Microsoft's Co-Founder Finds WWII Ship Lost for 76 Years

Vulcan, YouTube
Vulcan, YouTube

An incalculable number of ships remain lost to history after circumstances—or enemy fire—prompted them to sink to the bottom of the ocean. While all of them carry stories of the crew, ships downed during World War II often have particularly poignant legacies. Thanks to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, we now have a geological marker for a ship that harbored one of the greater tragedies of American soldiers in World War II, as Gizmodo reports.

Allen's Vulcan, Inc. shipwreck exploration team recently announced they've located the USS Juneau, a cruiser downed during the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. The ship was discovered 2.6 miles below the surface off the coast of the Solomon Islands.

The Juneau was remarkable in World War II history for having five brothers, the Sullivans from Iowa, stationed there simultaneously, a decision that could prove disastrous if tragedy struck—and in the case of the Juneau, it did. All five insisted they wouldn't serve in the Navy unless they could serve together. All were killed and 682 other sailors perished when the ship went down after Japanese forces launched two torpedoes through it.

Allen's team located the ship via a research vessel dubbed Petrel that performed a sonar scan of South Pacific waters. A remote-controlled vehicle made visual confirmation of the wreck shortly thereafter.

Allen and his team have no current plans to disclose the exact location of the ship so it can remain in the water in peace. His crew made headlines in August 2017 when they located the USS Indianapolis, a famous wartime wreck that saw the surviving members of the crew preyed upon by sharks. The story was dramatized by the character of Quint (Robert Shaw) in a well-known scene from 1975's Jaws.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Advanced CT Scans Reveal Blood Vessels and Skin Layers in a Mummy's Hand

Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology
Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology

Mummies hold some intriguing secrets to their pasts, like the food they ate and the diseases they had when they were alive. Now scientists are using a tool originally designed for medicine to get an even deeper look at the clues mummified bodies carry with them into the present day, Gizmodo reports.

In a proof-of-concept study published in the journal Radiology, researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden detail how a new-and-improved CT scanning technique can be used to visualize the interior of mummies on a microscopic level. By creating detailed X-ray images, CT scans allow doctors to see inside their patients without invasive surgery. Archaeologists have been using this technology to study delicate ancient artifacts for years, but the level of detail that can be achieved this way—especially when it comes to looking at interior soft tissue—is limited.

The upgraded version of the tech, called phase-contrast CT scanning, measures the phase shift, or the change in the position of a light wave, that occurs when X-rays pass through solid objects. The images generated this way have a higher contrast level than conventional X-rays, which means they capture more detail.

Cross-section of mummy hand.
Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology

Doctors have been using this 10-year-old technology to examine soft tissues like organs and veins in living patients, but it hadn't been used on a mummy until recently. Working with a mummified human right hand dating back to 400 BCE in Egypt, which they borrowed from the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, the researchers fired up a phase-contrast CT scanner. It produced images with a resolution of 6 to 9 microns, giving a clear picture of the different layers of skin, individual cells in the connective tissue, and the blood vessels in the nail bed—all without damaging the artifact. Previously, researchers looking to study these same tissues in mummies would have needed to use a scalpel.

As Ars Technica reports, a phase-contrast CT scanner is similar in cost to the conventional machine. The study authors hope their work will lead to phase-contrast CT scanning becoming just as common in archaeology as regular CT scanning, potentially creating new research opportunities in mummies that will be discovered in the future and even in artifacts that have already been examined.

[h/t Gizmodo]

A 2.63-Carat Diamond Was Unearthed by a Grandmother at an Arkansas State Park

iStock
iStock

Visitors to the Crater of Diamonds Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas clearly have an objective in mind: Excavate one of the diamonds lurking on or beneath the park's soil, the onetime site of a volcanic crater. If they do, it's theirs to keep.

Earlier this month, a 71-year-old grandmother from Colorado made the biggest discovery on park grounds of 2018: a 2.63-carat ice white diamond. And she did it in about 10 minutes.

The retiree, who asked media outlets not to identify her by name, visited Crater of Diamonds with her husband, son, and grandchildren. After briefly scraping away dirt, she saw the gem on the surface. The diamond was so large and clear—roughly the size of a pinto bean—that she assumed it was just a piece of glass. Further inspection by her family and park personnel revealed it was a diamond.

Park officials told press that employees frequently till the soil, which can loosen the gems and allow them to catch the reflection of the sun, making them easier to spot. Roughly 33,000 diamonds have been found by visitors since the park opened in 1972.

It's hard to know the exact value of the diamond. While there is a certain fluctuating value assigned to a carat, appraisers also look at three other "Cs": clarity, color, and cut. A two-carat diamond is often more than double the price of a one-carat diamond because the larger gems are more rare. But tourists have profited from their finds: In 2015, a visitor retrieved a 8.51-carat white diamond that was cut down to 4.6 carats by a jeweler and valued by the American Gem Society at $500,000.

[h/t WGN TV]

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