23 July 2016

Avalanche Fences Exposed!

For months of the year they lie beneath deep snow, trapping it so that avalanches can be circumvented.  But when the snow melts, what is beneath is exposed to the world.  In the summer months many visitors scratch their heads at the sight of avalanche fences and wonder what form of sheep or goat they might be designed to contain.

Image Credit
Their real purpose is often lost to the casual observer: to help keep roads, railways and towns – not to mention the people therein - safe from a sudden, often deadly avalanche.  In places like the Swiss and French Alps, where locals have had to live alongside the threat of avalanches for thousands of years, intricate systems of artificial structures have mitigated the risk of avalanches for almost as long.

22 July 2016

The Roof of Africa: The Spectacular Beauty of the Ethiopian Highlands

Do not be uncomfortable if the first words that come to mind when Ethiopia is mentioned have negative connotations. If you live in the developed world then you may easily connect the country to its well documented recent history of insurgency, civil war and famine. Yet although Ethiopia’s troubles are far from over there is much more to the country than this. Its Highlands contain the largest continuous area of high altitude land in the whole of the continent. Little wonder then that the Ethiopian Highlands are often called The Roof of Africa. They are also, without exaggeration, simply spectacular.

The Highlands are enormous and are divided by the Ethiopian Rift. All of the pictures you will see here are from the northwestern side of the highlands. Designated a National Park in 1969 (the first of ten in the country), this portion contains Simien Mountain and Ras Dashan which is the highest peak in Ethiopia.

The Magic of Mount Seymour

The day Nathan Starzynski first set foot on Mount Seymour, he knew it would have a lasting profound impact on him. Located on Vancouver's North Shore, the mountain looks down over the vibrant and pulsing city to the South, while the Coast Mountains stretch endlessly to the North. For 3 years, Starzynski returned on and off to seek inspiration, and to shoot as much time-lapse as possible. This is the result and it’s spectacular.
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The Search for Earth Proxima

The Holy Grail that astronomers are looking for is an earth-like planet.  Our nearest neighbour is Alpha Centauri and this documentary focuses on a group of scientists whose ambition it is to build a telescope which could detect a planet within the habitable zone of this star system.  This is sometimes known as the Goldilocks Zone but even if a planet is in this area it may not support life.  These guys want to know for sure!

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Dust Buddies

You want cute? You got cute. Fuzz and Lint live under the couch but they can’t resist the odd crumb that the messy humans leave behind.  Their friends love a snack too but one day they tuck in just as the cleaner arrives and they find their very existence threatened.  This very entertaining animated short was created by the team of Beth Tomashek and Sam Wade who created it during their time at the Ringling College of Art and Design.

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20 July 2016

Features that Help to Present Information: Functional Skills English Reading Level 1

For the Edexcel Functional Skills Level 1 Reading exam you have to show that you can recognise ways that information is presented in a text. This can be straightforward… if you know what to look for…   This video aims to show you how to pick up the two marks available for this question in the Edexcel Functional Skills Level 1 Reading exam.  So, if you want to know how to pass your Functional Skills Reading exam, this is a good place to start.

This is the SKILLS STANDARD you are responding to in this question. "Identify the main points and ideas and how they are presented in a variety of texts (L1.2.1)"
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The Strange Sarcophagi of the Chachapoya

By the time the Spanish arrived in Peru at the beginning of the 16th Century the Chachapoya people had already been subsumed in to the great Inca Empire.  Although they had resisted the Incas fiercely, the lands of these Warriors of the Clouds as they were known had been annexed and had been forced to adopt the customs and culture of their conquerors. Yet they left one thing behind – the strange sarcophagi in which they would bury their dead.

