25 August 2019

The Rolling Bridge That Curls

Something strange goes on every Friday in Paddington Basin, London.

At first sight it looks just like any other normal bridge.  Spanning the Grand Union Canal in Paddington Basin, London – the minimal design could be looked upon as somewhat plain and boring.  But once a week the Rolling Bridge as it is known does something that makes jaws drop.  Slowly at first, something remarkable happens.

Each and every Friday at midday the bridge rolls – literally.  It consists of eight sections – triangular in shape – that are hinged at ground level.  Concealed in vertical posts in the parapets of the bridge are pistons.  These pistons collapse the two part links that connect the section and the bridge can roll up.  It is the only bridge of this kind in the world and although it is known as a rolling bridge this is something of a misnomer.  By rights it should be called a curling bridge (and is by many).

10 Essential Tools for Architecture Students (2019)

Are you studying architecture? This is a really interesting, creative and fulfilling career choice. Once you’ve chosen the university you’ll use your potential in, you need to obtain the knowledge that will turn you into an accomplished architect.

This isn’t all about the books or the classes. If you want to become a good architect, you need to take some action. To put all that studying into action, you need to practice the trait. For that, you will need some essential architecture tools.

1. Messenger Bag

Call it whatever you want: a satchel, a murse, a man purse, etc. This bag has plenty of names and one big purpose. As an architect, you’ll have to carry your projects around a lot, even while you’re studying. This will continue to be the case when you become an actual architect. You’ll drag them around to construction sites and meetings.

Image Credit

Therefore, the first and most essential of the architect tools is the bag you carry your work in. It will not only make it more convenient, but also keep your drawings and projects safe.

2. Trace Paper
Architecture students should always have trace paper on them. Also known as scratch paper or trash paper, this old tool is something you’ll need on a daily basis. It is clean, simple, and can be used for your sketches and presentations.

3. iPad
An iPad is a really popular device today. It isn’t one of the obligatory architecture student supplies, but you definitely need to have one. As an architect and a student, you’ll go to many places where you’ll have to document things and take notes. You definitely want to keep all of this organized in order to do your job properly. Losing or misplacing a single piece of paper with notes can destroy a project or make you disappoint a client. You don’t want this to happen, do you?

4. Pens
When you hear an architect, you imagine a person with a pencil drawing on a blank canvas. The reality is different. Most architects actually use pens and really specific kinds of them. Here are the four pens you definitely need if you’re planning on becoming an architect:
  • Pentel sign pen that allows you to make thin or broad lines
  • Pilot razor point pen that helps make loose sketches or precise drawings (it is good for notes, too)
  • Regular pen for your academic assignments (unless you order them from Edubirdie in Australia in which case, you don’t really need to bother with this)
  • Red pen you’ll use to redline your drawing or accentuate something

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5. Architect’s Scale
With their tapered edges, large profiles, and hollow core, scales are definitely an amazing tool for architects. You want to get a high-quality aluminum scale that will last longer – you’ll be using this one quite a lot.

6. Storage Tube
In most cases, you won’t need both the bag and the tube, but many architects use both. If you have big posters you need to carry around, the only thing allowing you to do this without worries that the sketches will be lost is a drawing storage tube.

7. Laser Distance Meter
Very often, you’ll need to measure distance with high-precision. This is why you’ll need a simple, reliable, and light wear handheld laser distance meter.

8. Cutting Mat
You’ll often have to cut something when you’re an architect. Unless you protect the surface, you’ll destroy a lot of things when working or practicing. That’s why you need a cutting mat.
Nowadays, there are self-healing cutting mats that basically reseal themselves after you cut them. You should definitely invest in one to avoid having to buy a new one all the time.

9. Easy Cutter
To be actually able to cut, you’ll need a tool. Gloves are essential, but you also want to invest in a safe, easy cutter that makes this faster and much more accurate. There are plenty of options for easy cutters on the market and the one you choose will depend on what you plan to cut.

10. Engineer’s Scale
This might sound a bit strange to you, but you actually need an engineer’s scale, too. An engineer’s scale is different from that for architects, but it will definitely come handy.

If you’re new in the world of architecture, you have plenty to learn. But, to make this possible, you need not only to put effort into it, but also prepare yourself with the right set of tools. There are many tools that you’ll need in this profession, but the ten listed above are an essential start.

