Unbelievable Real Life

50 Years Ago This Island Didn’t Exist

By Worldtraveller at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

By Worldtraveller at en.wikipedia (Creative Commons License)

By Marcy Kennedy (@marcykennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature.

One of the great myths is Atlantis–the advanced civilization whose island sank into the ocean.

Although Atlantis is a myth, an island actually exists in our world that appeared and is now disappearing.

Surtsey formed between 1963 and 1967 from volcanic eruptions off the coast of Iceland. Originally, it grew to around a mile square, and plant and animal life moved in. In the years since its formation, however, Surtsey has shrunk by half.

I think that’s fascinating just as a fact, but for those of us who are writers, Surtsey can be great idea-fodder.

What if a new island formed near an overpopulated region? What kind of conflict might arise over that land?

What if our character’s society won that battle, but now it’s 100 years later and their island is shrinking? And what if no one will believe her about the danger?

What if our character is a modern-day myth-hunter trying to prove that Atlantis really did exist and an island like Surtsey provides him with the final clue of where to find the true Atlantis?

If you ever feel low on ideas, search the world around us. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

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Would You Be a Mermaid If You Could?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature. Today I’m taking a look at one of the most unusual “schools” I’ve ever heard of–mermaid school.

Apparently, mermaid schools are cropping up all over–in the Philippines, in Germany, and even in Canada. While it’s never been a dream of mine to be a mermaid (though swimming underwater with sea creatures is extremely appealing), I’d love to try this for the workout.

Does being a mermaid appeal to you? If you had the opportunity, would you try out mermaid school–if for no other reason than that it’s supposedly a good workout?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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Unbelievable Real Life: Skeleton Flowers

Skeleton FlowersBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature where I show you places, animals, and other oddities from our world that look like they stepped right out of the pages of a fantasy novel.

Today I wanted to show you the Diphylleia grayi–a plant commonly known as the Skeleton Flower. The name conjures up creepy images of a flower made of bone, but it’s actually more beautiful than creepy.

Most of the time, the Diphylleia grayi looks like a plain white flower. Not very interesting. But, when it rains, their white petals turn clear as fragile glass and their veins run through like white bones. They grow naturally only in the cold wooded mountainsides of Japan and China, but you can buy them in North America to plant in your garden.

Take a look!

What do you think? Would you plant a Skeleton Flower in your garden?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality. I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Unbelievable Real Life: A Waterfall of Blood

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to the first Unbelievable Real Life feature of 2015!

Because we’re stuck in the doldrums of winter, I thought it might be a good time to explore some very cool wintery spots (no pun intended…well, maybe a little). If we’re going to be buried under mounds of snow, we might as well make the best of it.

Today I’m taking you to Antarctica where Taylor Glacier seems to spew a waterfall of blood.

Image Credit: Mike Martoccia (CC License)

Image Credit: Mike Martoccia (CC License)

Glaciologists and microbiologists finally figured out that the likeliest cause of this phenomenon is an underground lake where the water has a high iron content. As the water interacts with the air around it, the iron starts to rust, making the water look like blood.

Image Credit: Zina Deretsky / US National Science foundation (NSF)

Image Credit: Zina Deretsky / US National Science foundation (NSF)

Have you seen something strange or unusual this winter?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality. I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Star Trek Universal Translator Coming Soon?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (www.freeimage.com)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (www.freeimage.com)

According to this article on Geek.com, we might not be that far away from a Star Trek-like universal translator.

On May 27th, 2014, Microsoft publicly demonstrated for the first time a new feature they’re developing for Skype called Skype Translator. This will allow Skype users to talk in their own language and for the listener to hear a real-time translation in their own language. So, if you needed to do business with someone in Germany, and you only spoke English, Skype Translator would make it possible for you to talk to each other.

This program is still in the early stages, so I’d imagine the translations it’s able to produce right now have about the same accuracy of Google Translate and that the speech interpreter needs to be “trained” to your voice in the same way Dragon speech-to-text software does. Despite all this, I can’t help but see how it’s brought us one step closer to the very cool universal translators that make possible communication between races in Star Trek.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to one day be able to travel without worrying about the language barrier thanks to an app on your cell phone?

What do you think? Would a universal translator be a good thing or a bad one? And do you think it will ever be refined to the point where it’s able to quickly and accurately translate speech for us?

My ebook Frozen: Two Suspenseful Short Stories is on sale for 99 cents over the summer.

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

Wondering what this blog is all about? On Tuesdays, I cover something science fiction or fantasy related. On Thursdays, I talk writing. I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Unbelievable Real Life: Arctic Aliens in Lapland, Finland

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my Unbelievable Real Life feature, where I showcase weird creatures and offbeat places on our planet that seem like they should belong in a fantasy or science fiction story. Today we’re going to the icy world of Lapland, Finland, to look at frozen alien worms.

I was generously granted permission from the photographer, Niccolo Bonfadini, to show you these images. If you want to see more of his spectacular photography, you can find it on his site at www.niccolobonfadini.com.

Lapland Arctic Sentinels Niccolo Bonfadini

Image Credit: Niccolo Bonfadini

 

Finnish Forest Niccolo Bonfadini

Image Credit: Niccolo Bonfadini

The first time I saw these pictures, they made me think of frozen versions of the sand worm in Beetlejuice.

It turns out these are actually trees. In Lapland, the temperatures drop as low as -40 in the dead of winter. Ice and snow encase the trees and create these frozen aliens.

