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Volume 338

This week’s coolsh*t is taking you to the future, whether you like it or not. We’re bringing you stratospheric hot-air ballooning, interdimensional deity digits, and a psychedelic trip down the Mersey.

Hand of God.

Usually I wouldn’t dare be so bold as to mention the infamous Mano de Dios during an international tournament. But, after the other day, I think we can all agree it’s so plainly obvious that England are going to win the whole thing, so why not? Plus Argentina have never even won the Euros anyway. Mugs. But NASA revealed a slightly different hand of God this week, courtesy of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which captured this image of a distant nebula about 17,000 light-years away. And, as you can see, it vaguely resembles a giant blue hand reaching up into a fiery hole. The finger-like trails are a result of energy and particles being blown by a pulsar at 13 million miles-per-hour and slowing down at various speeds when hitting the dense neighbouring RCW 89 gas cloud. So it probably isn’t the hand of the Creator, but it has been declared one of the first forms of cosmic art. Although if it is God’s hand, that presumably means the rest of him is walking around somewhere missing a hand, possibly with a hook.

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Man's Best Friend.

Three things that I feel utterly unqualified to comment on: robotics, dancing, and K-Pop. So this ought to be fun. But let’s have a go anyway. Spot’s made an appearance on coolsh*t before, but if you’re not up to date: Spot is the name given to Boston Dynamics’ pack of robot dogs. The dogs represent a truly remarkable achievement in robotic engineering, so, naturally, they’ve been made to have a little dance around to some Korean blokes singing. And, in fairness, they sure can move. So much so that many people refuse to even believe the video is real. But it certainly is, and it’s actually to celebrate Hyundai’s recent $1.1billion acquisition of Boston Dynamics and all of its many robots. So I guess that makes slightly more sense of it all, but not much. Whatever way you dress it up, 7 robot dogs shaking their cold, metal hips and ‘lip-syncing’ to BTS is going to be difficult to accept as now just being a normal part of life. Yet here we are.

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Beer Bot.

More robots? Ergh, go on then. But this is partly to make the point that perhaps we might not be maximising the new tools at our disposal. I’m no engineer, but I’d imagine with the great technological quantum leaps forward currently being made on an almost daily basis, we’d be able to come up with some better stuff than dancing dogs and portable beer coolers. Saying that, I am impressed by both, so maybe therein lies the issue. This summer, Heineken are helping us become even more lazy with their invention of the Beer Outdoor Transporter (B.O.T.), which is an autonomous robot that uses motion sensor technology to follow its owner around and keep them constantly plied with cold beer. And they’re giving one away to one lucky winner. Because why get up to go to the fridge when you can just get the fridge to come to you? Is this progress, or a damning indictment of modern society? As it turns out, the more progress we make, we discover that our true desire is to be sat in a reclined position with a fleet of robots funnelling a constant stream of booze and Chinese takeaway into our mouths.

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Beach Beasts.

Things have been a little tech-heavy so far, so let’s go back to basics. And when I say basic, I of course mean giant, plastic, mythical beasts tearing down the beach. So maybe not very basic at all, actually. Currently being exhibited at The Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (CAMK), these are Dutch artist Chris Jansen’s ‘Strandbeests’. They are experimental kinetic sculptures that use the power of wind to create movement that appears smooth and organic to make them seem like living things – or like some sort of terrifying intergalactic insect. But they’re not just art, because Jansen reckons he’s created a ‘new species’ which will be able to survive on the sandy beaches long after his death. Hmm, I don’t know how to feel about that. Camber Sands is already heaving in the summer, I’m not sure we need a 10-metre long kinetic Strandbeest trampling everyone’s sandcastles.

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Mersey Paradise.

Visitors to the Mersey Ferry got an unexpected treat this last week, as the the Abandon Normal Devices festival brought psychedelic visions through an AR art installation. Masterminded by Anita Fontaine, viewers were encouraged to “leave their perceptions of reality ashore and inhabit a fantasy world exploring an evolution brought about by climate change and the rising sea levels and tropical temperatures it creates.” None of those things sound particularly promising, but we’re reliably informed it was “boss”. The work was available to be viewed from 8 custom-built, tablet-based viewfinders on the decks of the ferry that revealed some unlikely dwellers of the deep. And normally the only things you can see in the Mersey are a couple shopping trollies and some abandoned Everton shirts, so this must have been a particularly nice change of pace.

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‘Up’ used to have such innocent connotations when it only referred to an uplifting Pixar film, but Cardi B has slightly distorted that now. Those poor kids searching the film on YouTube will never be the same. Anyway, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – you can now reserve a spot on Space Perspective’s maiden voyage to the edge of space. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Space Perspective are a Florida-based space tourism company offering balloon flights to the stratosphere. Passengers will be lifted up 100,000 feet, have some canapes and a couple mojitos, before gracefully touching back down in the ocean 6 hours later. Granted, it’s pretty ludicrous, but they did post this video from the test flight last week, and you can’t deny you get a decent view. Tickets are currently going for about $125,000, which sounds a little steep, but considering someone paid $28million to go on Jeff Bezos’ new space shuttle with him and his brother, this actually looks like decent value by comparison.

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