Author’s Bio:
Connie Elser is an architect who works freelance for various companies in the US. She has eleven years of experienced and is a world-renowned architecture expert. As such, she has published many books and articles that are available to architecture students around the world.

First Image Credit

The Tulous of Fujian Province

Around the 12th Century the people of the Fujian Province in China decided that their homes did not offer them sufficient protection in times of civil strife and from the armed bandit gangs which plagued the area for hundreds of years.

Groups of families combined their incomes to provide their community with something more substantial – a tulou - that could safeguard their property and their lives in this mountainous area on the southeast coast of China.

Like any good idea, the idea of large, enclosed fortified buildings had already been around for centuries.  Yet advances in technology enabled communities to create a safe space, encircled by thick load bearing walls and up to five floors high.

18 August 2019

Kite Aerial Photography: Seeing the World from New Heights

Sometimes, pointing and clicking just isn’t enough.  Even the most amateur of snappers has experimented with camera angles and height – though most of the time the camera is only as high from the ground as the photographer's eye.  Not so the Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) enthusiast: they enable their cameras to reach for the sky with often spectacular results.

Although it is not quite as simple as attaching your camera to a kite and hoisting it skywards, Kite Aerial Photography (we will call it KAP from here) has quite a history.  The first KAP pictures were taken in France in 1888 and the idea took off.  They may only have dreamed of this amazing picture of Mont St Michel (appropriately again in France), above, but their pioneering work paved the way for the amazing set of images you can see here. George Lawrence, one of the early pioneers, was able to take a picture of San Francisco after the earthquake which destroyed a large part of it in 1906. 

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

Shanghai is the most populous city (proper) in the world and has seen remarkable growth over the last few decades.  This superlative time-lapse by Brian Hawkins was filmed in the Huangpu and Pudong areas of the city.  Thanks to a knowledgeable fixer he managed to get access to some roof-tops enabling him to produce this timelapse showing Shanghai from some rare angles.  Remarkable.

The Pink Robin: The Gloriously Pink-breasted Bird

The robin, both European and American is famous for its red breast.  The subject of nursery rhymes and Christmas cards the male of the species is resplendent in red. Australia, too, has a robin.  One might, of course, expect this particular country to produce something a little different: it has form, after all.  So, step forward the pink robin, Australia’s passerine of pulchritudinous pinkness.  Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has the full story.

17 August 2019

A Dandelion Going To Seed - Carl Sagan on Space Travel

In 1977 Carl Sagan gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures Lectures on space travel. In his final lecture, he spoke about the human race venturing out into space; his words are as relevant now as they were then.  

A wonderful simile that Sagan used when imagining the human race venturing out in to space was ‘a dandelion going to seed’.  Once can only wonder if, as we look to send people to Mars and then beyond, are we finally realising Sagan’s vision?

This clip was animated by the Ri animator-in-residence Andrew Khosravani. Although I love the pale blue dot animations I have seen it's great to see another set of Sagan's memorable words brought to life again through the medium of animation.

Eratosthenes and the Circumference of the Earth

About two and a half thousand years ago, Eratosthenes (try saying that with half a mince pie in your mouth) managed to estimate the circumference of the Earth with only a 2% margin of error.  That’s pretty good and although he didn’t do it sat at home with a pipe (or whatever they might have smoked then) it didn’t take an epic voyage to do it. In fact it was done with maths.  Rogue Robot tells the tale.

16 August 2019

The Statues of Dublin and their Notorious Nicknames

Dublin is littered with statues.  It seems close to a national obsession in Ireland to erect them.  Perhaps not far behind is the predilection of the inhabitants of this fair city to give them nicknames.  A stroll near the Ha’penny Bridge will bring you to these two charming ladies, having a rest after shopping for their families.   They were placed there as part of a project to celebrate the millennium of the city in 1988 and represent the ordinary women of the city.

Charmingly (or not) one of the bags was snatched a little while after the statue was placed there.  What statement the unknown thief was making is unknown but the bag was made of bronze and it was very, very heavy.  Fortunately it was returned, but what of the local nickname for this amiable salute to the womenfolk of Dublin.  Why, the ‘Hags with the Bags’ of course.

14 August 2019

How To Master the Science of Perfect Latté Art

The average American spends $14 a week on coffee shops. That comes out to over $700 over the course of the year. But what can you do, right? You just can’t get delicious cappuccinos or lattes at home.

