29 May 2016

Please Help Keep Kuriositas Online

You may or may not know this but Kuriositas is curated by just one person – and that person would be me! There are a number of expenses that the site incurs each month and so, with my cap in my hand, I’m going to beg a favour.

If you enjoy Kuriositas, please consider helping out with the cost of running the site.  As you can guess, it takes a lot of time and effort, too!

Below this post you will see a button which will enable you to make a contribution safely and securely. You can give as little or as much as you like – I’m not going to limit your choices! Anything will be gratefully received and will help to ensure that I can carry on bringing you all the great science, art and interesting things in-between that makes the site what it is.

So, if you read or watch something that you have really enjoyed, please think about sending us a small donation. Thanks!

Best regards

Robert-John
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Secretive Supersize Squirrel on Steroids

The Indian Giant Squirrel is something else - it is far larger than the European and North American squirrels for a start - it makes them look like Oompa-Loompas for a start! However, if you are averse to squirrels you need not worry too much - they live in India and so they are unlikely to spring at you from the trees any time soon (plus they are vegetarians anyway!).

Nevertheless, their size is quite remarkable - one can only wonder how the trees take their weight as they leap up to twenty meters between the branches. You can get the low down on these amazing beasts over at our sibling site, The Ark In Space.

Image Credit
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The Man Who Put the Pee in Phosphorus


How do you become one of the first people to discover a chemical element? By hoarding urine, that’s how. Seriously?  Back in the 1660's, German alchemist Hennig Bran thought he could create gold by distilling the stuff – in his search for the philosopher’s stone.  That didn’t work out but this great animation by Great Big Story shows how he did something far more useful instead.  So, even if he didn’t discover the philosopher’s stone at least his work didn’t go entirely down the toilet…
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Portrait of an Artist | Guido van Helten


Australian artist Guido van Helten recently concluded a residency in Iceland.  His major project was to go to Akureyri - a town on the north coast of Iceland, to produce a very unique work.  Film director Selina Miles traveled with him and made this record of this very cool project. It went down very well with the locals too! If you would like to see more of van Helten’s work on Kuriositas, here is his recent abandoned silo project in Australia.

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The Counting Sheep


Have you ever counted sheep to fall asleep?  Believe me, it works – but have you ever spared a thought for the sheep at the back of the queue?  Of course, enumerating ovine athletes is fine for sheep one, two and three but what about sheep number 100?  This smart and enjoyable animation by Katelyn Hagen and Michale Warren centers on that specific sheep and his desire to get to jump the fence.  Does he get his desire? Watch and see!

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28 May 2016

Onbashira: The Most Dangerous Festival in Japan

2016 is a special year in Japan. Every six years the men of the towns and villages around Lake Suwa in the Nagano Prefecture participate in the Onbashira festival (a matsuri in Japanese) and this year it comes round again.  It has been celebrated sexenially for over 1,200 years without interruption.

Translated as ‘the honored pillars’, Onbashira symbolically renews the Suwa Taisha shrine and is a dazzling display of the power of man over nature. It is also known as the most dangerous festival in Japan.  Broken limbs are inevitable during the festival and deaths have also, unfortunately, been recorded.

Onbashira 2016
This festival would never happen elsewhere, frankly.  Hordes of health and safety inspectors would ensure that the huge logs would become nothing more than twigs. As for riding atop them at a breath-taking speed – this would simply be banned, interdit, verboten.  However, this is Japan.  Have you ever seen any of the country’s game shows which make demands on the body which should make most people quail? You may have wondered where anyone could get the idea for such risky physicality.  Perhaps their roots lie in Onbashira.

Andante


This is very clever made doubly so by the fact it’s a very simple idea.  Place animated characters on the piano to visualize musical motion and there it is!  Of course marrying the two, done superbly here by the Tangible Media Group is easier said than done.  This is seamlessly done and will no doubt stimulate the imagination of any piano player (anyone really if truth be told).  Sit back, enjoy and don’t think too much about how it was done!
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Rock Fish


Life is always hard if you’re a miner but if your quarry (as it were) is alive then things can get complicated very quickly.  One miner and his alien companion know the risks but even they are not prepared for what comes when they land the catch of their lives. Get ready for a high-speed ride across the rocky terrain of a mining planet which will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Rock Fish was written and directed by Tim Miller and created by Culver City based Blur Studio.

