Fun Friday Links: Urban Beautification, a Poacher-Stopping App, and Visualizing the Scientific Universe

Filed Under Mindjet

Arwen Heredia

September 6, 2013

Welcome to Conspire’s Super Happy Fun Friday Link Time, a weekly collection of cool discoveries from around the Web. Most times the goal is to get you thinking differently about communication, collaboration, culture, and life in general. Other times, LOLCAT ATTACK! Submissions are welcome, and you can send them to for consideration.

The New Concrete Jungle

As the world makes a collective effort to go greener and greener, it’s no surprise that impacted urban cities are looking to inch-in as much shrubbery as possible. And while the idea of “cap parks” — landscaped, plant-filled goodness atop things like freeways and turnpikes — isn’t exactly new, five major cities have decided they need more than just a sampling of urban beautification.

“Freeway caps have come a long way in the last 2o years. Capping, or adding “decking” to the freeway, can be more time- and cost-effective than other redevelopment plans (Dallas built theirs in only two years) and may be eligible for federal transportation money. And because they’re located in already densely populated areas, many of these parks aren’t just covering eight-lane eyesores, they’re offering amenities like farmers markets, cultural programming, transit connections and bike facilities right where neighborhoods need them most. Not to mention the feel-good social impact of reuniting communities that were torn apart 50 years ago.”

Up to bat are Chicago, Boston, Dallas, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Looks like our concrete jungles are about to get a lot more jungle-y.
Source: Gizmodo

Smile, Poachers! You’re On Camera

Did you know that there are only 539 wild rhinos left in the whole world? These real-life (albeit much less sparkly and horse-like) unicorns, along with many of their other endangered animal neighbors in Kenya, are getting some extra protection against illegal poachers thanks to the Instant Wild project by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Satellite-connected and motion-triggered cameras constantly snap photos of animals roaming the plains; users all over the world can use the Instant Wild app to identify animals, and a warning signal is sent out whenever the platform suspects illegal poaching activity.

“The cameras have the ability now to instantly transmit images of intruders to park rangers…In the future, ZSL are investigating options to detect vehicles from vibrations and triangulate the sound of gunshots, so that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene immediately. The cameras use infrared flash technology not using white light to not scare the animals or make the poachers aware of their presence.”

Source: Mashable

A Galaxy Far, Far More Well-Researched (and Mapped!)

Even for those folks who consider themselves grade-A science enthusiasts, trying to keep pace with the hundreds of thousands of data bits produced by scientists each day is — let’s face it — basically impossible. So is organizing, accessing, and vetting all of that information, even if you’re an actual scientist working in a particular scientific sect. Enter one of our favorite solutions: visualization mapping.

Scientific papers have an inherent structure that is perfect for automatically making a map: in their reference sections are a bibliography of other papers that are on the same, or a closely related, topic. So we could put papers that refer to each other closer together on the map than those that have no such links. We used an algorithm that simulates the formation of galaxies, replacing stars with papers, and turned the attractive force of gravity into a repulsive, anti-gravity in order to spread papers out across our landscape.

We called our online map Paperscape. Each circle represents a scientific paper with its area proportional to the number of citations that paper has. Papers in different arXiv categories (such as physics, mathematics, computer science) are coloured differently.

The resulting visualizations are lovely, with the added bonus of making all that data much, much easier to categorize and comprehend. Check them out here.
Source: The Guardian