Homebuilding kit lets you assemble your own house – and then bury it


Ever since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, people have been fascinated with the concept of having their own “hobbit home” – a quaint, vaulted house that sits beneath a covering of soil and vegetation. Building your own from scratch, however, could be rather challenging. That’s why Green Magic Homes is now offering prefabricated hobbit-like modular structures, that can be joined up to match buyers’ specifications. After that, you just add dirt and plants.

Besides looking neat and being cozy, earth-covered homes like these also offer a practical advantage – the soil covering provides excellent insulation, helping to keep the structure warm in winter and cool in the summer. The window and door arches protrude from the sides, so they won’t be covered when the soil is heaped on top.

Each Green Magic Home is made up of individual fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) arches, which are bolted together sort of like sections of a waterslide. These joined segments become different types of watertight rooms/modules, which can in turn be linked together to form various styles of homes – buyers can also mix and match modules as they wish…

The company’s latest module is the Wikiki, a 404-sq ft (37.5-sq m) unit that can serve as a “man cave,” guest cottage, art studio, or pretty much whatever you want. It reportedly takes three people three days to put it together, requiring no special skills or heavy equipment … although it’s not clear if that includes adding the soil and plants, known as a “living roof.”

Underground homes rock – as long as they’re reasonably waterproof. We have a few half-buried designs in our community. Seem to work out just fine.

Drone images reveal details of ancient village in New Mexico

Click to see images taken by drone

Thermal images captured by an small drone allowed archaeologists to peer under the surface of the New Mexican desert floor, revealing never-before-seen structures in an ancient Native American settlement.

Called Blue J, this 1,000-year-old village was first identified by archaeologists in the 1970s. It sits about 43 miles south of the famed Chaco Canyon site in northwestern New Mexico and contains nearly 60 ancestral Puebloan houses around what was once a large spring.

Now, the ruins of Blue J are obscured by vegetation and buried in eroded sandstone blown in from nearby cliffs. The ancient structures have been only partially studied through excavations. Last June, a team of archaeologists flew a small camera-equipped drone over the site to find out what infrared images might reveal under the surface.

“I was really pleased with the results,” said Jesse Casana, an archaeologist from the University of Arkansas. “This work illustrates the very important role that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have for scientific research.”

Casana said his co-author, John Kantner of the University of North Florida, had previously excavated at the site and the drone images showed stone compounds Kantner had already identified and ones that he didn’t know about.

For example, the thermal images revealed a dark circle just inside the wall of a plaza area, which could represent wetter, cooler soil filling a kiva, or a huge, underground structure circular that would have been used for public gatherings and ceremonies. Finding a kiva at Blue J would be significant; the site has been considered unusual among its neighbors because it lacks the monumental great houses and subterranean kivas that are the hallmark of Chaco-era Pueblo sites…

The images also could guide archaeologists’ trowels before they ever break ground.

Modern imaging tech has been inspiring archaeologists for a spell. Data mining satellite photos has been used successfully working up a number of ancient sites around the world. Nice to see one more peaceful use derived from a technology much beloved of our government for spying on folks and occasionally killing them.

As usual, RTFA for a bit more detail.

Thanks, Mike

Skeleton of slave named Fortune buried 215 years after death

The 18th-century slave called Fortune was laid to rest on Thursday, 215 years after he died, at a memorial service in Waterbury attended by hundreds of mourners, more than a dozen clergy and a gospel choir.

Fortune, who was enslaved by a Waterbury doctor, was never buried after his 1798 death because his owner wanted to use Fortune’s bones to teach anatomy. In the 20th century, Fortune’s skeleton was used as an exhibit at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury.

A project started in 1996 to discover the history of the museum’s skeleton culminated in Thursday’s burial, which was as dignified as demanded by the occasion, both a man’s funeral and a touchstone in the history of the city’s African American community.

Fortune’s bones lay in state for five hours at the state Capitol in Hartford on Thursday morning, then were taken to St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Green, the Waterbury parish in which Fortune was baptized in 1797…

Steven R. Mullins, president of the Southern Union of Black Episcopalians, said, “Mr. Fortune served as a slave all the years of his earthly life. What happened to Mr. Fortune should not happen to any human being in the world. … This is our opportunity today … to make up for that…”

Mullins savored the irony that Fortune’s remains are buried at Riverside Cemetery, in the same section where many members of Waterbury’s 18th century aristocracy are buried. “Talk about contrasts,” he said. “He is now good enough to rest in the same dirt as they’re in.”

Fools who prate about a post-racial America include those neo-Confederates who would still be upset over the bones of a Black man buried in their cemetery. Sad, but true.

Scientists grow Pleistocene plants from seeds buried 30,000 years

On the frozen edge of the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, in an ancient pantry harboring seeds and other stores, an Arctic ground squirrel burrowed into the dirt and buried a small, dark fruit from a flowering plant. The squirrel’s prize quickly froze in the cold ground and was preserved in permafrost, waiting to grow into a fully fledged flowering plant until it was unearthed again. After 30,000 years, it finally was. Scientists in Russia have now regenerated this Pleistocene plant, transplanting it into a pot in the lab. A year later, it grew forth and bore fruit.

The specimen is distinctly different from the modern-day version of Silene stenophylla, or narrow-leafed Campion. It suggests that the permafrost is a potential new source of ancient gene pools long believed to be extinct, scientists said.

The fruits were buried about 125 feet in undisturbed, never thawed permafrost sediments, nestled at roughly 19.4 degrees F (-7 C). Radiocarbon dating showed the fruits were 31,800 years old, give or take about 300 years. Seeds are incredible things, storing the embryo of a new plant and encasing it in protective material until conditions are right for it to germinate.

Scientists led by David Gilichinsky at the Russian Academy of Sciences worked with three of these fruits and took placental tissue samples. They fed the tissue cultures a cocktail of nutrients to induce root growth, and once the plants were rooted, they were transplanted into pots in a greenhouse. Just as they were supposed to, plants grew, developed flowers and fruits, and went to seed…

All of this is interesting not just because it’s amazing to regenerate a Pleistocene plant, which of course it is, but because the permafrost may be an important new gene pool. Other ancient squirrel burrows have been found in the Yukon territory and in Alaska. That’s interesting for pure research, but also because of what may happen as the planet warms and more permafrost regions thaw. Organisms will be released from their long, cold sleep, and these ancient life forms could become part of modern ecosystems, affecting modern phenotypes and changing the landscape.

Permafrost has long served as a functional deep freeze for animal and vegetable matter reaching back into the last Ice Age. There have been dinners of thawed mammoth for nutball gourmands – and, yes, that brings up the suggestion again of cloning the wooly mammoth in a modern elephant.

Frankly, I’m as interested in the vegetable side of the spectrum of life. It’s more likely to aid in adaptability to climate change – especially since our corporate masters and their flunkies in politics and society seem to have little inclination to respond any useful view of science.

Prehistoric mummies from South Uist a puzzle of body parts

DNA tests on British prehistoric mummies revealed they were made of body parts from several different people, arranged to look like one person. The four bodies discovered in 2001 on South Uist, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides were the first evidence in Britain of deliberate mummification.

It is thought the body parts may have come from people in the same families.

Sheffield University’s Prof Mike Parker Pearson said the mummies had not been buried straight after preservation…

Recent tests on the remains carried out by the University of Manchester, show that the “female burial”, previously identified as such because of the pelvis of the skeleton, was in fact a composite. It was made up of three different people, and some parts, such as the skull, were male.

Radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis showed that the male mummy was also a composite.

Prof Parker Pearson, an expert in the Bronze Age and burial rituals has a theory about why the mummies were put together this way.

These could be kinship components, they are putting lineages together, the mixing up of different people’s body parts seems to be a deliberate act,” he said…

Archaeologists found the mummies in the foundations of a row of unusual Bronze Age terraced roundhouses. But after being radiocarbon dated, all were found to have died between 300 and 500 years before the houses were built, meaning they had been kept above ground for some time by their descendants.

In order for the bodies to have been found as articulated skeletons as they were, rather than piles of bones, some soft tissue preservation had to have taken place.

My kin.

What did you expect to find in a garlic field?

South Korean police have dug up a stash of 11 billion won [$10 million], most of it buried in a garlic field…

The money is believed to be the proceeds of an illegal internet gambling operation, for which one of two brothers is already in jail.

Their brother-in-law helped out by burying the cash, and then helped himself to some of it, police said. When he then accused a landscaper of stealing a chunk of cash, police moved in and unearthed it, they said…

According to the police version of the story, the brother-in-law, a 52-year-old man identified only as Mr Lee, bought the garlic field in south-western Gimje.

His gambling relatives had felt pressured by police investigations and asked for his help in hiding the money, Yonhap news agency reported. He worked at dusk and dawn, as if farming, to bury the containers.

His own greed led to his downfall however, police say: First he dug up about 400m won and spent it, without telling the brothers he had helped himself.

Then he tried to blame a workman who was helping to landscape the plot; that man complained about being falsely accused, leading police to the field.

The 11bn won was part of 17bn won the in-laws allegedly earned in profits by operating an illegal internet gambling site in South Korea with a server in Hong Kong, Yonhap reported…

Police plan to confiscate the cash and seek an arrest warrant for Mr Lee.

You know, a terrific reason for making gambling illegal is to confiscate the proceeds. More profitable than a kickback.

Canadian boy playing at the roadside – buried by snowplow

A Longueuil boy buried by a snowplow while playing outside during a snow day on Monday was asleep throughout much of the three hours he spent awaiting rescue…

Olivier Prescott, 7, was outside the elementary school across the street from his home in Longueuil when a snowplow clearing the schoolyard drove by. The driver didn’t notice the boy playing, and the plow’s blade buried him in a metre of snow.

After the truck went by, I was under the snow,” said the boy. “I was scared.”

Olivier’s mother, Stephanie Prescott, was also outside shovelling snow in the wake of a storm that buried much of Montreal and closed area schools. Stephanie said she didn’t see what happened to her son, but a neighbour told her he thought Olivier had been buried by the plow.

After a hasty search of the area turned up no sign of her son, the mother called police…

Neighbours and police launched a frantic search for the boy, knocking on doors in the area. A neighbour who claimed he knew where Olivier might have been buried began shovelling, and eventually located the trapped boy.

Olivier was pulled from the snowbank three hours after he was buried, and for the first 10 minutes his mother indicated he was “all white, and parts of him were blue.”

The boy was taken to a hospital, where the concerned mother said that it took little time for her son to recover. “After about 20 minutes at the hospital he was fine. He said to me, ‘Mommy, I’m hungry. Can I have some fries and 7-up?’ He’s not allowed to eat fast food, but I said, ‘Sure…’ ”

Olivier said that throughout the ordeal he could hear people looking for him, but was unable to get their attention. The boy also spent much of the time unaware of what was happening.

“I was sleeping,” he said.

Lucky to be found in time, kid.

Construction workers find 900 bombs under restaurant

I hope they all weren’t this big

More than 900 unexploded bombs from the Second World War have been found beneath a restaurant in Okinawa.

Construction workers on a road expansion project discovered the explosives with a metal detector and notified police, Kiyotaka Maedomari, a senior police official in Itoman city, said.

An army bomb disposal squad discovered the total of 902 unexploded munitions – including rocket bombs, grenades and motor projectiles – believed to have been made in the United States, he said…

“Because unexploded munitions from the Second World War are scattered across Okinawa, construction workers always use metal detectors before starting to dig the ground,” he said…

Okinawa was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific war, with US forces unleashing an 83-day air and amphibious assault dubbed by locals the “Typhoon of Steel”. Some 190,000 Japanese died, half of them Okinawan civilians…

An estimated 10,000 tonnes of unexploded munitions were left in Okinawa after the war. About 4,500 tonnes remained by the time the United States [sort of] returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

Since then, Japan’s armed forces have disposed of another 1,500 tonnes, but it is expected to take 80 years or more to remove the rest.

OK. First off, I can’t resist the semantic chuckle. “Unexploded bombs”, eh? Please tell me how to find a cache of “exploded bombs”. Other than little bits and pieces of metal scattered in a large crater.

Second, the topic of leftovers from WW2 is a topic near and dear to anyone who lives near or downstream from Los Alamos. The Atomic City is still dribbling radioactive waste courtesy of the Big War and the Cold War that followed. Our government doesn’t have a history of being especially tidy with radioactive crumbs.

I won’t offer the name; but, most coneheads [an endearing term around here] of my acquaintance skip eating at the local franchise of one of America’s best-known fast food chains. There is reputed to be at one highly radioactive truck and other metal artifacts buried beneath.

Shackleton’s whisky a treasure trove in Antarctica

Three crates of Scotch whisky and two crates of brandy left beneath the floorboards of a hut by the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton in 1909, at the end of a failed expedition to the South Pole, have been unearthed by a team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Al Fastier, who led the team, said the discovery of the brandy was a surprise, according to a news release posted online by the trust. The team had expected to find just two crates of whisky buried under the hut. The trust reported that that ice had cracked some of the crates and formed inside, “which will make the job of extracting the contents very delicate.”

Richard Paterson, a master blender for Whyte & Mackay, which supplied the Shackleton expedition with 25 crates of Mackinlay’s “Rare and Old” whisky, described the unearthing of the bottles as “a gift from the heavens for whisky lovers,” since the recipe for that blend has been lost. “If the contents can be confirmed, safely extracted and analyzed, the original blend may be able to be replicated.”

Mr. Paterson addressed the question of what the whisky might taste like in a post on his blog when the plan to dig it up was first announced, last year:

Whiskies back then — a harder age — were all quite heavy and peaty as that was the style. And depending on the storage conditions, it may still have that heaviness. For example, it may taste the same as it did back then if the cork has stayed in the bottle and kept it airtight.

The trust’s Web site has a detailed history of the failed expedition, as well as this video on its efforts to preserve the hut built as a base for the Shackleton expedition at Cape Royds, Antarctica, in 1908:

I would give my late father’s left whatchamacallit to sip a dram or two of that whisky. The spirit of Earth’s adventure.