31 December 2015

Unexpectedly Funny Things to do with Hamsters When You're Bored

The Ark in Space veers off its usual scientific agenda today by showing us some things to do with hamsters when you're bored. It sounds quite possibly a little scary for the hamsters involved (the one above certainly has a slightly worried look on his face!) but is actually a rather amusing post about a very sweet looking creature.  Plus there are plenty of interesting facts about the little tykes too!

Image by kind permission of Flickr User pyza*

Rocketship


A young boy befriends an old man, much to his parents’ consternation.  However, the boy and the old man have a bond – a fascination with space travel. Together, they transform a vintage vacuum cleaner into a rocketship for a surprising journey. This heartwarming short film was written and directed by Alfred Thomas Catalfo and was   inspired by the rocketship sculptures of artist David Random. This may leave you with a lump in your throat…

30 December 2015

Can You Match the Minor Character to the 2015 Blockbuster Movie?

You may be a movie buff but how closely were you watching? Match the minor character to the correct movie and find out. 

Even if you haven't seen all the films you could probably make a few educated guesses... Good luck!

29 December 2015

Metroid: The Sky Calls


Ever wondered why Metroid has never been made in to a live action movie? It didn’t occupy too much of my time either, but having watched The Sky Calls by Rainfall it certainly does beg the question.

If you are a fan of the series of science fiction action-adventure video games by Nintendo my guess is that you are going to love this.  This non-profit film is not associated with or endorsed by Nintendo or its subsidiaries but it takes the adventures of Samus Aran in to a whole new dimension.

Hollywood Nights Time-Lapse


Welcome to Hollywood - from the Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip and the Hollywood Hills not to mention the Hollywood Tower, this time-lapse by iVideoMaking has the lot.  You may think that this was all filmed in one hectic evening but even these masters of time-lapse couldn’t quite manage that – all told this took approximately 60 nights to capture.  The result is, however, amazing.

20 December 2015

The Online World Quiz: How Much do You Know about the Internet?


The Scottish Fold – The Owl Cat

The Scottish Fold is something of a special breed of cat.  Seeing one for the first time you are drawn to its round facial features and, in the back of your mind, a thought nags you that something seems to be missing. Then you realize – it’s all about the ears.  Our sibling site, the Ark in Space, has the story of this owl cat extraordinaire with, as you might expect, lots of fantastic photos.

Image Credit

Glass Half


Two amateur art critics meet in a gallery and argue passionately about the pieces they see, until finally they find a piece on which they can agree... All of the visuals of the film have been realized using free/open source software, the film itself and all the assets that make up for the film are being released open and free as Creative Commons CC-BY. Glass Half was directed by BeornLeonard.

The 25 Best Films of 2015 – A Video Countdown


Ever felt like you’ve missed out? You will after you have watched this list if, like me, you have only seen a handful of the amazing movies this list contains. It was created by Rolling Stone Staff Writer David Ehrlich. However, just as entertaining is the intro to the list which includes a lot more films that I did manage to catch as the year went on. Time to put those gift vouchers to good use!

The Armillary Sphere: The Marriage of Science and Art

You may have seen an armillary sphere before. At its heart there is something recognizable – the Earth. Around it is a bewildering array of rings, centered on our planet. All have distinct scientific functions yet the armillary sphere is also a profoundly beautiful object: art and science married in harmony.

Image Credit Flickr User ElDave
Although the armillary sphere was superseded (technologically speaking at least) in the seventeenth century by the European telescope, surviving examples remain objects of fascination and wonder. The first question, of course, is what does it do? The second is invariably who invented it?

Drink Along with Martin - Animated Christmas Card


I knew I would have to acknowledge the coming of Christmas at some point so it is with some relief that I can do so by sharing with you this wonderful animated Christmas card which popped in to my inbox a short time ago. It is from London based animation production studio Trunk and it celebrates the most important aspect of Christmas to any self-respecting Brit – drinking.

Created by Layla Atkinson, this awesome animation features Martin who I am guessing is a rabbit (with an English accent no doubt). He likes to drink, but not just alcohol – anything that can pass between his leporine lips does so. Plus it comes with a soundtrack by the gone but fondly remembered Bow Wow Wow. Altogether this makes for one of the more unusual Christmas cards I have received this year -so thank you to Layla and all the folks at Trunk. Enjoy – and remember to drink sensibly: the contents of a potty does not qualify.

19 December 2015

How Not to Tell Your Kid the Truth about Santa


There comes a time when every parent has to get ready for The Talk.  You know the one, about a certain elderly gentleman who visits about this time every year and leaves surprises under the tree?  However, perhaps it’s best left to the mother’s after all: this dad’s effort goes so horribly wrong you may even squirm a little in between the laughs.  The Talk was directed by Joe Otting and stars John Hoogenakker and Isabella Crovetti-Cramp.

Eratosthenes and the Circumference of the Earth


About two and a half thousand years ago, Eratosthenes (try saying that with half a mince pie in your mouth) managed to estimate the circumference of the Earth with only a 2% margin of error.  That’s pretty good and although he didn’t do it sat at home with a pipe (or whatever they might have smoked then) it didn’t take an epic voyage to do it. In fact it was done with maths.  Rogue Robot tells the tale.

More Stuff!


Want to know the true definition of Christmas?  Why, more stuff of course!  This joyous animation by Blue Zoo, a multi BAFTA award winning animation studio in central London takes us to Santa’s Sweatshop where the elves are just about to revolt in the most amusing way.  I’ve heard of people taking off their clothes for peace but never to dissuade people from being too greedy at Christmas. Nice.

13 December 2015

Hierve el Agua - Mexico’s Freeze Frame Falls

As you approach Hierve el Agua you would be forgiven for thinking that you are about to witness close up one of nature’s magnificent sites – that of a large, full flowing waterfall. However, closer inspection would reveal to you that what you thought was water cascading down the side of a hill is something else entirely.

Very much of the beaten track and little visited the waterfall is in fact a natural formation of rock. In Spanish the name means the water boils but it looks more as if it has been frozen – perhaps there was some irony on the lips of the person who gave the place its name. Later, however, we will discover the reason for the name.

Retrofit


Retrofit is set in the near future when death is simply a new beginning; for those who can afford it. Dylan, driven by his need for reconciliation, brings his father back from the dead, and houses him in a shabby utility robot 'acquired’ from the black market. Having proceeded without his father's consent, the two must come to terms with their situations. The film was produced with the collaboration of various visual effects artists primarily focused in the UK.

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Rome, You Will after Watching This


Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions and the city of yearning.  So said Italian painter and architect Giotto di Bondone (who was from Naples so it’s unbiased!).

Yet sometimes it takes those from even further afield to truly capture the spirit of a city.

In this short, Febian Nurrahman Saktinegara, and Galih Mulya Nugraha of Embara Films, both 6,000 miles from their native Philippines, beautifully encapsulate the eternal city, Roma Eterna, in just under three minutes.

The Ventriloquist starring Kevin Spacey


How are you supposed to compete with your best friend when he’s a dummy? That’s the challenge faced by Kevin Spacey’s shy ventriloquist here.  Yet there are times in our lives when we have to learn to live without something – or someone.

Written and directed by Kevin Leavitt, this short was the Jameson First Shot winning film for the USA.

The Looking Planet


Lufo and his family, part of the Cosmos Corps of Engineers, are consigned to planet construction in, frankly, the armpit of the galaxy.  As no one is going to look, Lufo decides to escape the mundanity of his 14 billion year existence and express his creativity instead.  What he does next has consequence, certainly for us… This enigmatic and beguiling short was written, produced and directed by Eric Law Anderson.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Image Credits

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

18 October 2015

File Compression Definition


What is file compression? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Here we define what file compression is and take an introductory look in to algorithms and indexes, the two elements which make up the essence of file compressing, otherwise known as zipping.

This video was created for students and teachers doing the BTEC L2 Diploma in Information and Creative Technology, specifically Unit 1 - The Online World.  As I teach this in the real world I thought I would include it on Kuriositas!

Bhangarh – India’s Haunted City

It has lain abandoned for the best part of 400 years and is said to be the most haunted place in India. Situated between the cities of Delhi and Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan the true reason for its abandonment has been lost to history, though there are several legends surrounding its fate. Even today no-one is allowed to enter the ghost city of Bhangarh after twilight – it is said that if they do they will never return.

Within the grounds there are still majestic temples to major Hindu deities: Shiva, Lavina Devi and Gopinath are represented among others but the throngs of worshipers who clamoured for entrance to the temple are long gone. The town was first built in the reign of Bhagwant Das, a powerful maharaja, in 1573. It is said that a local guru was asked for permission to build the city.

Cropped


If you are going to conduct guided tours around an area infamous for crop circles then it’s probably best, for your clients’ sake, to drop the cynicism. Not so Barbara, however, who treats the latest minibus of UFO tourists as a cash cow to be treated with the utmost sarcasm. Her tune, however, may have to change when – as darkness approaches – the engine of the minibus mysteriously fail.

The truth is out there and it’s about to show itself...

This entertaining short was directed by Chris Thomas  and written by Allan Macleod.

Driving


If you have ever driven through a large city then you then this short by director and animator Nate Theis will probably resonate with you.  It shows the inexorable journey from simple, straightforward rage to homicidal frenzy experienced by drivers every day as they try to navigate their way home while trying the avoid the red lights. This will probably not increase your desire to get behind the driving seat again one little bit!

Medicine - A Dance Film


Dancer and choreographer  Zack Benitez approached creative agency Carlos et Marcos with the idea of telling a story through dance. It is a love story tangled in addiction. It tells of a lover struggling with her partner’s disease and the person he once was, only to succumb to his demons and dive head first into his addiction. Tamara Marthe joined Benitez to tell this powerful story, shot in an abandoned warehouse in Paris.

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


Architectural modelmaker Lasse Henning loves Norway – and you can tell that immediately from this engrossing time-lapse he created between August 2014 and October 2015 which he calls The Moods of Norway. The locations vary from Rjukan and Gaustadtoppen in the south to the Lofoten and Senja islands in the north.  If you have never wanted to visit Norway, surely after watching this you will have changed your mind?
Amung Feedjit
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