28 May 2018

Iguazu Falls – Big Water of the Borders

In the local Tupi language, the word means big water.  One look at the staggering Iguazu Falls, located on the border of the Brazilian State of Paraná and the Argentine Province of Misiones and you realise that this is no exaggeration.

27 May 2018

Darrel


Have you ever had one of those moments when you first catch sight of the one?  It could be anywhere – in the street, on a bus, at a funeral.  For introverted chameleon Darrel it happens on the local subway.  So, what exactly is a boy to do before opportunity slips away? Possibly not what Darrel does…  This highly entertaining animated shory was directed by Marc Briones and Alan Carabantes.

Between the Sky and the Earth: La Palma Astrolapse


You have most likely heard of a timelapse: you may have come across a hyerlapse (certainly if you have been following Kuriositas over the last few years).  Now allow us to introduce you to the astrolapse – which does exactly what is suggests on the label.  Watch the stars above the earth turn from the vantage point high in the mountains of La Palma in the Canary Islands.  This astonishing piece of film was created by Adrien Mauduit Films.

While Darwin Sleeps


Out of the estimated ten million species of insect on Earth, only a tenth have been identified by science.  The Walter Linsenmaier Collection in Lucerne contains a quarter of a million species and out of those only 3,500 have been used in this short film.  However, it will still make you dizzy - as the colours glow and change across their bodies and wings it seems that the genetic programme of millions of years is taking place in a few minutes.  While Darwin Sleeps was created by Paul Bush.

AMKK: The Story of Flowers


AMKK are an artistic duo based in Tokyo – they are best now for their reinvention of the ancient Japanese art of ikebana.  You might know this as flower arranging but the Japanese took this to a higher plane about fifteen centuries ago.  As the modern world came so did AMKK – this is their animated take not necessarily on the art otherwise known as living flowers but the complete circle of life from seed to plant to flower and back to seed.  Entrancing.

26 May 2018

Salar de Uyuni - A Spectacular Sea of Salt

The world’s largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, is an other-worldly experience that has to be seen to be believed. Join us on a trip to one of the strangest places our third rock from the sun has to offer.

The Bat-Eared Fox – Did You Ever See a Fox Fly?

Around 800,000 years ago a species developed on the African Savannah, a canid but quite unlike any other. It was small – with a head and body length of only around 55 cm, tawny furred and with black ears. It is the ears which really make this mostly nocturnal animal stand out.  On average the ears of the bat-eared fox are a staggering 14 centimeters in length.  Proportionally they may not be as large as Dumbo’s but this is no fictional appendage. These ears are for real. Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has the full story.

Image Credit Rene Mayorga

20 May 2018

The Judas Ear

No, Doctor Lecter has not been at it again – this is not a real ear. Its quite remarkable resemblance to the human ear has, however, given it a host of names throughout the ages – some it has to be said less flattering (or at least politically correct) than others.

19 May 2018

The Frog that Turns Blue

The Moor Frog of Central Europe has a trick up its sleeve when it comes to getting a mate. The male turns blue for a week each year but it's perhaps not for the reason you think!  Pop over to the Ark in Space to discover the real reason (and it’s not to attract a mate!).

Image Credit Wikimedia

A Long Way from Home


In the Old West there was little room for tolerance and the notion of diversity would probably have had them laughing in to their whiskey.  Yet when one stranger, a long way from home, arrives at the town’s saloon, whether they know it or not – or like it or not – the townspeople are about to exchange a glass of water for their release from tyranny.  This wonderful short, echoing classic spaghetti westerns, was directed by Andy Tai and Eduardo Enriquez.

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


This is Moscow by drone and done in such a way that this city has probably never looked better.  Mixing the old and the new, Timelab’s footage makes the city look truly magnificent.  I particularly liked the shots of the statues way up high, the features on their faces up close.  Plus the whole thing seems to have been filmed at the golden hour, imbuing the city with an iridescent beauty.  The film was shot using the DJ Inspire 2.

All These Voices - Winner of the Student Academy Award®


A young Nazi solider, traumatized by his experiences and separated from his unit, encounters a group of survivors, actors who have somehow managed to escape death and who now return to their theater.  The young soldier must come to terms with the part he played in the destruction of all the actors hold dear.  Described as “beautiful and harrowing” by the Huffington Post, All These Voices is a film by David Henry Gerson, from whom I suspect we will see some amazing things in the future.

Alaskan Summer

If you think that summer never lasts for long, spare a thought for your average Alaskan.  At around four weeks in length, summer in Alaska takes a long time to arrive and then is gone before you barely get used to it. However, with around twenty three hours of daylight, plant life here at the edge of the Arctic bursts in to life. There is a side to Alaska that does not necessarily always have to involve the white stuff.

A landscape of Fireweed in the shadow of Mount McGinnis. Although Alaska is home to lots of ice and snow, summer warms some of it up quite nicely. The state's second city, Anchorage, is protected by the Alaskan Range and the Chugach Mountains.  Add to that the warming currents of the Pacific Ocean with low humidity and the summer temperature can rise in to the 70s.

13 May 2018

How Did the Symbols on Slot Machines Originate?

We all know that on slot machines 2018 there are any number of symbols that are used to win.  The internet is a new concept compared to a slot machine yet some of the original symbols are still popular and  in use today.  So how did these symbols originate?

If you list casino sites you will find these symbols coming up again and again.  Let’s take the bell symbol, as a starting point.  You might imagine – and it’s a good guess – that as church bells are rung by the winning side at the end of a war, that they are a symbol of victory.

In fact, in the 1800s the first three-reel slot machine game was invented by a Charles Frey and the name he gave it was the Liberty Bell – no guessing what the winning line was.  This first design was duplicated by many in the game’s development and the bell was retained in those new designs and is still with us today.

The bar symbol is a little less obvious.  We might think that they represent bars of gold but strangely enough they represent a pack of chewing gum!  It was the logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company.  So why on earth would this symbol appear on a slot machine?

The answer lies in the gambling laws in some US states in the late 1800s where betting was prohibited altogether.  Even normal vending machines were regarded with some suspicion by some law-makers.  If cash prizes were given then the manufacturers of the machines (not to mention those who rented them for use in their establishments) would be liable to prosecution.  So they decided that the prize would be… chewing gum!

This not only explains the presence of the bar symbol on slot machines but also the addition of fruit which appeared at the same time.  You may have already guessed that the cherry, melon and other fruit that appeared on the reels were indicative of the flavour of gum the winner would receive in recompense for the penny they had placed in the machine.

As an interesting historical aside, the original Liberty Bell slot machines are incredibly rare today.  These original machines (there were only 100 in the original batch) were distributed in and around San Francisco.  In 1906 a massive earthquake struck destroying much of the city and most of the original Liberty Bell machines.  To say that these are now collectors’ items is a massive understatement.

So next time you’re about to use a slot machine online, you can reflect how far we have come.  Yet from simple wooden boxes to the complexity of the internet these symbols have persevered and no doubt will still be around in hundreds of years.

Fist picture Image Credit

12 May 2018

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. Our sibling site, the Ark in Space, today has a feature about these spiders, full of fascinating facts and amazing photos.  Go and take a look for yourself!

11 May 2018

Ganvié - Lake City of Africa

This is not a picture of a flood. This is Ganvié, in the Republic of Benin, the largest collection of lake dwellings in Africa. 20,000 people call Ganvié’s stilt supported dwellings home.  The city, in the middle of lake Nokoué, is not a recent construct however. 

Ganvié is up to five hundred years old. Sometimes called the Venice of Africa, like the Italian city its first inhabitants set up home there out of sheer necessity.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the country was called Dahomey and was one of the most powerful states in West Africa. The major ethnic and linguistic group was the Fon and they had made a deal with the Portuguese. Rather than their own people being captured and sold in to slavery they made a contract with the Portuguese to hunt and sell tribes people from smaller ethnic groups.

What Does the Work of Live Dealer Casino look like?

The live dealer casino concept was first introduced in the online gambling scene in 2006 by a software company called Evolution Gaming, based in Riga, Latvia. At the time all of the other software providers were focused on video slots and other casino games, making the competition in this sector very fierce. But the visionary team at Evolution Gaming decided to bring a new and revolutionary concept to the world gambling scene and change it forever.

The company decided to focus on live dealer games only and for that matter build a fully functional casino floor with professional live dealers in their headquarters in Riga. From there the game play was streamed to the players screen in HD quality and the player could interact at real time with the live dealer. This new technology was an instant hit among online players and Evolution Gaming remains the leader in this field even today. So how does it all work?

Professional Live Casino Floor
The first step to hosting live dealer games is to have the games themselves setup and running. https://livecasinosonline.org.uk is one of a very few websites fully dedicated to live casinos and always posts thorough reviews, including licensing, payouts, software and more. All software providers who offer live dealer games have professional tables set up at various locations around the world. This is where the actual game takes place, thousands of miles from your home. The games are all hosted by professional dealers who are often fluent in many world languages, allowing for a fluent interaction among the dealer and player.

The games are run around the clock since the dealers work in shifts. Thanks to this you will never have to stop playing, since the table is never shut down. Today players can enjoy pretty much every live dealer game just like they would in some of the biggest and best brick and mortar casinos in the world. In the past Live Blackjack and Live Roulette were the most common games in live dealer casinos, but today players can also enjoy Live Baccarat, Sic Bo, Three Card Poker, Texas Hold’Em Poker and many other games. Usually the provider has over 100 tables available for play and even more dealers, so you will always find an available spot.

HD Streaming
Live dealer games would have never happened without the development of technology. Today all live dealer games are streamed in HD quality to the player screen. This way the player can have a clear view of the table at all times and keep an eye on the dealer and on the game itself. For many live dealer games there are several HD cameras recording the game from several different angles. This way you can choose the best view of the game and get a full coverage of the table at all times.

But the most attractive part of the live dealer games is the ability to interact with the dealer himself. All software providers have a live chat option available where you can chat real time with the dealer. The chat screen is displayed on a screen in front of the dealer and he can talk back to you while he is hosting the game. Some providers even allow you to chat with the dealer via a headset and even stream yourself playing. This option is great for poker players where you can see the other player in real time.

License and Regulations
All live dealer software providers have to be licensed in order to be able to operate. Most software providers are licensed in several jurisdictions like Malta or the UK and their games are proven to be fair by independent testing agencies like TST Systems or Itech Labs. This way players can be sure that the games are fair and that the promoted payouts are random.

Playing at the Table
The online live dealer games brought many innovations which made them more attractive than the games offered at brick and mortar casinos. If you’re a high roller player you don’t have to go to another town to play a game of high stakes Roulette or Blackjack. Every software provider has high stakes tables available where you can play any time you want.

Also many online casinos have their own branded live tables. This way you can play at your favorite casino, playing the live games which are specifically tailored to that casino. In addition to this many online casinos have separate live dealer bonuses for players to choose from. This isn’t the case in brick and mortar casinos, but is a big advantage for your bankroll when playing at online casinos.

Play to Win
This is the basic concept of how live dealer casinos work. Thanks to the innovations in technology and the visionary thinking of a group of casino enthusiasts we can now enjoy live dealer games in pretty much every reputable online casino. All you need to do is make an account, deposit and play your favorite live dealer games at your favorite online casinos.

Image Credit

9 British Sci-Fi Writers You Should Read (or Reread) Today


Science fiction is a look into the future through book pages. Find out more about 9 heart and award-winning British sci-fi writers who dare take this look.

If until today you haven’t been a great fan of science fiction – and I’m giving you high five if you’ve been – let’s remember the best sci-fi movies of all times. I’m sure you’ve watched them.

I’d start this list with Robert Zemeckis’s trilogy “Back to the Future”. You could add “The Fifth Element” and “Matrix” to it. Can you feel that touching nostalgy when you remember episodes from these films? I think that’s the best indicator of the quality of sci-fi cinematography.

Yet let’s go back to books. As an eager aficionado of both sci-fi novels and movies I can say for sure that it’s never possible to decide which is more worthwhile: to read or to watch.

Besides, as a freelance provider of a review and essay writing service, I simply have to do both.

