16 November 2019

Top 10 Things to Do In Iceland 2020


Iceland is full of natural wonders, and even just one visit there can feel like you’re ticking your life bucket list off.

Rent a car
So you can get to all of these other places extremely easily, renting a car is highly recommended in Iceland. Public transport is costly, and will prevent you from going far in the evenings. Reykjavik is the starting point of most Iceland trips, with its great city and large airport. Reykjavik Cars can be easily picked up from the airport and will provide you the freedom of

Askja


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Askja is situated in the mid-east highlands of Iceland. The Dyngjufjöll mountains are everywhere you look, of which some stand at over 1,500m tall. There is the Öskjuvatn lake which is left over from the huge 1875 eruption that put Askja on the map, as it wasn’t really known about before this. To this day, there are potential eruptions that could take place, so be aware of these risks before visiting even if there probability is low.

Akureyri
Akureyri isn’t far from Askja, as it sits centrally (but further north) in Iceland. Akureyri is the fifth largest municipality in Iceland, and the town dates back to the 9th century. The climate can be much warmer here than surrounding areas, and can be a great place to visit for an old town experience. This is your chance to see the Laufas turf homes too, which were built in 1865 - these are preserved homes built underground and are fascinating to see how Icelandics used to live.

Landmannalaugar
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Landmannalaugar is a geothermal oasis situated in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Southern Highlands. Colourful mountains make up the backdrop to some incredibly vibrant lava fields. You can dip into the hot natural water and bathe any time of the year - winter to summer. It’s perhaps one of the most remarkable nature settings in the world, and has gained a lot of popularity among nature lovers. At around 112 miles away from Reykjavik, the oasis is only a few hours drive away from the airport.

Geysir
The word Geyser is the Egnlish word for spouting hot spring, but actually derives from the Icelandic word Geysir, which means to gush (geysa). In the southwest of Iceland, you will find the The Great Geysir, which is a geothermal area with a plethora of spouting hot springs. It’s on the Golden Circle track, meaning it’s easy to access, and is incredibly popular among children too, making it a great family day out.

Skaftafell
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Skaftafell Nature Reserve is the ultimate choice for those who love to hike. It has it all: it’s close to glaciers, it has incredible landscapes, you can visit any time of the year, it has a bunch of things to do and organised activities, and it is just off the ring road. It is still somewhat a hidden secret, as it hasn’t gained as much popularity as many other destinations in Iceland, despite it being easily accessible by car.

Skogafoss
Skogafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, standing at 60 meters high and 25 meters wide. Its beauty is something to behold, and you can get some incredible pictures of yourself with the waterfall as the backdrop. It also has a little village nearby (Skogar) where you can find a lovely restaurant and hotel, as well as a cafe and a museum.

Westfjords
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Westfjords is a beautiful, remote part of Iceland. This is where to go for the truly undisturbed experience of Iceland, free from tourists and commercialisation. The space is large, the mountains are high and the scenery is something you’ve likely never seen before. Ísafjörður is the capital, which is very mountain-dense. This is actually the place to come if you want to ski, whilst Hornstrandir is where you want to head to for some hiking.

Myvatn
Myvatn is a lake in the north of Iceland, situated next to the Krafla volcano. The place has a lot of biological activity, as well as being created by basaltic lava 2300 years ago. It’s Iceland’s 4th largest lake - this isn’t a place to come for glaciers and trees, but instead, volcanic exploration. Nearby there are some fishing opportunities and camping facilities too, as well as some of the largest natural ice sculptures and caves.

Northern Lights
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The Northern Lights are perhaps the most famous natural wonders of Iceland, and need no introduction. It’s best to head to more rural parts of Iceland, away from artificial lights (this shouldn’t be hard to find), and are visible between September and April (but February and March are the best months to see them). With the aid of a travel blog, you can find more information about both the Northern Lights and what Iceland has to offer.

Iceland is one of the few remaining countries that prioritise its natural environment over its synthetic, urbanised one. The country has many great undisturbed places, as well as some family-friendly tourist opportunities.

