30 April 2017

Cassini's Grand Finale

Digital artist Erik Wernquist created this animated short for none other than NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) about the spectacular ending of the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. It is meant as an inspirational and informative piece about what happens in the last months of the mission, and as a celebration of all that this historic spacecraft has achieved from its launch in 1997.  The world will be looking to the skies in wonder on September 15 when Cassini becomes part of Saturn.

Have a Look

Animator and film-maker William Garratt calls these his bits and bobs which he usually posts on his Instagram account.  However, the spirit recently took him to put them all together and upload them to Vimeo.  I have to confess that some of these I just don’t ‘get’.  However, that is more than made up by the ones that I do.  My particular favorite is the snail – just wait, you’ll see…

29 April 2017

Downward Dog

A dog becomes increasingly lonely but nevertheless philosophical as his owner loses interest in him.  It doesn’t sound like a very good premise but this is put together so beautifully that you will come to accept that a dog is cataloguing life’s sad ironies to you.  It’s also very funny! Created by Michael Killen and Samm Hodges, and produced by the team at Animal (animalstudio.com), “Downward Dog” is the original web series that provided the inspiration for the upcoming ABC comedy of the same name.

Arrival: A Short and Very Sweet Coming Out Film

It’s 2017 and so, surely, no one needs to fear coming out as LGBTQ anymore?

If that’s the case then no one told the Chechen authorities who seem, currently, to be paving the way towards a new dark-age for those who do not identify as hetero.

Rare was the person, ever, who was able to spring blithely and fully-formed from the metaphorical closet but in many countries it is still almost impossible to do so without some form of repudiation, denunciation or reprobation.

So this short film, for me, was something of a breath of fresh air. Arrival tells the story of a young man who has a close bond with his mother.  Yet when he moves to the big city and not only discovers himself but also the love of his life, he is unable to share this amazing happening with his mother.  To see how this is resolved you will have to watch this beautifully made animated short film, written, directed and animated by Alex Myung.
Even today, in the most liberal of societies with the most liberal of parents, people still struggle to share their true nature with their loved ones leading to a ripple effect which makes everyone unhappy.  You could see this short two ways: first it is super-contemporary and very political. It is, after all, societal structure and its dictat that to be ‘normal’ is to fit in which makes so many young LGBTQ people unhappy and as such this is a plea for change and for enlightenment.

At the same time this is also (and predominantly) a very, very sweet story about the relationship between a mother and son and how, ultimately, their bond overcomes the obstacles that the social order puts in its way.

28 April 2017

Who Wants to be a Multibillionaire? Or, how to Choose which Lottery will (inevitably?) Make you Rich

Who doesn’t love playing games? And it’s no secret that people love games they can win at, especially if they can win a considerable sum. Look at the gamification trend in general, for instance, or even the achievements trend in video games - they're all little prizes promised to their players for their efforts, and help motivate and entertain them. And then there's games you can actually win big prizes at. Hope and wishful thinking are traits we all share, so perhaps this collective optimistic predisposition is to account for the popularity of lottery games and the like. But are our hopes unfounded? Exactly how many chances have you got of purchasing the golden lottery ticket – and how much could you actually win?

Powerball makes history
On January 13th, 2016, the US Powerball jackpot awarded a staggering 1.6 billion USD – making it the largest jackpot in the world. The winning amount was split three ways, among two couples and 70-year old Maureen Smith of Melbourne Beach, Florida. She reportedly played the lottery for years, always betting on the same six numbers, before she struck gold.

Source: Powerball, via Facebook
Granted, Maureen’s story proves that sometimes all it takes is patience and devotion before you can be rewarded. But statistically speaking, what exactly are your odds of winning the US Powerball Lottery? Launched in 1992, Powerball was the first ever lottery game to use two drums to draw numbers from, allowing for more complex prize levels, low overall odds of winning and high jackpot odds. Powerball draws take place twice a week, and players are asked to choose five numbers from 1 to 69 and a "powerball" number from 1 to 26. Powerball itself explains that the overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 24.87 –fairly easy, right?– but the chances of winning the Grand Prize are 1 in 292,201,338.00. But don’t be disheartened – past winners come from all walks of life, so who knows if you’re not the next in line?

