31 March 2016

Rapid City: The City of Presidents

Visitors to the historic downtown of South Dakota’s Rapid City are in for something of a surprise. Turn a corner and you come face to face with a life size bronze statue of the USA’s first ever President, George Washington (above, who was in office from 1789 – 1797).  Turn another and you come across his successor, George Adams. In fact there is a statue of each US President in the city (bar the current incumbent).  As well as being a remarkable tribute to the leaders of America, it's a great way to memorize the presidents. Take a look at each, in order of his time as POTUS.

John Adams - 1797 - 1801
The project began in 2000 with the pattern of placement throughout the Downtown district specifically chosen to give those doing the ‘tour’ a rational structure while avoiding any favouritism to a particular president or party.

Orbital: The Box, Starring Tilda Swinton

It must be close to 20 years since I’ve seen this music video for the Orbital track The Box so I was really glad to rediscover it on one of my regular rummages through Vimeo.  Starring Tilda Swinton and directed by Jes Benstock and Luke Losey it is still a tour de force in what makes a great music video.

Tilda Swinton is marvelously enigmatic as the alien who comes from a different time-frame - a much slower place so that when she moves around in our world, it feels terrifyingly fast.

The Brim Silo Project

If you ever had any doubts about the ability of art and artists to enhance the lives of those around them, then watch this short documentary about a little town in Australia and called Brim.  Artist Guido Van Helton created this magnificent set of images on the side of huge silos just outside the town.

Understandably the project quickly became a destination and drew a spotlight on many issues which affect small towns and not just in Australia.  Melbourne based production studio Round 3 Creative were there to record it.

30 March 2016

Slow Wave

If you are a light sleeper – or it is easily disturbed for one reason or another then you will totally get this animated short created by Brooklyn based filmmaker, animator and musician Andy Kennedy.

Disturbances from outside and within are given life and the bedroom – what should be our ultimate safe refuge- becomes a place of surreal dream-state imaginings.

Puzzle: Genuinely Creepy Short Film

A woman. An old apartment. Pictures. That’s all it takes to create a genuinely creepy short film from which, frankly, some Hollywood directors could learn.  I may have become inured to frights in film over the years but this made me jump three times and it’s only five minutes long.  Written and directed by Vincent Templement and Adrien Pallatier and starring Flavie Péan this eerie short will suitably unnerve you. Don’t have nightmares!

29 March 2016

Fun and Interesting Periodic Table Spin-Offs

For many, the periodic table has been that complicated chart you had to memorize in high school or something only scientists deal with in daily life.  While the periodic table we are all familiar with was formulated by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, the ideas behind it began formulating 200 years earlier and almost another 150 years later, the template it created is used in various designs from artistic visions to organizing candy.

(Image Source: sciencegeek.net)

The periodic table is a chart that organizes chemical elements based upon their electron configurations, atomic numbers and recurring chemical properties.  What does this mean to the average layman?  Basically, the table groups elements together based on similar and increasing/decreasing properties or characteristics and allows scientists to predict where the elements we have not yet discovered will fit in once we do.
While many elements have been known since ancient times, such as gold, silver, zinc, platinum and tin, many have only been discovered in the last 100 years, and we keep discovering new ones.  The table makes it easy to place them with elements that share identical periods (same number of atomic orbitals) or in groups (same number of electrons).

There are currently 118 elements on the periodic table. If that sounds like a lot more than you thought, it’s probably because elements get added all the time. In fact, it was only in December of 2015 that the four latest elements were accepted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry – numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118. Their names? Ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium. I kid you not. All each one of the current names means is its number in the Latin language – they are nothing but temporary placeholders, until proper names have been devised for these elements. It’s usually, names inspired by scientists or science institutes. Like Einsteinium ( Es ), named after Albert Einstein, or Californium ( Cf ), with atomic number 98, which was named after the State where it was first created – the University of California Radiation Laboratory, in Berkley, 1950. Up to the year 1500, only nine elements were known, eight of which had been known since ancient times.

The human body is mostly made of 10 out of these 118 elements, with tiny traces of another 10. The rest of them are altogether different stories. Some cannot even be found in nature, although it’s been proven that they once existed.  It all gets very complicated, but it is the format and creation of this table has led many much more fun periodic tables, from alternative arrangements of the original, to periodic-table inspired miscellany. Which was only to be expected: After all, such a useful and iconic tool can only breed imitations, spin-offs and parodies.

Drinks are on the House!
While it may sound amusing, Best Colleges Online commissioned the Periodic Table of Alcohol as a learning tool for anyone who’s new to drinking. While a lot of people may enjoy the odd drink or the weekend party, many have no idea what exactly they are imbibing.  So it is actually meant to promote responsible drinking.

(Image Source: businessinsider.com)
The chart was created to group alcohols together by base: cider, mixed beer, wine, tequila, brandy, whiskey, rum and gin.  The ABV is also given for bases and cocktail so as to educate on each drink’s effect on blood alcohol level and enable anyone to calculate their consumption and make sure they don’t overdrink.
Created by wine connoisseurs De Long, the Wine Grape Varietal Table lends a little more class to the world of imbibing decadence.  It groups varietals of grapes with fermenting processes.

