27 August 2016

A Gallery of European Synagogues Throughout the Centuries


Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot) recently commissioned Arik Boas Animation to create a series of snapshots of life in and around European synagogues throughout the centuries.

It is part of its new exhibition - Hallelujah! Assemble, Pray, Study – Synagogues Past and Present. The result is something rather special. We start with the Ashkenazi Synagogue of Venice, in the 16th century. Religious instruction for children takes place inside, alongside a wedding ceremony in the piazza.


It’s time to fast-forward to Amsterdam in the seventeenth century.  We witness the city’s Portuguese Synagogue, passing through Torah study in the back room, into a spirited community discussion at the main hall.


Next, this gallery piece shows the Vilnius Great Synagogue Courtyard (Schulhof) in the nineteenth century, with the rabbinical court ending a pillory punishment and a soup kitchen‫.‬


Finally we arrive at a cantorial concert taking place in The Great Synagogue (Tlomackie) in the Polish capital Warsaw in the early twentieth century.  I don’t know if there are more pieces in this wonderful collection but will add them if and when I discover there are.  This last animation is I think my favorite with its fiddler completely off the roof.

Did you spot the time-traveling cat which made an appearance in each of the animations? No?  Perhaps you had better check through them again!

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24 August 2016

Selfie Cat


Let’s combine the internet’s two main obsessions, cats and selfies.  This animated short features a cat lover who is in a competition for the most likes of a selfie with her moggy.  Unfortunately her rival is getting lots more likes so she has to make sure she gets the selfie of the century with her rather reluctant cat.  Chaos obviously ensues in this enjoyable animated short by a group of talented ArtFx students.

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A Bird’s Flight over Romania


I imagine you’ve always wanted to soar over Romania (specifically) like a bird so now here is your opportunity.  Take flight (courtesy of GRTA Studio and its DJI Phantom 3 4K.  My second favorite part of this video is where the fisherman looks up from his boat as the drone passes overhead. The best part?  The awesomeness that is the wibbly wobbly Transalpina road, the first time I have seen it like this. Fantastic.
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Mars Globe: How to Make Your Favorite Nerd Happy this Christmas


What exactly do you get the nerd who already has everything? That’s definitely something to start thinking about now for Christmas and this amazing globe of the planet Mars by Planetenkugel-Manufaktur (the website is thankfully simply marsglobes.com) may well do the trick.  It is based on the famous map of Mars by astronomer Percival Lowell (1905). This lovely film gives a glimpse into the world of Dr Michael M Plichta, the Mars globemaker.

He also gives an insight in to the process of making a Mars globe and like any expert makes it look very easy.  I can’t even put up wallpaper without making a complete mess of it so I can assure you that when he says it needs a lot of training he isn’t exaggerating.

As an aside, I wonder just how many people in the world have globemaker as their profession on their passport.

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22 August 2016

Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses

Nine miles outside the small northern Lithuanian city of Siauliai, the countryside is suddenly interrupted by something quite astonishing.  Thousands upon thousands of crosses have been placed upon this low rise of land.

As well as symbolizing the deep Christian devotion of many Lithuanians they are also a testament to the Baltic nation’s struggle against oppression.

It is thought that crosses first began to appear at this spot in the thirteenth century, shortly after the city was founded.  Since then there have been varying numbers of crosses at the site.  It was in the 1831 uprising against Russia that the Hill of Crosses became political as well as purely religious.  Crosses were placed here to commemorate the dead and missing rebels of this period and by the beginning of the twentieth century there were 150 crosses. By 1940 there were 400. Today there are over 100,000.

20 August 2016

Please Help Keep Kurositas 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. There is also a Support Kuriositas button right at the top right hand corner of the site.

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

PS: The donation page is set to US dollars as that is where we get most of our traffic from. So, if you are outside the USA please remember to calculate the amount from your currency first!

