20 January 2019

The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders


If you go down to Koekohe beach in New Zealand you can be sure of a big surprise. In front of you, scattered like enormous marbles from some long abandoned game between giants, are hundreds of giant spherical rocks. Or are they the egg shells of sea-born dragons? The Moeraki boulders present us with a mystery – what are they and how on earth did they get here?
Image Credit Flickr User Geofftheref
Some are isolated but may occur in clusters. That they are here is the result of three things – erosion, concretion and time. First the waves, inexorable and patient, have pounded the local bedrock for countless millennia. The mudstone on the beach – rock which was originally mud and clay – is slowly but surely eroded. Underneath are the boulders that the mudstone – in its original wet form, helped to form. However, the boulders were not there to begin with – that came later.

6 January 2019

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index: How Much Could You Take?

You may well have been stung by a honey bee (above) in the past and your memories of it are quite likely not too fond.  However, have you ever wondered how that sting compared to others? The Ark in Space has quite a list on offer – of the creepy crawlies which make up the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

It’s named after a guy who took time out to experience hundreds of stings for himself so he could describe the pain for himself – and for us fingers crossed.  So, which insect has the nastiest sting? Go find out for yourself!
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Silent


Silent is an animated short film created by Academy Award winning Moonbot Studios. It celebrates how storytellers, inventors, and technology work together to create cinema magic.

The story follows two street performers (one of whom seems to be Mr Lessmore! Gasp!) who dream of bringing their "Picture and Sound Show" to life.
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Cross Stitch Just Got Cool

Cross stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery in the world. So, it’s little surprise that its reputation is of something rather fusty that your grandmother might enjoy.  However, cross stitch has a new fan base and, led by types of Ambra. A 30 year old Italian crafter, stitcher, pattern-designer and nerd she has helped rehabilitate the ancient art and it is now - officially - cool again.  If that seems a little tongue in cheek then perhaps it is – one look at Ambra’s amazing designs, however, and you know that there is much truth in what we say.  She has created hundreds of patterns all of which can be seen and downloaded on her website, cloudsfactory.net.

Ambra is a qualified restorer and has worked in many museums.  Yet just as she opened her own restoration lab, the recession hit and the money for renovating old objects ran dry.  Not to be deterred, Ambra has turned her attention to two of her other loves, design and embroidery.  Marrying her interests in TV, movies and cartoons with her skill as a cross stitch pattern maker, she has created these very very cool designs.

The Long Game


As the world moves faster, so do our expectations.  We live in a youth centered society but this video essay in two parts by delve, looks at how, perhaps, things should really be.  In order to be a genius, do we need to achieve it while we are still youthful? Taking perhaps the genius of geniuses, Leonardo Da Vinci as an example, this may give any of you reading this who feel it is to late to achieve something more than just a glimmer of hope.

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The Pyramids of Egypt


A dig outside of Cairo in 1920 and a single archaeologist, whose only company is a somewhat mystified camel, makes the discovery of a lifetime.  The secret of the ancients are about to be unlocked…

This very amusing animated short was created by the team of Nicolas Mrikhi, Corentin Charron, Olivier Lafay and Lise Corriol.  It was produced as a partnership between their university, Supinfocom Arles and the Museum of Marseille.
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The Maijishan Grottoes - Artistic Treasure of China’s Past

China has four major Buddhist cave complexes - by far the most visited being the Longmen caves. Less well known are the Maijishan Grottoes. Situated in Gansu Province in the northwest of China, this astonishing example of cave architecture hewn from rock consists of over 7,000 Buddhist sculptures not to mention almost 1000 square meters of murals.

5 January 2019

The Meerkat - Sun Angel of Africa

The Meerkat – if any species of animal had a right to be a little irritated by the name we have gifted them, this is one. Of course, they are blithely unaware of any names we might choose to call them, but this small mammal from the heart of Africa is anything but a mere cat.  Our sibling site, The Ark in Space, has a feature about this wonderful African mammal with a host of fascinating facts and interesting pictures.  Click the picture or the link to enter the world of the sun angel.

