31 December 2013

10 Great Happy New Year 2014 Videos

Thank you so much for being a Kuriositas reader in 2014.  By way of thanks I would like to wish you a Happy New Year for 2014 – it has been a year for the site with as many downs as up but I am looking forward to taking it on its next steps over the coming year.  In the meantime, here are 10 short videos which celebrate the coming of 2014.  May your year be a wonderful one with you and yours all healthy and happy!

30 December 2013

Salina Turda: Romania’s Amazing Salt Mine turned Museum

The historic region of Transylvania has long been associated with vampires. Yet there is something in Transylvania which predates even the legends of blood-sucking fiends: salt mining has been going on in the area since Roman times.

Salina Turda is an ancient and wondrous example of a salt mine, now a museum and center for halotherapy - with a distinctively modern twist.

Yet as well as the preservation of historic mining facilities, Salina Turda holds some unexpected pleasures. It now looks as much like the lair of a James Bond villain as a salt mine – albeit a very playful Bond villain.

29 December 2013

Attack of the Giant Vegetable Monsters

They're coming in bunches...... They're mad cause we ate them with our lunches!!!

A meteor lands on top of a farm growing vegetable for the consumption of a nearby city.  The strange radiation makes the once harmless vegetables come to life and wreak an unholy revenge of the citizens of the town.

A marvelous piece of animation in the spirit of the B movies of the fifties by Ken Turner with more than a twist in its tale.  Marvellously evil!


Do you remember the story of the scorpion and the fox? Sometimes things are simply in your nature. So, what happens if you happen to be a factory, belching out smoke and noxious fumes? If you have anything approaching a heart then you might begin to feel a little guilty about what you are doing to the environment, despite the fact that it is what, essentially, you were created to do.

So it is with this animated short by Matt Hammill. Hazed was initially created as his grad film from Sheridan College. One thing before you click play – make sure to watch this to the very end, you may not quite get what you were expecting! We guarantee that you will laugh, however!

21 December 2013

Twin Peaks Illustrated

It’s been a while since we have been able to feature a personal project by Martin Woutisseth – he has been a busy guy.  However, today it’s great to see that after many months in stop-start production his illustrated take on the Twin Peaks universe has finally made it!  If you think his illustrations are simply photos with an instant Photoshop filter applied, think again.  Each is lovingly crafted with up to 250 layers – watch the video and see!

19 December 2013

Gaia’s Mission: Solving the Celestial Puzzle

The Gaia spacecraft has now been launched and an amazing project has begun.  Ambitious is hardly the word – altogether over a billion celestial objects will be mapped by Gaia – and in 3D in to the bargain.  What is even, perhaps, more astonishing is that these billion objects constitute only one hundredth of those over 20 G magnitudes brightness in the Milky Way.  Our galaxy is vast.

Professor Gerry Gilmore from Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy and the Principal Investigator for UK involvement in the mission says that Gaia "will revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos as never before."   The university has created this twenty minute film exploring the mission and its challenging.  I found it compulsive viewing.

Oh and it is narrated by Sean Pertwee, a wonderful British actor who we have seen recently in Camelot and Elementary among other things.  As the son of the third actor to play Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee, this is more than an appropriate choice for narrator of this wonderful short documentary.

16 December 2013

The Bizarre Hammerhead Worm

Have you eaten recently? If so, then perhaps it’s not a wise idea to visit the Ark in Space today which has a feature on the bizarre hammerhead worm. It is an extraordinary predator which preys on mostly earthworms but the way that it attacks and feeds is, well, potentially quite disturbing if you are a gentle soul. For those of you brave enough to screw your courage to the sticking place (as Lady Macbeth said) then go take a look at this most bizarre of creatures. But expect carnage.

Image Credit Wikimedia

Thin White Gelato

Inspired by The Snowman, Trunk Animation’s Christmas offering is an enigmatic animated short.  Introduced by David Bowie (where did they get that footage? A Bing Crosby Christmas Special?) Gelato Go Home is a loving homage to the ice cream van in its communal quest for a little time away from it all.  Altogether this left me slightly befuddled but nonetheless happy; so quite close to how I used to feel each Christmas during my childhood.

Tis the Season

Have you ever wondered what Santa does with his time off? What about the reindeer, the presents and the Christmas trees? Not spared a second thought?

Well, perhaps it’s time for you to look in to the secret lives of these yuletide characters, take a peek through the proverbial keyhole as it were.  This marvelously silly animation comes courtesy of Jens and Anna of Animate Me.


Christmas is coming and in many place all over the world that means that the winter is producing the weather most associated with the time of year – snow.

However, if you are wishing for a white Christmas then you may think again after watching this short short by Eoin Duffy.  You may never see that beauty of nature, the snowflake, in the same way again!

15 December 2013

Reaping for Dummies

You never know when the Grim Reaper is going to come knocking – so if you don’t want to accompany him to the afterlife then it is best to take a few precautions.  When a trainee reaper visits an almost abandoned Wild West town he thinks it is just another ordinary soul collection but he gets more than he bargained for.  Reaping for Dummies was created by a group of five students from the 3D design and animation course at Idèfagskolen in Tønsberg Norway.

14 December 2013

Rain Dance

Again we have been neglecting dance on Kuriositas (if anyone would like to be our dance correspondent, please drop us a line!).  However, we hope that this will more than make up for it.  Rain Dance features the talents of Tuomas Määttä and was filmed by Flatlight films.  I love the concept – a frenetic dance slowed down so that every twist and turn is shown in detail.  You understand then why dancers must be so physically fit!

8 December 2013

The Portuguese Water Dog: From the Russian Steppes to The White House

The Portuguese Water Dog is something of a survivor.  The breed was rescued from extinction in the last century and, despite over half of the current specimens being descended from a single male, seems to be going from strength to strength.  Plus it has an unusual feature that you might not expect, even though the clue is in its name.  Find out what that is and enjoy a feast of photos of this adorable dog on the Ark in Space.

Image Credit

What is Wrong with Atlantis?

The new BBC series Atlantis, based very, very loosely on Greek mythology is doing well in the Saturday night ratings war.  Starring Mark Addy and Jack Donnelly, the show follows the adventures of young Jason and his friends; it's a three way bromance located in an alternate, unsunk Atlantis. However, one writer at least finds that there are a few things missing from the show which makes it less than wholly enjoyable.  Perhaps you may agree – pop over to 2wenty4se7en to discover what (one person at least) believe is wrong with Atlantis.

Dry Grass in a Blue Vase

For centuries a secret guild has kept a door locked, its secret hidden away for so long that no-one remembers what was kept behind it.   Now only one old woman remains out of the group and she decides to do the only thing she can before she dies.

This enigmatic and beautifully made animated short was written, directed, animated and sound edited by Maria Ivanova.

7 December 2013

Potsman Miner

As time goes on it must be more difficult for imaginative minds to dream up new, future dystopias.  I think you may well agree that the four Supinfocom students who created Factuer Mineur (in the original French) have done just that.  A lone postman carries an incredible burden both literally and metaphorically.  What effect will the news that he carries have on its intended recipients?

Chester - Voted Europe's 5th Prettiest City by Readers of USA Today

The readers of USA today recently voted the city of Chester in England as Europe’s fifth prettiest city.

While this may have come as a surprise to many (it beat Prague, Budapest and Venice for starters), for those acquainted with this historic city, founded by Roman invaders almost 2,000 years ago, it came as a long overdue recognition of one of the UK’s best kept secrets.

While Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and York hog the spotlight as England's premier historic towns, Chester is sometimes overlooked.  As someone born and brought up there I believe I can help explain why this city came so surprisingly high in the USA Today poll.

Chester is tucked away about twenty miles under Liverpool on the map of England and it is true that it is often overshadowed by its larger, more famous neighbor. It is difficult to compete with The Beatles, after all. However, Chester has charms that are all its own so I would like to invite you to a short tour of the city.

5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela: A Tribute in Art

Nelson Mandela: 18 July 1918 - 5 December 2013

When I was a teenager in the early 1980s I think my first encounter with the name Nelson Mandela was probably through a badge.  Although my memory is a little fuzzy about exactly when, it was most likely 1983, the year before the Special AKA band released what is still in most Top 20 Political Songs lists – Free Nelson Mandela.  The song made it in to the top ten in the UK hit parade. The badge, though, with its typically 80s font, was ubiquitous.

