Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Mysterious astrophysical activity, edible concrete, tables from fallen trees and more from around the web

How Indigenous People are Reclaiming Water Rights

Water is not only a basic necessity; for many Indigenous peoples, it holds spiritual and cultural significance. However, colonialism and extractive industries separated Indigenous people from their waterways, contaminating them while endangering historical and cultural sites. Over the years, Indigenous groups like The Pueblo Action Alliance have found ways to reclaim their water rights. Currently, they are fighting to rematriate the land, water and other rights to the fixed-location communities of New Mexico by holding the federal government accountable for their obligations to work with Native communities. The NDN Companies, on the other hand, take a different approach by working with contractors to consult on environmental impact and restoration. “Both approaches draw attention to the unique ways in which tribes are impacted by extractive industries and infrastructure. They provide visibility to Indigenous peoples who have been stewards of ancestral landscapes, such as Chaco Canyon, since time immemorial,” writes journalist Kayla Devault for Civil Eats. Read more there.

Image courtesy of Matt Champlin/Getty Images

Scientists Transform Cabbage Into Stronger Concrete

A team of scientists at the University of Tokyo set out to make concrete from leftover food waste, including coffee grounds, tea leaves, onions, pumpkin, seaweed, orange and banana peel. The researchers didn’t just succeed, finding that all of the food (save for the pumpkin) created strong building material; but they also ascertained that Chinese cabbage crafts the sturdiest material—one that’s three times stronger than traditional concrete. They used a heat-pressing technique to compress the food into a powder, mixed it with water and seasoning and then pressed the mixture into a mold at high temperatures. The resulting sustainable concrete is tough; rot-, fungi- and insect-resistant; and enduringly edible, capable of improving in flavor with the addition of salt or sugar. Learn more about this innovative project at The Times.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

High-Energy Astrophysical Activity Remains a Mystery

A fast radio burst (FRB) is “a transient radio pulse of length ranging from a fraction of a millisecond to a few milliseconds” stemming from high-energy astrophysical activity of unknown origins. The first FRB was discovered in 2007 (by Duncan Lorimer and his student David Narkevic) but there have been many since then—and one especially active burst pulsates every 16.35 days. Recently, another highly active FRB, the FRB 190520, was discovered by astronomers who believe it’s quite similar to another one found in 2016, the FRB 121102. Both share a “combination of repeating bursts and persistent radio emission between bursts, coming from a compact region.” While the discovery itself is interesting, it brings up important scientific questions—and some speculation. Some astronomers suggest “there may be either two different mechanisms producing FRBs or that the objects producing them may act differently at different stages of their evolution.” The sources of FRBs could be “the superdense neutron stars left over after a massive star explodes as a supernova or neutron stars with ultra-strong magnetic fields, called magnetars.” Perhaps the FRB 190520 is a “newborn,” which is “still surrounded by dense material ejected by the supernova explosion that left behind the neutron star,” and the frequency of bursts peters out with age. Sarah Burke-Spolaor of West Virginia University says, “The FRB field is moving very fast right now and new discoveries are coming out monthly. However, big questions still remain, and this object is giving us challenging clues about those questions.” Read more at SciTechDaily.

Image courtesy of Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

The Nation’s First Large-Scale Wind, Solar and Battery Facility in Oregon

Throughout the quest to transition to renewable energy, one problem has proven elusive to researchers: how to store large amounts of clean energy. Typically, clean energy has been dependent on the weather: wind energy needs wind, solar energy requires sun, and the lack of either means a lack of energy. To circumvent this, Oregon’s Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility is combining an array of renewable energy sources with batteries to create 24/7 clean electric energy. Built by Portland General Electric and NextEra Energy Resources, the first-of-its-kind facility captures energy from the sun and wind which produces a direct current voltage. That power then goes into an inverter where it is converted to the appropriate voltage to be stored in batteries. Currently, the batteries store 30 megawatts of energy (enough to power the city of Tigard, Oregon for four hours) with the entire facility generating up to 350 megawatts of clean energy. Learn more about this breakthrough at Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Image courtesy of Kristyna Wentz-Graff/OPB

A Coffee Table Made From Fallen Ash Trees

An incredible 95% of the 36 million trees that topple or are intentionally felled every year in the US end up in landfill, largely because incentivizes exist to get rid of fallen trees quickly rather than to give the materials to local millers who could make use of the timber. NYC’s Sabai, a women-led furniture startup, is looking to change that. Their upcoming City Table, crafted from fall ash trees salvaged in Baltimore, offers an alternative to the unsustainable wood supply chain. Partnering with Cambium Carbon (a two-year-old startup that works with cities, millers and architects to repurpose fallen trees) Sabai aims for a closed-loop, circular model to transform the trees into elegant, Scandinavian-inspired tables. Learn more about how these startups are pioneering a new scalable—and replicable—supply chain at Fast Company.

Image courtesy of Sabai

1,700-Year-Old Penis Graffiti Discovered in Ancient Roman Fort

Vindolanda is an ancient Roman fort in Northern England that dates back to the reign of emperor Hadrian in the second century CE. When a team of researchers and volunteers were excavating the site last month, a retired biochemist from South Wales named Dylan Herbert unearthed a stone carved with a phallus and an inscription that reads “SECVNDINVS CACOR.” According to specialists in Roman epigraphy, the stone’s inscription translates to “Secundinus cacator” aka “Secundinus, the shitter.” This is the 14th phallic carving unearthed at this site, the highest number of ancient penis graffiti found at any one spot in Vindolanda. The discovery gives historians a greater sense of how third-century citizens lived their lives while affirming mankind’s enduring creation of phallic imagery. Learn more at Hyperallergic.

Image courtesy of the Vindolanda Charitable Trust

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 “Light Painting” courtesy of Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF