Tag: random thursday

How Atomic Bombs Help Catch Art Forgeries

Art forgery is a multi-million dollar business, one that museums and appraisers are constantly battling. But there is one technique they’ve found to foil forgers that’s near foolproof – and it involves atomic bombs.

Wolfgang Beltracchi is an artist who got his start as a forger of classic masters like Picasso, Van Gogh, and others. But he and those in his business found a foil in Peggy Guggenheim, Dr. Elena Basner, and a cadre of scientists that found a technique that searches for traces of the isotopes cesium-137 and strontium-90.

The reason is that these isotopes are only created by fission of Uranium 235, and between 1945 and 1963, 522 open-air atomic bomb blasts scattered these isotopes into the atmosphere, which then got into the soil, made its way into flax plants, which were used to create linseed oil, which was used as a binding agent in paint.

So if a painting shows traces of these isotopes in the paint, there is no way that it was created before 1945.

This technique has foiled hundreds of art forgers in the years since and has proven to be one of the most difficult challenges for future Wolfgang Baltracchis.

The Most Inbred People Of All Time | Random Thursday

From the most powerful royalty in history to an uncontacted village in New York State, we’re talking about some of the most inbred people of all time.

The Blue Fugates of Kentucky were an isolated group of settlers who, through a rare recessive gene, developed blue skin. Due to their blue skin and their isolated location, they began to inbreed, eventually becoming something of a local legend – the blue hillbillies that live in the woods – until they reappeared in the 1960s.

Allentown, New York, is a village in New York State that was cut off from the rest of society after a dam flooded the valley where they lived. They call their community The Hollow, but outsiders call it Allentown because almost everybody there is from the same family.

The Habsburgs of Europe were one of the most powerful families in history, ruling over the Holy Roman Empire in Eastern Europe until the early 20th century. But one segment of the Habsburgs in Spain, known as the Spanish Habsburgs, participated in incest and inbreeding for so long that they developed The Habsburg Jaw – a genetic deformity that got so bad that many could barely speak. It was Charles II of Spain that finally put an end to this practice because he was so inbred that he couldn’t reproduce.

And the Egyptian royal family of ancient Egypt practiced inbreeding for over a thousand years because they believed that the only person who could mate with a pharaoh was someone else from their family – they were living gods after all. By the time King Tutankhamen was born, their lineage was so ruined that he had multiple genetic deformities and died at only 18.