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6 Lost Treasures Just Waiting To Be Found

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Last month we told you about people who stumbled upon their fortune. If you haven't found your own copy of the Declaration of Independence or a few thousand Ancient Roman coins, let me give you a push in the right direction with these tales of lost treasures that are just waiting for you to find them.

1. The Lying Dutchman?

Arthur Flegenheimer, who went by the alias "Dutch Schultz," was a New York mobster during the 1920s and '30s known for his brutality and hard-nosed business tactics. By the time he was 33, Dutch had taken on the Mafia in numerous gangland wars, fought the U.S. government twice on tax evasion charges, and amassed a fortune thanks to his lucrative criminal operations.


As his second tax evasion trial began to take a turn for the worse, it appeared Schultz might be looking at jail time. In preparation, he placed $7 million dollars inside a safe, drove to upstate New York, and buried it in a hidden location so he'd have a nest egg when he got out of prison. The only other person who knew where the safe was buried was the bodyguard who helped him dig the hole. Shortly after, both men were gunned down by hitmen inside the Palace Chophouse Restaurant in Newark, New Jersey.

On his deathbed, Schultz began hallucinating and rambling after the rusty bullets used by the assassins caused an infection. A court stenographer was brought in to record his statements and some believe his incoherent references to something hidden in the woods in Phoenicia, New York, might be a clue to the location of his buried loot. Of course the meaning of his words is cryptic and not 100% reliable, but that hasn't stopped hundreds of people from looking. So far, though, Dutch's safe has not been found.

2. A Famous Poet and You Didn't Know It

TamerlaneBefore Edgar Allan Poe was Edgar Allen Poe, he was just another struggling writer who couldn't catch a break. In 1827, he hired Calvin F. S. Thomas to publish 50 copies of his manuscript, Tamerlane and Other Poems, in the hopes that it would kick-start his career. Unfortunately, Tamerlane received no critical consideration at the time (and has only received middling reviews since), so Poe's rise to fame would have to wait until he published The Raven nearly 20 years later in 1845.


Because the book had such a small, first editions have become one of the most sought after pieces in American literature. In all, only 12 copies are known to still exist, mostly held by libraries and museums. But there could easily be more that have gone unnoticed, because, for reasons unknown, Poe's name does not appear as the author of the book; it is only attributed to "A Bostonian." Without a familiar name on the cover, many people dismiss Tamerlane as a worthless collection of poems by some anonymous writer no one's ever heard of. It was this fact that allowed the last copy, found in 1988, to be purchased for a mere $15 from an antique store. At auction a month later, the book wound up fetching $198,000.

3. A 10-Cent Treasure?

While yes, a dime could once buy you a phone call or a cup of coffee, today most people probably wouldn't even bother to pick one up if they saw it lying on the ground. But what if you found a few thousand dimes sitting around? And what if those dimes were over 100 years old?

dimeA wagon train left Denver in 1907 carrying six large barrels filled with newly-minted "Barber" dimes, nicknamed after Charles Barber, the designer of the coin. The dimes were being delivered to Phoenix, Arizona, some 900 miles away, but the shipment never arrived. One theory is that the wagon train was attacked by bandits and, despite their armed escort, were unable to fend off the attack. Others believe the party might have plummeted hundreds of feet to the bottom of Colorado's Black Canyon while navigating the treacherous mountain trails. All that can be said for sure is that neither the coins, nor the men carrying them, were ever seen again.


Now, a little over 100 years later, a single 1907 Barber dime in excellent condition fetches around $600. Assuming the barrels weren't destroyed and the coins haven't been exposed to the elements all this time, these missing coins should be fairly flawless. If you estimate 5,000 coins at $600 each, you're looking at $3,000,000. With that kind of dough, you could make an awful lot of phone calls.

4. Morriss' Code

In 1820, a mysterious stranger left a locked iron box with Robert Morriss, an innkeeper in Bedford County, Virginia. The stranger, who went by the name Thomas Jefferson Beale, said that a man would be coming to retrieve the box some time in the next ten years. However, if no one ever came, Morriss could keep the box and the contents inside.

