300,000-year-old skulls that look shockingly like ours could rewrite the human origin story

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Precisely when and where did our species emerge? Anthropologists have struggled with that question for decades, and scattered clues had suggested the answer lay somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa about 200,000 years ago.

But new evidence outlined in two papers published in the journal Nature challenges that hypothesis. Instead, the authors describe recently discovered remains that suggest the first Homo sapiens showed up more than 100,000 years earlier than we thought in a place many experts didn’t suspect.

The fossils could represent the earliest known examples of H. sapiens ever found (if confirmed by further research), and they serve as evidence that members of our species lived beyond sub-Saharan Africa.

Skulls in the dust

In 1961, a mining crew was plowing into a dense wall of limestone in a hilly region west of Marrakesh when it struck a soft patch. The hardened beige surface gave way to a mound of cinnamon-colored dirt. Peeking out of the earth was a sliver of human skull.

A bit more digging revealed a nearly complete skull, which the miners turned over to their field doctor. As word about the discovery spread, researchers flocked to the area. They uncovered more remains, including several pieces of jaw bone and a fragment of an arm. At the time, scientists pegged the fossils as roughly 40,000 years old, a few thousand years before our extinct European relatives, the Neanderthals, were thought to have vanished.

But they hadn’t dug deep enough.

site 1Roughly 40 years later, anthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin and his team from the Max Planck Institute excavated the half-dozen layers of soil beneath the land where the skull and arm bones had been discovered. There, the team found remains they say belong to at least five people. Using a dating technique that measures how much radiation has built up in a material since it was heated, Hublin and his team say the ancient bones came from people who lived roughly 300,000 to 350,000 years ago.

"These dates were a big wow," Hublin said on a recent call with reporters.

Still, the biggest discovery didn’t come until the team looked more closely at the skulls.

A striking resemblance

When Hublin peered into the cavernous eye sockets of one of the skulls, he was astonished.

Instead of the robust features he was accustomed to seeing on the faces of an ancient human ancestor like Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis, this face bore a striking resemblance to his own. Where an erectus skull had a single, protruding brow ridge, these individuals had smaller, separated ones. Rather than a large face and a flattened skull, these people had small faces and rounder skulls.

"The face of these people is really a face that falls right in the middle of the modern variation," Hublin said. "They had a skull that is more elongated than most of us, but I’m not sure these people would stand out from a crowd today."

Their braincase (shown below in blue) also seemed to fall somewhere between what one might expect in an ancient human ancestor and a modern human, albeit slightly more similar to those of our archaic ancestors.

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This unique combination of advanced and archaic features suggests something profound, Hublin said — he’s convinced the Moroccan specimens "represent the very root of our species."

In other words, all of the H. sapiens ever found — including those uncovered far beyond Africa — may trace their ancestral linkages to the land that is today’s Morocco.

That suggestion contradicts the prevailing anthropological logic that our species evolved somewhere deep in sub-Saharan Africa, in what some researchers have referred to as a "Garden of Eden," then gradually moved out to other parts of the world. Instead, Hublin and his team argue that H. sapiens could have been living in terrain across Africa.

"There is no Garden of Eden in Africa, or if there is, it is all of Africa," Hublin said.

According to Sonia Zakrzewski, an associate professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, Hublin’s discovery could encourage other archaeologists to change the way they think about human origins. "It really sets the world alight in terms of the possibilities for understanding the evolution of Homo sapiens," she said. "It certainly means that we need to rethink our models."

SEE ALSO: Ancient bones put the first humans in America 100,000 years earlier than we thought

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A fascinating new discovery is stirring up a huge scientific debate over the origin of life on Earth and beyond

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Astronomers prove Einstein right: Stars can warp light

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In a new study published today in Science, researchers achieved a rare event — simultaneously proving Albert Einstein both right and wrong. The scientists were able to confirm one of Einstein’s theories, something even he wasn’t sure would be possible.

