29 November 2015

The Crabs that Build Their Own Galaxy

The Ark in Space has returned with a look at the crabs of Malaysia and Australia which create their own galaxies. Well, not quite of course, but you can see how it might look like that.  Although the post on these wonderful formations does not mention whether or not these crabs are an advanced alien society trying to get back home before we blow up the planet, we suspect that may well be the case!

Image Credit Flickr User scjody
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Lost property

Oh gosh. Get your hanky out.  Now. Are you one of those people who is forever losing things?  Then you will have every sympathy for this little old lady who seems to mislay virtually everything at one point or another.  Fortunately, there is a lost property office where she can at least attempt to recover her lost possessions – not to mention a sympathetic concierge.  Written and directed by Åsa Lucander, this animated short is simply lovely.

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Apollo: A Tribute

This short film is a tribute to the NASA Apollo Program space missions which successfully landed 12 men on the Moon. It was created entirely from still images from the Project Apollo Archive, which has bought together scans of all the original unprocessed images taken by the crews of the Apollo 10 to 17 space missions.

Created by Chris Coupland, the elements that make up each image were separated with Adobe Photoshop and then animated within After Effects to create movement and parallax between the layers in the image. Effects and textures have been added to create a sense of action and transition between the scenes.

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28 November 2015

Eternal Flame Falls

At the base of a waterfall deep in the forests of the state of New York an eternal flame burns. A small grotto between the layers of shale protects this everlasting fire. Although it glows brightly throughout the year it radiates light and warmth more on Midsummer’s Night than on any other time on the calendar. Then, it is said that the fair folk…

The Trial of Barnaby Finch

To swat or not to swat? That is the question posed to eager interviewee, Barnaby Finch in this fast-paced, metaphysical short film featured on The Sundance Channel and winner of Best Writer from The One Show.  The Trial of Barnaby Finch was written by Sorrel Bara and directed by the writer and Sam Stephens.  This perhaps might not be the best short film to watch if you have a job interview in the near future… or maybe it is.

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Master of Suspense: A New Hitchcock Movie

Perhaps this was only a matter of time.  However, director, screenwriter, operator and editor Fabrice Mathieu has done it with great panache.  Alfred Hitchcock was renowned for appearing slyly in his own movies and here Mathieu has stitched Hitch’s appearances from 30 films and trailers and made them in to a murder mystery which tells its own tale.  Add a new sound design, mixed with eerie tones of the music of Bernard Herrmann and you get this. Joy.

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The Test of Time

When Time and Space enter the ring for the title of ‘Fourth Dimension’ who can say who is going to win?  This very entertaining animated extended metaphor (I think) is cleverly scripted and put together – not sure if I got all the references but I think I did!

The Test of Time was the graduation thesis film for Ringling College of Art and Design student Michael Ropple.

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16 November 2015

Aimer: Paris, We Love You

Paris holds a special place in my heart – I’m sure the same can be said for millions of people the world over.  A group of animation students and alumni at the Savannah College of Art and Design wanted to say something simple but unambiguous after the events of the last few days. They came up with this – and it’s just lovely.

They also point out that this piece is not meant to exclude other nations that have been struck by terror; it is meant to serve as an inspiration for others to fight hatred through love and poetry. Well said.

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6 November 2015

Historical Figures Who Used the Lottery to Their Advantage

The dream of winning the lottery is not a modern concept by any means. Throughout the ages, people and nations have used lotteries for financial and political gains. It may be odd to think about, but without lottery, our world would be a very different place indeed.

Ancient Roman Lotteries: The Good, the Bad, and the Unlucky 
All roads lead to Rome and some of those roads were paved with lottery revenue. Augustus Caesar, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, is the first Roman emperor who created a modern-style lottery with tickets and prizes. Unlike lotteries of today, the prizes were not money, but physical items of differing values. Augustus Caesar used the profits from the games for repairs which the City of Rome desperately needed. It's been more than two millennia since Augustus Caesar's reign, yet governments are still using lottery funds for civic projects like road repairs.

Augustus Caesar wasn't the only emperor who found a use for public lotteries. Elagabalus (pictured above), who reigned from 218 to 222 AD, took a peculiar and revolting pleasure in the games. At first, the boy emperor held lotteries which endeared his people to him – giving them opportunities to win prizes like slaves and land. Soon, however, his darker sensibilities and passions took over and he forced people to participate in public lotteries in which lottery tickets would be released by a catapult into the frenzied crowd. Live snakes would be released alongside the tickets and most of the prizes weren't such a prize at all: Romans could win wasps and bees, dead animals, and death sentences. It's hardly surprising that Elagabalus was assassinated just four years into his reign at the ripe old age of 18.

