Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Known Universe

If you find astronomy interesting, the chances are you already realise how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. But just in case you didn't, the American Museum of Natural History has created a short film which illustrates it perfectly.

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Adams and Pratchett

My saved fictionImage by Bergius via Flickr
I have long been a fan of both Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. They share a style of humour that really appeals to me, and if you have never read any of their work, I urge you to rectify that right away. Below I have shared with you some of my favourite quotations that they have given us. Douglas first.
  • It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an Airport' appear
  • The (space)ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't
  • Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by
  • Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws
  • Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space
  • I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously
  • There is a particular disdain with which Siamese cats regard you. Anyone who has walked in on the Queen cleaning her teeth will be familiar with the feeling
  • The big corporations are suddenly taking notice of the web, and their reactions have been slow. Even the computer industry failed to see the importance of the Internet, but that's not saying much. Let's face it, the computer industry failed to see that the century would end
And as for Terry.
  • He was the sort of person who stood on mountaintops during thunderstorms in wet copper armour shouting "All the Gods are bastards."
  • In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this
  • In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded
  • Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it
  • The intelligence of the creature known as a crowd, is the square root of the number of people in it
  • You can't trample infidels when you're a tortoise. I mean, all you could do is give them a meaningful look
  • Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces
  • Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don't find out until too late that he's been playing with two queens all along
  • It's not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing
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Friday, 29 January 2010

Gamer Stats

Along similar lines to the Day in the Life of the Internet post I made last year, this one features some statistics related to video games. I may have said before that I'm not an avid gamer but I am mildly addicted to the Call of Duty series on the Playstation 3. We also own a Wii but I confess this doesn't get used as much these days.

The statistics below however do offer up more than a few surprises. Click to enlarge.

Videogame Statistics
Source: Online Education

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Matthew Albanese

Matthew Albanese is an artist and sculptor who creates miniature landscapes out of everyday objects. He then captures using photographic techniques to give the illusion that they are life size.

My work involves the construction of small-scale meticulously detailed models using various materials and objects to create emotive landscapes. Every aspect, from the construction to the lighting of the final model is painstakingly pre-planned using methods which force the viewer's perspective when photographed from a specific angle.
I have posted some examples below, but please visit Matthew's website for more.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Tree Lobsters

Another fun web comic I discovered this week is Tree Lobsters. Rather than fail to explain in any way that will make sense, take a look at the site. Enjoy this Star Wars related example below. Click it if you need to enlarge it.

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Monday, 25 January 2010

Hand Ninja

Have you heard of a hand ninja? Take a look at the video below. It has to be a winner in any "totally pointless but extremely entertaining" competition. It makes me smile every time I watch it.

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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Things Wouldn't Be So Much Fun If...

There are more of these floating round, but I am having difficulty in tracking them down. Pictures that convey how much life would be less fun if...

Quite dark but I often find that very funny. I hope you do too.



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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Ninja Juggler

This guy just has way too much energy, he makes me exhausted just watching him. Entertaining though.

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Friday, 22 January 2010

Google In Haiti

Google has released updated satellite imagery of Haiti in an effort to aid relief efforts. It makes for stark viewing as you can see not only the devastation of crumbled buildings but the human suffering of the temporary camps around the city of Port-au-Prince. Use the map below to zoom in and browse around, or better still download Google Earth.

View Larger Map

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Thursday, 21 January 2010


This is rather interesting I think. It is an experiment conducted by the BBC's "Bang Goes The Theory Team" regarding a psychological phenomenon called "Priming". It is a phenomenon that may well change your understanding about the way we are all affected by what we see, and so, how we perceive our environment... And all without even knowing.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Buggy Rollin

I'd not heard of this before yesterday. Body Blading, sometimes known as Buggy Rollin (sic), is an extreme sport that, according to Wikipedia, "involves descending down a slope while wearing a flexible aerodynamic plastic roller suit that has wheels on the feet, knees, torso, and arms". Just like the in the post I made here, I can't help thinking these guys are slightly insane.

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Monday, 18 January 2010

One Careful Owner

Moon Over Space Shuttle Endeavor (NASA, Moon, ...Image by nasa1fan/MSFC via Flickr
I read with some delight this morning that NASA must be a little strapped for cash. Well not that exactly but that as they plan to return astronauts to the moon at some point in the future, they have organised what must be the ultimate car-boot sale to boost their coffers. How do you fancy owning a space shuttle? Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour have been put on the market at the bargain price of $42m (£27m) each.

