Hmmm... that's interesting.

Articles and other literary ticklers.

My Photo
Location: Mandaluyong, Philippines

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dinosaur Skull Found in Church
Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

The marble-like balustrade in the Cathedral of Vigevano where the dinosaur skull was found. Courtesy: Andrea Tintori

Encased in pinkish marble-like slabs supporting a balustrade, this dinosaur -- or what's left of it -- has for centuries been the most faithful presence in the Cathedral of St. Ambrose in Vigevano, a town about 20 miles from Milan.

“The rock contains what appears to be a horizontal section of a dinosaur’s skull. The image looks like a CT scan, and clearly shows the cranium, the nasal cavities, and numerous teeth,” Andrea Tintori, the University of Milan paleontologist who spotted the fossil near the altar, told Discovery News.

Measuring about 30 cm (11.8 inches), the skull was cut in sections as slabs of the marble-like rock were used to build the Cathedral between 1532 and 1660.

Indeed, Tintori found a second section of the same skull in another slab nearby.

Horizontal section of the dinosaur skull. The cranium, the nasal lobes and numerous teeth are visible. Courtesy: Andrea Tintori

The calcareous rock in which the dinosaur remains are embedded comes from the rich fossil-bearing site of Mount San Giorgio, which is on the Unesco World Heritage List.

“It is called Broccatello and was mined in Arzo, Switzerland. We know that this type of rock dates geologically to the Lower Jurassic, about 190 million years ago,” Tintori said.

It is not clear what animal the skull belonged to. Tintori hopes to solve the mystery with a three-dimensional reconstruction of the fossilized remains.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swiss Archaeologists Find Door Into History
Associated Press

AP Photo/Hochbaudepartment Zurich
Archaeologists in the Swiss city of Zurich have found a 5,000-year old door -- which may be the oldest ever found in Europe. Chief archaeologist Niels Bleicher says the ancient poplar wood door is "solid and elegant" with well-preserved hinges and a "remarkable" design for holding the boards together.

ZURICH – Archaeologists in the Swiss city of Zurich have unearthed a 5,000-year-old door that may be one of the oldest ever found in Europe.

The ancient poplar wood door is "solid and elegant" with well-preserved hinges and a "remarkable" design for holding the boards together, chief archaeologist Niels Bleicher said Wednesday.

Using tree rings to determine its age, Bleicher believes the door could have been made in the year 3,063 B.C. -- around the time that construction on Britain's world famous Stonehenge monument began.

"The door is very remarkable because of the way the planks were held together," Bleicher told The Associated Press.

Harsh climatic conditions at the time meant people had to build solid houses that would keep out much of the cold wind that blew across Lake Zurich, and the door would have helped, he said. "It's a clever design that even looks good."

The door was part of a settlement of so-called "stilt houses" frequently found near lakes about a thousand years after agriculture and animal husbandry were first introduced to the pre-Alpine region.

It is similar to another door found in nearby Pfaeffikon, while a third -- made from one solid piece of wood -- is believed to be even older, possibly dating back to 3,700 B.C., said Bleicher.
The latest find was discovered at the dig for what is intended to be a new underground car park for Zurich's opera house.

Archaeologists have found traces of at least five Neolithic villages believed to have existed at the site between 3,700 and 2,500 years B.C., including objects such as a flint dagger from what is now Italy and an elaborate hunting bow.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Parisian flat containing €2.1 million painting lay untouched for 70 years
For 70 years the Parisian apartment had been left uninhabited, under lock and key, the rent faithfully paid but no hint of what was inside.
By Henry Samuel
in Paris

Mrs de Florian, a 'demimondaine' never returned to her Paris flat after the war and died at the age of 91 in 2010 Photo: GETTY

Behind the door, under a thick layer of dusk lay a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.

The woman who owned the flat had left for the south of France before the Second World War and never returned.

But when she died recently aged 91, experts were tasked with drawing up an inventory of her possessions and homed in on the flat near the Trinité church in Paris between the Pigalle red light district and Opera.

Entering the untouched, cobweb-filled flat in Paris' 9th arrondissement, one expert said it was like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time had stood still since 1900.

