25 February 2017

Einstein and the Honey Bee

It is said that Einstein calculated that if the honey bee were to disappear then humanity would die out in four years.  The bee population of the UK halved by the year 2007 due to Colony Collapse Disorder, the reasons for which are unclear. If Einstein was right then we have real reason to worry and the reasons for the collapse of so many bee hives must be addressed immediately.

Yet was Einstein correct? This short animated film by Lucy Cash explores his (supposed) statement and takes a look out our ongoing and enduring relationship with that most special of insects, the honey bee.

The Painted Monasteries of Romania

You would reasonably expect a monastery to have frescoes - inside.  Yet a number of monasteries in the Romanian region of Moldavia have centuries old frescoes on the exterior of their katholikon (main church) which have, incredibly, survived the years and the elements.  Perhaps the most famous, which you can see here, is the Voronet Monastery with its bright azurite background – known to Romanians as Voronet blue - but it is not alone in this remarkable tradition.

19 February 2017

Courage: What it Takes to Stop Bullying

So many people witness bullying but do nothing about it as they often fear that they will end up being bullied themselves. This short by The Mary Foundation in Denmark shows that – actually – often all it takes to stop bullying is for one person to have the courage to intervene. It can be amazing what happens next – when liberation from the psychological group control of bullies occurs. Grab a hankie before you press play – you may need one.

14 February 2017

Zombie Insects: Bizarre and Terrifying Parasites

While World War Z is less than likely to happen anytime soon, zombie-like behavior has been scientifically recorded in a wide variety of animals. These natural occurrences are usually the result of vicious parasites, that have the power to eerily influence their hosts’ behavior before ultimately killing them or, in some cases, forcing them to kill themselves.

One of the creepiest of cases is the way a species of Costa Rican wasp, the jewel wasp, enslaves orb spiders for reproduction. The wasp will lay its eggs on the spider’s abdomen in an Alien-like manner and right before it’s ready to cocoon the larva injects a chemical that induces a bizarre phenomenon. The spider, before it eventually gets killed and eaten by the larva inside it, begins building a web but not in the manner it instinctively does. It builds an entirely new kind of web designed to support the larvae’s cocoon, who will build it once it’s done eating the poor spider.

Rivaling this larva species is the female jewel wasp, whose usual victim is a cockroach. The host is eventually consumed for sustenance once it is done acting as living crib of her young. Once she finds her target she injects venom into the cockroach that paralyzes its front legs, and with a second sting to the head the venom disables the roach’s ability to control motor function. The cockroach is now immobilized, much like a gambler glued to a slot in a losing streak, but the wasp has plans for her prisoner. She then guides him by the antennae to his doom, which involves being snacked on for several days and keeping the mother’s larvae warm once she burrows her young into its body.

Wasps are by far not the only parasitic animal to zombify other creatures for their benefit. In fact, the final parasite is not even an insect, but a fungus. The Ophiocordyceps is a microorganism that can not only recognize different species of ants but can induce a mind-controlling brain chemical that forces specific activity in hosts.

This creepy fungus only targets certain species of ants, the theories behind this selectiveness range from different ant life cycles to the fact that the fungus is only able to control the brains of certain species. The few it has targeted, however, have all been administered a unique blend of chemicals, demonstrating that the fungus is more than capable of recognizing different species of insects and altering its techniques to adequately control each one.

What usually happens is that an unfortunate ant will come across the spores of this fungus when looking for food. Once it does it is immediately infected with a cocktail that takes over the creature’s nervous system, forcing it to unwillingly climb up a nearby plant before killing itself on a leaf. The microorganism is then ideally placed for its spores to continue to infect more ants below it once it grows out the back of the dead host’s head. Who needs science fiction when you have real science?

12 February 2017

Caminito del Rey: The Most Dangerous Pathway in the World?

At first glance many might think I might like to have a go at doing that.  Then you look down. For most people, might like quickly turns in to would never, ever in a million years.  Welcome to Spain's Caminito del Rey, quite possibly the most dangerous pathway in the world.

There are some places in this world to which even the locals say you would be mad to venture.  Sometimes this can be dismissed as exaggeration or hyperbole designed to encourage the traveler to go and take a look.  In this case they are absolutely, one hundred percent correct.  Travel along the Caminito del Rey and you really would put your life in peril.  Don’t look down, now…

11 February 2017

The Case of the Missing Garden Gnome

Tim the garden gnome is missing and his owner has called upon the services of hard-boiled private eye Seamus Biggs.

He takes on the case, suspecting it is the work of the heinous Gnome Liberation Front but is dismayed when his estranged ten year old daughter is left with him. 

With some reluctance he teams up with his daughter and an adventure ensues involving a femme fatale, the gun toting gnome liberators and seriously flawed parenting.

The Case of the Missing Garden Gnome is hugely entertaining (with some language the type of which young boys tend to look up first in dictionaries) and was directed by student Emmy winner Alberto Belli and written by Joe Swanson.

It stars Rob Benedict who you may remember as writer turned prophet Chuck Shurley in the TV series Supernatural.

He is aided and abetted in this corny but cool caper by Holly Fulger as the ever so slightly demented Francine and the delightful Marti Cass as his daughter Jill.

5 February 2017

The Galileo Thermometer – Beautiful Science

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who had  a major role in the scientific revolution of the sixteenth century.  He was the first to discover that the density of liquid changes as a result of increasing or decreasing temperatures.

The thermometer named after him is made up of a sealed glass cylinder.  Inside there is a clear liquid and a series of bulbs.  Each bulb has a weight attached to it.  As the temperature changes, they rise and fall depending of a number of mathematical principles.  Yet the Galileo Thermometers has an aesthetic that goes beyond its function – it is a beautiful object in its own right.

1 February 2017

Just a Theory...

We all know that some people are better versed in FAB (the Fine Art of Bull….) than others but, like anything, it needs practice.  And for the novice, it must seem that whenever you come up with something that might just pass the FAB test there is always someone else who can put you in your place – in this case with just two words.

Captured by photographer Michael Coghlan on a wall in Adelaide, South Australia, one can only picture the pursed lips of the originator of this little thread when he (almost inevitably a he) saw the reply. Yet, aren’t theories (philosophical ones, at least) there to be put to the test?

What to Do in a Zombie Apocalypse

If you sighed – even ever so slightly – when you saw the title of this post, I know, I know.  A million and one websites have featured articles on what to do and where to go if and when the zombie apocalypse happens.

However, there is a distinct lack of public information films on the subject and here at Kuriositas we’re more than happy to help sort out that particular situation.  This survival guide to surviving Z-Day has all you need to know – and more – about your options come the day…

I am guessing that animator and director Michael Douglas is from the UK because he does a great job at informing this piece with some peculiarly British detail and humor.  Using the format of a public information film is pretty much a British comedy staple and here it is delivered with great panache.  Plus you just know that Mr Douglas had his heart (and his brain, too, unless our zombie friends got to it) in this project as it bleeds through the visuals.  Love the side swipes to a number of zombie movies, too!  Just bear with the intro music which goes on a little too long and you will be rewarded with everything you need to know in case of z-emergency - and a right old chuckle at the same time.