31 December 2018

The Bicheno Blowhole: Geology at its Most Playful

Nature may often be cruel but from time to time it can also be almost sublimely daft.  Close to the small town of Bicheno on the east coast of the Australian island of Tasmania, a rare geological feature known as a blowhole provides endless hours of fun for visitors. Each time the blowhole ‘erupts’ you never quite know what you are going to get in terms of the shape and size of the water.  One thing is for sure, though: you are going to get wet.
Image Credit Flickr User  ScottWeatherson

A blowhole is a sea cave which grows inwards and up, resulting in a perpendicular shaft open at the surface. They occur when there is a weak joint in the rock and as the waves pound and erode the rock just above the waterline a cave is slowly but surely formed.

This can get to quite a length but if, as it develops, it hits a vertical weakness in the rock then it will head upwards – until it breaks the surface and hits daylight.

16 December 2018

The Window

Four injured soldiers are recovering in hospital, suffering from a variety of injuries.  To pass the time the least incapacitated regales them of stories of everyday life he sees through the window of their hospital ward. They are drawn to the daily routine of a beautiful young woman who visits the café across the square.  Yet all is not quite as it seems. This animated short which manages to be both funny and moving was created by a group of students at ESMA Montpelier.

Freaky Flowers: Echinopsis Cacti in Bloom

Echinopsis may disappoint you.  After all their flowers bloom in the middle of the night and then last only for a day with the flowers at a peak for just an hour or two before they wilt.  So, if you are on holiday when this happens you have missed out.    Fortunately, however, we have EchinopsisFreak who must have the patience of a saint but who creates amazing timelapses like this one for those of us too lazy to sit through the night!

The 10am

There are some times in life that you need help from external sources. Step forward the Great British Workman – and his apprentice son of course. Together, Senior and Junior make up Auron & Son Ltd and they are ready to take on a range of commercial residential contracting services.

The first job of this particular day – their “10am” is something special – the first time that Junior will take the lead on a job. And it’s some job. Written, directed and produced by Colin O’Toole this is idiosyncratic short British film-making at its entertaining best.

Hebridean Dreams

Mo Thomson and Andy (from AerialViewScotland) captured this amazing footage on their way to watch the partial solar eclipse in March.  They drove up to Harris and Lewis, via Skye and the results are simply stunning. As well as a gorgeous horse there is the beauty of the Callanish standing stones bathed by the Northern Lights, breath-taking beaches and much more besides.

It's like the opening sequence of Outlander might have been, without Catriona Balfe running breathlessly around everywhere like a headless chicken. Plus it has proper Scottish Gaelic music too, Do Chalum by Julie Fowlis.

Confessions Of An Idiom

Thinking about it, I suppose it had to happen at some point: an animated short film starring the elephant in the room and the skeleton in the closet – giving us the best of both worlds.  Here, Mollie Helms and Amanda Koh of Ringling College get to grips with as many idioms as they can fit in to two and a half minutes.

No doubt they burned the midnight oil to finish it.  Yet actions speak louder than thoughts, of course, so give it a watch. The ball is in your court.

15 December 2018

Is the Ecolog Happy Holidays Video the Most Heart-warming of This Year's Christmas Ads?

There is always a few companies who seem to dominate the Christmas advert market but this year there is one from Ecolog International which might just steal the hearts of the nation. (If you haven't heard of the company, you have probably had contact without realising - they are a major player in logistics and the supply chain.)

All the right ingredients are in the video – a mum, a son on a far-away island and a Christmas pudding.  All this is neatly tied together as we are shown the preparation of the pudding in mum’s kitchen to its flight across the world to her son in the Falkland Islands.

As well as warming the cockles of our hearts (and the actors are very well chosen in their roles) the video shows how Ecolog’s work sustaining the supply chain is year-round, never-ending and doesn’t stop even for Christmas.  The company is vast – since its incorporation around twenty years ago it has a presence in more than 36 countries, covering 150 locations and employing more than 12,000 people in construction, technology, facility management and environmental services industries.

