Scarecrow Festivals in the UK

Scarecrow festivals are held all over the world, but they are especially popular in the United Kingdom, where the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops date from time immemorial. Scarecrows are usually built from straw and wood, but in medieval Britain, scarecrows were young boys who were tasked with the responsibility of scarring away birds. Known as bird scarers or bird shooers, they patrolled wheat fields carrying bags of stones, and chased away any crow or starling that tried to land in the fields by waving their arms and throwing the stones. When the Great Plague of of 1348 wiped half the population in Britain, landowners couldn’t find enough young boys to employ as bird scarers to protect their crops. So they stuffed sacks with straw, carved faces in turnips or gourds, and made scarecrows that stood against poles. Bird scarers continued to patrol British fields until the early 1800s when new factories and mines opened up and offered children better paying jobs.

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A scarecrow of Britain's Prince George and Princess Charlotte with their nanny stands in a garden at the Scarecrow Festival in Heather, Britain, July 28, 2015. Photo credit

Auckland’s Utility Boxes Get Graffiti Makeover

Auckland-born artist Paul Walsh has been painting telephone utility boxes around his home city since 2013 with animal characters inspired by Internet memes, and so far has painted fifteen. Earlier that year, Walsh painted a Grumpy Cat on a wall in a local dog park and quickly got famous, thanks to social media. Then someone from Chorus, the company that operates New Zealand's phone network, got in touch with him and asked if he would like to paint their utility boxes instead. Paul Walsh agreed.

Initially, Walsh was not compensated for his efforts, so he launched an online fund raising campaign and managed to raise $1,300 that allowed him to take some time off from his day job and devote those hours to turning the big ugly boxes that sit in public areas into eye-catching works of art. In a recent post over at Bored Panda, however, Walsh discloses that he gets “paid a small fee for each one – enough to cover time and materials.”

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Singapore’s Playgrounds From Above

Malaysia-born and Singapore-raised renowned photographer Stefen Chow, in collaboration with a local company called Avetics, flew drones all over Singapore to capture these fascinating images of urban playgrounds across the city. Chow shot more than two hundred playgrounds out of which he selected one hundred for The Play Project, an interactive website where he showcases these photographs and locates them on a subway map of the city.

“As an adventurer, playgrounds played a huge part in my development,” he says. “As you grow up you realize that playgrounds becomes more invisible, and the things in front of you are what you can buy or enjoy. Playgrounds are a place where fun is simple and straightforward, and I wanted to showcase them in a way that makes people say, ‘Huh, I never thought about it in that way before.’”

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Half Animal, Half Plant: The Solar-Powered Sea Slugs

Can eating lots of vegetables turn you into a vegetable? Not really, unless you are a sea slug.

There are several species of sea slugs that have chlorophyll in their bodies which they utilize to make food from sunlight through the process of photosynthesis, just like plants do. But these sea slugs weren’t born with chlorophyll. They acquired them during their lifetime by eating too many veggies. They are known as sacoglossans or the "sap-sucking sea slugs” because they live by literally sucking out the cell contents from strands of algae, as if they are straws. But instead of digesting the food, like normal animals do, they keep the chloroplasts from the algae and then incorporate them into their own cells. Now all they have to do is lie in the sun. This unusual phenomenon is known as kleptoplasty, and this strange ability has earned these sacoglossans the title of "solar-powered sea slugs".

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Elysia chlorotica feeding on Vaucheria litorea, a yellow-green algae. Photo credit

Pencil Tip Sculptures by Salavat Fidai

Russian artist Salavat Fidai carves miniature sculptures on the lead tip of pencils, an art form he was inspired by another well-known miniature master Dalton Ghetti. Using a delicate knife and a magnifying knife, Fidai creates popular figures, characters from pop culture, famous monuments and still life objects. It takes an enormous amount of patience to carve a single pencil, and Fidai isn’t always successful the first time. The Darth Vader sculpture did not come until the seventh try and several broken leads.

The son of art teachers, Fidai was a lawyer near his home of Ufa, Russia, when he was laid off last year. Rather than find another office job, Fidai devoted himself full-time to art. By his miniature works, photographs and regular-size paintings, Fidai says he is able to provide for his family. His customers are from across the world.

Aside from pencil sculptures, Fidai also draws miniature paintings on pumpkin seeds, perfecting tiny copies of Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

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RATAN-600, The World’s Largest Radio Telescope

RATAN-600 (short for Radio Astronomical Telescope of the Academy of Sciences) is a radio telescope located near the village of Zelenchukskaya in the Caucasus Mountains, in Russia, at an altitude of 970 meters. Unlike most radio telescopes that utilizes a dish or an array of dishes to focus electromagnetic radiation on to a receiver or receivers, RATAN-600 employs a ring of adjustable reflecting panels which can be angled to direct the radiation from any point in the sky to a central conical receiver. Although the ring is only 576 meters in diameter, and there is no solid structure, the overall effect of the arrangement is that of a partially steerable antenna with the resolving power of a 600 meter diameter dish, making it the world's largest diameter individual radio telescope.

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The Leper Tree of Malawi

Leprosy is a curable disease, but less than seventy years ago, people were dying from it. After the end of the 17th century, leprosy became a significant problem not only in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia, but western Europe as well. Because of lack of understanding about the disease, the unavailability of a cure and the disfigurement it brought to the sufferers, lepers were often ostracized in society. People suffering from leprosy were forcibly removed from their communities, quarantined, or even killed. 

In the country of Malawi in southeast Africa, people who died due to leprosy were not given proper burial. They were not buried in the ground, but either left hanging from a tree in a graveyard or tied up and put inside a hollow tree and left to die, so that the earth would not be contaminated by the disease. Such an incident is reported to have occurred in the village of Liwonde, as recently as sixty years ago.

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The Train to Heaven in Wroclaw

The Train to Heaven is a monument depicting an old, real steam locomotive standing upright and pointing towards the sky, located at Strzegomski Square in Wroclaw, Poland. The 65-years-old engine was procured from a museum and erected here in 2010 by artist Andrzej Jarodzki. The sculpture was commissioned by the city of Wroclaw and Wroclaw’s developer company Archicom to commemorate its 20 years of commercial activity in the city. The steam engine is 30 meters long and weighs 80 tons. The monument is said to be the largest urban sculpture in Poland.

Andrzej Jarodzki, an artist from Wroclaw, came up with the idea a long time ago while playing with his son’s toy engine. At one point he set the toy upright and that’s where the idea came from. However, Jarodzki was unable to realize it until he was approached by Archicom. Only five years old, the Train to Heaven is already Wroclaw’s most famous attraction.

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Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans 2015

Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans is an ongoing street art festival taking place in the island of Cozumel, in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. The street art festival, on its second installment this year, was created by PangeaSeed, an international organization that collaborates with internationally renowned artists and environmental activists to raise public awareness and education surrounding the conservation and preservation of oceans and marine life. By creating large-scale murals the festival hopes to focus attention on various pressing environmental issues the oceans are facing and promote the importance of long-term sustainability of natural resources. The festival will also economically benefit the small island by bringing in tourists, given that tourism is the main economy of Cozumel.

This year PangeaSeed invited 30 world-renowned contemporary artists from across the globe to take part in Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans.

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This work-in-progress by the Brazilian street art duo composed of Renato and Douglas denunciates the huge plastic pollution found in our oceans. Photo credit

The Narrowest Streets in the World

At what point does a street cease to be a street? According to the Guinness Book of Records, the narrowest street in the world is located in the old town of Reutlingen, in Germany. It is actually a narrow alley, called Spreuerhofstraße, between two closely built houses. The “street” is only 31 centimeters wide at its narrowest point and 40 centimeters wide on the average. The street isn’t particularly long either — just 3.8 meters. But since it is located on municipal land, the folks of Reutlingen insist it’s a public street.

There’s not much to see in Spreuerhofstrasse, and it isn’t particularly pretty either. In order to use the street one has to squeeze past two blank walls, and when it's raining, water drips from the gutter of an old half-timbered house on one side. Although a ton of tourists from Asia and America flock to inspect the alley, visitors aren’t necessarily encouraged to squeeze through the crack because there is a good possibility of them getting stuck. Anyone over 1.8 meters tall have to bend to pass through. Some locals are known to humorously refer to the Spreuerhofstrasse as a benchmark measurement for their diets.

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Photo credit (Left), Photo credit (Right)