Link About It: This Week’s Picks

A land artist's "City," an electric plane's milestone, more breakthrough studies on psychedelics, an equitable cafe model and more

NASA Releases “Remix” of Sounds From a Black Hole

NASA has debunked the misconception that space is silent by releasing a “remix” of sound from a black hole in the Perseus galaxy cluster, captured by the Chandra X-ray Observatory—and it’s haunting. In a tweet NASA says, “Most space is a vacuum, providing no way for sound waves to travel. A galaxy cluster has so much gas that we’ve picked up actual sound… In this sonification of Perseus, the sound waves astronomers previously identified were extracted and made audible for the first time. The sound waves were extracted outward from the center.” These sounds were captured years ago, but only now has NASA resynthesized them into a range that humans can hear “by scaling them upward by 57 and 58 octaves above their true pitch” so they are now “144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency.” Pitch-perfect horror from the heavens. Find out more on NASA’s YouTube channel.

Image courtesy of NASA

World’s First Commercial Electric Plane Passes Flight Test

After pledging to become the world’s first all-electric airline in 2019, aviation company Harbour Air has made crucial steps toward achieving that goal. Their commercial electric seaplane, De Havilland Beaver, recently completed a point-to-point flight test that began at Canada’s Fraser River Terminal and ended 24 minutes and 45 miles later at Patricia Bay along Vancouver Island—with more power to spare. This success attests to the viability of sustainable short-haul flights and also the company’s bold vision for aviation, which entails retrofitting fleets of existing seaplanes with electric propulsion systems. Read more about this breakthrough at New Atlas.

Image courtesy of Harbour Air

Black Architects in the Making Tackles Disparity in the Design Industry

According to a study conducted by the National Organization of Minority Architects, there are more than 122,000 registered architects in the US but only 2% of them (less than 2,700) identify as Black. To help fight this racial disparity, Miami-based organization Black Architects in the Making (BAM) is bringing architectural education to young Black students in local elementary and high schools. They partnered with the Miami Center for Architecture and Design to create curriculums with architects to teach students about famous buildings, how to draw floor plans, design simple structures, use 3D programming, navigate the industry and more. After high school, BAM offers mentorships and scholarship opportunities for students who want to continue pursuing architecture. Since launching in 2016, they’ve worked with over 600 students. Read more about them at Fast Company.

Image courtesy of Craig Aquart

Psilocybin Drastically Reduces Drinking in Individuals Dealing With Alcohol Use Disorder

While psychedelics have been used in trials and treatment for alcohol disorders during the 1940s and ’50s, a recent study has revealed that psilocybin (the ingredient found in magic mushrooms) coupled with psychotherapy can reduce heavy drinking by 83% in just eight months. The study (published in JAMA Psychiatry) comes as part of the largest clinical trial of its kind at NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine at NYU Langone Health. The 93 volunteers—all of whom were averaging seven alcoholic beverages per drinking session before the trial—received either two doses of psilocybin or a placebo (an antihistamine pill) as well as 12 psychotherapy sessions. Those who took the psilocybin reported drastically reduced drinking habits compared to the 50% reported by those taking the placebo. In fact, 48% of those taking the magic mushrooms stopped drinking entirely. “As research into psychedelic treatment grows, we find more possible applications for mental health conditions,” Michael Bogenschutz, who led the study, says. “Beyond alcohol use disorder, this approach may prove useful in treating other addictions such as cigarette smoking and abuse of cocaine and opioids.” Read more at The Daily Beast.

Image courtesy of Yuriy and Alyona via Getty

Michael Heizer’s Enigmatic Mega Sculpture “City” To Open in Nevada Desert

In 1972, land artist Michael Heizer moved into a trailer in Nevada’s remote Garden Valley to begin working on a monument called “Complex One.” Almost half a century later, the now-complete monument is part of a larger mega sculpture called “City,” which is slated to open to visitors on 2 September. Running a mile and a half long and half a mile wide, “City” is a vast, enigmatic gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) that recalls both the Great Basin’s sprawling nature and the subsequent human-made destruction foisted upon it. In some areas, the installation (which took $40 million to build) resembles a bomb shelter, evoking the fallout from nuclear detonations done in the area during the ’50s and ’60s. The project also honors the materials of the region through the soil and rocks that make up the installation. Aside from locals who are able to visit for free, admission (up to six are allowed per day) costs up to $150 and entails being picked up at a nearby town and dropped back before dark. Learn more at The New York Times.

Image courtesy of Todd Heisler

Sustainable Hydrogen-Derived Heat System Could Transform Coal Power Plants

Australian startup Star Scientific has patented a new technology that transforms hydrogen and oxygen into a superheated steam used to generate sustainable energy. Unlike other hydrogen-derived heat sources that rely on burning hydrogen, this small lab uses an undisclosed catalyst that, when combined with hydrogen and oxygen, heats the mixture to 700 degrees celsius. At a large scale, this system—which apparently resembles a French press—could allow coal-based power plants to transition to hydrogen without having to build new structures. The thermal technology has widespread applications, capable of powering the food manufacturing industry as well as water-treatment companies, dairy farms and any other fields that require heat or turbines. With little costs or safety issues, the development could be a breakthrough in creating green energy. Learn more about it at Bloomberg.

Image courtesy of Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Co-Op Cafe Euphoria Envisions a Fairer Model of Work

In Troy, New York, Cafe Euphoria models a radical and equitable new business model for the food industry. Operating as a worker-owned cooperative that’s run by a team of eight transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, the cafe currently has a base wage of $18 per hour, which everyone—regardless of position—receives. Once the business breaks even, wages will continue to increase until reaching $32. This system was designed to help in uplifting trans people out of poverty—a situation that almost a third of trans adults are facing according to a 2019 study from UCLA. Like other co-op models, Cafe Euphoria offers an ownership stake of the business for those who have completed 50 working hours, ensuring that all employees have equal say and power. The cafe also considers the customers needs, offering everything on a three-to-one sliding scale, with the third tier being the most expensive for those who self-report making over $62,000. Learn more about the inspiring new business at Civil Eats.

Image courtesy of Cafe Euphoria

Computation Designer Manas Bhatia’s AI-Generated Living Architecture

Inspired by Californian Sequoias, Indian architect and designer Manas Bhatia utilized the artificial intelligence tool Midjourney to develop Symbiotic Architecture, a project that imagines a towering apartment complex growing within a series of redwood trees. Bhatia fed Midjourney a series of text-based prompts which included words like “hollowed,” “trees” and “stairs.” After initial imagery was generated, Bhatia iterated to hone the final results. The enchanting concept references our relationship to nature and ultimately presents a surreal utopian future devoid of steel. Read more about these living apartments and the thought process behind them at designboom.

Image courtesy of Manas Bhatia

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 Todd Heisler