"There was a smell of old dust," said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery. Walking under high wooden ceilings, past an old wood stove and stone sink in the kitchen, he spotted a stuffed ostrich and a Mickey Mouse toy dating from before the war, as well as an exquisite dressing table.

But he said his heart missed a beat when he caught sight of a stunning tableau of a woman in a pink muslin evening dress.

The painting was by Boldini and the subject a beautiful Frenchwoman who turned out to be the artist's former muse and whose granddaughter it was who had left the flat uninhabited for more than half a century.

The muse was Marthe de Florian, an actress with a long list of ardent admirers, whose fervent love letters she kept wrapped neatly in ribbon and were still on the premises. Among the admirers was the 72nd prime minister of France, George Clemenceau, but also Boldini.

The expert had a hunch the painting was by Boldini, but could find no record of the painting. "No reference book dedicated to Boldini mentioned the tableau, which was never exhibited," said Marc Ottavi, the art specialist he consulted about the work.

When Mr Choppin-Janvry found a visiting card with a scribbled love note from Boldini, he knew he had struck gold. "We had the link and I was sure at that moment that it was indeed a very fine Boldini".

He finally found a reference to the work in a book by the artist's widow, which said it was painted in 1898 when Miss de Florian was 24.

The starting price for the painting was €300,000 but it rocketed as ten bidders vyed for the historic work. Finally it went under the hammer for €2.1 million, a world record for the artist.

"It was a magic moment. One could see that the buyer loved the painting; he paid the price of passion," said Mr Ottavi.

* Other pictures were lifted from here.

Kids: Buzz Lightyear was first man on the moon

A worrying number of British kids reckon Buzz Lightyear was the first person to walk on the moon and 24's Jack Bauer blew up the Houses of Parliament.

The terrifying statistics emerged from a study of 2,000 schoolchildren where they were asked about key events in history and the people involved.

Twenty percent of kids believe Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear was the first person to set foot on the moon rather than Neil Armstrong while others thought it was Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

One in twenty thought Jack Bauer was behind the Gunpowder plot and a third didn't know Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone (9% said it was Deal or No Deal's Noel Edmonds).

It also emerged one in twenty thought Christopher Columbus discovered liposuction, NOT America, while one in ten wrongly believe Rolf Harris painted the Mona Lisa.
But it doesn't end there, 12 percent of kids reckon the battle of Britain took place in space and one in six said The Daleks from Dr Who occupied Britain.

One in six even failed to identify US President Barrack Obama, claiming he was Mr T from the A-Team, F1 Lewis Hamilton and even Nelson Mandela.

Christopher Lloyd, the author of The What on Earth Wallbook, said: "There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to children and historical events.

"Neil Armstrong would not be happy to learn a plastic action figure is getting the credit for first man to step on the moon. Young people have little or no context when it comes to knowledge about the past.

"Often they know a great deal about a few topics, but seldom do they have any idea of the big picture - especially when it comes to events of the past that connect the story of human history with evolution and the natural world."

Friday, October 08, 2010

Roman bronze helmet found in a field sells for £2.3 MILLION... eight times its estimated value
By Tamara Cohen

Under the hammer: A rare Roman bronze helmet found in a field by a metal detecting enthusiast sold for an astonishing £2.3 million at auction today - eight times more than its estimated value of £300,000

A rare Roman bronze helmet found in a field by a metal detecting enthusiast, sold for an astonishing £2.3 million at auction today.

The immaculately preserved 2,000-year-old artefact, one of only three ever found in Britain, was discovered in a field by an unemployed graduate in his early 20s.

It prompted a five-minute frenzy of bidding at Christie’s in London before it was bought anonymously on the telephone for eight times its pre-sale estimate.

Immaculately preserved: The 2,000-year-old artefact was discovered in a field by an unemployed graduate in his early 20s. The £2.3million will be split between the finder and the landowner

The proceeds from the Crosby Garrett Helmet, named after the hamlet in Cumbria where it was found in May, will now be split between the finder and the landowner, making both millionaires.

They have been chosen to remain anonymous.

The helmet, complete with an ornate face mask surrounded by a ring of tightly curled hair, was not intended to be worn in combat but for cavalry sports parades which often accompanied religious festivals.

Wearing full armour and colourful streamers, Roman soldiers would take part in organised games to impress visiting officials.

Christie’s described the find, from the late 1st century AD, as ‘an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith’.

Five-minute phone frenzy: The helmet was bought on the telephone by an anonymous bidder

Six bidders fought for the helmet pushing the price steeply from its original £200,000-£300,000 estimate up to £2,281,250.

It is the find of a lifetime for the young man, who with the landowners’ permission had searched the same field for seven years with his father as a hobby, but had only ever found a few coins and scrap metal.

Only two other helmets complete with face-masks have been discovered in Britain. They are the Ribchester Helmet, found in 1796 and now in the British Museum, and the Newstead Helmet, found some time around 1905 and now at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

Only a handful of helmets such quality have been found anywhere across the former Roman empire, and potential buyers from all over the world registered interest.

Before the sale: Georgiana Aitken, the head of antiquities at Christie's London, with the helmet

Rare: The helmet is one of only three of its kind discovered in Britain since records began 250 years ago

A campaign has been gathering in Cumbria to pay for the helmet, and the county’s Tullie House museum managed to stay in the bidding up to £1.7m, a staggering sum for a small outfit - most of it raised through frantic fundraising in the last month.
Enlarge helmet

Its curator Andrew Mackay said: ‘This is a real blow. People will be terribly disappointed – we had thousands of pounds coming in every day, and children literally emptying their piggy banks. ‘We are now very, very anxious to talk to the buyer to see where we go next.’

The fact it could have been sold abroad may lead to calls for reform of the Treasure Act.

As the helmet is bronze, it is not classified as treasure - which must be 50 per cent silver or gold - and could have been automatically offered to the British museum at the market price, compensating the finder and landowner.

Christie’s London head of antiquities, Georgiana Aitken, said: ‘This helmet is the discovery of a lifetime for a metal detectorist.

‘When it was initially brought to Christie’s and I examined it at first-hand, I saw this extraordinary face from the past staring back at me and I could scarcely believe my eyes.

‘This is a hugely important discovery and the universal appeal of the helmet saw it draw interest from a diverse group of bidders at today’s auction.’

How a wife's loving hug saved her husband's life
By Daily Mail Reporter

Heart of the matter: It was when GP Becky Taylor hugged her husband Steve that she realised there was something wrong with his heartbeat. A quick check with a stethoscope revealed he had a heart murmur

When Becky Taylor gave her husband a cuddle she had no idea the loving gesture would end up saving his life.

For as the GP from Sheffield pulled her partner Steve, 44, near to her she realised there was something wrong with his heartbeat.

Becky, 42, quickly checked him with her stethoscope and immediately diagnosed a heart murmur.

Steve went to hospital where a consultant cardiologist carried out further checks that revealed he had an aneurysm of the ascending aorta - a bulging in the front of the heart which could burst at any time.

He underwent open heart surgery to repair the aneurysm and to replace the valve and is has now made a full recovery.

Becky, a GP at Highfield, Sheffield said: 'Steve's condition was picked up by chance. If it hadn't been, we could have been out on bikes or pulling something heavy and it could have just burst, as happens to a lot of people.

'It's pretty rare for an aneurysm to be diagnosed in this way, most of the time it presents itself with people having a pain in the chest and becoming very unwell.

'Steve didn't show any symptoms. At the time we were renovating the home we now live in which involved alot of physical work and we also went skiing and mountain biking.'

Becky, from Bradwell in Derbyshire, added: 'The way his condition was discovered caused quite a stir at the hospital.'

Now Steve, who had a heart murmur as a child, has returned to work as a purchasing manager for a train manufacturer and is building up his fitness through walking and cycling.

Meanwhile Becky is taking part in a fund raising mountain bike race to raise cash for heart research.

She is among more than 200 people competing in the Dark Peak Challenge across a gruelling 34 mile course in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

Ted Hughes's last letter: Unearthed, poet's lament on Sylvia Plath's suicide
By Sam Greenhill and Louise Eccles

Anguish: Poet Ted Hughes wrote a poem about his torment over wife Sylvia Plath's suicide

It was the tragic end to a romance between two writers who captivated the public.

Now a newly discovered poem by Ted Hughes has cast fresh light on his torment over the suicide of his wife Sylvia Plath.

The harrowing work has been unearthed at the British Library 47 years after Plath gassed herself at the age of 30.

Hughes, a former poet laureate, became a hate figure for feminists after his ­philandering drove Plath to kill herself in February 1963.

But his previously unpublished work, Last Letter, offers a fresh take on the tragic incident.

The poem was discovered by Melvyn Bragg in the British Library’s Ted Hughes archive with the help of his second wife, Carol Hughes.

The full poem is published in the New Statesman, which is out today, and a line by line extract can be seen below.

It describes the days leading up to Plath’s suicide, when the pair were living apart, and the night itself.

He wrote: ‘What happened that night, your final night? Double, treble exposure over everything.

‘Late afternoon Friday, my last sight of you alive, burning your letter to me in the ashtray with that strange smile.

‘What did you say over the smoking shards of that letter so carefully annihilated, so calmly, that let me release you and leave you to blow its ashes off your plan.’

Family: Sylvia Plath with the couple's children Nicholas and Frieda

In the final paragraph, the poet recalls the moment when he was told of his estranged wife’s death, writing: ‘And I had started to write when the telephone jerked awake, in a jabbering alarm, remembering everything.

‘It recovered in my hand. Then a voice like a selected weapon.

Or a measured injection, coolly delivered its four words deep into my ear: “Your wife is dead.” ’ Hughes remained silent about Plath’s suicide until he was terminally ill with cancer in 1998.

He published Birthday Letters, a ­collection of 88 poems examining their life together and reaction to her death, but he left out the poem about her final night.

Extract: The haunting words, uncovered by Melvyn Bragg

Last night, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy told Channel 4 News that the newly published work was ‘almost unbearable to read’.

She said: ‘It’s a poem that will speak in the way that a Shake­spearean tragedy does to people who’ve had the misfortune to touch on those issues. It shows how a suicide can scar the lives of those who still have to live after that death.

‘It seems to me to be the darkest poem that he wrote about the death of Sylvia Plath. There is a kind of deafening agony, blinding agony to this new poem. It seems to touch a deeper, darker place than any poem he’s ever written.’

Plath, the American author of The Bell Jar, killed herself after Hughes left her and their children Frieda and Nicholas for another woman, Assia Wevill.

Nicholas – who last year hanged himself, aged 47 – had been just one and his sister two when their mother killed herself on February 11, 1963, at their home in Camden, North London.

Hughes went on to settle down with Wevill, until she too committed suicide in 1969. A year later he ­married Carol.

The poet was born in Yorkshire in 1930 and was poet laureate from 1984 until his death. Ranked as one of the best of his generation, his work is a set text at GCSE.

* Go here to see drafts of the poem

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Facebook Reunites Houston Father and Daughter After 25 Years

An author who searched for 25 years for a daughter he had never met was reunited with her for the first time in Houston after using social networking to find her.

James Boyd met Stephanie Brumlow on Friday at Lone Star College-CyFair in suburban Houston, where Brumlow's a student.

"She sent me a friend request Monday...and as soon as I saw the friend request and the picture I knew exactly who she was that very moment," Boyd said.

Boyd and Brumlow's mother had separated before she was born. Boyd, author of the recent book "Pink Ribbons, Cancer Answers" sponsored by the National Cancer Foundation, has said that he had searched for Brumlow since before she was born.

Brumlow had searched for Boyd for 12 years with the help of only his name and an old photograph. With friends' help, she used the Internet and social networking sites until she found a man by her father's name on FaceBook who strongly resembled her old photograph.

"I'm on cloud 9, "It's a fairytale I've always wished for and wanted this day and now I have it," Brumlow said.