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Saturday, June 30, 2012

PUFFERFISH: THE DEADLY DISH


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This fish is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide! Deadly indeed. Yet it’s eaten in Japan!

Pufferfish (Tetraodontidae)
By National Geographic, 29 June 2012.

Fast Facts:
Type: Fish
Diet: Carnivore
Size: Up to 3 ft (1 m)
Group name: School
Did you know? Some predators, such as tiger sharks and sea snakes, are unbothered by the pufferfish’s natural toxins.

Biologists think pufferfish (puffer-fish), also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.

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A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

Amazingly, the meat of some pufferfish is considered a delicacy. Called fugu in Japan, it is extremely expensive and only prepared by trained, licensed chefs who know that one bad cut means almost certain death for a customer. In fact, many such deaths occur annually.

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There are more than 120 species of pufferfish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colours to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic colouring to blend in with their environment.

They range in size from the 1-inch-long (2.5-centimetre-long) dwarf or pygmy puffer to the freshwater giant puffer, which can grow to more than 2 feet (61 centimetres) in length. They are scaleless fish and usually have rough to spiky skin. All have four teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form.

New Picture 3Pufferfish's size relative to a tea cup

The diet of the pufferfish includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Large specimens will even crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks. Poisonous puffers are believed to synthesize their deadly toxin from the bacteria in the animals they eat.

Some species of pufferfish are considered vulnerable due to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, but most populations are considered stable.

Top image: Pufferfish. Source: left image, right image.

[Source: National Geographic. Edited. Top image added.]


EARTH WILL BE ONE SECOND LONGER TODAY!


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Today, 30 June 2012, will be one second longer than the typical day. In other words, we will have one extra second tonight – or a 61-second minute! Time will stand still for one second today because a 'leap second' will be added to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks.

Leap Second Science: NASA Explains Earth's Longer Day Today
By
SPACE.com, 30 June 2012.

Today will be one second longer than usual, and we have the moon to thank for the extra time.

A "leap second" will be added to the world's official clocks this evening (June 30), to account for the fact that Earth's rotation is slowing ever so slightly - meaning our days are getting longer, at the rate of about 1.4 milliseconds every 100 years.

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The view of Earth during NASA's Apollo 17 mission. What would Earth's clouds looked like in the past, when the continents had a different arrangement?

"At the time of the dinosaurs, Earth completed one rotation in about 23 hours," Daniel MacMillan, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "In the year 1820, a rotation took exactly 24 hours, or 86,400 standard seconds. Since 1820, the mean solar day has increased by about 2.5 milliseconds."

It's happening because of tidal forces between the Earth and moon. This mutual gravitational jostling results in the transfer of our planet's rotational momentum to the moon, pushing it away from us at about 1.6 inches (4 centimetres) per year.

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June 30, 2012 will be one second longer than the typical day. Rather than changing from 23:59:59 on June 30 to 00:00:00 on July 1, the official time will get an extra second at 23:59:60.

Earth's rotational slowdown won't stop until it becomes tidally locked to the moon, researchers say - meaning we will always show the same face to our celestial neighbour. The moon is tidally locked to Earth now, keeping its far side forever out of sight. [Hit Snooze: 10 Best Alarm Clocks]

Scientists figured out the planet's lagging rotation rate using a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry. VLBI measures how long it takes radio waves emitted by faraway active black holes called quasars - the brightest objects in the universe - to reach a network of telescopes set up around the world.

From the tiny differences in arrival times to these various instruments, researchers can calculate Earth's rotational speed and a number of other interesting characteristics about our planet and its path through space.

Decades ago, scientists realized that some measurements and technologies required more precise timekeeping than Earth's rotation could provide. So in 1967, they officially changed the definition of a second, basing it on measurements of electromagnetic transitions in cesium atoms rather than the length of a day.

Such "atomic clocks" are accurate to approximately one second in 200 million years, researchers say. The widely used time standard based on the cesium atom is called Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC.