This may sound like a lot of money but it does quite literally include packing and shipping (to an airport of your choice). As to what you would do with one of the behemoth vehicles? Well it appears that you have to be a museum or some kind of educational institution to even apply. That's a great shame as I'd love to have one parked on my driveway. I'm not sure the neighbours would approve though. :-)

Previously, NASA has donated historically important space hardware for free. Saturn rockets, lunar modules and other artefacts from the Apollo era are on display at various locations including the Kennedy Space Centre, in Florida, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in Washington DC, and the US Space and Rocket Centre, in Alabama.

The last shuttle mission is scheduled for September 2010, when construction of the international space station is expected to be complete. The planned first manned flight of the new Orion crew capsule and Ares rocket is to take place in 2015.
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Sunday, 17 January 2010


I have been playing iNudge today. A little program that allows even the musically illiterate among us to create repeating tunes. One of my efforts is below. OK, so I'm no Ludwig Von Beethoven but it is quite fun and very distracting. Have a go and post the URL in the comments. iNudge can be found here.

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

Virtual Back-lot

Stargate Studios is a company based in California that specialises in visual effects for television and film. Below is a demo reel of what their virtual back-lot is capable of. The old adage that the camera doesn't lie is long since defunct. For more examples of their stunning technology, take a look at their Vimeo channel or their website.

Stargate Studios Virtual Backlot Demo from Stargate Studios on Vimeo.
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Friday, 15 January 2010

Canal City Fountain

Creative minds in Japan have built a computer controlled fountain that is programmed to release water in sequences that give the illusion of "painting" shapes. Canal City in Hakata is a shopping centre that was built around an artificial canal and it houses several impressive fountains but this one is my favourite.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

World's Smartest Mouse

Actually the world's smartest mouse would refuse to do the course and still get the reward. :-)

I have no idea how this was achieved but I couldn't help myself cheering him on.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

How To Make A Baby

You will find below a short educational film on how to make a baby. Don't worry, I have not started posting porn, I guarantee it is nothing like you're thinking. :-)

It is actually a funny, clever stop-animation using a dSLR and some software.

We made this video using a technique called "pixilation", which is a fancy term for stop-motion animation done with real people instead of puppets. We shot it, frame by frame, with Raquel's Canon DSLR over a period of nine months. Those of you who stopped by our house might have noticed some mysterious tape marks on the floor in the living room. Those were for the camera tripod and our feet.

Animating over such a long period of time, using an increasingly pregnant woman as one of your puppets, means basically throwing out everything you might normally do in an animated film. For example, early on, we had this idea that we should wear the same clothes every time, for continuity's sake. But as Raquel's pregnancy developed, we soon discovered that the extra effort required to change in and out of our uniforms was going to interfere with the goal of shooting as many frames as possible, and might even prevent us from finishing the project at all. We dialled down the perfectionism, and in the process ended up having a lot more fun with it.
More production notes can be found here.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Sleep Talkin' Man

A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum LondonImage via Wikipedia
Here on earth there is probably only one place left that we haven't fully explored. A realm that is as strange and mysterious today as it was for our ancestors. The human mind. We imagine that the inner workings of our psyche might reveal a lot about us and we are perhaps glad that nobody knows what we are really thinking.

Occasionally we get glimpses though. Dreams are one example, but they are not always clear and are often hard to remember. Sleep talking on the other hand, allows our sleeping partner a peek in to what is going on inside our heads. Well in theory anyway, in practise it usually comes out complete garbage. Even if it is repeated back to us it often makes no sense.

A blog I was recommended illustrates this perfectly and hilariously. Sleep Talkin' Man is written by a wife whose normally mild-mannered husband is prolific sleep talker. It reveals that the cogs in Adam's brain work quite differently during the night and portray him as an arrogant, often angry man, whilst she assures he is nothing like that in everyday life. Some of his quotes have now become so popular they are working on producing some t-shirts. I have reproduced some of my favourites (the clean ones) below. Take a look here for the full blog.
  • "Oompa loompas don't sing in heaven. They tidy up the clouds."
  • "Don't... Don't put the noodles and the dumplings together in the boat. They'll fight! The noodles are bullies. Poor dumplings."
  • "I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."
  • "I'd rather peel off my skin and bathe my weeping raw flesh in a bath of vinegar than spend any time with you. But that's just my opinion. Don't take it personally."
  • "I can't control the kittens. Too many whiskers! Too many whiskers!"
  • "Don't leave the duck there. It's totally irresponsible. Put it on the swing, it'll have much more fun."
  • "Yah, I can't believe in God when I'm THIS good."
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Sunday, 10 January 2010

Scott Dunbar

This is a fresh take on the Michael Jackson song Billie Jean. Scott Dunbar bills himself as a one man band and I have to say his version is growing on me. I realise that cover versions are a personal choice but I hope you like it too.

