Movies set in space, take a bow

Tuesday, 16 December, 2014

Set to the music from the Interstellar soundtrack, “Mountains” by Hans Zimmer, and the words of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”, recited by Anthony Hopkins, Max Shishkin has produced an impressive tribute to movies set in space.

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An account of a summer holiday in North Korea

Tuesday, 16 December, 2014

As a holiday destination, North Korea is not entirely out of the question, but it is a place that few end up giving much thought to, at least in the West that is. If you’re prepared however to complete the appropriate paperwork, and adhere to designated itineraries, you may find travel to North Korea enjoyable.

This walk was one of a handful of moments that felt very unscripted. Our guides were noticeably more tense, and were careful to keep the group together. Walking along bustling sidewalks for 45-minutes was fascinating, and we received much more attention than we had previously. Kids waved and screamed hello at us, and compared to any other place I saw in North Korea, the adults were curious, warm, and welcoming. Wonsan seemed gritty and raucous compared to the orderly capital, with a smattering of street hawkers selling a modest selection of food and clothing along the sidewalk. We were a long way from Pyongyang.

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Get your catamaran running, get out on Lake Munmorah

Monday, 15 December, 2014

Despite the amount of time I’ve spent in the proximity of the lakes, Budgewoi and Munmorah especially, on the NSW Central Coast, I’ve never been out on them. Catamarans, as seen this in this Budgewoi Sailing Club footage, filmed by Jason Mead, look like a mighty fine way however to spend time on the water.

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How many days in a month? Simple mathematics will suffice

Monday, 15 December, 2014

January has how many days? What about June? If rhymes and memory techniques can’t help you, maybe this mathematical formula, devised by Curtis McEnroe, will.

What we need here is basically a piece-wise function, but that’s just no fun. This got me thinking of other ways to use a part of a function only over a certain domain. I figured the easiest way to do this would be to find an expression equal to 1 over the desired domain and 0 otherwise. Multiplying a term by this expression will result in the term being cancelled out outside its domain. I’ve called this “masking,” since it involves creating a sort of bit-mask.

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The winner of traffic light pong gets to cross the road

Monday, 15 December, 2014

Pedestrians in the German city of Hildesheim can now play a variation of video game Pong, while waiting to cross the street at certain traffic signal controlled road crossings. All you need is someone on the other side of the street to take on. So, do people still get around to crossing streets in Hildesheim any more?

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Running, a great to keep walking faster

Monday, 15 December, 2014

As we age, the speed at which we walk tends to slow down. I guess that would make sense. Or would it?

Given the speed at which we walk though is some sort of indicator of lifespan, one of a great many I’d say, people may therefore be wondering how to keep their walking speeds on the up. Seemingly it is quite possible, all it takes is a little running. Well, when I say a little, that means thirty minutes a day, three times a week.

Many of us probably would assume that this physical slowing is inevitable. And in past studies of aging walkers, physiologists have found that, almost invariably, their walking economy declines over time. That is, they begin using more energy with each step, which makes moving harder and more tiring. But researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., began to wonder whether this slow decay of older people’s physical ease really is inexorable or if it might be slowed or reversed by other types of exercise and, in particular, by running.

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The hyper-real photography of Petrina Hicks

Friday, 12 December, 2014

Photography by Petrina Hicks

Check out the hyper-real, uncanny-valley-like, photography of Sydney based artist Petrina Hicks.

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In and out of The Louvre in ninety minutes on a Sunday afternoon

Friday, 12 December, 2014

You’ll never guess what the highlight of my trip to The Louvre was. Well, I did study the painting in question for my art history course at high school, and to say that there’s more to it than meets the eye is a veritable understatement.

Viewing the work is likewise the focus of many other visitors to what is one of the best known art museums in the world, but do most of these people zip in and out only to see it, or do they take the time to see more of the treasures within?

Unsurprisingly visitors to The Louvre can be cast into one of two camps, short stayers, people who spend about ninety minutes there, and long stayers, those who stop for at least six hours. Surprisingly though, there is little difference in how much either type of visitor sees, it comes down to how long they take in any given art piece.

Having say an hour to gaze at the Mona Lisa would be a luxury. The jostling crowds make staying in its presence difficult for any longer than a few minutes though.

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To keep the streets clean send in the ants

Friday, 12 December, 2014

Discarded foodstuffs in public places are a blight, no doubt about it, to say nothing of the fact it is likely to attract all sorts animal and insect pests as well. But here’s where conveniently located ant colonies, and we’re certainly not talking fire ants here, could come in.

Ants can make for highly efficient waste-removalists, and in most cases are the sort of animal kingdom scavengers that most people would likely prefer to tolerate, if they were forced to make a choice:

Overall, Youngsteadt says the new study shows that the pavement ants are eating enough garbage to be considered competitors to other, less desirable scavengers. “A lot of people grumble when an ant shows up in their kitchen, but they want a rat even less,” she said. With more research, she says, it might be possible to create urban wildlife management plans that encourage the type of scavengers we’d prefer.

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To twit, old poems remixed for the digital age

Friday, 12 December, 2014

Late US writer Shel Silverstein’s 1974 poem Where the Sidewalk Ends, is one of several works of verse that has been… updated for the digital age:

There is a place where the wi-fi ends
And before the tweets begin,
And there the grass grows soft and without filter,
and there the sun is viewed straight and not off-kilter,
and there the moon-bird flies around bewildered,
No faves, to his chagrin.

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