Saturday, 28 November 2015

Life Percolating at Depth

First, there was the microbe that scientists found living in lightless solitude more than two miles down a South African gold mine. Nothing alive had ever been found at that depth before.

Then there was the “Worm From Hell,” the first complex, multicellular creature found living at almost equal depths in the same group of mines.

Now the researchers who made both of those discoveries have hit another jackpot: the discovery of a “veritable zoo” of multi-cellular creatures living in the wet rock fissures of the gold and diamond mines of the Witwaterstrand Basin of South Africa, roughly a mile below the surface.
The creature found in 2011 – Halicephalobus mephisto – is a tiny nematode and are the deepest-living terrestrial multi-cellular organisms on earth. It’s an animal that lives where no other animals were thought to exist, in the rocky underworld known as the “deep subsurface”.

To H.mephisto, the subterranean world is an all-you-can-eat buffet. They feed on bacteria and other microbes that grow in rich mats on the rocky surface. There’s no risk of starving underground.
The earlier discoveries had already dramatically changed scientists’ understanding of life in the underworld.

The number and variety of creatures found so deep has proven that previous estimates of the amount of life (biomass) underground and under the bottom of the oceans have been too low. Those estimates have ranged from 20 percent to 50 percent of the total mass of life on Earth.

The rod-shaped D. audaxviator was recovered from thousands of litres of water collected deep in the Mponeng Mine in South Africa in 2008.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Tutankhamun: gold mask made for Nefertiti?

British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves has found new evidence suggesting the death mask of ancient Egyptian king Tutankhamun was not made for him – in fact, it was made for his stepmother, Queen Nefertiti. Reeves points to a cartouche (royal name stamp) that appears to have been retouched as evidence. The stamp conceals traces of another name: Ankhkheprure Nefernefruaten, which can be translated to Queen Nefertiti.
Other features that back his conclusion include the presence of pierced ears. In almost all other ancient Egyptian depictions, pierced ears were a feature only reserved for queens and children.

The discovery was made possible by an accident involving the mask’s beard being broken off and hastily glued back on by an employee of the Egyptian Museum in January.
This is the second time this year Reeves has shaken up the archaeological community. In October, he studied ultra high-resolution images and believed he found clues in the walls of Tutankhamun's burial chamber of having been painted over with scenes depicting the young Pharaoh’s life, as well as hidden doors that may lead to the discovery of Nefertiti's final resting place.

Tutankhamun was made a pharaoh when he was nine years old and died at 18. His step-mother, Nefertiti, was the wife of Egypt's most controversial pharaoh, Akhenaten. Nefertiti is widely regarded as the most beautiful woman of ancient Egypt, but the cause of her death and final resting place remains a mystery.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Infamous Guns

Two guns once owned by Bonnie and Clyde sold for over half a million dollars. Clyde Barrow's 1911 Colt .45-caliber automatic sold for $240,000.

Bonnie Parker's .38-caliber Detective Special that she had taped to her thigh when she was killed in a hail of gunfire in 1934 sold for $264,000 to the same bidder.

An online bidder paid $130,000 for a .45-caliber Tommy gun and $80,000 for an 1897 12-gauge shotgun that were seized from one of the duo's hideouts in Missouri in 1933.

Lawmen seized the weapons on April 13, 1933 after a bloody raid on an apartment in Joplin where the Barrow Gang were holed up. Two lawmen were killed while the gang escaped.

Al Capone’s Colt .25 semi-automatic pistol sold for over $ 16,000 in 2012.

His Colt .38 revolver sold for over $100,000 at a Christie's 2011 auction in London.
A gold-plated 7.65 Walther semi-automatic pistol with Hitler’s initials inlaid in gold on the ivory grips. It sold for $114,000 at a 1987 auction.

The pistol was taken by an American soldier during a dramatic attempt to capture or kill the dictator in Munich in the waning days of the war. Hitler was miles away in his bunker at the time.

John Dillinger's derringer, a miniature pistol that was found in the outlaw's sock when he was arrested in 1934 sold for $45,000.

The wooden gun Dillinger famously used to escape from the Crown Point, Indiana jail sold for $ 19,000.

A purse pistol Jesse James gave his wife, Zee, to commemorate the birth of their daughter sold for $20,000.

