Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Earth as Art: 18 Stunning Satellite Images

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The Earth as Art: 18 Stunning Satellite Images: [ By Steph in Animals & Habitats, Art & Design, Geography & Travel, Nature & Ecosystems. ]

Here an abstract composition of acid green and vivid violet; there, a sweeping brushstroke in a thick sea of pastel paint. These images aren’t modern art exactly, nor are they ordinary artistic interpretations of landscape, though they’re definitely beautiful enough to frame and hang on your wall. Created by the USGS EROS Data Center, these works of art are RGB compositions of Landsat 7 satellite images capturing everything from flowing iridescent glaciers in Antarctica to black and orange night shots of Icelandic fjords.

Akpatok Island

Turquoise and white with hints of red, this incredible image of Akpatok Island calls to mind close-ups of gemstones. It’s hard to believe that the faceted expanse of aqua around the snowy island is actually ice on the surface of the sea. Accessible only by air, this island in Ungava Bay in northern Quebec is a popular respite for walruses and whales.

Ganges River Delta

Who knew that such a jarring combination of acid green and vivid purple could occur in satellite imagery? The Ganges River Delta, shown where it empties into the Bay of Bengal, is covered in swamp forest that is home to some of the world’s few remaining wild Royal Bengal Tigers.

Lambert Glacier

It seems as if an artist dragged the bristles of a paintbrush through a thick layer of oils in this dreamy shot. It’s actually the Lambert Glacier in Antarctica, the largest glacier in the world. This image shows a small tributary glacier flowing down from the East Antarctic Plateau. The icefall flows like water, but at a much slower rate – about 500 meters per year.

Richat Structure

What’s this – the site of a meteor impact, beautifully rendered in watercolors? Not exactly, but the Richat Structure is definitely one of the world’s most curious geological formations. Found in the Maur Adar Desert in Mauritania, the Richat Structure formed when a volcanic dome hardened and then gradually eroded. What resulted was strange concentric rings of rock.

West Fjords

Resembling a cross-section of coral, this EROS image depicts the West Fjords, a series of peninsulas in northwestern Iceland. It’s the island nation’s most remote region, and though it’s relatively small in land area, its jagged edges account for more than half of Iceland’s total coastline.

Lena Delta

Delicate and colorful, the Lena River Delta is one of the largest deltas in the world at over 23,500 square miles. It’s also Russia’s biggest protected area, and a vital swath of wilderness habitat for many species of fish and birds, including swans.

Alluvial Fan

Like flowers, alluvial fans literally blossom across the landscape. Most often found in desert areas subject to periodic flash floods, these unusual patterns are caused when fast-flowing streams slow down and spread out, usually at the exit of a canyon onto a flatter plain. This particular alluvial fan, found between the Kunlun and Altun mountain ranges in China’s XinJiang Province, contains active flowing water on the left side, hence the blue shade.

Bogda Mountains

The colors in this image of the Turpan Depression at the foot of China’s Bogda Mountains are almost too striking to be real. Greens and blues of salt lakes and mustards and whites of sand dunes contrast with the violet and plum of the mountains. The Turpan Depression is one of a very small number of places on land that are below sea level.


Blood red and sky blue combine in this beautiful image of the Terminos Lagoon in the Campeche state of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Though it’s not clear why the land appears so red here, it’s a fitting representation of a region known for its red dye.

Delta Region, Netherlands

Segments of the Netherlands’ Delta Region reach out into the sea like pink fingers. Many of the small islands seen in this image were created by the sediment-rich rivers that pour into the North Sea. These rivers also broke up into smaller waterways that further separate the land.


It’s hard to believe that what we’re looking at in this photograph is not a microscopic image, but a mountain range. The Himalayas present themselves in a jagged pattern of pale blue, white, and varying degrees of red.

Niger River

Against a mottled impressionistic landscape, the Niger and Bani Rivers twist and turn like snakes. The pale expanse of land to the north shows the dunes of the Sahara, an entirely different landscape altogether from that of the river deltas with their rich greens and browns.

