World’s first off-grid Ecocapsule home to hit the market this year, shipping in 2016

If your fantasy is to live totally off-the-grid anywhere around the world, that dream just got one step closer to reality. Nice Architects just unveiled the first photos of their incredible egg-shaped Ecocapsule home – and the tiny solar and wind-powered dwelling will be available for sale later this year. Nice Architects has already completed a prototype, and they plan to ship the first units as soon as Spring 2016 – check out the first photos of this low-energy sanctuary after the break, and picture yourself living the dream. Ecocapsule, Ecocapsule by Nice Architects, Nice architects, egg-shaped house, egg-shaped architecture, portable house, tiny house, micro shelter, off grid house, off grid architecture, rainwater collection, solar power, wind power, tiny home, tiny mobile home, portable home

Like the Swiss Army Knife of tiny homes, the Ecocapsule packs everything you need into one very efficient, compact design. Replete with rather luxurious amenities, including a double bed, kitchenette, storage space, and bathroom with a shower and a toilet that collects bio waste, the Ecocapsule can used as a tiny home just for you, a pop-up hotel, a humanitarian refuge, or even an electric car charging station. Its 9744Wh battery is powered by a 750W silent wind turbine and 600W solar outputs that enable it to operate completely off-grid. A dual-power system offers an additional source of electricity during periods without sufficient sunlight or wind. The structure’s rounded shape also helps to easily collect rain water, which is then purified with a built-in filtration system.

Ecocapsule, Ecocapsule by Nice Architects, Nice architects, egg-shaped house, egg-shaped architecture, portable house, tiny house, micro shelter, off grid house, off grid architecture, rainwater collection, solar power, wind power, tiny home, tiny mobile home, portable home

The amazing micro-dwelling is perfect for nature lovers, scientists, photographers, rangers and anyone who wants to stay off-grid for long stretches of time. The architects also recommend it as an urban dwelling for singles in high-rent areas such as Silicon Valley or NYC. The little “egg” home measures just 4.5 meters (14.6 feet) in length, 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in width, and 2.5 meters in height (8.2 feet), with a reasonable living space around eight square meters (86 square feet). When you’re ready to move on to your next destination, the capsule fits snugly into a standard transportation container.

Ecocapsule, Ecocapsule by Nice Architects, Nice architects, egg-shaped house, egg-shaped architecture, portable house, tiny house, micro shelter, off grid house, off grid architecture, rainwater collection, solar power, wind power, tiny home, tiny mobile home, portable home

Nice Architects plans to announce pricing for the Ecocapsule egg home at the end of 2015 – just in time for pre-orders. They’ve focused on reducing the size and weight of the pod so that it can be easily transported – approximate shipping costs range from 1500 Euros from Slovakia to Melbourne, to 2200 Euros from Slovakia to New York. Nice Architects plans to launch one version of the

Ecocapsule initially, and they plan to offer additional customizations after the first units are sold.

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How Tea Parties Got Their Start—and How to Hold One Like a Victorian

This summer marks 150 years since Alice in Wonderland was first published. As most English speakers over the age of 10 are aware, the book contains the most beloved tea party scene in literary history—so why not use its anniversary as an excuse to hold a Victorian-style tea party of your own?

First, impress your guests with some history. The modern European tea party began about 20 years before the publication of Alice in Wonderland, at which point it was still extremely fashionable. Although there are scattered references to fashionable ladies drinking a cup of tea mid-afternoon in the 17th century, most sources trace the tradition back to the 1840s and Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria’s. In the Duchess’s day, most British people ate two main meals: a huge breakfast served early, and an 8 p.m. dinner (there was a light, informal luncheon in between). The Duchess complained of getting a “sinkful feeling” during the long, snackless gap in between, and started taking a pot of tea and some light treats in her boudoir around 4 p.m.

