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  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • We’ve all got that awkward friend that never comes up well in photos. They are always captured mid-blink, lurking creepily in the background or just gurning drunkenly in your otherwise perfectly curated party shots.

      Guess what? Animals can be those guys too. No matter how hard they try to be photogenic, they just can’t quite pull it off .If there were an animal Facebook (Snoutbook?) these clumsy creatures would be bugging their buddies to untag them NOW!

       

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Fall is a season of harvesting, and festivals to celebrate it are currently taking place all over the world. In Northern Japan, the Wara Art Festival recently rang in the September-October rice season, and it’s a wildly inventive and fun way to repurpose rice straw left over from the harvest.

      Wara Art Festival has been taking place in Niigata City since 2008, where it began as a creative collaboration between the city’s tourism division and the Musashino Art University. Rice straw was once widely used in Japan to produce various goods, such as tatami mats, but has now been replaced by wood and plastic in most instances. The students of Musashino worked together to fill the fields of Niigata with giant animal sculptures made of bound rice straw, and they’ve been doing it every year since then.

      Check out the best displays from the 2017 festival below, and definitely put a trip to Japan on your fall to-do list for next year.

       

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    •  

      Enjoy the moonlight.

      Indulge your mooncake in delight! icon_biggrin.gif

       

       

       

      Edited by NeverSayGoodBye 04 Oct `17, 8:10PM
  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Moss is a common plant in Iceland. It grows abundantly in the mountainous region and is a special characteristic of Iceland’s lava fields. One of the most spectacular moss blanket is located on the southern coast of Iceland, over the Eldraun Lava Field.

      The Eldraun Lava Field was created in one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history. Over a course of eight months, between 1783 and 1784, the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometers of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases that contaminated the soil, killing half of Iceland's cattle and horses, and more than three-quarter of sheep. That year, nothing grew on the fields and no more fish could be found in the sea. The resulting famine killed approximately a quarter of the island’s human population.

      But Laki’s eruption had even more widespread effects. In the years following the eruption, the climate across the Northern Hemisphere deteriorated. In North America, the winter of 1784 became the longest and one of the coldest on record. A huge snowstorm hit the South, the Mississippi River froze at New Orleans and there were reports of ice floes in the Gulf of Mexico.

      Haze from the eruption floated east as far away as India weakening monsoon circulations and leading to drought and crop failures. The famine that hit Egypt in 1784, as a result of the eruption, killed roughly one-sixth of its population.

      The worst consequences were felt in Europe. The summer of 1783 was the hottest on record and a rare high-pressure zone over Iceland caused the winds to blow to the south-east. The poisonous cloud drifted across Europe, and its inhalation killed tens of thousands. In Great Britain alone, it caused some 23,000 deaths.

      As the weather became hot, thunderstorms became more severe and large hailstones rained down from the sky causing injury and death to cattle. The following winter was extremely cold and caused 8,000 additional deaths in the UK. During the spring thaw, Germany and Central Europe reported severe flood damage. In France, a series of crop failures and the resulting poverty and famine eventually triggered the French Revolution of 1789-1799.

      Today, the Eldraun Lava Field looks very peaceful and serene. The thick green moss has helped softened the rugged landscape, almost disguising Eldhraun’s violent past.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • (Germany) A tax inspector has smashed the world record for the number of beer tankards carried at once after he managed to carry 29 brimming vessels over 40 metres.

      Oliver Strumpfel, a tax inspector, clinched the title at a festival in Bavaria on Sunday after carting dozens of the litre sized glasses which weighed almost 70 kg (154lbs) in total.

      The 45-year-old almost carried 31 glasses but unfortunately one glass dropped at the very last moment and another ended up losing more than 10 per cent of its beer. 

      He was cheered on and then applauded by 1,500 onlookers yelling “Oli, oli” at the Gillamoos Fair in Abensberg where he carried out the Maßkrugtragen – otherwise known as beer tankard challenging - challenge.

      "I first did 27, because I wanted to be sure and then at the end I said, 'Let's add another one and get over 30'," Struempfel said. 

       

      "Unfortunately it didn't quite work, but having managed to put 29 down ... I think it's amazing."

      But preparing for the festival in the southeastern Germany city, which is also home to the infamous Oktoberfest which is the world’s biggest beer festival, was no mean feat. Mr Struempfel said he had been training at the gym three to four times a week since February.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Two-headed tortoise celebrates 20th birthday

      A two headed tortoise adopted by the Geneva Natural History Museum is celebrating his 20th birthday.

