Link About It: This Week’s Picks

A hound-like arthropod, a mind-reading device, a new use for pineapple leaves and more from around the web

A Guide to Legal Protection When Seeking Abortion

Since Roe was overturned, abortion has become illegal in several states—a change that puts people terminating pregnancies at risk of being charged with various crimes. For this reason, The Cut has published and updated a guide to protecting oneself when seeking an abortion, and they have removed the paywall so that anybody who needs the information can access it. Tips include using a secure browser (some—like Safari, Brave and Mozilla— automatically block trackers, but some don’t), avoiding texting or emailing (use Signal instead) or being careful to use language that won’t incriminate you, turning off Face ID on your phone, paying with cash and more. While it’s astounding to think these tips are necessary, it’s crucial information and should be shared. Read more at The Cut.

Image courtesy of Chuttersnap/Unsplash

Replacing Plastic in Single-Use Face Masks with Pineapple Leaves

There are several types of plastic in a single-use face mask, and they don’t easily decompose—instead winding up in the ocean. In fact, one face mask can release up to 173,000 microfibers per day into the sea which also contributes to the release of harmful chemicals. To tackle this waste problem, researchers studied the viability of making face masks out of pineapple leaves. Easily biodegradable, pineapple-leaf fiber consists of about 70% cellulose and can be made without harmful chemicals. It boasts a silky feel and “linen-like appearance.” The biotechnology researchers behind the study, Dwi Umi Siswanti and Tiara Putri, indicate not only that pineapple leaves are an efficient and sustainable alternative but also found that Indonesia is already suited to make eco-friendly face masks as the world’s fourth largest producer of pineapples. Read the research at The Conversation.

Image courtesy of unsplash.com

Mind-Reading Device Implanted in First US Patient

Brooklyn-based startup Synchron has recently implanted their brain device—called strenode—in a patient in the US for the first time. The device will help the patient, who cannot move or speak due to ALS, by converting their thoughts into text. The company has already implanted strenode into four patients in Australia who have successfully been able to communicate and surf the internet without side effects. The device is inserted without cutting through the skull or damaging tissue. Rather, an incision is made in the neck and strenode is fed into a blood vessel near the motor cortex via a catheter. Then, a second procedure connects strenode to a computing device located in the patient’s chest and is implanted like a pacemaker. The brain implant reads signals from neurons and sends them to the chest device which amplifies the directions to a computer via Bluetooth. While the technology is still developing and cannot yet translate full sentences, the less invasive procedure could be critical in helping patients with disabilities. Learn more about this breakthrough at Bloomberg.

Image courtesy of Bryan Anselm/Bloomberg Businessweek

Massive Species that Resembles a Floppy-Eared Hound Discovered in Burgess Shale

With fossils dating back 500 million years ago, the well-preserved Burgess Shale in British Columbia is home to increasingly unlocked mysteries of the Cambrian Period, the era in which many of Earth’s major groups of animals appeared. From this site, researchers recently identified a new species: Balhuticaris voltae, a bivalved arthropod (“distantly similar to today’s crustaceans,” according to Popular Mechanics) with bean-shaped eyes and a cape-like shell-body called a carapace. Aside from being uniquely shaped, the creature astounds with its 24.5 centimeters size (most known bivalved arthropods measure at only 10 centimeters), making this one the largest Cambrian arthropods to date. “Size is an important ecological factor related to what an animal eats and how. The gigantism of Balhuticaris tells us that bivalved arthropods were exploring different ecological positions and can be interesting to understand how prey and predator interactions worked at that time,” says lead researcher Alejandro Izquierdo-Lopez. While offering new insight into Earth’s history, the new discovery prompts many more intriguing questions about life as we know it. Read more about this at Popular Mechanics.

Image courtesy of Alejandro Izquierdo-Lopez

Dormant Black Hole Found Outside the Milky Way for the First Time

The black hole binary system VFTS243 is nine times the mass of the sun and the first dormant black hole to be discovered outside the Milky Way. Its origins, however, are peculiar. Typically black holes form when stars reach the end of their lifespan and collapse, causing an explosion, but the researchers of the study believe the star that caused VFTS243 vanished without any sign of an explosion. According to Tomer Shenar from the Institute of Physics and Astronomy, this “direct-collapse scenario” has “enormous implications for the origin of black hole mergers in the cosmos.” Learn more about this mysterious and exciting development at The Guardian.

Image courtesy of European Southern Observatory/Reuters

The Debate Between Buying a MacBook or an iPad

Apple’s redesigned M2 MacBook Air is lighter and thinner than ever before but remains packed with power, and features faster processing and an immersive display. The new iteration evolves the Mac line but it leaves many consumers, like CNET editor Scott Stein, still debating between buying a laptop or an iPad. Like the MacBooks, iPads have continued to evolve with the higher-end iterations offering the keyboard and mouse support that laptops have, in addition to unique features like touchscreen, a pencil and optimized apps. In pondering which to get, Stein opts for the new Air as “iPads get too expensive at the top end, turning into laptop-priced devices despite not being entirely laptop-useful for all needs.” He notes that Apple limits iPadOS flexibility, making working and managing personal data on the iPad inefficient. Ultimately, “Macs and iPads are growing closer than ever, but the decision on which one to get remains difficult…” Stein writes for CNET. Read his full mediation there.

Image courtesy of Scott Stein/CNET

San Fransisco’s Old Skool Café Trains Youth Impacted by Violence and Incarceration

When Teresa Goines was a juvenile corrections officer, she witnessed how a system of incarceration sets young people up for failure. It does not, for instance, provide incarcerated youth with support after serving their sentences and, as a result, many ask to return to detention instead. To help kids build a more stable life, Goines founded San Fransisco’s Old Skool Café, a faith-based, violence-prevention supper club program that supports youth impacted by the foster care system, violence or incarceration. There, she trains young people in different areas of hospitality and teaches them life skills like opening a bank account, writing job application letters, using credit cards and how to best present in a job interview. Youth enter the program, move throughout different jobs (and can even add their own family recipes to the menu) to eventually work their way up to management positions. This alternative approach has seen participants go on to study at university, buy houses and embark on meaningful careers. Learn more about the program at Civil Eats.

Image courtesy of Old Skool Café

NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Reaches a Turning Point

Launched in 1977, probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only working human-made spacecraft currently in interstellar space. Throughout the decades, the twin probes have collected valuable information, from detailed views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune to insight on how the Sun influences the space between stars. On board each of the vessels are the Golden Records, which contain greetings, music, images and maps that aim to explain human society to extraterrestrials should they come in contact. Recently though, Voyager 1 has begun to communicate differently: “when NASA sends a command for Voyager 1 to point in a certain direction, the probe isn’t able to tell them it understood and is executing on the order, even though it follows the direction.” As Suzanne Dodd, Voyager’s project manager, tells Axios, “Its talking ability is garbled, but its actions are fine.” NASA has also been slowly shutting down non-essential instruments on the probes in order to save power on the aging spacecraft. Next month, the Voyager team will be meeting to discuss the vessel’s future, which they hope could last into the 2030s. Read more at Axios.

Image courtesy of Sarah Grillo/Axios

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 Alejandro Izquierdo-Lopez