Friday Reader: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Water Below Mars Surface

Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater since 2012. Photo of Curiosity courtesy of NASA.

Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater since 2012.
Photo of Curiosity courtesy of NASA.

Data from the Curiosity rover suggests that there is an exchange of water occurring at night between the surface of Mars and the atmosphere.

Mars should be too cold to support liquid water at the surface, but salts in the soil lower its freezing point – allowing briny films to form. The results lend credence to a theory that dark streaks seen on features such as crater walls could be formed by flowing water.

The results are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists think thin films of water form when salts in the soil, called perchlorates, absorb water vapour from the atmosphere. The temperature of these liquid films is about -70C – too cold to support any of the microbial life forms that we know about.

Forming in the top 15cm of the Martian soil, the brines would also be exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation – another challenge to life. But it’s still possible that organisms could exist somewhere beneath the surface on Mars, where conditions are more favorable.

Late last year, NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence of lakes and streams on a warmer, wetter, habitable Mars.

Late last year, NASA’s Curiosity rover found evidence of lakes and streams on a warmer, wetter, habitable Mars. Photo: NASA’s Curiosity rover

Evaporation cycle

The researchers drew together different lines of evidence collected over a Martian year, and from different instruments carried by the Curiosity rover.

The Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) – essentially the vehicle’s weather station – measured the relative humidity and temperature at the rover’s landing site of Gale Crater.

Scientists were also able to estimate the subsurface water content using data from an instrument called Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN). These data were consistent with water in the soil being bound to perchlorates. Finally, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument gave the researchers the content of water vapour in the atmosphere.

The results show conditions were right for the brines to form during winter nights at the Martian equator, where Curiosity landed. But the liquid evaporates during the Martian day when temperatures rise.

Gale Crater once hosted a lake with conditions that could have been favorable to life. Photo credit: NASA

Curiosity’s Mast and deck where REMS sensors are located. Gale Crater once hosted a lake with conditions that could have been favorable to life.
Photo credit: NASA

Javier Martin-Torres, a co-investigator on the Curiosity mission and lead scientist on REMS, told BBC News the detection was indirect but convincing: “What we see are the conditions for the formation of brines on the surface. It’s similar to when people were discovering the first exoplanets.

“They were not seeing the planets, but they were able to see the gravitational effects on the star.

“These perchlorate salts have a property called deliquescence. They take the water vapour from the atmosphere and absorb it to produce the brines.”

He added: “We see a daily water cycle – which is very important. This cycle is maintained by the brine. On Earth we have an exchange between the atmosphere and the ground through rain. But we don’t have this on Mars.”

Streaks known as recurring slope lineae may be caused by seeping water. Photo via NASA

Streaks known as recurring slope lineae may be caused by seeping water.
Photo via NASA

While one might think that liquid water would form at warmer temperatures, the formation of brines is the result of an interaction between temperature and atmospheric pressure. It happens that the sweet spot for formation of these liquid films is at colder temperatures.

The fact that the scientists see evidence for these brines at the Martian equator – where conditions are least favorable – means that they might be more persistent at higher latitudes, in areas where the humidity is higher and temperatures are lower. In these regions they might even be present all year round.

Scientists see a daily water cycle maintained by the brines. Graphic: NASA/JPL

Scientists see a daily water cycle maintained by the brines.
Graphic: NASA/JPL

Dark streaks on slopes seen by orbiting spacecraft have long been thought to be the product of running water seeping from the Martian soil. But this interpretation has been contested.

“It’s speculation at this point… but these observations at least support or go in this direction,” said Dr Martin-Torres.



Friday Reader: The Real Stalag 13

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

Stalag 13 didn’t just exist in the celluloid world of Hogan’s Heroes. There really was a POW camp called Stalag 13 (or Stalag XIII C) on the outskirts of Hammelburg, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Frankfurt.

Oflag XIII-B was a German Army World War II prisoner-of-war camp camp for officers (Offizierlager), originally in the Langwasser district of Nuremberg. In 1943 it was moved to a site 3 km (1.9 mi) south of the town of Hammelburg in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany.

In 1893, the Kaiser created a training camp for German soldiers in a large forested area about 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Hammelburg. This training area was called Lager Hammelburg (or Camp Hammelburg) and it still goes by that name.

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920's (Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920’s
(Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

During World War I, the camp was used to house Allied prisoners of war and in 1920, a Children’s Home was established on the premises.

The Home for poor children was run by the Benedictine nuns and expanded over the years to take over many of the buildings. When it closed in 1930, over 60,000 children had been cared for there.

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

How the camp looked in 1938 when an artillery regiment was stationed there:

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

An expansion of the camp in 1938 swallowed two nearby villages. The ghost town of Bonnland is still there and is now used for urban warfare training.

The Birth of Stalag 13

In the summer of 1940, the southern end of the camp was prepared for prisoners of war from the enlisted ranks. The camp was called Stammlager XIII C, or Stalag XIII C for short, and wooden barracks were built to house POWs of a variety of nationalities.

The first to arrive were the Dutch, Belgian and French soldiers captured during the Blitzkrieg invasion of France in 1940.

In 1941, Serbian, Polish and Russian soldiers joined them after battles on the eastern front; the Serbians arrived in the spring, and the Russians in the summer.

Some of the British, Australian and other Commonwealth soldiers captured in the fighting in Crete in 1941 also ended up in the camp.

Australian POW's at Stalag 13

Australian POW’s at Stalag 13

The third man from the right, bottom row, is Arthur Hunt, father-in-law of the contributor of the photo. Below is the reverse side of the photo, with the official Stalag XIII C stamp.

Other side of the photo.

Other side of the photo.

Here’s an interesting article about an Australian POW and undercover work at Stalag 13.

After the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, several hundred captured American officers were sent to Oflag 13B. More Americans started arriving from camps in the east as the Russian army advanced.

The Lager held over 30,000 POW’s, with the Russians as the largest group. As required by the Geneva Convention, different nationalities were housed separately.

Junior enlisted prisoners, corporal and below, were required to work. These POW’s were assigned to work units in neighboring factories, farms and forests. They lived outside the camp and were guarded by a battalion of Home Guards (Landschützen).

The real Kommandants of Stalag 13 between 1940 and 1945 were Lieutenant Colonel von Crailsheim, Colonel Franck and Colonel Westmann.

Officer’s Camp

The officers were housed in stone buildings at the northern end of the camp (the Nordlager), separately from the enlisted prisoners, except for a handful of privates and NCO’s who assisted the officers. This camp was called Offizierlager XIII B, or Oflag 13 B.

The officers’ camp was divided into two sections: Serbian and American.

In the spring of 1941, 6,000 Serbian officers arrived, and they witnessed the arrival of the Russian prisoners a few months later.

Judging from the large number of Russians buried at the camp (over 3000), the appalling treatment of Russian POW’s in general, and a report from a Serbian officer at Oflag 13B, it appears the Russian prisoners were treated very poorly and had a very high mortality rate, unlike most of the other nationalities.

Among the Russian officers arriving in Hammelburg in 1941 was the eldest son of Joseph Stalin, Yakov. He only spent a few weeks in Oflag 13 before the SS came and moved him to another camp.

The Germans offered to exchange him for Field Marshall Paulus. Stalin replied, “You have millions of my sons. Free all of them or Yakov will share their fate.” Later, Yakov allegedly committed suicide in Sachsenhausen concentration camp by running into the electrified fence.

In March of 1945, a group of about 400 Americans arrived from Poland after marching hundreds of miles in snow and extreme cold. One of the men was Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, the son-in-law of General George Patton.