On October 5, 1892 five members of the Dalton Gang rode into the small town of Coffeyville, Kansas. After a failed bank robbery, the ensuing firefight killed four townspeople and four members of the Dalton Gang. $ 50,000.
Wyatt Earp's Colt .45-caliber revolver. $ 225,000. The revolver was passed down by the Earp family and is likely the one Wyatt used in the most legendary gunfight in wild west history, the O.K. Corral shootout — which became legend.

.44-caliber Smith & Wesson that killed Jesse James: $350,000. The James Gang terrorized Kansas and Missouri for nearly two decades led by the outlaw Jesse James.

The shot that killed James was delivered from a .44 which brought $350,000 at an Anaheim auction in 2003.
A tiny 6-inch derringer sitting in a display case at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is perhaps the most valuable in the world. Yet the only price ever paid for the item was around $25 in the mid-1800s, by John Wilkes Booth.

One shot was all Booth had to end Abraham Lincoln’s life when he entered the President’s theater box on April 14, 1865. Kept for generations as evidence by the War Department, the relic eventually returned to its fateful origins at the Ford Theatre where it had changed the course of history.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Sotheby's unveils first ever Star Wars collectibles auction

Sotheby’s, for nearly three centuries the auction house for the world’s most expensive art, finest wines and priciest jewels, will next month offer something just as rare: an action figure of Luke Skywalker with double-telescoping lightsaber.

More than 600 action figures are being sold, including the Skywalker double-telescoping, which was quickly withdrawn from general sale because the potentially child-choking lightsaber snapped off too easily. One of only 20 confirmed examples, it comes with an estimate of $12,000-$18,000

Other rarities include a tri-logo action figure of General Madine. The figure is one of 12 known examples and comes with an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Other items in what will be an online auction on 11 December include two Star Wars Power of the Force coin sets from 1985, with an estimate of $25,000-$35,000.

At the more affordable end of the scale will be a Star Wars: Attack of the Clones clonetrooper helmet at $500-$700.

Jabba the Hutt Cookie Jar

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Chemical Warfare is Ancient History

Simon James, a researcher at the University of Leicester in the U.K. claimed in 2009 to have found the first physical evidence of chemical weapons, dating from a battle fought in A.D. 256 at the ancient Roman fortress of Dura-Europos.
James concluded that 20 Roman soldiers unearthed beneath the town's ramparts did not die of war wounds, but from poison gas.
War in antiquity rarely matched the heroism of myth. To stave off a Roman siege in A.D. 189, the defenders of the Greek city of Ambracia built a complex flamethrower that coughed out smoking chicken feathers.

At Themiscrya, another stubborn Greek outpost, Romans tunneling beneath the city contended with not only a charge of wild beasts but also a barrage of hives swarming with bees.
Roman armies routinely poisoned the wells of cities they were besieging. According to the historian Plutarch, the Roman general Sertorius in 80 B.C. had his troops pile mounds of gypsum powder by the hillside hideaways of Spanish rebels. When kicked up by a strong northerly wind, the dust became a severe irritant, smoking the insurgents out of their caves.
In 332 B.C., the citizens of the doomed port of Tyre catapulted basins of burning sand at Alexander the Great's army.

Greek fire was an incendiary weapon developed c. 672 and used by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. The Byzantine formula was a closely guarded state secret.

The composition of Greek fire remains a matter of speculation with proposals including combinations of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium phosphide, and sulfur.

Byzantine use of incendiary mixtures used pressurized nozzles or siphōn to project the liquid onto the enemy.
Poisoned arrows appear in classical literature. The epics of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey both insinuate the use of the poisoned arrows in the Trojan War. The myths of Hercules also allude to the use of poisoned arrows; after he slew the Hydra he dipped his arrowheads in the venom.

Scythians were famed for their poisoned arrows; the poison was a concoction of decomposed poisonous snakes and human blood incubated in a manure heap. One of the terms that the Greeks used to describe this poison was toxikon, which stemmed from toxon meaning a bow. Our modern word toxicology clearly derives from this poison.

Even in antiquity, some feared the lurking consequences of unleashing what we call chemical weapons. The ancient Greek tale of Pandora's box offers a metaphor for their use. Pandora's box is an artifact in Greek mythology which contained all the evils of the world.

The phrase "to open Pandora's box" means to perform an action that may seem small, but that turns out to have severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences.