Link List #96: A French Spider-Man, gardening in space, and why it’s time to throw your sunscreen in the trash - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Link List #96: A French Spider-Man, gardening in space, and why it’s time to throw your sunscreen in the trash


Put down that sunscreen! No, we mean it—researchers say that it might be damaging to your health. This week, as well as delving into dermatology and reading the better-late-than-never obituary of the remarkable Karen Sparck Jones, we were also delighted to hear that, for the first time ever, plants are growing on the moon. Does this mean we can expect human settlements on other planets in the future? Only time will tell…


    • 1 Shoot for the moon! No, really. As of this week there’s a literal plant shoot growing in a lunar biosphere. China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander arrived on the far side of the moon on January 3 and pictures now show cotton, rape, and potato seeds thriving. While plants may have grown on the international space station previously, New Scientist reports that this is the first time seedlings have germinated on the moon. “We have given consideration to future survival in space. Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of a space base,” said Professor Liu Hanlong, head of the experiment. So that’s one more small step for man then. Or should that be one giant leaf for mankind?
    • 2 Forgotten no more: the latest entry in The New York Times series of better-late-than-never obituaries celebrates the contributions of British computer science pioneer Karen Spark Jones, who passed away in 2007. Widely credited for having paved the way for today’s search engines and talking AI assistants—hey Siri, hello Alexa—the Cambridge professor was ahead of her time in many respects. “Decades before Silicon Valley was having its moral reckoning, Sparck Jones cautioned engineers to think of their work’s impact on society,” notes Nellie Bowles. A lifelong advocate for women in science and tech, Sparck Jones also mentored a generation of female researchers, as, in her own words, “computing is too important to be left to men.”
    • 3 Are you someone who religiously slathers on sunscreen every time you go outside? Well, according to this piece published on Outside, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. While it’s still a radical proposition within the dermatological community, some experts are claiming that they have found links between lack of sunlight and high blood pressure, which commonly leads to heart disease and strokes. Pelle Lindqvist, a senior research fellow at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, even goes as far as to say that “avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy”—yikes!
    • 4 “For too long, female power has been calculated using the arbitrary measuring stick of how men exercised authority; women, as a result, largely shaped themselves to these male-determined standards and norms,” writes Jill Filipovic for The New York Times. Thanks to the new wave of politicians elected in the US midterms, however, that image might soon be due for an overhaul: the House of Representatives has never been more female and more racially diverse than it is now. Filipovic examines how this seismic shift has emboldened the women of the 116th Congress to resist male-defined parameters and, ultimately, redefine what power means for themselves.
    • 5 “I knew that someday I would do something great,” recalls Vjeran Tomic in this fascinating profile published by The New Yorker. It seems an odd way for the Frenchman to characterize his ‘career,’ especially considering it ended up landing him in jail—but then Tomic is no ordinary criminal. Nicknamed “Spider-Man” by the French press, Tomic is a gifted climber and a dandy aesthetician who earned infamy after his arrest in part due to the highbrow nature of his crime: breaking into the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and stealing 70 million Euros worth of paintings.

Hopefully you enjoyed the reads from this week’s Link List, but if you’ve still got an internet itch to scratch, you can find more here.

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Text: FvF editorial team
Photography: Tim Adler