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What is Nanoscience? (Narrated by Stephen Fry)


You may well ask. However, if you have ever wanted a great introduction to nanoscience and nanotechnology you can’t go wrong with NanoYou, a short documentary narrated by Steven Fry.

The film was mainly shot at and with the assistance of the Nanoscience Centre at the University of Cambridge and features researchers involved in exploring the world of Nano.
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Spinning Daggers


This is hypnotically fascinating.  Benjamin Ducroz has created Spinning Daggers, a series of small wooden zoetrope sculptures composed next to trees during autumn. The sculptures consist of 18 instances - their form is in the shape of different sine and triangle waves modulating over 18 frames. Three of seven models were filmed – you can see the other models along with documentation can be viewed at Ducroz’ website.
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Death by Chocolate


When fame has fled adjusting to your new position in life can be traumatic. Unable to adjust to rejection after rejection, jaded movie star Anne has hired a contract killer to, well, do what he does best.  However, she has second thoughts and meets with him to cancel the contract.

A wonderful short film which shows how much drama – not to mention black comedy, can be extracted from a great script and just two actors.  Written, produced and directed by REZ (Robin Veret & Dimitri Gochgarian), Death by Chocolate will have you on the edge of your seat till the end.
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Victor Noir: Still Pleased to See You (Even in Death)

Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris contains the graves of many famous people, including Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. One person you may not have heard of, however, is Victor Noir. It is, in fact, his monument rather than his memory which draws people to his final resting place and for reasons you may not automatically associate with a cemetery.

You may have already noticed that much of his face is the familiar grey-green of oxidized bronze you would expect from a monument dating from 1891 (Noir died in 1870). However, the lips and the nose are unaccountably shiny. Victor Noir’s mouth and nose are regularly caressed and kissed. Yet the host of women who descend upon his tombstone have more than Victor’s face in mind when they visit. Despite only the faintest trace of a smile across it, Victor Noir is, it seems, still very pleased to see you.

31 December 2018

The Bicheno Blowhole: Geology at its Most Playful


Nature may often be cruel but from time to time it can also be almost sublimely daft.  Close to the small town of Bicheno on the east coast of the Australian island of Tasmania, a rare geological feature known as a blowhole provides endless hours of fun for visitors. Each time the blowhole ‘erupts’ you never quite know what you are going to get in terms of the shape and size of the water.  One thing is for sure, though: you are going to get wet.
Image Credit Flickr User  ScottWeatherson

A blowhole is a sea cave which grows inwards and up, resulting in a perpendicular shaft open at the surface. They occur when there is a weak joint in the rock and as the waves pound and erode the rock just above the waterline a cave is slowly but surely formed.

This can get to quite a length but if, as it develops, it hits a vertical weakness in the rock then it will head upwards – until it breaks the surface and hits daylight.

16 December 2018

The Window


Four injured soldiers are recovering in hospital, suffering from a variety of injuries.  To pass the time the least incapacitated regales them of stories of everyday life he sees through the window of their hospital ward. They are drawn to the daily routine of a beautiful young woman who visits the café across the square.  Yet all is not quite as it seems. This animated short which manages to be both funny and moving was created by a group of students at ESMA Montpelier.
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Freaky Flowers: Echinopsis Cacti in Bloom


Echinopsis may disappoint you.  After all their flowers bloom in the middle of the night and then last only for a day with the flowers at a peak for just an hour or two before they wilt.  So, if you are on holiday when this happens you have missed out.    Fortunately, however, we have EchinopsisFreak who must have the patience of a saint but who creates amazing timelapses like this one for those of us too lazy to sit through the night!
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The 10am


There are some times in life that you need help from external sources. Step forward the Great British Workman – and his apprentice son of course. Together, Senior and Junior make up Auron & Son Ltd and they are ready to take on a range of commercial residential contracting services.