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26 October 2019

PomPom Mirror: Seeing is Believing


PomPom Mirror by Daniel Rozin is very clever art but despite that it does exactly what it says on the metaphorical tin. It features a synchronized array of 928 spherical faux fur puffs. Organized into a three-dimensional grid of beige and black, the sculpture is controlled by hundreds of motors that build silhouettes of viewers using computer-vision.   Just watch it – huge fun to experience in a gallery I would imagine.  I would venture to guess that it was a massive pain to construct – I wonder how many times Rozin thought why did I think of this? to himself.
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The Last One


Forty years in the future and humanity has succeeded in creating robots that look exactly as we do.  So similar yet so vastly different, conflict was inevitable.  A war began which had to, through sheer necessity, end in the extinction of one or the other.   Created by students at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, this is short, concise storytelling which immediately involves the audience in the plight of the last survivor of his race, the titular last one.
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Kumbhalgarh – The Great Wall of India

Long overshadowed by its lengthier neighbor to the east, this is the second largest continuous wall on the planet. Some call it by the name of the fort it surrounds – Kumbhalgarh. Others simply refer to it as The Great Wall of India. Yet bewilderingly, it is still little known outside its own region.

Flowers Opening Timelapse


This three minute video took fourteen months and about 40,000 photographs to create and it’s worth every second.  Its creator, David de los Santos Gi, must be sick of the sight of any earthly flora by now. Or perhaps not, as this is his second foray in to the world of flower time-lapses.

It’s exquisite and that isn’t hyperbole for its own sake.  Go ahead – be entranced – and take a look at more of David’s work at his wonderful website.
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6 October 2019

Externsteine: The Star Stones of Lippe

A few kilometers from the north-western German city of Dermold in the Lippe region of the country, there is a highly unusual rock formation. In an area otherwise devoid of large rocks, the soaring, slender columns of Externsteine stand out as they rise sharply and with no little majesty from the surrounding landscape. Little wonder that the site has been attracting curious visitors for thousands of years.

The five standing sandstone pillars have been ornamented over the millennia by human hand.  Although the name usually translates as stones of the ridge, many see these huge columns more romantically as star stones, a place resonant with ancient mysticism and ritual.  Yet the true origins of the star stones can be discovered through geology.

21 September 2019

10 Tips to Survive a Campervan Trip in Iceland 2020

Your first time going camping in Iceland? - This is how you survive!

Iceland is a fantastic country with much to offer any traveller, be it you go for the incredible nature or the magnetic capital of Reykjavik. However, there is one way of making this the ultimate experience, camping. Camping in Iceland is one of the most incredible adventures you can ever embark on and it will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.

Camper rental Iceland is one of the most popular ways of making the island your own and rental companies such as Campervan Reykjavik have made it their business to make sure you are fully equipped before heading out on your journey. Before you go though it might be good to have some basic survival tips. 

A few good survival tips for the Icelandic road

1. When should you go? - deciding when to travel to Iceland might be difficult because there is always something to see. However, if you have your heart set on seeing the Northern Lights or the experiencing the Midnight Sun then you will need to do some research. Winter in Iceland means you will get to see the former and Summer in Iceland is the equivalence of the later.

2. The right campervan will make all the difference - finding the right vehicle for your camping trip is essential. By consulting rental companies such as Campervan Reykjavik you will be provided with an ample selection of different types of campervans. All of the options are fully equipped to handle the sometime unpredictable Icelandic weather as well as the roads on the island. It's up to you to choose the one you find most suitable and then add whichever comforts you like. Many opt for Wi-Fi rather than GPS but some go for both.

It is also important to be aware of the fact that car insurance is mandatory on Iceland and this is something you definitely should consult your caper rental company about. Campervan Reykjavik for instance offer free scdw insurance.

3. Be mindful of where you stop - due to the delicate natural ecosystem in Iceland as well as the influx of tourist that visit the island, you have to be mindful of where you park your vehicle when for instance stopping for the night. You will need to find one of the designated campsites, where it is mandatory to obtain a permission before being able to park your campervan alongside having to pay a fee. Each campsite usually provides facilities such as showers, toilets and sometimes even Wi-Fi though.

4. Fuelling up - in Iceland gas is expensive and as such it is best to opt for a fuel efficient vehicle. Ask the camper rental to give you some information on gas prices in Iceland as well as the many DIY gas stations around the island.

5. Decide on your destinations - Iceland is full of experiences and no matter which road you choose to take you won't regret it. If this is the first time you are visiting the island as well as the first time you have rented a campervan, then perhaps it's best to stick to the Ring Road. It's easy to manoeuvre and filled to the brim with incredible sights such as the famous Blue Lagoon, Geysir and Skógafoss waterfall.

6. Have a sip of water - when you travel one of the most common questions you always have is, is it safe to drink the water? Well in Iceland it is not only safe, it is encouraged and not only for environmental reasons. Iceland has some of the best drinking water in the world and it is famous for its health aspects.

7. Pack smart and remember your credit card - when preparing for you camping trip in Iceland it's best to pack as smart as possible, i.e. only pack what is necessary and don't forget your credit card as it is the preferred currency across the island. Even if you are renting a campervan it's best to only bring what you will need.

8. It might get crowded - since Iceland have become a popular tourist destination there is a good chance some of the campsites might be a bit crowded, don't let this discourage you though, simply try and find a spot among the masses.

9. Learn to cook out in the open - in similarity with the gas tip, one way to perhaps save some money when travelling around Iceland is to learn how to cook on the road. A few simple meals will go a long way.

10. Snap a shot - the final tip is to remember to bring your camera as you will encounter some of the most magnificent sites in the world. 

A few good tips along the way

This list of helpful tips before going camping in Iceland is by no means an exhaustive list, it's a good start though and it covers some of the absolute basics. Once you have been camping yourself, you will most likely be able to add even more ones.
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25 August 2019

The Rolling Bridge That Curls

Something strange goes on every Friday in Paddington Basin, London.


At first sight it looks just like any other normal bridge.  Spanning the Grand Union Canal in Paddington Basin, London – the minimal design could be looked upon as somewhat plain and boring.  But once a week the Rolling Bridge as it is known does something that makes jaws drop.  Slowly at first, something remarkable happens.

Each and every Friday at midday the bridge rolls – literally.  It consists of eight sections – triangular in shape – that are hinged at ground level.  Concealed in vertical posts in the parapets of the bridge are pistons.  These pistons collapse the two part links that connect the section and the bridge can roll up.  It is the only bridge of this kind in the world and although it is known as a rolling bridge this is something of a misnomer.  By rights it should be called a curling bridge (and is by many).

10 Essential Tools for Architecture Students (2019)


Are you studying architecture? This is a really interesting, creative and fulfilling career choice. Once you’ve chosen the university you’ll use your potential in, you need to obtain the knowledge that will turn you into an accomplished architect.

This isn’t all about the books or the classes. If you want to become a good architect, you need to take some action. To put all that studying into action, you need to practice the trait. For that, you will need some essential architecture tools.

1. Messenger Bag

Call it whatever you want: a satchel, a murse, a man purse, etc. This bag has plenty of names and one big purpose. As an architect, you’ll have to carry your projects around a lot, even while you’re studying. This will continue to be the case when you become an actual architect. You’ll drag them around to construction sites and meetings.

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Therefore, the first and most essential of the architect tools is the bag you carry your work in. It will not only make it more convenient, but also keep your drawings and projects safe.

2. Trace Paper
Architecture students should always have trace paper on them. Also known as scratch paper or trash paper, this old tool is something you’ll need on a daily basis. It is clean, simple, and can be used for your sketches and presentations.

3. iPad
An iPad is a really popular device today. It isn’t one of the obligatory architecture student supplies, but you definitely need to have one. As an architect and a student, you’ll go to many places where you’ll have to document things and take notes. You definitely want to keep all of this organized in order to do your job properly. Losing or misplacing a single piece of paper with notes can destroy a project or make you disappoint a client. You don’t want this to happen, do you?

4. Pens
When you hear an architect, you imagine a person with a pencil drawing on a blank canvas. The reality is different. Most architects actually use pens and really specific kinds of them. Here are the four pens you definitely need if you’re planning on becoming an architect:
  • Pentel sign pen that allows you to make thin or broad lines
  • Pilot razor point pen that helps make loose sketches or precise drawings (it is good for notes, too)
  • Regular pen for your academic assignments (unless you order them from Edubirdie in Australia in which case, you don’t really need to bother with this)
  • Red pen you’ll use to redline your drawing or accentuate something

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5. Architect’s Scale
With their tapered edges, large profiles, and hollow core, scales are definitely an amazing tool for architects. You want to get a high-quality aluminum scale that will last longer – you’ll be using this one quite a lot.