Voltaire and the Philosophy of Winning
Without the lottery, university philosophy and literature curricula might look completely different. A young Voltaire attended a dinner party where he met renowned mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine. The two worldly men hit it off and de La Condamine told Voltaire of a plan he came up with that would make them both rich beyond their wildest dreams. Voltaire was not doing well financially at this point in his life, so he decided to follow the brilliant mathematician all the way to the bank.

So what did the plan entail? The government of France had set up a lottery to encourage people to buy bonds. Each bond owner could purchase a lottery ticket which cost 1/1000th of the value of the bond. Winners would get a jackpot of 500,000 livres, an insane amount of money for the time. Because the French government failed at maths, the jackpot was not dependent on the price of the bond. So de La Condamine decided to buy up all the cheaper bonds. Thus, he was able to buy most of the available lottery tickets at a cheaper price, greatly increasing his odds of winnings.

De La Condamine, Voltaire, and a group of wealthy patrons formed a lottery syndicate and split the prize money. The government caught onto their scheme after a year of nonstop winning and took them to court. However, nothing they did was technically illegal and they were allowed to keep the money. With his newfound wealth, Voltaire was able to spend the rest of his life writing and philosophising.

Lottery syndicates are still very popular to this day, though you don't need to attend fancy dinner parties in order to join. Now people can join lottery syndicates from anywhere with online ticket purchasing services like theLotter.

Casanova: For the Love of Lottery
Casanova may be synonymous with great lovers, but he was definitely not loved by all during his lifetime. He was sentenced to five years in prison in Venice for crimes against the Church, to be served at the Doge's Palace – known to be inescapable. So, of course, he escaped.

Casanova fled to Paris where he met up with an old friend, François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, who was serving as France's foreign minister. He advised Casanova to gain favour with King Louis XV by raising funds for the government. Casanova went to the King and recommended the government start a lottery. The venture was an instant success and Casanova became its trustee. But because Casanova was Casanova, he soon ran afoul of the local authorities and had to flee to the Holy Roman Empire (modern-day Germany) where he lost his entire fortune.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Fortune
The Founding Fathers of the United States loved using the lottery to their advantage. From George Washington to Ben Franklin, everyone was setting up lotteries in the name of freedom and funding. Franklin bought a cannon for the protection of Philadelphia with lottery revenue; Washington tried and failed to fund his resort plans through the Mountain Road Lottery; and the Continental Congress established lotteries to help pay for the Revolutionary War effort in 1776.

But no founding father loved the lottery more than Thomas Jefferson, who set up a lottery to pay off his debts later in life. Trying to persuade the Virginia legislature to allow his private lottery to go forward, he wrote: "Far from being immoral, they are indispensable to the existence of Man." Lottery is now king in the US, where half-billion dollar jackpots are not unheard of, and revenue funds education and other social programs.

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31 October 2015

Hey! A Dog isn't just for Christmas - it's for Halloween Too!

Over at the Ark in Space they are getting in to the Halloween mood too. It seems (and quite rightly so) that a dog isn't just for Christmas - it's for Halloween too.

So, they have brought together a very funny compilation of pictures of lots of dogs dressed up in Halloween costumes.  Now, before people jump up and say that it is people being cruel to animals, let me just say one thing.  All the dogs I have ever had (three in total over my life, which doesn't make me an expert, but!) had the opportunity to dress up over their life times.

For the most part they were quite willing because of all the additional attention it garnered them.  When, on the rare occasion, they did not like what they were going to have to wear, believe me it was off their backs before I could turn round!  Make your own minds up anyway - take a look at this cool collection of Halloween pooches.

Image Credit Flickr User istolethetv
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Dalek Pumpkin

Just because we have never seen one before. Just because the maker of this particular Halloween pumpkin really knows his Kaled anatomy (post mutation of course and tucked inside its new shell) and... just because we thought you would love it!

The carrot is an unusual eye-piece - and the whisker is just what you might expect.  Plus - what is that sticking outside? Are the Daleks tracking down Timelords through their ability to hide from the rest of the universe?

Whoever made this - we salute you!