The study centers around an effect called gravitational microlensing. And the idea is that supermassive objects, such as stars, can bend light that passes by them. The object’s gravity actually works as a sort of lens, warping the direction of the passing light. Einstein predicted this in his theory of general relativity, but because observing that effect requires a very specific set of parameters to line up perfectly, he thought we’d never be able to observe it directly.

But pessimism got the better of Einstein here and because our technology is way better than what it was during his time, these microlensing effects are now detectable.

Researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope watched a white dwarf star — the leftover core of a star nearing the end of its life — pass in front of another distant star. When it did, the white dwarf appeared to push the other star out of its way. It didn’t actually do that, though. The white dwarf’s gravity just warped the light of the background star, making it look like the light jumped out of the way. It’s the first time this effect has been seen from stars other than the Sun.

In addition to just being really cool, this new technique also allows astronomers to measure the mass of the star doing the warping. The intensity of the light-deflection can help scientists determine the object’s mass and gravity. In the study, they were able to get the mass of the white dwarf based on this effect, which they hadn’t been able to successfully do before.

Watch the video below for more information on the study and what the findings mean for future research.

Source: Science

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Use Your Lunch Break to Build Strength and Loosen Up From Hours of Sitting 

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After sitting at your desk for hours working, the best remedy to unravel knotted up muscles is to move around. Take that a step further and try bodyweight workout “flows,” where you put your body through a series of unfamiliar movements that challenge, stretch, and build your muscles at the same time.

Perhaps you’ve heard of yoga flows, in which you transition from one yoga pose to another in a smooth, logical sequence. A bodyweight workout flow is kind of like that, except you incorporate classic bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, planks, and any variations of those just to get your body moving.

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The above video by Primal Flow Training is a simple flow that’ll take you 15 minutes or less to complete. All of the moves challenge your upper body strength and core stability. Grab a timer or use the one on your phone and get started:

  • Set 1: Starting from standing, you do a hand walk-out and back to squat, then to a standing position. Do for 20 seconds, then rest for 40.
  • Set 2: Add a prone bend (which is basically like holding a static diagonal push-up) to the end of your hand walk-out. Do this for 40 seconds, then rest for 1:20.
  • Set 3: Add a small press to that prone bend, so it’s like a jagged push-up. Do this for a minute, and rest for two.
  • Set 4: After pushing up, point one arm toward the ceiling and twist. This stretches your upper back and also trains stability in the shoulder of the arm that’s on the floor. Perform for one minute and 40 seconds, and rest for three minutes or so.
  • Set 5: Finally, add a kick to the side. You’ll have to watch the video at 2:26 mark to see what this looks like. Do all this for one minute and 40 seconds.

When you fashion all of that together, the whole thing should “flow” seamlessly. Here’s a more advanced example:

The important thing is to just move. I often do this on days I don’t have a more structured workout. Sometimes I like to pretend I’m breakdancing or that I’m Beyoncé’s backup dancer, but really I’m just flopping about with the grace of a whale and putting my body through funky movements for 15 minutes.

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Uh-Oh, Even Moderate Drinking Can Mess Up Your Brain

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The Big Lebowski

Do you one drink after a hard day at work? Maybe you throw back a few beers on the weekend when watching sports or hanging with your boys. You’re not an alcoholic and it’s just a few drinks a week, so it can’t hurt. Right? Bad news, even moderate drinking can mess up your brain. Uh-oh.

A new study of 550 healthy men and women that was done between 1985 to 2015 found a link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of cognitive decline. The study, which was published last month in BMJ, discovered that not only did heavy drinking affect the brain negatively, but also moderate drinking has ill effects as well.

