Art brings unity—with a sci-fi look

A public art installation makes it possible for people far apart to interact with each other. It links the cities of Vilnius, Lithuania, and Lublin, Poland, which are 376 miles (605 km) apart. The project "Portal—a Bridge to the United Planet" consists of huge orbs with cameras that transmit real-time video between them. So before you hop on your commuter train in the morning, you can greet commuters and other passersby in the other city. 

The goal of the project is to create a bridge between people. The project redefines the idea of unity. It's timely because the COVID pandemic has isolated us. The pandemic has created distance between us that is more than just geographical. So connecting us to our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world can help reduce that distance. More installations are being planned between cities—Vilnius and Reyjavik are next, followed by Reyjavik and London.

The lack of foster care in Japan

In the United Kingdom, the United States and other developed countries, abused or neglected children are often sent to live with a foster family. But that rarely happens in Japan, one of the world's wealthiest and most progressive societies. 

Close to 90 percent of Japan's troubled children are placed in state institutions. Foster care has not emerged as a viable alternative for abused children in Japan because governments have failed to properly train carers, monitor the placements, or adequately educate the public about its benefits. In addition, Japan strongly values blood ties, so welcoming a stranger’s child into a family seems unnatural to many people. Japan is also a country where speaking out about child abuse causes great shame.

Art crosses borders between people

The California-based architects Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael have transformed a stretch of the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. into an international playground. The pair installed three hot pink seesaws between the slats of the fence where Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, abuts Sunland Park, New Mexico, allowing people on both sides of the increasingly militarized border to play together.

In an Instagram post, Rael said, “The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations, and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.” He added, “The joy that was shared this day on both sides is something that will stay with me forever.”

[See Ronald Rael's Instagram post here.] 

Tired? Maybe you're actually lonely

More and more people are feeling both tired and lonely at work. In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work.

What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: the more exhausted people are, the lonelier they feel.

This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. The problem seems to be pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.

Loneliness, whether it results from social isolation or exhaustion, has serious consequences for individuals. Research by Sarah Pressman, of the University of California, Irvine, demonstrates that while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%.

Animal police in the Netherlands

Hours before a rare snowstorm hit the Hague in the Netherlands last month, Sergeant Erik Smit got a call from dispatch: A Jack Russell was locked out on a third-story balcony.

Neighbors heard it barking and knew that the owner, who had left for work at 7:30 A.M., would not be back until the end of the day, when the terrace would be covered by several inches of snow.

Sergeant Smit of the national police force rang a few doorbells and yelled some questions to residents, but no one could help. He then radioed for a 22-ton fire truck with a crane and platform.