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Houses to Avoid on Halloween - And How to Die Quickly if You Can't

You may be planning to go out this Halloween, perhaps trick or treating with friends. In case you really must, here is a short pictorial guide to the kind of houses you should really avoid this Halloween. There are a number of tell-tale signs to look out for. If you just know you're not the type to make it to the end of a slasher pic, follow our advice: stay in (not that it will help you if you believe in predestination). Otherwise you may well just become part of another urban legend, the stuff of future horror movies. Yet although your life might be over but there are a few ways to ensure your demise is as swift and as painless as possible.

27 October 2015

When is a Casino not a Casino?

The English language is, as most people who have learned it know, a strange and bewildering thing. Words which one day meant something particular, the next mean something entirely different – especially if they are acquired from other languages. Whereas today you can simply click to visit netbet online casino if we go back in history there has certainly been some confusion about the word.

Originally from the Italian, casino originally meant a house in the countryside and was not associated with places like Casino Royale in Monte Carlo, pictured above (although I would love to travel there  by train from London!).

No, it was a place your family (if wealthy enough) would go to in the summer to escape the hot city days and nights – even though it could just as easily be at the end of your garden. For those less well-off it could mean a club where social gatherings could take place. There is very little evidence to suggest that gambling took place in Italian casinos. Then along came the English language and everything changed for the word – the meaning as we know it came to pass.

While the word was acquired by English to mean a place where gambling takes place, in Italian the word didn’t stand still either – nowadays it means a place where ladies keep gentlemen company in exchange for some financial recompense – ahem! A gambling house is spelled with an accent – casinò. Blink and you might miss it, of course, but if you are a visitor to Italy and fancy a flutter then it might be important for you to know the difference!

Not only that, in some countries there are casinos which have been, variously, banqueting halls, theaters and public meeting houses. So, although there has been gambling since time immemorial, sometimes the word we most associate with it is not quite what it seems. As Shakespeare’s Juliet said “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While that may well be true I think I will err on the side of caution. Unless I happen to travel from London to Monte Carlo I think I will stick to having the occasional flutter online!

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25 October 2015

1910s America in Color

In this color photograph you can see a group of children who have dressed up to back the war effort, one proudly bearing the US flag. Is this from the Vietnam War? The Second World War?  Neither – the picture was taken about 1918 and it is the troops sent to fight in what became known as the First World War that they are supporting. This extraordinary photograph is almost a hundred years old: it is highly unlikely that even the longest lived of these children is still alive.

We often perceive the past in black and white – after all, the vast majority of photographs from the 1910s through in to the 1930s and 40s are monochrome.  Yet a color photography process called the Autochrome Lumière was patented in 1903.  It remained the foremost color process until the second half of the 1930s. The pictures you are about to see are mostly dated about 1915-18 with some earlier and a few from the 1920s.

The Unpeeled

There is one for you if, like me, you tend to allow fruit to get a little overripe instead of eating them when they are ready.  Their optimal ripeness never seems to coincide with my desire to taste their flesh but as we can see in Hillary Galvin’s entertaining short it can sometimes work the other way around.  These bananas, it seems, are not for the peeling!

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Floating Points ~ Silhouettes

Trunk’s director Junior Martínez and Pablo Barquín have created a stunning and mesmerising video for Floating Points, aka Sam Shepherd. The music in the video is taken from 'Silhouettes (I, II & III)', an eleven-minute overture that is also the second track on Floating Point’s forthcoming debut album. It was shot in the vast Rio Tinto copper mine, using an incredible light rig to create amazing 3D light paintings.

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The Pigeon, the Antenna and Me: Robert Wilson

There are always pigeons willing to get in the way… Radio-astronomer Robert Wilson recalls a pair of pigeons who almost thwarted the discovery of cosmic background radiation. Wilson’s discovery, “the echo of the big bang”, earned him a share of the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics. This little slice of avian (not to mention scientific) history was Illustrated and animated by Dog & Rabbit's Joanna Boyle with sound by Nigel Manington.

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Ben Steel as Shakespeare’s Juliet

You might not automatically relate cast members of the long-running Australian soap opera Home and Away with Shakespeare but here Ben Steel, who played Jude Lawson gives the role of Juliet a damn good shot.  Eyebrows raised? In the bard’s day Juliet would have been played by a young man, despite what you saw in Shakespeare in Love. This short, directed by Sally McLean, gives an old speech a thoroughly fresh and modern take.

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