Sunday, September 21, 2014


Week's Best Space Pictures: A Star Pulses, a Hurricane Rages, and a Planet SucksBy Jane J. Lee, National Geographic News, 19 September 2014.

Astronomers catch the blue light from a pulsar, a hurricane makes landfall, and an exoplanet sucks the life out of its star in the week's best space pictures.

1. What a Sap


Exoplanet WASP-18b sucks the life out of a young star in an illustration released September 16.

Researchers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory noticed that the star, dubbed WASP-18, has low activity levels that make it seem much older than other stars its age. WASP-18 is actually fairly young, between 500 million and two billion years old, compared with our sun, which is about five billion years old and only approaching middle age. (Learn how researchers tell the age of a star.)

WASP-18's exoplanet companion is probably the reason for the star's premature aging, astronomers think. The planet is known as a "hot Jupiter" due to its size - about ten times the mass of Jupiter - and its proximity to the star. WASP-18b completes an orbit around its star in less than 23 hours.

That close relationship probably bodes ill for the star, researchers say. The planet's gravitational pull is likely messing up WASP-18's magnetic field, resulting in a lot less activity in the form of x-ray emissions and flares, making the star act older than it really is.

2. Night-Shining Clouds


A thin blue line pierces the gloom above the setting sun in an image released September 15. The blue signals the presence of polar mesospheric clouds, also known as night-shining clouds.

Usually glimpsed only at the Poles, these wispy clouds - which form 50 to 60 miles (80 to 100 kilometres) above the ground - have been spotted as far south as Colorado and Virginia during the past several decades. They have also grown thicker and brighter over the years.

Researchers think the changes are probably due to climate shifts that are injecting more water vapour into Earth's upper atmosphere. (See "New Science Reveals Secrets of Night-Shining Crystal Clouds.")

Astronauts on board the International Space Station snapped the image above as the orbiter flew over Ukraine.

3. Glacial Flight


The red of a DHC-3 Otter pops against the dust and dirt smeared on a mountain glacier in Alaska. The image was taken as part of a NASA project measuring thinning sea ice and recording cloud and atmospheric changes in the Arctic.

4. The First Jets


An artist's illustration, released September 19, captures the violent death of one of the universe's first stars. Researchers think these incredibly early supernovae seeded the universe with heavy elements such as iron. (See "Newfound Star May Be Oldest in the Universe.")

5. Supermassive Black Hole


This supermassive black hole crouches in the middle of galaxy M60-UCD1 in an artist's illustration released September 17. The galaxy lies about 50 million light-years away and is tiny: At just 300 light-years across, it is about 1/500th the diameter of the Milky Way. M60-UCD1 is also very dense, with roughly 140 million stars. (See "Triple Monster Black Hole Discovered.")

6. Odile From Space


NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of Hurricane Odile on September 15, one day after it made landfall near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The storm, a category 3, tied 1967's Hurricane Olivia as the strongest storm to come ashore in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur in the satellite era. (See "Hurricane Science: How Storms Like Arthur Form and Grow.")

7. A Blue Pulsar


The magnetic core of a star, shown in blue, spins on after the rest of it was obliterated in a supernova. The pulsar - named for the pulses of radiation it emits - is located in the inner Milky Way galaxy, some 42,000 light-years away from Earth.

Photo gallery by Sherry Brukbacher.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some links added.]

Saturday, September 20, 2014


This is the weirdest and most beautiful time lapse I've ever seen
This is the weirdest and most beautiful time lapse I've ever seen
By Omar Kardoudi,
Sploid, 19 September 2014.

This is not your usual eye-candy time lapse of a gorgeous landscape. This one - created by Jeff Frost - is different. Speaks directly to the feelings. It's sometimes creepy, violent, and weird. And others stunning, beautiful, and relaxing. The same type of contrasts you find in real life. That's why I like it so much.

Jeff used 300,000 photos to complete the video. He writes:
The news agencies I contacted had no idea what to do with time lapse footage of riots, which was okay with me because I had been thinking about re-contextualizing news as art for some time. After that I got the bug. I chased down wildfires, walked down storm drains on the L.A. River and found abandoned houses where I could set up elaborate optical illusion paintings.

[Source: Sploid.]

