Have a boring time at Dismaland; an art gallery’s nightmare; and, if you ever happen to fall into a black hole…

August 26th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Described as a “dystopian theme park”, the Dismaland Bemusement Park has recently opened its doors in the UK seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare near Bristol. A pop-up art installation created in a derelict lido by world-renowned artist Banksy, Dismaland features a ruinous take on the Disneyland castle, a model village where there’s a riot in progress, a pool around which visitors can steer groups of asylum seekers, rather bored looking attendants, and even ticket problems (although these are reportedly not supposed to be part of the experience). The installations are commentaries on recent events so the fun, if there is any to be had at an attraction described as the UK’s “most disappointing new visitor attraction”, is in guessing which event they refer to. Open until late September.

A $2 million painting had a hole punched in it in Taiwan this week when a visiting 12-year-old boy tripped and fell. The 350-year-old work, Flowers, by Italian Paolo Porpora, was left with a fist-sized hole but the exhibition’s organisers reportedly said they will not ask his family to cover the cost of repairs.

Falling into a black hole doesn’t mean it’s necessarily curtains, according to world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. While it has been long assumed that the massive gravitational forces in a black hole would destroy all matter sucked inside, Hawking reportedly told scientists in Sweden that he believed matter could escape and may even pop up in another dimension (a story that gives greater credence to films like 2014’s Interstellar). “If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up, there’s a way out,” he said in a speech at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Holiday like a king; Tolkein fans launch campaign to bring Minas Tirith to life…and another to destroy it; and, marking 419.9 (not 420) miles…

August 19th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Spend a night living like a king (although watch your head if you stay there). France’s opulent Palace of Versailles - one of the most visited tourist sites in the country - is flinging open its doors in a bid to raise funds for its maintenance. The property’s management is reportedly calling for tenders for someone to run three 17th century mansions located a short distance from the main building as a hotel (already tentatively named the Hotel de l’Orangerie). A previous attempt to create a hotel on the palace was abandoned a couple of years ago. The last royal occupants, King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, were both executed in the French Revolution.

Ever dreamt of living in a city straight from the pages of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings? A crowd-funding effort is currently underway to raise £1.85 billion to build the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith, spectacularly brought to life in Peter Jackson’s film adaptions of the books. The architects and engineers behind the effort - who had raised £81,000 by the time we went to print from more than 2,000 people - aim to create a full functioning city in line with that envisioned by Jackson with work proposed to begin next year. “We believe that, in realising Minas Tirith, we could create not only the most remarkable tourist attraction on the planet, but also a wonderfully unique place to live and work.” While it remains to be seen whether the project gets up, one group has already vowed to do all they can to destroy it. A rival crowd-funding project, spearheaded by fantasy author Tom Stacey, aims to raise a orc army to tear the city down should it be built. It has raised £22 of a £1 million goal when we looked.

Authorities in the US state of Idaho have reportedly replaced a 420 mile highway sign with one marking 419.9 miles, apparently to thwart collectors eager to take the sign for its association with marijuana. The number 420 has long had an association with the drug which has already led authorities in other US states to also remove 420 mile signs (although there are not said to be many given the length a road has to be to attract such a sign in the first place).

A ‘robot hotel’; NZ’s new flag choices; and, Perth artist to lend a listening ear…

August 12th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

The world’s first “robot hotel” - that is, a hotel run almost entirely by robots - has opened in Japan. The Henn na Hotel (which translates to ’strange’ or ‘weird’ hotel) in southern Japan opened to the public in mid-July and features a robotic dinosaur receptionist, an automated trolley in place of a porter to carry your bags and the use of facial recognition technology to open doors. The hotel is part of an amusement park but owner Hideo Sawada reportedly says it is a genuine attempt to use technology to achieve greater efficiencies and adds that robots can reduce labour costs by as much as 70 per cent. Rooms start at about $US80 a night.