The 30-year study adjusted for a variety of factors, including age, education, physical and social activity, social class, and medical history. Alcohol consumption, even when done moderately, had an association with increased risk of hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation. Those who engaged in drinking moderately (14 to 21 units per week — about 5 to 7 beers or 6 to 8 glasses of wine) were three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy compared with those who did not drink. Heavy drinkers, people who consume more than 30 units of alcohol, had the highest risk. People who drank more than seven units of alcohol per week experienced a faster decline in language fluency over the study compared to those who did not drink at all.

“As previous studies had reported the moderate drinking was protective against cognitive decline and dementia, we expected to find a similar association with adverse brain outcomes, which could underlie the protection,” study author Anya Topiwala, a clinical lecturer in the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, told CBS News. “Instead we found the opposite.”

“I would suggest these findings raise a question mark over the safety of current U.S. alcohol guidelines, as we found evidence of associations with multiple harmful brain outcomes in individuals drinking within these limits,” she said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines, they define moderate alcohol consumption as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

So what you’re saying is that drinking helps you forget? Well, isn’t that the whole purpose of drinking in the first place?

[Fortune]

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32 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

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La Sagrada Familia

Buildings may be some of the most impressive works of art we have.

After sinking untold sums of money into their construction, we can walk through the finished products and even live inside them.

Business Insider has selected more than two dozen buildings that push the boundaries of structural expression. Make sure to add at least few to your bucket list.

Drake Baer contributed to an earlier version of this article.

The oldest building we know of is Göbekli Tepe in present-day Turkey. Built somewhere around 9500 B.C., archaeologists aren’t certain of its function, but it was probably religious.

Since then, humans have built some pretty rad structures. In the past year, we’ve seen futuristic openings like the Fulton Center in New York …

… and the Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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There Won’t Be A Brexit: Buy The Pound

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Background

Brexit is short for British exit from the European Union. On June 23, 2016, the British narrowly voted to leave the E.U. by 51.9% to 48.1%. The vote was a surprise; polls had indicated it would go down in defeat. On March 29, 2017, Prime Minster Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the EU officially notifying the EU the U.K. would leave. This gives the U.K. two years to negotiate an exit and new trade agreements. If no deal is reached, the relationship between the E.U. and the U.K. will be governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the U.K. will be subject to whatever tariffs the E.U. wants and customs checks.

Recent Events

The race for Prime Minister was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Conservatives and Theresa May, the incumbent. However, their lead over the Labor Party led by Jeremy Corbyn has been cut in half in recent days. Some of this appears to be a weak campaign on her part. However, it is the Labor Party that supports remaining in the European Union more than the Conservatives. In fact, the Conservatives have been moving away from Brexit themselves.

Reality is setting in. Theresa May hoped for a quick trade deal to replace the EU. However, European leaders have showed unusual unity in demanding major consequences to Brexit. The impact of a Brexit will be felt in the following areas:

  • More red tape in trade.
  • Possible tariffs.
  • Loss of much of the high pay financial industry.
  • More restrictive travel between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
  • Impact on U.K. expats living the E.U. and vice versa.
  • The U.K. will likely need to pay tens of billions of Euros to leave to cover budget commitments.
  • Some multi-national corporations may move operations or even headquarters out of the U.K.

Prime Minister Theresa May will likely be re-elected on June 8th. She was opposed to Brexit but since becoming Prime Minister has favored it because that is what the people want. She is a poll watcher just like most other politicians. It stands to reason she will stop the Brexit process if it becomes clear a majority of the people oppose it. Polls are moving in that direction.

Path Forward

The U.K. government has said any Brexit deal reached will need to be approved by Parliament. This is a major obstacle.

The pound has fallen significantly since the vote. The pound was worth $1.46 just prior to the Brexit vote and is worth $1.29 now. Investors are concerned with a significant negative impact on the economy. One very likely impact is many of the high-paying financial jobs now in London will be forced to move onto the continent.

Negotiation will be long and cumbersome. The recent EU and Canada trade agreement is 2,255 pages long. EU officials have repeatedly told the British the process will be longer and harder than they think.

