Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Reproducing robots, edible insects, NASA's theologians, bird-friendly architecture and more from around the web

Testing DMT to Treat Depression

Psychoactive drug DMT (aka N, N-Dimethyltryptamine) is known for its life-altering, metaphysical trips, but scientists are now looking into its potential to treat depression. Small Pharma, a Canadian drug development company, is working on combining DMT with regular therapy to ease depression in treatment-resistant patients. In September, the company completed phase one of clinical trials—the first company to do so—by testing DMT on volunteers. Now, Small Pharma will enter phase two of clinical trials, dosing patients with major depressive disorder. Because the hallucinogenic contains entities, dubbed “elves,” that bolster a trip’s spiritual nature—in addition to facilitating the growth of new neurons in the brain—researchers are hopeful that DMT could provide a breakthrough treatment for depression. Learn more about it at Futurism.

Image courtesy of Getty Images/Futurism

The First Woman of Color to Complete a Solo Expedition in Antarctica, Preet Chandi

On Monday, 32-year-old British army officer and physiotherapist Preet Chandi became the first woman of color to complete an unsupported expedition to the South Pole. Chandi, who traveled 700 miles in 40 days, undertook the journey despite knowing little about Antarctica in order to inspire other women of color to pursue their goals. “This expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labelled a rebel… I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling, I want to smash it into a million pieces,” she wrote on her blog. To further inspire others, Chandi set up a fundraiser to cover her medical and travel costs and create a yearly grant for adventurous women. Learn more about her historic accomplishment, how she prepared and what her trek looked like at NPR.

Image courtesy of Polar Preet/Instagram

Building Bird-Friendly Architecture

Despite their alluring luxury, tall, glass-encased buildings are bird death traps, killing around a million birds in the US per year. The animals, who can’t register reflective windows, fly headfirst into skyscrapers. For more than a decade, architects have known how to design buildings that prevent this from happening, but the demand for sweeping windows have largely stymied changes—until recently. In 2021, NYC implemented Local Law 15, which mandates that all new construction be bird-friendly. This new legislation, however, does not spell the end of glass-encased buildings, as architects have uncovered ways to merge design and bird-friendly practices. Fitted glass—currently used in the renovated Manhattan’s Javits Center—is one such solution that, while safe, still allows for sharp-edged prismatic geometry. (It even cut bird deaths at Javits by 90%.) Other innovations, like ceramic frit or solar shades, also act as solutions. Learn more about innovations in bird-friendly building at Bloomberg.

Image courtesy of Cathryn Virginia/Bloomberg

Giorgia Lupi’s “10 Days in Isolation” Project

When data-obsessed designer and artist Giorgia Lupi wound up in isolation over the holidays, she turned to her craft. For each of the 10 days that she spent quarantined from the rest of the world, she made an artwork. On canvas, she painted and stitched different shapes, colors and patterns to represent different elements of her day—from activities to her mood and beyond. She states, “Abstraction has always informed my work as a designer, and creating codes and structure for myself when composing is always part of the process. In this case I am playing with looser data points that do carry meaning for me only. Each element carries particular significance and connects to a larger story of isolation during these times, trying to put all the feelings in perspective.” See the project on her website.

Image courtesy of ⁣⁣Giorgia Lupi

NYC’s First Net-Zero Community in Far Rockaway

The development of Arverne East—a sustainability pioneer and mixed-use project throughout a 116-acre oceanfront site in Far Rockaway, Queens—is currently underway. In addition to being NYC’s first net-zero community and one of the country’s most sustainable developments, this project aims to revitalize the neighborhood by stimulating its economy, wildlife and people. It will bring 1,650 new units of housing (80% of which will be affordable and 100% of which will eliminate the use of fossil fuels), a welcome center, 35-acre wildlife preserve, park ranger office, comfort station and community center run by RISE, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to youth development programs in the neighborhood. By using efficient mechanical systems and geothermal loops, the plan sets a new standard for sustainable developments with a community-oriented focus. Read more about it at 6sqft.

Image courtesy of Local Office Landscape/Bernheimer Architecture

The History Of Edible Insects is Interlinked With Women

Julie Lesnik—the world’s only Entomophagy anthropologist (an expert in the practice of eating insects) and the author of Edible Insects and Human Evolution—continues to uncover information about how humans have consumed insects from a cross-cultural and evolutionary perspective. Through her research, Lesnik also found that this development is intricately woven into the history of women. In the past, while men went to hunt for meat, women would use their time to gather, often sitting down with the insects they foraged to talk and eat until they had their fill. Because of this, insect protein acted as a way through which women could empower themselves, revealing the extent to which women played a role as keepers of nutritional knowledge and pointing toward a greater potential for insects to provide nourishment in the future. Read more about Entomophagy’s connection to women and listen to Lesnik’s interview with MOLD on their site.