A Merry Spanish Christmas
If you find yourself on the other side of the pond, then keep this in mind: the Spanish surely know how to celebrate Christmas. The Spanish Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad (Spanish Christmas Lottery) or simply Lotería de Navidad is held annually since 1812. It even continued uninterrupted during the Spanish Civil War, when the lottery draw was moved from Madrid to Valencia, where the Republicans were forced to relocate their capital. After the overthrow of the Republican government by the Spanish General Franco, the lottery continued without break under the new regime that lasted 36 years, making it the second longest continuously running lottery worldwide.

Source: Lotteria de Navidad via Facebook
Nowadays, families around Spain gather around their TV sets each year on December 22nd to find out who is the lucky winner – set to have an unforgettable Christmas. It is widely considered to be the largest lottery game in the world, as measured by the largest prize payout and the largest first prize/jackpot. In 2015, the maximum total prize pool would be €2.52 billion Euros and the total prize for the first place jackpot –affectionately nicknamed El Gordo ("the Fat One" or “the Fatty”)– would be a €720 million Euros. In 2016, the total amount available for all prizes was a whopping $2.310 billion Euros – or 2.414 billion USD.

Whichever basket you choose to put your eggs in, remember – folk wisdom claims that there is nothing like the enjoyment you get when you’ve earned your money by working hard. Now go, prove them wrong!

La Geria: Lanzarote’s Volcanic Vineyards

When volcanic activity caused the emergence of the Spanish island of Lanzarote 15 million years ago it was a desolate, lifeless place.

Settled only three thousand years ago, the island's volcano could still erupt again.

Although the last major eruptions started in 1730 over a period of six whole years and the volcano has been dormant since 1824, even today agricultural exploitation of the island is a difficult process.

Yet in the La Geria region of the island, farmers have come up with an ingenious way to grow their grapes.

Cambodia – Aerial Cinematography

Roberto Serrini was recently in Cambodia and so took the opportunity to explore the country’s truly cinematic beauty from the air – using Phantom and a F550 drones.

What he has captured here is truly wondrous to watch, particularly the looks on the faces of the children as the drone takes flight overhead. This is a truly outstanding piece of film-making.

World War II – Timeline

This animated short was not intended for educational use but still serves as a great overview of the events of the (first half) of the Second World War.  Created by Abhinav Nikam, it serves up the pivotal events up to 1942 in a very modern style incorporating photos, film and imagery from this global conflict.  If you like your history you will probably love this.

Part 2 to follow soon, we hope!

The End

Science fiction comes in many forms and The End is different in a number of ways, not least because of its gentle pace, understated narrative and lack of hi-tech gadgets. And I like fast paced sci-fi full of thingamajigs that do cool things.  Yet that notwithstanding, I found this film, written and directed by Ted Evans (no relation) one of the most touching and thought-provoking shorts I have seen for a while.

The film starts in the past and ends over thirty years from now.  It charts the lives of four young people from 1987 – 2046.  They are different: not telepathic mutants or alien fifth columnists, however.  They are deaf.  The End envisages a cure for deafness and then follows the consequences of such on the lives of the protagonists and, indeed, on deaf culture.

Created in a documentary manner (very similar to those you see which visit their subjects once every decade or so) the four children grow to adulthood and their decision whether or not to take The Treatment has a profound effect on their lives.  The End raises questions not only about the nature of disability but our compassion as a species and our willingness to cleanse what frightens or disturbs us.

