Glencoe Scotland the Highlands highlight

Glencoe Scotland
Buachaille Etive Mor Glencoe Scotland at sunrise – image by Ben Spencer of


Glencoe, Scotland – things to see and do

Discover Glencoe, the most renowned Highlands Glen. Just a short drive from central Scotland, Glencoe attracts millions of visitors annually, with stunning scenery, incredible history and thrilling activities to enjoy in its beautiful surrounds. From the breath taking peaks and waterfalls, to the warm and friendly hospitality of Glencoe Village, you’ll find a place that is steeped in charm and magic. Check out our top tips on this beautiful and unique part of Scotland, to help you make the most of your experience.

Captivating backdrops

Upon arrival, you might be struck by how incredibly cinematic the surroundings feel. Awe-inspiring peaks greet you, topped with mist and mystery at the start of the day, while waters tumble down in a series of waterfalls and small rivers. It’s no surprise then, that Glencoe’s attracted the attentions of film makers for years – most notably, 007’s latest outing in Skyfall, as well as the Harry Potter series, all took advantage of its unique character.

Make your own memories of Glencoe as you explore for yourself its mountains, lochs and rushing rivers. Uncover its rich natural history, present all year round – from the red deer often spotted wandering around in winter, to the scores of different bird species that come all through spring and summer.

Glencoe Scotland Landscape
Glencoe Scotland Landscape – image Ben Spencer


Challenges to thrill

Take in Glencoe in your own style. Choose between a host of various adrenalin-packed extreme sports, including skiing, mountaineering, biking and river rafting. Boasting Scotland’s oldest ski school, both beginners and long-time pros can enjoy the host of activities on offer. Purpose made bike tracks let you criss-cross the country, and annual races attract thousands of visitors wanting to hurtle across the glens at breakneck speeds.

For a more serene experience, make the most of the scenery with a relaxing mountain walk. With routes tailored to different levels, you can take it at your pace, from the invigorating walk to the historic Signal Rock, to gentler walks across the flats and woodlands. Don’t forget to catch the majestic Loch Achtriochtan, for some truly memorable scenes, and take in the local wildlife – Glencoe is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

A taste of Scotland

Scotland’s customary warmth and hospitality is particularly special at Glencoe, as the local village and surrounding area offers up a range of goodies for you. Enjoy the many distinctive tastes of Scotland, from traditional Scottish baked treats in the character-filled tea rooms across Glencoe, as well as restaurants boasting delicious local meat, game and seafood. Many of the charming local pubs will let you experience real ales and Scottish whiskey, as well as the friendly local atmosphere.

Take away a bit of Glencoe with you, with a taste of the local shopping. You won’t find a generic looking High Street here, but instead, you can discover the delights of the local arts and crafts, with talented artists capturing the natural beauty in photography, paintings and ceramics. Wool shops specialise in luxurious locally made wool and cashmere wares, while you’ll also find a host of edible treats to take home for friends and family.

This article was a paid contribution by Miriam P. You can find her on the People Per Hour website. Editor Matthew Richmond. Photographic editor Ben Spencer.



Hadrian’s Wall a legacy of Roman Britain

Hadrian's wall
Hadrian’s wall in North England – Image by Flickr user Andrew Cheal Photography


As one of the most sought out tourist attractions in the UK, Hadrian’s Wall dates back to the reign of the Roman Emperor it was built and named for, in AD 122. Taking only eight years to build and come into use, the wall stretches 73 miles across the landscape of Northern England, with the majority residing in Northumberland.

In the original days and years of its use soldiers from all over the Roman Empire patrolled Hadrian’s Wall. Although it was essentially built as a defensive fortification for protection there have always been conflicting views on just how much of a threat the people of Northern Britain were at the time. With the discovery of many gatehouses within the wall, and roads leading through the wall; it is now believed the wall also served as a means of revenue for this far flung annex of the roman empire by extracting taxes from traders traveling north and south.

Hadrian’s Wall became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and one local man must take a lot of the credit for this. John Clayton was a Lawyer turned Town Clerk for Newcastle in the 1830’s. He was appalled that parts of the wall were being used extensively to build new roads, and that the decline of the walls structure was gaining speed. He bought several large parts of Hadrian’s Wall and paid for them to be reconstructed and maintained in order to keep part of the UK’s history for generations to come.


Hadrian's Wall and Fort by Flickr user jacqueline.poggi
Hadrian’s Wall and Fort by Flickr user jacqueline.poggi


But this is not just a wall, with 8 major excavated forts and several others, Hadrian’s Wall offers a wealth of education and history to inspire and excite both young and old visitors. Many of the unbroken parts are located on country walks which offer spectacular views that remain almost unchanged from it’s early days and there are archeological digs in session, mile castles and even temples to explore. In the summertime there are also full costume battles to take you back to the very old days and show you a piece of history.

The Hadrian’s Cycleway, National Cycle Route 72 is the track for anyone who wishes to walk or cycle along the route of the wall. However, you can also drive the majority of the walls path though Northern England in your car or take the Hadrian’s Wall Bus Service, which stops at all major Roman Sites of interest. There are a selection of pubs and a plethora of accommodation options for your stay all along the wall cycle path, so you are sure to find something to suit your budget and needs.