      In the wild it’s unlikely the animal would have survived for long.

      But with care, Janus is living a carefree life.

      While tortoises can live for 80 years – Janus’s keepers don’t believe he’ll live for that long – but they’re doing their best to keep him going.

      He gets regular food, making sure both heads get an opportunity to eat and occasional extra vitamins.

      A woman brought an unhatched Janus to the museum in 1997 – wanting them to put the egg in an incubator. When Janus appeared, the museum kept him – making him the institution’s mascot.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Belgian hotel lets lonely guests rent goldfish for company for €3.50 a night

      Like most brilliant ideas, this one came about over beers: a goldfish rental service for lonely hotel guests.

      Incredibly the booze-infused concept quickly became a reality and has since turned Hotel Charleroi Airport – an otherwise ordinary inn near Charleroi, Belgium – into an unlikely internet sensation.

      Social media posts of the goldfish, which can be rented for €3.50 (£3.20) per night, now occupy one of the weirder corners of the web and have proven particularly popular with business travellers.

      “They like to go back to the office with an expenses claim for goldfish rental,” said David Dillen, the hotel manager, who decided to buy the fish while he was propping up the bar at the family-run hotel.

      “I was having a beer with my cousin and we saw some people waiting to check in,” he told Telegraph Travel. “The queue was quite long so I decided to go out and buy some fish [as entertainment].”

      The fish were initially intended to keep guests entertained while they waited to check in, but the critters became so popular that the hotel started renting them to lonely lodgers.

      The fish spend most of their time swimming around in a bowl at reception, but when guests need some companionship they are sent to receptacles in their appointed room.

      The hotel has taken some flak from critics, who have questioned the size of the goldfish bowl and the ethics of renting the creatures to guests, but Dillen claims they are regularly transferred to a big fish tank in the housekeeping department where they have access to shelter and plants.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • With its narrow rooms, metal bars and bunk beds, Bangkok's first prison-themed hostel promises the look and feel of a real jail in the bustling Thai capital.

      The Sook Station hostel in Bangkok's Udom Suk neighbourhood offers guests striped pyjamas for 700 baht (S$29) and a wall with a height chart where they can have their mugshots taken.

      The nine-room hostel is the first foray into the hospitality industry for Mr Sittichai Chaivoraprug, 55, and his wife, 49-year-old Piyanat Teekavanich, after careers in the technology sector.

      They were inspired by a shared love of travel and the 1994 prison escape film, The Shawshank Redemption, starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins

      The hostel's design includes black-out doors and windows in two rooms to create the feeling of being in solitary confinement. Showers are located on a caged-in rooftop.

      For guests who may feel a sense of claustrophobia, seven rooms have a small balcony.

      Thailand expects to welcome almost 35 million foreign tourists - nearly half the country's population - this year. Many of them visit or transit through Bangkok, a regional travel hub.

      Sook Station charges between 790 and 1,630 baht a night for the prison-themed experience. "People love it or hate it," Mr Sittichai told Reuters, adding that most bookings have come by word of mouth.

      Some guests like Ms Yui, a 42-year-old hotel worker, are repeat customers. "I feel it's a real prison because when I arrived it was dark," Ms Yui said. Now on her third stay, she said the hostel's style and friendly staff "feels like home".

       

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • BANG KHUN THIAN, Thailand: Revving up his engine as the monsoon clouds begin to open, Nopadol Choihirun steers his weathered boat under a two-lane bridge to keep his pile of envelopes and parcels dry.

      Dodging the downpour is a regular challenge for the 55-year-old, one of Bangkok's last remaining postmen to deliver mail by boat to waterfront homes in low-lying parts of the capital.

      "I have to be really careful to watch the clouds," he said from beneath the shelter of the bridge, munching on a banana as the droplets began to fall.



      The genial postman criss-crosses the swampy canal in Bang Khun Thian district twice a week. Residents know their mail has arrived by the sound of his rusty engine - and the barking it provokes from the suburb's dogs.

      Drift wood and trash that often get stuck in the boat propeller make the job a daily adventure.


      But Nopadal says the work is about more than just handing out goods.

      "This is better than sitting at the office or riding the bikes. I meet with the people and interact with them more," he told AFP as he called out to waterfront residents while steering his boat.