Von Karman Vortices

These gaseous swirls and scrolls seem intentionally created, etched onto some unknown surface with a pattern in mind. They’re actually what’s known as Von Karman vortices, which form when air flows over and around objects in its path. These ones were created when prevailing winds encountered the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

Byrd Glacier

You can almost imagine someone taking their finger and wiping it across a wet painting of a landscape, blurring it right in the center. Of course, that blurry area is there for a good reason – it’s the fast-moving Byrd Glacier, flowing from the polar plateau on the left to the Ross Ice Shelf on the right. Or at least, it’s fast-moving compared to the massive stationary ice all around it.

Icelandic Tiger

EROS calls this image ‘Icelandic Tiger‘, and it’s easy to see why. Presumably taken at night, the image depicts the mainland, blanketed in some areas with snow, against the black of the water. The tiger’s ‘mouth’ is the Eyjafjorour fjord.

Meandering Mississippi

What a contrast of seemingly pixelated developed land and the organic, free-flowing swirl of the great Mississippi River. The river appears to invade the land, loop back on itself and yet push relentlessly southward in this area right on the border between Tennessee and Arkansas, south of Memphis.

Sierra de Velasco

A muted yet powerful palette characterizes the Sierra de Velasco Mountains in northern Argentina. The greens show us the highest points of the mountains, while the blues are vineyards and fruit-growing areas.

The Dhofar Difference

Perhaps nowhere is a juxtaposition of climates so visually clear as in this image of Oman along the Arabian Sea. Leafy and lush, the coastline is green and fertile thanks to the monsoon rains that come during the summer months. In contrast, just over the stripe of dark purple mountains is a vast expanse of arid interior.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Not Just for Kids: 7 Space-Saving (& Adult-Sized) Loft Beds

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Not Just for Kids: 7 Space-Saving (& Adult-Sized) Loft Beds: [ Filed under Interiors or in the Bedrooms category ]

Adults sometimes have trouble with the associations a bunk bed conjures to mind. Lofting full-sized beds may be the best-kept secret when it comes to bedroom layouts: they can make room for entire desks or dressers below and represent a far cheaper alternative to moving apartments when you run out of space.

Consider, for example, these stand-alone ideas and built-in solutions from via Remodelista. Minimalist metal ladders and railings can make a lofted sleeping area feel much less childish, while decorative touches can integrate an elevated portion of a bedroom without rendering it visually detached from core themes of material, color or decor.

Of course, building out an entire section of a room is not a simple do-it-yourself project. There are other prefab solutions available, like ceiling-suspended beds that hang from heavy-duty supports tied in above (and reinforced by structural connections along adjacent walls).

For the truly space-poor apartment, the sides of a room may be close enough to warrant stretching something between opposite walls and either tying into hidden studs or building a second layer of support on the outside of a drywall-finished and painted surface.

Just think about it for a moment: beds take up the same amount of space regardless of the size of your dwelling. Thus, the smaller your habitat the more area they displace. Recapturing that lost square footage can be well worth the time, effort and/or up-front costs of buying and installing a loft-bed solution.

Waterless Washing: Portable Clothing Dry-Cleaning Machine

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Waterless Washing: Portable Clothing Dry-Cleaning Machine: [ Filed under Travel Gear or in the More category ]

Whether it would work is probably the single biggest question one would have about such a device, but the idea behind it is hard to argue against. After all, who would not want to skip the hassle of heading to the dry cleaner each time for those few dress-clothing items that require special care?

According to its designer, Minsung Bae, combination of humidity, ionization, ozone and air pressure can kill bacteria and remove stains clinging to a shirt – in practice, one has to wonder what the mechanism is for removing these dirty elements after finishing a cleaning cycle.

What would be really neat: a timer feature that would allow one to wear the warm and finished product in the morning, to get that feeling one has when putting on a freshly-dried pair of pants or newly-pressed dressy shirt. Power supply, waste management and some other technical details look like they have yet to be resolved, though, in addition to these other potential accessory functions.

The best part, if it works as it should: you could take these self-contained dray-cleaning containers on the road with you, and set them up in your car or hotel room to do your dirty work while in the middle of an extensive business trip. Wheels along the bottom and a pull-out handle on top make it perfect for air travel, in theory, assuming it does not constitute a too oddly-shaped (and high-tech) piece of over-sized luggage according to the TSA or specific airline.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Fin Day For A Stroll: Seven Amazing Walking Fish

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Fin Day For A Stroll: Seven Amazing Walking Fish: [ By Steve in 7 Wonders Series, Animals & Habitats, Nature & Ecosystems. ]

A fish out of water? In my environment? It’s more likely than you think, as these 7 amazing walking fish gladly step forward to show. Equipped with extra organs which enable them to draw oxygen from the air, these piscine perambulators provide a glimpse of what life must have been like for our “ground-breaking” early ancestors.

Walking Catfish

(images via: Cliffie’s Notes, Flipkart, ThinkQuest and KidsFishing)

Originating in Thailand, the Walking Catfish (Clarias batrachus) is known in Thai as Pla Duk Dam, which means “dull colored wriggling fish”. Nice. What’s NOT so nice is that this pug-ugly, barbel-faced fish is a notorious invasive species that has established itself well beyond Thailand’s borders to Australia, India, the Middle East and (since the late 1960s) Florida. On the bright side, they make good eating for both predatory birds, alligators and the odd two-legged Floridian.

(image via: Ferrebeekeeper)

Walking Catfish often use their marginal air-breathing abilities to escape seasonal or temporary ponds that are in the process of drying up. They also take advantage of very rainy conditions to expand their range – sometimes using flooded streets or highways to do so, to both their own and drivers’ disadvantage.


(images via: IMDB, Great Lakes Echo and Gillhams Fishing Resorts)

Snakehead fish can grow up to 40 inches (1m) long and in one case, a 60-inch (1.5m) specimen was recorded. Their size, toothiness and of course their ability to walk on land where other fish would perish has contributed to their reputation as “Frankenfish”. Movies like 2004′s Snakehead Terror just add fuel to the fire, as has this year’s Animal Planet and Discovery Channel television hit River Monsters, which devotes one show to the “Killer Snakehead”.

Here’s River Monsters star and consummate angler Jeremy Wade reeling in a Giant Snakehead:

River Monsters: Giant Snakehead, via Animal Planet

(images via: HSO Forums, Evil Pleasures and Federal Highway Administration)

Snakehead fish, the Northern Snakehead (Channa argus) in particular, have been known to awkwardly crawl overland from one body of water to another in search of food and fresher water to swim – and breed – in. They’re able to survive for several days out of water thanks to something called a suprabranchial organ that allows the fish to draw oxygen from the air.

(image via: Eduplace)

Although the ability to “walk” from one pond to another has made Snakeheads a formidably invasive species in North America, this same characteristic aids fishermen in their native East Asia in keeping the tasty fish as fresh as possible before they’re sold in fish markets.

Wooly Sculpin

(images via: Mirtai, CSU Fullerton and ReefNews)

The Wooly Sculpin (Clinocottus analis) is native to the California coast where its ability to flop about from one tidal pool to another has long been noted. The fish can survive up to 24 hours out of water if need be. It may be that 400 million years ago (give or take a few million), certain species of fish in similar intertidal zones gradually expanded their air-breathing, fin-walking talents to the point where they were more comfortable on land than in water.

(image via: University of San Diego)

The otherwise unremarkable Wooly Sculpin, on the other hand, seems to be perfectly content with its lifestyle at the border of land and water, proving that once a species settles into a viable ecological niche, it tends to stay there as long as the niche remains available to it.


(images via: FishBase, Superstock and Eric)

Though superficially similar in appearance to the Mudskipper (not to mention Admiral Akbar), Rockskippers are Blennies while Mudskippers are Gobies. The Leaping Rockskipper (Alticus arnoldorum) will crawl out onto land for up to 20 minutes, searching for food and if need be, escaping from predators. Rockskippers use their pectoral fins to crawl and will sometimes flex their muscular tails to “skip” quickly away if they feel threatened.

(image via: Alessio Di Leo)

Rockskippers deviate somewhat from the standard fish body plan and to some, look a lot like tiny marine iguanas. They use their bulging eyes to peer above the water’s surface, checking to see if – literally – the coast is clear before hauling their bellies onto the beach.

Eel Catfish

(images via: BBC and Photographers Direct)

The Eel Catfish (Channallabes apus) hails from Africa, has a long and sinuous body, and grows up to 16 inches (40cm) long. Like the Snakehead, the Eel Catfish has a suprabranchial organ that takes over oxygen-absorbing duties from the gills when the fish decides to hunt for land-based prey.

(image via: Nature Photographic Society)

Having no pectoral fins, the Eel Catfish uses a unique strategy to track its prey – usually beetles or other small insects – on land. The creature’s spine is unusually flexible, especially in the neck area. Unable to suck food into its mouth as it does when underwater, the Eel Catfish bends its neck downward so that its jaws can clamp down on prey from above. These adaptations help the creatures move from pond to pond as required, and allow for snacking along the way!

Climbing Gourami

(images via: Africa Geographic)

The Climbing Gourami, also known as the Spotted Climbing Perch, is native to Africa and Southeast Asia. This is one fish that takes walking very seriously: it uses its entire repertoire when taking to land. Inside, a labyrinth organ (sort of a turbocharged suprabranchial organ) grabs oxygen molecules out of the air while on the outside the fish uses a varied array of fins to “walk” short distances from pond to pond. Of course, even the fastest fish on land is still no match for predators more fully adapted to life both in the air and on the ground.

Even so, Climbing Gouramis don’t look at all awkward when taking the overland route… well, maybe a BIT awkward. Check it out for yourself:

Fish walking on land!, via sOhAmsnakefreak

(images via: FishIndex)

The Climbing Gourami has been known to travel overland by night and in groups. Imagine traveling on foot one night when a school of Climbing Gourami crosses your path… we’re not sure if that would be lucky or not.


(images via: Bird Z, Tony Wu, Ribaldry and Schmaltz and Badman’s Tropical Fish)

We’ve saved the most ambulatory fish for last: behold, the Mudskipper! Like the Rockskipper, it doesn’t look all that fish-like. Think of what Sea Monkeys would look like if Sea Monkeys were real: subdued fins, a long, lizard-like body and bulging eyes last seen on the last bullfrog you saw make the Mudskipper (subfamily Oxudercinae) eminently suited for its unique lifestyle.

(image via: ScienceRay)

Mudskippers employ highly adapted pectoral fins that look and act like arms to enable a wide range of mobility on land. They also rely on cutaneous (through their skin) breathing to maintain blood oxygen levels, much like amphibians.

(image via: TWM1340)

Mudskippers are native to tropical climes in the eastern hemisphere, so most North Americans have never seen them in the flesh. There IS, however, one Mudskipper that we in the west are familiar with: the animated Muddy Mudskipper character from John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy cartoons.

Here’s a quick video mashup of actual mudskippers frolicking on the beach to the Muddy Mudskipper Show theme:

Muddy Mudskipper Show, via FishDontBlinq

Everybody sing now, “Who’s the greatest mudskipper of them all? Who can skip thru the mud with the greatest of ease? What kind of wonderful guy? Who can crawl like a dog without scraping his knees? Who’s got seg-ment-ed eyes? It’s Muddy Mud-Skipper! It’s Muddy! Mud-Skipper! It’s the Muddy! Mu-ud Ski-pper show!!!” You gotta admit, walking fish – real or animated – are pretty darned awesome!

Capsule Campers: Mini Mobile Pod Trailers for Urban Travel

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Capsule Campers: Mini Mobile Pod Trailers for Urban Travel: [ Filed under Portable or in the Architecture category ]

A typical Winnebago gets parked out the outskirts of a town or, at best, in a large parking lot that can accommodate its bulk. While larger such caravans are great for wide-open road trips, this set of small capsules is designed for maneuverability in a modern city setting.

Designer David Tonkinson pursued a number of creative design variants, but ultimately engineered these modules to include linear actuators that, in turn, allow for an open configuration when the pods are set up and opened in a static location.

A wrap-around side-and-skylight system – stretched between and wrapping around the seam separating the two halves of each shell – can be turned opaque for privacy purposes at the flick of a switch. Part of it slides sideways, acting as a door when the sides are extended.

At the same time, splitting the design into two pods helps keep down the size of each overall egg-shaped trailer unit, which are individually small enough to park in a normal-sized car space. Think of it as your very own, home-storable boutique hotel.

While they work best in combination and can each be towed by a single small-sized vehicle, the two units are structured to work in functional unison. One, the so-called ‘comfort pod’, contains living/sleeping accommodations (a two-person bed, seating, audio and visual outlets). The other ‘service pod’ features supplies and storage as well as power and water (with toilet and sink).