Gone in a Split Second

There are moments when a photographer knows that they have almost no time to take a shot – and that in a second the opportunity will be lost forever.  Whether the moment is caught by skill, luck or sheer accident, the results can be breath-taking.  Here is a selection of amazing photographs which capture a moment otherwise gone in a split second.

Image Credit Flickr User John&Fish
This Taiwan Blue Magpie, taken at Yangmingshan, Taipei City did not appreciate this dog trespassing in its nesting areas. Needless to say, the plucky bird was perhaps mistaken in its attempt to shoo off the excitable intruder.

20 April 2017

Warsaw: 24 Hour Timelapse

The Polish capital, Warsaw, here gets the timelapse treatment, with something of a difference.  Film-maker Maciej Margas gets up high in the city and shoots his film from buildings such as Cosmopolitan, Złota 44, Marriott, Millennium Plaza, Rondo 1, and the tower of the Saint Augustine's Church.  The result is a compelling portrait of one of Europe’s most intriguing and historic capital cities.


It always staggers me when an individual comes up with something like Fathom, especially given the millions often invested in animated movies by large corporations. This amazing labor of love was created by Joe Russ over a period of six year, working in the evenings and weekends. Inspired by both the death of his father and his commute from Brooklyn in to Manhattan, Fathom follows Sam, Evan and Hippo the cat as they struggle to survive in a world changed beyond recognition.

The Haiku Stairs: Hawaii’s Forbidden Stairway to Heaven

In 1942 the US military needed to send low-frequency signals so that they could communicate with their submarines circling Japan. They needed a radio transceiver and they needed it to be really high, so the peak of Puʻukeahiakahoe mountain in Hawaii was chosen. A somewhat wobbly wooden pathway was made and the transceiver and its antenna cables were installed. The pathway is still there today, but is out of bounds to those who wish to climb this Stairway to Heaven as it has become known.

14 April 2017

The Campbell–Stokes Sunshine Recorder

Before the dawn of the computer age scientists who wished to record the amount of sunshine in any given place had to be inventive.

A variety of sunshine recorders were invented, with the Campbell-Stokes Recorder quickly becoming the most popular.  In fact many are still in use to this day.

The Reinvention of Gucci

Gucci is almost a century old.  In 2021 it will be a hundred years since founder Guccio Gucci first sold the company’s trademark luxury fashion and leather goods.  The company has had its peaks and troughs in the intervening years (imagine it as a person, for a second, and you know there will be ups and downs!).  However, perhaps the greatest challenge has been to reinvent itself for the age of social media.

It hadn’t really occurred to me, until I read The Watch Gallery’s very interesting piece today, that a company like Gucci would find it necessary to adapt to the times: one would assume, surely, that brands such as this would never go out of fashion.

Yet that is not the case, even for a company as widely known and successful as Gucci.  Perhaps a modern-day Darwin could write a new evolutionary tract about how companies, like species, must adapt to survive or otherwise perish.

As such, some companies have undergone complete transformations.  Nokia, known today for the mobile technology used to propagate stories like this on social media started off selling rubber boots.  The name of the oil and gas company Shell gives away its origins by its name. In the 1830s it was an importer of ornamental sea shells to the UK.  Nintendo was originally a manufacturer of playing cards.  The latter organisation’s evolution makes some sense: it takes something of a leap of the imagination to accept the development of the first two.

Gucci, of course, has persevered with products that its customers of a century ago would probably recognise.  However, its most recent manifestations have been a daring combination of self-reference (such as the comeback of the famous double G logo) and the artistic freedom of its new clutch of designers.

The piece, How Luxury Stays Ahead in the Digital Age, written by Emily Seares, focuses on the last two years, during which Gucci has undergone possibly the largest organisational transformation of its history thanks to two men, Alessandro Michele (above, with the beard) and Marco Bizzarri.  The turnaround has been staggering considering it has been brought about in such a short amount of time. As renaissances go, this is quite something.

Image Credit Daniel Marchand

13 April 2017

Are You Lost in the World Like Me?

