Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Trivia Odds & Ends for December 2012

Ironstone’s Crown Jewel?

What is it? Well, right down the road a bit at Ironstone Vineyards is Ironstone’s Crown Jewel. It is the world’s largest piece of Crystalline Gold.

I've seen it many times, and I can testify that it is massive!

At 44 pounds troy (16.4 kg), it is substantially larger than the Fricot "Nugget" (13.8 lb troy; 5.15 kg) and the Whopper (11.7 lb troy; 4.37 kg), the next two largest specimens.

Crystalline gold is usually found in an amorphous state, meaning that the atoms are connected, but not aligned in a nice crystalline structure. Under certain circumstances, the gold atoms are deposited in a crystalline structure.

In the history of this area, California's Gold Country, one form of gold found in California is gold in quartz which is often hard-rock mined in vertical or horizontal shafts. This contrasts with placer - loose gold, often nuggets - and fine gold that has been recovered by hydraulic mining.

The gold specimen was unearthed at the Sonora Mining Co. mine in Jamestown, California on December 24, 1992.

Along with other gold-heavy quartz pieces, believe it or not, the gold was first believed to be bits of damaged machinery.

A number of days later, the materials were examined and found to be full of gold. The “Crown Jewel” was the largest of the pieces, weighing in at 60 lb troy (22.4 kg).

Word of the find first hit the press on December 31, 1992. The find caused the Gold Trust and Reinsurance company of the West Indies to make a $20 million offer for the Sonora Mining Corp. of Toronto, Canada.

The National Enquirer even picked up the story.

Many of the smaller specimens of crystalline gold were sold at a Tucson, Arizona gem show.

In April 1993, the Sonora Mining Corp. offered the gold specimen as a bond to Tuolumne County, California. The County ultimately declined the offer. And yes, among those seeking to buy the specimen was the French government.

As for it being on display, well after acquiring the gold-bearing rock, John Kautz, proprietor of Ironstone Vineyards, had the sample etched with acid and most of the rock removed by tweezers. This process took over a year.

What resulted is the specimen that has little original rock in the upper part, and more original rock in the bottom part.

To display “Ironstone’s Crown Jewel,” Mr. Kautz had a three-story building constructed at Ironstone Vineyards. The upper story includes a vault to hold the gold specimen along with the Jewelry Shoppe that sells items that include unusual “gold in quartz” jewelry.

California Governor George Deukmejian opened the exhibit at Ironstone Vineyards. The specimen is available to be seen during normal Jewelry Shoppe hours at no charge.

So what's in a name? Well, the name "Ironstone's Crown Jewel" comes from Kautz family usage and promotional materials for the winery.

It's the "crown jewel" among the "jewels" of the historic Alhambra Theatre pipe organ, the caverns, the extensive gardens, the historic gold mining equipment, and much more at the winery in Murphys, California.

Titanic Iceberg?

On Nov. 28, 2012, a question was asked about this picture: Is this a photograph of the iceberg that did the unthinkable: sinking the RMS Titanic?

On April 12, 1912, Captain W. F. Wood aboard the steamer S. S. Etonian photographed a massive iceberg with a distinctive elliptical shape. Wood found the picture remarkable enough to print it out and annotate it with the current latitude and longitude.

Two days later, on April 14, the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg and sank to bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. That iceberg had the same elliptical shape, according to sketches made on the ship.

Wood had captured the remarkable piece of ice, said Craig Sophin, a Titanic expert and consultant to the auctioneers.

Blacks Sold Blacks Into Slavery?

For some reason many people have the belief that the slave trade was exclusive to Europeans and Americans. Somehow they believe only evil white people were to blame for it.

That is completely wrong. An often-overlooked facet of slavery's ugly history is that black Africans sold other black Africans into slavery.

When rival tribes made war, the victors took prisoners and made them slaves - often selling them to first Muslim slave merchants, then much later European and American slave traders.

Tribal animosity seethed. And yes, hundreds of years before there was ever a slave trade with Europeans, there was huge slave trade carried on for hundreds of years with Muslims. No kidding, hundreds of years before white slavers.

So how important was the slave trade to black Africans who sold other black Africans? Well, even into the 1800s when Great Britian and other European nations were ending their practice of slave trading, black Africans sold other blacks into slavery.

There is no telling how many blacks were sold into slavery to Muslim countries because those slaves usually did not survive.

In contrast, slaves sold to Europeans not on survived but can be traced to people in Europe and in the Western Hemisphere today.

According to some figures, about 10-15,000,000 Africans were transported to the New World. Supposedly, about 75 % went to South America, 15 % went to the Caribbean, and about 10% went to what became the United States.

So just how did all those people get captured and shipped off? Well, like Muslim slave traders, European slave traders never conquered a square inch of Africa.

Actually, European and Americans never did have any African country as a conquered territory during the days of the slave trade. Fact is that European colonization of Africa didn't start till almost 50 years after the trade was abolished in 1808.

Instead, all they had to do was establish "trading stations" on the coast.

The local black royalty delivered! Yes, black Africans actually delievered other black Africans to the slave traders. They brought them to them.

So just how did all of those millions of black Africans get captured, held, and then shipped off?

Well, that was a black African problem solved by other black Africans. Because the coastal black African kingdoms were in fact the source of the slave trade, capturing other Africans and then holding them, feeding them, and selling was all engineered by other black Aficans - the exact same way German Jews were gathered, held, fed, and shipped, by German Nazis.

Black African Royalty, ordered the capture, holding, feeding, and selling, or other blacks to a relative few thousand Muslim and European slaver traders and shippers set up along their coast
In 1807, Great Britian's Parliament passed the Bill that abolished the trading of slaves.

The King of Bonny (now in Nigeria) was horrified at the conclusion of the practice, "We think this trade must go on. That is the verdict of our oracle and the priests. They say that your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God himself."

In the 1840s, King Gezo of Dahomey said, "The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source and the glory of their wealth…the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery…"

In fact, just a few years ago, West African had a message to African-Americans: "We Apologize for Slavery."

That's right. Just a few years ago, the president of the West African nation of Benin put out a message to African-Americans, saying: His compatriots are sorry for their ancestors' complicity in the slave trade.

Benin president Matthieu Kerekou says inter-tribal hostility over the slave trade still exists. Many of his people have never seen descendants of their forebears who were shipped off to the Americas.

More on this ...

President Barack Obama Is Not Descended From Slaves, But Slave Traders And Owners
President Barack Obama is descended from people who owned and/or sold black African slaves, but were never slaves themselves.

It is ironic that Obama receives almost universal support from blacks who are here because their ancestors were grabbed up and sold into slavery by other black Africans - including Obama’s father’s tribe in Kenya.

When this issue first came up from a story published in the Baltimore Sun on March 2, 2007, which only looked into Obama’s mother’s family, the media demonized Obama’s mother’s side of the family for apparently owning slaves.

But the more important story is finding out what role Obama’s tribe and family had in grabbing up whoever was handy and selling them into slavery in the first place.

Research now shows that Obama is descended from slave traders on his father’s side:

It's true, Obama’s black African forebears were black slave traders.

In the 18th century, Muslim slavers moved into the interior of Kenya for the purpose of exploiting blood rivalries between local tribes. Muslims encouraged warring tribes, Obama Jr’s Luo ancestors included, to capture “prisoners of war” and sell them into slavery.

Kenya tribe leaders, also exported slaves and ivory that had been exchanged by Africans from the interior for salt, cloth, beads, and metal goods. The slaves were then marched to the coast and shipped to Muslim Zanzibar (an island South of Kenya), to be traded again.

African slaves and ivory became hugely profitable and Zanzibar Muslims grew rich on the trade. Slave trading continued despite the public outrage in Europe demanding an end to all slave trade.

The British, eventually brought their forceful anti-slavery message directly to the Muslim Sultan.

After years of pressure, the Sultan finally relented and agreed to ban slavery in 1847. It was not until 1876, 11 years after the American Civil War had ended, that the sale of slaves was finally prohibited in Zanzibar.

As one article put it, many people know that Obama Jr's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas.

But, (quoting a Mar.2, 2007 report in the Baltimore Sun), "an intriguing sliver of his [Obama Jr.] family history has received almost no attention until now: It appears that forebears of his white mother owned slaves, according to genealogical research and census records.

" . . . The records could add a new dimension to questions by some who have asked whether Obama - who was raised in East Asia and Hawaii and educated at Columbia and Harvard - is attuned to the struggles of American blacks descended from West African slaves."

That's a great question since Obama Jr's African forebears were in fact Slave Traders and not slaves themselves.

While many including Obama blame white people for slavery, they need to check the facts first!!
Obama’s relatives never were brought to America in slavery. We know this because Obama’s Muslim Family were the blacks rounding up other blacks for sale.

As Obama says: his Grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama is Arab. Obama’s maternal Grandmother, Akuma, was kiddnapped, raped and enslaved by Oyango until she finally escaped, like many girls he had before.

So his own Grandmother in Africa was a slave to his Arabic Muslim Grandfather. This is according to Sarah Obama, Barack’s step-Grandmother and mentioned in Barack’s own memoir.

While Obama and his supporters have actually tried their hardest to connect the President to any slave here in America - and failed other than circumstanially - we do know for fact that Obama’s Kenyan Luo ancestors and his African-Arabic Muslim forefathers sold slaves while his white grandparents owned slaves.

Roman Gold Coins?

It was reported on Oct. 17, 2012, that the English city of St. Albans would display a large batch of late Roman gold coins found by an amateur using a metal detector.

The 159 Roman Gold Coins were to be displayed at the Verulamium Museum.

The coins are example of the solidus, a high-value coin struck in the late 4th century. David Thorold, a curator at the museum, says the coins would have been used for major transactions such as buying land or ship cargoes.

No telling their worth!

Mathematician's Century-Old Secrets Unlocked

While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved.

Well, now 100 years later, researchers say they've proved he was right.

"We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years," Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said.

Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a rural village in South India, spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice, Ono said.

But he sent mathematicians letters describing his work, and one of the most preeminent ones, English mathematician G. H. Hardy, recognized the Indian boy's genius and invited him to Cambridge University in England to study.

While there, Ramanujan published more than 30 papers and was inducted into the Royal Society.

"For a brief window of time, five years, he lit the world of math on fire," Ono told LiveScience.

But the cold weather eventually weakened Ramanujan's health, and when he was dying, he went home to India.

It was on his deathbed in 1920 that he described mysterious functions that mimicked theta functions, or modular forms, in a letter to Hardy. Like trigonometric functions such as sine and cosine, theta functions have a repeating pattern, but the pattern is much more complex and subtle than a simple sine curve.

Theta functions are also "super-symmetric," meaning that if a specific type of mathematical function called a Moebius transformation is applied to the functions, they turn into themselves.

Because they are so symmetric these theta functions are useful in many types of mathematics and physics, including string theory.

Ramanujan believed that 17 new functions he discovered were "mock modular forms" that looked like theta functions when written out as an infinte sum (their coefficients get large in the same way), but weren't super-symmetric. Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to him by the goddess Namagiri.

Ramanujan died before he could prove his hunch. But more than 90 years later, Ono and his team proved that these functions indeed mimicked modular forms, but don't share their defining characteristics, such as super-symmetry.

The expansion of mock modular forms helps physicists compute the entropy, or level of disorder, of black holes.

In developing mock modular forms, Ramanujan was decades ahead of his time, Ono said; mathematicians only figured out which branch of math these equations belonged to in 2002.

"Ramanujan's legacy, it turns out, is much more important than anything anyone would have guessed when Ramanujan died," Ono said.

The findings were presented last month at the Ramanujan 125 conference at the University of Florida, ahead of the 125th anniversary of the mathematician's birth on Dec. 22.


Everyone knows about penicillin, after all it works wonders. And yes, this antibiotic is often considered one of the great accidental discoveries.

In 1928, Scottish Scientist Sir Alexander Fleming was studying Staphylococcus – the bacteria that causes food poisoning.

He turned up at work one day and discovered a blue-green mould that seemed to be inhibiting growth of the bacteria.

He grew a pure culture of the mould and discovered that it was a Penicillium mould.

After further experiments, Fleming was convinced that penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931, but restarted some clinical trials in 1934 and continued to try to get someone to purify it until 1940.

The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel Laureate Howard Walter Florey – he shared the Nobel Prize with Fleming and Ernst Boris Chain.

So OK, Alexander Fleming got a Nobel Prize when he noticed that a mold had contaminated his flu cultures - but the area around the mold was clear of infection.

Others, though, had gotten there long before him. Including, believe it or not, young stable boys who used moldy bread to treat skin infections in horses way back when.

It's true! The young fellas used to rub the mold that accumulated on saddles into their own skin to prevent saddle sores.

King Richard III?

On Sept. 12, 2012, a human skeleton with a cleaved skull was discovered beneath a parking lot in England.

Researchers announced it may belong to King Richard III, though they have a long way to go in analyzing the bones to determine the identity.

A Golden Hoard?

On Nov. 8, 2012, archaeologists said they unearthed an almost 2,400-year-old golden hoard in an ancient Thracian tomb in northern Bulgaria.

The treasure was found on Thursday near the village of Sveshtari, 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of Sofia, team leader Diana Gergova said.

She said that among the artifacts, dating back to the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century B.C., were gold jewelry and applications for horse trappings, a tiara with reliefs of lions and fantasy animals, as well as four bracelets and a ring.

The Thracians lived in what is now Bulgaria, and parts of modern Greece, Romania, Macedonia, and Turkey between 4,000 B.C. and the 7th century A.D., when they were assimilated by the invading Slavs.

File This Under Stupid Snip

File this under life-prolonging treatments few would want to try.

Until 1894, some Koreans had their testicles removed in order to rise in a traditional court hierarchy and get invited to exclusive sleepover parties at the royal palace.

The Korean eunuchs lived up to 20 years longer than their intact male counterparts.

Though it's not clear exactly why this happened, the male sex hormone, testosterone, is known to suppress the immune system and worsen heart health.

But than again, no one lives forever!

Today's Artists Can't Get It Right

On Dec. 5, 2012, it was reported that Paleolithic people living more than 10,000 years ago had a better artistic eye than modern painters and sculptures at least when it came to watching how horses and other four-legged animals move.

A new analysis of 1,000 pieces of prehistoric and modern artwork finds that "cavemen," or people living during the upper Paleolithic period between 10,000 and 50,000 years ago, were more accurate in their depictions of four-legged animals walking than artists are today.

While modern artists portray these animals walking incorrectly 57.9 percent of the time, prehistoric cave painters only made mistakes 46.2 percent of the time. Imagine that!

Ancient Conehead-like ‘Alien’ Skulls Unearthed in Mexico

An archaeological discovery of 13 Conehead-shaped skulls in Mexico.

The bones, which are about 1,000 years old, dating back to 945 A.D. to 1308 A.D., were discovered accidentally during a dig for an irrigation system in the northwest state of Sonora in Mexico.

While it’s not unheard of for archaeological sites to be unearthed during modern excavations, the misshapen skulls discovered on the site are fairly uncommon, especially as far north as Sonora.

“This was a Hispanic cemetery with 25 skulls, and 13 of them have deformed heads,” Cristina Garcia Moreno, who worked on the project with Arizona State University, told ABC News. “We don’t know why this population specifically deformed their heads.”

While the site, known as El Cementerio, was discovered in 1999, Moreno and her colleagues completed their analysis of the skeletal remains just last month. They plan to continue their research during the next field season.

Discovered on the site were artifacts like pendants, nose rings and jewelry along with the remains of 25 people, 13 of whom had skulls deformed into an alien-looking cone shape.

The deformation of human skulls was part of an ancient ritual practiced some 1,000 years ago in that area; it was achieved by binding a person’s head between two blocks of wood to apply pressure on the skull.

“Cranial deformation has been used by different societies in the world as a ritual practice, or for distinction of status within a group or to distinguish between social groups,” said Moreno, adding, “The reason why these individuals at El Cementerio deformed their skulls is still unknown.”

Many of the bones were the remains of children, which led Moreno to believe that the practice of deforming skulls “may have been inept and dangerous.”

The practice of artificial skull deformation was not limited to Mexico, though.

The Chinookan tribes of the U.S. Northwest and the Choctaw of the U.S. Southeast both practiced the ritual.

6,000 Years Later, the 'Lovers of Valdaro' Need a New Home

A pair of human skeletons found at a construction site outside Mantua, Italy, are believed by archaeologists to be a man and a woman from the Neolithic period, buried around 6,000 years ago

For 6,000 years, two young lovers have been locked in an eternal embrace, hidden from the eyes of the world. The Lovers of Valdaro — named for the little village near Mantua, in northern Italy, where they were first discovered — were seen by the public for the first time recently.

The lovers are in fact two human skeletons, dating back to the Neolithic era; they were found in a necropolis in the nearby village of Valdaro in 2007, huddled close together, face to face, their arms and legs entwined.

They were displayed at the entrance of Mantua's Archaeological Museum, thanks to the effort of the association Lovers in Mantua, which is seeking a permanent home for the ancient couple.

After the discovery, many thought that the couple had been killed. It would fit in well with the history of an Italian region famous for many tragic love stories.

Mantua is the city where Romeo was exiled and was told that his Juliet was dead. The composer Giuseppe Verdi chose it as the location for his opera Rigoletto, another story of star-crossed love and death.

But subsequent research revealed that the skeletons did not have any signs of a violent death. They were a woman and a man, ages between 18 and 20 years old.

Some have wondered if they died together, holding each other in a freezing night.

Professor Silvia Bagnoli, the president of the association Lovers in Mantua, doesn't exclude this possibility, but she says that more likely the skeletons were laid out in that position after their deaths.

Honestly, since we weren't there, the mystery might never be solved.

Saccharine and What Have You?

Like many artificial sweeteners, the sweetness of cyclamate was discovered by accident.

Michael Sveda was working in the lab on the synthesis of anti-fever medication. He put his cigarette down on the lab bench and when he put it back in his mouth he discovered the sweet taste of cyclamate.

Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. Schlatter had synthesized aspartame in the course of producing an anti-ulcer drug candidate.

He discovered its sweet taste serendipitously when he licked his finger, which had accidentally become contaminated with aspartame.

Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener. It was first produced in 1878 by Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist working on coal tar derivatives in Ira Remsen’s laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University, and it was he who, accidentally, discovered its intensely sweet nature.

So what has this to do with doing dishes? Well, not everyone likes to do dishes. Everyone, however, should at least like washing their hands.

Not Constantin Fahlberg.

After a hard day of working with coal tar, going to the bathroom in public bus stations, and petting every mangy stray dog he could find, he came home and, without washing his hands, grabbed one of his wife's dinner rolls and bit into it.

It tasted sweet! Imagine that!

He asked his wife if she had been doing anything different with the rolls. She hadn't. Hers tasted normal.

Fahlberg discovered saccharine, his wife told him to never ever come home again, and everyone who liked sugarless sugar lived happily ever after.

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