Timekeepers add leap seconds to UTC every once in a while to square it up with another time standard that's based on Earth's day length. So June 30 will get an extra second just before 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT on July 1).

The master clock at the U.S. Naval Observatory will move to 7:59:60 p.m. EDT, or 23:59:60 UTC, before ticking over. In practice, this means that clocks in many systems will be turned off for one second, NASA researchers said.

Saturday's adjustment will mark the 25th time a leap second has been added since the practice was initiated in 1972. The most recent leap second was inserted on New Year's Eve of 2008.

[Source: SPACE.com. Edited.]



GERMANY'S HANGING TRAIN: THE WORLD’S FIRST AND ONLY SUSPENDED MONORAIL


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Wuppertal Schwebebahn: Germany’s Hanging Train
By Kaushik,
Amusing Planet, 29 June 2012.

Wuppertal Schwebebahn or Wuppertal Floating Tram is a suspension monorail in Wuppertal, Germany. First opened in 1901, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn is one of the oldest monorail still in operation today. What is also interesting is that the Schwebebahn was never copied as a model for ‘public transit’ anywhere else in the world. This is the world’s first and the only suspended monorail in the world.


At the end of the 19th century, Wuppertal was at its peak of industrialization. The population had reached 400,000 individuals and growing. Even before industrialization set in, Wuppertal was a prosperous town, larger than Cologne, and fully built. The roads there were meant for carriages and pedestrians, and there was no place for laying tracks for tram without creating serious blockages. Underground subway construction was also ruled out as the area was very rocky and contained a lot of groundwater. The German engineers decided that taking the aerial route was the only way.

Construction of the Wuppertal Schwebebahn began in 1898 and the first test drive took place the same year. In 1900 Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire was one of the first official visitors to go for a ride on the suspension line. In 1901, transport was opened to the public. The suspension line quickly became Wuppertal’s most prominent landmark and after 100 years, it is still the easiest and fastest way to get around in the city.

The suspension railway travels along a route of 13.3 kilometres. Most of the track runs above the Wupper river at a height of 12 meters. The 3-kilometre stretch between Wohlwinkel and Sonnborner Strasse is called the overland track, which runs above the streets at a height of about 8 meters. The over-the-river route was one of the main reasons why the Schwebebahn survived World War Two. Suspended above the river, the Schwebebahn was able to escape serious bomb damage.

Wuppertal Schwebebahn operated over 98 years before it recorded its first fatal accident and thus quite correctly, called the safest public transit system in the world. The only fatal accident occurred in April 1999 when the train derailed and crashed down into the river Wupper, killing 5 passengers and leaving 49 injured.

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The April 1999 accident that resulted in the death of 5 people, the only such incident in the history of Wuppertaler Schwebebahn (Photo credit).

In one bizarre incident, an elephant named Tuffi was brought aboard the Schwebebahn in 1950 as a marketing stunt for the Althoff Circus. Apparently Tuffi didn’t enjoy the ride because she soon began stomping wildly throughout the cabin, eventually crashing through the side and falling into the river below. Tuffi was injured but survived. Today, the incident has become a famous tale in the history of the Schwebebahn. There’s even a painting of Tuffi on a building near the spot where the elephant jumped between stations Alter Markt und Adlerbrücke.

The Wuppertal Schwebebahn nowadays carries up to 82,000 passengers a day through the city. Since 1997, the supporting frame has been largely modernised, and many stations have been reconstructed and brought technically up to date. The original Kaiserwagen (Emperor's car), the train used by Emperor Wilhelm II during a test ride on 24 October 1900, is still operating on scheduled excursion services, special occasions and for charter events. The beautifully restored Kaiserwagen offers guests a unique nostalgic experience with treats like cushioned seats, gold decorative windows, lamps, and a retro Art Nouveau ornament disc separating the first and second class compartments. The train attendants even dress in period costume and offer beverage service to make for a very enjoyable ride.





