Link About It: This Week’s Picks

An AI art exhibition, a structure that predates Stonehenge, raising awareness about unpaid labor in prisons and more

Climate-Resistant Breadfruit Could Help Fight Food Insecurity

Many of our most consumed crops (like corn and wheat) will continue to be negatively effected by the climate crisis, leading to food insecurity for many, but scientists believe that the humble breadfruit could be part of the solution. High in fiber and rich with various minerals and vitamins, breadfruit (which is native to the Pacific Islands) is a starchy seedless fruit that is also super-resilient. “Once established, typically after around five years, a breadfruit tree can tolerate drought and extreme heat much better than other staple starchy crops,” writes Shea Swenson of Modern Farmer. It is a fast-growing perennial plant and can live up to 80 years—producing fruit for up to 50 years. The fruit is often prepared in similar ways as potatoes, making it a very real candidate for a staple ingredient moving into the future. Read more at Modern Farmer.

Image courtesy of by xuanhuongho/Shutterstock

“Except For Me” Campaign Raises Awareness About Unpaid Labor in Prisons

Part of the Abolish Slavery National Network, End The Exception is a coalition of 80+ organizations “including criminal justice reform, civil rights and labor groups” that are working to end slavery and involuntary servitude within prisons. The name exists because of an exception clause in the 13th Amendment that continues to exploit incarcerated people in the US “as workers, paying them nothing to a few dollars a day to perform jobs ranging from prison services to manufacturing or working for private employers where the majority of their pay is deducted for room and board and other expenses by the jurisdictions where they are incarcerated.” This month, they launched the Except For Me campaign to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to sign a petition that will be delivered to Congress in the hopes to abolish the exception. As prison reformer Johnny Perez says, “Slavery by any name is wrong. Slavery in any shape or form is wrong.” Find out more about the movement at The Guardian.

Image courtesy of End The Exception

Physicists Build a Wheel that Rolls Uphill

University of Amsterdam’s Corentin Coulais and University of Chicago’s Vincenzo Vitelli, along with their collaborators, invented a wheel that seemingly defies physics. Dubbed “Odd Matter,” the wheel—comprised of six small motors tethered together with plastic arms and rubber bands—wiggles and gyrates to travel uphill. This writhing enables the wheel to adjust to difficult terrain despite not having any cognizance of the environment. It’s a phenomenon founded on “odd elasticity,” a property that describes how a material, once stretched or squashed in one direction, does not engender a reciprocal reaction in the other. As such, when the material undoes a deformation, it contains excess energy, allowing it to travel uphill. Scientists coupled this property with robotics, outfitting a chain of modules with a motor, sensor and microcontroller, so that each module would not respond reciprocally. This thought process combines physics and robotics to generate collective behavior in robots that are crafted from simple parts obeying simple laws. Odd Matter is just one of the latest innovations from this “Robophysics” space. Learn more at Wired.

Image courtesy of Corentin Coulais

Rare Diamond Suggests Earth has Oceans’ Worth of Interior Water

Below the Earth’s surface there is a layer known as the mantle, a mostly solid zone of the planet’s interior that is notoriously difficult to understand because humans have only been able to dig around seven miles deep. This is what makes a newly discovered diamond mined from 410 miles below the surface in Botswana so rare and significant: it contains inclusions (materials trapped inside the mineral during formation) from the mantle which suggest that the planet has a soggy layer that holds more than an ocean’s worth of water. Scientists attribute this to the diamond’s ringwoodite, a mineral commonly found in the transition zone that separates the upper and lower mantle. Its presence alongside other minerals suggests “water may exist deeper into the Earth than scientists previously believed, which could further our understanding of plate tectonics and the mysterious deep water cycle.” Learn more at Popular Science.

Image courtesy of Tingting Gu

Researchers Create Flying 3D Printers

In partnership with Imperial College London, Swiss research lab Empa has created flying 3D printers to aid in the construction of tall buildings and with repairs in hard-to-reach areas. The printers are affixed to drones that can carry small amounts of material to deposit in a designated location, a system informed by the collaborative work of bees. Their technology, called Aerial Additive Manufacturing, relies on a buddy system where one drone does the printing and the other scans the results to check and correct for accuracy. “The technology offers future possibilities for building and repairing structures in unbounded, high or other hard-to-access locations,” says professor Mirko Kovac who led the research. “Next, the researchers will work with construction companies to validate the solutions and provide repair and manufacturing capabilities. They believe the technology will provide significant cost savings and reduce access risks compared to traditional manual methods.” Read more at Core77.

Image courtesy of Nature Video

National Gallery of the Faroe Islands Dedicates Exhibit to Midjourney AI Art

With the exhibit Imagine the Faroe Islands (on view 29 September to 30 October), the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands becomes the first international arts institution of this caliber to dedicate an entire exhibition to AI art. The 40 digital pieces on display were produced by feeding prompts into the artificial intelligence art generator Midjourney. These human-made prompts tasked the generator with portraying the Faroe Islands in the style of various historic artists who never had the opportunity to visit the remote archipelago. The ultimate goal of each artwork is to help viewers understand the majesty of the island chain. Learn more about the clever exhibition through the National Gallery’s video on Vimeo.

Image inspired by Vincent Van Gogh 

7,000-Year-Old Structure That Predates Stonehenge Discovered

In the Czech Republic, archeologists discovered a 7,000-year-old circular structure from the Neolithic period that is believed to have been constructed between 4,900 BCE and 4,600 BCE. This is 1,000 years before the construction of Stonehenge and several thousand years earlier than the Pyramids of Giza. Measuring 180 feet in diameter, the structure—called a roundel—may have been built by people from the Stroked Pottery culture who lived in farming villages in Central Europe. The role roundels played in the Stone Age, however, is still a mystery. One theory is that “it could have been used as an economic center, a center of trade. It could also have been a center of some religious cult, where rites of passage or rituals connected to the time of year were performed,” says Miroslav Kraus who led the excavation team in Prague. Read more about the roundel at ARTNews.

Image courtesy of Institute of Archeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences

The Community Conclusion to Damien Hirst’s NFT Collection “The Currency”

Launched in July 2021, The Currency is an NFT collection by Damien Hirst in collaboration with international art service HENI. It comprises 10,000 NFTs—each of which corresponds to one of the artist’s spot paintings—which could be traded in for the physical artwork. 4,851 token holders of The Currency opted to keep their NFTs, leaving their corresponding paintings to be exhibited and then burned by Hirst at the collection’s conclusion on 22 September in London. Many of Hirst’s token holders and fans attended Newport Street Gallery, uniting long-time art lovers with beginners and online friends who connected through Discord but had never met in real life. As Artnet’s Vivienne Chow observes, “A sense of excitement was shared widely by the participants here. Many greeted each other in person as if they were long-lost friends, seeming to represent the spirit of ‘community’ widely touted in NFT culture.” Learn more about it at Artnet.

Image courtesy of Vivienne Chow

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 National Gallery of the Faroe Islands