Like popping bubble wrap? Check this out!

It’s one of life’s guilty pleasures. We can’t remember when we first did it, but we do it every time.

Popping bubble wrap.

We find it everywhere, protecting our Amazon orders, wrapping Mum’s vase, safe-guarding Granny’s pictures. How often have we eagerly opened a parcel to find that the bubble wrap is more entertaining than the item contained therein?

Most of us don’t know that bubble wrap was a failed 3D wallpaper design. And yes, it really was created by two blokes in a garage – Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes. They were clearly very talented chaps but with absolutely no idea about interior design. Seriously, how could anyone have ever thought that using bubble wrap was a good idea? Can you imagine Osborne & Little suggesting you use it on the walls of your living room? (Yes, okay, perhaps in this age of austerity you can.)

Creative sorts have attempted to rehabilitate its DIY origins and suggest using it for insulation. Bubble wrap has been given its own special day – Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (the last Monday in January as I am sure you all know).

However, it is for that satisfying popping sound and the sensation of a mini-explosion that we cause just by squeezing our fingers that we love the stuff. So much so that we even recognise its therapeutic qualities. The ever-inventive Japanese have even designed a take-anywhere everlasting bubble wrap-popping keyfob to simulate the experience.

Step forward Comedy Imaginator Eric Buss. He has taken the bubble wrap-popping experience to a whole new level. Look at this video and tell me you don’t want a go!

And finally, for those stuck in front of their computers without any bubble wrap to hand, there is always this.


Never mind the bed bugs… Watch out for the Titan Beetle

I’m not exactly the most bug-friendly individual, but I am not so bug-averse that they give me the creeps. Usually.

This critter is a bit different.

The Titan beetle is thought of as the second largest beetle in the world, but, to be honest, it is pretty much the largest as its nearest rival, the Hercules beetle, snaffles the record with the help of an extended horn on its thorax which makes up over half the length.

Thankfully, it is ultra rare. No-one has ever found its larvae, though the suspected boreholes for the grubs suggest a pupa over two inches wide and perhaps as much as a foot long.


As you might expect, this is a South American rain forest-dweller, found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, the Guianas, and north-central Brazil.

Apparently, although usually placid, the advice is to handle with care as they can cause more than a bit of damage if provoked. All I can say is that these folk are a hell of a lot braver than I am.

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Grand Canyon madness

Yes, I know this was from a month ago, but did you ever really get your head around what it was Nik Wallenda did?

Think about it for just a sec. He walked across a wire slung across the Grand Canyon without any safety harness.

He was, apparently, approximately 1,500 feet above the canyon floor. To give you an idea how high that is, it is roughly 1.5 times the height of The Shard. Without any safety harness.

And how long did he take to walk quarter of a mile like this? 22 minutes and 54 seconds.

Lots of people will say he’s mad and it was very silly. I say hats off to him – I think it’s brilliant. He strikes me as being an adventurer in the mould of Felix Baumgartner.

For those with vertigo, it could probably be the ultimate in aversion therapy. I suspect, however, that with a family history of circus performers that stretches all the way back to the Old Bohemia of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, vertigo is not a common trait in the Wallenda family. And Nik Wallenda already had form, having already broken various daredevil records and walked across Niagra Falls on a tightrope just last year.

If you missed it, take a look at the short video below.

Revenge of the curse of the Mummy?

Scientists and historians have done their best to debunk the Curse of the Pharaoh, the inspiration for plenty of hammy horror movies and said to be the cause of death of Lord Carnarvon, the sponsor of Howard Carter’s expedition into the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Arguments have been made in the pages of the Lancet for aspergillosis, basically a fungal spore infection. Egyptologist Dominic Montserrat believed that it originated with a very odd 19th Century London twist on the traditional striptease, where actual mummies were unwrapped on stage.

So whilst the world’s finer minds have done their best to banish the spooky imaginings of over-imaginative teenage adventurers, experts are at a loss to satisfactorily explain the strange phenomena of an ancient Egyptian statue that seems to turn all by itself.

The statue of Neb Sanu stands 10″ tall and has been with Manchester Museum for eighty years. Resident Egyptologist Campbell Price noticed one day it had turned round so put it back in its place. The next day it had moved again. Price decided to set up a time lapse camera to record it.

Renown physicist Brian Cox has said it is probably caused by differential friction, the footsteps of visitors causing vibrations that, together with imperfections in the glass and the statue’s inertia, cause it to rotate. Price is quick to remind us that this explanation would make sense if the statue hadn’t sat in the same place for years.

The romantic in me likes the idea of there being some sort of mystical explanation. The rationalist in me accepts it is probably some strange quirk of physics.

Whatever the explanation, it makes for one hell of a time-lapse video.


Strange natural phenomena: Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals (Cueva de los Cristales)

Spending day in and day out behind a desk in the centre of London, it is easy to forget what an extraordinary, strange and beautiful place the world is.

in 2000, miners in Mexico, two brothers, were excavating a new tunnel in Naica, Mexico when they stumbled across what is perhaps one of the most beautifully strange places on Earth – the Cave of the Crystals. At first glance, as this great piece on the website Earth says, it wouldn’t look out place on Superman’s Planet Krypton.

Built on an ancient fault line, the cave’s space had once been filled with water, rich in minerals, that had been heated by magma and that maintained a stable temperature for nearly half a million years, allowing gigantic crystals to form.

Since 2000, several other chambers have been found, filled with these crystals, and now accessible due to the mining company constantly keeping the water pumped out.

Looking at this, it makes me wonder what we might find in the earth beneath our feet.

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Strange natural phenomena: sinkholes

We often grumble about the potholes that seem to appear overnight. Water freezes into ice, placing stress on an already cracked pavement or road, and the chunks of surface between the cracks are dislodged. Rain washes away more and more and before long we realise that what was once just a small depression is now a ruddy great hole, in danger of ruining our bikes and cars. (Those – usually Lib Dems – with a greater than normal interest in them can read more about potholes.)

In some parts of the world, however, the potholes that vex County Councils and insurers across the country pale into insignificance. Sinkholes are of a very different order of magnitude. Once again, there is an interaction between water and minerals, but the result is of a wholly different order of magnitude.

One of the most shocking stories in recent years comes from Guatemala. For weeks local residents in Guatemala City had heard rumblings and had no idea what was causing them. Then, suddenly, in February 2007, the ground suddenly fell away 30 stories almost instantly. It is quite breath-taking, both in its geometry and scale, two dying and a thousand being evacuated.

I can’t imagine it. Going to bed one night, everything as you expect it, the next day seeing a hole in your back garden hundreds of feet deep. Somehow, we develop a sense that nature changes slowly. Sinkholes join earthquakes and other “sudden change” phenomena that somehow seem unnatural.

Guatemala City

Guatemala City

In Venezuela, there is a flat-topped mountain which is punctuated with the Sarisariñama holes, four sinkholes that are particularly beautiful to look at. Each is a self-contained eco-system, some supporting species found nowhere else on Earth.

The largest sinkhole is in Egypt, where the mindbogglingly large Qattara Depression is 80km wide by 120 km long. Unlike the Sarisariñama, the Qattara Depression is completely lifeless.

For more information, the Sinkhole Report logs new sinkholes in urban and natural settings. Below is a gallery of these strange, beautiful but terrifying phenomena.

And finally, and judging by its record with Essex potholes, I hope Essex County Council doesn’t have to deal with one of these any time soon.

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Some techno-optical illusions for a Sunday morning

Bit risky this for a Sunday morning, bearing in mind what folks may have been up to the night before. But anyway… Found these brain-bendingly fun. I’ve always been a sucker for an optical illusion.

We breed ’em tough in Basildon… Chickens that is

Coming from a farming family who, in latter days, have kept chickens and ducks, whilst growing large quantities of over-sized vegetables, I have always taken a philosophical view of nature’s brutalities and the fact that foxes are a constant threat.

In my youth I was a fan of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, which I regard as a witty and subversive take on things agricultural. They are very easy to over-romanticise, with their handsome looks and lithe movements, and you can forget that actually they are cunning little devils capable of slipping bolts, climbing wire and flicking hatches. when it comes to chickens, they’re not above killing the lot and taking only one or two.

Funny then (though not for the fox), to read in Metro about a very different turning of the tables.  Chickens lend themselves to groansome puns, so the journo has some fun with “a murder most fowl”.

Anyway, it would appear that chickens in Basildon are made of sterner stuff than your average Rhode Island Red. Dude the cockerel, Izzy, Pongo and Pecky clearly had other ideas than becoming the latest take-out meal for a passing fox. I can only imagine what Michelle Cordell feeds them on. (I have a sneaking suspicion that I know where these chickens hang out!)

Hats off to Basildon’s tougher breed of chook.

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