This article was a paid contribution by Emma P. a copywriter, creative writer, and PA.  You can find Emma on the People Per Hour website. Editor Matthew Richmond.

The Royal Mail Underground Railway

The Royal Mail found that traffic in London was a problem even before automobiles were widely used and available. In one of the busiest cities in the world getting from point “A” to point “B” has been a problem for over 100 years. However, London is a pioneer when it comes to regulating traffic. For instance, in 1868 the city instituted the very first traffic signal to provide safe passage for pedestrians at the intersection of George and Bridge streets near Parliament. Even though the car was not yet invented, the city was choked with horse-drawn carriages. City planners have tried to tackle the congestion in London to ensure the safety and efficiency of transportation for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians for years. However, one of the most fascinating feats of efficient transport carried no passengers and had no drivers.
Royal Mail Underground Railway
Royal Mail Underground Railway. Image by Flickr user Martin Deutsch
The London Post Office Railway carried mail from the Head District Sorting offices in Padington to the Eastern sorting office in Whitechapel. The railway operated from February 1927 until May 2003 and carried mail to nine different sorting facilities along its route, two of them being main sorting centers for the city. The six and a half mile (10.5 km) long route is 70 feet (21 meters) below the streets of London and could travel the entire length, making all stops, in about 26 minutes. It ran 19 hours a day, 286 days a year and once carried roughly 4 million letters per day, but as years passed and sorting facilities were relocated the railway began to see less and less usage. Several extensions were proposed to the line that would have added eleven new stops to the route. Although the extensions were started during the initial construction of the line, the lines were never fully built. They plans remained on the books for years, but the costs of building these new stops were never able to outweigh the potential benefits. This solution for transporting mail to sorting facilities is one of a kind and remained in use for over 75 years. Bypassing the congested streets of London allowed for mail to be transported without delay. However, a Royal Mail press release in April 2003 announced that the line would be closed. Royal Mail explained that using the railway was roughly five times more expensive than road transport, at 1.2 million British Pounds a day. New technologies have contributed to a large decline of usage for traditional mail. Since just about everyone is using email, the need to transport letters has fallen considerably. Additionally, competition between state mail delivery and private business has further pushed Royal Mail into a growing deficit. And so on the 30th of May 2003 the underground railway ceased all operations. However, three of the railway trains were removed and preserved at the British Postal Museum. This unique solution to the over congested streets of London was adopted to avoid unexpected and unacceptable delays, but due to excessive losses from decreased use of Royal Mail services, the railway became to expensive to maintain. Although the track had nine stops along its route, it was only delivering to three of them when it closed. Sorting facilities were relocated and would need new tunnels and tracks to be built in order to continue using the rail. Although the railway was removed from active service, the lines still exist and are reportedly in surprisingly good condition. Despite some degradation from age and disuse, the line is still intact. It is unlikely that the system will ever be adopted again in the near future, but if the congested streets of London ever prove too slow for mail delivery, maybe the railway will return to service. This article was a paid contribution by Matthew R, a Freelance Writer based in Philadelphia, USA. He can be found on the People Per Hour website.

Ten crops that feed the world

Agriculture has been feeding the world for 20,000 years, but in all that time there have only been a handful of crops that have feed the majority of the world’s population. Whether those crops are consumed directly or as feed for animals, the world’s population is reliant on these food parcels from nature. We farm and consume fast amounts of these roots, fruits, grains, and pulses.

corn maze crop being examined
Corn (Maize) – Image flickr user “CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture”

Maize or as it is more commonly known, Corn, is a crop that is is almost every food product you purchase in some form or other. Maize was originally cultivated in the prehistoric era by indigenous tribes of what we now refer to as Central America. Maize was brought to Europe in the late 1400’s.  From the Americas and Europe maize cultivation spread around the world as the robust plant can produce a solid crop in many climates. Yellow Maize, Sweet Corn is mainly grown for human consumption, whilst white maize is grown for feeding livestock. The USA is the worlds largest producer of maize followed by China, and then Brazil.  Maize has become a major biofuel crop, with the price of maize now tracking it’s fluctuations with the price of oil.

Maize is used in the production of thousands of non-food products including; Adhesives, Aluminium, Batteries, Cosmetics, Explosives, Ink, Insecticides, Insulation, Cardboard, Carpets, Wallpaper, and Toothpaste.