6. Storage Tube
In most cases, you won’t need both the bag and the tube, but many architects use both. If you have big posters you need to carry around, the only thing allowing you to do this without worries that the sketches will be lost is a drawing storage tube.

7. Laser Distance Meter
Very often, you’ll need to measure distance with high-precision. This is why you’ll need a simple, reliable, and light wear handheld laser distance meter.

8. Cutting Mat
You’ll often have to cut something when you’re an architect. Unless you protect the surface, you’ll destroy a lot of things when working or practicing. That’s why you need a cutting mat.
Nowadays, there are self-healing cutting mats that basically reseal themselves after you cut them. You should definitely invest in one to avoid having to buy a new one all the time.

9. Easy Cutter
To be actually able to cut, you’ll need a tool. Gloves are essential, but you also want to invest in a safe, easy cutter that makes this faster and much more accurate. There are plenty of options for easy cutters on the market and the one you choose will depend on what you plan to cut.

10. Engineer’s Scale
This might sound a bit strange to you, but you actually need an engineer’s scale, too. An engineer’s scale is different from that for architects, but it will definitely come handy.

Conclusion
If you’re new in the world of architecture, you have plenty to learn. But, to make this possible, you need not only to put effort into it, but also prepare yourself with the right set of tools. There are many tools that you’ll need in this profession, but the ten listed above are an essential start.

Author’s Bio:
Connie Elser is an architect who works freelance for various companies in the US. She has eleven years of experienced and is a world-renowned architecture expert. As such, she has published many books and articles that are available to architecture students around the world.

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The Tulous of Fujian Province

Around the 12th Century the people of the Fujian Province in China decided that their homes did not offer them sufficient protection in times of civil strife and from the armed bandit gangs which plagued the area for hundreds of years.

Groups of families combined their incomes to provide their community with something more substantial – a tulou - that could safeguard their property and their lives in this mountainous area on the southeast coast of China.

Like any good idea, the idea of large, enclosed fortified buildings had already been around for centuries.  Yet advances in technology enabled communities to create a safe space, encircled by thick load bearing walls and up to five floors high.

18 August 2019

Kite Aerial Photography: Seeing the World from New Heights

Sometimes, pointing and clicking just isn’t enough.  Even the most amateur of snappers has experimented with camera angles and height – though most of the time the camera is only as high from the ground as the photographer's eye.  Not so the Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) enthusiast: they enable their cameras to reach for the sky with often spectacular results.

Although it is not quite as simple as attaching your camera to a kite and hoisting it skywards, Kite Aerial Photography (we will call it KAP from here) has quite a history.  The first KAP pictures were taken in France in 1888 and the idea took off.  They may only have dreamed of this amazing picture of Mont St Michel (appropriately again in France), above, but their pioneering work paved the way for the amazing set of images you can see here. George Lawrence, one of the early pioneers, was able to take a picture of San Francisco after the earthquake which destroyed a large part of it in 1906. 

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


Shanghai is the most populous city (proper) in the world and has seen remarkable growth over the last few decades.  This superlative time-lapse by Brian Hawkins was filmed in the Huangpu and Pudong areas of the city.  Thanks to a knowledgeable fixer he managed to get access to some roof-tops enabling him to produce this timelapse showing Shanghai from some rare angles.  Remarkable.

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The Pink Robin: The Gloriously Pink-breasted Bird

The robin, both European and American is famous for its red breast.  The subject of nursery rhymes and Christmas cards the male of the species is resplendent in red. Australia, too, has a robin.  One might, of course, expect this particular country to produce something a little different: it has form, after all.  So, step forward the pink robin, Australia’s passerine of pulchritudinous pinkness.  Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has the full story.
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17 August 2019

A Dandelion Going To Seed - Carl Sagan on Space Travel


In 1977 Carl Sagan gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures Lectures on space travel. In his final lecture, he spoke about the human race venturing out into space; his words are as relevant now as they were then.  

A wonderful simile that Sagan used when imagining the human race venturing out in to space was ‘a dandelion going to seed’.  Once can only wonder if, as we look to send people to Mars and then beyond, are we finally realising Sagan’s vision?

This clip was animated by the Ri animator-in-residence Andrew Khosravani. Although I love the pale blue dot animations I have seen it's great to see another set of Sagan's memorable words brought to life again through the medium of animation.
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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.
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