While England and Wales voted for Brexit, 62% of Scotland and 56% of Northern Ireland voted to stay. The Scots in particular recently had a very close vote of their own on whether to even remain in the U.K. This could be enough to cause them to re-vote and leave the U.K. this time. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has already called for a second independence vote prior to the finalization of Brexit.

It is not in the E.U.’s best interest to allow a “soft” Brexit as that becomes an existential threat to the E.U. making it easier for other members to leave.

Why the U.K. Won’t Leave

1. Major corporations and industries will lobby hard against it as less free trade will hurt them.

2. Polls are moving away from Brexit. The latest showed 45% against and 43% for.

3. Polls will continue to move away as the ramifications become more clear.

4. Economists and investors will be opposed as they know any movement away from free trade is usually bad.

5. Theresa May was opposed to Brexit and will likely stop the process if polls continue to move against Brexit.

6. Theresa May will have more flexibility to stop Brexit after the Conservatives win the upcoming election.

7. Movement by the Scots for another independence vote will turn many against Brexit.

8. Brexit was a populist reaction. Populism sounds good but doesn’t usually go very well. Many will link voting for Brexit with the U.S. voting for Trump, a populist and anti-immigrant, who is not popular in the U.K.

9. One of the main reasons for Brexit was immigration issues. This can be much more easily negotiated with the E.U. than a Brexit.

10. There is a big difference between saying you want to do something that is risky and potentially painful and actually doing it.

11. Any slowdown in the U.K. economy will move more voters against Brexit.

12. Brexit was supported most by older voters and least by younger voters. Demographics favor the younger voters. If a deal is reached that is harmful, it will likely fail in parliament.

13. The lower pound has already impacted the country by raising prices, especially for fuel.

My sense is, many of the U.K.’s political leaders are just looking for an excuse not to go forward. When that excuse arrives cannot be estimated.

How to Play it

The biggest impact so far has been the decline of the pound from about $1.46 just prior to the Brexit to $1.29 now. The pound had been as high as $1.72 two years ago. The decline was immediate after the vote and would likely snap back if Brexit is scrapped. It will likely steadily climb as the odds against Brexit increase.

I prefer going long the pound versus the dollar instead of against the Euro. The U.S. economy is further along the economic cycle than the EU indicating it is likely to weaken against the Euro as Europe strengthens from a long period of weakness. Unlike many other trades, this trade probably has a measurable term. If Brexit is scrapped, it is likely to happen in the next two years.

Disclosure: I am/we are long THE POUND VERSUS THE DOLLAR.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

SeekingAlpha

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How Much Do You Really Know About Surfing?

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In the last month, two giants of the surfing world passed away a week apart from one another.

John Severson, founder of Surfer Magazine, died peacefully in his sleep on May 26th at the age of 83 and Jack O’Neill, inventor of the modern wetsuit, passed way on June 2th. O’Neill was 94.

Surfing has evolved from a pastime for beach bums to a worldwide phenomenon over the last hundred years. It’s as much a part of our pop culture as any other major sport. But how much do you really know about the origins of surfing?

Take this quick quiz to test your surf knowledge.

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The Best Ways to Stylishly Work a TV into a Small Apartment

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Arranging furniture in a small space can be a daunting task. Lack of wall space, traffic flow, and seating configurations are a lot to consider. At first glance, there might not seem to be anywhere that the TV makes sense— or maybe you’re apprehensive about making your TV the focal point in the room (it is a black mirror most of the time). There are tricks of the design trade to help guide you when placing the TV so it doesn’t overwhelm the room and distract from your décor. You just have to be clever and a little creative. Here’s where to put a TV when space is at a premium.

Use your TV as a room divider

Your TV can provide so much more than entertainment, it can also add architecture to a room. No matter how small your apartment, you can create two livable spaces — say, a living room and a bedroom — using the TV as a room divider. Just check out the example above from an apartment listing on Innerspec (via Digs Digs). Bonus points if it swivels because then you can watch in both rooms. Just make sure you secure it properly and try to hide as many of the wires as possible.