One bushel of maize refined into corn syrup can sweeten around 400 cans of coke. You can find corn derivatives, it’s sugars, and starches in potato crisps (potato chips for our North American readers), chewing gum, ice cream, peanut butter, vitamins, fruit juice (sweetened), yogurt, bread, salad dressings. Corn Starch, or corn flour is used as a thickening agent for sauces, stews and soups. Nutrient content of the maize crop per 100 grams is 3.2g protein, 1.18g fat, 19g carbohydrates, and 2.7g of fibre.

potatoes cupped in hands after harvesting
Potatoes – image by flickr user “Dr. Hemmert”

Potatoes come from South America originally and after first being domesticated around 2500 BC they were transported to Europe in 1536 by the Spanish.  They come in many verities, but those that are most adaptable to different types of cooking tend to be the main commodity crops we see in our supermarkets.  The humble potato is the worlds largest food crop following rice, wheat and maize. In 2008 there were 314 million tonnes produced worldwide; Now thats a lot of french fries! China is the words biggest producer of potatoes. Sometimes a society can become so reliant on the potato that an agricultural disaster can quickly become an ecological and sociological disaster resulting in mass famine and migration. The great potato famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852 killed 1 million.  As a result of the famine a million Irish emigrated to find food and work. Ironically the potato became more expensive than gold in the klondike for a short period in 1897 as a server food shortage push up prices. On a lighter note the Incas measured time by how long it took potatoes to cook. Nutrient content of the potato crop per 100 grams is 2g protein, 0.09g fat, 17g carbohydrates, and 2.2g of fibre.

sweet potatoes in a wooden basket
Sweet Potatoes – image by flickr user “khawkins04”

Sweet Potatoes are a relatively modern import to the UK, having being popular in North America for centuries. Sweet potatoes have been dated back to 8,000 BC in South America. The first Europeans to eat Sweet  Potatoes were members of the 1492 Columbus expedition. George Washington Carver, an American botanist named after the first US president, planted them on his farm in Virginia. Sweet Potatoes are roots, unlike Potatoes which are tubers (underground stems). A Taiwanese company has made fuel from sweet potatoes. Nutrient content of the Sweet Potato crop per 100 grams is 1.6g protein, 0.05g fat, 20g carbohydrates, and 3g of fibre.

an image showing yams from the Dioscorea Genus
Yams (Genus Dioscorea) on the right of the image – by flickr user “aroid”

Yams are a stable food in West Africa and the Caribbean.  In North America they are sometimes mistakenly called Sweet Potatoes.  Whilst Sweet Potatoes are similar they do not come from the same genus of plants. Originally cultivated in Asia in 8,000 BC, yams are now a staple diet in Africa and the Caribbean. There are over 150 verities of cultivated Yam. Yams have been used to make steroid drugs and contraceptives. Mexico had a thriving industry in producing Yams for drug production. Nutrient content of the Yam crop per 100 grams is 1.5g protein, 0.17g fat, 28g carbohydrates, and 4.1g of fibre.

cassava roots shown sliced intersection
Cassava roots – image by flickr user “CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture”

Cassava is a native of South America that is now more commonly associated with African cooking. Nigeria is the worlds largest producer of Cassava. The tuberous root forms the staple diet to 500 million people. It’s a great source of Carbohydrate and weathers extremely well in drought ridden soils. Tapioca, another name for this food stuff is obtained by drying the root.  This plant needs to be well prepared before consumption as it contains a natural form of cyanide. Nutrient content of the Cassava crop per 100 grams is 1.4g protein, 0.28g fat, 38g carbohydrates, and 1.8g of fibre.

soybeans growing in a field
Soybean crop growing – image flickr user ” amicor”

Soybeans are a species of legume that originate from Asia. The soybean is an amazing vegetable source of protein used in animal feeds and increasingly ready meals. In protein terms, soybeans are one of the highest yielding crops commercially grown. The beans are oftern processed into a textured blocks that are used in cooking to replace meat products. Tofu and soy milk are popular in the western world, and fermented soy beans have been the condiment of choice, in chinese take aways in the form of soy sauce.

Soybean oil is the most widely used vegetable oil. It is found in margarine’s, salad dressings, canned foods, sauces, bakery goods, and processed fried foods. Soy protein contains all 8 essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein. During the American Civil War, soybeans were used in place of coffee because real coffee was scarce. Oil produced from the plant is used in many non-food industrial applications. Soybean oil provides an environmentally friendly biofuel for diesel engines. There is a worldwide debate surrounding the production of biofuel as more land is taken away from food production at a time when the world is falling short of food. Soy ink is used to print newspapers and textbooks. Soybean is used in plastics, wood adhesives and textiles, candles, crayons, cleaning products and hair-care products.

The worlds largest producer and consumer of soybeans is not china, as you might expect, but the United States. They were first brought to the US from China by sailors on board a Yankee clipper, using the beans as a cheep source of ballast. Nutrient content of the soybean crop per 100 grams is 13g protein, 6.8g fat, 11g carbohydrates, and 4.2g of fibre.

sorghum being carried after harvest
Sorghum crop being carried after harvest – image by flickr user ” sidelife”

Sorghum originated in Egypt between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. Today sorghum is Africa’s second most important cereal crop. Sorghum (also known as Milo) is a coarse, upright growing grass. It is capable of being grown in a wide variety of soils and climates, making it a very useful crop in arid and drought conditions. Sorghum ranks fifth among the most important cereal crops of the world, after wheat, rice, maize, and barley in both total area planted and production.

Sorghum’s major use in the US is as livestock feed. In Africa it is mainly consumed by the human population. Benjamin Franklin is often associated with the introduction of sorghum to the United States. Since 1976 Wewoka in Oklahoma has been holding a sorghum festival every october that is attend by 40,000 people.  In years where sugar has been expensive, sorghum was often used as a sweetener. Sorghum syrup is a traditional breakfast accompaniment in southern Appalachia, a region of the United States that stretches from North Georgia to west Virginia.