The first job of this particular day – their “10am” is something special – the first time that Junior will take the lead on a job. And it’s some job. Written, directed and produced by Colin O’Toole this is idiosyncratic short British film-making at its entertaining best.
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Hebridean Dreams


Mo Thomson and Andy (from AerialViewScotland) captured this amazing footage on their way to watch the partial solar eclipse in March.  They drove up to Harris and Lewis, via Skye and the results are simply stunning. As well as a gorgeous horse there is the beauty of the Callanish standing stones bathed by the Northern Lights, breath-taking beaches and much more besides.

It's like the opening sequence of Outlander might have been, without Catriona Balfe running breathlessly around everywhere like a headless chicken. Plus it has proper Scottish Gaelic music too, Do Chalum by Julie Fowlis.
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Confessions Of An Idiom


Thinking about it, I suppose it had to happen at some point: an animated short film starring the elephant in the room and the skeleton in the closet – giving us the best of both worlds.  Here, Mollie Helms and Amanda Koh of Ringling College get to grips with as many idioms as they can fit in to two and a half minutes.

No doubt they burned the midnight oil to finish it.  Yet actions speak louder than thoughts, of course, so give it a watch. The ball is in your court.
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May the Forced Perspective Be With You

Forced perspective photography can be great fun.  The technique uses optical illusion to make something appear larger, smaller, further away or closer than it really is.  If you have seen only one example then it will probably have been someone making it appear as it they are pushing or holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or perhaps the Eiffel Tower, which always comes a close second). So here are twenty examples of forced perspective to give you some amusement before you go back to what you should really be doing (studying, working or shopping but perhaps you could just grab your camera and try a few of these out).

Image Credit bark
There are numerous naughty examples of forced perspective, but this is the cheekiest you'll get here today.

Image Credit stuant63

15 December 2018

Is the Ecolog Happy Holidays Video the Most Heart-warming of This Year's Christmas Ads?


There is always a few companies who seem to dominate the Christmas advert market but this year there is one from Ecolog International which might just steal the hearts of the nation. (If you haven't heard of the company, you have probably had contact without realising - they are a major player in logistics and the supply chain.)

All the right ingredients are in the video – a mum, a son on a far-away island and a Christmas pudding.  All this is neatly tied together as we are shown the preparation of the pudding in mum’s kitchen to its flight across the world to her son in the Falkland Islands.

As well as warming the cockles of our hearts (and the actors are very well chosen in their roles) the video shows how Ecolog’s work sustaining the supply chain is year-round, never-ending and doesn’t stop even for Christmas.  The company is vast – since its incorporation around twenty years ago it has a presence in more than 36 countries, covering 150 locations and employing more than 12,000 people in construction, technology, facility management and environmental services industries.

The video serves as a timely reminder that without this infrastructure, where would we be?  Certainly in my lifetime the trip to the Falklands would have taken the Christmas pudding an awful lot longer than the speedy journey it takes in the video, thanks to Ecolog.

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14 December 2018

Ulugh Beg - The Man Who Unlocked the Universe - A film produced by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev

When one thinks of the great scientists whose discoveries were far ahead of their time names such as Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, and Leonardo da Vinci all leap out at you. Their discoveries and achievements were breathtaking and shaped our world.


Yet before them was Ulugh Beg. He was the ruler of Mavarannahr Khanate (Empire) from 1411 and transformed his native Samarkand now Uzbekistan into a hub of culture, arts, and science. During his reign, he made many crucial and little-known scientific discoveries and achievements, including building the largest observatory of all the time and accurately charting the position of stars in the night sky. His model was still being referred to centuries later and his achievements were made 150 years before Galileo invented the telescope.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva

His achievements were the subject of Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev’s documentary, Ulugh Beg - The Man Who Unlocked the Universe.