      A veteran mailman who switched to the boat service five years ago, Nopadol is taken with the languorous charm of Thailand's canal life.

      "Some villagers invite me in for lunch or try to offer me a glass or a bottle of water. This is the charm of my job and it makes me happy," he said.

      Yet the profession is increasingly threatened by booming development in Bangkok's sprawling metropolis, with canals paved over and waterfront homes torn down.



      VENICE OF THE EAST

      With an extensive network of moats and man-made canals, Bangkok is often dubbed the "Venice of the East".

      The riverine landscape that snakes through the city and connects to the mighty Chaophraya River was once home to thriving communities and trade hubs, where boats played a vital role for transport and commuting.



      But rapid urbanisation has seen the capital's population explode and move into ever-higher skyscrapers and condos.

      "Former residents in Bang Khun Tian have either moved out of the canal side or left the elders at home" said Kijja Phaukmoungsri, assistant director of the local post office that runs the service.

      The need for floating postmen has steadily diminished, with only seven post offices in Bangkok still carrying the service today.

      Costly fuel is another downside of boat deliveries, which are 10 times more expensive than distributing mail by road.

      But for those still living along the canals, the service is indispensable, even if most of the snail mail consists of little more than water and electricity bills.

      "We live along the canal and there's no road access. For sure, a mail service like this one is much needed," said Pacharee Kladpipoon, a waterfront villager.


  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • A perfectly preserved cake taken to Antarctica by a party in Captain Robert Falcon Scott's expedition over a hundred years ago has been found near the South Pole. 

      The fruitcake, made by former Reading-based biscuit makers Huntley & Palmers, was found in a remote hut in Antarctica wrapped in paper and encased in a tin.

      Remarkably, researchers from New Zealand charity the Antarctic Heritage Trust said the cake looked - and even smelled - like it was still edible. 

      Lizzie Meek, a manager from the charity, said the cake would have been an 'ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions' and is still a favourite on modern trips to the far south. 




      She added: 'With just two weeks to go on the conservation of the Cape Adare artefacts, finding such a perfectly preserved fruitcake in amongst the last handful of unidentified and severely corroded tins was quite a surprise.'

      It is believed the cake belonged to the Northern Party - a group that split off from Captain Scott's main party - because documents show they took the popular brand with him on the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition between 1910 and 1913.

      The cake was found on a shelf in a hut based at Cape Adare used by the Northern Party in 1911, which is the year the researchers believe it was left there.

      Scott and his team - who had left the Northern Party at Cape Adare - reached the South Pole in 1912, 34 days after their Norwegian rivals, but the entire party died on their return journey.

      But the Northern Party suffered its own troubles - it was moved from Cape Adare 250 miles south to Cape Evans in 1912, where they suffered from frostbite and hunger and were forced to eat seal meat.  

      Conservators have been working on Antarctic artefacts from Cape Adare since May last year and have accrued almost 1,500.        

      The huts at Cape Adare were built by the Norwegian Carten Borchgrevink's expidition of 1899 but later used by the Northern Party.

      They are the first buildings constructed in Antarctica and are set to undergo conservation work by Antarctic Heritage Trust workers. 

      But all objects taken from them - including the cake - must be returned after being spruced up, in accordance with rules governing the Antarctic Specially Protected Area.  





  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • ...South America. Waitress Alice Tan, 60, said that after ...the goldfish in the Cheng Jee Tor (Thousand-Number ... or an action. Tan said one must ... ong (luck)," said Tan, who scooped a ...of striking another number. Stall helper Kee Bock Cheng, 55, said ...

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • A cat in China has become an Internet sensation after it underwent what seemed like a double eyelid surgery, emerging with bigger eyes.

      Photos of Feifei - meaning Fatty in Chinese - posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, showed the feline in Chengdu before and after the surgery.

      Before the surgery, its eyes were droopy and half-closed, making it look lazy and grumpy.

      After the surgery, it was seen with stitches underneath its eyes. Another photo showed Feifei with fully opened eyes.

      The photos have been liked about 35,000 times since they were posted in the middle of this month.

      According to the Weibo user who posted the photos, the cat had to undergo the procedure as its eyelids were folded inwards.

      Veterinarian He Jinyi, who operated on Feifei last month, said the procedure was not a cosmestic one but a necessity. Feifei's condition could have caused irritation or infection if uncorrected, as its eyelashes were rubbing against its cornea, reported the Chengdu Business Daily.