The video serves as a timely reminder that without this infrastructure, where would we be?  Certainly in my lifetime the trip to the Falklands would have taken the Christmas pudding an awful lot longer than the speedy journey it takes in the video, thanks to Ecolog.

14 December 2018

Ulugh Beg - The Man Who Unlocked the Universe - A film produced by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev

When one thinks of the great scientists whose discoveries were far ahead of their time names such as Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, and Leonardo da Vinci all leap out at you. Their discoveries and achievements were breathtaking and shaped our world.

Yet before them was Ulugh Beg. He was the ruler of Mavarannahr Khanate (Empire) from 1411 and transformed his native Samarkand now Uzbekistan into a hub of culture, arts, and science. During his reign, he made many crucial and little-known scientific discoveries and achievements, including building the largest observatory of all the time and accurately charting the position of stars in the night sky. His model was still being referred to centuries later and his achievements were made 150 years before Galileo invented the telescope.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva

His achievements were the subject of Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev’s documentary, Ulugh Beg - The Man Who Unlocked the Universe.

The film has won several awards and has received critical and commercial success, achieving a 9/10 score in an IMDB review.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva the woman behind the film

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva together with her husband Timur Tillyaev brought the Ulugh Beg legend to life. She has been described as a philanthropist and is committed to helping others in her native Uzbekistan.  She was Uzbekistan’s envoy to UNESCO until 2018, holding the position for the last ten years. For thirteen years she held the position of President of the Federation of Gymnastics of Uzbekistan.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s Charity Work

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s work with children has arguably been her main concern, heading two major charities dedicated to helping disadvantaged children in Uzbekistan. “You are not Alone” foundation, established in 2002, supports orphanages. The charity is dedicated to building and refurbishing Mercy Homes, providing state of the art facilities to orphanages with the goal of educating Uzbekistan’s orphans. The National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children, established in 2004, provides educational and medical support to children with disabilities.

The Karimov Foundation, established by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva in 2016, has instigated a number of successful projects and has recently signed a partnership agreement with the UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan on joint cooperation in the areas of education, science and culture. Two years ago, the Foundation launched a scholarship scheme to allow young Uzbeks to study for their Master’s degree at prestigious foreign universities.

The charities started in quick succession after she achieved her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International Law from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, and her doctorate degree in Psychology from Tashkent State University.

As well as these pursuits she was determined to bring the Ulugh Beg legend and his achievements to the world. Speaking of her film she has quoted, “I have been fascinated by Ulugh Beg ever since I was a child”.

“Every time I visited Samarkand and heard about the scientific discoveries made by this celebrated scholar and peace-loving ruler – a man who in the 15th century turned Samarkand into the epicentre of the world’s most advanced studies in astronomy − I thought that his extraordinary story should be told to the world.”

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s film was released in 2017 and soon attracted critical and commercial acclaim. It has already won two awards. It collected the Kineo Prize for the Best Foreign  Documentary at the 74th Venice International Film Festival, and Best Documentary Award at the Ischia Film Festival.

Ulugh Beg, until the film was released was little known outside of Uzbekistan and to some degree the academic world. And yet, the man’s life is a story that just begged to be told.

Not forgetting his achievements with the observatory, he fulfilled his ambition to create a scientific centre where scholars could come and discuss the stars.  In 1417 construction began and the resulting madrassa was arguably one of the first universities to be established.  The building can still be seen in Registan Square in Uzbekistan.

As well as charting the position of fixed stars better than any previous scholars, he also determined the length of a sidereal year as 365d 6h 10m 8s thanks largely to his love of trigonometry and understanding of the universe. Nearly a hundred years later Ulugh Beg’s sidereal year model would be determined to be +58 seconds inaccurate. In 1525 Copernicus came up with a more accurate model for determining a sidereal year which was + 2 seconds inaccurate.