With the increased diagnoses of Celiac disease (an auto immune disease in which the lining of the gut reacts to gluten, a component of wheat), sorghum is becoming an increasingly important food crop in Europe and North America. Sorghum can be made into bread, porridge, and beer. Sweet Sorghum is the pure juice extracted from sorghum cane. This juice is then evaporated to form syrup and other forms of sugars that can be found in a variety of products. Sorghum is a good source of iron, calcium and potassium. Nutrient content of the Sorghum crop per 100 grams is 11.3g protein, 3.3g fat, 75g carbohydrates, and 6.3g of fibre.

plantain growing
Plantain crop growing

Plantain a cousin of the banana is a major food crop in equatorial Africa and Andean regions. The plantain crop can be grown and harvested all year round which means it does not need to be stored. Plantains are harder and firmer than there sweeter tasting cousins and tend to be used as a savoury component in meals. Most often plantain are prepared as a cooked food stuff and are a very good source of fibber and potassium. As a food staple the plantain ranks tenth in the world. Often associated with Africa and the Caribbean, plantain actually originated from South East Asia. Uganda is now the worlds top producer of plantain. Plantains are used to produce Chapo Juice, an alcoholic drink in Peru. Interestingly unlike the other nine main crops that feed the world, the plantain can not produce seeds and has to be propagated by cuttings taken from the plant. Nutrient content of the plantain crop per 100 grams is 1.3g protein, 0.37g fat, 32g carbohydrates, and 2.3g of fibre.

Wheat Spikes
Wheat spikes – Image flickr user “Dag Endresen”

Wheat is the worlds most farmed crop by surface area. Wheat is perhaps associated with farming more than any other crop, it is quite literally our daily bread. The cultivation of wheat for crops was first thought to be in an area that is now modern day Iraq in the Tigris river valley. The word Cereal, comes from the name of a Roman goddess, Ceres, who it was believed protected the wheat crop. It was not until the late 1700’s that wheat was planted in the US. Today Wheat makes up three quarters of the US grain harvest. Wheat is the largest source of vegetable protein in the world. The ability for early farmers to mass produce wheat crops and it’s ease of storage made civilisations early cites possible. Before the wheat crop, more labour was needed for farming, leaving little time to build cites and requiring more of the population to work in agriculture. Nutrient content of the wheat crop per 100 grams is 13.7g protein, 2.47g fat, 71g carbohydrates, and 10.7g of fibre.

rice crop in paddy fields
Rice crop growing in paddy fields – image by flickr user “mac.rj”

Rice is the stable of any asian diet, and is grown on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. Rice feeds half of the worlds population and is the second most important world crop after maize. However as the use for maize diversifies, Rice has over taken maize as the worlds most important food crop in calorific terms. There are over 40,000 varieties of rice. Rice is a symbol of life and fertility, which is why rice is traditionally thrown at weddings. Rice cultivation can be dated back to 5000 BC. There is a debate about the original source of rice, some believe it is China, and some believe it is India. Rice is the staple food of Japan, where they tend to go for the smaller grain varieties. China is the worlds largest producer of rice.

Rice can be grown in any normal field, however as rice can germinate and grow out from under water, Paddy fields are used to reduce the labour required to remove weeds from the crop.  Weeds can not grow in the flooded fields.  The paddy fields also illuminate the vermin, that would otherwise feed on the young rice shoots.

Unlike wheat, rice does not contain gluten, and is therefore suitable for gluten free diets. Nutrient content of the rice crop per 100 grams is 7.1g protein, 0.66g fat, 80g carbohydrates, and 1.3g of fibre.

So without these ten crops that feed the world we would be in real trouble today. With the need to feed the worlds population, pre-agricultal methods of subsistence, namely “hunting and gathering” would simply not support the 8 billion people that need breakfast, lunch and dinner eveyday.

Snakes are mother natures colour pallet

Green Tree Python
Green Tree Python – Image by flickr user LongitudeLatitude

Snakes are some of nature’s most colourful creatures. Feared by many, including myself, they are also beautiful adaptations of the world’s natural colour scheme. Their colours come from millions of years of evolution and adaption to their environment. There are two primary reasons for a snake’s colour. Some use colour for camouflage, and some use colour to warn others that they are present

Green Snakes

Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) – The young snakes are vivid yellow. As they mature into adulthood they gain their vivid green colouring. In the wild they can be found in the rain forests of New Guinea and the northern tip of Australia. Green tree pythons spend almost all of their lives in the branches and only slide down the trunks to move between trees.

Other green snakes of note are the Natal green snake, smooth green snake, Cyclophiops major greater green snake, Green vine snake, emerald tree boa, and the rough green snake.


Red Snakes

corn snakes
Corn Snakes – image by flickr user Department of Sustainability & Environment


Corn Snakes, a species of rat snake, inhabit North America. They feed on rates and mice, killing their pray by constriction. They live for six to eight years in the wild, but in captivity they can live three times longer than that. They are often kept as pets due to their docile and non-venomous nature. The name corn snake comes from southern farms in the United States where they were found eating rodents that had in turn been eating corn and wheat crops stored in barns.