The 11th Hour Raid

By early April of 1945, the Americans had crossed the Rhine and were within 80 miles of Hammelburg. General Patton ordered a special armored task force to go deep behind the German lines and free the prisoners in Oflag/Stalag 13.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton's son-in-law.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton’s son-in-law.

The men of Task Force Baum, as it was called, ran into heavy resistance coming in but they reached the camp on March 24, 1945. The tanks knocked down the fences, but they also started firing at the Serbian officers, mistaking them for Germans. Lieutenant Colonel Waters came out with a white flag, accompanied by a German officer, to contact the Americans and stop the shooting. Waters was shot in the stomach by a German guard and was taken to the camp hospital.

The tanks left, accompanied by many of the able-bodied prisoners, but without Waters. On the way back, the Task Force was ambushed and forced to surrender. Out of the 314 men in the unit, 26 were killed and most of the rest were captured. Most of the POW’s returned to the camp as well. Lt.Col. Waters survived and eventually retired as a four-star general.

For more information, see Task Force Baum , a very interesting website about this event.

After the failed rescue attempt, the Germans moved all of the Western Allied prisoners to other camps, except the ones in the camp hospital.

Stalag 13 Camp Conditions

Life in Oflag and Stalag 13 became grim as the war neared its end. The Germans were running out of food and fuel and having difficulty getting supplies for the prisoners.

A Red Cross report following an inspection of Oflag 13B by the Swiss in March, 1945, revealed dreadful conditions. Daily calories provided by the Germans were 1050 per day, down from 1700 calories earlier. The average temperature in the barracks was 20 degrees F (or -7 degrees C) due to lack of fuel.

Many men were sick and malnourished, and morale and discipline were low. No Red Cross packages had reached the Americans since they started arriving in January. They only reason they didn’t starve was the generosity of the Serbian officers, who shared their packages.

You can read the full report at International Red Cross Report on the Task Force Baum website.

Liberation of Stalag 13

The prisoners are freed.

The prisoners are freed.

The buildings in the above photo still stand. The map below shows where they are now, on the grounds of Lager Hammelburg. They’re inside the restricted area, but can be easily seen from the fence near the main gate. The locations of the first building and the tank from the title photo of this piece are marked, as well the main gate of the camp and a good spot for viewing the remaining buildings. (Thanks to Geoff Walden of in identifying it.)

On April 6, 1945, the US Army’s 47th Tank Battalion liberated Lager Hammelburg without a fight. Lt. Col. Waters was still there, recuperating in the hospital with some other sick or wounded men. Otherwise, the only prisoners left were the Serbian officers and the Polish and Yugoslavian enlisted men.

One of the American prisoners in Stalag XIIIC at the end of the war was Sergeant Bradford Sherry. His son in the past has posted photos and documents related to his father’s captivity.

Several days later, the tank battalion left to rejoin the fighting, leaving a supply unit at the camp. For the next month, no one was in charge of the POW’s and there was widespread looting of the surrounding villages, including Hammelburg.

When peace came with the German surrender on May 8, 1945, the Americans returned to occupy Lager Hammelburg and restored order in the town. The remaining prisoners were sent home.

Stalag 13 After World War II

The Americans continued to occupy the camp until 1956. They renamed it Camp Denny Clark, after a medic who was killed in action.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

The northern part of the Stalag 13 was used to intern former Nazi Party members. The camp also housed large numbers of German refugees who had fled the advancing Russian army in eastern Germany as well as ethnic Germans who had been expelled from areas of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

POW Background Information

P47 Thunderbolt (Kogo, GNU FD license.)

P47 Thunderbolt
(Kogo, GNU FD license.)

One of the American POW’s at Oflag 13 in Hammelburg was Walter Frederick Morrison, the inventor of the frisbee. He was a fighter pilot and was shot down flying a P-47 Thunderbolt. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 90.

There was a real life counterpart to the fictional Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes of Stalag 13. Lieutenant Robert Hogan was an American bomber pilot shot down and imprisoned in Oflag 13D near Nuremberg.