Tea consumption in Europe had increased dramatically in the early 19th century, especially after Europeans learned the secrets of tea cultivation and began establishing their own plantations, instead of relying on China. The idea of an afternoon tea-based snackfest caught on after Anna began inviting friends to meet her for a cuppa (as Brits now call it) and “a walk in the fields.” Other high society hostesses imitated her party idea, creating intimate afternoon events that usually involved elegant rooms, fine china, hot tea, small sandwiches, and plenty of gossip. The custom really caught on when Queen Victoria attended some of these gatherings, adding her royal imprimatur.

The middle classes followed suit, discovering that tea parties were a relatively economical way to host a gathering. There were garden teas, tennis teas, croquet teas, and more. Eventually, the custom of taking a mid-afternoon tea break became standard across British society, although it diverged into two traditions: “afternoon tea,” for the leisured classes (tea and light snacks) and “high tea” or “meat tea,” a heartier workingman’s dinner that would be served when laborers arrived home after work.

If you’d like to hold a Victorian-style tea party, consider following some of the guidelines for various kinds of teas dispensed in 1893’s Etiquette of Good Society by Lady Gertrude Elizabeth Campbell or Etiquette: What to Do, and How to Do It, written by Lady Constance Eleanora C. Howard in 1885. Both are freely available on Google Books in case you need more information about which spoon to use with your clotted cream.


Campbell says: “a tea, of whatever kind, may be made one of the most agreeable of meals; for tea always seems to produce sociability, cheerfulness, and vivacity.”

She offers the following guidelines for a country-based high tea, perhaps after some archery or lawn tennis in summer, or music, card games, or charades in winter: 

  • Cover the table with a white tablecloth and line the center with flowers or, if it’s summer, with fruit. “Nothing looks more tempting than bowls of old china filled with ripe red strawberries, and jugs of rich cream by their side,” Campbell notes.
  • Adorn the table with glass dishes of preserved fruit and jams, and cakes of various kinds (Campbell suggests plum, rice and sponge cakes), as well as hot muffins, crumpets, toast, and little tea cakes. More substantial fare, such as cold salmon, pigeon, veal and ham pie, should go on the sideboards. If it’s a “hungry tea,” Campbell says, you may add roast beef and lamb “for the gentlemen.”
  • Place the tea tray at one end of the table, and a tray with coffee at the other.
  • Servants should be experienced, since they’ll have plenty of work to do passing around cups of tea, cream, and sugar, and keeping an eye out for empties. There should be one servant for carving up the meats, one to change the plates, another to hand out the bread and butter, plus several more to spare just in case.
  • However, after the fruit has been passed out, the servants should leave the room so that the guests can enjoy themselves without fear of being overheard. (Again, gossip is pretty much the point of a tea party.)
  • The meal may be followed by dancing on the lawn or in the drawing room, with music, charades, or some other kind of parlor entertainment. If there’s no entertainment, guests repair to reception rooms to chat.
  • Furniture arrangement in the reception rooms is key: groups of tables and chairs should be placed so that the guests can form little groups that make the room look full, but not too crowded. “A room stiffly arranged will destroy all the wish for conversation and mirth, and also the power of producing it as well,” Lady Campbell notes.
  • The absolute worst idea, she says, is to let the guests form themselves into one big circle. This leads to an “immediate depression,” since “few people have the sang froid to talk, much less freely and well, when everyone can hear their remarks.” The hostess must keep an eye out to prevent this catastrophe. If she does not, “a gloom pervades, hilarity ceases, only an occasional remark is ventured upon, and the party is converted into a Quaker’s meeting.”

Campbell shares these tips for a light afternoon tea, also known as a “small tea,” usually served around 5 p.m., where things are less formal:

  • Invitations are sent out indicating that the lady of the house will be “at home” on such and such an afternoon (no reply from the guest is needed).
  • Guests are ushered into the hostess’s drawing room. Tea equipment—usually a specially designed set—should be placed near the lady of the house, who pours the tea herself.
  • Cups and saucers should be small and dainty, as should spoons, sugar basin, tongs and cream jug. Plates of cakes and bread and butter should be brought into the room.
  • Gentlemen should offer their services handling the cake and pouring the tea, but should not be too anxious to do so, since “people do not assemble at these 5 o’clock teas to eat and drink.”
  • Larger afternoon teas, however, will require servants to pour and pass out the tea, but at “little teas,” servants should be excluded if possible.
  • Tea may be followed by whist, music, or a dance on the carpet, which “finds favor with young people.”
  • You should “on no account stay later than seven o’clock.”