If you saw these figures while traipsing across the snowy plains and you didn’t know what they were, would you be brave enough to go find out?

Wondering what this blog is all about? On Tuesdays, I cover something science fiction or fantasy related. On Thursdays, I talk writing. I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Unbelievable Real Life: The Crystal Cave of Giants

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

My husband and I love caves. I’ve been to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, together we visited Luray Caverns in Virginia, and we’ve even been spelunking at Metcalfe Rock near Collingwood, Ontario. So we’ve seen a lot of crystal formations, stalactites, and stalagmites. We’ve never seen ones big enough to walk on like a bridge.

Image Credit: Alexander Van Driessche, used under Creative Commons license

Image Credit: Alexander Van Driessche, used under Creative Commons license

Welcome back to my Unbelievable Real Life feature, where I showcase weird creatures and offbeat places on our planet that seem like they should belong in a fantasy or science fiction story. Today we’re going to the Crystal Cave of Giants in the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Take a look…

You’re close to 1,000 feet below the surface in this mine, and some of the gypsum crystals are four feet around (I’m only 5 foot 2 inches tall!) and 35 to 50 feet long (that’s the width of a high school basketball court). They can weigh up to 55 tons.

After their discovery in 2000, the question became how did they get so big?

One of the geologists who discovered them studied tiny pockets of fluid inside the crystals and concluded that the caves were once filled with water that stayed at a stable temperature and was rich in minerals. The water is long gone, but the crystals that formed over thousands of years remain.

Sadly these mines aren’t open to the public. Would you want to go if they were?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen. Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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A Real Island in the Clouds

Image Credit: Martin Gysler, CC license

Image Credit: Martin Gysler, CC license

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

When the movie was in theaters, my husband and I watched Jack the Giant Slayer. While the movie was mediocre, I loved the floating island in the clouds where the giants lived. Imagine my delight when I found out there was a real floating island—or at least as close as we’re going to get—in Mt. Roraima, Venezuela.

Welcome back to my Unbelievable Real Life feature, where I showcase weird creatures and offbeat places on our planet that seem like they should belong in a fantasy or science fiction story. Today we’re going to Mt. Roraima, Venezuela.

This mountain was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Its plateau sits 1,200 feet above the ground. Along with the fact that it often appears to float in the sky, it’s also home to a unique ecosystem, including nearly daily rains, some of the world’s highest waterfalls, and a carnivorous pitcher plant. (I had to look it up. The plant is the Heliamphora nutans, and it eats insects.)

Image Credit: Dryas, CC license

Image Credit: Dryas, CC license

Take a look at the mountain…

Mt. Roraima is surrounded at its base by tropical rainforests. The moist air rising off of the rain forest is what creates the thick clouds that make the mountain look like it’s a floating island.

If you had a chance to visit a floating island, would you do it? Or would you be afraid of finding something more dangerous than a carnivorous plant hiding there?

I hope you’ll check out my book of suspense short stories–Frozen!

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Is This Motorcycle Riding on Water?

Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Even since I read the Bible story about Jesus and Peter walking on water, I’ve wondered what it would be like. Without divine intervention, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, is the closest we’re going to get.

Welcome back to my Unbelievable Real Life feature, where I showcase weird creatures and offbeat places on our planet that seem like they should belong in a fantasy or science fiction story. Today we’re going to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flats. At 4,086 square miles, they’re bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Big deal, I hear you saying. So they’re big plains of salt. That’s not that cool.

But watch this…

The motorcycle looks like it’s either riding on the sky or on top of a lake.

This happens because this is one of the flattest areas on earth. When it rains, the water spreads out smoothly and deeply enough to create what amounts to the world’s largest mirror. It perfectly reflects the sky.

What do you think? Would you like to go and have your picture taken “walking on water”?

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Image Credit: Entrophy1963, used under Creative Commons license

How Close Are We to Having Star Trek Holodecks?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If there’s one thing every science fiction fan wants, it’s a Star Trek holodeck.

For those of you who don’t know, a holodeck is a simulated 3-D environment filled with holograms. In other words, it’s like being inside a movie while watching it. You can also be a character in the story if you’d rather. The holodeck is completely immersive, allowing you to touch, smell, see, taste, and hear the holodeck environment as if it were real.

And we might not be that far away from getting it.

In December 2012, the University of Illinois created CAVE2, a hybrid reality environment that was basically 3-D glasses and a circular wall of high definition television screens. They touted it as the closest we’ve come to the technology seen in Star Trek. You can see the trailer they created for it below.

And while I’ll admit that it looks pretty cool, it’s not the closest we’ve come. That honor goes to a simulator created by The Gadget Show a year earlier.

The hosts built their “holodeck” environment around a first person shooter video game. (In a first person shooter game, the screen already works so that what you see on the screen is supposedly what your “character” in the game sees. You are the character rather than watching a character move from an outside perspective.)

They installed a multi-directional treadmill to allow the player to run, and motion sensors so that when you jump or crouch, the game moves forward in kind. Paintball guns shoot the player when their character in the game is shot. LCD lights, surround-sound speakers, and a wrap-around screen make them feel like they’re right inside the game. It’s not exactly a holodeck, but it’s pretty close. 

The Gadget Show doesn’t allow their videos to be embedded so I can’t share it here. If you’d like to watch the whole thing, you can see it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8Bh5iI2WY&feature=player_embedded. It’s well worth the time.

If you could play a character from one of your favorite books, who would you want to be?

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