Other red snakes of note are the Milk Snake and King Snake.


Blue Snakes

Blue Racer snake
Blue Racer snake – image by flickr user j / f / photos’


The blue racer snake is a native of a small region of North America (Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois) and is know for it’s aggressive behaviour. This behaviour can show it’s self as rattling. The sound is often confused with that of the rattle snake.

Other blue snakes of note are the Texas indigo snake, blue green tree snake, Turtle-headed Sea Snake, Blue Coral Snake, Blue-lipped Sea Krait (Laticauda laticaudata), Blue Axanthic plains garter snake, and the Iridescent Shieldtail.


Yellow snakes

yellow python snake
Yellow Python snake – Image by flickr user torkildr


Yellow pythons are actually Burmese pythons in their albino forms. Burmese pythons were originally a species from Southern and Southeast Asia. In recent years they have become an ecological threat to the indigenous wildlife of the Florida everglades after pet snakes have escaped.

Other yellow snakes of note are the yellow rat snake, polls yellow snake, mcgregor’s pit viper, yellow bellied sea snake, and the Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii).


White Snakes

albino california king snake
albino california king snake – Image flickr user TheChanel


It seems odd that there should be white snakes. White is not generally thought to be threatening, and seemingly does not help with camouflage. There are however white snakes, Albeinos. These snakes are not normally white, but a have genetic mutation that causes their lack of colour.

Team GB’s 43 Gold Medalists

Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Team GB) won 29 Gold medals at this summer’s London 2012 Olympics. It took the dedication, sacrifice and hard work of 43 individual athletes to achieve.  
Team GB - The 42 olympic gold medalists
Team GB – The 43 olympic gold medalists
  Athletics gold medals Greg Rutherford – Long Jump Jessica Ennis – heptathlon Alister Brownlee – Triathlon Mo Farah – 5000m & 10,000m Tennis gold medal Andy Murray – Singles – (Also a silver medal in mixed doubles) Equestrian gold medals Charlotte Dujardin – Individual & Team Laura Bechtolsheimer – team dressage (also a bronze medal in individual dressage) Scott Brash – team jumping Peter Charles – team jumping Carl Hester – team dressage Ben Maher – Jumping Nick Skelton – Team Jumping Cycling gold medals Laura Trott – Omnium & Team Pursuit Victoria Pendleton – Keirin (also a silver medal in the sprint) Ed Clancy – team pursuit (also bronze medal in the omnium) Bradley Wiggins – Time Trial Peter Kennaugh – Team Pursuit Philip Hinds – Team Sprit Joanna Rowsell – Team Pursuit Geraint Thomas – Team Pursuit Steven Burke – team pursuit Dani King – team pursuit Chris Hoy – Keirin & Team Sprint Jason Kenny – Sprint & Team Sprint Shooting gold medal Peter Wilson – Double Trap boxing gold medals Nicola Adams – Flyweight Luke Campbell – Bantamweight Anthony Joshua – Super Heavyweight Taekwondo gold medals Jade Jones – Taekwondo gold medal – 57kg Canoe gold medals Tim Baillie – Slalom Double C2 Etienne Stott – Slalom Double C2 Ed McKeever – Sprint Kayak Single K1 200m Rowing gold medals Helen Glover – pair Katherine Grainger – Double Sculls Alex Gregory – Men’s Four Andrew Triggs Hodge – Men’s Four Katherine Copeland – Lightweight Double Sculls Tom James – Men’s Four Peter Reed – Men’s Four Sophie Hosking – Lightweight Double Sculls Heather Stanning – Pair Anna Watkins – Double Sculls Sailing gold medal Ben Ainslie – Sailing – Finn      

Pedestrians should be an endangered species


I really used to like driving, but these days it reminds me of Darwin’s theory of evolution. In this case it’s complete failure to root out the dimwits that cross the road in front of me when driving.

pedestrians danger sign
Pedestrians – An endangered species?


Driving home on an average evening I am spending a small fortune on brake disks as they gather by the side of the road and wait until I am all but a few metres away, going at 30 mph, and then they strike. Now I’m all for freedom, but in the UK there are no jaywalking laws, which means any idiot can cross the road at any point, and at any time. But why, when I am traveling at 30 mph do you start crossing the road just metres in front of me, WHY!

Perhaps this inability comes with the UK’s declining ability to do maths.  Did these mindless souls miss the day the teacher did the whole “A car a is traveling at 30 mph… How long until it hits you?” thing. Or am I being unkind.  How can anyone do maths and text, surf, and chat at the same time.  Perhaps, and it’s just a suggestion, you mindless idiots, you could wait until you have crossed the big noisy thing with the loud whizzy things that kill.

The “I have enough time to walk across the road, but after stepping out I’m going to walk progressively slower so that it takes me about 5 minutes to get across the road” crowd really grinds my gears. Especially the ones that then look surprised and get angry that, no, you did not adjust your speed because they were a complete idiot.

My real frustration though is reserved for the sub-species, Pedestreeus Nolookus.  These arrogant/ignorant creatures think that divine intervention is working overtime. They walk across a busy road right in front of oncoming motor vehicles without looking, and crossing diagonally with the flow of traffic. God help you if you honk your horn to warn them, because if they don’t have the “freeze rabbit in the headlight” gene, then they have the “Daily Mail, I’m always right” gene. Either way, your sound warning that their life is in danger will not make a jot of difference!

At the rate we are going, we will either be driving at 5 mph forever, in which case there will be no point in going anywhere.  Or we will be mowing down so many pedestrians, we will have killed off the economy and not be able to afford to drive. I’m going to do the human race a service and petition the United Nations to put pedestrians on the endangered species list, because they need protection from themselves.


References and Links

A must read for our endangered species, the pedestrian – Teaching your adult to cross the road safelyAbout the Author:
Google+ page for Ben Spencer


Mission to Mars rover

As the latest man made addition to Mars prepares to set down, we take a look at the Mars rovers that have traveled to the red planet on their missions to explore it’s surface and potential for life.

mars rover
A Mars rover on the surface of mars – image JPL NASA


Mars rovers – A quick history

The Mars rover program has been a series of missions, sometimes successful, and something not. Of the six missions, today three have been successful.  Given the cost of getting a Mars rover to it’s workplace, failure comes at an enormous price.  In the case of the UK led mission, Beagle 2, the cost was £45 Million.  This cost would have been far higher had it not been for Beagle 2 hitching a ride on the ESA’s (European Space Agency) Mars Express mission.  The ESA’s cost for that mission to Mars was around 300 Million Euro.

There have been six Mars rover missions to date:

  • mission 1 (1971) Mars 2 – (USSR) – Rover name: Prop-M.
  • mission 2 (1971) Mars 3 – (USSR) – Rover name: Prop-M.
  • mission 3 (1997) Mars Pathfinder – (USA/NASA) – Rover name: Sojourner.
  • mission 4 (2003) Mars Express – (UK/ESA) – Rover name: Beagle 2.
  • mission 5 (2004) Mars Exploration Rover – (USA/NASA) – Rover name: Spirit MER-A
  • mission 6 (2004) Mars Exploration Rover – (USA/NASA) – Rover name: Opportunity MER-B.

The Successfully deployed Mars rovers from the last six missions were: Sojourner, Spirit MER-A, and Opportunity MER-B. So that’s USA 3, UK 0, and Russia 0.


The current Mars rover mission – A rover called Curiosity.

The current mission is about to attempt the most precarious stage of it’s long journey, since launching from Earth in early 2011. The Mars Science Laboratory, a bit of a mouthful, is scheduled to land on August 6, 2012.  Only then will we know if the rover, Curiosity, has arrived safely. The NASA/JPL project has cost $2.5 billion to date and is the most ambitious martian science experiment to date.


The next mission to Mars

  • Mission 8 – ExoMars, by the ESA. Scheduled to launch in 2018.



July 17th 2012: With less than a month to go before the landing it’s all looking good for the Mars Science Laboratory mission and it’s payload, the Mars rover Curiosity.

August 6th 2012: Curiosity has landed safely on the surface of Mars.


References and Links

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website page for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission


About the Author

James Copernicus is Interesting Everything’s mad scientist and super geek. He lives in Manchester, England with his two dogs, named Arthur and Clarke.



Photographers Rights vs Security

When does a photographer’s liberty to take images of the world he sees around him need to be compromised in the name of security? With the Olympic Games in London this year a number of photographers and newspapers have been discussing this issue.


Security vs a photographers liberty
Security vs a Photographers Liberty – image by Ben Spencer


Photographers’ rights in the UK

First let’s take a look at the photographer’s rights in the UK. Amateur Photographer magazine’s handy wallet size printout reflects advice given to police offers by the metropolitan police dealing with photographers’ rights as follows:

  1. There is no restriction on people taking photographs in public places or of any building other than in very exceptional circumstances.
  2. There is no prohibition on photographing frontline uniform staff.
  3. The act of taking a photograph in itself is not usually sufficient to carry out a stop.
  4. Unless there is a very good reason, people taking photographs should not be stopped.
  5. Officers do not have the power to delete digital images, destroy film or to prevent photography in a public place under either power (sections 43 and 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000).

Personally I like this simple set of guidelines, but it does not address the issue of taking photographs on private land, and does not mention taking photographs of individuals, with, or without their knowledge and consent.

For a more in-depth look at photographers’ rights, you would do well to pick up a copy of “Know your rights” published as a fold out A3 guide that came free with Digital Camera magazine’s spring 2012 Issue. This guide has sections covering shooting from public vs private land, the issues surrounding the police vs security guards, the implications for personal and commercial photography, photographing people in public, copyrighting and trademarking your work, and capturing animals and plants.

In my view, the above referenced guidelines mean that if you are shooting on public land, even if the subject matter is a private building, you cannot be stopped for doing so by security guards, or police officers unless you are causing an obstruction.

The National Interest

Now let’s think about the need to protect the national interest and the population. What are the threats and how could a photographer risk the nation’s safety?