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The Eiffel Tower: Different Perspectives

It is one of the most well-known buildings in the world. It is, possibly for that reason, easy to take it for granted when seen from afar. After all, by 2010 over 250 million people had visited it. Yet up close it reveals another side to its character.  When seen from different perspectives, the Eiffel Tower regains the power to astonish.

The Irony of Viruses


About 8 percent of our DNA is made up of viruses known as Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs). Over millions of years, these viruses have embedded themselves in our genome and now play an integral role in the functioning of our immune system.

In this short video, The Atlantic’s science writer Ed Yong explains how the very things that once made us sick now keeps us healthy.
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Captain Spaceman – The Lost Episode


If you remember the 1980s then you may well remember the pilot episode for a science fiction series that never was.  Captain Spaceman shone brightly for a single episode but was never, ever shown again.  It seems that it was considered not quite appropriate for its target audience.

Yet so many people fell in love with the eponymous lead character and his trusty sidekicks Ecang and T.3D that this first episode was forever seared in to their memories, despite the refusal of any channel to ever, ever broadcast it again.

Now, thanks to a little serendipity, the lost episode has been discovered on an old VHS tape, hidden away in a box in an attic in a house in a street for decades.  So, sit back and enjoy an unashamed nostalgia fest as you can final relive your childhood with Captain Spaceman – the lost episode, written and directed by sci-fi visionary Dontae Carter.

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SYN·CHRO·NIC·I·TY


If you are a twin then you will probably enjoy the performance of Allie and Lexi Kaplan in this piece written and directed by Ace Norton (if you're not you will too, I'm sure!).  Ostensibly, it’s all about synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.   Yet, this being twins it’s mostly about “to cause, occur or operate at the same time or rate”.  Either way this is a very visually stimulating piece with lots of food for thought.  Two things at the same time…

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19 August 2016

On Being Hated


Have you ever encountered someone who, simply put, hates you – but for no apparent reason or certainly not one that you can divine yourself?  It’s often quite a shock and the person at the receiving end of it can often run a gamut of emotions as they try to logic out why their new enemy feels such hatred towards them.

Directed, animated and designed by Luiz Stockler and written and narrated by Alain de Botton, On Being Hated shows us that learning to cope about this kind of hatred, without panic, belongs at the core of wisdom.

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Copehill Down – Sleepy English Village with a Difference

Copehill Down is situated on Salisbury Plain in the English county of Wiltshire.  Built on the windswept chalk plateau it looks, at a cursory glance, a peaceful and welcoming place. Stonehenge is just a short drive away and the area around it is rich with history. Yet look again and you get the feeling that something isn’t quite right. Where are the people? And the houses – the architecture doesn’t look quite as English as perhaps it should.

Copehill Down is a sleepy English village with a difference.  No one lives there. No children play in the neat gardens around the houses. No worshipers go to mass on a Sunday at Saint Jude’s church. The village is a mock-up or, more accurately, a FIBUA – an acronym standing for Fighting in Built Up Areas.  The pictures you will see here are closer than most people will ever get to the village as civilian access to Copehill Down is generally restricted.

18 August 2016

First Footprints


Imagine what it must have been like to be the first person to set foot on a new continent.  You may not have realized that was quite what you were doing, but the sense of complete isolation from the rest of humanity must have been as exhilarating as it was frightening.

Documentary maker Murray Fredericks has created this amazing footage of the outback of Australia.  The remarkable time-lapse sequences are from the documentary Series First Footprints.  The scenery is breath-taking and the way that this has been shot adds to the mystery of those early Australians and the beauty of the art that they left behind.


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Is This The Best Falling Dominoes Video Ever?


I doubt you will be able to take your eyes off this.  As a music video, this accompanies Tuna Melt by A-Trak & Tommy Trash.  Yet I think that it is destined to be remembered as much (if not more) for the sight of thousand upon thousand of dominoes falling than the music (sorry chaps!).  The dominoes in question are not all, strictly speaking, dominoes (loved the pieces of toast in the kitchen) yet they fulfill their primary non game-playing function perfectly - the fall over really well.