Ulugh Beg still had the last laugh, however.  His tropical year model had an error of +25 seconds, but this was still more accurate than Copernicus’ model which was +30 seconds inaccurate, despite Beg living a hundred years earlier and having less reliable instruments.

Ulugh Beg deserves to go down in history as one of the great scientists. His work although little known, helped others to understand the world and the universe in which we live.

It is hugely unlikely that Ulugh Beg is alone in having been lost to history. One cannot help but wonder how many other great minds are out there waiting to have their story told.  Thanks to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Ulugh Beg’s achievements are now known to the world.

As well as charting the position of fixed stars better than any previous scholars, he also determined the length of a sidereal year as 365d 6h 10m 8s thanks largely to his love of trigonometry and understanding of the universe. Nearly a hundred years later Beg’s sidereal year model would be determined to be +58 seconds inaccurate. In 1525 Copernicus came up with a more accurate model for determining a sidereal year which was + 2 seconds inaccurate.

Beg still had the last laugh, however.  His tropical year model had an error of +25 seconds, but this was still more accurate than Copernicus’ model which was +30 seconds inaccurate, despite Beg living a hundred years earlier and having less reliable instruments.

Ulugh Beg deserves to go down in history as one of the great scientists. His work although little known, helped others to understand the world and the universe in which we live.

It is hugely unlikely that Beg is alone in having been lost to history. One cannot help but wonder how many other great minds are out there waiting to have their story told.  Thanks to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Beg’s achievements are now known to the world.

9 December 2018

Bronze Mischief - The Sculptures of David Goode

Take a walk in an English country garden at this time of year and you never know quite what you are going to come across. One moment you are busy doing nothing and the next moment you are caught up in a world of playful if naughty creatures from a hitherto unseen world. And for sure these are naughty – they are goblins and elves. There is none of the wafty grace of the Cottingley fairies here. These guys are up to mischief.

In fact, this is the work of David Goode (pictured left), a British sculptor based in the English county of Oxfordshire.  After having spent many years studying the human form – he was the youngest ever waxwork modeller for Madame Tussauds – he turned his attention to another world entirely.

Having spent so much time with wax, when he turned his hand to bronze work he determined that he would also make his work as believable as possible in this medium.

8 December 2018

Veni, Vidi, Velcro

How Might We Relate Migration to Class?

By Eszter Pordany
I’m Eszter Pordany. I originally was born in Hungary, and moved to London to study, when I was about 14. Since then, unfortunately I have been faced with several inevitable disadvantages a so called “migrant” has to go through in the UK! As a sociology student I aim to contribute to issues in such a multicultural society, that perhaps aren’t given as much attention to as they would require. My main interests include: Prejudice/ discrimination- especially racism, migration as well as addiction to illegal substances. 

Migration in contemporary society is an extremely well-discussed and concerning issue to some. In order to begin to explore how migration might be related to different social classes, it is essential to outline to what definitions of the above-mentioned terms I shall refer to throughout this piece. Stephen Castles, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sydney alludes to ‘migration’ within his work, as being a “transitory, moving from place to place”, with the general aim of permanent stay (Castles, 2007). With regards to the term of ‘social class’ I have used Karl Marx’s definition as through this work I will be associating a few arguments with Marxist concepts. Marx argued, that “a class is defined in relation to the broad structure of the property system” and hence “a group of people belong to the same class when they occupy the same position within the property system governing labour, physical assets, and perhaps intangible assets” (Marx and Engels, 2010).

The structure of the essay was highly inspired by a book I have come across during my research – “A Seventh Man” written by John Berger (Berger, 2010). Berger divides his work into three sections, all portraying a different aspect of migrants’ life. Within this piece, I will use a similar frame by exploring lower class migration from consequential aspects, while maintaining the focal argument of the essay: migration of lower class is seen as not being desirable, in fact is of concern.