Image Credit Flickr User Ben Sutherland
As well as being worn to protest the on-going incarceration of the South African politician by his own government, the badge was also another way for us to show our displeasure with our own: Maggie Thatcher and her cohorts were currently smashing their way through UK industry like a wrecking ball.  The only pictures we got to see of Nelson Mandela were those taken before his trial and imprisonment – and that had been in 1962, over twenty years previously.   The man could already be representative of causes other than his own – a kind of marker of general political and personal duty: this transference from individual to universal symbol is something that few others have achieved.
Image Credit Flickr User Vilseskogen
The potency of this charisma was bound to find outlets through artistic expression both of the monumental and the personal kind. After his release and his inevitable rise to political power, Mandela’s face became (and I do not use the word without hesitation) iconographic, even in life.  He became a living, breathing symbol of the struggle for personal liberty, for freedom of speech, for universal education and suffrage – and more: I could probably leave a space here and each of you could fill in the gap with your own reason for admiring this man, surely one of the most pivotal in contemporary world history.

4 December 2013

850 Meters

A not-so-brave knight is on a quest for Fame and Fortune - legend says rescuing a princess is the way to go. And in those same fairy tales, there's only one way to slay the dragon that holds the fair lady captive: find the invincible sword. To reach his goal, the knight is ready to go far. Maybe even as far as 850 meters. This marvelous animated short was created by Thuristar.

Our Anthem (American Made)

Last month the town of Washington, Illinois, was virtually flattened by a tornado but its citizens are not those for giving up.  Green Shoe Studio has produced this song and video, by Jacob Colgan and Aileeah Colgan as a tribute to the community and to help restore what has been lost (certainly not their spirit!).  You can buy the single on iTunes or donate directly to the Washington Tornado Relief Fund here.

2 December 2013

Lofoten – Amazing Arctic Circle Anomaly

The archipelago of Lofoten in Norway is north of the Arctic Circle.  Yet throughout the year it has temperatures which belie its position.  

This is because of the largest positive temperature anomaly in the world relative to latitude.  

It makes Lofoten an unexpected delight – its early settlers must have thought they had stumbled across an arctic paradise.

Prepare to have your breath taken away.

What they found there was a sea teeming with life and the largest deep water coral reef in the word.  There are literally millions of sea birds with many species represented, such as the sea eagle, the cormorant and the puffin.  Otter are common in the area and on the larger islands of the archipelago there are moose.

Lovely Laptops: How Would You Customise Yours?

A few years ago I thought a good proportion of the world had gone mad as they seemed to have started talking to themselves in the street and on public transport – and answering back too. Of course, I soon realised that they were using discrete mobile technology to talk to their friends (not imaginary ones!). I am having the same ‘shock of the new’ with the multitude of tablets and Laptops that are now available. They are getting slimmer and slimmer and once or twice I have spotted people using them before I actually spot the laptop.

The VAIO laptops from Sony are ‘guiltier’ than most. The latest is the slimmest Windows 8 tablet PC in the world. Not only that but they come with a range of features that are super useful, whether you are working, playing or just chilling. Take a look at this infographic. Which feature of the VAIO Inspiration Suite do you think you would use the most?

How to use VAIO Inspiration Suite - Infographic
Courtesy of Sony

When you get over the sheer amount of tools you can use on the VAIO Laptops there is probably something else you might notice. I really hate it when glare gets in the way of me getting on with things on my laptop (OK, so it’s usually watching movies). However, there is a VAIO Display Premium feature on selected laptops which have anti-reflection and wider viewing angles which are fantastic for people like me.

Talking of selection, that is completely the name of the game with VAIO laptops. You can select from a great range of colours which will really make your own laptop stand out – and there are a number of finishes available too so that you will have your own bespoke laptop. Now, here’s a question for you! If you could have your laptop look any way you wanted, what indeed would it look like?

Let me know – perhaps we might even be able to persuade Sony to adopt your ideas!

Sponsored Post

1 December 2013

Red Squirrels Show Signs of Recovery from Deadly Poxvirus

The red squirrel is one of the most popular wild animals in the United Kingdom, which considering so few people have seen one is something of a surprise. They have been marginalized by an American interloper, the grey squirrel, for more than a century and they number only just over 100,000. Moreover, a disease carried by the grey has reduced the population of reds to a fraction of what it was a century ago.