The dominoes were set by the Kinetic King (aka Tim Fort), the video produced by Pier Pictures and Pomp&Clout.  The whole thing was directed by Trunk Animation's Ryan Staake.  Little wonder that this is up for an MTV Video Music Award.
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High Tide


It isn’t often that I am utterly charmed by an animated short, but High Tide is truly an exceptional, heart-warming and just lovely piece of work.  A young girl, on a school trip to the seaside, finds herself in the company of the merboy.  That is, ladies and gentlemen, pretty much it (and therein lies the beauty of it) but there is a twist in the tail (did you see what I did there?) so keep watching this right to the end!

High Tide was created by the very talented Kristin Kemper as part of her studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
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Space Shuttle Concept Art of the 1960s and 1970s

The idea of a spacecraft returning from space to a horizontal landing had been around for decades before the first operational space shuttle flight in 1982. A proposal had been submitted to NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA’s predecessor) in 1954, just eight years after the Second World War. That proposal would ultimately become the X-15 aircraft but classified studies in to the next generation of space transportation systems continued.

An important part of these studies was the production of concept art which could help senior military and political figures (as well as, later, the general public) to visualize the potential shape of things to come. Some of the concept art is remarkably prescient while others are more than a little off the mark. Now historical documents, the drawings for the space shuttle, created before the age of computer aided design, offer a fascinating insight in to how things may have been – as well as how they actually turned out.

17 August 2016

Fan.tasia - The Ultimate Disney Mashup


We all like a bit of Disney, don’t we? No? Tough, really, as I do!  This mashup by Lindsay McCutcheon is extraordinarily well done and if you’re as much of a fan of Disney animations as I am then you will see any number of your old favorites in here.

This is very clever work and must have taken an age to do – but is probably the best advert for Disney I’ve ever seen.
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Stone Cold Catwalk


She’s got perfect bone structure, skin, and beautiful eyes… But some deadly problems, that keep slithering out most insissssstently. Can she get through the audition, or will she leave them stone cold? The Ministry of Stories is a creative writing and mentoring centre for children in East London.

Stone Cold Catwalk is a short film for The Ministry of Stories 'Monster Monologues' project where they invited students in Hackney (aged 13-18) to write comic monologues for monsters, telling their side of the story. It was written by Hope, Alex and Zuhri (aged 13-18) and directed by Matt McDermott.

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Pygmalion from America's Got Talent


Am I a snob? I think I must be as I was surprised to find that this outstanding performance by Arielle Libertore and Derek Tabada, created by Sila Sveta found its way on to a recent broadcast of America’s Got Talent.  It’s certainly of a higher brow than one has come to expect from this show but perhaps I should take not judge a book by its cover all the time in the future! If you like multimedia performances I would say it’s odds on you will love this…

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Big Wigs, Huge Dresses and Bavaria Beer


Once upon a time in a small Dutch town called Lieshout there lived a family called the Swinkels.  One day in 1719 they made some beer and the family haven’t stopped making it since. It does sound like something out of Hans Christian Anderson tale; perhaps they were enchanted by a thirsty fairy. Whatever the case, Dutch brewer Bavaria is gearing up to celebrate three centuries of brewing.


Although a lot has changed over time one thing perseveres – the brewery is still in the hands of the family.  In fact it is now the seventh generation of Swinkels which runs the global independent company – and there aren’t that many families who can list that as one of their achievements!

In fact the family also brew their beer in the same place using the same mineral water source as they did way back in 1719.  This is something which they feel quite rightly needs to be celebrated.  As such, these videos are their rather tongue in cheek slap on the back to themselves and something to put a smile on the faces of their loyal customers, old and new.


The gist is that although 300 years of brewing excellence is something that should definitely be at the cutting edge of contemporary fashion perhaps some of the clothing styles of the past are best left where they are.

Take a look at these very funny videos and see if you agree!

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