Points of Interest: The Frontiers Edition —

7 out–of–this–world things on our radar this December.

National Centre for Space Studies
   Photo: Manuel Huynh


Glimpse the final frontier in Toulouse, France Scientists with their sights set on the stars regularly converge in Toulouse for otherworldly explorations. The ancient city, famed for its terra cotta–tiled architecture, also has a futuristic streak, with 25 percent of Europeans working in the space sector based here. It’s been the major site of the French government space agency, the National Centre for Space Studies, since 1968, and forward–thinkers from all over the globe will fly in next June for the inaugural Global Space expo (on the agenda: open collaboration to make space travel less expensive and more accessible). Until extraterrestrial destinations are on the map, there’s Cité de l’espace, an interactive museum on the outskirts of Toulouse (pictured). Step on board a full–scale replica Mir space station, see a 53–metre–tall model of an Ariane 5 rocket launcher, and contemplate the next giant leaps forward.

December 2, 2019
The red cover of Atlas Obscura's travel guide
   Photo: Atlas Obscura / Workman


A travel guide maps the weird and wondrous Off–the–beaten–track – and just plain offbeat, period – destinations are the theme of Atlas Obscura’s ($55, Thomas Allen)latest bucket list of curiosities. Highlighting spots like Antarctica’s Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (where few endure the –60°C temperatures) and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves of New Zealand (where thousands of bioluminescent larvae create strangely beautiful, starry strings of light), it serves up inspiration for intrepid and armchair explorers alike.

A blonde woman models a Norden Mika parka


This label makes parkas out of plastic Last year, Montreal–based Norden designs launched vegan performance–outerwear with an unexpectedly cozy material: recycled plastic. The fine print for each coat reveals its environmental impact; every Mika parka, for instance, saves 45 bottles from the landfill. When you are ready to retire the piece, you can send it back to be repaired and resold, donated or entirely recycled.

Colourful futuristic food that looks like molecules in a circular dish with partitions
   Photo: Alexandra Genis


An interactive exhibit offers a taste of the future Consuming lichen for nutrition in the post–apocalypse, creating flavour with nothing but pure molecules, and dining on decayed food as modified human–hyenas: These are a few of the speculative scenarios presented in Edible Futures: Food for Tomorrow, which features works from 13 different artists and food designers from around the world. Organized by the Dutch Institute of Food & Design and showing in Toronto in January, the exhibit invites the viewer to imagine the many possible futures of food – thoroughly thought–provoking, if not always palatable.


Ski with an AI–powered expert in your pocket On the slopes of Vail Resorts across North America, the savviest guide isn’t, well, human: “Emma,” a first–of–its–kind, AI–powered digital assistant, has real–time intel on everything from snow conditions to lift wait times to après–ski dinner spots; for help, simply text her any question. Consider Emma a high–tech concierge, at your glove tips 24/7.

Orville Peck stands in front of a flamingo mural dressed all in black with matching cowboy hat and face mask
   Photo: Carlos Santolalla


Orville Peck is a new kind of country star Within months of launching his debut album Pony in March, Orville Peck became a cult icon. It’s partly his mystique – Peck wears tasselled masks that he sews himself to conceal his face – but it’s also because he’s subverting the typical themes of beer–drinking and honky–tonks found in modern country music. The queer artist’s lyrics touch on his vulnerabilities, the men he’s loved and lost, identity and politics. He’s been featured in Vogue and British GQ and is touring non–stop, but will close out the year with a hometown crowd at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall this month.

The black and white prototype for the Horizn One space suitcase
   Photo: Horizn Studios


Luggage designed for space travel is here Berlin’s Horizn Studios enlisted the world’s youngest astronaut–in–training, 18–year–old Alyssa Carson, to help conceptualize the first suitcase for space. Expected to launch in 2030, with a price tag of more than $50,000, the prototype Horizn One case calls for an electromagnetic base (for securing it in zero gravity), graphene supercapacitors (for storing device–powering energy), and a smart video screen (for the ultimate long–distance call home).