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Sources:
1. Wuppertal Schwebebahn by Wikipedia
3. Wuppertal Schwebebahn by Google Sightseeing
4. Wuppertal Schwebebahn (in German)

Top image: Source

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


5 MIND-BLOWING ILLUSIONS YOU WON'T BELIEVE ARE REAL



5 Mind-Blowing Illusions You Won't Believe Are Real
By
TechEBlog, 26 June 2012.

Optical illusions are designed to fool the human eye, but sometimes, they just don't seem possible. Well, thanks to a few helpful geeks, we get an inside look at how five mind-blowing illusions are accomplished. Continue reading to see them all. [Note: The video descriptions are quotes from the producer. Read more from the YouTube links provided.]

5. Minecraft Illusion Poster

Source: YouTube via TechEBlog
"I've been getting into minecraft recently and ya, it's addicting. I know I've made a few of these types of posters before but I thought you guys might enjoy a Minecraft version. I debated on whether to add music or just use the sound FX. Obviously I went with the sound FX. I didn't include any of the actual sound FX because I was a little lazy."
4. VHS Tape Illusion

Source: YouTube via TechEBlog
"I was asked by YouTube to participate in their 'Play Means Business' Program. They gave me the statistic of '500 years of YouTube videos are watched each day through social media sites' and asked if I could build an illusion around it. I thought VHS tapes would be a nice way to portray 'video' and would be easy to work with to create the illusion. The only effects added to this video are the words added to the floor below '500 years' at the end of the video."
3. Moving Square Illusion

Source: YouTube via TechEBlog
"There are 2 sets of lines moving back and forth perpendicularly but when the paper squares are placed on the screen the lines suddenly appear to be a square moving in a circular motion. I've seen this illusion for a while and have always been impressed by it. I wanted to try and create my own version."
2. Chair Illusion

Source: YouTube via TechEBlog
"I created this illusion by placing a chair in the middle of the room and shining a bright light on it which created a shadow. I cut black poster board and taped it so that it covered the shadow. Then I moved the light source to the opposite side of the room and shined it on the chair which created another shadow. Again, I cut black poster board and taped it so that it covered the shadow. Then I just removed the actual chair from in-between the 2 shadows. The whole process took about 10 hours."
1. Shade Illusion

Source: YouTube via TechEBlog
"The illusion works because of the 'shadow' that falls on the checkerboard. Lets think of the square that the shadow falls on. Now picture that the shadow doesn't exist, you would see a light coloured square surrounded by the dark coloured squares. But when the shadow falls on top of that light coloured square, the shadow causes the shade to become darker but it also causes the surrounding darker squares to become darker. So within the shadow region the brightness and darkness of the squares are still relative to one another. But they are no longer relative to the squares that lie outside of the shadow."
Top image: Photo credit

[Source: TechEBlog. Edited.]


20 WORST-NAMED PHONES AND TABLETS


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20 Worst-Named Phones and Tablets
By Avram Piltch,
LAPTOP, 28 February 2012.

These days it’s just not good enough to give your phone or tablet an unassuming name like the RX-5050 or M3420e. Instead, mobile device makers spend their days masterminding memorable monikers that are supposed to generate buzz. More often, though, they cause static or confusion. Here are the very worst of the lot.

1. Ainovo Novo7 Swordman

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Like a knock-off breakfast cereal made by "Keylogs," the Ainovo brand sounds like it was designed to fool shoppers into thinking they're getting a Lenovo. But because one "novo" in the name is one too few, the Chinese OEM that makes this cheap tablet added another one for good measure. Don't ask us what the Swordman part means. Though we haven’t crossed blades with this slate, the more boring Ainovo Novo7 Basic's creaky plastic casing and slow speeds didn't impress.

2. HP Veer 4G

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Generally speaking, you don’t want to name a gadget after something that happens right before a traffic accident. Unfortunately for HP, the name of its first webOS smartphone was particularly prescient. After users passed this disaster of a handset, the company veered away from its entire mobile strategy and hit a wall.

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

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In a bow to Arithmomaniacs, Samsung gives you 200 percent more model numbers than its main competitor and separates them with just an empty space - no dashes or commas here. Even better, the number 2 is a homonym for "too." The store clerk could hear, "I want a Galaxy Tab too, 10.1," and give you last year’s model instead.

4. LG Lucid

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While other Android phones may drunk-dial your ex-girlfriends without permission, LG’s US$79 handset remains clear-headed even when you load it down with lots of apps. Even better, the Lucid can download your email while in a sleep state, a form of "Lucid" dreaming.

5. HP TouchPad

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Hewlett Packard’s abortive attempt at a webOS slate was a failure from the moment the company picked its name. The monikermeisters in Palo Alto seemed blissfully unaware that "touchpad" has been used to describe the pointing device on notebooks (including HP’s) for ages. Consumers may have thought that the short-lived slate, which was pulled from the market after just 57 days, was just a peripheral. Or maybe they noticed the lack of apps, sluggish performance and ugly design.

6. Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch

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With almost as many names as Sean Combs, the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch is the world’s most tongue-twisty telephone. Though the same handset was simply called the Galaxy S II on most other carriers, Sprint felt compelled to tack on three extra words just for its version. The word “Epic” honoured the older Epic 4G. And 4G and Touch were added because you just can’t overstate the obvious enough. Up next: the Samsung Galaxy S III Epic Surfs Web and Does Lots of Other Stuff.

7. T-Mobile myTouch 4G

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A phone designed for the "me" generation, the myTouch 4G is made by HTC, manufacturer of phones that "get you." With its sleek rounded curves and bright screen, it’s made to look great when you stare longingly in the mirror at yourself.

8. LG Ally

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If you need a smartphone to be your friend, I promise not to mess with your red Swingline stapler. Hardly an Ally, LG’s low-end handset suffered from short battery life, a small display and a weak camera when it was released in 2010. But if you still sleep with your My Buddy doll, this phone is for you.

9. Samsung Brightside

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If you can't afford a smartphone, look on the Brightside: At least this Samsung feature phone has a QWERTY keyboard and the ability to check email, read documents and update Facebook. If you always look on the bright side of life, you won't care that this craptastic handset has a tiny 3.2-inch screen, a processor that CNET describes as "slow as slugs" and a price (US$119) that's higher than many dual-core, 4G Android handsets.

10. The new iPad

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Some companies want to deny history and act as if their new product was the only one of its kind. By naming its third-generation iPad simply "the iPad," Apple committed a grave crime both against search engine optimization and common sense. Try doing a search for "Apple iPad" and you might get results for the 2012 model and the 2010 original. Uninitiated users also will see the iPad 2 and think that it’s newer than the "new iPad" because it actually has a version number. And just wait until "the new new iPad" comes out in 2013!

11. ASUS Transformer Infinity Pad TF700

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If you can name all of ASUS' half million notebook/tablet hybrids, you deserve a prize. There’s the original Eee Pad Transformer, which gave way to the Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201. After that, ASUS must have realized it didn’t like the "Eee" brand anymore, because it called its next device the Transformer Pad TF300. As if the not-so-veiled Michael Bay references weren’t bad enough, the new Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 kicks it up a notch, to infinity and beyond. Try saying Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 five times fast, I dare you.

12. HP iPaq Glisten

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Clearly targeted at closet "Twilight" fans, this 2010-era Windows Mobile 6.5 phone glistens in the sun just like a vampire. And just like abstinence-only Edward, the iPaq Glisten's low-res screen was resistive to touch, often confusing users' attempts to scroll with attempts to select an icon. Members of Team Jacob found themselves clawing at the QWERTY keyboard, looking for apps but not finding many.