Image courtesy of MOLD

How a Shield Protects NASA’s James Webb Telescope From the Sun

Launched on 25 December, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a groundbreaking new observatory on a mission to study outer space through infrared light. In order for it to do so, however, a system needed to be developed to protect it from the sun. Thus, scientists created a cooling kite-shaped armor made from layers less than five millimeters thick. This sunshield keeps the telescope below -370 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature cool enough to freeze nitrogen. It’s massive feat given that the device’s instruments can heat to up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Taking over 12 years to produce, the thin shield is composed of layers of Kapton, a plastic-like material with thermal properties that is coated with aluminum on the inner layers and doped silicon on the outward ones. After devising this revolutionary kite, inventing a way for the shield to fold and employing 107 devices to unfurl it, scientists successfully deployed it. Learn more about this milestone achievement and the arduous planning that went into it at Popular Science.

Image courtesy of Adriana Manrique Gutierrez/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CIL

World’s First Living Robots Can Now Reproduce

Last year, researchers in the US created the world’s first living machine, called xenobots. Composed of bundles of stem cells from the African clawed frog (xenopus laevis), the new life form was programmed to accomplish tasks and move microscopic objects around. Now, they can reproduce. “One [xenobot] parent can begin a pile and then, by chance, a second parent can push more cells into that pile, and so on, generating the child,” says the study’s co-author Josh Bongard. This process, in which the bots scoop up around 3,000 free cells to form baby clusters, takes around five days to complete and is referred to as kinesthetic self-replication, a process only found in molecules. While there’s a limit to how many times the xenobots can reproduce, the researchers are hopeful that this development could lead to innovations in medicine and environmental containment. Learn more about about it at Smithsonian Magazine.

Image courtesy of Douglas Blackiston/Tufts University

Ethnicraft’s “Moments With” Creative Director Louise Mertens

In the thoughtful new short-form documentary Moments with: Louise Mertens,  produced by Ethnicraft, visual artist, creative director and designer Louise Mertens delves into her process, personality, aesthetic and why she values the sanctity of her own bedroom. Headquartered in Antwerp, the furniture and design object brand has produced pieces from solid wood for 25 years now. In understanding Mertens’ philosophies as a creator, it becomes easy to understand her partnership with Ethnicraft. Watch the video at Vimeo.

Image courtesy of Ethnicraft

Hawaii’s Plan For Transforming Tourism

Less colonial, more sustainable experiences for tourists in Hawaii are set for the future thanks to the islands’ tourism authority, now—for the first time—run by a majority of Hawaiian natives. With a local perspective and interest at the center, the new tourism plan promises to focus more on “sustainable destination management rather than marketing,” through community involvement and visitor education. “In the past, visitors were spoon-fed what outsiders thought they wanted,” Kainoa Horcajo—founder of Maui-based Mo’olelo Group, a consultancy that teams up with hotels to rework hosted experiences—tells Bloomberg. “Now, it’s time to take a risk, challenge the visitor, and give them something real.” The changes include everything from teaching tourists “the concept of malama, or caring for the land” to incorporating more traditionally Hawaiian food and culture programs at hotels, to leis made from “locally grown flowers instead of orchids” and incentives for guests to spend a day cleaning up beaches or reforesting land. Find out more at Bloomberg.

Image courtesy of 7Michael/iStockphoto

NASA, Religion and Life Beyond Earth

Rumors have swirled around the internet that NASA hired a team of 24 theologians, with many media outlets claiming it was in order to prepare humanity for extraterrestrial contact. This was all deduced when University of Cambridge religious scholar Reverend Dr Andrew Davison released a statement, “Since the evolution of life is clearly not impossible, and the places where that might happen are probably extraordinarily numerous, there may well be a great deal of life elsewhere… Religious traditions would be an important feature in how humanity would work through any such confirmation of life elsewhere… Because of that, it features as part of NASA’s ongoing aim to support work on ‘the societal implications of astrobiology,’ working with various partner organizations.” The reality, however, is that back in 2015, NASA did indeed work with the Center of Theological Inquiry when they provided $1.1 million to fund a program “to study the social impact of finding life beyond Earth,” specifically to “convene an interdisciplinary inquiry into the societal implications of the search for life in the universe.” The portion of the program that NASA funded concluded two years later. Read more at Inverse.

Image courtesy of 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 Adriana Manrique Gutierrez/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CIL