17 July 2016

The Bizarre Nest of the Central American Paper Wasp

Take a look at the photograph above.  Is it some strange kind of blooming plant?  Is it a fungal growth attached to a tree?  It is something else entirely.  This is the bizarre nest of the Central American Paper Wasp.  It is notable for one thing – an apparent lack of nest altogether.  Those pale yellow cigar-shaped objects? They are the wasps, huddle together in neat order, waiting for the evening to come. Our sibling site, the Ark in Space, has the story with lots of fascinating photographs.
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The Dragon’s Skull: The Macabre Appearance of Snapdragon Seed Pods

The Antirrhinum (right), commonly known as the snapdragon has been a popular garden plant for many years.  Also known as the dragon flower, its common name derives from the resemblance of the flower to a dragon’s head.

When laterally squeezed the dragon will open and close it mouth: ask any grandparent whose flowers have been decimated by over keen but clumsy grandchildren.  Yet once the flower has died, leaving behind the seed pod, something a little more macabre appears.  The dragon – just a visual metaphor after all – appears to have a skull.

16 July 2016

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Wulingyuan, You Will after You Watch This

If you liked the film Avatar and day-dreamed about visiting Pandora (yes, me too) then perhaps you can, after all. OK, not quite but Wulingyuan in south-central China is the closest that you are probably going to get.  Filmed by Abel Blanco with his Phantom3P, this perfectly showcases the exquisite landscapes of the region.  Shot over five days Blanco managed to avoid both the incessant rain while he was there and the tourists (don’t go here if you think you will be alone!).

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The Banana Slug – Nature’s Giant Recycler

Slugs and snails and puppy dog’s tails? Well, just slugs in this case – and one species in particular. This is the Banana Slug, featured today on the Ark in Space. It is the second largest slug in the world and found on the western seaboard of North America. It gets its name for obvious reasons (even though the ones in this picture are not nearly as yellow as they can get).

You may think that slugs in general are no good garden invaders, born only to wreak havoc on your carefully cultivated plants. Yet the banana slug is a detritivore and is interested only in dead foliage. In fact it contributes to its ecosystem massively. Read more about this fascinating slug over at the Ark in Space.

Image Credit Jurveston
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Scottish Ballet dancers Madeline Squire and Javier Andreu discover each other as they explore a labyrinthine derelict Glaswegian swimming pool. As such it combines two of Kuriositas’ favourite things – dance and abandoned urban spaces – so it doesn’t get much better than this. A high-energy piece choreographed by Sophie Laplane, with music by British-born, Boston-based electro musician John Xela. Maze was directed, filmed and edited by Eve McConnachie.
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Graveyard Shift

When a gravedigger (more of a millennial hipster than what you would ordinarily imagine if you grew up watching Hammer Horror movies as I did) discovers parts missing from the disinterred remains of those he had only recently buried, he decides to get to the bottom of it.  He gets, perhaps, more than he bargained for. Graveyard Shift is the fourth year thesis by Carlos Schvepper (well done, by the way, for making a truly cheesy punchline work!).

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My Skin is a Target: A Black Lives Matter Poem

What does the American Dream mean for black Americans.  Written by DA Franklin of R World Productions, My Skin is a Target was written to shed light on this subject, especially when, as Franklin says, black people are often told how to feel, demoting personal experience to something that is less valid than an interpretation of those feelings by others.  DA Franklin sheds a glimmer of light as one black male’s interpretation of the American Dream.
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15 July 2016

Hitler’s Hospital: The Eerie Remains of Beelitz Sanatorium

In the last years of the nineteenth century the population of Berlin was expanding rapidly. The attendant issues of housing large numbers of people in cramped conditions were not far behind.  By 1898 the German National Insurance Institute had a sanatorium built for the victims of tuberculosis.  Beelitz-Heilstätten (or the Beelitz Sanitorium) steadily grew and functioned for many decades, playing host to a number of infamous patients, including Adolf Hitler. Yet most of it is now abandoned.

Although just a short distance from the German capital, the Beelitzer forest was considered suitable for a sanatorium as the area enjoyed fresh air and countryside.  However when the First World War broke out in 1914 it was not long before it was requisitioned and converted to care for the massive casualties inflicted at the front.  In the later months of 1916 a young soldier called Adolf Hitler was sent there to recuperate from a thigh injury acquired during the Battle of the Somme.