Taking a more careful look at my customers’ preferences and global trends in literature and cinema, I notice that science fiction isn’t going to lose its popularity. On the contrary, this genre seems to be taken really seriously nowadays, taking into consideration the fact that sci-fi writers’ literary forecasts for our world’s future look more than realistic.

So, whose forecasts are worth our attention? These 10 British authors have a few (hundreds of thousands) thought-provoking words to tell us.

1. Lewis Carroll
What can a children’s fairy tale be like if it’s written by a mathematician, logician, and Anglican deacon? Reread “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and you’ll know the answer.

Lewis Carroll was a notable scientist, taught at Oxford, had a keen interest in arts, and liked children. He dedicated a story of a little girl’s adventures in an imaginary world to absolutely real Alice Liddell, one of the three daughters of his friend, Dean Henry Liddell. However, the creative scholar is said to worry that the tale had no obvious moral, though he was sure of its intellectual potential.

The story is full of references to English folklore and other literary works. Everything in the world of the Looking-Glass is based on laws of logic and math, though functions rather opposite to some of them. Besides, Carroll’s work is partly a bitter satire of the English society of his time.

It looks like this fairy tale should be read along with textbooks in mathematics, history, and literature studies.

2. Herbert George Wells
At the very end of the 19th century this daring author tried to imagine what our world and the whole universe would be like a few hundred years later. Advanced technology, a prototype of artificial intelligence, space journeys, and original philosophy distinguishes HG Wells’s books from the rest of literary masterpieces of the Victorian era.

Check out his “The Time Machine”, “The War of Worlds”, or “The First Men in the Moon” to make sure NASA and Elon Musk are serious about their intentions and prognoses.

The very titles of these and many other Herbert’s books promise fascinating stories.

3. Michael John Harrison
In 2012 his book “Empty Space: A Haunting” was shortlisted as one of the best modern sci-fi novels by the British Science Fiction Association. Let alone a few other literary prizes and awards he got for his work. Besides, Harrison’s literary brainchildren are highly recognized by his brothers and sisters in arms.

The author masterfully ties together science, human psychology, and fantasy in order to introduce an original, though not always rosy, prospects of our future life.

Try his earlier Viriconium sequence or “Climbers”. But if you plan to start getting acquainted with this author through the mentioned latest award-winning novel, you should know that it’s the last part of the trilogy. So, first pay attention to highly praised “Light” and “Nova Swing”.

4. Douglas Adams
A copy of his most famous novel “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” is now somewhere in outer space. Elon Musk lists it among the books that inspired him to do what he’s now famous for, so there’s little wonder he decided to put it into his Tesla Roadster, launched into orbit on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018.

The words “Don’t Panic”, cited from the novel too and programmed to appear on the dashboard display, are more than telling to denote such adventure.

Today you can enjoy the inspiring collection of five Adams’s sci-fi novels in “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide”. Just so you know, its inspirer was the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh. Young Adams took it to a trip when his great idea struck him.

5. Alan Moore
An avid reader since childhood, Alan Moore is well-known for his comic books, unusual hobbies (with occultism among them), and remarkable appearance.

If his name still doesn’t evoke any associations in your memory, I think you’ll easily recognize his style in such movies as “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Batman: The Killing Joke”, “V for Vendetta”, or “Watchman”. Plus, he’s Superman’s father.

Despite the apparent comic element in his books, Alan Moore’s interest in politics and history, which manifests itself in his writings, makes them considerably different from other pieces of the genre.

So, opt for Alan Moore’s works if you want to read something both sci-fi and really entertaining.

6. Ken MacLeod
And his novels will suit everyone who seeks topical, thorny science fiction, touching on history, politics, technology, and ethics.

In 2012 Ken MacLeod also won a BSFA award for “Intrusion”, reviewed as a “dystopian novel” that could annoy every reader with its “fine tune” and “in-your-face argument”. But this annoyance comes from realization of what the author actually means to tell his readers. After all, the issue of freedom as a human right and the issue of choice between the correct and the necessary have never been pleasant to discuss.

If that’s what you expect to taste in modern literature, you can also try his “The Star Fraction”, “The Corporation Wars”, or “The Cassini Division”.