Now, however, red squirrels in an enclave in Merseyside (in the north east of England) have been found to be carrying antibodies which means they have had the dreaded poxvirus but have since recovered. Perhaps there is hope, after all. The Ark in Space has the full story plus a plethora of pictures of this uber-cute animal in action.

Image Credit Peter Trimming

Caminandes: Two Very Funny Llama Dramas

Caminandes is about as hapless a llama as you are ever likely to meet.  Yet through adversity our Patagonian friend makes it through – often by the skin of his teeth.    Of course, in the spirit of classic animation, you have to root for the guy! The first episode is above but I do have to say that the new episode below is my favorite of the two! Both episodes are Open Movies produced by the Blender Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

There Will Be Blood - Through Numbers

You may never see the art of film direction in quite the same way after you watch this. I knew there was a lot more to it than simply pointing a camera in a certain direction and shouting action but what this video by Ali Shirazi reveals is somewhere in the category of mind blower.

Shirazi takes There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and shows how film techniques, some derived directly from art through the centuries, are used to amazing effect. Included are the golden ratio, one point perspective and tracking shots. It just goes to show how science (specifically here, mathematics) and art are intrinsically entwined.

Wooden Boy – for World Aids Day

Today (1 December) is World Aids Day when we remember all those lost to this terrible disease of the human immune system.  It also gives an opportunity to drive home the message that the war against Aids is far from over. Directed by 2AM, this short video has adult themes for a serious message but a great ‘reveal’ at its end which is full of ironic humor. Don’t get caught out, folks, always stick one on!

29 November 2013

Death in D Minor

Some people are taken too early.  Jones has lived to a ripe old age but resents the death of his army buddy decades earlier. He has spent the intervening years planning something of a unique defense system. When death comes knocking, he is not going to go without a fight.  This animated short by five students from The One Academy does not conclude until after the credits, so keep watching right till the end.

Five Knives: The Future

One of the hottest acts to come from Nashville recently is Five Knives – and considering their home town, they are not quite what you might expect. This video, directed by Lance Drake, is set in a future dystopia where cloned schoolboys are brought up by android teachers. One rebels and what ensues is a kind of solo Battle Royale that will have you transfixed till the end.  This kid has some moves.

28 November 2013

History of Telecommunications

By Teresa Meek

When did telecommunications begin?

It depends on what you mean by tele, the Greek word for long distance, and communications, which can take many forms.

The ancient Greeks used signal fires in their armies and sent out carrier pigeons to transmit the results of their Olympics.

Much later, in 1791, Claude and Ignace Chappe, a pair of French brothers attending separate schools close enough to be visible to each other, created a large mechanical device with arm-like rods that they manipulated to communicate with each other. Somehow, they were not expelled, and went on to help France develop over 500 of these semaphore message-relay systems, which Napoleon used to coordinate his military campaigns.

Semaphore systems, many of them using flags instead of metal arms, developed all over Europe and parts of the U.S. and were a major form of government communications systems.

When we think of modern telecommunications, however, most of us think of electricity.

People noticed early on that metals were magnetic. In the 1700’s, Henry Cavendish and others discovered that this meant they carried an electrical charge.

Electrical impulses were very interesting to scientists because of their lightning speed. (In fact, Benjamin Franklin later demonstrated in his famous kite experiment that lightning is electricity.)

Intrigued by the transmission possibilities, a French scientist in 1746 somehow talked 200 monks into standing in a very large circle, connected together by pieces of iron wire. He then used leyden jars—early forms of capacitors, which store and release current—to send out a current and measure its speed. He was pleased to note that all the monks reacted at the same time to the electric shock that resulted.

Proving that electricity does indeed travel fast—and perhaps also that monks are indeed protected by God, as none of them are reported to have died.

In the 1800s, electricity was used to create the electric telegraph, developed most successfully in the U.S. by Samuel Morse, famous for inventing the code that went along with it. With a telegraph, an operator sets up an electrical contact using a telegraph key, producing a signal that is heard at the receiving end, where another operator decodes it.

It worked great until 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell supplanted it with the telephone, which lets you hear the message voice-to-voice, with no coding and decoding involved.

