Superhuman Babies

French artist Alexandre Nicolas has produced some quite beautiful sculptures of superheroes in a foetal state. The work comprises his 2008 series: PRÉDESTINÉS, working in his preferred media acrylic and resin.

I think these pieces inherit a special fragility because we’d usually see these characters (Hulk; Silver Surfer; Batman etc) as fully-grown and badass, whereas here they are quite the opposite. Take a look:

Catwoman
Catwoman
Silver Surfer
Silver Surfer
Superman
Superman
Spiderman
Spiderman
The Hulk
The Hulk
Batman
Batman

Visit PRÉDESTINÉS for more images from this series.

Underwater Mushroom

Thought this was a cool discovery. It’s the first report of a mushroom species fruiting underwater, according to Wired.com’s 10 New Species Discovered in 2010.

There are a few others featured too, but I just love the idea that these things have gone unnoticed in the scientific record for so long. The cheeky buggers!

Make Something Cool Every Day

Members of the Flickr group Make Something Cool Every Day are making cool things every day, in a social experiment that looks like a lot of fun.

The group’s rules are simple:

ONE upload per day.
Each piece must not have taken longer than a day to make.

So with these in mind, here is a slideshow of their submissions, best viewed fullscreen (but it can take a while to load):

So far the group has attracted 2,972 members, who’ve contributed 33,950 unique creations. That’s 11.4 submissions in total, so it’s evident people aren’t being religious about uploading every day, but what the hell.

What I find really interesting about the group is that there is very little conversation – a lowly 97 comments in total – in the main group discussion forum. All of the chatter is around individual works of art (especially the best stuff) . This tells me that viewers and contributors are far more interested in the content than in the delivery framework. Rightly so, I think.

The lesson to learn here is that despite Flickr enjoying a highly creative user base, it is very hard to engage those users with a campaign idea (and I’m not just talking advertising). Flickr just wasn’t designed for community engagement, as I’ve learned on past advertising campaigns that have used it as a platform.

But that’s OK, because people upload great art to the site every day, and the quality of comments that they do attract far outweigh Facebook’s throwaway commentary and (largely) poor photography, any day of the week.

The Future of Travel

You would think that working for a well known Travel magazine certainly increased my chances of being able to write about the ‘Future of Travel’ for Digital Cortex but not until I had actually sat down, pen in hand, or more aptly, fingers poised, did I realise how difficult it is to identify the future trends of such a broad, generic, well-loved topic as Travel.

Everybody has their own opinions on Travel, from the 2.4 children working class family on a Malta Bargain break to the AB’s of this world who can afford such luxuries as Carrier and Seasons bespoke holiday packages. Not to mention the difference between the ‘gap yah’ boom to the off-the-beaten track anti gapper’s, who consider themselves the “real travellers”, and all those in between. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t think about their next holiday or escape from the real world, and so it is with great trepidation that I dip my toe into the murky waters of travel trends.

Despite this apprehension however, it is fair to say that the recent economic downturn has affected people’s overall attitudes on Travel, and it is this fragility of the economy that has created certain market changes that I believe will stick for many years to come after it has recovered.

Firstly, it has become evident that people are far less content to have a ‘fly and flop’ holiday. More and more people are looking for authenticity in their travels, and, most importantly, experiences that are unique to them. This may seem like an idealistic ambition from the backpackers’ world but it has now quite clearly extended all the way through to the luxury sector – with tour operators such as Abercrombie and Kent offering luxury photographic expeditions or bespoke, private safaris. It is this ‘Travel as a Narrative’ that people are beginning to demand – not only are they looking for authenticity, but because of this ‘fear factor’ induced by the recession they are investigating exactly what their money will purchase and whether this constitutes added value. Or, more importantly, a unique emotional experience.

