15 September 2018

The Sphinx Observatory – Science at the Top of the World

It may look like the hideaway of a super villain from a Bond movie but this is the Sphinx Observatory, dedicated to research which must take place out at an altitude of 3000-3500 meters.

It is situated in Jungfraujoch, Switzerland. At an astonishing 3.571 meters above sea level, the Sphinx observatory in the Swiss Alps is the highest-altitude built structure in Europe.

12 September 2018

London’s Super Sewer


Many people say that Londoners are full of it.  This may or may not be true but there is one certainty – when they let it go (as it were) it has to go somewhere.  In Victorian days the smell from the river became so pungent that our Members of Parliament couldn’t stand the stench (one might, perhaps, argue there was a little yin-yang going on there).

It was time for change then and it's time for change now. The folks at Thames Tideway have just released the video above.  In it, real Londoners talk about the new ‘super sewer’ that is being built below the streets of England’s capital city.  It is costing a huge £4.2 billion from the start of the project in 2014 to its end in 2023. That's quite a while.  Yet Rome was not built in a day, as they say, and – for sure – a city the size of London needs serious stuff going on underneath in order for day to day life to carry on pong-free up top.

This is, then, a huge feat of engineering which is needed because although the Victorians solved the problem back in the 1850s, times and populations change.  Where we think they may have solved the problem permanently, there are still huge issues. Even now, the Thames still needs clearing up and raw sewage is going in to river at (what you might think is) an alarming rate (and you would be right).  Each year 8 billion toilet flushes go straight in to the Thames.

Big issues lead to big solutions. The project is vast – anything that takes almost a decade will be by sheer definition.  Yet we can all get our heads around the whole thing with some interesting visuals and a narration to accompany them by contemporary denizens of Hackney, Southwark and the Southbank.

So if you live in London and have noticed building sites pooping, sorry, popping up along the river without any tall buildings to accompany them, then you can probably assume that the real work is going on underground.  Thames Tideway (perhaps should be Tide-away) are going to make sure, with this massive investment, that The Great Stink of 1858 does not get a sequel in the twenty first century.  Sequels are never as good as the original, anyway, but in this case it’s one we really don’t want at any cost...

Take a look at the video above.  The scale is epic but it reflects a vision for a city which will be with us in five years.

9 September 2018

Money Does Grow on Trees


Did your mother ever chastise you with the words money doesn’t grow on trees in a possibly fruitless attempt to curb your profligate ways? Well, maybe – just maybe – she was wrong.

The Spiders That Decorate Their Own Webs

Spider webs – possibly the most beautiful and intricate animal structures of the natural world. However, some spiders are not content with a simple web. They go one step further.  They decorate their own webs and today they are featured on the Ark in Space.

These stabilimenta were the source of inspiration for EB White, who was struggling to come up with ideas for his second novel.  One day he noticed the additional decorations on the web of a Banded Garden Spider.  It was from this natural inspiration that he would come up with the idea of a writing spider and would go on to write one of the world’s most cherished children’s books, Charlotte’s Web.   Pop over to the Ark in Space for the full story of the spiders that decorate their own webs together with some amazing pictures.

8 September 2018

As Told by Teachers - a Free Short Story Anthology Written by English Teachers

I had the great pleasure, this summer, to curate an anthology of short stories written by English teachers throughout the UK.  The aim of the anthology was to present a collection of stories aimed at students working towards their GCSE English Language exam – that is the gold standard of first language general education in England and a qualification which is attempted by most of the population, either at 16 years of age or beyond.
You might wonder why teachers would bother participating in such a project – 43 altogether – when there are so many short stories already available.  Why new ones?  Authors from across the centuries had helped in my teaching delivery – Dickens, Chopin, Dahl, Gaiman, Mansfield and others – but all had something in common with me.  It was entirely unlikely that they had written their stories while keeping in mind assessment objectives and skills descriptors against which they would be judged. 