This amazing video for Moby’s Are You Lost in the World Like Me? is up for a Webby award, so if you are as deeply impressed by animator Steve Cutts’ work, then please follow the link and vote for it.  You could also take a look at the rest of Cutts' work on his Vimeo channel – as darkly humorous as it gets, your rose-tinted spectacles may need replacing once you have taken a dip in to his recent oeuvre.

12 April 2017

Rangoli: Welcome Mat of the Gods

Throughout the predominantly Hindu country of India, a folk art has been practiced for many centuries. Known varyingly as Kolam, Muggu and Mandana (among other names in this huge and diverse nation), the art of Rangoli is created using dyed rice or sand, flour and the petals of flowers. It signifies a sacred welcoming zone for Hindu deities. It can be quite a welcome.

Image Credit Flickr User Shandi

Dance With Me

Dance With Me offers us snapshots of a relationship, beautifully transitioned to give us a sense of the dynamic between the couple.

Written and Directed by Cristina Molino, Dance With Me is a Think Mol & BalletBoyz film for the UK's Channel 4 UK in association with Arts Council England.  It is exquisite, elegant and elegiac.

Sail Away

This is marvelous – especially if you have enjoyed the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. As a young boy Stevenson was beset by ill health, so much so that his nurse fondly called him Smout, which is a Scottish word for the runt of the litter. This particular runt, however, was not averse to flights of the imagination and here, thanks to five students of ESMA in Toulouse, France, we can witness one of them. Wonderful!

How the Ancient Greeks Shaped Modern Mathematics

Number 536 in our What did the Greeks ever do for us? series.  Here, we take mathematics (thanks to 12foot6 and the Royal Institution.  It may blow away a few cobwebs for you if you don’t engage (consciously) with math on a daily basis with lots of great, pithy facts about dead Greek guys such as Pythagoras and Archimedes.  Sounds a bit dry? Take a look – it’s great fun.

7 April 2017

30 Photos that will Make you Look Twice

We hope that you find Kuriositas visually stimulating. However, without the host of great photographers out there who make their work available under Creative Commons licenses, we would not be able to show you a fraction of the wonderful places the site has featured over the years. While sourcing these photographs we often come across ones accidentally – and these are real moments of serendipity. They may not be what we are looking for but they make us look twice. Here are thirty of those double-take moments for you to enjoy.

4 April 2017

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

Bareclona is one of my favorite cities and it is easy to see why after watching this fantastic hyperlapse by Kirill Neiezhmakov.  If you are new to the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region this will probably make you want to visit Barcelona in the very near future.  This video shows off two things – first the beauty and diversity of Barcelona and its architecture: secondly, Neiezhmakov’s consummate skills when it comes to the art of the hyperlapse.

1 April 2017

National Autistic Society: Make it Stop

This well made and powerful new video from the National Autistic Society called Make It Stop shows us how Holly, 12, experiences the world and becomes overwhelmed when she isn’t given enough time to process information. The video was produced so that Holly could reveal her autism to her classmates and talk about it openly for the first time. It’s an effective and shocking short film, released to coincide with Autism Awareness Week and World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd.

The Magnetic Fields: 85 Why I Am Not a Teenager

Your eyebrows may involuntarily rise at the lyrics to this song but if you are anything like me then you will find yourself singing it all day – or the singular line that stays in your head at any least (I would put money on it being the same!).  The Magnetic Fields' 85 Why I Am Not a Teenager is taken from the 2017 album 50 Song Memoir.  It was directed and animated by Alexander Petrowsky.

Valley of the Kith

Valley of the Kith is a passion project created by Callan Woolcock of award-winning studio Jumbla, using primarily using Adobe products.

The intriguing, high-adrenaline video-game-style piece extends the capabilities of animation by pushing the boundaries of Element 3D, while capitalising on the available resources of After Effects and other Adobe products.
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