Link About It: This Week’s Picks

A mathematical puzzle solved, an ocean floor around Earth's core, innovations in architecture and more

World’s First Bio-Material Toilet

Discreet and elegant, the Block is the world’s first bio-material toilet—made from a mixture of wood chips and resin. Produced by Finnish interiors brand Woodio and designed by Pentagram, the toilet eschews porcelain (which carries a larger carbon footprint) for an innovative wood that’s highly durable and waterproof. The Block is expected to last 10 to 15 years with the possibility of surviving up to 50 when cared for correctly. Alongside a sleek hidden mount, the toilet features a speckled design that reveals its natural and innovative composition. The resulting expression is warm and organic yet modern. Learn more at New Atlas.

Image courtesy of Woodio

Free Crowd-Sharing and Search Platform for 3D Printing, Thangs

Both an app and website, Thangs is the largest 3D design search platform to allow users to find and download printable models in various formats as well as collaborate on the design of models. Their diverse catalog (which their community contributes to) removes the time and labor it takes to find the right model, letting users search by text, file type, printability or by uploading models to the site to find similar ones—the only platform with this search capability. Thangs is also the first platform to have a 3D model collaboration tool, dubbed Thangs Workshop. It allows teams and creators to track changes to their designs, view side-by-side comparisons, geometric revisions, x-ray vision and more. Best of all, the platform is free, with an unrestricted number of model downloads. Learn more at Interesting Engineering.

Image courtesy of Thangs

Hobbyist Mathematician Invents 13-Sided “Einstein” Shape

David Smith, a hobbyist mathematician based in the UK’s East Yorkshire, is largely responsible for figuring out one of the most puzzling visual mathematical problems: “is there a shape that can be arranged in a tile formation, interlocking with itself ad infinitum, without the resulting pattern repeating over and over again?” The search for this “Einstein” shape—an aperiodic monotile—has been predicted to exist, but never figured out until now. Smith’s 13-sided shape, known as “the hat,” has no translational symmetry, meaning it can be tiled but will never repeat its pattern. After creating “the hat,” Smith contacted University of Waterloo’s Dr Craig Kaplan and they (along with mathematician Dr Chaim Goodman-Strauss and software developer Dr Joseph Myers) co-authored a paper on the shape. “The miracle is that this little tile disrupts order at all scales,” Goodman-Strauss says. “These tiles are just sitting next to each other and somehow have these effects at any length scale: miles, 10 miles, 100bn light years, these little guys are somehow causing effects at these arbitrary long distances.” Find out more at The Guardian.

Image courtesy of David Smith, Joseph Samuel Myers, Craig S. Kaplan and Chaim Goodman-Strauss

Straw and Seaweed Create Sustainable Architecture in Denmark

Building homes out of hay bales is a method that dates back to the late 1800s, but the straw and seaweed that make up Feldballe School in Rønde, Denmark look nothing like the rough, pre-industrial houses of yesteryear. The school’s 2,700-square-foot expansion, designed by Henning Larsen Architects, is modern yet organic and—more importantly—sustainable. As a biomaterial that absorbs an abundance of carbon, straw creates durable wall insulation while reducing the building’s carbon emissions. Eelgrass, a type of seaweed that often washes up on Denmark’s shores, provides another natural solution as ventilation. Its high salt content yields increased protection against fire and mold, and it even helps filter out food scents during lunch time. “It was super-important for us that it wasn’t some kind of barefoot architecture,” says Jakob Strømann, Henning Larsen’s director of sustainability and innovation. “We want to turn it from a hippie material into an industrial building product.” Learn how they did so at Fast Company.

Image by Rasmus Hjortshøj/Coast, courtesy of Henning Larson

Ancient Ocean Floor Discovered Around Earth’s Core

A new study published in Science Advances reveals that there’s an ancient sunken ocean floor in between the layer of the Earth’s mantle and its core. Scientists from the University of Alabama discovered this through global-scale seismic imaging that was collected over years, indicating ultra-low velocity zones (ULVs) or places with strong wave speed reduction, along the core-mantle boundary (CMB). “Analyzing 1000s of seismic recordings from Antarctica, our high-definition imaging method found thin anomalous zones of material at the CMB everywhere we probed,” says Dr Edward Garnero who co-led the study. “The material’s thickness varies from a few kilometers to 10s of kilometers. This suggests we are seeing mountains on the core, in some places up to five times taller than Mt. Everest.” Researchers believe these mountains to be former oceanic sea-floors that sank to the CMB. The presence of “mountains” sheds light on how heat escapes the Earth’s core, as material from the ancient ocean floors could have become swept back up to the surface through hot spots and volcanic eruptions. Learn more at

Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr

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 Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr