Rare Liberty Head nickel sells for $3.1m

A century-old US five-cent coin, once branded a fake, has been sold for $3.1m (£2m) at auction.

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of only five such coins, had a pre-sale estimated price of $2.5m.

The coin’s intriguing provenance — it was illegally cast, found in a car crash, deemed a forgery and abandoned for decades — explains its high value.

It was located after a nationwide search and put up for sale by four siblings in the state of Virginia.

Not only is it just one of only five known, genuine 1913-dated Liberty Head design nickels, this particular one was off the radar for decades until it literally came out of the closet after a nationwide search, said Todd Imhof, vice-president of Heritage Auctions, where the coin was sold — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Hydro-Plane: 1940 / Howard McGraw

Hydro-Plane: 1940 / Howard McGraw

Hydro-Plane: 1940 / Howard McGraw

My grandfather Howard McGraw, a photographer for the Detroit News, likely saw the scene in his neighbourhood and stopped for the shot. The airplane is an early 1940’s Murray Pursuit pedal car with Army decals and machine gun mounts — worth over $1000 today if restored! And the gas pump would likely go for about $3000 restored! Scanned from a 4×5 negative — via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive

New York’s Sidewalk Clock / William Barthman

In lower Manhattan, blocks from where the World Trade Centre once stood, embedded deep into the sidewalk, is a clock. It’s a simple clock, the hours and minutes are neatly displayed by spade hands, while Roman numerals and train track minutes markers circle the dial. All of this is cloudy, but visible under the scratched and stained crystal that occupies a break in the pavement at the intersection of Maiden Lane and Broadway. And it has been ticking away there, under the feet of Manhattan, for over a century. — via HODINKEE + Vimeo

Pyramids / Marat Dupri

Pyramids / Marat Dupri

Pyramids / Marat Dupri

Recently a troop of Russian photographers surreptitiously scaled the Great Pyramid of Giza and documented the unseen vistas from its summit. How’d they do it? Seems like the group waited several hours after closing time, hiding from guards until they saw their chance. As one of the photographers would later point out, climbing the Pyramids is a punishable crime and can carry sentences of up to three years — via Architizer)

Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher

When I was a kid, Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring — I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four. She remained in power till I was 15. I am, it’s safe to say, one of Thatcher’s children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?

I grew up in Essex with a single mum and a go-getter Dagenham dad. I don’t know if they ever voted for her, I don’t know if they liked her. My dad, I suspect, did. He had enough Del Boy about him to admire her coiffured virility — but in a way Thatcher was so omnipotent; so omnipresent, so omni-everything that all opinion was redundant.

As I scan the statements of my memory bank for early deposits (it’d be a kid’s memory bank account at a neurological NatWest where you’re encouraged to become a greedy little capitalist with an escalating family of porcelain pigs), I see her in her hairy helmet, condescending on Nationwide, eviscerating eunuch MPs and baffled BBC fuddy duddies with her General Zodd stare and coldly condemning the IRA. And the miners. And the single mums. The dockers. The poll-tax rioters. The Brixton rioters, the Argentinians, teachers; everyone actually — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Ding Dong!: Margaret Thatcher’s foes celebrate death of former PM

Usually, when a public figure dies, even their staunchest enemies briefly suspend hostilities in respect for the dead.

But with Margaret Thatcher that was never going to be the case. She was loathed by too many, for too long.

For some, the wounds left by Thatcher’s Britain are still raw.

By mid-afternoon on the day of Lady Thatcher’s death, the editor of the London Daily Telegraph announced he had closed comments on every Thatcher story.

Even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse, he said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

The Kissinger Cables: WikiLeaks Releases 1.7M Historical Records

The cables are all from the time period of 1973 to 1976. Without droning about too many numbers that can be found in the press release, about 200,000 of the cables relate directly to former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. These cables include significant revelations about US involvements with fascist dictatorships, particularly in Latin America, under Franco’s Spain (including about the Spanish royal family) and in Greece under the regime of the Colonels. The documents also contain hourly diplomatic reporting on the 1973 war between Israel, Egypt and Syria (the Yom Kippur war). While several of these documents have been used by US academic researchers in the past, the Kissinger Cables provides unparalleled access to journalists and the general public. The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longerHenry A Kissinger, US Secretary of State, 10 March 1975 — via Slashdot

The British Library saves the .uk web, starting 20 years too late

A long-running scandal finally ended on Friday with the signing into law of new legislation that allows the British Library and other legal deposit libraries to archive around 5 million websites in the .uk domain. British content on other domains, such as .com and .org, will be added later.

While the legislation is to be applauded, it’s two decades too late to capture the early history of web development in the UK. Massive amounts of valuable data have presumably been lost forever, and there will always be a digital black hole in British history. The consolation is that the Internet Archive, founded by American digital activist Brewster Kahle in 1996, scooped up and preserved some of it in its Wayback Machine.

The British Library has been one of the UK’s copyright libraries since 1662, which means publishers have been legally obliged to give it free copy of everything they print. This has resulted in a priceless archive, albeit one that takes up 500 miles of shelf space.

It would have been logical to make the BL similarly responsible for storing copies of web-based publications as well. If it didn’t feel it had the legal right, or the money, the British government should speedily have provided both — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Unexploded WWII bomb found near Berlin station

Residents have been evacuated and traffic diverted in Berlin as sappers defused an unexploded WWII bomb near the capital’s main train station on Wednesday.

A police spokesman said the 100 kilogram explosive was dropped by an Allied plane during the Second World War. Media reports said it was a Soviet bomb.

The site lies about 1.5 kilometres north of the main station and the rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, said up to 50 regional and long-distance trains had to be re-directed to other hubs from 9:00am (local time).

The bomb was found [on Tuesday] afternoon on property belonging to the rail company, the police spokesman said.

The changed travel plan was expected to last three hours, with suburban train links unaffected and the main station itself still open.

It took just half an hour for the disposal team to complete the delicate operation — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Isle of Wight girl Daisy Morris has flying prehistoric beast named after her

A nine-year-old girl has had a prehistoric beast named in her honour after fossilised bones she found turned out to be an undiscovered species.

Daisy Morris from the Isle of Wight stumbled upon the remains on Atherfield beach four years ago.

A scientific paper stated the newly discovered species of pterosaur would be called Vectidraco daisymorrisae.

Fossil expert Martin Simpson said this was an example of how major discoveries can be made by amateurs — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Ashes of Charlotte Gray heroine scattered in France

The ashes of an Australian second world war spy who was the inspiration for the book and film, Charlotte Gray, have been scattered at a ceremony in France.

Nancy Wake requested that her ashes be scattered near the village of Verneix in central France where she worked with the French resistance.

The ceremony was attended by the mayor of Verneix and Brigadier Bill Sowry, the Australian military attache.

We are here today to pass on our respects, to give her the respect she deserves, Sowry said. It’s great the people of Verneix have done so much to recognise her and make this little part of France part of Australia as well — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Viking sunstone found in shipwreck

A crystal found in a shipwreck could be similar to a sunstone — a mythical navigational aid said to have been used by Viking mariners, scientists believe.

The team from France say the transparent crystal may have been used to locate the Sun even on cloudy days.

This could help to explain how the Vikings were able to navigate across large tracts of the sea — well before the invention of the magnetic compass.

However, a number of academics treat the sunstone theory with scepticism — via redwolf.newsvine.com

New Texas Rangers Web page hopes to breathe new life into cold cases

Say the name Kathleen Suckley to Corpus Christi Police Captain Tim Wilson and his response is immediate: 8 April 1993.

He never met her, but he thinks about her often. He checks the file he has checked a million times before, looking for something, anything, to solve the homicide cold case he first responded to 20 years ago.

Suckley was 29 when her throat was slashed and she was stabbed about 40 times inside her rented duplex, while her two sons, ages 4 and 1, were home.

I haven’t forgotten, Wilson said. It’s just a tragic incident; she was a young girl, she had a good life before her, she had two infants, she had a nice family. To me it seemed like such a useless crime.

The Department of Public Safety last week unveiled a new Web page dedicated to unsolved cold case homicides. It will rotate through the Texas Rangers Top 12 Cold Case Investigations, and Suckley is among the first 12 to be featured. Like Wilson, DPS spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said the goal of the new website is to make sure the victims are not forgotten and to try to catch a break in even the coldest of cases — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Ancient languages reconstructed by computer program

A new tool has been developed that can reconstruct long-dead languages.

Researchers have created software that can rebuild protolanguages — the ancient tongues from which our modern languages evolved.

To test the system, the team took 637 languages currently spoken in Asia and the Pacific and recreated the early language from which they descended.

The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Peru archaeologists find ancient temple in El Paraiso

Archaeologists in Peru say they have discovered a temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, near the capital, Lima.

Entry to the rectangular structure, estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, was via a narrow passageway, they say.

At its centre, the archaeologists from Peru’s Ministry of Culture found a hearth which they believe was used to burn ceremonial offerings.

With 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru.

The archaeologists found the structure, measuring 6.82m by 8.04m, in the right wing of the main pyramid — via redwolf.newsvine.com

St Dunstan-in-the-East / City of London

St Dunstan-in-the-East / City of London

St Dunstan-in-the-East / City of London
Photo Credit: Peter Trimming

One bombed-out ruin that has been positively re-imagined for the postwar world is the church of St Dunstan-in-the-East in the City of London. Now a public garden, the church was originally built around 1100, and was first damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Patched-up in 1695 and partially rebuilt during 1817, the church served the Anglican parish of St Dunstan’s Hill for another 124 years before being gutted by German bombs during the Blitz of 1941. The tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, survived the bombs, along with the north and south walls.

In 1967 the City of London Corporation decided to transform St Dunstan-in-the-East into a public garden rather than rebuilding it. Opening in 1971, a lawn and trees were planted within the ruins, with a fountain placed in what was the former nave. The All Hallows House Foundation occupies Wren’s tower — via Urban Ghosts

Police website raises hope of identifying 1,000 mystery bodies

The body of an unidentified man recovered from the sea off north Wales 30 years ago will be exhumed this month in the hope that it can be returned to his family.

The exhumation, from an unmarked grave at Menai Bridge cemetery, on Anglesey, is part of a nnationwide attempt by police forces around Britain to put names to more than 1,100 unidentified bodies dating back to the 1950s.

The national Missing Persons Bureau, which is the driving force behind the work, has established a website containing images and identifying features of the individuals who have remained nameless for so many years, in the hope of closing some of the cases. The site is one of only a few such facilities in the world.

As well as 1,029 men and women, the site contains details of 105 babies in unmarked graves, unclaimed by families, sometimes for decades — via redwolf.newsvine.com

David Wright House Saved

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy has facilitated the purchase of the David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona, through an LLC owned by an anonymous benefactor. The transaction closed on 20 December for an undisclosed price. The property will be transferred to an Arizona not-for-profit organization responsible for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the David Wright House.

Planning has begun for the restoration of the house and grounds, and additional donations from the public will be sought for the costs of restoration at the appropriate time. The new owner will request that the City of Phoenix grant landmark designation to the house. The goal after restoration is to make the house available for educational purposes.

This purchase is a magnificent and generous action, said Larry Woodin, president of the Chicago-based Conservancy. It is a gift to the people of Phoenix, a gift to the worldwide architectural community and to everyone that cares about the history of modern architecture. We are enormously grateful to this benefactor for making sure there will be a new chapter in the life of this important and unique Frank Lloyd Wright building — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Has World War II carrier pigeon message been cracked?

An encrypted World War II message found in a fire place strapped to the remains of a dead carrier pigeon may have been cracked by a Canadian enthusiast.

Gord Young, from Peterborough, in Ontario, says it took him 17 minutes to decypher the message after realising a code book he inherited was the key.

Mr Young says the 1944 note uses a simple World War I code to detail German troop positions in Normandy.

GCHQ says it would be interested to see his findings — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Casablanca piano sold at auction

A piano that features in the classic 1940s film Casablanca has been sold for more than $600,000 (£370,000) at an auction in New York.

The upright piano appears in one of the film’s most iconic scenes, in which Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick utters the line: Here’s looking at you, kid.

It was sold to an unknown buyer at Sotheby’s in New York — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Milan cathedral puts gargoyles up for adoption

Milan’s Duomo cathedral is putting its gargoyles up for adoption in an attempt to raise money for renovations.

The cathedral is raising money for essential maintenance amid cuts to Italy’s culture budget.

Donors looking for a new idea for their charity dollars can now adopt one of the cathedral’s 135 gargoyles.

For $123,000 donors will have their name engraved under their very own gothic gargoyle — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Enigma coding machine beats auction estimate in London

A rare Enigma encoding machine has sold at auction in London for £85,250.

That is more than its £40,000-£60,000 estimate, but less than the £131,180 price an Enigma sold for last year.

The typewriter-like devices were used by the Nazis in World War II to encrypt and decode messages sent between the military and their commanders.

Interest has been high as this is the centenary year of Alan Turing’s birth — the British mathematician who played a key role in breaking the Enigma code — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Bulgarian archaeologists find golden treasures in ancient Thracian tomb

Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered bracelets with snake heads, a tiara with animal motifs and a horse-head piece in a hoard of ancient golden artefacts unearthed during excavations at a Thracian tomb in the north of country.

The artefacts have been dated to the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century BC. They were found in the biggest of 150 ancient tombs of the Getae people, a Thracian tribe that was in contact with the Hellenistic world. The hoard also yielded a golden ring, 44 female figure depictions and 100 golden buttons.

These are amazing findings from the apogee of the rule of the Getae, said Diana Gergova, head of the archaeologist team and a researcher of Thracian culture with the Sofia-based National Archaeology Institute. From what we see up to now, the tomb may be linked with the first known Getic ruler, Cothelas.

The site is at the ancient Getic burial complex near the village of Sveshtari, about 250 miles north-east of Sofia. One of the tombs there, the Tomb of Sveshtari, is included in the Unesco world heritage list for its unique architectural decor showing half-human, half-plant female figures and painted murals — via The Guardian

Wright House historic designation could be delayed

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has applauded the likely $2.38 million-sale of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Phoenix to an anonymous buyer, saying the transaction is the first of many more steps to come in order to permanently protect the property.

However, a planned city vote on designating the property as historic is likely to moved back because of the pending sale.

In a letter to his supporters Thursday, the day after the announcement of the Wright-home’s sale, DiCiccio said the property was one of the most important treasures in Phoenix and the anonymous buyer’s intent to preserve the iconic home was fantastic news — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Pristine WWII German Enigma machine could be yours

A World War II German Enigma cipher machine is on the block at Bonhams, the London auction house, this month.

The 1941 oak model, described as an extremely rare example, is expected to go under the hammer on 14 November for an estimated £40,000-£60,000.

In 2010, a 1939 Enigma fetched £67,250 at auction — that model was furnished with a modern power supply and had some restoration. The Bonhams machine is in working order, completely untouched and unrestored, Bonham’s Laurence Fisher, says — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Hidden Burmese Spitfires to be excavated

Dozens of rare Spitfire fighter planes buried in Burma during World War II are to be dug up under an agreement between the Burmese government and a British aviation enthusiast.

The iconic single-seat aircraft are believed to have been hidden unassembled in crates by the former colonial power to prevent them falling into Japanese hands almost seven decades ago.

Local businessman Htoo Htoo Zaw, who is involved with the project, says the excavation is expected to take about two years — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Breakthrough in world’s oldest undeciphered writing

The world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, which has so far defied attempts to uncover its 5,000-year-old secrets, could be about to be decoded by Oxford University academics.

This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.

I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough, says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster — via redwolf.newsvine.com

First-time Berkhamsted metal-detector finds one of UK’s largest Roman coin hoards, worth £100,000

A first-time treasure hunter is behind one of the largest Roman gold coin hoards ever discovered in the UK — thought to be worth £100,000.

National newspapers reported on Wednesday that the man, from Berkhamsted, had been sold a beginner’s metal detector from the town’s High Street-based Hidden History for £135.

He is reported to have gone back with 40 of the solidi coins, dating to the last days of Roman rule in Britain, and asked: “What do I do with this?”

Shop owners David Sewell and Mark Becher reported the find, and then joined a search party on the private land where the coins had been discovered.

The group found 119 more coins on the site to the north of St Albans. The last assignment of these coins to reach Britain arrived in AD 408 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Chuck Yeager Reenacts Historic Sound Barrier Flight

Sixty-five years after becoming the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound, retired Air Force Brigadier General Chuck Yeager is still making noise.

The 89-year-old Yeager, who was featured in the movie The Right Stuff, flew in the back seat Sunday of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet above California’s Mojave Desert — the same area where he first achieved the feat in 1947 while flying an experimental rocket plane.

The F-15 carrying Yeager took off from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas and broke the sound barrier at 10.24am Sunday, exactly 65 years to the minute the then-Air Force test pilot made history — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Mysterious elk-shaped structure discovered in Russia

A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in Russia may predate Peru’s famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years.

The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007 shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery.

Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge — via redwolf.newsvine.com

British Library tracks rise and fall of file formats

File formats and the software capable of reading them are living longer than previously thought, according to a British Library and UK Web Archive study.

Formats over Time: Exploring UK Web History (PDF, slides as PDF) considers 2.5 billion files author Andrew N Jackson retrieved with the help of the Internet Archive and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). All the files come from the UK web domain and come from the period between 1996 and 2010.

Jackson used Apache Tika and PRONOM’s DROID tool to inspect the files and determine the format they use. Central to the research was Jeff Rothenberg’s 1997 prediction that Digital Information Lasts Forever — Or Five Years, Whichever Comes First. Jackson is also keen on a rebuttal from David Rosenthal, who he quotes as saying “when challenged, proponents of [format migration strategies] have failed to identify even one format in wide use when Rothenberg [made that assertion] that has gone obsolete in the intervening decade and a half.”

Jackson’s take is that file formats seem to last rather longer than five years even if they don’t survive forever — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Let there be light for Manchester Unity’s brighter future

Let there be light for Manchester Unity’s brighter future

Manchester Unity Building
Manchester Unity Building, originally uploaded by Igor Prahin.

The year was 1932 and, between the two world wars, Melbourne had just built a 13-storey masterpiece in a record 10 months — the art deco Manchester Unity building at the corner of Collins and Swanston streets.

On the evening of Monday, 12 December, with the push of a button by Victorian premier Sir Stanley Argyle, this architectural miracle lit up like a Christmas tree. For the first time, reported The Argus, the ornamental turreted tower, and the flag surmounting it, leapt out of the dark in dazzling splendour, illuminated by hidden floodlights from all sides.

Well, 80 years later it is all going to happen again. On the eve of the AFL grand final, accompanied by 21st-century fireworks, the Manchester Unity will light up the night sky thanks to a project led by a dentist with a great passion for the building – and the funds to indulge it.

Kia Pajouhesh, son of Iranian migrants, bought the first floor of the MU in 2003 and has spent the past nine years buying and restoring large sections.

The new lighting installation will illuminate the full exterior — and both the inside and outside of the tower — each evening from grand final day onwards — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Stasi files: The world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle

More than 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell, you might think the Stasi had been consigned to history. But a new generation wants to know what the East German secret police did to their parents, and computing wizardry is about to make it easier to find out.

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) and its agencies did not disappear immediately once the Berlin Wall fell.

For some weeks afterwards many Stasi staff remained in their offices, trying to destroy evidence that could land them in jail or expose their spies in foreign countries.

But they ran into technical difficulties.

The Stasi was an organisation that loved to keep paper, says Joachim Haussler, who works for the Stasi archives authority today.

It therefore owned few shredders — and those it did have were of poor East German quality and rapidly broke down. So thousands of documents were hastily torn by hand and stuffed into sacks. The plan was to burn or chemically destroy the contents later.

But events overtook the plan, the Stasi was dissolved as angry demonstrators massed outside and invaded its offices, and the new federal authority for Stasi archives inherited all the torn paper.

It amounts, says Haussler, to the biggest puzzle in the world, estimated at between four and six hundred million pieces of paper — some no larger than a fingernail — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Adoptees will no longer pay to see their records

The state government will waive fees for parents and adopted children to access their personal records as it prepares to give an apology for the state’s role in the unlawful and unethical removal of children in thousands of forced adoptions.

Hundreds of women forced to give up their children and adoptees have registered to be in Parliament on Thursday when the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, makes a public apology for the removal of newborn babies from mostly young, single mothers during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. A parliamentary inquiry in 2000 found the practices were not just unethical but also often illegal according to the laws of the time.

The Minister for Community Services, Pru Goward, said the government would waive the $135 fee from the Department of Community Services associated with accessing personal files. It would also increase funding to the Post Adoption Resource Centre– via redwolf.newsvine.com

Jantar Mantar / Maharajah Jai Singh II

Jantar Mantar / Maharajah Jai Singh II

Stargazing in the Day
Stargazing in the Day, originally uploaded by ComradeCosmobot.

These remarkable constructions appear to all intents and purposes as if they could have been built to create the set for a new science fiction blockbuster set on a planet light years away from Earth. Yet these are centuries old instruments, designed and used in Jaipur, India, to explore the heavens. Their production was ordered by Maharajah Jai Singh II in the early decades of the 18th century and they have been in constant use ever since — via Kuriositas

Rare coins expected to fetch more than $1m

Three rare Australian coins to be auctioned in Melbourne tonight are expected to fetch more than $1 million.

One of the coins is a Hannibal Head holey dollar, created in New South Wales in 1813 from a silver dollar minted in Peru.

Also on offer are one of Australia’s first gold coins, the 1852 Adelaide Pound and an 1813 Colonial Dumps — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Maijishan Grottoes

Maijishan Grottoes

The Big Buddhas at Maijishan
The Big Buddhas at Maijishan, originally uploaded by Mark.

China has four major Buddhist cave complexes — by far the most visited being the Longmen caves. Less well known are the Maijishan Grottoes. Situated in Gansu Province in the northwest of China, this astonishing example of cave architecture hewn from rock consists of over 7,000 Buddhist sculptures not to mention almost 1000 square meters of murals — via kuriositas