So the stories in this anthology directly and explicitly relate to the skills that the students of GCSE English have to present in their creative writing piece in the exam.  I knew I would be able to write a few myself but went on to a Facebook page I help run, GCSE English Language, to ask for some assistance.  I was overwhelmed by the response.

Over the course of July and August 2018 I received 50 short stories, all based on the example questions I had created for the anthology.  There were only 12 choices so a number of participants engaged with each example question.  The result was a lovely collection of short stories which I hope will engage students of GCSE English Language for many years to come.  There is, I think, something for everybody in this anthology.
There are stories set in the future, some set in the past.  Others deal with highly sensitive subjects in compassionate ways while others are simply written for the joy of telling a good story.  I must say that there are some I favour over others – I’m a sucker for something that brings a tear to my eye and to do that in 800 words or less takes some doing,

If you would like to download the anthology and the teacher’s notes to accompany it, please go to the TES website.  The resource is free so although you may have to create an account (if you have Facebook you can even use that) you will not pay for anything.


Enjoy!

7 September 2018

The Average Cost of a Funeral in the UK – Time to Plan More Than the Music?


Recently a friend of mine stopped smoking, drinking, gambling, overeating and chasing women all at the same time.  It was a lovely funeral.  Joking aside, I realised recently that I hadn’t really planned my own funeral at all.  I had decided the songs to be played while people wept profusely in to their sleeves (just as likely to be snickering up them), but that was pretty much that.  As for the cost – I hadn’t given it a first let alone a second thought.  However, perhaps I should plan beyond the music: a recent survey conducted by Legal & General has shown that the price of funerals in the UK has risen sharply in the last four years.  And I hate paying too much for a party I won't be going to - if you see what I mean...

You can read the report in more depth on the Legal & General website but I’ll put a few of the more interesting (to me) facts and figures here for you to digest.  The greatest relief is that many people are like me – they haven’t really thought about it too much.  So I’m not alone in that respect but I suppose if there is one thing that unites us all it is birth and death.  The days in-between the two events are numerous but a single day can shape the rest of your life, positively or negatively and I have always thought there are about four or five of these pivotal days in anyone’s life.  So perhaps we should count the funeral as an honorary pivotal day and start thinking more about it.

£4.6K is, apparently, how much it will cost for me to be cremated (I live in Greater London) but to be buried that rises to £7.7k.  I am rather thankful I don’t live in Enfield because I don't like the place and, moreover, the cost there rises to as much as £13k. That seems a rather exorbitant price to pay for expiring in that rather grim borough!  Yet even though there are cheaper (and more pleasant, no doubt) places to die than London the price of dying will be, on average, £5,925 by 2024.  They might just as well have rounded that up to £6K and be done, frankly.

I’m disinclined to inform my family and friends that I should be given a pauper’s burial even though I have to admit the thought of that is almost attractive in a Dickensian mid-Victorian gothic novel kind of way. Perhaps what I will do, however, is take a look at how I can plan for my own funeral instead.  Although I have never been too good at forethought, when I imagine how things might be done if certain relatives are left to organise it a slight shudder courses its way down my spine.  Always look on the bright side of life is a good rule while blood is coursing through our veins.  Once that stops and I slip of this mortal coil I think I would like to know exactly how my funeral will go, including the playlist obviously but with all the other details in place too.  Time to make a plan, methinks.

2 September 2018

The Amazing Monkey Orchid

monkey orchid grinning
Nature doesn’t need an audience. These wonderful orchids come from the south-eastern Ecuadorian and Peruvian cloud forests from elevations of 1000 to 2000 meters and as such not many people throughout history got to see them. However, thanks to intrepid collectors we do get to see this wonderful Monkey Orchid. Someone didn’t need much imagination to name it though, let’s face it.

monkey orchid grinning
Its scientific name is Dracula simia, the last part nodding towards the fact that this remarkable orchid bears more than a passing resemblance to a monkey’s face – although we won’t go as far as to be species specific on this one. The Dracula (genus) part of its name refers to the strange characteristic of the two long spurs of the sepals, reminiscent of the fangs of a certain Transylvanian count of film and fiction fame.

The Spectacular Nests of the Sociable Weaver

Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has a new feature about this unremarkable looking bird species.  Not all bird species build nests.  Some, like the razorbill, lay an egg on a rocky ledge and hope for the best. Others, like the king penguin, have no access to nesting materials so keep their egg warm by squatting directly over it, covering it with their feathers.  Then there is the cuckoo, a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nest of others.

Yet most species of birds do indeed make nests and they come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most spectacular of all these is that created by a rather plain looking African bird, the sociable weaver (also known more simply as the social weaver).  Click here to take a look at this amazing nest-maker.

26 August 2018

Twenty Wonderful Words Which Shouldn’t be Allowed to Wither

There are many words these days that are rarely used – and that is a great shame as even the simple act of their enunciation can bring on a smile, such is their irrefragable brilliance.

Go on, drop a few in to your next conversation and ensure their preservation.  You are guaranteed to be the cynosure of attention and contesseration will be guaranteed.

In other words you will be the life and soul of the party and make many friends.

Nutation
This could also be known as nodding dog syndrome – and quite often it happens at work.  Do you have a colleague who – in their keenness to show that they understand and agree with you – nod their heads for so long and so consistently that you become afraid that it will fall off?  Then they are demonstrating nutation.

Agastopia
Do you like or admire a particular part of someone’s body – or for that matter that special place on bodies in general?  Then that means that you are agastopic.  Perhaps you can be relieved in one way – at least you have an alternative word to fetish at long last.

King Penguin Crèche - The Biggest Day Care Facility on the Planet

f you have children you will no doubt have experienced the heart stopping moment when you realize the little one has wandered off and you cannot see them anywhere. Whether the feeling is one of relief or panic is very much up to the child or the parent, I guess, but you might imagine, then, how the average King Penguin parent might feel when they return to feed their chick. Yet it is all part of the King Penguin’s master plan for the survival of the next generation.  The Ark in Space, our sibling site, has the story and lots of pictures of lots of king penguins.

19 August 2018

Japan – The Land of Vending Machines

Anyone who lives in a town or city is used to the sight of the odd vending machine. As a convenience they have no equal – at least when they work or have not run out of the product they are supposed to sell. Yet where most countries have vending machines for a limited range of goods the Japanese have taken it to extremes. Japan truly is the country of vending machines and some of the items you can get from them might surprise you.

Image Credit Flickr User Livvy
Who needs people to sell meat and vegetables when a machine will do just as well?  Here a variety of green things are on sale to those who wish to purchase.  To many people in the rest of the world this would seem like quite an odd idea – those who like to have a good squeeze of their veggies before buying them would have to break the glass first.

16 August 2018

Who Invented Roulette? You May Be Surprised by the Answer

Roulette has a very interesting history.  Of course, these days most people play roulette online but that has not always been the case.  So, when did the game originate and how did it develop over the years? Oh and what does the name actually mean?

We’ll start with that – you have probably guessed it’s French but in English it translates as little wheel.  So, that makes sense!  As the name is French then you won’t be surprised to learn that its country of origin is… France!  It was first developed in the 17th century but it was not originally designed with its current use in mind.

Blaise Pascal, (left, 1623 – 1662) is one of the most famous mathematicians to have lived. A child prodigy he created calculating machines while still in his teens.  But it was during his search for the secret of perpetual motion that he created what for many is the original prototype for what we now know as the roulette wheel.  Although Pascal’s model was primitive compared to the final design, which came about just over a century later, this is almost like Einstein coming up with Pokémon as a by-product of the Theory of Relativity.

Apart from a few changes (the colours for the zero and the double zero) the roulette wheel was as we know it by the 1790s but was still predominantly played in French casinos.  It was not until the 19th century that the game became truly popular in the rest of Europe, also spreading to the United States of America.  If it was a child you might call it a slow developer (as was Einstein!) but once it began to really take off its path to world domination (in the casinos at least) was swift.

The French language was spoken widely in Louisiana so it is hardly surprising that it was in the bars of New Orleans that it first became popular in the United States, spreading up the Mississippi on the steamboats of the day.  With the advent of Las Vegas in the 1940s and 50s, America became the new home of roulette.

Image Credit
Yet the American city (pictured above) and – of course – Monte Carlo were the only ‘casino towns’ of note until the 1970s.  From then, however, casinos also began to flourish elsewhere and by 2008 there were hundreds of casinos around the world offering the game (as well as much more, of course).

The rise of the internet meant that the game could also be adapted for new, online audiences.  This means that roulette is with us to stay - in either real-life or online form – for a very long time to come.

One can only wonder what Blaise Pascal, living a life of genteel poverty, would think if he knew how his original roulette prototype ended up.  I expect he would have advocated gambling sensibly unlike one London man who, in 2004, sold all of his possessions – included clothing – and placed it all on ‘red’ at a casino in Las Vegas.  Incredibly he doubled his money…

First Image Credit

27 July 2018

Seoul Timelapse – Watch the Seasons Pass


This timelapse of the South Korean capital is amazing – not only do you get the city in all its glory but you get it throughout the year.  I do not know the technique that was used for this but there is one thing I can say – it must have taken a lot of patience.  Plus I am not even going to guess at how the Oh Choong Young managed to get the cameras in the right position each time they shot a new season of the year in a particular place. Altogether it is a stunning piece of work and I am sure that the city has never looked more beautiful.

26 July 2018

The Remarkable Kindertransport Monuments of Frank Meisler

Frank Meisler (above) died in March 2018 at the age of 92. An internationally renowned architect and sculptor he enriched the world with his buildings and his works of art. Yet had others had their way his life would have been savagely curtailed in his teens.  Meisler never forgot how he escaped death, those who made the journey with him and those who made it possible. He left behind a remarkable legacy so that we might remember too.

Image Credit Wikimedia
In August 1939 Frank Meisler was a frightened 13 year old boy.  As a Jew he was no longer safe in his home town, the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk in Poland), a German enclave which had embraced Nazism.  There had been anti-Jewish riots and the city’s Great Synagogue had been taken over and demolished.  Desperate, his parents requested his evacuation from the city by the Kindertrasport (German, Children’s Transport) an organised rescue that took place just before the outbreak of the Second World War.  Frank Meisler escaped to the UK.  Seventy years later in 2009 he would return to his birthplace with his memorial dedicated to the children of the Kindertransport and those who had made their salvation possible.

24 July 2018

History of Emoticons and Emojis

Any social media user has used an emoji or an emoticon at some point. The two though used for the same purpose are different and have different origins as well. One is of English origins and the other of Japanese origins. The resemblance between the two is considered to be purely coincidental.

Emoticons
An emoticon is a facial expression that is presented using various characters. Mainly, punctuation marks, numbers and letters. They are used to express a person’s feelings, mood and expression. Emoticons can also be used as a time-saving method. This is because a few emoticons can have the same meaning as words in a sentence.

History of Emoticons
The first emoticons were introduced in 1982, by Scott Fahlam. He was a computer scientist at Carnegie University. This man is also commonly regarded as the Father of Emoticons. Despite their introduction in the 1980’s, they were first used in 1972 on the Plato IV computer system.

Emoticons became more popular as the internet became popular. As a result, they became widely used in text messages and emails including Australian online pokies. They have also played a great role in communication through technology. They give a more complete expression of feeling and tone.

Emojis
Emoji are graphic symbols that represent an idea or concept regardless of language, words or phrases. They are mainly used in social media messaging. They exist to express various emotions and feelings. Emoji can also be used to sum-up messages and make text shorter. They are like emoticons, but emoji are actual pictures and emoticons are not.

History
Emoji first appeared in Japanese mobile phones around 1999. They are pictographs. A pictograph is a picture that conveys meaning and is based on resemblance to a physical object. For instance, casino game emoji’s at online casino sa or flower emoji’s on WhatsApp.

They, however, became popular after the 2010’s when they were added to several mobile operating systems. They now play a large role in the fields of social media. Popular platforms that use emoji are Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype just to mention a few.

23 July 2018

Remember Lidice

On 2 July 1942, most of the children of Lidice, a small village in what was then Czechoslovakia, were handed over to the Łódź Gestapo office. Those 82 children were then transported to the extermination camp at Chełmno 70 kilometers away. There they were gassed to death. This remarkable sculpture by by Marie Uchytilová commemorates them. Yet what had they (and their families) done to warrant such an end?

The events leading to their death were complex but the pivotal moment had been the assassination of the Acting Reichsprotektor of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. Czechoslovakia had been occupied by Nazi Germany since the April of 1939 and Heydrich was a greatly detested figure of oppressive authority. He was attacked by a British trained team of Czech and Slovak soldiers. From the moment of his death a week later on June 4, 1942, from septicemia caused by his injuries, the whole country knew there would be reprisals. Nothing, however, could prepare them for the horror that was to come.

22 July 2018

Running Lights


This is lovely.  Two boys discover a dead animal at the side of the road on their way home and decide to bury it.  If that doesn’t sound like a promising premise then be patient and watch Running Lights created by PetPunk.  Although you may not prescribe to the particular circle of life as represented in this animated short I do believe you will find it heart-warming at the very least!  If you don’t quite get it until at least half way through then don’t worry about that either!

Love in Luoping


If you have never heard of Luoping before, you have now.  If you have never wanted to visit Luoping (probably because you have never heard of it) then after watching this you will probably want to get on a plane… right now.  Situated in China’s Yunan province, Luoping is famous for its gorgeous scenery and its fields of rapeseed (canola) which, when in bloom, cover the mountains in a sea of golden bloom.

The place attracts many photographers, including the folks at Perfect View China.  What makes this different to the many travel videos we include on Kuriositas is that here there is as much attention paid to the people as to their surroundings.  Although this does have the effect of making the video look as if it might have been made for the local tourist board, in my opinion it gives an interesting second layer to this particular piece.

If you need convincing any more then Luoping is the site of a recent massive fossil find.  Over 20,000 fossils make up the remnants of an ecosystem which developed after the mass extinction of 250 million years ago.

21 July 2018

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!

Image Credit

What is a Mermaid's Necklace

If you were wandering along a beach and came across one of these, would you know what it is?  Folklore tells us that it is a mermaid's necklace.  Who knows how she may have lost it and how it came to be on your beach but it is easy to imagine many legends springing up about these peculiar objects.  Of course there is a scientific explanation and the fact that it can be found on our sibling site, The Ark in Space, might suggest that it is a biological one too...  Why not pop over and discover what a mermaid's necklace truly is?

Image Credit Dystopos

19 July 2018

The Giant Puffball: Nature’s Orbicular Idiosyncrasy

There are worse things you can find in the woods.  As summer turns to fall, woodland and meadows the world over play host to one of nature’s more orbicular idiosyncrasies.  It is large, round, white and has a distinctly extra-terrestrial appearance.  Yet the giant puffball is very much of this world, albeit one of its stranger fungal denizens.

It can also make for a tasty meal.

Image Credit Nunzy Gareffa
As much as anything else the giant puffball is noticeable and notable by its unexpected and sometimes astonishing size.   It has a distinct lack of camouflage advantage and can become a meal – not to mention a temporary home – to any passing herbivore such as the rabbit above.  Yet although easy prey to animals its structure is immensely strong.  Giant puffballs have been seen to push up slabs of asphalt as they develop, such is the powerful forces generated by their growth.

Dancing in the Movies


If like me you are a big fan of dance then take a few minutes out to watch this – but beware! You may be a little dizzy by the end of it!  CLS videos have put together this amazing compilation of dance moments from films that span the decades.  Many you will know and a lot will leave you thinking “where on earth did that amazing looking piece of choreography come from?”  If you have a need to know you can find them all on the CLS blog.

Grandma's Pie


Grandma hasn’t so much got early onset, she has irredeemable, completely and untterly gone onset (if there can be such a thing).  So when a dragon attacks the town she is utterly oblivious while defenders try to save their once quaint abode.  But let's face it - priorities are priorities and when a pie needs to be baked it bloody well needs to be baked - and things do get rather ensanguined during the process. Grandma's Pie was created by Camilo Castro and Ricardo San Emeterio at the Ringling College of Art.  I have to suspect that Messrs Castro and San Emeterio had perhaps a little too much fun devising the grisly demises of the various brave knights who face the dragon.  Bravo, chaps!

A Father’s Day


So, you may know how we at Kuriositas love anything undeadish so how could we possible ignore a short film like A Father’s Day?  It is set – as so often – in a post-apocalyptic world (here it is the UK, possibly post-Brexit too!).  A father is unexpectedly reunited with his daughter among the ruins of the world as they knew it, a father is determined to make this day special, even if they are already dead. A Father’s Day was written and directed by Mat Johns with funding by Creative England and BFI Newtork.

16 July 2018

Alternative Math: A Visit to Post-Truth America


An experienced maths teacher runs in to more than a little trouble when she tries to correct a student who has failed his recent math test.  What should have been a quiet moment of teaching and learning turns in to a traumatic week-long hell on earth for the teacher: She may have a trick or two up her sleeve but what chance does she have against Tommy, his parents, the principal, the school board and the media?

All satire exaggerates and Alternative Math has hyperbole in spades.  The premise is ridiculous but it resonates because it has its roots well and firmly dug in to the truth – whatever that may be in 2018.  We may have breathed a sigh of relief decades ago when 1884 became 1985 and there was little sign of Orwell’s dystopian vision coming to life.  Yet a few decades later, Alternative Math highlights, through comedy, the insidious nature of what truth means today.  George would have recognized the scenario all too well.

What makes it a little depressing is the fact that as a teacher this resonates a little too familiarly with me. The exaggeration in the film aside I have colleagues who have been through a form of what happens in this short albeit without the ending we have here (and it is worth the nine minutes of this short just to get to that point, believe me!).  It may be close to home but I am happy it's here.

Alternative Math is brought to you by Dallas-based Ideaman Studios and was written by Malcolm Morrison and David Maddox, with the latter doing the directing honors.  Well, that is if you believe the end credits are truthful, of course…

14 July 2018

Center Pivot Irrigation: The Real Crop Circles

If you have been in a plane over a large agricultural hub you may have casually glanced out of your window. And then you may have performed a very, very quick double take. What on earth are those circular shapes below? They are not the alien crop circles of infamy that’s for sure – in fact whole fields seem to be circular in shape. There are way too many of them, too, to have been done as some sort of practical joke. So, what are they? Welcome to the world of center pivot irrigation.

Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?

One question which gets asked time and time again is what, exactly, is the fascination that cats have with boxes?  Until they learn to talk we may never know the answer but we can have a few educated guesses.  Over at our sibling site, the Ark in Space, is a photo-packed feature on this most vexing of issues.  OK, it’s an excuse for a cute-fest but, honestly, do you care?

Image Credit Paul Hyde

8 July 2018

Spectrum


Who is the masculine man?  This is the question that Spectrum poses and indeed the concept of masculinity in dance and society as a whole.  The video was directed by Artur Zaremba in collaboration with dancers Jontae McCrory and Stefanos Dimoulas.  As dance becomes more gender fluid (is it the mirror of society or is it the other way around?), these are questions which have to be asked.

Sunrise, Bull Rock, Cork, Ireland


A few times of year during the summer, the sun is lined up perfectly to rise through the natural tunnel running through the Bull Rock. This is a short video showcasing this amazing rock and its neighbors, the Calf and the Cow by landscape photographer Peter Cox.  It is a powerful and immediate piece of film which I have to say made me feel almost like I was there – but my strongest feelings are, however, a need to really be there!

Catkin


A young girl lives with an unhappy home life finds solace in nature.  This alone sounds a little been there, done that.  However, what makes this animated short by Charlotte Davis (who created it during her time at Hertfordshire University) is how beautifully nuanced it is. As any animator will tell you it is no mean feat to create an inner life for a character made out of pixels.  Yet Davis does this with panache and delivers a short and heartfelt story which you may find lingering in your mind for quite a while.

What is Synthetic Biology?


We now have more knowledge about DNA than ever before and that opens certain paths which many oppose.  Yet there may be positive sides to being able to manipulate DNA as this visual essay by Vasil Hnatiuk.  Although this particular shape of things to come might be scary (or even terrifying) to many I have to admit I like the sound of cities made from renewable materials…

7 July 2018

Mo‘ynaq – Graveyard of Ships in the Desert

Many have visited an abandoned city and wondered what catastrophic event could have caused such an exodus from a metropolis once so evidently thriving. Yet these cities are usually hundreds if not thousands of years old, the everyday clamor and cry of civilization just an echo. Visit Mo'ynaq in Uzbekistan, however, and you can see apocalypse right here, right now.

The Soviet era sign still welcomes people to the city. Yet there are few visitors who stay more than a few hours. They all leave after they have done looking at what is reminiscent of a scene from a science fiction disaster movie - big ships adrift in the desert.

3 July 2018

A Frenchie's Miserable "Miss-mom" Howling is Made in to a Concerto


We don't often have two videos in one post on Kuriositas but you have to see this.  Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie does not like being left alone in the car – please watch the short video above for ample proof.  When his human companion has to leave him behind for a short time he understandably gets a little upset. His almost musical but nonetheless miserable howling entranced YouTube viewer at the end of May this year.  It entranced one of them, lyoug, so much that they created the video below.

Note that Dog concerto in A-sharp minor is is completely unedited, no speed change or autotune.   The only addition is Guitar Pro’s MIDI clarinet and harpsichord sounds.  It’s probably the best thing I’ve seen all month.  Walter Geoffrey may still be miserable but at least now he is musically so…

2 July 2018

The Dead Leaf Butterfly - Camouflage King of the Asian Tropics


Although the title of this article at our sibling site the Ark in Space has already given the game away, take a close look at the ‘leaf’ above.  Dead and withered, its dark veins still stretch across the parchment thin remains of its once emerald resplendence. Yet a closer look reveals a head, eyes and legs.  This isn’t at all what it appears to be – and that is exactly how nature intended.  Pop over to Ark in Space and see what is to be found on the inside of the wings!

First Image Credit - Wikimedia

Things To Do When You Can't Sleep Because Of Racing Thoughts



Let’s face it. Sometimes you just can’t make the voices in your head shut up and go away, can you?

Hold on: we didn’t mean it like that. We meant figurative, metaphorical voices that represent your innermost stresses, anxieties, and worries, not actual creepy voices that whisper things in your ear, like instructions on how to cook tuna flavored cupcakes. (Don’t ask.)

Yes, folks. Trying to get to sleep while you’re brain is moving at 200 mph isn’t the easiest feat in the world to accomplish. Quite the contrary: it literally feels impossible.