  1. Clearly a 7/7 or 9/11 style terrorist attack on an Olympic venue could be a distinct possibility at this summer’s London Olympics.
  2. Individuals and / or the public at large could be targeted in the run-up to the Olympics.

Any major terrorist attack would likely need to be planned in advance, and clearly reconnaissance photographs by members of a terrorist cell could be used in the planning of such attacks. So there is a chance that a photographer taking a shot of an Olympic venue or staff involved in the Olympics, whether from private land or public land, could be on a reconnaissance mission as part of planning for such attack.

Clearly it would be desirable that if such a reconnaissance mission were taking place, then the national security services, police services, and private security services had the ability and tools to identify and stop such an event. Stopping a terrorist from researching his attack is clearly in the national interest. How do you identify and separate the bad guys from the photographer following his or her hobby or profession?

Having a law restricting all photography of Olympic venues would most probably be ineffective, given the amount of visitors expected before and during the games. So what then is the correct balance? What rights should our security services, both private and public, have to help them perform their duties and protect the Olympics and the nation?

Finding the Balance

So is it right then that a balance between a photographer’s liberty and the need for security be found, even if just while high profile events such as the Olympics are taking place?

One argument often made is that, if a photographer going about his or her business is completely innocent of any terrorist activity, then why should they mind being asked a couple of questions by security staff and or police? Surely national pride would bring us all together to protect the nation by allowing Olympic venues and their visitors to be protected though a temporary right to screen individuals in the process of capturing images. It’s the old “if you have nothing to hide, what’s the issue” argument.

The counter argument has always been that any such infringement into the liberty of a photographer will be the beginning of a slippery slope with Orwellian 1984 overtones. I wonder what Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights organisation Liberty and regular panellist on the BBC’s question time show, would think.

If we did start giving law enforcement and security services the right to stop photographers taking pictures of Olympic venues from public spaces, who should have that right? Just the police, or should private security services protecting a venue also have that right?

One thought to inject here – The games are a national affair, they are largely paid for by the public purse, and they are produced by LOCOG on behalf of the government. The Olympics by their very nature are a public event. So, if we are taking photos of a public event from a public piece of land, perhaps this without question means that private security firms should not be allowed to hinder or inspect the photographer. The Guardian recently published an article looking at just this issue. The link can be found in the links section below.


Where do I stand as a photographer and ex security guard; a perspective right in the middle of the picture?

I will get straight to the point here. If I am on private land and I am taking photos of security operations, I have no issue with security staff or police asking me to stop. They are clearly acting in a manner to protect the venue. The crossing of the boundary onto public land only changes who should be able to stop me. At this point, I would feel it completely inappropriate for private security firms and individuals to have powers to stop me or even question me. However, I have no issue with their right to be vigilant and escalate a situation to the police. If the police were to get involved, I would also have no issue with needing to explain my reason for being somewhere, or why I was taking photos.

Now I’m sure a number of readers will be up in arms at this point; “How dare a photographer be willing give their rights away!” In reply, I believe there are times in life where we should think about the many and not the individual. There is a clear need to protect sensitive venues from a potential terrorist attack, so I have no issue with giving a bit of my personal liberty up to protect the public. However, ask to take my camera, or try and delete my images without my express permission, no matter what the situation, then I will not budge without a court order.

References and Links

The Guardian’s piece mentioned in this article can be found on their website here: Guardian article.

The Guardian article is referenced by Amateur Photographer Magazine in their narrative on these issues, which can be found here: Amateur Photographer article.

Amateur Photographer Magazine’s handy print out guide to photographers’ rights can be found here: Amateur Photographer Printout.

The image behind the story

The image used in this article was created by Ben Spencer, our resident photographer. In his article “Constructing an image using Photoshop and Lightroom”, he describes how he created the image, from the day of shooting to the post shoot editing. You can find the article on his photography blog here: Ben Spencer Photography.

About the Author

Matthew Richmond is a keen blogger, photographer, and ex security guard living in Essex.



Caldera and volcano lakes of the world

Caldera, or caldaria to give them their Latin name, are cooking pot shaped depressions in the earth formed after the cooling magma chamber of a volcano forms a void and the rock above collapses.


spring in the yellowstone national park caldera
Spring in the yellowstone national park caldera


These collapses can be sudden or take thousands of years. When a caldera is formed by the implosion, dropping of rock, there can be significant atmospheric disruption that can have global consequences. The caldera formed after Krakatoa caused the world’s temperature to drop significantly.


crater lake caldera
Crater Lake caldera with Wizard Island shown


Crater Lake caldera, USA

Perhaps one of the most iconic and most photographed caldera of all time is Crater lake in the US state of Oregon. Its geology and inspiring natural beauty led the area to become a national park in 1902. The caldera is a remnant of mount Mazama, an ancient strato-volcano and formed some 7 to 8 thousand years ago. The lake is the deepest in the United States at a depth of 594m. Set within the caldera lake is Wizard Island, this volcanic cinder cone rises up out of the caldera’s lake water to its peak, where its crater effectively creates a caldera, in a volcano, in a lake, in a caldera, in a volcano; an example of a stacked caldera.

Caldera – The What and How?