  • At a country tea, you might add a patterned tablecloth, perhaps one covered in poppies or cornflowers. Adding meat is a welcome touch for those who have come from far away, as is adding a tray with sherry, brandy, or seltzer for those who prefer it to tea. Always include salt, since some people sprinkle it on their bread and butter.
  • Knives should only be used for cutting the cake, and not by each person, unless toast, butter, jam, etc. is being served. Hot water can be sent up in an urn, kettle, or jug, but using a silver jug isn’t a good plan, since the water gets cold quickly. Teaspoons, however, should be silver, while china or colored Venetian glass dishes are best for butter and jam.
  • Hostesses pour the tea themselves, asking each guest if they take sugar, cream, or milk, and then handing the cups to the gentlemen, who in turn hand them to the ladies, who are clustered around the room in little groups. Gentlemen also pass out the cakes, muffins, etc.
  • Howard notes that plates must always be used at a 5 o’clock tea, and that to place cake or scone in a saucer or on the table would be “very vulgar.”
  • Serviettes (also known as napkins) should never be used.
  • The butler and footman can arrange the room and set the table, but then should leave the room, since servants don’t usually wait on guests at teas. Instead “they wait upon each other, who is far less formal and much more agreeable.”

Howard offers the following advice for a formal 5 o’clock tea in London, noting “ladies like it extremely; gentlemen, as a rule, detest it most cordially.”

  • Invitations are given verbally, or on an ordinary visiting card. A request for RSVPs may be added on the right corner, although they aren’t usually (if they are present, an immediate reply is required). If there will be entertainment, that should be noted. Note that “5 o’clock tea” is not the right term for an invitation—the hostess merely says she is “at home.” The host’s name is never added to the invitation, only the hostess’s.
  • Two weeks’ notice is usual for more formal teas, although invitations can be sent out only a week in advance for smaller ones.
  • Formal teas—or “ceremonious teas”—can include from 50 to 200 guests, at which point it’s customary to produce some light entertainment alongside the tea-sipping. “The music should be as good as possible,” notes Howard, “though not important enough to actually be a concert.”
  • The “semi-ceremonious tea” numbers 40 to 100 people, and requires less formal entertainment, perhaps recitations or “good amateur talent, vocal or instrumental.”
  • At even less formal teas, of 10 to 25 people, general chatting or tête-à-têtes can take the place of entertainment or instruction.
  • Never station a servant at the door to announce guests; they should walk right in, since they know the hostess is at home.
  • Never use red cloth at any party unless royalty is present.
  • Tea and coffee should be in silver urns, and the buffet prettily decorated with flowers that are in season, as well as fancy biscuits, brown and white bread and butter cut very thin, and cakes (plum, seed, pound, and sponge). Sherry, champagne, claret, lemonade, ices, fruit, potted game, sandwiches, and (in the summer) bowls heaped with strawberries and whipped cream should be placed on the center table.
  • More formal teas should be served in the dining room, smaller teas in a boudoir or anteroom.
  • It is polite to greet your hostess before taking any tea, coffee, or sweets. The hostess should stand just inside the doorway of the room at a more formal tea, and at a small tea, she receives guests inside the room, advancing a few steps to greet each arrival.
  • Unless a hostess is lame or very old, etiquette requires that she should move about the room among her guests to make sure they have someone to talk to and have enough tea at all times. Her daughter or daughters should help her. Guests, too, can move around the room—there is no need to stay in one spot unless the conversation is “very absorbing.”
  • Formal, general introductions are not needed, although the hostess may introduce two people if she thinks that one, or both, would value her doing so.
  • Punctuality is not necessary at 5 o’clock tea, and guests should feel free to come when they like and leave when it pleases them.
  • Ladies may ask for a second cup of tea if they are thirsty, but it would “look peculiar” if they ask for chocolate, milk, soda, cider, or some other beverage not usually served at a tea.
  • Ladies intending to eat ices, cake, bread, etc. should take off their gloves, but gloves can stay on if one is only drinking tea or coffee without eating.
  • Conversation should be in a low tone so as not to disturb those who are doing their best to amuse the guests, and guests should at least try to look as if they are listening to the performances.
  • Never tip the servants.