What’s worse is, when you start beating yourself up about not getting to sleep while you’re trying to get to sleep, then, well, you really aren’t going to get any sleep. You’ll be stressed about being stressed which will keep you awake longer. And that, friends, is counterproductive.

We’ve got a suggestion for you: learn how to take it easy. That might sound easier said than done, but it’s a valuable piece of advice that no one should ignore. So how does one actually “chill out” as the kids call it these days, anyway? What does it take?

Just a little bit of self-care maintenance is all. Here are 3 things to do when you can’t sleep at night because of racing thoughts from Sarah of the Sleep Advisor. Ready, set, relax!

Make a list

“Rename your “To-Do” list to your “Opportunities” list. Each day is a treasure chest filled with limitless opportunities; take joy in checking many off your list.” ― Steve Maraboli

A recent study that Baylor University and Emory University conducted in which over 50 young adults were surveyed revealed that writing to-do lists helped them fall asleep an average of nine minutes faster than those who didn’t.

Sometimes our racing thoughts are caused by the anxiety we feel about all of the tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines we feel looming over our heads on the horizon.

These could be a big presentation you have to give for class or work, a massive special event you’re planning, bills you have to pay, taxes you need to do, or blog posts about reducing stress to get better sleep that you need to write.

Grabbing the nearest notebook and jotting down all of these goals and duties will help you clear your head and make you feel like you’ve got a better handle on things than you think you do. Also, it will help you realize what’s necessary and what’s not. That’s important, too.

Say, while we’re on the topic...

Write it out

“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” - Stephen King

Write out your feelings. Pencil, pen, keyboard, smartphone or tablet screen - it doesn’t matter. Just focus on expressing how you feel about what’s going on in your life and in your head.

Describe what you’re afraid of, what’s bugging you, what’s making you feel like you’re in a perpetual state of anxiety. Articulating what’s happening in your life will help you manage your stress and boost your physical health as some studies have suggested.

So, why not take up the ancient art of journaling to explore the possibilities of your life and help fine tune your circadian rhythms considerably at the same time?

Focus on now

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” - Dr. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia Ph.D.

Most of the time those anxious thoughts that are kind of, sort of driving you into a sleep deprived craze aren’t based in the here and now.

They’re about things that haven’t happened yet, or regrets about the past, or false constructs that you bult to make yourself worry yourself for no good reason other than the fact you might be addicted to the adrenaline rush.

Whatever your excuse (or reason) might be, it’s best to step back and accept that you’re having these thoughts. Acknowledge that they exist, then also acknowledge other things that exist outside of yourself, too.

Become aware of the room and your surroundings by focusing on one sensory stimulus at a time. Look at the colors, hear the sounds, feel the sensations, and start thinking about what’s out there and less about what’s in here, so to speak.

We hope that these tips for quieting down your rampaging, anxious mind have been helpful to you. We wish you peace, good luck, and way more than forty winks in bed tonight. We also hope that whatever you’re going through sorts itself out sooner rather than later in a way that benefits everyone involved - you especially.

Bio:

Hey, I’m Sarah. Recent vegan, long-time yogi and lover of a great sleep. I used to suffer from insomnia in my teens but since turning to meditation and yoga (and paying more attention to my health in general), I’ve found that I’ve never slept better! I get to bed early and gone are the days of lying awake with anxious thoughts. And I want to help others sleep more soundly, too!

23 June 2018

The Windcatchers of Persia

They appear throughout the Middle East: Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have these antique Persian designs dotted around their towns and cities. They are windcatchers, known in the area as Bâdgir. Serving as ventilation systems they have given the people of the Middle East air conditioning for thousands of years. Yet despite their antediluvian origin, windcatchers may even provide a solution for some very modern architectural problems.

Windcatchers come in a vast array of sizes and a number of different styles. They function in one of three ways. Some direct the airflow downwards and use direct wind entry. Others direct airflow up either using a temperature gradient assisted either by the sun or the wind.
Amung Feedjit
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