Although the studio maintains that Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes was a completely fictional character, there really was a POW in a Stalag 13 named Robert Hogan whose story bears striking similarities to the Hollywood version.

The real Robert Hogan was a pilot flying B24 bombers out of Italy, who was shot down in January of 1945 over Yugoslavia and sent eventually to the Stalag 13 camp outside of Nuremberg (actually the Oflag 13 camp, since he was an officer. Stalags were only for enlisted men.) This camp was adjacent to Stalag 13 D, not the Stalag 13 C camp outside of Hammelburg, but close enough for the producers of the TV show to be interested when Dr. Robert Hogan contacted them. The real Robert Hogan got to meet Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes in 1966.

Robert Hogan’s son stated his father didn’t talk much about his POW experiences, but he did mention the following:

The POW’s were reasonably well-treated by the German guards, though they were gradually starving to death. Of course, the German guards were not much better off than the prisoners – food was scarce. A young girl from the nearby village would occasionally throw pieces of fruit over the fences for the prisoners. He said that food was the thing they thought and talked about the most…and also dreamed about.

The prisoners’ rations consisted of only one meal a day: a bowl of “cabbage soup”, which was nothing more than a bowl of warm water with a few cabbage leaves thrown in. Each barracks also shared one loaf of “bread”, baked with a significant amount of sawdust mixed in to stretch it further.

Though there was little similarity between his real-life experience and the Hogan’s Heroes series, there were three significant things that were similar: 1) the commandant wore a monocle like Colonel Klink, 2) there was a big, fat, goofy sergeant like Sergeant Schulz, and 3) the prisoners had a “secret” radio.

As for item #3, that radio was not very “secret”. In fact, the commandant of the Stalag allowed the POW’s to continue to operate their “clandestine” radio because the commandant got more reliable information from that source than he did from the official Nazi propaganda.

For more information about Lt. Robert Hogan (later Dr. Robert Hogan), his life and wartime experiences, see this article from the Jefferson County Historical Association in Alabama.

On the Web:

List of Kriegsgefangenenlager Moosburg Online (in German)

A Brief History of Oflag 64

Oflag XIII-B, Report of the International Red Cross

Task Force Baum and the Hammelburg Raid

Oflag 64 Association

First hand account of Oflag XIII-B by Donald Prell

Patton’s Ill-Fated Raid


Friday Reader: Destinations That Are Off-Limits in the World

Off limits

From clubs exclusive to rich tycoons and the social elite to islands off-limits from tourists to prevent contamination, it’s all the cool places you & I might really like to visit, but have almost no chance to do so…


Svalbard Global Seed Vault

  • This one was built out of fear that all those sci-fi scenarios about the end of the world might actually come true.
  • This vault, build on a secluded island in the North Sea, is home to over 250 million crop seeds shipped from gene banks worldwide with an estimated cost exceeding $9 million dollars.
  • You can’t enter the vault – nobody can, but researchers, plant breeders and other groups can request seeds from the depositing genebanks.
  • If you WERE to enter it, you’d see the biggest hope for agriculture in the event of a polar ice cap melt or similar Earthly disaster.



  • A closed military town at the foot of Mount Yamantau in Russia’s Ural Mountain, believed by the United States to be a large secret nuclear facility owned by the Russians.
  • When questioned, the Russians give inconsistent answers like, it’s a mining site, no, it’s a treasury, no, a food storage area – and then finally they said, yep, nuclear bunker in the event of apocalyptic war.
  • It’s believed to house nuclear weapons, and as much as we want to visit it to inspect, we aren’t allowed – Russian newspapers claim it to be part of the Dead Hand initiative – to automatically launch nukes if a bunch are about to strike THEM.


Woomera Prohibited Area

  • An Australian military testing range covering nearly 124,000 square kilometres – and although that area is restricted, the nearby town of Woomera is open to the public.
  • You’ll want to go there for one reason, but also want to stay away for another – it’s highly prospective, significant quantities of minable gold, iron ore, opals and uranium that the general populace can’t reach.
  • Due to the amount of unlaunched war material lying around though, it’s basically a minefield, so even if you could get around the military presence to mine, chances are you’ll get your face blown off – not a great way to spend your weekend.


Jiangsu National Security Education Museum

  • This is basically the real-life James Bond exhibit – top secret documents and gadgets from the history of Chinese espionage.
  • It includes things like, guns disguised as lipstick, hollowed-out coins to conceal documents and maps hidden in a deck of cards.
  • The only people allowed to enter this museum are Chinese nationals, entirely because they don’t trust foreigners with their sensitive spy information – which is fair enough.


Club 33

  • A private club located in Disneyland that costs 40 thousand dollars for membership and $10,000 in yearly costs.
  • The reason it costs so much? It’s like a secret backdoor disneyland but with a liquor license and 14-year waiting list, props from disney films everywhere, animatronics and complimentary valet parking.
  • You enter the club by buzzing an intercom concealed in a hidden panel in the doorway, then you take the antique-style glass lift to any of two giant dining rooms.
  • This is a great place if you’re an ultra-rich tycoon.


Aldwych Tube Station

  • Originally opened in November 1907, the subway station was active during World War II and used as an air raid shelter and hiding place for National Gallery artworks.
  • In 1994 the trains stopped running and now the entire station is unused, a monument to early 1900s society with vintage tracks, an old lobby and ancient elevators.
  • On occasion it’s open for tours, but for 99% of the time people just break in to take photos.
  • The station was featured in the James Bond movie Die Another Day.


Fort Knox

  • The location of a fortified vault building, the United States Bullion Depository located in Kentucky, used to store large portions of gold and precious items
  • While conspiracy theorists maintain that all the gold is gone and the facility now houses everything from RFID chips (to be later embedded into American citizens) to secret Illuminati plans, the US Government alleges that it holds 4,500 metric tons of pure gold.
  • The facility’s vault, where some of value lays hidden, is built inside granite walls, protected by a blast-proof door, weighing 22 tons and 21-inches tick, 30,000 soldiers patrolling with tanks, personal carriers, attack helicopters and artillery.
  • In order to enter you need a 10 part secret code held by 10 different people all in different locations – there’s a reason we have the saying “as impenetrable as Fort Knox.”


White’s Gentleman’s Club

  • Established in 1693, this is a club exclusive for British men with notable members Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and the British Prime Minister.
  • For hundreds of years, a famous betting book has seen notable figures gambling on not just sport, but political developments even during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
  • Women who approach the club are always denied membership, including the model for the central character in the BBC television series and one of the best chefs during the early 1900s: Rosa Lewis.


Queen Elizabeth’s Bedroom

  • You’ll find this in Buckingham Palace, the British Queen’s official London residence first established in 1705.
  • Even though the place is heavily guarded, one man managed to break in and hide in the Queen’s bedroom in 1982.
  • To date, he’s one of the only men to see the interior without an official Royal Family invitation or building permit – and if you’re just some random Schmuck, then there’s little chance you’ll see it this lifetime.


Lascaux Caves

  • Located in France and discovered in 1940, it is singularly one of the most important archaeological finds – cave paintings and perfectly preserved footprints from human beings that lived tens of thousands of years ago – 17,000 year to be more precise.
  • Due to the fear of fungal infection from human presence, these caves have been closed to the public for some time and on rare occasions only a small group of people escorted over elevated ramps can visit for minutes at any given time
  • You can learn more about it in the documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” one of the few pieces of photography allowed in the cave network.



  • An Icelandic island that only came into existence about 50 years ago following volcanic eruptions in the area.
  • Despite its young age, the island already plays host to over 90 species of bird with new plant species evolving at a rate of 2-5 per year
  • Humans carefully monitor the islands progress from a small hut, ensuring no outside seeds or unwanted visitors turn up to hurt the naturally evolving ecosystem – they even had to dig up some potatoes a bunch of kids planted for a laugh.



  • A small island near Venice that many claim to have had such an intense, violent history that it’s now haunted.
  • It was once a dumping ground for the sick, dying and deceased, and when the Bubonic Plague arrived in 1348, it became a quarantine zone with Venice exiling many ill people there.
  • It was immolated when the Black Death swept through, a hospital for the mentally ill was established and shut down and currently it’s now closed to both locals and tourists.

….but get there if you can.


Friday Reader: Richard III and the Mystery Woman

First came the dramatic discovery of the long-lost remains of King Richard III. Now, there’s the mystery of the coffin within the coffin. Archaeologists working at the site in central England where Richard III’s body was found underneath a parking lot are currently puzzling over a sealed lead coffin containing the remains of a yet-to-be-identified person.
The lead coffin found was inside a stone coffin in the ruins of Grey Friars in Leicester.
Credit: University of Leicester

Archaeologists found a lead coffin buried in the ruins of an English medieval church, just feet from the grave of British King Richard III.

When they opened the tomb, they expected to find the skeleton of a knight or a friar. But instead, they found the bones of an elderly woman.

The woman’s identity remains a mystery, but a study of her bones has revealed some key details about her life, the excavators announced on March 1st. She was interred sometime in the late 13th or 14th century, before Richard was hastily buried at the monastery known as Grey Friars in Leicester, England. She must have been of a high status, because her bones show signs of a lifetime of eating well.

She’s also not the only woman buried on the grounds of Grey Friars. In fact, Richard III is the only man archaeologists have examined from the site so far. The four other graves, including the lead coffin, belonged to women, archaeologists said.

“We were naturally expecting to find friars,” Grey Friars site director Mathew Morris. The discovery of four female burials came as somewhat of a surprise.

Richard III ruled England from 1483 until he was killed on the battlefield during the Wars of the Roses in 1485. As his rival, Henry Tudor, ascended the throne, Richard received a hasty burial at the Grey Friars monastery, which was demolished in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation.

Until recently, Grey Friars’ exact location was lost to history. In 2012, archaeologists with the University of Leicester found the ruins of the monastery as well as Richard’s long-lost grave under a parking lot.

Much of the hype around the excavation has centered on Richard, and his remains have already yielded a wealth of data on the king — he died a violent death; he ate quite well while on the throne; and he suffered from scoliosis. But archaeologists have also been studying whatever else they can find in the church.

The lead coffin, which is decorated with an inlaid crucifix, was hidden inside a larger limestone sarcophagus. It was discovered during a second excavation at Grey Friars, in August 2013, underneath what would have been the church’s floor near the high altar. At the time, the tomb was first billed as the only intact stone coffin ever found in Leicester. The excavators publicly speculated that it might contain one of Grey Friars’ founders, such as Peter Swynsfeld or William of Nottingham, or a knight named Sir William de Moton of Peckleton.

“It was such an elaborate burial,” Morris said, that it seemed obvious the person inside should be someone of high rank. From historical documents, Morris and his colleagues knew several women were connected with the church as donors and benefactors. The woman’s bones indicate she clearly enjoyed a high-status lifestyle — eating a high-protein diet that included lots of meat and fish, with no periods of malnutrition — but she hasn’t been linked to a specific historical person.

Two other women between ages 40 and 50 were found buried in wooden coffins (which have since disintegrated, though the nails survive) inside the friary’s choir where Richard III was found. Radiocarbon dating showed that they likely died between 1270 and 1400. One of the women had a hip problem that forced her to walk with a crutch, and the other seems to have used her arms and legs regularly to lift heavy weights, suggesting a life of hard physical labor, the researchers said.

There was another set of female bones buried in a pit. Morris said workmen who demolished the church hundreds of years ago may have disturbed a grave and reburied the skeleton as such.

Most other monastic cemeteries in England have female-male burial ratios ranging from 1 female for every 3 males to 1 female for every 20 males, Morris said. The excavators don’t know exactly what to make of all the female burials at Grey Friars, and they were cautious about drawing any broad conclusions based on this small sample. The archaeologists identified but didn’t examine five other burial pits on the site, and they imagine these burials were just a fraction of the total graves on the church grounds.

However, it’s unlikely that archaeologists will unearth more of the graves at Grey Friars any time soon, as most of the cemetery lies beneath housing today, Morris said.

On the Web:  

Saturday Reader: King Richard’s DNA Analysis Raises Questions on Royal Lineage

King Richard III Gets a Spinal Exam and a New Grave


Friday Reader: Nantucket’s “Big Slurpee”

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

A photographer documents nearly frozen waves in Massachusetts, calling them a ‘big Slurpee’

The record-setting winter of 2015 has left us with all kinds of remarkable images, most of them of snow and ice.

But a photographer on Nantucket found something most of us have never seen – nearly frozen waves.

Jonathan Nimerfroh was walking along a beach on the island recently when he saw these waves rolling in like slush.

The waves were semi-frozen because there was so much ice inside them. He took several pictures and shared them with meteorologists from around the world.

It does in fact look like a big Slurpee rolling ashore:

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

(Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh – Instagram: @jdnphotography)

On the Web:


Friday Reader: New wildflower found in Wales named after British naturalist and TV broadcaster Sir David Attenborough

Attenborough’s hawkweed (hieracium attenboroughianum), is the first non-extinct British species to be given the presenter’s name. Photograph: Tim Rich/National Trust

Attenborough’s hawkweed (hieracium attenboroughianum), is the first non-extinct British species to be given the presenter’s name. Photograph: Tim Rich/National Trust

Flower discovered in the Brecon Beacons to be called Attenborough’s hawkweed, just days after a genus of endangered plants was also named after the naturalist.

Exotic flora and fauna ranging from a giant Asian carnivorous plant to a tiny Australian goblin spider already bear the name of the UK’s favourite naturalist.

Now, finally, a home-grown plant, to be found clinging to mountainous outcrops in the Brecon Beacons, has been named in honor of Sir David Attenborough.

The wild flower, henceforth to be known as Attenborough’s hawkweed (Hieracium attenboroughianum), is the first non-extinct British species to be given the presenter’s name.

Sir David said he was delighted at the honour. “I am thrilled that my name has been given to the delightful new species of hawkweed,” he said. “Bestowing a name on a new species is surely one of the greatest of biological compliments and I am truly grateful. It is an added joy that Hieracium attenboroughianum should be so beautiful and live in such a lovely part of the country.”

Tim Rich, the plant taxonomist who named the plant, said: “Finding a new species is a really exciting moment and something that you dream of as a naturalist.

“I decided to name this special little plant after David Attenborough as he inspired me to study ecology when I was 17. This is a personal thank you for the years of fascination he has given me going to different places to search for new things.”

A team including Rich first came upon the plant in 2004 when they were looking for the rare summit hawkweed on Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons, the largest mountain in southern Britain.

They happened upon the new hawkweed on the neighbouring peak of Cribyn, flowering profusely on the rocky ledges, safe from the sheep which graze the mountains. It took another 10 years of study and comparison with related species to be sure it was new.

The Attenborough hawkweed has probably evolved in the Brecon Beacons since the last ice age. The hawkweeds are close relatives of dandelions and have similar-looking flowers. In late June and early July the hawkweed colours the rocks yellow with its delicate flowers and can be easily seen from the main path.

Joe Daggett, countryside manager for the National Trust, which manages Cribyn and Pen-y-Fan, said: “It is amazing to think that this is the only place in the world where this plant occurs and that the evolution of a species can occur at such a local level. The inaccessible rocks where it’s found should ensure its continued survival into the future.”

It has been quite a week for the Attenborough name. On Wednesday it emerged that a whole genus of endangered plants will bear the naturalist’s name.

Identified by a team of researchers in Gabon, the Sirdavidia flowering plants are believed to be the first plant genus – a taxonomical ranking one step above a species – named after the broadcaster.


Friday Reader: Texas Man Deposits 500 Pounds of Pennies

The big haul  Photo: KCBD TV

The big haul
Photo: KCBD TV

After 65 years of saving, an 81-year-old Slaton, Texas man deposits $816 worth of pennies at Prosperity Bank.

Ira Keys hasn’t spent a penny since he was 17 years old, because of advice his father gave him.

“He says, ‘Whatever you do son, save your money,'” Keys said. “Back when I started in ’52, I didn’t have a lot of money, so I saved pennies and I just kept saving them.”

The collection weighed in at about 500 pounds.

“I like to have broke the springs on that little-ole pickup,” Keys said.

Kari Lewis, a personal banker at Prosperity Bank, said she has never seen anything like Keys’ collection before.

Ira Keys is the Pennyman! Photo: KCBD TV

Ira Keys is the Pennyman!
Photo: KCBD TV

“We take pennies for granted,” she said. “You see them on the ground and you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m not picking that up,’ but for him to collect it for years and years was pretty amazing.”

It took employees over an hour to count the collection of about 81,600 pennies.

“We ended up with $816 in pennies,” Lewis said. “Not a typical day at the bank, at all.”

But that’s not all of Keys’ penny stash.

“I’m going to build a room divider and have pennies all in it,” he said, “the shiny ones.”

But Keys hasn’t forgotten his father’s lesson. He still plans to keep his piggy bank full.

“It’s just a habit I’ve got into, and habits are hard to break sometimes,” Keys said, “but I don’t think I’ll have this many when I cash them in again.”


Friday Reader: Christmas Subway Art



Commonly called “Subway Art”, it really is only a combination of fonts and a few graphics that get their inspiration from the subway signs of the 1890s and early 20th century. It’s nothing like the subway art from the early 60s & 70s, which is more impressionist modern art (that’s a nice word for graffiti) than it is vintage signage art.

Regardless, the original subway art style trickles down to seasonal art like winter, spring, summer, fall and holiday art like Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course Christmas.

Enjoy & Merry Christmas!


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Friday Reader: Womanspeak – And What It Really Means


I don’t claim to know everything about women, or for that matter men, or even people.

Having been surrounded by females growing up – I had 4 sisters, all of whom served proudly as commissioned officers in the US Marine Corps – I think I understand a little more about women than your basic, average Joe.

So here’s my shot to put it all into some kind of humorous perspective as a Friday Reader.

What she says is in bold, what she really means is in italics.

Can’t we just be friends?

There is no way in hell I’m going to let any part of your body touch any part of mine, again.

I just need some space.

Without you in it.


Do I look fat in this dress?

We haven’t had a fight in a while.

No, pizza is fine.

You cheap slob!

I just don’t want a boyfriend now.

I just don’t want you as a boyfriend now.

I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?

I can’t believe you have nothing planned.

Come here.

My puppy does this, too.

I like you, but…

I don’t like you..

Of course I love you!

Just not in that way.

You never listen.

You never listen.

We’re moving too fast.

I’m not going to sleep with you until I find out if this guy at the gym has a girlfriend.

I’ll be ready in a minute.

I’m ready, but I’m going to make you wait because I know you will.


Oh no, I’ll pay for myself.

I’m just being nice; there’s no way I’m going dutch.

I’m just going out with the girls.

We’re gonna get sloppy and make fun of you and your friends.

My sisters read this blog on a daily basis. So, enjoy Vicki, Lisa, Connie & Grace.

And to the rest of you, I hope I’ve learned something.



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