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Saturday, 9 January 2010


I had trouble believing this was for real at first as it so good. A Dutch company called NuFormer create very cool 3D animations and project them on to buildings, usually for promotional purposes. What you see below is a medley of some of that work. By mapping the projections to a specific building and using a battery of powerful projectors, the final result is stunning. You can see more on their Youtube channel and on their website.

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Friday, 8 January 2010

Ground Crew Funnies

Boeing-777-300 chassisImage via Wikipedia
The post I made the other day reminded me of another funny email I got a while back that is along similar lines. Again there is a strong possibility that they are fictitious but that doesn't stop them from being funny.

After every flight, pilots fill out a form called a gripe sheet, which conveys to the mechanics and other ground crew any problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that needs repair or correction. The mechanics/ground crew read and correct the problem, and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form with what remedial action was taken. The pilot reviews the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humour. Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as submitted by pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers.

(P = the problem logged by the pilot.)
(S = the solution and action taken by the engineers or ground crew.)

P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: The autopilot doesn't.

P: Autopilot tends to drop a wing when fuel imbalance reaches 500 pounds.
S: Flight manual limits maximum fuel imbalance to 300 pounds.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Pilot's clock inoperative.
S: Wound clock.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: 3 roaches in cabin.
S: 1 roach killed, 1 wounded, 1 got away.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Unfamiliar noise coming from #2 engine.
S: Engine run for four hours. Noise now familiar.

P: Noise coming from #2 engine. Sounds like man with little hammer.
S: Took little hammer away from man in #2 engine.

P: Whining noise coming from #2 engine compartment.
S: Returned little hammer to man in #2 engine.

P: Whining sound heard on #2 engine shutdown.
S: Pilot removed from aircraft.

P: No. 2 propeller seeping prop fluid.
S: No. 2 propeller seepage normal. Nos. 1, 3 and 4 propellers lack normal seepage.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're there for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Funny sounds from behind instrument panel.
S: Installed non-funny sounds.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to "straighten up, fly right, and be serious".

P: #2 ADF needle runs wild.
S: Caught and tamed #2 ADF needle.

P: Turn-and-slip indicator ball stuck in centre during turns.
S: Congratulations. You have just made your first co-ordinated turn.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Seat cushion in 13F smells rotten.
S: Fresh seat cushion on order.

P: Flight attendant cold at altitude.
S: Ground checks OK.

P: Weather radar went ape!
S: Opened radar, let out ape, cleaned up mess.

And this one from a pilot instructor who ejected from a military trainer aircraft:
P: Reason for emergency eject: Landing gear would not retract
S: Aircraft had fixed landing gear. Aircraft written off.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Windows God Mode

Windows logoImage via Wikipedia
With thanks to a friend of mine I'd like to give users of Windows Vista and Windows7 a nice little tip. If you are an IT professional or a power user, one of the bug bears of Microsoft forcing you to change OS every few years, is that all those useful tools and utils we take for granted keep getting moved and hidden. God Mode puts them all in one place. Enabling it is very easy.
  • Create a new folder on your desktop
  • Rename it to GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
This will change it to an icon that can be double clicked and which provides access to everything the ubergeek amongst you will need.

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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

ATC Funnies

Air route traffic controllers at work at the W...Image via Wikipedia
I was sent this in an email some time ago and was reminded of it recently. These are allegedly genuine exchanges between air crews and air traffic controllers. Genuine or not, they are funny.

Tower: "Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o'clock, 6 miles!"
Delta 351: "Give us another hint! We have digital watches!"

Tower: "TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 degrees."
TWA 2341: "Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?"
Tower: "Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?"

From an unknown aircraft waiting in a very long takeoff line: "I'm bored!"
Ground Traffic Control: "Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself immediately!"
Unknown aircraft: "I said I was bored, not stupid!"

O'Hare Approach Control to a 747: "United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o'clock, three miles, Eastbound."
United 329: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this... I've got the little Fokker in sight."

A student became lost during a solo cross-country flight. While attempting to locate the aircraft on radar, ATC asked, "What was your last known position?"
Student: "When I was number one for takeoff."

A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after touching down.
San Jose Tower Noted: "American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able. If you are not able, take the Guadeloupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport."

A Pan Am 727 flight, waiting for start clearance in Munich , overheard the following:
Lufthansa (in German): "Ground, what is our start clearance time?"
Ground (in English): "If you want an answer you must speak in English."
Lufthansa (in English): "I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany . Why must I speak English?"
Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent): "Because you lost the bloody war!"

Tower: "Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on frequency 124.7"
Eastern 702: "Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway."
Tower: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff behind Eastern 702, contact Departure on frequency 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?"
Continental 635: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern... we've already notified our caterers."

One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee. Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, "What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?"
The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: "I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I'll have enough parts for another one."

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign: Speedbird 206.

Speedbird 206: " Frankfurt , Speedbird 206! Clear of active runway."
Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven."
The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.
Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"
Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."
Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?"
Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, -- And I didn't land."

While taxiing at London's Gatwick Airport , the crew of a US Air flight departing for Ft. Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727.
An irate female ground controller lashed out at the US Air crew, screaming: "US Air 2771, where the hell are you going? I told you to turn right onto Charlie taxiway! You turned right on Delta! Stop right there. I know it's difficult for you to tell the difference between C and D, but get it right!"
Continuing her rage to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting hysterically: "God! Now you've screwed everything up! It'll take forever to sort this out! You stay right there and don't move till I tell you to! You can expect progressive taxi instructions in about half an hour, and I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you, and how I tell you! You got that, US Air 2771?"
"Yes, ma'am," the humbled crew responded.
Naturally, the ground control communications frequency fell terribly silent after the verbal bashing of US Air 2771. Nobody wanted to chance engaging the irate ground controller in her current state of mind. Tension in every cockpit out around Gatwick was definitely running high. Just then an unknown pilot broke the silence and keyed his microphone, asking:
"Wasn't I married to you once?"

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

My Free And Easy Life

A homeless man in ParisImage via Wikipedia
The Guardian's website has a fascinating article about Katharine Hibbert. When Katharine lost her job and her flat she didn't just downsize – she decided to dispense with money altogether, living on the stuff the rest of us throw away. She has written a book called Free: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society in which she tells how her life changed after she made the decision to attempt to live for twelve months without spending money, and how our society is so wasteful that it actually enabled her to do it.

I was 26, and on paper my life had been pretty good. I had a job as a journalist and shared a flat with my sister. I had friends, and a lovely boyfriend. But life had become tedious. I took it all for granted – my clothes, my record collection, my theatre tickets. Call it a quarter-life crisis or a failure to count my blessings, but I missed the enthusiasm and idealism I'd once felt.

Then the banks collapsed. I was made redundant and my landlord phoned to say he was putting the rent up. I'd had enough. A couple of years before, I'd met people who claimed to live on next to nothing in Britain's cities. They knew where to find free food, where to scavenge for clothes and household goods and how to get inside abandoned buildings and live in them for free. When my old life fell apart, I decided to join them. I would stop spending for a year. I wouldn't take anything that wouldn't otherwise go to waste, and I wouldn't steal or beg. I wouldn't claim benefits, and I wouldn't accept favours from friends that I couldn't repay.

You can read the Guardian's extract here, or better still purchase the book from Amazon here.
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Saturday, 2 January 2010

Infinite Loop

Take a look at the two photographs below. Yeah I know, my head hurts too. I have no idea how these were created or who the creator was. I'm guessing that Photoshop or similar was used but the skill is so good it is not clear. I think I need to lay down.

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Friday, 1 January 2010

Viral Compilation

This is a lazy post. The truth is I'm probably still in bed. No matter what time of day it is in your part of the world right now, I'm probably sleeping of a hang-over. Well if I did last night right I am.

So until normal service is resumed, here is a compilation of some of the most famous (notorious) video memes of 2009 and before. Enjoy, and hopefully I'll see you tomorrow.

Viral Video Legends Compilation - Watch more Funny Videos
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