7. Ian M Banks
The other inspirer of Elon Musk and many budding sci-fi authors, Iain Banks devotes his acute novels to everything that can shake (and is shaking) the modern world. Well, if we can’t sense or know something, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, right?

The range of themes the author covers include scientific and technological advances, culture and ethics, politics and economy, as well as general evolution (or degradation?) of human civilization.

Iain Banks is an active author, so you can choose from a large variety of his novels: “Use of Weapons”, “Matter”, “The Hydrogen Sonata”, etc.

8. Chris Beckett
Experiences in writing textbooks, giving lectures at university, managing a children and families social work team might have significantly influenced Chris Beckett’s creative writing style.

In 2013 the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his “Dark Eden” confirmed that his original style is recognized on a national scale. The novel’s characters are descendants of humans whose spaceship crashed on the planet Eden. So, the author explores their individualities and relationships. Who knows, probably in 100-200 years our great-grandchildren will need to remember the moral revealed by the book.

You might also like to check out the other two books of the trilogy – “Mother of Eden” and “Daughter of Eden”.  Besides, Beckett is well-known as a master of a modern sci-fi short story, so the collection of these works might be interesting for you too.

9. Neil Gaiman
His childhood favorite was Carroll’s “Alice”, along with the masterpieces of J. R. R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, and (I’m really not surprised by this fact) Alan Moore. So, there’s no wonder Neil Gaiman chose the path of writing science fiction, as well as short stories, film scripts (including an episode for “Doctor Who”), comic books, and even children’s books.

His currently most popular and best acknowledged work is “American Gods”. The originality of the novel lays in an intelligent medley of ancient and contemporary mythology, fantasy, and so-called Americana (simply put, it covers everything that relates to geography, history, and culture of the United States).
But if you aren’t likely to read an “everyone-is-reading-now” book, you might choose from Gaiman’s other award-winning novels: “Stardust” (yes, it was adapted for the movie), “The Graveyard Book”, or “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”.

10. Adam Roberts
When a professor of 19th-century literature writes novels that combine the genres of science fiction and crime fiction, that’s a good reason to reconsider our attitude to the concepts of creativity and vocation.

Meet Adam Roberts and his “Jack Glass”, the book that won the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 2012.
He’s a multi-faceted author, who is also well-known for novellas and short stories, parodies of famous literary works (among them “Soddit” for “Hobbit” and “Star Warped” for “Star Wars”), critical review, and even tips for aspiring sci-fi writers, presented in the book “Get Started in: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Choose and enjoy!

6 May 2018

The Abnormal, Gruesome Gall – Alien Invader in Your Yard

They appear as if from nowhere.  A previously healthy looking plant suddenly has an abnormal growth protruding from it.  Some are hideous and some strangely beautiful but they leave the plant looking as if it has been invaded by miniature aliens.  And in a way that’s exactly what has happened.  Take a look at the weirdness of the plant gall.

Vietnam from Above


As a predominantly armchair traveler I do like to see things from many different perspectives, explore the unusual and not just in terms of destination but the way that I see it.  So I was immediately drawn to this by Thắng Sói, whose drone flies through the country of Vietnam and captures the place essentially and from above.  This is something you should prepare for – go and get a coffee, turn up your speakers a little, sit back and enjoy.

Corpus


This is suitably bizarre for a Sunday afternoon.  Marc Hericher has created this animated short not to answer any of your questions but perhaps instead to pose them.  It’s certainly entrancing but unlike any other lineup of objects destined to fall, roll and rise in order to keep things going we have no idea where we will end up with this one.  Do we end up anywhere? You will certainly respond to this one way or another!

Far Alamo – Your Western Heroes Vs the Bugs from Starship Troopers


Well, this is cool.  Fabrice Mathieu has done it again.  Known for his unusual (and unlikely) movie mashups this time Fabrice takes us to the wild west and to the far flung edges of our galaxy.  A host of western heroes (John Wayne, Yul Brynner, Clin Eastwood and so on!) face off with the horde of bugs from the movie Starship Troopers.  How he does it I don’t really want to know but this latest mashup is one of his best!

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