Friday, September 19, 2014


10 Cool Sci-Fi Technologies Invading Our Reality
By Heather Ramsey,
Listverse, 19 September 2014.

Cool technologies that were once reserved for science fiction are invading our reality at an accelerating pace. In some cases, our Earth-bound scientists have proven that seemingly impossible technologies can be developed, but they still have some obstacles to overcome first. In other cases, those technologies are already here.

10. Squishy Robots

Photo credit: MIT

If you’ve watched the movie Terminator 2 then you’ve seen the T-1000 robot squeeze through tight areas by changing into a liquid. It could repair itself that way, too. Now, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made their own version of the shape-shifting T-1000 a reality.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wanted deformable (or “squishy”) robots that acted like an octopus. That means they could squeeze through tight spaces and enlarge afterward to move around a larger space. In a surgical setting, a squishy robot would be able to move to a certain point in a human body without causing damage to blood vessels or organs. Then it could perform the necessary surgical task. In a search-and-rescue operation, a squishy robot could squeeze through rubble to find survivors.

To achieve these goals, scientists needed a material that could shift between a hard state (when the robot would handle tools or perform other tasks) and a soft state (when the robot would squeeze under or between objects). As Anette Hosoi, an MIT professor, said in a news release, “You can’t just create a bowl of Jell-O, because if the Jell-O has to manipulate an object, it would simply deform without applying significant pressure to the thing it was trying to move.”

Ultimately, the scientists chose a low-cost, polyurethane foam which could squeeze to an extremely small size and expand to its normal shape afterward. Then they coated it with wax that’s cheaply available in craft stores. By applying medium heat to wires running along coated foam struts, the wax could morph from a hard shell to a soft surface. The current could be turned on and off as needed. When heat was applied to the wax, the robot would also repair itself automatically.

9. Mind Control Of Inanimate Objects

Photo credit: A. Heddergott/TU Munchen

In “Spock’s Brain,” an episode from the original Star Trek series, a beautiful Eymorg extracted the brain from Mr. Spock’s body and used it to control things like air circulation in the underground complex where her people lived. Successfully removing someone’s brain to run a building may seem far-fetched, but controlling an inanimate object with your thoughts has become reality.

The goal of a project called “Brainflight,” which is funded by the European Union, is to control an airplane using only the signals from a human brain. The researchers want to make flying easier, cheaper from a training standpoint, and accessible to more people. They believe this will increase safety by reducing the burden on current pilots.

The initial test results have been amazingly accurate. While wearing a cap with electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes attached, a pilot’s brain waves are converted into commands for the aircraft. The pilot never touches the equipment or controls. Instead, they appear to move by themselves. But it’s not mind reading, just signal processing determined by an algorithm developed by the researchers. The position of the plane will repeatedly correct until it lands smoothly - all through mind control.

Seven people with various levels of experience participated in flight simulator tests. One participant had no real cockpit experience, but everyone was precise enough in their thought commands to pass the flying portion of a pilot’s license test. Many of the participants were even able to land smoothly under conditions of poor visibility.

8. Weather Modification


On Star Trek: The Next Generation and other sci-fi shows, the characters sometimes mentioned “scientific” techniques that would stop tornadoes or modify the weather in other ways. But they were just creations from a writer’s imagination. Even in our world, some people make up conspiracy theories about weather modification. Well, they’re about to get something real to talk about.

Researchers from the University of Central Florida and the University of Arizona are enhancing a way to shoot a high-energy laser beam into the clouds to produce rain or lightning on demand. Other researchers have been able to cause an electrical event in the clouds, although they couldn’t trigger a bolt of lightning.

The Florida and Arizona researchers faced at least a couple of problems. First, they had to make sure that this type of high-energy laser beam didn’t fizzle out before it reached the target. They also needed to aim the beam from a safe distance to avoid being struck by lightning. To solve these problems, they decided to use a secondary laser beam to surround and sustain the high-intensity primary beam. With the secondary laser acting as an energy reservoir, the primary laser beam could travel much farther than before. It’s like using a laser extension cord to reach the clouds.

With their method, they’ve extended the reach of the laser from 25 centimetres (10 in) to at least two meters (7 ft). But they believe it’s possible to go 50 meters (165 ft) or more. This would allow us to control rain and lightning over a vast area.

7. Tractor Beams

Tractor beams that use energy to pull objects toward you or your ship are commonly used in science fiction, especially in Star Wars and Star Trek. But for a long time, it seemed contrary to the laws of physics in the real world. Recently, though, scientists at Australian National University developed a tractor beam on water. According to the leader of the team, Dr. Horst Punzmann, they “figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave.” In other words, this wave-generated tractor beam draws the item to it.