13. Huawei Honor

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Voted the phone least likely to offend either your family or the Shaolin temple, the Huawei Honor follows a strict Android code. With middling specs like the 854 x 480 screen and a single-core processor, this non-contract phone can't overpower the big boss, but at least it won't require you to honour a two-year contract.

14. Samsung Rant

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The first rule of gadget naming is "Don't insult your customers." There's a reason Hostess will never come out with a snack cake called "Gorge" and Panasonic won't name a TV "the Vegetate." However, Samsung did come out with a slider phone called the Rant in 2008, effectively telling its users that they were nothing more than a bunch of blowhards who like to hear the sound of their own texts arriving. Good thing the company didn't release a social networking phone called the Overshare or one with a low-light camera called the Stalk.

15. LG DoublePlay

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If you're up at bat, the last thing you want to do is hit into a double play, unless you're LG and you don't know any better. But considering all of this dual-screen phone's problems, perhaps we should take its name as a helpful warning not to swing at T-Mobile's pitch. Unfortunately, the low-resolution primary screen and annoying split keyboard ended this inning before the phone had a chance to score with shoppers.

16. eMatic eGlide XL Pro

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With a name that sounds like it belongs on a tube of Vaseline, this US$174 Android 4.0 tablet promises everything and delivers nothing. With sluggish performance, short battery life and a fuzzy screen, even the word "Pro" at the end is deceptive. It'll take more than a little low-cost lubrication to make you slide out your wallet for this slimy slate.

17. The EFun Nextbook Next5

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Hoping everybody would EFun tonight after they Wang Chunged tonight, the Nextbook Next5 tablet looked like a bargain when it launched in summer 2011. For US$299, a decent price for the pre-Kindle Fire era, you got a 5-inch tablet with Android 2.1 and a stylus that the company simply called "Apen," presumably because someone's space bar was broken. Unfortunately, the only fun you could have with this device was seeing just how hard you had to press on the resistive touch screen to get a response.

18. Netbook Navigator Nav9 Slate PC

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It's not a netbook and it doesn't have GPS, but the Netbook Navigator Nav9 Slate PC doesn't care about those kinds of things. When LAPTOP reviewed this Windows 7 slate back in 2010, we noted its painfully resistive touch screen, short battery life, heavy weight and mind-blowingly high US$974 price. With that kind of performance you'll be navigating over to a competing product.

19. HTC Salsa

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If you're going to name your phone after a spicy condiment, it needs to deliver. Unfortunately this Facebook-centric phone, which was wisely renamed the Status for U.S. audiences, is a watery, extra-mild flavour with a tiny 2.6-inch screen, sluggish performance and mediocre Web surfing. Perhaps HTC should have added more peppers and a faster CPU.

20. Samsung Behold

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Given this phone's lofty name, you would have expected to hear a choir singing when you opened the box back in 2008. The phone did have some neat features for its day, including haptic feedback, a 5-MP camera and 3G speeds. Unfortunately, Web pages were nothing special to behold on its mediocre, non-HTML-compliant browser, and its sluggish interface did not make users want to say, "Whoomp there it is."

Top image: Samsung Rant (left) and LG DoublePlay (public domain)

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


Friday, June 29, 2012

15 GORGEOUS GARDEN HOUSES


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15 Gorgeous Garden Houses
By Alison Nastasi,
Flavor Wire, 28 June 2012.

If you’re trying to avoid planes, trains, and automobiles this summer - hoping to relax into something quieter, more casual, and filled with nature - check out our gallery of gorgeous garden houses after the break. We spotted a beautiful, woodsy getaway on website Fubiz that is sure to inspire your green thumb and dreamy spirit. Visit it after the jump, where we’ve rounded up other beautiful garden houses that range from practical to unusual, but all are an invitation to commune with Mother Earth.

1. Glass Garden House

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Natural wood floors, glass architecture, and the woodland setting of a Finnish island make this garden house the perfect spot to dream. The greenery of the surrounding area is beautiful, but a storage shed built into the back of the house offers a place to practice your potting skills. Bring your creations indoors where they can flourish along with your imagination since the house is big enough for a cozy bed.