The film has won several awards and has received critical and commercial success, achieving a 9/10 score in an IMDB review.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva the woman behind the film

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva together with her husband Timur Tillyaev brought the Ulugh Beg legend to life. She has been described as a philanthropist and is committed to helping others in her native Uzbekistan.  She was Uzbekistan’s envoy to UNESCO until 2018, holding the position for the last ten years. For thirteen years she held the position of President of the Federation of Gymnastics of Uzbekistan.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s Charity Work

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s work with children has arguably been her main concern, heading two major charities dedicated to helping disadvantaged children in Uzbekistan. “You are not Alone” foundation, established in 2002, supports orphanages. The charity is dedicated to building and refurbishing Mercy Homes, providing state of the art facilities to orphanages with the goal of educating Uzbekistan’s orphans. The National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children, established in 2004, provides educational and medical support to children with disabilities.

The Karimov Foundation, established by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva in 2016, has instigated a number of successful projects and has recently signed a partnership agreement with the UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan on joint cooperation in the areas of education, science and culture. Two years ago, the Foundation launched a scholarship scheme to allow young Uzbeks to study for their Master’s degree at prestigious foreign universities.

The charities started in quick succession after she achieved her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International Law from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, and her doctorate degree in Psychology from Tashkent State University.

As well as these pursuits she was determined to bring the Ulugh Beg legend and his achievements to the world. Speaking of her film she has quoted, “I have been fascinated by Ulugh Beg ever since I was a child”.

“Every time I visited Samarkand and heard about the scientific discoveries made by this celebrated scholar and peace-loving ruler – a man who in the 15th century turned Samarkand into the epicentre of the world’s most advanced studies in astronomy − I thought that his extraordinary story should be told to the world.”

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s film was released in 2017 and soon attracted critical and commercial acclaim. It has already won two awards. It collected the Kineo Prize for the Best Foreign  Documentary at the 74th Venice International Film Festival, and Best Documentary Award at the Ischia Film Festival.

Ulugh Beg, until the film was released was little known outside of Uzbekistan and to some degree the academic world. And yet, the man’s life is a story that just begged to be told.

Not forgetting his achievements with the observatory, he fulfilled his ambition to create a scientific centre where scholars could come and discuss the stars.  In 1417 construction began and the resulting madrassa was arguably one of the first universities to be established.  The building can still be seen in Registan Square in Uzbekistan.

As well as charting the position of fixed stars better than any previous scholars, he also determined the length of a sidereal year as 365d 6h 10m 8s thanks largely to his love of trigonometry and understanding of the universe. Nearly a hundred years later Ulugh Beg’s sidereal year model would be determined to be +58 seconds inaccurate. In 1525 Copernicus came up with a more accurate model for determining a sidereal year which was + 2 seconds inaccurate.

Ulugh Beg still had the last laugh, however.  His tropical year model had an error of +25 seconds, but this was still more accurate than Copernicus’ model which was +30 seconds inaccurate, despite Beg living a hundred years earlier and having less reliable instruments.

Ulugh Beg deserves to go down in history as one of the great scientists. His work although little known, helped others to understand the world and the universe in which we live.

It is hugely unlikely that Ulugh Beg is alone in having been lost to history. One cannot help but wonder how many other great minds are out there waiting to have their story told.  Thanks to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Ulugh Beg’s achievements are now known to the world.

As well as charting the position of fixed stars better than any previous scholars, he also determined the length of a sidereal year as 365d 6h 10m 8s thanks largely to his love of trigonometry and understanding of the universe. Nearly a hundred years later Beg’s sidereal year model would be determined to be +58 seconds inaccurate. In 1525 Copernicus came up with a more accurate model for determining a sidereal year which was + 2 seconds inaccurate.

Beg still had the last laugh, however.  His tropical year model had an error of +25 seconds, but this was still more accurate than Copernicus’ model which was +30 seconds inaccurate, despite Beg living a hundred years earlier and having less reliable instruments.

Ulugh Beg deserves to go down in history as one of the great scientists. His work although little known, helped others to understand the world and the universe in which we live.


It is hugely unlikely that Beg is alone in having been lost to history. One cannot help but wonder how many other great minds are out there waiting to have their story told.  Thanks to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Beg’s achievements are now known to the world.

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