Arrange a gallery wall around your TV

Treasured frames, prints and wall hangings can help you hide the TV in a gallery wall, so that it blends in with the rest of your eclectic decor, like seen here in the former apartment of Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo. Either wall-mount your TV or leave it free-standing on a console against a wall; then, arrange all of your art around it as if the screen were simply just another frame. And don’t be afraid to use the space below, too — perhaps low shelving for storage or a vintage table decorated with plants, candles, books or whatever accessories best fit your style.

Tuck the TV into a corner

Corners tend to be some of the most underutilized parts of a room, particularly in a small space. Take advantage of every nook and cranny by wall-mounting your TV in a corner, like in the home above from Oasis Design & Remodeling, or displaying it on a corner TV stand. That way you won’t risk it overwhelming the room.

Hide your TV when it’s not in use

Here’s a cool fix for a big TV in a small apartment: Mount it on the wall with a full motion swing out arm. You can extend it when you’re ready to binge on Netflix and retract it out of view when you’re not using it. Or, if you have a small screen, consider putting it in (or on) a small rolling cabinet and roll it into a closet (or at least out of the way) when it’s not in use. Out of sight, out of mind, right? There’s also the crazy clever solution from one of our Baltimore house tours: Make your own sliding artwork rig with some barn door hardware.

Give your living room a break

The “Should you have a TV in your bedroom?” conundrum is as old as time. And normally, I’d opt to keep the bedroom screen-free. But if you have wall-space galore in your bedroom, and can’t make it happen in your living room, I say go for it. With a few huge floor pillows and some retro folding TV tray tables (for snacks!), it’s easy to transform a bedroom — or any room — into the perfect TV-viewing setting. BONUS: When guests come over, they’ll marvel at how cultured you are, with wall space devoted only to your library and budding art collection. if only they knew of the Below Deck marathon you have planned for bedtime later.

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This man played Barney the dinosaur for 10 years — here’s what it was like

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Everyone recognizes the large purple dinosaur, but not many people know the man inside the costume. David Joyner played Barney for 10 years on TV and in live performances, and dancing around in that huge costume was not very easy. We spoke with Joyner about what it was like being one of the most famous children’s characters of all time, and what he is up to now.

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Following is a transcript of the video:

Being Barney was never an accident. I was supposed to do this character.

Hi I’m David Joiner. I played Barney from 1991 until 2001.

After I got my degree in electronic engineering technology, I worked for Texas Instruments for six years as a software analyst. Before I was Barney, I was a live mannequin. I would move mechanically. And people would literally bring their children, set them on the mall floor, and go shop.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be on television so bad. I would stand in front of the television and basically lip sync.

There’s a lot of psychic energy in my family, and there’s a lot of clairvoyance. And a lot of times, with me, if I’m trying to figure out a situation, I’ll dream about it.

Well the night before the audition, I had this dream. And in this dream, Barney passes out. And I have to give Barney mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. So on the way to the audition, I’m sitting at a stoplight, and something says "Look up." So I look up, and there’s this billboard. It says "Breathe life into your vacation — Southwest Airlines." And then it hits me. I had to breathe life into Barney in my dream. If I go into this audition and breathe life into this character, I’m going on vacation. And that’s exactly what I did.

So, of course, they called me and asked if I would be Barney. And I said, "Of course." I pretty much already knew that I was going to be Barney. But it was great getting that phone call.

Being inside this costume is pretty cool. Now Barney is about 70 pounds, and it can get over 120 degrees inside. So inside you’re sweating profusely. It’s a t-rex, so you’re basically just up to your elbows in being able to move. And then also, Barney’s feet were huge. Now I did have some sneakers inside that were glued to the bottom of the feet.

The head doesn’t come off. The head doesn’t swivel. There’s no facial expressions that can be made. I can only see a certain amount, because of the peripheral of Barney’s mouth. And when Barney’s mouth is closed, I can’t see anything. So what I would literally do is I would walk around my apartment as if I was blind. I would close my eyes, and I would try to feel energy. And try to feel the energy of anything that was around me. And then try to pick things up.

Sometimes, when they took a break, I put a fan in the mouth, I’d sit down on an Apple box, and I’d put my hand on my knees, and I would just close my eyes. So I would literally meditate.

When I was 19, I started studying Tantra. And a lot of times when people think about Tantra they think it’s all about sex. Well Tantra’s much more than that. Because Tantra deals with loving energy,  life force energy, and energy that rises through your system.

Now, it’s no accident that I’ve been spreading "I love you" all around the world.

Now a lot of times you hear those words, and some people like, "Oh my god, that song," and I’m like, "No, no, no" listen to it. I love you, you love me. We’re a happy family. So now, we’re now gathered together in this beautiful harmonious thing that’s happening. So it’s a beautiful thing to know how that song has impacted pretty much this next generation.

The voice of Barney was a gentleman named Bob West. We would do what we call "dinosync." As I have my headphones on, I can literally hear him taking his breath. And knowing that as he’s about to speak, I’m almost inside of him, knowing exactly what he’s about to say.

I remember receiving the first residual check, and the check was so big. And I was just like, "Oh my god, are you kidding me?" So I had his beautiful white stucco home, and I paid for the house with residuals, which is really cool.

After doing Barney for 10 years, I decided, "Ok, it’s time to make that move to Los Angeles." And if I don’t make the move now, then I’ll probably never make that move.

I was on "Shameless." "That ’70s Show." "ER." A SWAT agent on "24." I was an attorney on "The Young and the Restless."

So "Hip Hop Harry" is what I’m doing now. "Hip Hop Harry" is a cool, hip-hop rapping, break dancing teddy bear that runs an after-school center called Hip Hop Central.

And our ratings are starting to grow. I’m 53 years old. And I am not ashamed to admit that I am 53 years old, still playing in costumes.

 Barney was beautiful. Barney was very, very good to me. I loved being Barney. I loved everything about being Barney. But that chapter is gone.

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These GIFs of Endlessly Looping Waves Will Soothe Your Battered Soul

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Okay, so technically they’re not GIFs, but “cinemagraphs,” short, seamlessly repeating videos. Either way, these incredible loops of dramatic waves from Ray Collins and Armand Dijcks are endlessly soothing. Just watch and watch and watch and forget that the Earth will soon be one giant ocean.

Collins captured the photographs these loops are based on while swimming in massive waves with a Nikon D5 in a waterproof casing. The loops actually start out as still images that become short videos thanks to some studio magic. Dijcks is in charge of that.

Surprisingly, Dijcks uses a couple of software programs—and not actual video—to create the illusion of motion. It’s probably best if I just let you read the explanation of the process from Dijcks himself, as told to Gizmodo via email:

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Together we selected a number of stills for me to work with. Each still is taken into After Effects and animated. I basically start with the original still and have After Effects slowly distort that image over the duration of a few seconds. If I left it at that, I would end up with a very weird looking, distorted wave.

So the next step is to take this short video clip into an application called Flixel Cinemagraph Pro. This is where the final magic happens. It lets you mask out certain areas where you want to have the motion visible, and will show the original image everywhere else. This way you can hide parts of the distortion, and make it look like the wave is moving in a natural way. The final step is to create a seamless loop, so that the motion will continue indefinitely, creating the strange illusion of a moving wave that never actually breaks.

The trick with all of this is to pay attention to how waves move in reality. If you introduce motion is a way that is not realistic, our brain immediately picks up on that and the illusion falls apart.

Tricks aside, the waves look incredibly real and majestic.

So yeah, it’s been a tough week for planet Earth. But do you feel relaxed yet?

Enjoy the weekend. You deserve it.

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