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The Pipwick Papers

Pollen detectives and octopus arms

It's a grey day today, perfect for my afternoon plans - holing up with a bunch of friends for pen and paper exploits and food - but before I deal with bags of dice and disconsolate dragons here are a few of the fruits of this week's reading.

These are not the Sunday Papers:

  • David Wolman's "Who Killed Mellory Manning?" over on Medium investigates the role of pollen analysis in a murder investigation in New Zealand. It's something I was already familiar with as a branch of forensics thanks to watching far too much crime drama but the specifics of this case made for interesting reading and I value that the chief investigator wanted to disprove the idea of valuing some lives less than others.
  • The BBC has this writeup of the research from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem into how octopuses use their arms when they move around.
  • How octopuses control and move their soft bodies is of interest to engineers who aim to design biologically inspired robots.

    "People want to build soft robots for medical purposes and rescue operations," said Dr Guy Levy, one of the researchers involved in the project.

    Such soft-bodied, octopus-inspired arms would not be limited by fixed joints, he explained. This could be useful to access narrow, difficult to reach spaces - perhaps getting help to people trapped at the scene of a collapsed building.

  • This one might be a bit inside baseball but I was interested to read Hamilton Nolan talking about some of Gawker Media's staff deciding to unionise:
  • The online media industry makes real money. It's now possible to find a career in this industry, rather than just a fleeting job. An organized work force is part of growing up. I fully expect that Gawker Media will emerge from this experience stronger than it has ever been.

  • Gone Girl: An Interview With An American Girl In ISIS has Ellie Hall from BuzzFeed taking an in-depth look at the story of Hoda, a girl from Alabama who left for Syria in November last year in order to live under the Islamic State
  • “I believe she been brainwashed,” Mohammed said, when first asked about his youngest daughter. “She’s not that kind of girl. They brainwashed her.”

    “Everyone’s parents or family members says that about those who have come here,” Hoda said of her father’s accusation. “To that I say, ‘Fear Allah, fear Allah with what you accuse us of.’”

    Amy Merrick in the New Yorker writes about Designing For Disability - there's not a big change to document here, but it's a good piece for pointing out fashion's reticence when it comes to bodies which don't fit the industry's "aspirational" model, the demand for better designs - form tends to get forgotten in the face of function - and the psychological impact such designs could have.

    Many of [Alicia Contreras' clients learning how to use canes] have foregone traditional canes and have turned instead to hiking sticks. Unlike a cane, a hiking stick lends the impression of vigorousness, as if the person carrying it to the grocery store is merely warming up for a weekend trek. “They were proud of them,” Contreras said. “They felt like, ‘I am active, I am safe.’”

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    About the Author

    Philippa Warr

    Former Staff Writer

    Pip wrote for Rock Paper Shotgun between 2014-2017, covering everything from MOBAs, hero brawlers and indie curios. She also had a keen interest in the artistry of video game creation, and was very partial to keeping us informed of the latest developments in British TV show Casualty.