As an aside, although everyone has to make a living I have to admit to having some sympathy with the rock fish of the title.  There it was, deep underground, minding its own business when...

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25 May 2016

3 Interesting Facts about Swimsuits


There are plenty of interesting facts about swimsuits that would leave you flabbergasted – check out our top three below:

  1. Did you know that thongs are illegal in Melbourne, Florida? Wearing one there will get you a fine of $500 or 60 days in prison! Also, while this small piece of clothing may have been popularized mostly by Brazilians in the 1970s, it’s actually believed to have been invented 75,000 years ago as a primitive protection for male genitals.
  2. The first chest-revealing suit for men dubbed the Topper, which appeared in 1932, had a detachable top that could be zipped away from its trunk bottom. Unfortunately, if a man chose to do so, he could be arrested for indecent exposure! 
  3. Back in 1921, American swimwear manufacturer Jantzen changed the name “bathing suit” to “swimming suit” to justify their much more revealing swimsuits as a form of athleticism.

Nowadays swimsuits are commonly accepted and be it JCPenney or Neiman Marcus, you can get them practically everywhere in a variety of styles that won't shock anymore!

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22 May 2016

The Mortsafe: Or How to Protect Your Loved Ones from the Bodysnatchers

Medical students in the United Kingdom of the nineteenth century faced a quandary. They had been accustomed to using the corpses of executed criminals to study anatomy.

The use of the corpses of the convicted to discover the secrets of human anatomy dates back to the 4th century BC, when Herophilos and Erasistratus  of Alexandria were given permission to perform live vivisections.  The times, however, had changed and criminals were now only dissected after execution.  Yet there was a problem..

More lenient punishment for wrongdoings had meant that only around 50 people a year were now being executed. However, the annual demand for bodies to dissect by the growing medical profession surpassed ten times that number. A thriving and historically infamous bodysnatching trade arose. However, those mourning the loss of a loved one soon developed a weapon against this: the mortsafe.

The first mortsafe was made around 1816.  They came in a number of different designs but the one thing that they had in common was their weight, which would make exhumation of the recently deceased impossible.

The mortsafe was ingenious: a complex of iron rods and plates descending in to the ground and rising above it.

Above the ground they were weighted either with stone or iron.

21 May 2016

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Hong Kong, You Will After You Watch This

It’s rare when a few minutes of film footage manage to wholly capture a place, especially a place like Hong Kong which is full of so many contradictory elements.  Director, DP and editor Brandon Li pulls this off spectacularly with Hong Kong Strong.  This is a deep dive in to the many layers of this complex, enigmatic, impossible city.  This was shot in the days leading up to the Chinese New Year which only adds to the interest!

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Road to Victory: Projection Mapping the Great Patriotic War


Sila Sveta, specialists in leading-edge 3D Projection Mapping, 3D stage designs, multimedia shows were asked last year to create a permanent installation in The Museum of Great Patriotic War in Moscow. This projection mapping show is dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory and covers all the major milestones of the war. This behind the scene glimpse shows the huge amount of work and creativity that went in to the project.
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Deliveries Before Dawn


This short documentary by Ben Stevenson and Chris Goulder offers us an intimate glimpse in to the lives of the men who deliver milk to households across East London.  Their lives are often overlooked by the general population, their work being over before the majority of us even wake up.  Yet there is something a little different about this particular milk crew.  Their secret is about to be revealed –watch and dicsover!

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19 May 2016

Giant Tea Monkey Invades London!


It’s not quite like a scene from Godzilla or Cloverfield – this monstrous beasty was on an altogether more benign mission. PG Tips wanted to send a message to Londoners and what better deliverer than their familiar monkey mascot in, albeit immediately recognisable, disguise. Instead of knitted socks, this incarnation of Monkey is made from over 100,000 tea leaves. Take a look at the video above for the reaction of some unsuspecting Londoners!

The Thames is no stranger to weird and peculiar objects. However, this time the message was one of overwhelming positivity. The folks at PG Tips Green Tea had the idea to put Monkey floating down the Thames to energise Londoners and to coincide with the publication of their latest ‘green paper’.

That may sound quite governmental but what this particular research has revealed is that British workers don’t take as many breaks as they should. While this might raise a wry eye-brow (or even two) the fact is that out of the 2,000 people surveyed for the ‘green paper’ less than half felt that they took a proper break over their working day.

I must say I echo that emotion, as it were – my lunchtime used to be a meal at the pub and a long chat with colleagues. Nowadays it’s a limp sandwich, a few desultory lettuce leaves if I’m lucky and a look through the sea of emails that have arrived over the last few hours.

Image Credit
As well as encouraging people to take better (that is, proper!) breaks the ‘green paper’ also reveals PG Tips’ review of the power of green as a colour – the positive impact it can have on our well-being: a kind of ‘eco-therapy’ as it were. We all know the benefit of a brisk walk through a park or woodland but one thing the study has also revealed is that simply being around green helps. If an office is painted green then it creates feelings of energy and invigoration simply by association.

So, a monkey floating down the river Thames does, in fact, have a number of messages for the general population. Most important, of course, is this – take care of yourself! Have a break and have a cuppa to go with it. I would add some advice of my own. Find a secret place where you can enjoy your cup of tea (green, of course!) so that no-one can bother you. If it has to be a broom cupboard, so be it… You can always imagine you’re floating down the Thames watching the world go by as you sip the refreshing brew.

Check out PG Tips Green Tea here.
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15 May 2016

Jellyfish Lake

Over at our sibling site all about the wonders of nature, Ark in Space, there is an article about one of the stranger places on earth – Jellyfish Lake. Every day millions of golden jellyfish migrate – no big surprise there you might say.  However, you might not expect them to migrate horizontally across a lake.  Still, a visit to Jellyfish Lake on Eil Malk, an island in Palau, in the Pacific Ocean, will confirm just that.  Yet just how on earth did these jellyfish get to the lake in the first place?

So, if you are not too squeamish, why not head over to Ark in Space and take a look at this weird quirk of Mother Nature?

Image Credit Flickr User Tobze
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The Babson Boulders of Dogtown

Roger Babson had a problem. His family thought he was crazy or felonious or both.  He had started to carve mottoes in to the boulders which lay in the fields near the long abandoned settlement of Dogtown close to his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Babson was later to write in his autobiography: My family says that I am defacing the boulders and disgracing the family with these inscriptions, but the work gives me a lot of satisfaction, fresh air, exercise and sunshine. I am really trying to write a simple book with words carved in stone instead of printed paper. Besides, when on Dogtown common, I revert to a boyhood which I once enjoyed when driving cows there many years ago.

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Singapore, You Will After You Watch This


You had better sit back and strap in because I doubt you have seen Singapore like this before.  Photographer, Time Lapse, Hyperlapse and HyperZoom™ specialist Geoff Tompkinson has created this visually dazzling and dizzying flight around the island city-state off southern Malaysia.

You will no doubt wonder how Mr Tompkinson did this (it’s amazing) and you know something? I’m not going to tell you.  OK, that’s just because I have no idea..!  Watch and wonder…
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Ain't No Fish


If you are a hungry arctic seal then these days you have to sing for your supper – but even then you may not have much luck.  As the background reveals, there ain’t no fish for a number of very good reasons.  Directed by Tom Gasek and Miki Cash this will get your toes tapping along while an eerie sense of dread about the future of our planet overtakes you. Fishfingers for lunch, anyone? Didn't think so...

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Darth by Darthwest


If you have woken up this morning with an almost compulsive need to watch a George Lucas Alfred Hitchcock mashup then look no further.  Director, screenwriter, operator and editor Fabrice Mathieu has come up with this North by Northwest and Star Wars mashup which re-imagines the famous scene where Cary Grant gets fired on by a crop-duster – except it’s not a crop-duster anymore.  Enjoy!

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