The aim of this work, is to introduce how the government responds to the “crisis” lower class migration causes, and explores the pre-cautions are being made, whether they are horrible situations created for them, or governmental policies. On the other hand, middle / upper class migration is not paid near as much attention to as lower class, and does not imply a deviant behaviour. Hence, by concentrating on lower class migration and its subsequent effect on the migrants, as well as the lack of research dedicated to middle class movements within a European context, I shall come to the conclusion that the Net Migration Policy was doomed to failure, and methodological practices studying migration are highly questionable.

7 December 2018

A Conversation About Growing Up Black

In this short documentary, young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.  It makes for sobering viewing when you appreciate just how much the society in which they should feel in their element has effectively excluded them as full citizens.  Yet it is also a noteworthy tribute to the human spirit that these boys and young men refuse to conform to the stereotypes with which they have been assigned.

Swan Cake

Written, directed and produced by students Nikitha Mannam (India) and Amos Sussigan (Switzerland), Swan Cake is the result of an experiment of collaboration with an international crew. The movie has been entirely produced via Skype and Dropbox, involving artists and students from Canada, United States, England, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Iran, and several parts of India. It’s just lovely!

The Mystery of the Margate Shell Grotto

In 1835 a labourer was digging a field just outside the English seaside town of Margate.  His work was interrupted when he thrust his spade in to the soil and it simply vanished in to the ground.  The master of the nearby Dane House School, James Newlove, was made aware of this strange disappearance.  He volunteered his young son, Joshua, for the task of being lowered, candle in hand, in to the void via a length of rope

Regardless of our modern sensibilities about the health and safety of children, when Joshua was pulled back to the surface his wide-eyed tale astonished everyone. He told of a magical temple adorned in shells, hundreds, thousands… millions of them.  All told, 4.6 million.

1 December 2018

TES Resources for GCSE English Language 9-1

If you are looking for some great resources to aid in your teaching of GCSE English Language (the AQA board) then look no further.  Over the last few years I have created a stack of resources to help – particularly with the all-important question five on Paper One (and likewise for Paper Two).  They are also often known as P1Q5 and P2Q5 – just to make life easier.  So, please head over to my ‘shop’ on the TES website and if you are lucky enough to be reading this post on its day of publication, you will even get 20% off!

25 November 2018

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

Christophe Hamon spent a month in 2014 helping to make a documentary.  Like so many others before him he fell in love with this beautiful and enigmatic country, its sights, sounds and people.  He decided to edit together his spare footage and what we get is a wonderful glimpse in to the day to day lives of the people of the country – and the name he has given it is Children of Cambodia.

Rhyolite: A Ghost Town from the Air

Rhyolite is an abandoned mining town in Nevada and if you search for it online you will find no end of images.  Yet this is the first time I have seen this fascinating place from above.  Director and fIlmmaker Philp Bloom took his Phantom 3, the new DJI drone, for an hour’s spin over the town (and through it too).  The results are remarkable – the shots of the town are unlike any of those seen before.

Isaac Newton's Entire Life in 90 Seconds

If you need to know a lot about the life of Isaac Newton but have very little time, how does 90 seconds grab you?  Of course, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica takes up a large part of this animation by Kevin Orzel as it takes almost 90 seconds to say it.

However, it is a brief but accurate insight in to one of the great geniuses of the Scientific Revolution who I always think of as a kind of Seventeenth Century Sheldon Cooper who, unfortunately for him, never quite found his own Leonard Hofstadter.

These are Magpies? You’re Kidding, Right?

No, we’re not.  There are a number of magpie species which confound the notion that the whole lot of them are black and white.  They come in a number of different colors. Yet, despite this gorgeous plumage they still seem to be rather thuggish members of the bird world, robbing nests and eating chicks and so on.  Our sibling site , the Ark in Space, has the lowdown on these quite different (appearance wise at least) species of magpies.

The Richat Structure – Earth’s Bull's-Eye

Imagine if you were an alien species intent on conquering the earth by force.  Now, you might just appear over the various capital cities of the world and wait for your countdown to get to zero or you might, being a little timid of the explosive force that you are about to unleash, wish to do it from a safe distance.  What you would need to look for, then, is a handy bull's-eye – on the bull's-eye that is the Earth itself.