      Feifei had been brought in by two animal welfare group volunteers who found it in March and noticed something wrong with its eyes, according to one of them, known only as Chen.

      Dr He shared that the problem was only discovered when Feifei was brought to the clinic, and the surgery, which cost almost 2,000 yuan (S$403), took about half an hour.

      Chen added that Feifei is now living with a local family.

      "The photos are a hit online because the changes in the cat's eyes are so dramatic," Dr He told Chengdu Business Daily.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • True blue flowers are a rarity in nature—they occur only in select species like morning glories and delphiniums. Now, researchers have created a genuinely blue chrysanthemum by adding two genes to the normally pink or reddish flower. The advance could be applied to other species—and it may mean that florists wanting to hawk blooms of blue will no longer have to dye them.

      “This [advance] is of great impact,” says Toru Nakayama, a plant biochemist at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, who was not involved with the work. There are several popular commercial species for which no true blue varieties exist, he notes.

      We all think we’ve seen blue flowers before. And in some cases, it’s true. But according to the Royal Horticultural Society’s color scale—the gold standard for flowers—most “blues” are really violet or purple. Florists and gardeners are forever on the lookout for new colors and varieties of plants, however, but making popular ornamental and cut flowers, like roses, vibrant blue has proved quite difficult. “We’ve all been trying to do this for a long time and it’s never worked perfectly,” says Thomas Colquhoun, a plant biotechnologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved with the work.

      True blue requires complex chemistry. Anthocyanins—pigment molecules in the petals, stem, and fruit—consist of rings that cause a flower to turn red, purple, or blue, depending on what sugars or other groups of atoms are attached. Conditions inside the plant cell also matter. So just transplanting an anthocyanin from a blue flower like a delphinium didn’t really work.

      Naonobu Noda, a plant biologist at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Tsukuba, Japan, tackled this problem by first putting a gene from a bluish flower called the Canterbury bell into a chrysanthemum. The gene’s protein modified the chrysanthemum’s anthocyanin to make the bloom appear purple instead of reddish. To get closer to blue, Noda and his colleagues then added a second gene, this one from the blue-flowering butterfly pea. This gene’s protein adds a sugar molecule to the anthocyanin. The scientists thought they would need to add a third gene,

      “That allowed them to get the best blue they could obtain,” says Neil Anderson, a horticultural scientist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul who was not involved with the work.

      Chemical analyses showed that the blue color came about in just two steps because the chrysanthemums already had a colorless component that interacted with the modified anthocyanin to create the blue color. “It was a stroke of luck,” Colquhoun says. Until now, researchers had thought it would take many more genes to make a flower blue, Nakayama adds.

      The next step for Noda and his colleagues is to make blue chrysanthemums that can’t reproduce and spread into the environment, making it possible to commercialize the transgenic flower. But that approach could spell trouble in some parts of the world. “As long as GMO [genetically modified organism] continues to be a problem in Europe, blue [flowers] face a difficult economic future,” predicts Ronald Koes, a plant molecular biologist at the University of Amsterdam who was not involved with the work. But others think this new blue flower will prevail. “It’s certainly an advance for the retail florist,” Anderson says. “It would have a lot of market value worldwide.”

      As for Noda and other scientists, the blue blooms mean that at long last, they understand the biochemistry of this remarkable color.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Early July, as part of Ágitagueda art festival, hundreds of umbrellas are hung over promenades in the streets of Águeda, a municipality in Portugal. The beautiful tradition started only 3 years ago, but has already earned world fame for the place.

      The installation not only adds a vibrant splash of color to the otherwise plain streets, but also creates a much needed shade from the heat.

       

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Swiss wildlife photographer Franco Banfi and a team of scuba divers were following a pod of sperm whales off the coast of Dominica Island in the Caribbean Sea, when suddenly the large creatures became motionless and fell into vertical slumber. This phenomenon was first discovered only in 2008, when a team of biologists from the UK and Japan inadvertently drifted into a group of sperm whales floating just below the surface, completely oblivious to their surrounding. It was only when one of boats accidentally bumped into one of the whales, did the animal woke up and the entire pod scurried off.

      Until then it was thought that sperm whales, like other toothed cetaceans, slept with one side of their brain turned on to do important things that require physical activity, such as swimming or coming to the surface to breathe or avoid predators. It’s like keeping one eye open at all times, never fully letting their guard down.

      The 2008 incident suggested that whales might sleep with both sides of the brain turned off. The researchers also discovered that whales take short, but periodic, bouts of sleep throughout the day with periods ranging between 6 and 24 minutes, but drift into deep sleep for only about 7 percent of the time. These these brief naps might be the only time the whales sleep, which would make sperm whales possibly the least sleep-dependent mammals known to man

       

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Most trees grow vertically straight, but under challenging conditions where individuals have to compete for light, or when mechanical stress is intense, trees may grow at an angle.

      Araucaria columnaris, or Cook pines —named after Captain James Cook, whose second voyage around the globe carried the first botanists to classify the tree— is a tree endemic to New Caledonia in the Melanesia region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean, but have since been planted in temperate, subtropical, and tropical areas throughout the world. When grown outside of its native range, the Cook pines have a pronounced lean that’s so ubiquitous that it is often used as the identifying characteristic for the species. But until recently, nobody paid much attention to which direction it leaned or by how much.

      Matt Ritter at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo was researching the Cook pine for an upcoming book on the urban trees of California, when he realized that the pines always leaned south. To ascertain whether that’s always the case, he rang up a colleague in Australia and was surprised to learn that the trees down under leaned north.

      Intrigued, Matt Ritter and his team expanded their efforts and studied 256 Cook pines scattered across five continents ranging from latitudes of 7° and 35° north, and 12° and 42° south. They found that the trees always leaned towards the equator, and the magnitude of the lean increases the further they went from the equator. On average, the trees tilt by 8.50 degrees, although one specimen in Australia was found to be leaning at nearly 40 degrees.

      It’s not clear why the Cook pines exhibit this peculiar behavior, but the researchers feel it’s due to phototropism—the same phenomenon that causes houseplants to lean towards the sun. It’s possible the Cook pines bend themselves to better catch the slanting rays of sunlight at higher altitudes. In most trees, the tendency to lean towards the sun is counterbalanced by their sensitivity to the Earth’s gravitational pull, a phenomenon called gravitropism, that keep trees upright. The researchers speculate that the Cook pines might be lacking this ability.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Protecting crops from raiding elephants is not an easy task for Africans farmers where wild elephants often roam free, until a group of British researchers working in Kenya made a remarkable discovery —elephants are naturally scared of honey bees. Zoologists found that elephants would quickly move away if they heard so much as the sound of a buzzing hive. These elephants have even adopted a special call used to warn the rest of the herd when they are in the vicinity of bees.

      So Oxford zoologist Lucy King and his colleagues took the idea to its logical conclusion —the creation of a fence containing beehives. This so called ‘beehive fence’ was first deployed as a test in Kenyan farms by a charity organization called “Save the Elephants”. Farms were fenced off by nine beehives hung under small thatched roofs. Each beehive was placed ten meters apart and were linked together by wire. Researchers found that farms protected by beehives had far less human-elephant conflict than unprotected farms.

      That was in 2002. Beehive fencing is now a growing phenomenon in Africa and Asia. The fences are easy to make using only locally sourced materials, and they cost a fraction compared to the cost of concrete barriers and electrified fences. Even with the hives empty of bees, elephants are wary of nearing them as the smell of the hives is enough a deterrent. The hives are connected by wires so that if an elephant tries to cross the barrier, the interconnecting wire shakes the hives releasing the bees.

      The resident communities also benefit from the bees, through the harvest and sale of honey. Pollination work of the bees can also increase biodiversity and even increase the yield of the crop that they protect.

      Researchers are not sure why elephants are scared of bees, because an elephant’s skin is too thick for bees to cause any damage. But there are areas where bees can do sting elephants, for example, around eyes and inside of the trunk. It’s possible that elephants avoid bees to prevent such an experience.

       

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Usually, when we think about cats, we think about how easy their lives are - eat, sleep, and play, all day long. But have you ever thought about the actual struggles they face? Especially first world cats.

      From feeling absolutely crushed after their human closes the bathroom door to spending all day catching a mouse yet their human still doesn't eat it - the struggles are real.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05
    • Street art is there to surprise and inspire us, to shake up the often dull urban environments in which it can usually be found in order to give us a fresh perspective on our otherwise familiar neighborhoods and streets. But sometimes street art goes one step further than that by not only altering the world around it, but actually interacting with it. Check out the pictures below to see what the mean.

  • NeverSayGoodBye's Avatar
    8,192 posts since May '05