Online, some languages are more equal than others 

The problem is, we don’t know which language will desperately need the world’s attention next. When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, international organizations suddenly required Haitian Creole resources. Ebola outbreaks in West Africa affected speakers of languages like Swahili, Nande, Mbuba, Krio, Mende and Themne. Asylum seekers from Central America often speak languages like Zapotec, Q’anjob’al, K’iche’ and Mam. These speakers aren’t the ideal customers of big tech companies. They don’t have leisure time to edit Wikipedia. They may not even be literate in their mother tongue, communicating by voice memo instead of by text message. But when a crisis hits, internet communication tools will be crucial.

Source: The Widely-Spoken Languages We Still Can’t Translate Online | WIRED

The impact of climate change on language loss

One stressor that may be the tipping point for some communities is climate change. Many small linguistic communities are located on islands and coastlines vulnerable to hurricanes and a rise in sea levels. Other communities are settled on lands where increases in temperature and fluctuations in precipitation can threaten traditional farming and fishing practices.

These changes will force communities to relocate, creating climate change refugees. The resultant dispersal of people will lead to the splintering of linguistic communities and increased contact with other languages. These changes will place additional pressures on languages that are already struggling to survive.

Source: The impact of climate change on language loss

Photographs of massive storm systems

Photograph of a storm near Guymon, Oklahoma

[Mitch] Dobrowner’s black and white images of that megastorm are some of the most spectacular in his ever-expanding portfolio of extreme weather photography. Although tornadoes get all the attention on TV, Dobrowner is more interested in supercells, massive storm systems that sometimes spawn tornadoes. “I see them as living things,” he says. “Some are gorgeous and beautiful, some are tornadic and violent. And the longer they last the more form they take. Eventually, they mature and die. So I try to take a portrait, almost like with a person.”

Source: You’ve Never Seen Thunderstorms Like These Before

Why are tech companies making custom typefaces?

The words ‘unique typeface’ written in a series of similar typefaces

During my research process, I noted down the keywords used to describe some of the typefaces. As I read through the list, the same words kept coming up over and over: friendly, modern, clean, simple, human. It’s like everyone wants something that they can use to define their brand, yet they really just want a slightly different version of what everyone has.

Source: Why are tech companies making custom typefaces?

Tracing history with whale earwax

As whales go through their annual cycles of summer binge-eating and winter migrations, the wax in their ears changes from light to dark. These changes manifest as alternating bands, which you can see if you slice through the plugs. Much as with tree rings, you can count the bands to estimate a whale’s age. And you can also analyze them to measure the substances that were coursing through the whale’s body when each band was formed. A whale’s earwax, then, is a chronological chemical biography.

Stephen Trumble and Sascha Usenko from Baylor University have worked out how to read those biographies. And they’ve shown that whale earwax not only reveals the lives of their owners, but the history of the oceans. Hunting, abnormal temperatures, pollutants—it’s all there. If all of humanity’s archives were to disappear, Trumble and Usenko could still reconstruct a pretty decent record of whaling intensity by measuring the stress hormones in the earwax of a few dozen whales.

Source: The Astonishing History Locked in Whale Earwax – The Atlantic

Reclusive islanders kill anyone who tries to come ashore

In the years since India won independence from the British, groups of anthropologists have tried to study them.

But no one has managed to get through. Several times, Mr. Pandit said, the Sentinelese have turned their backs on anthropologists and squatted down, as if they were defecating.

In 2006, two Indian fishermen who accidentally washed up on their shores were killed. When a military chopper flew low over the island, some men fired arrows at it. These days, the Indian authorities aren’t taking any chances. The Navy enforces a 3-mile buffer zone around North Sentinel. But police suspect Mr. Chau went at night with the intention of circumventing the authorities.

It is unknown what the Sentinelese call each other, or whether any other group in the world understands their language. When an expedition brought members of another indigenous tribe to North Sentinel, thinking they might share linguistic similarities, neither side understood one another.

Source: Islanders Who Killed American Have a History of Guarding Their Isolation

A group of Indonesians have evolved to have bigger spleens

The Bajau are a group of people who have lived  on an Indonesian island for centuries. Traditionally they spend a lot of of time diving in the ocean for food.

When humans enter the water, the spleen contracts. This releases more red blood cells which in turn has the effect of helping us hold our breath for longer.

How are these two things linked? The Bajau have developed spleens up to 50% bigger than normal, and can hold their breath for a very long time while diving. This isn’t quite evolution, as the article states, but it’s pretty remarkable nonetheless.

Source: A group of Indonesians have evolved to have bigger spleens — Quartz

Impressed with BuzzFeed and their style guide’s insistence on removing spaces and hyphens. This from a recent update. How long until we get to ‘crosspost’?