Peter Jackson shares clips from his World War I film restoration

Imperial War Museums and 14-18 Now commissioned Peter Jackson to use the latest technology to restore archival footage of World War I, and the results are remarkable. Read the rest

New DNA tests show remains are Romanovs

DNA tests on remains thought to be of Russia's last royals prove their authenticity, reports Deutsche Welle. Killed by Bolsheviks after the October revolution, probably at Lenin's command, they were shot, knifed and clubbed to death, then mutilated and dumped in the Koptyaki forest. Remains were found in the 1970s and first identified through DNA analysis in the 1990s, but...

... the Church had disputed the authenticity of the bones following a probe under former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, in which the Church said it felt sidelined. The bones of Nicholas II, his wife and three of their children — Anastasia, Olga and Tatiana — were interred in Saint Petersburg in 1998 under Yeltsin's rule.

The remains of the Nicholas's only son Alexei and his daughter Maria were found separately in 2007 and have never been buried. The Russian Church in 2000 accorded the entire family martyr status because of their faith.

Some had hoped the Church would recognize the remains in time for a full burial ahead of the centenary of the murders which took place on the night of July 16, 1918. The ongoing probe is examining historic documents.

Read the rest

The Tower of London's Ravenmaster wrote a great book

I first spoke with Chris Skaife in 2013 after he was was awarded a position at The Tower of London following a long and distinguished career in the the British Army. A Yeoman Warder, Skaife holds the position of Ravenmaster. As the title implies, he’s responsible for the care of the Tower's unkindness of ravens.

Our first conversation about his gig left me fascinated: Here was a man with a job that’s completely singular in the world. His days, are full or tourists and the occasional state visit, history and tradition. That he goes about his duties in a uniform that looks like it’s designed to kill its wearer on a hot summer day, is shorthand for the amount of dedication he has to his responsibilities. I came from talking with Skaife with so many unanswered questions about what his day entails, his passion for the birds under his care and what it’s like to navigate such a unique gig.

Happily, I’ve had most of my questions answered by Skaife’s upcoming book, The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London. It’s not out until October, but it is available for pre-order at Amazon. Chris, good fella that he is, provided me with an early draft of the book to read, a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to buying the real McCoy once it becomes available.

The book’s structure and Skaife’s friendly, matter-of-fact narrative style made for a quick, enjoyable read. It smacks of a friend talking you through his day at work. Read the rest

What Steve Jobs thought about consulting

Jobs liked people who stuck around to be responsible for their decisions. Read the rest

Underneath ancient Mexican temple, archeologists find an even older one

Last September, an 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico did all kinds of crazy damage to buildings, infrastructure and ended far too many lives. It’s hard to find anything good in the midsts of a mess like that, but here we are: According to the BBC, a pyramid in Morelos (around 40 miles south of Mexico City,) was damaged by the quake. While assessing how much the quake had messed the ancient structure up, Archaeologists discovered that, underneath the pyramid, there was an even older temple that they hadn’t known was there.

From The BBC:

The temple is nestled inside the Teopanzolco pyramid in Morelos state, 70km (43 miles) south of Mexico City.

It is thought to date back to 1150 and to belong to the Tlahuica culture, one of the Aztec peoples living in central Mexico.

The structure is dedicated to Tláloc, the Aztec rain god.

Archaeologists say it would have measured 6m by 4m (20ft by 13ft). Among the temple's remains they also found an incense burner and ceramic shards.

According to people far smarter about old stuff than most of us are, the structures are the Teopanzolco site date back to the 13th century. The temple underneath of that 13th century pyramid? It’s older--but how much older remains to be seen.

At a press conference held by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH,) Isabel Campos Goenaga, the director of the INAH's Morelos Center and archeologist Georgia Bravo Lopez told journalists that the newly discovered temple was located about two meters below the floor of the pyramid. Read the rest

British Rail's corporate identity

Amazing as it is to be nostalgic for British Rail, here we are. There's a corporate identity manual, a typeface, and a considerable library of further reading. [via]

This is a website about the British Rail Corporate Identity from 1965–1994 which includes a wealth of digitised examples of British Rail design material collected over several years. I hope you find it useful and inspiring, whether you're a practitioner or historian of graphic design, a scale modeller or simply a connoisseur of corporate design at its aesthetically satisfying best.

Photo: National Railway Museum

Update: You can buy the British Rail Corporate Identity Manual from Amazon. Read the rest

Welsh heat wave reveals ancient ruins under farm fields

The UK's Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has published some recent aerial shots of cropmarks, ancient ruins now covered by farm fields. Unusually dry weather conditions have created a golden opportunity to see these sites from the air. Read the rest

How to assess The Federalist Papers' authorship with statistics

The Federalist Papers comprises of 85 articles written in the 1780s by founding fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They wrote under a collective pseudonym, Publius, so keep their involvement secret. But who wrote what? There is much dispute. Let's try K-Means Clustering.

K-means clustering aims to partition n observations into k clusters in which each observation belongs to the cluster with the nearest mean, serving as a prototype of the cluster. This results in a partitioning of the data space into Voronoi cells. For our example we’ll have 68 observations (papers) into 2 clusters (2 authors, Madison and Hamilton).

Once the data has been converted into workable features, we can fit them onto a 2-cluster model. This is unsupervised - we are effectively just pouring in our (ideally) significant data and telling it that there are two distinct sets within it, and to try and extricate them.

Spoiler: most of them were by Hamilton. Read the rest

This 4,000-year-old recipe has had a long time to stew

Sure, the recipe for hotdog fried rice your mom passed along to you may have been brought over from Ireland by your grandfather but, tasty as it is, it can’t come close to touching the lineage of a 4,000-year-old stew recipe scrawled onto an ancient cuneiform tablet that dates back to the heyday of Babylon. No, not even with green onions thrown in for good measure. Respect where respect is due.

From Open Culture:

While cookbooks containing Mesopotamian fare do exist, to be really authentic, take your recipes from a clay tablet, densely inscribed in cuneiform.

Sadly, there are only four of them, and they reside in a display case at Yale. (Understandable given that they’re over 4000 years old.)

When Agnete Lassen, associate curator of Yale’s Babylonian Collection, and colleague Chelsea Alene Graham, a digital imaging specialist, were invited to participate in a culinary event hosted by New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, they wisely chose to travel with a 3D-printed facsimile of one of the precious tablets.

At the competition, the Yale team cooked up three different one-pot dishes from ancient Mesopotamian as described on the tablets they brought with them. Apparently, the weight of ages didn’t make them taste none too great. One of the dishes, Broth of Lamb, uses blood as a thickening agent, which doesn’t sound too appealing — and I like blood pudding. Unwinding Stew, a vegetarian dish, apparently looked as bad as it tasted, let along what its name implies it might do to the imbiber’s bowels. Read the rest

Watch this cutting-edge presentation on world population

The late, great Hans Rosling presents entertaining global population information here, but equally remarkable is the 3D graphics package he uses in his lecture. Read the rest

The Anonymous Project curates strange and mundane vintage slides

The Anonymous Project buys batches of old amateur slides, usually with with little or no provenance, then scans the most interesting ones for a long-running art project. Read the rest

Update: Faces of Auschwitz website is now live

A while back, I wrote about Faces of Auschwitz: a website dedicated to telling the stories of the prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp. It’s a passion project I’ve been collaborating on with photo colorist extraordinaire Marina Amaral, the Auschwitz Memorial & Museum and an amazing team of academics, videographers and other specialists.

For the past few months, we’ve been hard at work preparing content for the site while the good people at WordPress built us a fabulous online home. This past week, it all came together. The Faces of Auschwitz website is now live. You can check it out, here.

At a time when the politics of hate have once again found sway on the world stage and concentration camps have sprung into being at an alarming speed, we need to talk about how hate, bigotry and fear of the other can lead to tragedy on an unimaginable scale. It’s my opinion that one of the best ways to do this is to cite examples from the past.

KL Auschwitz did not start as a death camp, though all through its history, people did indeed die there. Located in Nazi-occupied Poland, it was initially used to contain Polish political prisoners, Russian POWs and other groups that the Nazis thought were a risk to their bullshit ideologies that they deserved to head up a new world order based on their racial supremacy. Of course, with Nazis being Nazis, it wasn’t long before other groups soon began to arrive at the camp: the Jews, of course, but also, religious leaders, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, intellectuals, homosexuals, the Roma, and perhaps, worse of all, children. Read the rest

Archivist in a Backpack project empowers local efforts to preserve history

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is using a grant to create kits for novice archivists to use in underserved communities. Dubbed Archivist in a Backpack, the kits actually range in size and scope, from backpacks loaded with recording equipment and guides to rolling suitcases with flatbed scanners. Read the rest

Would EPCOT have worked as a city?

Rob from Rob Plays takes an in-depth look at Walt Disney's grand plan to make an experimental prototype city of tomorrow. Read the rest

Nazi UFO toy model pulled from shelves

Toy model manufacturer Revell agreed to discontinue its model of the Haunebu II Flying Saucer, described as "the first object in the world capable of flying in space." According to the product description, the Nazi aircraft never made it past its 1943 test stage due to World War II. Thing is, none of that is true. From The Local:

The fact that Revell's product’s description fails to mention the aircraft never existed is risky in that people who buy it might actually believe the Nazis possessed superior technologies, (said historian Jens Whener of the Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany).

"Enthusiasts can use this as a strategy to cast doubt on what we know today about National Socialism," the historian said.

The company said it agrees with the MHM, adding that “it is in fact a legendary, extraordinary aircraft which cannot be proven in terms of its existence.”

"Unfortunately, our product description does not adequately express this and we apologize for it," Revell said in a statement.

Read the rest

Hi rez images from NASA's 1967/8 Lunar Orbiters were withheld to hide US spying capabilities

In 1967, the Lunar Orbiter missions sent back exciting -- but grainy and low-rez -- photos of the moon's surface. Read the rest

The weird(er) US-North Korea summit that ended with 4.5 hours of silent staring

In 1969, United Nations Command negotiator and US Maj. Gen. James B. Kapp and North Korean Maj. Gen. Ri Choon-Sun sat across the table from one another for 11.5 hours without eating or using the restroom. The delegates were only permitted to leave the room if the person who called the meeting proposes a recess. Ri never did. In fact, the two men spent the last 4.5 hours of the meeting silently staring at one another. At 10:30pm, Ri stood up and walked out.

During the meeting, Knapp had asked Ri for North Korea to begin a four-step process to calm tensions in the region.

The infamous meeting was featured in Jeffrey Z Rubin and Bert R. Brown's book "The Social Psychology of Bargaining and Negotiation" which sounds like a rather useful read.

"A long, awkward silence" (Weird Universe) Read the rest

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