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The Theory Of Parallel Universes Is Not Just Maths – It Is Science That Can Be Tested

September 3, 2015 | by Eugene Lim

photo credit: Scientists are searching for collisions between different ‘universe bubbles’ in the cosmic microwave background. Geralt

The existence of parallel universes may seem like something cooked up by science fiction writers, with little relevance to modern theoretical physics. But the idea that we live in a “multiverse” made up of an infinite number of parallel universes has long been considered a scientific possibility – although it is still a matter of vigorous debate among physicists. The race is now on to find a way to test the theory, including searching the sky for signs of collisions with other universes.

It is important to keep in mind that the multiverse view is not actually a theory, it is rather a consequence of our current understanding of theoretical physics. This distinction is crucial. We have not waved our hands and said: “Let there be a multiverse”. Instead the idea that the universe is perhaps one of infinitely many is derived from current theories like quantum mechanics and string theory.

The Many-Worlds Interpretation

You may have heard the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat, a spooky animal who lives in a closed box. The act of opening the box allows us to follow one of the possible future histories of our cat, including one in which it is both dead and alive. The reason this seems so impossible is simply because our human intuition is not familiar with it.

But it is entirely possible according to the strange rules of quantum mechanics. The reason that this can happen is that the space of possibilities in quantum mechanics is huge. Mathematically, a quantum mechanical state is a sum (or superposition) of all possible states. In the case of the Schrödinger’s cat, the cat is the superposition of “dead” and “alive” states.

But how do we interpret this to make any practical sense at all? One popular way is to think of all these possibilities as book-keeping devices so that the only “objectively true” cat state is the one we observe. However, one can just as well choose to accept that all these possibilities are true, and that they exist in different universes of a multiverse.

Miaaaaultiverse Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr, CC BY-SA

The String Landscape

String theory is one of our most, if not the most promising avenue to be able to unify quantum mechanics and gravity. This is notoriously hard because gravitational force is so difficult to describe on small scales like those of atoms and subatomic particles – which is the science of quantum mechanics. But string theory, which states that all fundamental particles are made up of one-dimensional strings, can describe all known forces of nature at once: gravity, electromagnetism and the nuclear forces.

However, for string theory to work mathematically, it requires at least ten physical dimensions. Since we can only observe four dimensions: height, width, depth (all spatial) and time (temporal), the extra dimensions of string theory must therefore be hidden somehow if it is to be correct. To be able to use the theory to explain the physical phenomena we see, these extra dimensions have to be “compactified” by being curled up in such a way that they are too small to be seen. Perhaps for each point in our large four dimensions, there exists six extra indistinguishable directions?

A problem, or some would say, a feature, of string theory is that there are many ways of doing this compactification –10500 possibilities is one number usually touted about. Each of these compactifications will result in a universe with different physical laws – such as different masses of electrons and different constants of gravity. However there are also vigorous objections to the methodology of compactification, so the issue is not quite settled.

But given this, the obvious question is: which of these landscape of possibilities do we live in? String theory itself does not provide a mechanism to predict that, which makes it useless as we can’t test it. But fortunately, an idea from our study of early universe cosmology has turned this bug into a feature.

The Early Universe

During the very early universe, before the Big Bang, the universe underwent a period of accelerated expansion called inflation. Inflation was invoked originally to explain why the current observational universe is almost uniform in temperature. However, the theory also predicted a spectrum of temperature fluctuations around this equilibrium which was later confirmed by several spacecraft such as Cosmic Background Explorer, Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the PLANCK spacecraft.

While the exact details of the theory are still being hotly debated, inflation is widely accepted by physicists. However, a consequence of this theory is that there must be other parts of the universe that are still accelerating. However, due to the quantum fluctuations of space-time, some parts of the universe never actually reach the end state of inflation. This means that the universe is, at least according to our current understanding, eternally inflating. Some parts can therefore end up becoming other universes, which could become other universes etc. This mechanism generates a infinite number of universes.

By combining this scenario with string theory, there is a possibility that each of these universes possesses a different compactification of the extra dimensions and hence has different physical laws.

The cosmic microwave background. Scoured for gravitational waves and signs of collisions with other universes.NASA / WMAP Science Team/wikimedia

Testing The Theory

The universes predicted by string theory and inflation live in the same physical space (unlike the many universes of quantum mechanics which live in a mathematical space), they can overlap or collide. Indeed, they inevitably must collide, leaving possible signatures in the cosmic sky which we can try to search for.

The exact details of the signatures depends intimately on the models – ranging from cold or hot spots in the cosmic microwave background to anomalous voids in the distribution of galaxies. Nevertheless, since collisions with other universes must occur in a particular direction, a general expectation is that any signatures will break the uniformity of our observable universe.

These signatures are actively being pursued by scientists. Some are looking for it directly through imprints in the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow of the Big Bang. However, no such signatures are yet to be seen. Others are looking for indirect support such as gravitational waves, which are ripples in space-time as massive objects pass through. Such waves could directly prove the existence of inflation, which ultimately strengthens the support for the multiverse theory.

Whether we will ever be able to prove their existence is hard to predict. But given the massive implications of such a finding it should definitely be worth the search.

Eugene Lim is Lecturer in theoretical particle physics & cosmology at King’s College London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues

Cute dogs to perk up the start of your week…


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Cosplay Pictures for your Saturday!

Cosplay and cosplayers for your Saturday enjoyment!

NOTE:  I have about 50,000 photos now that have been sent to me by various means.  I don’t have names for everyone.  If you wish to post your name, photo credits, hair or makeup credits, etc, just comment on the picture.  The comment does not appear automatically, but I will remove the photo or make any attributions within 24 hours.  This post is to promote and celebrate cosplay, cosplayers, photographers and others.  I can’t tell if photos are cell phone shot or professional.  I leave them untouched, including the photo bugs and data.  Thanks!

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Orcs of New York

Orcs of New York Will Restore Your Faith in Orc-Kind

Harry Aspinwall, a Scottish actor living in Brooklyn, decided that he was tired of Human of New York’s human-centrism. So he created a Facebook page to celebrate an oft-derided subculture: Orcs of New York!

Aspinwall throws down a gauntlet on his page.

This project has been a labour of love, and it means the world to me that so many people have taken an interest and want to help raise awareness about a people so often maligned and misunderstood. For many years I’ve felt that orcish culture has a beauty that goes unappreciated and underrepresented in the mainstream media, even while orcish people make up an ever growing proportion of our city. It’s time they stood in the spotlight.

Aspinwall, like Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, seems to have a knack for finding orcs who have their knobby claws on the pulse of life in the Big Apple. Or could it be that truly all orcs have complex universes within them, and they’re just waiting for a kind human with a camera to listen to their stories? Either way, he’s spotlighted one orc that needed to vent about a perennial topic: the gulf between children and their elders, who remember when times were harder:

Orcs of New York by Harry Aspinwall

This second-generation orc, like many children of immigrants, struggles with wanting a connection to his culture, and wanting to assimilate fully into a life in the United States.

Orcs of New York by Harry Aspinwall

And this orc actor thinks its time film and television looked beyond humans for their casting needs. After all, how will the next generation of orcs know that they can be anything they want to be, unless they have some good role models?

Orcs of New York by Harry Aspinwall

Pretty inspirational, right? But since we want to end on a really happy note, we love this orc who isn’t going to let the stressful pace of New York get him down!

Orcs of New York by Harry Aspinwall


You can find more information on Aspinwall’s project at Hypable, and be sure to check out more of Orcs of New York over on Facebook!

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Cute Dog Pictures for the Beginning of the Week

A late edition of cute dogs – been a busy week at work already…

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