Caldera are formed from two district types of volcano, The strato-volcano and the shield-volcano. A strato-volcano, or composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers. An example is mount Fuji in Japan. Strato-volcanoes have steep sides as they are built from lava that cools quickly and does not travel very far, hence each eruption builds layer upon layer. Shield volcanoes are characterised by a flatter and much more spread out footprint, which is due to their formation from fast flowing lava that tends to form large fields.

santorini caldera
Santorini caldera Greece


Santorini caldera, Greece

Sometimes these geological features are visible above ground, and sometimes they are concealed by water. The Greek island of Santorini’s caldera is at first glance not visible, it is only when you realise the islands of Santorini form an almost perfect circle that the caldera becomes obvious. The Santorini caldera has been submerged in the Aegean sea, leaving only the sides of the strato-volcano that it formed from jutting out of the sea to form the Greek island that bares it name. It is thought that the giant explosion that created the Santorini caldera was responsible for the end of the Minoan civilisation with the resulting tsunami and the collapse of land leading to the birth of the legend of Atlantis.


Types of caldera

There are three well documented types of Caldera. The crater type, basaltic calderas, and the resurgent calderas. In essence what these types represent is where and how many collapses have caused a caldera to form. A resurgent caldera is the result of more than one collapse. Basaltic calderas are the result of shield volcanoes collapsing. These types of collapse tend to happen slowly, while crater or lake types tent to be the result of strato-volcanoes’ magma chamber voids collapsing, often at explosive rates.


yellowstone lake caldera
yellowstone lake caldera – image stock.xchng user RinskeBlok


Yellowstone caldera, USA

Yellowstone National Park in the western United States is essentially one massive caldera. The Yellowstone caldera is the result of resurgent activity over thousands of years. What makes Yellowstone unique is that the magma chamber that has formed under the surface here is relatively stable, while the earth above it is moving glacially across the magma chamber’s surface.


Taal Lake caldera
Taal Lake caldera


Taal lake caldera, Philippines

The Taal lake caldera in the Philippines has a chequered past, with much death and much life. A strato-volcano some 60km south of Manila, it features a lake caldera lake some 22km in length. There have been thirty or so eruptions and caldera collapses since the mid 1500s that have been responsible for thousands of lives being lost. Some of the people killed were thought to have perished from tsunamis forming in the lake from the force of the eruptions. It is one of the few places on earth that has experienced inland tsunamis or ‘lake tsunami.’ Today the lake supports many fishing villages, with fishing and tourism the main source of income. In summer 2011 a mass die off of fish was caused by a sudden change in the lake’s water temperature. It is unclear if this was down to a geological volcanic event.


caldera de bandama gran canaria
Caldera de Bandama Gran Canaria – image flickr user El coleccionista de instantes


Caldera de Bandama, Spain

The Caldera de Bandama on the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, located off the west African coast, is one of the worlds most accessible calderas. The tip of the volcano that the magma chamber which collapsed forming the caldera forms an excellent vantage point to over look the deep depression. There is also a well-trodden path winding its way down to the centre of the caldera that takes about 90 minutes to walk. It’s easy to imagine yourself descending into a prehistoric world.


Laacher See caldera, Germany

The Laacher See is a caldera in the Rhine Valley of Germany some 30km south of Bonn. It has a caldera some 8km wide and its lake has been studied since ancient times. The caldera is part of the Eifel field of volcanoes arising from a mantel plume under the European continent. The ash from the eruption some 13,000 years ago that formed the caldera can be found throughout central Europe and the North sea. The caldera and volcano beneath it could still be active, as CO2 seeps out of the rock and bubbles up in the lake; this is likely to be caused by magma degassing under the lake. In ancient times, according to folklore, medieval monks sleeping nearby were overcome by a CO2 cloud steaming from the lake, and died. Interesting Everything has not found a photo that we can use as yet for this caldera.  If you know of one please comment below.



Ardnamurchan caldera background
Ardnamurchan caldera rising in the background – image flickr user Grégory Tonon


Ardnamurchan caldera, UK

Ardnamurchan caldera in Scotland is the UK’s biggest Caldera. The western end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Scotland contains a complex of volcanic structures that collectively form a giant Caldera. The caldera is best viewed from the air, as the relatively shallow depth of its bowl compared with its great size make it difficult to see from the ground.  The photo we have used is actually of the beach that sites at the foot of this caldera.  You can see the walls of the colapsed volcanic activity in the background of this photo. If you have some time, take a look at Google maps and select the terrain view. You can easily see the ring of concentric peaks surrounding the caldera bowl. The area today is populated by smallholdings and grazing animals. The end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point in the UK, and further west than some parts of Ireland!


pinatubo crater lake caldera
pinatubo crater lake caldera – image flickr user Wongaboo


Mount Pinatubo caldera, Philippines

Pinatubo caldera is an example of nature in action. It is one of the worlds newest and most reported caldera lakes. Formed after water filled the caldera created by the relatively recent eruption in 1991.
Due to concern over flash-floods which could be caused by the crater walls collapsing, work was carried out to drain some of the water from the lake, a world first! After the works were completed it was found that the rock was of a harder type than thought, and the caldera was allowed to re-fill.