Look no further, alien invader.  The Richat Structure in Mauritania provides the perfect target towards which you can aim your death ray, annihilation laser or whatever you call your extraterrestrial weapon of mass destruction.  It’s almost as if another species, in a previous visit, had chalked in a target already and then become bored and wandered back to Betelgeuse.

18 November 2018

Torre Guinigi: The Tower with Oak Trees on the Top

The city of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy, is famous for its medieval architecture and intact city walls.  Yet among all of its exquisite buildings one stands out.  The Torre Guinigi or Guinigi Tower in English towers over the city.

At the top of the 44.5 meter high tower is something of a surprise – a garden containing, of all things, oak trees.

High above the city this small wood has provided a haven of peace for centuries.

The tower was built in the fourteenth century when there were over 250 in the city. Although that number has, over the centuries, dramatically decreased, this one has survived.  It was built by the Guinigi, then the most powerful and influential family in the city. The tower represented the prestige of the family and was the largest in the city even when the economic boom of the late fourteenth century meant that towers were springing up all over Lucca.

4 November 2018

Go Delhi Go: Hyperlapse

Delhi is a city with so much history that one might need a lifetime just to appreciate its many different aspects.  However (a reluctant one, but still) in lieu of time to spend doing just that, soak in Delhi in all its glory by watching this fantastic hyperlapse by Ayush Dinker of Etheral Colours. Over 5000 pictures went in to creating this hyperlapse – and please watch it in HD if your connection will allow!

The Last Hours of the Inca Ice Maiden

Over 500 years ago a girl was sacrificed to the gods in Southern Peru.  Her body was preserved by the elements and discovered centuries later in a state of preservation which astonished the world.  Yet what happened to her in the days and hours leading up to her sacrifice? This animation, made by Plazma for the Mummies Alive series, imagines her last journey up the side of the mountain to her fate.

Fish Friend

Every child should have a pet or at least one that does not have too many murderous intentions.  Yet for ten year old Sally, the goldfish that she chose at the pet store is not quite what it seems.  The neighbourhood may never be quite the same again. Combining live action and animation, Fish Friend is inspired by 1950s Americana, Tim Burton, and the shorts of Pixar.  It’s a great combination and this short film certainly makes a splash.

3 November 2018

Białowieża Forest – Remarkable Remnant of Europe’s Primeval Past

Straddling the border of Poland and Belarus, there is a reminder of what Europe used to look like before the arrival of man.  Białowieża Forest is the largest remaining part of a vast primeval forest that stretched for thousands of miles from corner to corner of the European plain. Something very large and very rare still stirs within the forest.

Although the forest is shared by Poland and Belarus, the border running directly through it, it is now a single UNESCO World Heritage Site.  As these photographs show, little has changed here for thousands of years. It is still home to Europe’s heaviest land mammal – the Wisent. Yet the area has been witness to tumultuous social and political changes, one of which was to see the wisent eradicated from the confines of the forest. Białowieża saw little peace in the twentieth century.

28 October 2018

Zalipie: Poland’s Painted Village

The secluded village of Zalipie in southeastern Poland is home to a charming tradition.  Over a century ago the women of the village began to paint their houses: however, it was not the single, uniform color one might expect from a traditional and conservative society.  The village, through the intricate and vibrant paintwork of its womenfolk, bloomed.
Although no one is completely sure how and when this tradition began, it dates from when the smoke from stoves escaped through little more than a hole in the ceiling of the house.  Women would paint over the spots of soot with whitewash.  Yet the spots would still be partially visible and it is believed that the women, in order for their house to appear immaculate for religious festivals, took to covering the remnants of soot stains with paintings of flowers.  Once modern cooking and better ventilation came in to practice, these cover-ups were no longer necessary.  Yet instead the flower patterns became gradually more and more sophisticated.

