While there are 144,000 discovered species of fungi on the planet, there could be many more—millions more, in fact. But finding fungi and sorting out whether or not they contain any useful chemical compounds comes down to chance. The serendipity, scientists argue, is what led to great discoveries like penicillin—so hope for similar-level finds persists. Recent tests may have uncovered compounds that can help create …
According to new research, Leonardo da Vinci’s ability to understand distance and depth is the result of an ultra-rare eye condition known as exotropia. This condition turns one pupil outward, limiting the traditional understanding of depth when looking at things—which essentially would have turned the world around da Vinci into a flat canvas. This unique perspective, the new study claims, made it easier for the …
The Man Behind Modern Ghost Stories
Born in 1862, Montague Rhodes James was an acclaimed intellectual who published a handful of stories (from short quips to long, academic papers) that are widely regarded as the basis upon which modern ghost stories are built. Not entirely for the narratives, but rather the topics: his stories are unpredictable and based on haunted objects, unfamiliar beings and odd circumstances. Cynthia Zarin, of The New Yorker, writes “Scholarly efforts have been made to unearth the early trauma that would account for James’ succession of wraiths, screeches, hairy faces, and skeletal hands creeping out from under the pillow. He reported his own childhood as happy.” Read more about the author at The New Yorker.
This Airline Wants to Calm Your Flying Nerves
Regardless of all the statistics about flying being the safest way to travel, the anxiety for many is unavoidable. Rather than drinking booze or taking a pill (or just enduring the nervous sweats), Virgin Australia wants its customers to start practicing mindfulness while flying. Starting next year, people can let the airline know they’re nervous travelers and they will be sent “calming communications before the flight and support them during the flight.” With guided meditation, the airline hopes to offer a stress-free trip. Read more at CNN.
NYC’s Central Park Tower to be the Tallest Residential Building in the World
Topping out at a 1,550 feet, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture‘s forthcoming Central Park Tower will set a new precedent for Billionaires’ Row, aka West 57th Street in NYC. 179 two-to-eight bedroom residences will start on floor 32. Designed by Rottet Studio, they’ll range from 1,435 square feet to over 17,500 square feet. It’s the ‘Central Park Club’ that may be most appealing however, as it offers amenities (such as a bar and swimming pool) on three of the building’s floors—including floor 100 (over 1,000 feet up). Read more at designboom.
Bringing Extinct Species Back From the Dead with Gene-Editing
American scientist Ben Novak has spent the past six years working on a process referred to as de-extinction—with the goal of bringing back the passenger pigeon species that died off in 1914. In Melbourne, Australia Novak has used gene-editing to weave the Cas9 gene into the reproductive organs of common pigeons. Cas9 enables the use of CRISPR, a tool that acts as molecular scissors and enables a cut-paste of DNA. Soon, perhaps, Novak will see to the passenger pigeon’s return. This could lead to the reemergence of the dodo or even the woolly mammoth—and that will bring up greater questions over what it means to bring an extinct species back, whether we should, and what happens if re-extinction occurs. Read more about the process at the Wall Street Journal.
Palm’s Minuscule New Mobile Phone Sidekick
In an effort to revive the Palm brand—one synonymous with the PalmPilot and Personal Digital Assistants and so many other widely-embraced developments in the ’90s and early aughts—a California company has released a new device under the name. It’s the first release with Palm branding since HP acquired and shuttered the brand—and it’s not what one would expect. The Palm smartphone is being touted as an Android-powered sidekick to your first phone. It has nothing to do with the original Palm tools, opting instead to be a Verizon-exclusive aluminum and Gorilla Glass phone for when you do not want to carry your primary phone. Read more about Palm’s vision and the device’s specs over at Endgadget.
Stephen Hawking’s Last Book Offers Brief Answers to Big Questions
In his collection of final thoughts, published 16 October, physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking addresses nothing less than the future of humanity. The book, called Brief Answers to the Big Questions, emphasizes the importance of regulating artificial intelligence, implementing clean nuclear fusion power and preparing for asteroid collision. He also predicted that gene editing tools will create an advanced race of superhumans—and so much more. In many ways, it’s a parting gift from the world-famous thinker and humanitarian. Read more about the book on Quartz.
Revolutionary Self-Lubricating Condoms
Other than gimmicky changes like colors, textures and flavors, condoms have remained relatively the same over the past 50 years—Lelo‘s efforts at a structural overhaul with HEX aside. However, a new self-lubricating condom, designed as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s competition, might just revolutionize the industry. Created to encourage safer sex, this condom remains lubricated for “1,000 cycles (scientific speak for thrusts), which works out as 16 minutes” unlike others whose “slipperiness” wears off quickly. With apparently just 1/3 of men in the US using condoms regularly, this invention might radically reduce STIs and keep countless people healthy. Read more at Dazed.