Telegraph companies, however, were not impressed. The Telegraph Company had its investigators look into the new technology and write up a report, which said: We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles.

Messer Hubbard and Bell want to install one of their "telephone devices" in every city. The idea is idiotic on the face of it.

But voice transmission grew stronger and better, eventually retiring the telegraph to the world’s museums.

Businesses became big users of the telephone, and some of them wondered if it could be possible to connect more than two users and exchange information without holding a physical meeting.

To attempt to meet that need, Bell Labs invented the first conference call system in 1956, and from its research, AT&T developed the Picturephone, introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.

The Picturephone sent both visual and audio information across three phone lines. It was very advanced for its time, but complicated and expensive. And only three people could participate. AT&T eventually abandoned the product, after sinking a billion dollars into its investment.

Later, other businesses entered the field. Conference Calls Unlimited, formed in 1998, was one of the first to become widely successful, and is still in business today.

The next big milestone was the internet, which began as a project of the U.S. Army’s Advanced Projects Research Agency (ARPA). Then Leonard Kleinrock at MIT published papers and books pointing the way toward computer networking.

Internet protocol was standardized in 1982, and computers began to spread at universities and colleges. In 1995, the internet was allowed to be commercialized, and began its journey to becoming the behemoth it is today.

17 November 2013


Take some very talented animators and state of the art software using a head rig compatible with all leading game engines. Then take producers Side, 3Lateral and CubicMotion.  Finally, take a wonderful British actress (Lydia Leonard, left, as she is in this short and in real life) and you get Synchronicity. It’s a wonderful vehicle to show the depth of emotion realizable by capturing and animating the finer details of a performance. Plus it makes for great, enigmatic science fiction.

Snow Hare

If Snow Hare seems, when you watch it, to be a particularly poignant animated short it may be that its creator, Shawn Branden, was working through the grief triggered by the loss of a friend at the time.  As the work progressed it became almost a form of therapy for him and one can only hope a type of catharsis too.  Branden completed Snow Hare during his last few semesters at CSU. As his senior film it shows great promise for the future – and what better tribute could that be to the friend that he lost?


It’s hard enough to imagine fighting cancer when you are an adult, let alone a two year old but that is just what Miles had to do. Now 5, Miles had beaten Leukemia and no gets the opportunity to show the San Francisco community just how strong a fighter he is. The Make-A-Wish foundation granted his wish to become Batman for the day (well, Batkid at least which I think is even cooler). This video courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Homes & Hues – A New Site for Making a House a Home

The lovely folks over at Neatorama have just launched Homes & Hues.  The new site pretty much does what it says on the label – it’s a place to visit if you love home design and making your place truly your own.

So, if you are looking for a little (or a lot) of inspiration, Homes & Hues covers everything from architecture to interior design, unique accessories to traditional furnishings, epicurean kitchens to contemporary bathrooms.  Of course, as it is a site associated with Neatorama, you will soon realize that the word inimitable applies here too.

There are a number of great articles on the site at the moment, including a fantastic (but impossible looking) shoot pool slide but I think my favorite so far has to be the Star Wars feature.  If you have been looking for The Best Star Wars Furniture That Imperial Credits Can Buy, then hop over to Homes & Hues.  There are 20 Star Wars furniture designs to enthuse you in to creating or buying your own!  I was particularly taken with the X_Wing bed, above. I am not sure how much sleep I would get but I am not sure I would care.

Looks like I for one will be visiting Homes & Hues on a regular basis!

16 November 2013

The Kelpies: Mythological Horses Power Again through Scotland

Kelpies 13 007
An extraordinary work of art has just been completed in Scotland.  The Kelpies by figurative sculptor Andy Scott surge upwards in steel, whinnying and snorting alongside the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal near the town of Falkirk.  These fantastic beasts from Gaelic mythology have risen again as monuments to the horse-powered industrial heritage of Scotland.


Take a short journey through the history of inheritance, from Aristotle through to the genetics of the present day, courtesy of animator Asa Lucander. Some of the ideas here are, to our eyes, fairly straightforward, but they had to come from somewhere – and that somewhere meant a lot of trial and error over the centuries! This animation first appeared as part of the Science Club series on UK TV’s BBC2 hosted by Dara O Briain.
Amung Feedjit
Follow Kuriositas on Facebook