallmakers (an architectural firm founded by Vinu Daniel) twists and turns between rocky outcrops and trees, intricately maneuvering through its challenging terrain. The residence’s structure takes after a snake coiling under a rock and not only works with the landscape in a visual sense but is respectful of it. Made up of almost 4,000 plastic bottles that littered the nearby areas, the home deftly employs recycled waste while also using the traditional cob-style building technique that mixes clay and straw to produce a durable substance. “The idea was to make a subterranean home that would originate from the rock bed, forming multiple whirls around the tree and adjoining to create a secure private space below for the residents and a space around the trees above that ensures that the thick vegetation and ecosystem continues to thrive undisturbed,” the firm says in a statement. Learn more about the project and view the serene home at New Atlas.

Image courtesy of Syam Sreesylam

Pentagon Says Extraterrestrials May Have Already Visited Earth

According to a draft document (which is under review) released by the Pentagon, intelligent extraterrestrial beings might have already visited Earth and even be monitoring life here via research devices—or probes. Written by Sean Kirkpatrick (director of the Pentagon’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office) and Avi Loeb (chairman of Harvard’s astronomy department and founder of the Galileo Project), the research paper says, “Since most stars formed more than a billion years before the Sun, it is possible that other technological civilizations predated ours by the amount of time needed for their devices to reach Earth.” It goes on to explain how a mothership may send probes down to a planet as it passes by, like sprinkling seeds, even if there hasn’t been an official alien landing. Read more about the document at Dazed.

Image courtesy Albert Antony/Unsplash

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 Shunsuke Kawasaki