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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16 August 2019

The Statues of Dublin and their Notorious Nicknames

Dublin is littered with statues.  It seems close to a national obsession in Ireland to erect them.  Perhaps not far behind is the predilection of the inhabitants of this fair city to give them nicknames.  A stroll near the Ha’penny Bridge will bring you to these two charming ladies, having a rest after shopping for their families.   They were placed there as part of a project to celebrate the millennium of the city in 1988 and represent the ordinary women of the city.

Charmingly (or not) one of the bags was snatched a little while after the statue was placed there.  What statement the unknown thief was making is unknown but the bag was made of bronze and it was very, very heavy.  Fortunately it was returned, but what of the local nickname for this amiable salute to the womenfolk of Dublin.  Why, the ‘Hags with the Bags’ of course.

14 August 2019

How To Master the Science of Perfect Latté Art

The average American spends $14 a week on coffee shops. That comes out to over $700 over the course of the year. But what can you do, right? You just can’t get delicious cappuccinos or lattes at home.

Or can you? Lattes are no longer just available at Starbucks. Homebrewing isn’t just a viable option; it’s actually a fairly easy process that anyone can do with a few simple tools and a basic level of insight. In this guide, we go over all the ways you can save money by brewing delicious lattes at home.

First: The Supplies You Need

Before we get to any brewing, it’s critical that you come prepared. Here are a few basic things you need to make a good latte at home:
  • Milk
  • Your favorite espresso beans
  • An espresso machine (the Breville BES980XL for example)
  • Coffee syrups (optional but recommended)
  • A milk steamer

The good news is that you probably already have these things at your disposal. The only tool that you might not have on the home front is a milk steamer, which can be purchased for a relatively low cost.
Now that you have all the stuff, let’s make some lattes!

Step 1: Brew the Espresso

Technically, espresso is supposed to be made in an espresso maker. However, you can cheat a little if you don’t want to front the cost and just brew it with your regular coffee pot. It won’t come out with quite the same consistency or flavor profile, but it will get the job done.

A word of warning: the first time you try this, be sure to monitor the situation closely. Some older coffee pots can’t handle the finer grind of an espresso bean, which may lead to a big mess on your hands.

Once the espresso has been brewed, move it to your latte cup immediately. If you would like to use a flavored syrup, now is the time to break it out.

Step 2: Steam the Milk

Now comes the time to steam the milk. The amount of milk used in a latte is mostly a matter of personal taste, though standard practices suggest that you use at least two shots worth of it. If you decide you want more than that, go for it. More power to you.

Step 3: Integrate the Milk Into Your Latte Cup

Now that the milk and the coffee have both been prepared, it’s time to combine them. Begin by adding two thirds of your steamed milk to your latte cup. When you are done, stir vigorously.

When the milk has been properly integrated, you can top the concoction off by spooning in the rest of the milk directly on top of your latte.

Iced Lattes

Lattes are also very enjoyable when served over ice. The brewing process is the same, with the only difference being that you put ice into your concoction before adding the final layer of foam.

Latte Art
If you have Instagram, you are probably also abundantly aware of the fact that many people use latte milk as an opportunity to show off their creative side.

Creating latte art is all in the pour. After you pour or scoop in your final layer of milk, gently scrape the unincorporated froth into the design of your choosing. Many people start small with hearts, flowers, or other basic design elements.

It’s not extremely easy, but with patience and practice, you should eventually be able to create designs that are worthy of your social media feed.


The latte is deceptively simple. Though it requires only a few basic ingredients, the eventual quality of the drink is almost entirely contingent on your technique. This means that you may not get barista-quality results after your first try.

Don’t get frustrated. Practice really does make perfect, and before you know it you will be making better (or at least less expensive) lattes than your favorite café.

First Image Credit
Second Image Credit
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31 July 2019

The Denge Sound Mirrors: Radar’s Predecessor

Before the application of radar became a reality a number of experimental early warning systems were developed by the British military.  One which showed the most promise – as it actually worked – were the acoustic mirrors built at Denge on the south coast of England.  Quickly superseded by radar they were abandoned but still remain at their post, obsolete concrete leviathans on an island in the middle of a nature reserve, reminders of a dangerous time in European history.

The mirror would pick up the sound of any aircraft approaching the coast of the UK.  If they were not scheduled (and flights in and out of the country were closely monitored) then they could be judged as possibly being enemy aircraft. Sound waves were caught in the focal point of the mirror and relayed though microphones to an operator, who could then alert the appropriate authorities. The mirrors were able to give a fifteen minute warning of an approaching assault on the England.

30 July 2019

The Hardy Tree: An Early Work of a Great Novelist

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.
However, it is unlikely that the would-be author could guess what one of his firm’s projects would demand of him. He probably didn't sign up for architecture to then be sent to excavate a graveyard. Yet, like many a young man finding his path, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

28 July 2019

The Underwater Billiard Room of Witley Park

Whitaker Wright was a very rich man. He had made his fortune in the mining industry and so when it came to the creation of a billiard room on his new estate perhaps it was only fitting to build it underground. Not only that, this eccentric millionaire decided to build it underwater too. With windows.

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