With the help from The Future Laboratory, the trend forecasting company who have identified and coined the aforementioned ‘Travel as Narrative’ phrase, I have also explored a few other market trends that are likely to grace our travel horizons in the not too distant future…

Menaissance

The new and improved male traveller, the Renaissance of Man or ‘Menaissance’ are the men who are now seeking cultural or gastronomic pleasures on their travels, rather than simply getting hammered on cheap booze. It is this strong desire to be seen as connoisseurs in sectors such as gourmet food, fine dining and wine that is the driving force behind this new breed of travelling male. They want to return from their travels as well informed, interesting human beings with a new level of cultural understanding and intelligent conversation. As The Future Laboratory reported – ‘If the ‘New Lad’ was about hedonism, and the Metrosexual about appearance, then ‘intelli–gents’ are all about celebrating the cerebral’.

Slowtopia

This may be a piece on the future of travel, however, it turns out that one of the future travel trends is harking back to the past- back to the fabled, golden age of travel when it could often take days and days to reach a destination by train or ship. As consumers’ lives speed up and become more superficial, they are seeking a deeper more cultural experience – they want travel to be sophisticated, glamorous and cool again. As opposed to the utter stress and hassle most people associate with flights etc of the journey, they want to enjoy the simple pleasure of actually travelling, whether this be in a car through Europe, or the slightly more adventurous trans-Siberian railway.

Conscience Travel & Voluntourism

The rise of the Eco-Traveller, although seemingly evident with the choice to off-set carbon emissions on flights, is still a far from being a reality. Although being green and eco in other aspects of life is already being practiced, only 1% of 1,263 respondents to the The Future Laboratory survey said that they had taken an Eco holiday. But there is still hope, as 44% of the respondents said they were thinking about taking an Eco holiday/travelling. Some companies are already promoting these however, for example The Ritz Carlton’s Give Back Getaways programme where guests can spend half a day contributing to environmental projects. It is getting involved in the local communities in this way that makes people feel like they are ‘giving back’ whilst also enriching their holiday experience and essentially having a story to tell.

Astro-Travel

It would be foolish to talk about the future of travel and not touch upon the new realms of aviation that have been very recently bestowed upon us – slipping Earth’s gravitational bonds into space. Not cheap and incredibly exclusive, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo unveiled last year takes six lucky paying passengers up and away into the unknown, whilst the Astruim Spaceplane created by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company will take four people to a height of 60 miles above the planet to experience four minutes of weightless joy one can only dream of.

Summary

Despite briefly looking at Astro-Travel, overall it looks like unless we can create SOS–Travel (Sub-Orbital Slingshot planes that will cut the travel time to anywhere in the world to a maximum of two hours) the future of travel will be slow, cultural and green, with the emphasis on gaining a unique story to tell around the dinner-party table when you arrive home.

A message from Tom: Thank you FutureHarriet for this great contribution to my series ‘The Future Of…‘ Readers, let us know in the comments your thoughts on this piece, the trends you may have identified, or the most exciting holiday destinations you think we’ll be passing through in the near to distant future.

Are You Ready For Your Close Up, Miss Colada?

BevShots have discovered what you’d call a niche: they take your favourite alcoholic drink, crystallise a single droplet of it in an airtight container, photograph it at 1000x under a microscope, and then sell the resulting image on a printed canvas.

And man, are these things selling! Since August last year BevShots estimate sales of over 20,000 prints ($24.99-$549). The product is aimed at the ‘hedonist with a mind for science’ segment: those who appreciate good photography, laboratory conditions and a damn-tasty cocktail now and then.

Here’s my favourite image, the classic Vodka and Tonic:

The shots are taken in Florida State University’s chemistry department, where founder Lester Hutt developed the approach, which can take up to three months to produce an image.

Lester says:

“What you can see in the magnified pictures are the crystalised carbohydrates that have become sugars and glucose. With my background in chemistry, I saw the potential in these kind of pictures and am so glad to be able to offer them up as art works. It is a pleasure to show people what makes up their favourite drinks and how beautiful it can look.”

Most alcohols are blends, with varying levels of carbohydrates, sugars, acids and glucose, so each shot taken is entirely different from the last. Some favourite drinks are so pure that when they crystallise  into their component parts, they fall apart or don’t dry out properly. So, not unlike the perfect Margarita, they’re pretty hard to get ‘just right’, sometimes taking up to 200 attempts.

Here’s some more of their work – click through for the full images or visit BevShots.

I’m thirsty! Who’s for a drink?