• New Zealand has this week unveiled 40 designs for its new flag and there’s not a kiwi - or a sheep - in sight. The shortlist of 40 flags - taken from the more than 10,000 designs put forward - boast designs featuring the country’s famous silver fern, the Southern Cross and the Maori “koru”, a spiral shape based on an unfurling silver fern frond. One of the flags even features a modified “koru” version of a Union Jack. A “flag consideration panel” will now whittle the list down to four before a binding referendum will be held later this year. To see all the shortlisted designs (along with those that were rejected), head here.

An Australian artist has grown an ear on his arm which he plans to connect to the internet so people can hear him. The artist known as Stelarc (actually a Curtin University professor named Stelios Arcadiou) has told the ABC that he plans to use his own stem cells to make the ear more three dimensional so that a microchip can be installed inside, creating a wifi connection so that he can be heard anywhere in the world. He intends the connection to be 24/7.

The further adventures of hitchBOT; ‘ejector-bed’ promises to get sleepyheads out of bed; and, a new world skydiving record…

August 5th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

hitchBOT may have taken a beating (it was apparently decapitated) but its cross-country hitchhiking expeditions may yet go on. Having successfully hitchhiked its way across several countries including Canada, Germany and The Netherlands (see our earlier post here), the robot was hitchhiking its way across the US when it was attacked in Philadelphia and damaged beyond repair. The attack came only two weeks after it had set out from Marblehead in Massachusetts with the aim of reaching the west coast of the US. The robot nonetheless lives on, commenting on its website, said that while its body was damaged “I live on back home”. The robot, which features a computerised brain as well as a torso made from a beer cooler bucket, foam swimming pool noodles for limbs, Wellington boots for feet and rubber gloves for hands, was created by a group of Canadian researchers exploring human-robot interaction and artificial intelligence technologies. With a bucket list of sites in the US still unseen, one can only hope it’ll one day look to complete its American adventure. “Sometimes bad things happen to good robots,” hitchBOT added.

Looking for that extra spring when you leap out of bed in the morning? A British man has created a “high voltage ejector bed” which may be the ideal solution for those people who repeatedly sleep through alarms. Colin Furze, who said he drew inspiration from those great inventors Wallace and Gromit, posted a video on YouTube showing how the bed works (it’s since had more than three million views!). Not sure if it will ever go to market (though it’s certainly been a good publicity move for coffee company Taylors of Harrogate who Furze says asked him to make a wake-up device to match their ‘High Voltage coffee’.)

A group of skydivers set a new world record as they joined together to form a giant flower - the largest ever vertical skydiving formation - and flew head down at speeds of up to 386kph. It took the group of 164 people - which reportedly included some Australians - 13 attempts to set the record over central Illinois. It was last set by a group of 138 in 2012.

Rocket to the moon in just four hours?; the French-language Scrabble champion who can’t speak French; and, a ballooning record…

July 29th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Forget taking days to get there. A British inventor has developed a rocket drive which could get you to the moon in just four hours. While mocked when it was invented 15 years ago, the Electromagnetic Propulsion (EM) Drive - developed by Brit Roger Shawyer - is reportedly gaining the support of some scientists including those at NASA. The drive is apparently capable of producing thrust which is several thousand times greater than a standard photon rocket, cutting a trip to Mars to just 70 days and one to Pluto just 18 months.

Nigel Richards was recently crowned the French language scrabble champion. Funnily enough, the 48-year-old New Zealander reportedly doesn’t speak French. Not a word. Earlier this month Richards reportedly beat a rival from the French-speaking nation of Gabon to take out the honours in Belgium. A close friend told the New Zealand Herald that Richards - a previous English Scrabble champion - had only started studying the French dictionary about eight weeks before the contest and simply learnt all the words by rote.

A new world record for the most hot air balloons in the air at once was set in France earlier this month when 433 of them took to the sky in what made a spectacular sight for spectators. The previous record of 408 had been set at the same festival in north-eastern France in 2013. You can watch a video of the event here.

Pampering pets at JFK; mysterious sign puts McDonalds on the map; and, receive a new home for your great dessert recipe…

July 24th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Help your animals travel in style. New York’s John F Kennedy Airport will open a new terminal called The Ark next year which is aimed at pampering the 70,000 animals which pass through it. It reportedly features everything from large flat-screen TVs to climate controlled stalls, bone-shaped ’splashing’ pools for dogs (along with facilities where they can receive massages and ‘pawdicures’, a ‘jungle’ for cats, a walking track for horses and even apparently a private space for penguins who want to get intimate. It replaces an existing facility known as VetPort and, on a more serious note, will, of course, include a veterinary hospital and quarantine station.

We think it may be wishful thinking. A mysterious sign has appeared in Australia’s Simpson Desert complete with a McDonald’s logo and the words ‘coming soon’. Sitting atop a 15 metre high sand dune it can be seen for kilometres and comes complete with a glass box at the base inside which is a full McDonald’s bag and upon which are the words ‘Break glass in emergency’. How long it remains is yet to be seen - McDonald’s reportedly have no knowledge of why it’s there and South Australian authorities have already said they are looking to have it removed. Reports suggest it appeared around 1st April (which may explain everything!)

We’ve seen a number of people in US recently look to sell their homes in interesting ways in recent times - including essay competitions. Now a woman in northern California is offering her 109-year-old Craftsman home to the person who can provide her with the best dessert recipe. Real estate agent Erin Allard has invited people to submit their recipe (and $100 entry fee) with the winner of the 1906 four bedroom property in Jackson to be selected by a panel of food experts. Naturally she’s hoping that the number of entries will at least make up the home’s $390,000 value. The contest runs until 7th September. For more details, see www.homerecipecontest.com.

Robots prepare to duke it out; fancy a cricket shake?; and, a weird ’sports’ round-up…

July 8th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

It sounds like a scene out of that Hugh Jackman film, Real Steel, but we’ve had word that giant robots from the US and Japan are going to battle it out next year in a winner takes all - well, pride at least - contest. The duel was apparently initially proposed by US-based company MegaBots via a video posted to YouTube and earlier this week Japanese robotmaker Suidobashi Heavy Industry agreed - via another video on YouTube - that the duel will go ahead. The robots will fight in “hand-to-hand” combat as well as launching paintballs and other missiles at each other. MegaBots will apparently be using its massive 5.2 ton ‘Mark II’ robot, manned by two people, and
Suidobahi its smaller ‘Kuratas’ robot (which weighs only four tons). Can’t wait!

There’s been much talk about using bugs in food in recent years and much of it has been dismissed. But now US burger chain, Wayback Burgers, has launched an ‘Oreo Mud Pie Cricket’ milkshake which comes complete with Peruvian chocolate-flavoured cricket protein powder. Yes, cricket as in the chirping bug. Fun fact - Wayback says a 3.5 ounce serving of crickets (about 100 grams) contains as much as 50 grams of protein (double that of the same sized serving of beef).

How far do you reckon you can spit a cherry pit? American teenager Megan Ankrapp reportedly found out last Saturday when she managed to spit the pit almost 15 metres at the 42nd annual International Cherry Pit-Spitting Championships. Meanwhile in other weird sporting news, a Finnish couple - Ville Parviainen and Janette Oksman - have apparently won the 19th World Wife Carrying Championships while in the US there’s reportedly been an upset in the annual Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Contest on New York’s Coney Island with Matthew “Megatoad” Stonie munching through 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, ending the eight year run of former champ Joey Chestnut.

World’s tallest Lego tower; egg tossing; and, hover bikes a reality?…

July 1st, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A new record has been set for the world’s tallest Lego structure with the construction of a 35.05 metre high tower in Milan, Italy. Using more than 500,000 bricks, the colourful tower took a team of volunteers five days to construct using a cherry picker. The world record, which defeated the previous record by just under a foot, was verified by Guinness World Records. Seven Euros were donated to the Urban Oasis project for every centimetre of the structure.

Reckon you can toss an egg? The 10th annual World Egg Throwing Championships were held in an English village last weekend. Claiming a history dating back to 1322 (when monks had to throw eggs to parishioners over a swollen river), the winners of the modern competition are those who can throw and catch an egg over the greatest distance without breakage. This year’s winners at the event in the Lincolnshire village of Swaton were reportedly Richard Gutsell and Michael Speakman. Aside from the main egg throwing event, the contest also features an egg relay, egg target throwing, Russian egg roulette and firing an egg from a trebuchet.

It’s been the dream of millions, ever since they saw ewoks speeding through the forest in Return of the Jedi. And now hover bikes may soon be a mass-produced reality. UK company Malloy Aeronautics and US company SURVICE Engineering Co have joined in the development of hover bike technology for the US Department of Defense. The prototype “bi-copter” combines the “simplicity of a motorbike and the freedom of helicopter” and can be flown manned or unmanned. Exciting times! For more, see www.hover-bike.com.

Hero cat wins a dog of an award; $US500,000 for an encyclopaedia; and the world’s longest pizza…

June 24th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

We seem to have a bit of a cat theme running for the past few weeks but we couldn’t let this week pass without mentioning the fact that a Los Angeles animal shelter has announced Tara the cat has won its ‘Hero Dog’ award. The first cat to take out the annual award, Tara was given the gong for her valiant efforts in attacking and chasing away a neighbour’s dog when it sunk its teeth into her owner’s leg. The footage, captured on CCTV camera, went viral when it was subsequently posted online.

Remember when a set of encyclopaedias was a must-have on your bookshelves? It might be time to revisit the idea with a US artist Michael Mandiberg writing a software program that would convert all of Wikipedia’s 11.5 million entries into a printed form. But before you rush out to grab a copy of all 7,600 volumes, consider the cost - $US500,000. Don’t expect a lot of sales.

At more than 1.5 kilometre’s long, there should be no fights over the last piece. Italy has reportedly set a new Guinness World Record for the world’s longest pizza after creating a 1,595.45 metre long pie. Made by more than 60 chefs, it used more than two tonnes of tomatoes and more than 1.5 tonnes of mozzarella. Meanwhile, in the US there’s reportedly been an attempt to create the world’s longest line of doughnuts with the creation of a line at a festival in Michigan measuring almost 3.5 kilometres long. Verification awaits.

While we’re talking records, here’s another recent one: 66 people reportedly crowded onto a single large surfboard at Huntington Beach in the US to seize the record for most people riding a surfboard. The group was able to balance on the board for 13 seconds - three more than the required 10 - to seize the record from Australia where where the previous record of 47 was set in 2009. The record breaking feat took place on International Surfing Day.

‘Bossy’ takes charge; toe wrestling; and, celebrating a Martian new year…

June 17th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Hot on the heels of news of CatConLA, comes news that a company in the Romanian capital of Bucharest has hired a cat as its director of communications. Nine-month-old blue Scottish Folds cat, ‘Bossy’, reportedly beat off 700 other applicants for the position at internet start-up Catbox.ro which carries a £110 a month salary. Certainly has gained them some international attention.

• No good at thumb wrestling? Maybe toe wrestling is for you. The world championships have just ended in the Derbyshire village of Fenny Bentley in the UK with events for both males and females. The ’sport’, which insists on cut nails and washed feet, is said to date back to 1976 and was first held in a pub in Staffordshire (apparently so the English could win at something) but it’s since attracted interest around the world. Alan “Nasty” Nash reportedly won the men’s title for the 12th time while the women’s title went to Tracy Tippy Toe.

Citizens of Mars, Pennsylvania, in the US, are preparing to mark the Red Planet’s new year with three days of celebration. The Martian New Year, which occurs on Thursday, 18th June, takes place about once every two Earth years and so to mark the event NASA is joining with a range of organisations in sponsoring a series of exhibitions and events in the town, which lies north of Pittsburgh. These include a “blast off dinner”, costume contest and mobile science lab. The next Mars new year will occur on 5th May, 2017.