Or can you? Lattes are no longer just available at Starbucks. Homebrewing isn’t just a viable option; it’s actually a fairly easy process that anyone can do with a few simple tools and a basic level of insight. In this guide, we go over all the ways you can save money by brewing delicious lattes at home.

First: The Supplies You Need

Before we get to any brewing, it’s critical that you come prepared. Here are a few basic things you need to make a good latte at home:
  • Milk
  • Your favorite espresso beans
  • An espresso machine (the Breville BES980XL for example)
  • Coffee syrups (optional but recommended)
  • A milk steamer

The good news is that you probably already have these things at your disposal. The only tool that you might not have on the home front is a milk steamer, which can be purchased for a relatively low cost.
Now that you have all the stuff, let’s make some lattes!

Step 1: Brew the Espresso

Technically, espresso is supposed to be made in an espresso maker. However, you can cheat a little if you don’t want to front the cost and just brew it with your regular coffee pot. It won’t come out with quite the same consistency or flavor profile, but it will get the job done.

A word of warning: the first time you try this, be sure to monitor the situation closely. Some older coffee pots can’t handle the finer grind of an espresso bean, which may lead to a big mess on your hands.

Once the espresso has been brewed, move it to your latte cup immediately. If you would like to use a flavored syrup, now is the time to break it out.

Step 2: Steam the Milk

Now comes the time to steam the milk. The amount of milk used in a latte is mostly a matter of personal taste, though standard practices suggest that you use at least two shots worth of it. If you decide you want more than that, go for it. More power to you.

Step 3: Integrate the Milk Into Your Latte Cup

Now that the milk and the coffee have both been prepared, it’s time to combine them. Begin by adding two thirds of your steamed milk to your latte cup. When you are done, stir vigorously.

When the milk has been properly integrated, you can top the concoction off by spooning in the rest of the milk directly on top of your latte.

Iced Lattes

Lattes are also very enjoyable when served over ice. The brewing process is the same, with the only difference being that you put ice into your concoction before adding the final layer of foam.

Latte Art
If you have Instagram, you are probably also abundantly aware of the fact that many people use latte milk as an opportunity to show off their creative side.

Creating latte art is all in the pour. After you pour or scoop in your final layer of milk, gently scrape the unincorporated froth into the design of your choosing. Many people start small with hearts, flowers, or other basic design elements.

It’s not extremely easy, but with patience and practice, you should eventually be able to create designs that are worthy of your social media feed.


The latte is deceptively simple. Though it requires only a few basic ingredients, the eventual quality of the drink is almost entirely contingent on your technique. This means that you may not get barista-quality results after your first try.

Don’t get frustrated. Practice really does make perfect, and before you know it you will be making better (or at least less expensive) lattes than your favorite café.

First Image Credit
Second Image Credit

31 July 2019

The Denge Sound Mirrors: Radar’s Predecessor

Before the application of radar became a reality a number of experimental early warning systems were developed by the British military.  One which showed the most promise – as it actually worked – were the acoustic mirrors built at Denge on the south coast of England.  Quickly superseded by radar they were abandoned but still remain at their post, obsolete concrete leviathans on an island in the middle of a nature reserve, reminders of a dangerous time in European history.

The mirror would pick up the sound of any aircraft approaching the coast of the UK.  If they were not scheduled (and flights in and out of the country were closely monitored) then they could be judged as possibly being enemy aircraft. Sound waves were caught in the focal point of the mirror and relayed though microphones to an operator, who could then alert the appropriate authorities. The mirrors were able to give a fifteen minute warning of an approaching assault on the England.

30 July 2019

The Hardy Tree: An Early Work of a Great Novelist

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.
However, it is unlikely that the would-be author could guess what one of his firm’s projects would demand of him. He probably didn't sign up for architecture to then be sent to excavate a graveyard. Yet, like many a young man finding his path, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

28 July 2019

The Underwater Billiard Room of Witley Park

Whitaker Wright was a very rich man. He had made his fortune in the mining industry and so when it came to the creation of a billiard room on his new estate perhaps it was only fitting to build it underground. Not only that, this eccentric millionaire decided to build it underwater too. With windows.

27 July 2019

Cruise Ship Towel Animals take to the High Seas

No one knows for absolute certain where the concept of the towel animal came from. The idea seems to have arisen, like so many internet memes, spontaneously. There is no single individual who claims to be the originator of the towel animal. One thing is for sure – the creation and depiction of small animals by folding towels originated on the (not terribly) high seas. This phenomenon seems to be almost completely isolated to cruise ships.