(Image Source: amazon.com)

Reds, white, roses, sparkling, sweet and other families and types of wine are grouped in rows while stainless steel tank versus barrel-aging are given columns.  Even the type of barrel wood or temperature range in the stainless tank is considered.  The poster also makes a lovely piece of art for the wine lover.

Let’s Hit the Buffet
Periodic tables of food can be found online and at many restaurants, bakeries or gourmet food shops.  The Periodic Table of Desserts contains rows and groups similar to the periodic table of elements, only referencing everyone’s favorite part of the meal.  The groupings are based on thermal spectrum and structure, which sounds a little specialized, but even the layperson can tell what the column of sweeteners (sugar, maple syrup, honey and molasses) or row of nuts (pecan, almond, pistachio and so on) represents.

Image Source: instructables.com)

The periodic table of condiments is helpful in that, based on ingredients; it gives information on the life expectancy of any sauce, spice, vinegar or seasoning.  The periodic table of sandwiches organizes by meats, breads and condiments.  The table for herbs and spices or fruits and vegetables often groups in Latin categories just to look more interesting.  Just about any food group can be found on one or another various periodic table of food.

The Language and Strategies of Games
The arena of gaming is another popular place for periodic tables. The Periodic Table of Poker was created by online poker room PokerStars to help newer players become more comfortable with the terms, language and strategies of the often-daunting game of poker.

Each column breaks popular poker terms into categories so it becomes easier to use and understand the terms.  Some of the techniques can be useful if you want to advance your game, or you’re just wondering what your poker-loving friend could have meant by “open-ended straight draw”. In any case, just like all of these, a great visual representation.

Image Source: visually.net)

The Periodic Table of Game Controllers is educational in its groupings as well.  There are handheld and console groups.  There are columns or rows with brand names and Bluetooth versus hardwire, going back all the way to 1976. It contains quite a bit of info for the average online video gamer.  In fact, there are several periodic tables created for video games: characters, console manufacturers, game developers and more.  Some are created at the level of an elementary student learning about oxygen and some are more for the genius needing a laugh.

Writers Block
One of the more popular periodic tables seen on posters in many office supply stores is the Periodic Table of Typefaces, created by graphic designer Cam Wilde.  The table lists the 100 most popular, influential and notorious typefaces of all time.

(Image Source: geeknaut.com)

Like traditional periodic tables, families and classes of typefaces are grouped: script, sans-serif, realist, blackletter and more.  They are also given a ranking depending on the number of lists the typeface appeared on.  Interestingly, the creators favorites receive a special ranking on the table.

The Art of the Table
It seems that, for the most part, the parodies of the Periodic Table of Elements have all been created to combine a little education with a specific presentation.  Many have been made into lovely works of art, almost as beautiful as the elements themselves.  Posters, paintings and pictures of various periodic tables can be found online or at quaint boutiques on the wall.  The table has become art itself, which of course means alongside the multitudes of tables to be found, there must also be a Periodic Table of Art!

20 March 2016

The Firefall – Horsetail Falls 2016

If you are a regular reader of Kuriositas then you will probably have read our feature on Horsetail Falls in Yosemite.  For a few days every February, Horsetail Fall comes to life. A seasonal waterfall which flows only in the late winter and early spring, those short February days bring about a transformation. The waterfall is lit up by the setting sun and ignites in to a fiery spectacle. Destination visual artist Shawn Reeder captured this spectacle this year – and what a sight it is!

16 March 2016

The End of the Chinese Miracle

Have you ever heard of the Lewis Turning Point? Neither had I until I watched this fascinating short documentary by the Financial Times, part of their ongoing End of the Chinese Miracle series.  The Lewis Turning Point is the point at which surplus rural labour reaches a financial zero.

Although this is hard to take in, at least on this massive Chines scale. Essentially, it means that there have been so many Chinese people going to live in cities that rural labour is suffering a shortage, which pushes up wages.

In fact, migrant wages have more than doubled over the last seven years.  Before you rush off to China, however, there are a few things you might want to take in to account.  First and foremost, the Chinese population (much like most industrialised nations) is aging rapidly.  When you take this is in to account then the rise in migrant workers’ wages means that we might not be able to rely on this vast and ancient culture to do what it has been doing over the last decade – providing the rest of the world with a deluge of cheap goods.

Plus there’s a dilemma for older workers – of course!  However, if you like truly staggering facts and figures (such as the population equivalent of the shift from country to city in China represents 88 Londons) then this really is the video for you.

Watching this I was really struck at how difficult it was for me to take in these figures – that a single country has this amount of people (despite the fact I was well aware of the enormity of the Chinese population!).  It is, hwever, a fact of twenty first century life that what happens in China will inevitable have a knock on effect on the rest of the world – it truly is their century.  It’s not so much the butterfly effect but perhaps the great big enormous panda effect instead!