Don’t Ever Bet on UK Weather! 5 Extreme Examples of British Weather

This June was, for the UK, one of the wettest and dullest ever. Although this led to many moans in homes and offices across the country, it could have been a lot worse. People could at least sit at home on the internet, looking for something to do, such as read reviews of online casinos in the UK. There have been times when people have returned home to find it gone! Here are 5 extreme examples of British weather over the years.

The Great Bocastle Flood of 2004
For the residents of the small Cornish village of Bocastle, Monday, 16 August 2004 was a day they would never forget. After eight hours of constant rainfall, there were two flash floods. The village is unfortunate to be at the confluence of three rivers, the Paradise, Jordan and Valency. As they flooded, water swept through the village but then the bridge became blocked with vehicles and other detritus. This build up as a kind of dam and this eventually broke, causing a second huge wave to run through the town. It took months to clean the place up.

The Great Heatwave of 1976
People of a certain age in the UK look back fondly to the great heatwave of 1976 when the country enjoyed the hottest summer average temperature in the UK since records began. Many parts of the country went 45 days without a drop of rain. I was a child at the time and remember the joy of the guarantee of hot weather day in, day out. However, for parents, it was a little more difficult – as the weather also created a drought. Many people in the UK had no running water in their houses and were forced to use pumps in the street and carry it back to their homes in buckets. You can imagine the look on my mother’s face as she was forced to do that!

The Great Frosts
At the other end of the weather spectrum we have to go back a few hundred years. The reign of Elizabeth I of England is often called The Golden Age. Perhaps it should have been called The Frozen Age instead as this period saw the river Thames freeze over many times. The worst was the winter of 1683-84. The river froze to a thickness of eleven inches in places. This great frost as it was called lasted for so long that a frost fair was set up on the river. Here people would try and make the best by playing football, eating from stalls and participating in gambling. However, once the ice thawed the river’s temporary residents often had to make a run for dry land!

Tornadoes in the UK?
People normally associate tornadoes with places like the American mid-west but the weather in the UK is so varied that they have even been known to strike here. Perhaps the most famous is the 2005 Birmingham tornado. It carved a path almost a mile long through the city, damaging homes, schools and historic monuments. Fortunately no one was killed but many people were taken to hospital with injuries. It was by far the costliest tornado in British history, hitting as it did the country’s second largest city. Estimates of the damage caused came to £40 million.

The Great Snowfall of 1987
The running joke, when things come to a halt in the UK, is that is caused by the wrong kind of… and then you insert the word of the day. So you can have the wrong kind of leaves, the wrong kind of rain or in this case the wrong kind of snow. Over 20 inches of snow fell in many parts of the UK, meaning that a number of cities were temporarily cut off. Some places even had to have supplies flown in. Although by the standards of other countries, this might seem a minor weather event, for the UK this was the most intense cold spell of the twentieth century.

So even if July is wet and miserable, don’t place too many bets that it will stay that way. Such are the vagaries of UK weather that this time next week we could be basking in extremely high temperatures. On the other hand, we could be going in to the next ice age. When it comes to UK weather, you simply never know!
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13 July 2016


When you have to catch your own food the last thing you want is to be interrupted when you try to eat it.  However, for this hapless owl, the opportunity to enjoy his meal without disturbance just doesn’t seem to happen – much to the amusement of his quarry.  This entertaining animated short was created by Meike Mueller and his team at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.  This was her second year project – we look forward to seeing what she comes up with for her graduation piece!

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Spatial Bodies

Spatial Bodies depicts the urban landscape and architectural bodies as an autonomous living and self-replicating organism. Domesticated and cultivated only by its own nature. A vast concrete vegetation, oscillating between order and chaos.  Filmed in Osaka, Japan, Spatial Bodies was created by AUJIK.

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