Many maintain that it was started by cabin staff aboard the Carnival Cruise Line ships. The line, which specializes in short and less expensive cruises, is home to many of the ingenious creations you see here. Yet a number of other lines now give their passengers a nightly surprise too.

18 July 2019

Shatili – Medieval Fortress Village in Georgia

The village of Shatili squats on the northern slope of the Greater Caucasus mountains in Georgia. Even today the area is considered isolated and remote but in centuries past the villagers could not rely on distant authorities to afford them protection. In early medieval times the villagers hit on a solution which was to shield them from their enemies for hundreds of years. They made their village in to a fortress.

The village is very near the border with Chechnya and its inhabitants were constantly at risk from incursions in to their territory from their neighbors. In the twenty first century the village is usually only accessible between the months of June and the end of September so in more feudal times something had to be done to avert death and disaster. As the village persevered, the architecture evolved. What would normally be small stone dwellings grew taller and developed in to watchtowers.

30 June 2019

Hierve el Agua - Mexico’s Freeze Frame Falls

As you approach Hierve el Agua you would be forgiven for thinking that you are about to witness close up one of nature’s magnificent sites – that of a large, full flowing waterfall. However, closer inspection would reveal to you that what you thought was water cascading down the side of a hill is something else entirely.

Very much of the beaten track and little visited the waterfall is in fact a natural formation of rock. In Spanish the name means the water boils but it looks more as if it has been frozen – perhaps there was some irony on the lips of the person who gave the place its name. Later, however, we will discover the reason for the name.

29 June 2019

The Lucky Old Mill of Vernon and its Less Fortunate Bridges

The old town of Vernon nestles at the side of the river Seine about 75 kilometers away from Paris.  It has, as you can imagine, a long history and has been through periods of momentous change both in France and Europe as a whple.

When change happens there are always winners and losers. In Vernon, architecturally speaking, perhaps it is the old bridge which could be considered most unfortunate – it no longer exists.

In fact it has been rebuilt and destroyed often enough for us to consider it perhaps the unluckiest bridge in the world.

The lucky survivor, in that case, is the old mill house (le vieux moulin) which straddles the first two piers of the ancient bridge. Vernon itself is first mentioned in the archives of the Frankish King Pepin the Short (or the Great, depending on which history books you read) around the 750AD mark.  Vernon as a city was founded in 950 and the first wooden bridge was built at some point in the early twelfth century (though there is argument there among historians too).

15 June 2019

Reading for Structure Quiz (for GCSE English Language)

This quiz was designed to help students doing their GCSE English Language exam (in the UK except Scotland) a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school and college students aged 16 upwards. However, feel free to do the quiz, wherever you are!

Please read the short story below and then answer the questions.  You may need to sign in with a google account.

 I had lost.  I was lost.

I lay on the ground: prostrate, humiliated, defeated.  Around me the cries of the mob filled the amphitheatre like a thunderous admonishment from the gods.  The merciless jeers of those who once jubilantly sang my praises cut as deeply in to my spirit as the wound in my side.  I gasped for breath and my hands clutched the hot sun-baked sand of the arena floor.  I felt blood trickle from the wound on to my fingers, congealing in the blistering heat of the Roman summer.

Above me, gladius* poised in mid-air, the upstart, undefeated Thracian looked towards the Emperor.  The muscles on his arm quivered as he held his frozen position, looking to this god on earth, this lunatic child, to indicate with a thumb up or down whether I would live or die.

9 June 2019

Ani – Ghost City of 1001 Churches

Ani – some call it the City of 1001 Churches, others the City of Forty Gates.  Yet no one has called it home for more than three centuries.

Abandoned by its once prosperous and powerful inhabitants, it is situated on the Turkish side of a militarised zone between the border of Turkey and Armenia. The city of Ani is no stranger to death, destruction and desertion.

It is a ghost city today but once its Armenian inhabitants numbered close to 200 thousand.  In its heyday it was a metropolis which rivalled Constantinople, Cairo or Baghdad as a center of culture and enterprise.  Although it was never on traditional trade routes its sheer size and power commanded visits by merchants from all directions.  Yet what happened to reduce this once magnificent and regionally dominant city to virtually dust?

30 May 2019

Wondering What’s There in all those Mystery Boxes Youtubers are Buying off the Dark Web? - Here’s What...

Anyone who has done even a bit of research on the Dark Web would know the hotbed of secrets it is. You can find anyone and everyone ranging from Silk Road drug dealers to child pornographers on it. It has also served as the ideal space for journalists to carry out under-cover operations and political dissidents to organise movements. However, it isn’t perceived to be the kind of place where you will type in your house address and receive a package like it came from Amazon Prime!

Still, there are some YouTubers who have garnered millions of views by ordering mystery boxes from the dark Web and creating YouTube videos of the un-boxing process. Let’s throw some more light on this unique phenomenon.

What is Dark Web?
A hidden and free-for-all place on the Internet, Dark Web can only be accessed with the help of anonymous browsers such as 12P or Tor. You can buy and sell all kinds of contraband on the platform, including stolen objects, guns, drugs and more. It’s the same place where the WikiLeaks came from as it is quite secure for receiving and sending information. However, Dark Web is largely unavailable to the regular Internet user.

The Dark Web Challenge
Known as the Dark Web challenge, these mystery box unboxing YouTube videos have become extremely popular on you tube in the past couple of years. You get to see YouTubers revealing and unboxing, all kinds of strange items, ranging from clothing, bloodstained screwdrivers, pills, electronic items to toys.

Many a times these YouTubers purchase these packages from eBay, hoping to lay their hands on some expensive or scary stuff inside. But buying such boxes from the Dark Web is considered a more extreme step, which can often be very dangerous.

The danger
Jonathan Pace, a Phd who works with Stanford University told the press about these Dark Web mystery boxes. In his view, these boxes could be filled with fake identities, poorly made weapons or even toxic drugs. In the event that any of the mystery boxes is filled with some leftover inventory, it’s highly likely that the person has received a bottom-of-the-barrel contraband which didn’t sell in the market. Here’s an article which talks about the things that might happen if you spend a lot of time fishing for stuff on the Dark Web.

About the videos
The videos posted on the YouTube as a part of the Dark Web challenge have managed to get millions of reviews. A UK-based YouTuber going by the name Kill’em got over 4.7 million views on the video he created. He later claimed that it was the scariest thing he had ever done. His real name is Tom Stanniland and he has unboxed several packages obtained from the Dark Web. Some of these boxes contained a satanic children’s book, a drug-stuffed teddy bear, a murder weapon (with victim’s clothes), electronics, tools and a voodoo doll.

27 May 2019

How Stanley Kubrick shot the Apollo 11 Mission

Did men really land on the moon back in 1969? Here is some behind the scenes footage of the Moon Landing of Apollo 11 directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1969. These documents were classified Top Secret since 50 years… until now.  This very effective video was created by Fabrice Mathieu with, we suspect, his tongue as much in his cheek as ever!

The Rain Vortex: The World’s Largest Indoor Waterfall

You have to hand it to the Singaporeans; they don’t do things in half-measures.  April saw the opening of The Rain Vortex in the island’s Changi Airport.  It’s a stunning piece of architecture and the newest addition to the airport’s Jewel extension.  The world’s largest indoor waterfall has seen a huge upsurge in people going to the airport to fly absolutely nowhere but simply to gawp at this latest man-made marvel.

Image Credit
It’s certainly gawpable.  At 40 meters (130 feet) in height, it makes the airport an attraction in itself.
What do you do, after all, when you want to replace your old carpark?  Replace it with a waterfall and forest, of course – but don’t forget the retail…

The Armillary Sphere: The Marriage of Science and Art

You may have seen an armillary sphere before. At its heart there is something recognizable – the Earth. Around it is a bewildering array of rings, centered on our planet. All have distinct scientific functions yet the armillary sphere is also a profoundly beautiful object: art and science married in harmony.

Image Credit Flickr User ElDave
Although the armillary sphere was superseded (technologically speaking at least) in the seventeenth century by the European telescope, surviving examples remain objects of fascination and wonder. The first question, of course, is what does it do? The second is invariably who invented it?

26 May 2019

The Vampire Deer

Do you see something a little strange about the deer in the picture? The Ark in Space today features the rather perplexing vampire deer. If your eyes were immediately drawn to those fangs (which even Lestat would be proud of) protruding from its mouth, then your next thought might have been that this must be some sort of freak of nature, an accident of birth.  That isn’t how deers come, is it?  For the Water Deer, otherwise and popularly known as the Vampire Deer the answer is in the affirmative. For more information and some great photos, pop over to the Ark in Space.
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