2. Polyhedron Garden House

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We’ve admired architect Manuel Villa’s polyhedron house before, a space intended for families to play and relax together. Its simple, functional interior and unique shape make it an eye-catching and practical addition to your garden. The large-scale deck is spacious enough to work outdoors, and display plants and blooms.

3. Ark Garden House

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Constructed from organic materials like FSC-certified wood, soil, and grass, the Backyard Ark provides a rooftop space to plant a garden, while the benches flanking the unit let you admire your natural surroundings. You can also install a wind turbine to keep things extra eco-friendly.

4. Snow White Garden House


We don’t know much about this magical garden house set in the woods, but we expected to see Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy in the picture.

5. Modern Garden House

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Dallas, Texas is home to what Cunningham Architects have appropriately dubbed, The House in the Garden. It’s a freestanding addition to a modern-style home on an adjoining lot. Red Oak and Elm trees provide shade and were incorporated into the massive structure’s design. The home features two 8-foot wide sliding glass doors, a façade with frameless, insulated glass, a rain-screen system, and Ipe hardwood that weathers over time to a silvery grey. The best part? The artfully installed lighting makes the garden house glow at night.

6. Hilly Garden House

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During the 19th century, Cluny Hill in Forres, Scotland was a popular place to be during the hydropathic movement - a healing method that uses water to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. Now, it’s home to this modern garden house, which the architects created as an  “exploration of visual and phenomenal transparency, both through strategic spatial organization and abstraction of form and materials.”

7. Camouflage Garden House

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This transparent live-work structure is a giant greenhouse that accommodates people and plants. Created by Hiroshi Iguchi, the sustainable design doesn’t sacrifice style. Warm, natural materials are used throughout, along with traditional Japanese panels and canvas drapes to protect residents from the sun. Trees were incorporated into the architecture, growing between the walls of the house.

8. Shipping Container Garden House


Part outdoor art gallery, part garden house, and all greentainer.

9. Cottage-Style Garden House

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These cottage-style garden houses in the Mississippi Historic District of Portland were entirely hand built and recall the elegant architecture of the surrounding Victorian architecture the area is known for.

10. Triangular Garden House

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With enough extra large glass walls and terrace space, this triangular design set in the forest is a peaceful oasis for relaxing and sowing seeds, inside and out.

11. Spherical Garden House

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This adorable sphere is a wonderful garden house for an intimate, fun gathering. It’d also make the perfect hideout to enjoy fresh air and read your favourite book. Several of the models rotate, and one can hold a sofa for extra comfy flower gazing.

12. Mid-Century Modern Garden House


Don Draper approves of this garden retreat - as long as it’s stocked with booze.

13. Sky Garden House

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Minimalistic, curvy architecture meets organic greenery in this sky-high garden house. Every aspect of the design was orchestrated with consideration for the surrounding foliage (existing and planted) throughout the home.

14. Skinny Garden House

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German architect Nils Holger Moormann created this ultra slim design that features open storage areas and a private loft bedroom. The home isn’t much wider than a standard swing door, but an open-sided living, dining, and reading room that seats four still makes it a great hangout spot. The exterior walls look like a modern woodshed, perfect for garden tools and other supplies. The home is nicknamed Walden after Thoreau’s simple living quarters in Massachusetts.

15. Egg-Shaped Garden House

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A Belgian architecture firm created the egg-shaped “blob VB3″ as a multi-purpose, mobile pod that can be used as an office, guestroom, or…garden house. The home is made of polyester, sports an ultra modern, clean design, and provides enough room for storage and sleeping. Muddy footprints after a hard day of gardening shouldn’t be an issue, as “blob” looks pretty easy to keep clean despite its stark colour.

Top image: Sky Garden House (left) and Modern Garden House (right)

[Source: Flavor Wire. Edited. Top image added.]