But what was inside the box? Beale reluctantly revealed that there were three pages covered in numbers. These "ciphertexts" were coded messages that could only be read by using corresponding documents as a key. Beale promised to send the three keys to Morriss when he arrived in St. Louis, so that, should the box become Morriss', he could decipher the messages and learn the location of a treasure Beale had buried nearby.

Twenty years later, no one had ever come for the box, nor had Morriss received any key documents from St. Louis. He went ahead and opened the box, and spent the rest of his life trying to decode the pages to no avail. After his death, Morriss left the box to a friend, who, surprisingly, was able to decipher the second page using a particular copy of the Declaration of Independence. The page described the treasure itself—2900 pounds of gold, 5100 pounds of silver, and thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. The message then went on to say that the exact location of the treasure was found on the first page, so you would have to decode it to find the loot. The first and third pages have never been deciphered, despite people working on it for nearly 175 years.

beale_page1

All of the pages are available online (the first page is pictured above), so you can try your hand at deciphering them yourself. But if you find the Beale treasure, you better give me a cut for pointing you in the right direction.

5. A Blockbuster of a Poster

Metropolis-PosterThe film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, is considered a classic of the silent film era. However, upon its initial release in 1927, it was not well-received, even in its native Germany. Some critics said the story was boring, the acting was terrible, and the special effects were a joke. In America, its reception was even worse when 40 minutes of the film were cut to accommodate the 90-minute running time preferred by theater owners. The resulting film was nearly incomprehensible.


Because the movie was not a blockbuster, surviving promotional items from the film's release are very rare. Perhaps the most famous of these rarities are the posters, called "one-sheets," which hung in theaters while the film was showing and torn down and thrown away soon after. There are only four known original Metropolis one-sheets that survived the film's German run in theaters "“ one at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, another in Berlin's Film Museum, and two held by private collectors, one of whom bought the poster for the record-setting price of $690,000 in 2005.

But here's the kicker: there are no known surviving posters from the film's American release. No one is even sure what the American poster looked like. It could have resembled the German one-sheet, which features Maria, a stylized female robot, and a beautiful Art Deco cityscape above her. But there were also different designs for France and Hungary, so it's possible the American version could have been based on those, too. Experts agree on one thing, though—if someone were to dig up an original American Metropolis one-sheet, it is very likely that it would become the first $1 million movie poster.

6. Crack the Case of the Lost Fabergé Eggs

egg2Fabergé Eggs have long been seen as beautiful examples of excess wealth. Between 1885 and 1917, 109 unique egg sculptures were fashioned out of solid gold and precious gems for some of the richest families in Europe and Asia. Of that number, 54 were "Imperial Eggs" created exclusively for the Russian Imperial Family.


During the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, most of the Imperial Eggs were confiscated by the new government and moved to the Kremlin Armory to be cataloged and stored. By the time Joseph Stalin decided to begin selling them in 1927, a handful of eggs had disappeared from the inventory. More went missing as they were sold to private collectors, who usually insisted upon anonymity. In all, eight of the 54 Imperial Eggs are currently considered lost.


It's theorized that, thanks to the anonymous nature of many of the sales, the true pedigree of the lost eggs was forgotten as they've been passed down as heirlooms. So it's very likely that some oblivious person could have received a Fabergé Egg in their Great-Great-Great Aunt Ruth's will and not even known it.

Finding one these lost Eggs would make you an instant multi-millionaire. In 2007, a Fabergé Egg, which was also a precision clock once owned by the Rothschilds, sold for £8.9 million, becoming the most expensive timepiece ever sold. In 2002, the Winter Egg sold for a still very respectable $9.6 million. And these two Eggs hadn't been missing for 90 years. The publicity alone for finding one of the lost Imperial Eggs would elevate the final price to an astounding level.
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Does your hometown have any legends of buried treasure just waiting to be found? Maybe you're searching for a rare comic book or record album. Tell us about your treasure-hunting experiences in the comments below.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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