24 October 2018


Imagine a time in the near future when our seas have become so overwhelmed with our detritus that some bizarre kind of evolution takes place which fuses the denizens of the oceans with the discarded technology of our own species.  If you can then you might imagine something like this. Hybrids was created by five graduate computer animation students from MoPA animation school.   They wanted to draw attention to the pollution of our oceans through the use of captivating images.  It worked.

23 October 2018

Dallol - The World's Weirdest Volcanic Crater

In the North East of Ethiopia lies the Danokil Desert.  At its heart is a volcanic crater, Dallol, little known and seldom visited but quite extraordinary.  

Surrounding the volcano are acidic hot springs, mountains of sulphur, pillars of salt, small gas geysers and pools of acid isolated by salt ridges. It makes for one of the most bizarre landscapes on planet Earth.

Dallol is one of the most remote places on Earth and very few people live here. Little wonder. After all, who would wish to live in close proximity to such a vast and alien backdrop as this? Even the name, in the local language of the Afar people literally means disintegrated. Even today the volcano is not mentioned in most books on the subject of volcanology.

6 October 2018

Autism Hour – A Great Initiative

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and many of them find everyday experiences, such a shopping, something of a challenge.  The National Autistic Society has joined forces with a number of High Street shops to create Autism Hour.

You can watch a video about how someone with autism might experience a visit to the shops here.

During the second week of October shops will make a series of simple steps to make themselves more autism friendly.  Over 10,000 shops have already agreed to participate and the campaign also includes celebrities such as Chris Packham and Anne Hegerty.

The steps taken are incredibly easy – first and foremost the shops are spreading autism awareness among their employees.  Secondly, things like reducing the volume of music in their shops to dimming fluorescent strip lighting can really make a difference.

Personally, I think this is a great initiative and I hope that the steps made can, in the future, become something more permanent.  So, between 6 and 13 October, shopping should be a lot easier for a vast amount of people.  What a shame it couldn’t be extended throughout the year!

You can find out more by visiting the National Autistic Society's website.

You can also find a thorough guide about using the internet for people with ASD here.

29 September 2018

Victorian Street Life in London

In 1876, six years after the death of Charles Dickens, the streets of the English capital still looked very much like the famous author had described. Poverty, disability and filth were everywhere: people lived a precarious and marginal existence working on the streets of London. Two men became determined to document this – and the book they produced shocked a nation.

Radical journalist Adolphe Smith conducted interviews with the poor and down and outs of London. Yet this had been done before. The unique selling point of this book was his collaboration with photographer John Thomson. These pictures - such as the one above of a young girl searching drinking houses for an inebriate parent, were taken with a camera using the glass plate method (Eastman would not develop film until the next decade). They stunned the British middle classes and made their book – Street Life of London – an immediate best seller.

23 September 2018

The Ribbon Seal: The Seal with Stripes

What do you get if you cross a zebra with a seal?  There is no sensible answer to that question, of course, but there is a species of seal which lives in the Arctic and subarctic regions of the North Pacific Ocean which could (however unfeasibly) be the product of a chance romance between the two species.  It is the Ribbon Seal and it is remarkable for its stripes.  Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has a picture feature on this amazing animal.

Image Wikimedia

Faucaria Tigrina – In the Greenhouse, No One Can Hear You Scream

They say that life imitates art but perhaps in this case it is the other way around. This is Faucaria tigrina or the Tiger’s Jaw – a succulent plant found in South Africa.

Yet caught at the right angle the plant does not resemble so much the jaw of a tiger as that of an altogether alien creature, featured in a number of movies starring Sigourney Weaver et al.

15 September 2018

The Sphinx Observatory – Science at the Top of the World

It may look like the hideaway of a super villain from a Bond movie but this is the Sphinx Observatory, dedicated to research which must take place out at an altitude of 3000-3500 meters.

It is situated in Jungfraujoch, Switzerland. At an astonishing 3.571 meters above sea level, the Sphinx observatory in the Swiss Alps is the highest-altitude built structure in Europe.