Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hidden fortress found under Alcatraz

Hidden fortress found under Alcatraz

By Rob Quinn

Published February 27, 2014

  • Hidden fortress found under Alcatraz

    Three armored railroad cars arrive on a car ferry at the United States Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island, San Francisco in August 1934. (AP Photo/File)

A surprising find under what used to be America’s most notorious prison: Texas A&M researchers using ground-penetrating radar have discovered the remains of an old military fortress long believed to have been completely destroyed, reports the BBC.

The San Francisco Bay island was once the home of Fort Alcatraz, built upon the discovery of gold in the area and transformed into a line of defense during the Civil War.

The fort never fired a shot during the war, though it did house Confederate sympathizers jailed for denouncing the federal government. The radar has revealed old fortifications along with buried magazine buildings and tunnels dating from long before the main prison building was erected in 1915.

“From 1850 to 1907 was the era of Fortress Alcatraz,” explains Texas A&M professor of geology and geophysics Mark Everett. Much of the remaining fortress is inaccessible under prison buildings, but archeologists hope to start excavations soon on what they believe is an important find under the prison’s parade ground.

“It is called a caponier, and it is a large structure that juts out into the bay and provides defensive cover. We have seen it in the old photographs but it has completely disappeared from present view,” says Everett.

He told the Houston Chronicle last month that the National Park Service had asked his team to search for Civil War-era structures at the site, using equipment that scans under the earth in a way “similar to the way people look for oil deposits.” One other find of note: what is believed to be some of the oldest concrete in the US, which was likely imported from Europe.

(Historians are trying to locate another long-lost US fort, but it turns out they may have been looking in the wrong state.)

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Baby’s rare brain tumor had teeth

Baby’s rare brain tumor had teeth


Published February 27, 2014

A 4-month-old infant in Maryland may be the first person to have had teeth form in his brain as a result of a specific type of rare brain tumor, according to a new report of the case.

The boy is doing well now that his tumor has been removed, and doctors say the case sheds light on how these rare tumors develop.

Doctors first suspected something might be wrong when the child’s head appeared to be growing faster than is typical for children his age. A brain scan revealed a tumor containing structures that looked very similar to teeth normally found in the lower jaw.

The child underwent brain surgery to have the tumor removed, during which doctors found that the tumor contained several fully formed teeth, according to the report. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]

After an analysis of tumor tissue, doctors determined the child had a craniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor that can grow to be larger than a golf ball, but does not spread.

Researchers had always suspected that these tumors form from the same cells involved in making teeth, but until now, doctors had never seen actual teeth in these tumors, said Dr. Narlin Beaty, a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who performed the boy’s surgery along with his colleague, Dr. Edward Ahn, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

“It’s not every day you see teeth in any type of tumor in the brain. In a craniopharyngiomas, it’s unheard of,” Beaty said.

Craniopharyngiomas commonly contain calcium deposits, “but when we pulled out a full tooth…I think thats something slightly different,” Beaty told Live Science.

Teeth have been found in people’s brains before, but only in tumors known as teratomas, which are unique among tumors because they contain all three of the tissue types found in an early-stage human embryo, Beaty said. In contrast, craniopharyngiomas have only one layer of tissue.

The boy’s case provides more evidence that craniopharyngiomas do indeed develop from the cells that make teeth, Beaty said.

These tumors are most often diagnosed in children ages 5 to 14, and are rare in children younger than 2, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The boy is progressing well in his development, the researchers said. However, because craniopharyngiomas are tumors of the pituitary gland a gland in the brain that releases many important hormones they often cause hormone problems.

In the boy’s case, the tumor destroyed the normal connections in the brain that would allow certain hormones to be released, Beaty said, so he will need to receive hormone treatments for the rest of his life to replace these hormones, Beaty said.

“He’s doing extremely well, all things considered,” Beaty said. “This was a big tumor right in the center of his brain. Before the moderate surgical era this child would not have survived,” Beaty said.

The teeth were sent to a pathologist for further study, Beaty said, and generally, these types of tissue samples are saved for many years in case more investigation is needed.

The report is published in the Feb. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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California couple in $10M gold find may owe gov’t about half

California couple in $10M gold find may owe gov’t about half, report says

Published February 27, 2014
  • Gold3.jpg

    Feb. 25: David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service, poses with some of 1,427 Gold-Rush era U.S. gold coins, at his office in Santa Ana, Calif. (AP)

One couple’s gold find could mean a jackpot for the IRS.

The Northern California couple that found $10 million worth of rare, mint-condition gold coins buried in the shadow of an old tree on their property will likely owe about half the find’s value whether they sell the gold or not.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the find is a taxable event under a 1969 federal court ruling that held a “treasure trove” is taxable the year it was discovered.

“If you find and keep property that does not belong to you that has been lost or abandoned (treasure-trove), it is taxable to you at its fair market value in the first year it is your undisputed possession,” the report said, citing the IRS tax guide.

The report says after all is said and done, about 47 percent will go to state and federal tax, or the top tax rate.

An accountant told the paper that the couple can try to fight the tax and claim it was there when they bought the property.

Nearly all of the 1,427 coins that were found, dating from 1847 to 1894, were in uncirculated, mint condition, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service of Santa Ana, which recently authenticated them. Although the face value of the gold pieces only adds up to about $27,000, some of them are so rare that coin experts say they could fetch nearly $1 million apiece.

“I don’t like to say once-in-a-lifetime for anything, but you don’t get an opportunity to handle this kind of material, a treasure like this, ever,” said veteran numismatist Don Kagin, who is representing the finders. “It’s like they found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

Kagin, whose family has been in the rare-coin business for 81 years, would say little about the couple other than that they are husband and wife, are middle-aged and have lived for several years on the rural property where the coins were found. They have no idea who put them there, he said.

The pair are choosing to remain anonymous, Kagin said, in part to avoid a renewed gold rush to their property by modern-day prospectors armed with metal detectors.

They also don’t want to be treated any differently, said David McCarthy, chief numismatist for Kagin Inc. of Tiburon.

They plan to put most of the coins up for sale through Amazon while holding onto a few keepsakes. They’ll use the money to pay off bills and quietly donate to local charities, Kagin said.

Before they sell them, they are loaning some to the American Numismatic Association for its National Money Show, which opens Thursday in Atlanta.

What makes their find particularly valuable, McCarthy said, is that almost all of the coins are in near-perfect condition. That means that whoever put them into the ground likely socked them away as soon as they were put into circulation.

Because paper money was illegal in California until the 1870s, he added, it’s extremely rare to find any coins from before that of such high quality.

“It wasn’t really until the 1880s that you start seeing coins struck in California that were kept in real high grades of preservation,” he said.

The coins, in $5, $10 and $20 denominations, were stored more or less in chronological order, McCarthy said, with the 1840s and 1850s pieces going into one canister until it was filed, then new coins going into the next one and the next one after that. The dates and the method indicated that whoever put them there was using the ground as their personal bank and that they weren’t swooped up all at once in a robbery.

Although most of the coins were minted in San Francisco, one $5 gold piece came from as far away as Georgia.

Kagin and McCarthy would say little about the couple’s property or its ownership history, other than it’s in a sprawling hilly area of Gold Country and the coins were found along a path the couple had walked for years. On the day they found them last spring, the woman had bent over to examine an old rusty can that erosion had caused to pop slightly out of the ground.

“Don’t be above bending over to check on a rusty can,” he said she told him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Random Humor

Random humor for your random enjoyment!

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10 Incredible Cutting-Edge Technologies In Development

10 Incredible Cutting-Edge Technologies In Development

Mike Floorwalker August 29, 2013

Don’t give up on flying cars or hoverboards just yet! As technology marches relentlessly on, everything goes into development sooner or later—as demonstrated by the existence of these things, which we’ll almost certainly see within our lifetimes.

10 Artificial Gills

Freediving - Guillaume Nery Prepares for World Record Attempt

Inventors have long sought an underwater breathing apparatus that doesn’t store oxygen, but extracts it from the water the way gills do. Israeli inventor Alon Bodner has come close.

The device, aptly named LikeAFish, works by using a centrifuge to lower the pressure of water within an airtight chamber. Since only a little oxygen is contained in water, the device must move about 190 liters (50 gallons) per minute in order for the average person to breathe comfortably. Despite this, the only real barrier to implementation is size and weight, but it’s close enough that the device has been under consideration for military use for several years now.

Such a system would obviously allow for longer “bottom time” without the need for refilling oxygen and would decrease the amount of nitrogen the diver is exposed to. According to Bodner’s website, the company spent 2012 “quietly designing a prototype to be installed on board a naval submarine,” so they may be very close to solving the size and weight issues of previous prototypes.

9 Agricultural Robots

Robot Farm

Agricultural robotics are, somewhat surprisingly, still in their infancy. While unemployment seems to be leveling off, there is still talk of a possible general labor shortage in the near future—particularly in agriculture. Many companies worldwide are attempting to bring various types of robot farmhands to market, but in robotics (where government and academic projects still lead the way) it tends to take longer than in some other, more commercial industries for such projects to obtain funding, produce a product, and prove its viability.

But the technology is coming along, and it’s easy to imagine it implemented on a wide-scale basis before too long. One Boston company that was able to raise nearly $8 billion in private funds in 2011 has developed a robot that it claims could perform 40 percent of the manual labor currently performed on farms. A Japanese research company has developed a robot that performs stereo imaging of strawberries to determine their ripeness before picking them, and MIT has a cherry tomato garden that is managed by a small crew of robots equipped with vision sensors. Of course, the main advantage to robot farm workers is the fact that they can work around the clock and never get tired.

8 Sunscreen Pills


An effective sunscreen that can be administered orally has been sought after for some time now. One doctor claims that a fern extract, containing the compound polypodium leucotomos, can act as such. He cites a human study showing less sun damage to the skin of those who were administered the active ingredient (though he did have to admit that there were only 12 people involved).

Also promising is a study at King’s College in London, which has determined a method by which coral protects itself from UV rays through its relationship with a symbiotic algae that lives within it. The algae produces a chemical compound which is converted by the coral into its own UV-blocking sunscreen, benefiting not only the coral and the algae but also the fish that feed on the coral. This transference has led scientists to believe that if the compound can be isolated, it could potentially be modified into a human oral sunscreen that would protect both the skin and the eyes. Said Dr. Paul Long, head of the three-year project, “There would have to be a lot of toxicology tests done first but I imagine a sunscreen tablet might be developed in five years or so. Nothing like it exists at the moment.”

7 Paper-Thin, Flexible Computers and Phones

Flexible computer pic WEB

In early 2013, consumer electronics shows debuted a prototype by European firm Plastic Logic of a product called the Papertab. That would be a portmanteau of “paper” and “tablet” and it is pretty much what it sounds like: a fully functional, touch screen tablet computer that is not only as thin as a sheet of paper, but as flexible as one too, and possesses the same reflective qualities. The company envisions such machines being ubiquitous within five to 10 years, as they could be inexpensive and interactive. A consumer could have several lying around, multi-tasking with different media all in service of one project.

A joint project between two American and Canadian universities has been creatively dubbed the Paperphone. Queens University director Dr. Roel Vertegaal has largely the same vision of the project. “This is the future,” he says. “Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years.” The machine is the size of a regular smartphone, with a 9.4-centimeter (3.7 in) display, but again, paper-thin and flexible. Users can give the phone commands by using “bend gestures.” It consumes no power when not in use and is considerably harder to damage than an ordinary phone.

6 Tooth Regeneration


Regeneration of body parts in humans seems permanently consigned to the realm of science fiction, even though many species of animals are able to completely regrow lost parts. It’s long been known that alligators are able to regrow lost teeth, for example, but it was assumed to be a cyclical process, like snakes shedding their skin periodically. Scientists have recently discovered that this is not the case: An alligator’s tooth will grow back automatically to replace a lost one. This is quite significant because the structure of alligators’ teeth is pretty similar to ours.

The problem has been that the inner areas of teeth contain living tissue known as “pulp” that doesn’t grow back. But the solution may have been found in stem cells: Scientists in multiple countries are trying to figure out how to get them to produce the correct tissues and structure for the given situation on demand. A University of Utah study in November 2012 confirmed that this could be done in a lab.  Perfection of this technology could result in the potential end of tooth decay, gum disease, fillings, and root canals.

5 Holographic TV


While Ultra High Definition TV is on the way, there are really only so many pixels you can cram into a flat display—most existing models are 214-centimeter (84 in) monsters for that very reason. But the next generation of TVs, if you can call them that, won’t have screens so much as they’ll have a viewing area. As seen above, it could be a desktop display, or it could be an entire room—but holographic displays are definitely in the works.

Researchers at MIT, who are apparently good at the cutting-edge technology thing (hence the “T”), have created a chip that can support a holographic display of 50 gigapixels per second—enough to simulate real world objects, as reported in the journal Nature. Such amazing technology will have to wait to come to marketplace, though, until costs can be driven down—right? Well, says Michael Bove, head of MIT’s Object-Based Media group: “The technology itself is one that’s easy and inexpensive and, as far as we are aware and Nature is aware, has never been applied to displays before.” He foresees holographic displays on the market within 10 years—at the same cost as today’s regular, flat TVs. Another company, Provision, has built an inexpensive projector that displays a 45-centimeter (18 in) image. As of this writing, they’re working on ramping that up to a two-meter (six-foot) image, displayed by a unit the size of a toaster.

4 Real-Time Google Earth


At RAL Space in Oxford, scientists are building two video cameras quite unlike any other. Meter-long tubes packed with electronics and mirrors, these cameras are to be mounted to the outside of the International Space Station. But their purpose isn’t to capture images of space—they’ll be pointed toward the Earth. And while the resolution won’t be great (roughly a meter per pixel) it will be a real-time, streaming, live video of the entire planet.

Meanwhile, some Georgia Tech researchers are taking a slightly different approach toward the same ends. They take footage from the many live video feeds around the world and use it to layer complex animations on top of Google Earth, sometimes piecing together multiple camera angles to extrapolate the desired information. While currently focusing on people and cars, they’d like to add animals and weather conditions soon.

3 Wireless Electricity


The notion of wireless electric power has been around far longer than one might think: Nikola Tesla might have perfected the technology a century ago if he had not been poor, unlucky, and kind of crazy. Many today are unaware that, even though it has obviously yet to be deployed en masse, wireless power transfer actually exists.

Wireless device charging has been around for some time, and continues to improve. Companies like Witricity are at work developing electric “hubs” that can power your entire house. Their prototype is called “Prodigy” and is based on research done by physicist Marin Soljacic of MIT. It works by exploiting the fact that certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves facilitate ease of energy transfer, and two objects resonating with such a frequency can easily transfer electricity between them, even at some distance and even if the objects are metal. When perfected (which many see coming within the next decade), it could bring about an end to batteries as we know them.

2 Ultra–High Speed Tube Trains


Magnetic levitation, or Maglev, trains have been in development for quite some time. In Japan, a recent successful test run means that plans are underway to connect the whole country by 2045 with trains capable of reaching over 480 kph (300 mph). They accomplish this by removing the wheels—and thereby, contact and friction—from the equation. Maglev trains levitate above the track, suspended by an electromagnetic field. And while the Japanese model is impressive, one company in the small Colorado town of Longmont is upping the ante by eliminating another barrier to shattering speeds: namely, wind resistance.

To be fair, eliminating this factor doesn’t so much up the ante as it blows up the entire house containing the card table. Daryl Oster of ET3 says that his company’s concept, called the Evacuated Tube Transport, is the future of transportation, and it very well may be. Its track is contained within a sealed, pressurized vacuum tube, making the capsules conceivably capable of speeds up 6,500 kph (4,000 mph), all while subjecting the passenger to G-forces comparable to that of a leisurely ride on the highway and transporting them across the entire US in less than an hour. ET3 has built prototype capsules and, as of this writing, are searching for an appropriate stretch to build the first tube.

1 Sustainable Fusion Reactor

Fusion Reactor

Nuclear fission (the process by which nuclear power plants produce energy) is much easier to control than nuclear fusion (the process by which the sun burns, and nuclear weapons work). Small nuclear fusion reactors have been built, but a large-scale, sustainable fusion reactor has yet to be attempted—until now. A consortium of seven member bodies (the US, EU, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and India) has chosen a location in France to build the world’s first. And while even its champions concede it could be decades before it’s dispensing energy, nuclear fusion is cleaner and yields three to four times more power than fission.

The project is called ITER, for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, and it is the second-largest cooperative international scientific endeavor (ranking behind only the Space Station). It will use a donut-shaped magnetic field to contain gases that will reach temperatures comparable to those at the core of the sun, in excess of 150 million degrees C (270 million F), and will produce 10 times more power than it consumes.

        Mike FloorwalkerMike Floorwalker’s actual name is Jason, and he lives in the Boulder, Colorado area with his wife Stacey. He enjoys loud rock music, cooking and making lists.



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Beach Art Created by a Man with a Rake

A Man Takes A Single Rake to The Beach. And When You Zoom Out And See It…

If you live in San Francisco, California, then you may be lucky enough to come across the art of Andres Amador. He doesn’t paint or sculpt. He prefers a medium that is temporary but absolutely beautiful: a sandy beach at low tide. He uses a rake to create works of art that can be bigger than 100,000 sq. ft.
He spends hours creating these intricate masterpieces, knowing that the tide will soon come in and wash away his work forever.
For Andres, his art is “more about the process and less about the result.” He knows that it will all be temporary. While making his beach mural explorations, he uses a rope as a guide so that he can make the geometric patterns. When asked WHY he does it, Andre gives the best answer… “The unanswerable question! Its fun. I get to be at the beach.” Consider yourself lucky if you happen to stumble across one of his playa paintings, because it won’t be there long. By raking up the wet sand at low tide, he is able to make contrasting sand colors. He even offers his services, helping people propose. Or even teaching others to create these beachscapes as part of a team building exercise. According to Andres, it only takes a couple of hours once the tide is low enough to create the designs. Andres’ creations are simply stunning and knowing that these delicate creations are temporary somehow makes them even more beautiful.
You should definitely Like Andres On Facebook and Visit His Web Site where you can buy prints of his designs if you want.
Share his work. It’s truly awesome.

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Events that Didn’t Qualify for the Olympics…

Events that Didn’t Qualify for the Olympics…

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