Using a wave tank, the scientists figured out how to move a ping pong ball in the direction they wanted by manipulating the frequency and size of the waves generated. They discovered that these three-dimensional waves cause currents on the water’s surface in different patterns. One of those patterns is a tractor beam that should be useful in containing oil spills or manoeuvring objects adrift in the water.

Physicists at the University of Dundee have also developed an acoustic tractor beam that’s able to move an object of 1 centimetre (0.4 in) in size. Until now, only microscopic objects have been moved with this type of beam. The scientists were able to use ultrasound energy to exert force behind the object and move it toward the ultrasound device. They believe that this technology will significantly advance the use of ultrasound in healthcare.

6. Tricorders


Another Star Trek device is the tricorder, a hand-held scanner that was often used by Dr. McCoy to scan patients when making a medical diagnosis. Other characters used tricorders to scan for life forms or to analyze planet surfaces. In our world, the technology now exists to make certain types of tricorders a distinct possibility in the near future.

At the University of Southampton, scientists are developing a hand-held medical scanner that uses electronic components as chemical sensors. That would allow for same-day diagnosis of protein samples from a patient’s bedside. These scanners reduce the cost and time needed to get a patient their treatment by eliminating the need to send samples to a lab.

Other scientists at the University of Missouri are developing another type of tricorder that uses a radiation source as small as a stick of gum. Their tricorder would be a hand-held X-ray scanner that could be used for medical X-rays, for fighting terrorism, or even for interplanetary exploration.

The scanner itself would be the size of a cell phone. In addition to reducing medical expenses, this tricorder could bring much needed X-ray diagnostic services to patients in poor, remote areas. It could also be used for dental X-rays that reduce the patient’s exposure to radiation.

To fight terrorism, this tricorder could search cargo for weapons and other illegal items at points of entry into a country. Plus, these scanners could be designed with sensors to help in exploring planets, either our own or others if used on interplanetary probes.

5. Biometric Payments With Vein Scanning

It’s commonplace in science fiction to use retina scans or other biometric methods to access top-secret information, like with Project Genesis on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Now Fredrik Leifland, an engineering student at Sweden’s Lund University, has taken that concept and applied it to biometric payments that access secure bank accounts. As of April 2014, there were 15 restaurants and stores in Sweden that used Leifland’s vein-scanning technology to take payments from a customer’s bank account. At that time, about 1,600 customers were actively using the system as an alternative to paying with cash or credit cards.

This vein-scanning payment method is supposed to be easy, quick, and secure. As Leifland said in a Lund University article, “Every individual’s vein pattern is completely unique, so there really is no way of committing fraud with this system. You always need your hand scanned for a payment to go through.”

Signing up for hand payments appears to be fairly easy. You go to a store with a vein-scanning terminal. Then you enter some personally identifying information and scan your hand three times. You get a text message with an activation link. Finally, you complete a registration form with all the necessary banking information and you’re good to go.

4. Robonauts With Space Legs

Photo credit: NASA

Human-like robots have been a mainstay in science fiction films, TV, books, and comic books. They run the gamut from Astro Boy to C-3PO and beyond. In the real world, we have Robonaut, a robot designed by General Motors and NASA which we told you about before.

But the human-like Robonaut 2 (R2) is now taking the next step. The R2 robot aboard the International Space Station (ISS) originally had just a head and torso with two arms and hands. That meant astronauts had to take work to the robot.

But that’s changing - now, R2 has climbing legs to take over more duties from the astronauts. This is the first robonaut in space that’s mobile. R2 will start by working inside the space station with the eventual goal of being able to work outside the station. NASA wants to send increasingly sophisticated robonauts wherever humans go in space. Whether astronauts intend to go to a moon or a planet, robonauts will be useful. They may go ahead of humans to get things ready, go with humans to help with the tasks of everyday living and exploration, or stay without humans to maintain things in space.

3. Deflector Shields


University of Leicester students wrote an interesting paper on the feasibility of creating Star Wars–type deflector shields to protect a spaceship from enemy laser fire in today’s world. According to these students, you’d need to use a strong magnetic field to contain a dense, super-hot plasma field around your ship. To deflect higher frequencies of laser radiation, you’d need denser plasma in your shield.

This might seem implausible, but we already use a similar technique with radio communications and radar. You see, the ionosphere that surrounds our planet is a plasma field. It reflects radio transmissions and radar back to Earth just as a shield around a spaceship would deflect laser fire.

Although the required magnet strength for a deflector is possible today, there are at least a couple of problems that need to be overcome to shield a spaceship. First, the size of the necessary power source would be so big that there wouldn’t be much room left in your spaceship. Our science hasn’t yet developed a power source that’s feasible in size. The second problem is that pilots would be effectively blinded by the shield. Any shield that deflects light radiation also prevents light from getting to the pilot. So unless the Force is guiding you, you’d need another light source that’s beyond the frequency of light radiation. An ultraviolet camera would be one possibility.

Even though we’re not ready to engage the Imperial Fleet yet, there are other applications for this type of technology that we could use here on Earth. For example, instead of deflecting the radiation, the Leicester students suggest trapping it for use with a fusion reactor.

2. Cloaking Devices


In fiction, cloaking devices appear in many forms, from the Romulan cloaking device in Star Trek that could hide a spaceship, to Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, to the perfectly camouflaged Predator that blends in with its jungle environment.

We’re not able to hide a spaceship yet, but real cloaking technologies are being developed in today’s world for light, sound, touch, and heat. Many of these technologies are expected to use artificial metamaterials, which refract light in such a way that an object is rendered invisible. Since we last talked about metamaterials, scientists have developed a way to use unfocused laser light like needles to help produce metamaterials at the nanoscale. Metamaterials are also being developed to cloak sound and touch.

There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome before metamaterials become part of our everyday reality. One problem is cost. Another is scalability. But scientists are making progress in that area by working on a technique called nanotransfer printing that will make larger swaths of metamaterial.

There’s one type of cloak that is a reality today. According to engineers at the National University of Singapore, a Predator-like device is possible right now to some extent. These engineers have created a device that can simultaneously provide the illusion of camouflage and render someone “invisible” by blocking their thermal signature. That means that the person can’t be tracked by their body’s heat signature.

This method of cloaking soldiers is cost-effective because it uses natural, self-warming materials instead of more complicated metamaterials. The thermal cloak is ready to go for military applications and can be easily scaled, if necessary. Researchers are also working on a camouflage device that will see colour and match it so that an object can blend in with its surroundings like an octopus does.

1. Rosie The Robot Maid

Photo credit: Wyss Institute

Even cartoons can inspire technology. Rosie the Robot was a maid that the space-age Jetsons hired to do their housework. In the early 1960s, when the cartoon aired, that seemed like a futuristic fantasy. But today we’re a big step closer to the reality of anyone being able to buy or rent an inexpensive robot to sweep up or even detect a gas leak. You’d simply contact a robotic helper facility, tell them what you need, and in about an hour they’d provide a basic robot to complete your task.

That’s the vision of scientists who’ve devised robots that can assemble themselves and walk or crawl away to do their jobs without human intervention. These engineers built a self-assembling robot that can put itself together in four minutes using little more than paper and a children’s toy called Shrinky Dinks, which are sheets of flexible plastic that shrink when heated into small, hard plates. This method is patterned after the way amino acids self-assemble into proteins with different functions. These robots could be used on Earth and in space, although they’re not quite ready for prime time. The scientists want to experiment with materials that are stronger and need less heat to work.

Top image: Star Trek-like deflector shield proposed by Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Credit: Ruth Bamford/RAL, via io9.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]


5 Interesting Smart Devices You’ll Probably Want In Your Home
By Dann Albright,
Make Use Of, 18 September 2014.

The world of smart home technology is growing rapidly - we’ve already profiled smart locks, smart lamps, and a variety of other smart home appliances. But these are all of the things that you’d expect from a smart home: appliances, electronics, and things that make your life easier. But what else is out there? Here are five smart products that you probably had no idea were out there.

1. Kolibree, the Smart Toothbrush


Your toothbrush is probably one of the lowest-tech items that you own. Even if you have an electric toothbrush, its most complex electronics are a motor and a timer. But Kolibree, a French company, is aiming to change that with the release of their connected toothbrush. What could a smart toothbrush possibly do? You might be surprised: it has interesting functions for the whole family when you pair it with your iPhone or Android.

For example, there are a number of games that your kids can play on the phone while they’re brushing: the Kolibree website shows a Temple Run-like app in which kids can move their character left and right to collect coins by changing the orientation of the toothbrush. As kids learn to better brush their teeth, they can collect more coins for more rewards (though what those rewards are remains to be seen).

Whether they admit it or not, many adults will enjoy the kids’ games as well, but there are more monitoring functions that are aimed at older users of the toothbrush, like the ability to track your brushing times and zones and get dental health tips. It may be able to report directly to your dentist in the future, too.

The Kolibree hasn’t been released yet, but you can pre-order one through the Kolibree Kickstarter. You can get an early bird toothbrush in white for US$99 (there’s one left at the time of this writing), a standard one in white for US$129, or a standard one in white, grey, pink, or blue for US$149. Don’t wait to wait? You can try these five dental health apps for free.

2. Kuaisou, Baidu’s Smart Chopsticks

It sounds like an April Fool’s joke - and it was one. Until people started showing a lot of interest in the idea and Baidu started taking it seriously.

The as-yet-unnamed product is still a prototype, but what we’ve learned so far is quite interesting. Because of the many food-safety concerns in China, these “smart chopsticks” will interface with a mobile app and tell the user whether or not their food is safe to eat. Their main function seems to be detecting unhealthy oils used to cook foods; oil recycling is often used in China to reduce the costs related to food preparation, but can pose serious health risks.

The app will show a warning if the oil is unsafe to eat, or give the user a green light to go ahead if it’s safe. They’re also rumoured to measure temperature, pH levels, and calories (though it’s difficult to imagine how they could accurately calculate caloric information).

Pricing and release information isn’t out yet, but it’s a safe bet that these will be by far the most expensive chopsticks that you’ve ever considered buying.

3. University of Manchester’s “Magic Carpet”


A team at the University of Manchester developed the “magic carpet” - a fibre-optic underlay that can be retrofitted to the carpets in a house, turning the entire floor into a sensor. What does it do? According to Manchester’s website, “These signals can then be analysed to show the image of the footprint and identify gradual changes in walking behaviour or a sudden incident such as a fall or trip. They can also show a steady deterioration or change in walking habits, possibly predicting a dramatic episode such as a fall.”

While this may not seem like something you’d be interested in using, it could be of great use to places like retirement homes, hospital wards, and assisted living communities. Physical therapists could use it to make accurate measurements of their patients’ gaits. The technology may also allow for the detection of chemical signatures or serve as an early-warning fire system as well.

While there aren’t any signs of the technology being commercialized in the near future, there’s a clear market for this sort of technology, and it’s easy to imagine the sorts of things it could lead to in the future: intruder detection systems, better home monitoring, replacing fire or carbon monoxide detectors (even the current smart option, the Nest Protect), and so on. Unfortunately, there are no indications that travel by magic carpet will be among the features.

4. Adam and Eve, the Smart Sprinkler System


Have you ever thought that watering your lawn was far too complicated? No? Well, someone has. And that someone was probably involved in the creation of this two-part smart sprinkler system. Eve, the system controller, stays in your house. A number of moisture sensors, called Adams, are placed around your yard and report back to Eve about how much moisture is in the soil, both at top level and at root level.

When the soil needs watering, Eve turns the sprinkler on. You’ll avoid over-watering, under-watering, and watering when it rains. Even will even connect to your SmartThings Hub to check the weather forecast to optimize the watering schedule (including skipping the watering altogether if it looks very likely to rain).

The sprinkler system pairs with your smartphone, letting you control Eve while you’re on the move, though it’s unclear exactly what you can do from your phone. However, the people behind the system say that there’s potential for saving up to 60 percent of your lawn-watering expenditure with the system, and that it could pay for itself in less than a year.

How much does it cost? Getting an Eve and a SmartThings Hub will set you back US$220, and getting both plus an Adam costs US$295. Extra Adams can be purchased for US$50 each. According to the Kickstarter page, they should start shipping very soon.

5. LIXIL’s Satis Smart Toilet


Of course, no list of interesting smart things is complete without LIXIL’s Satis smart toilet. After installing the toilet, the user needs to pair a cell phone via Bluetooth and download an app. Once the app is downloaded, it can be used to raise, lower, or heat the toilet seat; activate the bidet or blow-dryer; flush; clean; or play music through the built-in speakers. Unfortunately, there appears to be no “save dropped cell phone” function.

If you’re planning on going out to buy the toilet immediately, you might want to reconsider: it’ll set you back about US$2400 (in case you haven’t done much toilet shopping, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a standard toilet for around US$200-300). You may also want to think about the possibility that even a smart toilet can be hacked, potentially running up your water bill (or scaring the crap out of you by turning on the bidet when you’re not expecting it).

What’s Next?

With smart toothbrushes, chopsticks, carpets, sprinkler systems, and toilets, it’s clear that there’s nothing that people won’t try to make things smarter. If you want to see more cool things for your smart home, check out this list of 6 smart home products you should be backing on Kickstarter. And if you don’t want to wait that long, why not take on a smart home project of your own?

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited.]


World’s Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge in Russia
By Kaushik,
Amusing Planet, 18 September 2014.

The world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opened this summer in Sochi National Park, Russia. Located on the extreme corner of the National Park, the 1,800-foot-long Sochi Skypark bridge was built over a picturesque 650 foot gorge, and offers visitors a breathtaking view of the mountains and the river below. Another attraction is bungee jumping. There are several different points on the bridge from which you can bungee. The bridge is part of the AJ Hackett Sochi Skypark that was opened around the same time as this bridge.


The Sochi Skypark bridge was developed in collaboration with New Zealand, and it took two years, 740 tons of metal and 2,000 cubic meters of concrete to construct. The bridge is designed to withstand a 9-magnitude earthquake and the simultaneous presence of 3,000 people over it.


Photos credit: George Malets

Video: AJ Hackett Sochi Skypark Bridge

Top image credit: AJ Hackett.

[Source: Amusing Planet. Edited. Top image and video added.]

Thursday, September 18, 2014


H2OME Is Your Own Underwater Home At The Bottom Of The Sea
Wonderful Engineering, 13 September 2014.

What are your thoughts about living underwater? Well, it isn’t a new concept and we all know that already, however, the approach that US Submarine Structures took is definitely way better than the previous attempts. They have offered an underwater home, known as H2OME, with luxuries comparable to a 5-star hotel.


The H2OME comes with two completely submerged floors adding up to provide 3,600 sq. ft. of living space underwater. The house can be accessed from shore by means of a private pier, that will allow entry into the submersible resident via either spiral staircase or a central elevator. The top floor layout has two bedrooms that feature views of the ocean above, two bathrooms and an open lounge area. The lower floor has a master bedroom with en-suite bath, a kitchen with adjacent wine-cellar, library, lounge, dining area, office space and a number of ocean-viewing areas and last but not the least; a bar.


Acrylic panels have been employed for all the walls of the lower floor that face the sea. They will allow the residents to have panoramic views of patches of ocean. A firm based in Dubai has provided the furnishing whose speciality is outfitting 5-star hotels and interior of super yachts. That being said, the client will have full control over customizing this home as they see fit. It comes equipped with exterior lights and fish feeders in order to attract the marine life to the home.


The location for the home can either be selected by the client or given by the company. In any case, the H2OME must be built at a depth of 33-59 ft. This makes it suitable for shallow warm seas, lagoons or mountain lakes. For stability purposes, the structure is bolted to struts that are attached to the ocean floor. It can maintain the same air pressure as the surface above and hence, removing the need for a decompression process. US Submarine Structures is also extending sea-scaping services.


Umbilical pipes are used to provide water, sewage system and electricity from mainland to the structure. However, as per the information available on the company’s website, there is an option for more rather self-sustaining version of H2OME that is capable of tackling its need for fresh water and electricity on its own. The acrylic panels for viewing make use of an automated water jet cleaning system so with time the viewing quality won’t degrade.


Now that we have gone through the article and are actually looking forward to such homes; we must come back to reality for this mansion will cost US$10 million. Well, there goes our dream of living underwater!

[Source: Wonderful Engineering. Edited.]


10 dream homes for hermits
By Melissa Breyer,
Mother Nature Network, 15 September 2014.

Hidden havens

Tired of the rat race? Dreaming of getting away from it all and craving an abode with an unobstructed view? We've got the dream homes for you. While some of these sequestered Shangri-Las may not be entirely in the middle of nowhere (and some have even become tourist attractions because of their unique settings), they nonetheless offer inspiration for daydreaming of an existence unharried by the hustle and bustle of modern life. Which one would you choose to call home?

1. Plougrescant, France


Behold Brittany’s "Castel Meur." With nothing but giant granite boulders for neighbours, this well-supported house in Plougrescant, a commune in the CĂ´tes-d'Armor in northwestern France, is the picture of seclusion. Built in 1861, it was designed to take advantage of the topography as a means of protection from wind and storms (and passers-by?). The charming abode remains in the original family.

2. Katskhi, Georgia

Photo: Levan Nioradze/Flickr

The building topping this limestone monolith in the Caucasus Mountains was once the sacred home of the Stylites - the Byzantine "pillar saints" who believed that such extreme seclusion was the sure road to prayer and contemplation. After being abandoned for years - understandable, given its location - the Katskhi Pillar is now inhabited by a lone monk, whose provisions are winched up to him from supporters below.

3. Thousand Islands, Canada/USA

To be officially considered one of the 1,864 islands in the Thousand Islands - an archipelago that spreads across the Canada-United States border in the Saint Lawrence River - the land mass must remain above water year-round and support at least two trees. Just Enough Room Island, pictured here, does just that. An excellent place to avoid neighbours; not so good for long strolls and sleepwalking.

4. Ellidaey Island, Iceland

wpsD5B8.tmpPhoto: Szilas/Wikimedia Commons

See the little house-shaped speck on the island? Guess what? It's really a house. On an island. On an uninhabited 111-acre Icelandic island named Ellidaey, to be exact. This sweet fishing house is owned by the Ellidagrim Islands Society and is accessible, according to some sources, by rope (to climb the cliff) or for non-mountaineers, by boat. Although the commute may be rigorous, the house does include a detached sauna which will surely make the trek worthwhile.

5. Gaspra, Ukraine

wps499D.tmpPhoto: Sergii Votit/Shutterstock

Perched on the edge a 130-foot cliff above the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, the Swallow's Nest castle now serves as a restaurant, but even so, it's a vision of seaside seclusion. Built in 1913 by a German noble, Baron von Steingel (a name so well-suited to the castle it deserves mention), this neo-Gothic beauty brings to mind the fairy-tale castles of Germany. Just on a cliff, in the Ukraine. (Oh, to be a swallow.)

6. Fogo Island, Canada

Located near the Newfoundland community of Joe Batt’s Arm on Fogo Island, this off-the-grid studio was designed by Todd Saunders and is used by artists during residencies granted by the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. (If this setting doesn't inspire you, there may be no hope.) Adding to the sequestered appeal is that Fogo Island is one of Newfoundland's special "outport" communities, a local term used to describe small, isolated coastal settlements.

7. Fafe Mountains, Portugal

wpsB571.tmpPhoto: Bruno Ismael Silva Alves/Shutterstock

In another example of the house-and-boulder-sandwich school of architecture, Casa do Penedo or the House of Stone, is nestled between four different boulders in Portugal's Fafe Mountains. Illuminated by candlelight - there is no electricity - the little rock hideaway also boasts a fireplace and a swimming pool carved into stone.

8. Meteora, Greece

wpsB589.tmpPhoto: Dennis David Auger/Wikimedia Commons

Back in the 11th century, monks colonized the nearly inaccessible sandstone peaks of Meteora in central Greece. Eventually, 24 Greek Orthodox monasteries were built on these "columns of the sky," affording intrepid pilgrims the solitude required for their devotion. The Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara, pictured here, was founded in 1545; since 1988, it has been occupied by a small group of (lucky) nuns.

9. Sarangkot, Nepal

wps7363.tmpPhoto: wolfmaster13/Shutterstock

A charming, round structure made of stone, perched on a mountain ridge, with sweeping views of the Himalayas? Yes, please. Just up from the village of Sarangkot in Nepal, the vistas from this spot are nothing short of breathtaking. Looking across to the Himalayas affords a spectacular view of the pyramid-shaped Machhapuchchhre, a 22,943-foot peak that is considered sacred to Shiva, and thus, remains illegal to climb...but ideal for gazing upon from one's front porch.

10. Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

wps9F23.tmpPhoto: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

The small town of Hikkaduwa on the southern coast of Sri Lanka attracts tourists for its striking beaches and assorted activities offered by the Indian Ocean. But just to the north is a spot so off the beaten path that it requires transportation by boat to visit. The Buddhist temple, Seenigama Vihara, is built on its own island and is the epitome of exotic seclusion, complete with world-class diving and snorkelling to keep the spiritual (and sporty) hermit amply occupied.

Top image: Sunset over one of the smallest of the Thousand Islands. Credit: Moondigger/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images and links added.]