March 4, 2013
Los Angeles, California

KUDOS  to journalist Mary Elizabeth Williams for last month’s Salon article, “Science epic win of a week.” 

In my opinion, her below extracted paragraph from that article perfectly expresses what drives us to search for the truth. Ms. Williams say’s: 

What’s fantastic about all of these
stories is how they all, in their own ways, demonstrate the unstoppable,
magnificently human need to seek answers. We want to know what really happened
to Richard and Mary and Elizabeth. We want to know what they sounded like and
how they met their fates. And when we figure it out – or at least get
tantalizingly closer – it’s thrilling. It’s satisfying. The past is
never truly behind us. It lives in the questions we never stop asking, and it
connects us, in real and lively ways, to the epic, amazing narrative of
history. Science, you rule.

Here is her full article as it appeared in SALON  last month:

Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013 01:15 PM PST

 

Topics: Richard III, Mary Ingalls, Black Dahlia, Science, Archeology, Life News, Entertainment
News
, News

It’s still early, but you know who
the biggest winner of the week is, by far? Science. Science makes Joe Flacco’s
week look, eh, OK, and that couple who won the lottery – twice – like they’re just doing
all right. Science’s week is like Joe Biden’s summer of ’87, that’s how great it is.

First, there was the historic announcement on Monday that the
remains of England’s notorious King Richard III had been discovered –
underneath a midlands parking lot. The story provided fodder for worldwide
headlines, a jackpot’s worth of memes and a treasure trove of
awesome stories within the story on the science behind it.

What aspect of this thing isn’t a
mind-blower? There’s the way archaeologists found the remains in the first
place – delving through centuries-old maps and “using ground-penetrating radar” to detect the
location of the priory where the king’s body was believed to be interred.
There’s the DNA testing that went into confirming that the skeleton with the
cleaved skull and the curved spine really did belong to the last Plantagenet
king. Dr. Turi King, of the University of Leicester, compared the samples with
those from Michael Ibsen — a contemporary direct descendant of Richard’s sister.
It’s like an episode of Jerry Springer, 500 years in the making! Ibsen this
week described the experience as “a privilege,” as well as “surreal.” Or, as
the History Blog understatedly summed up the whole discovery, “HOLY
SHIT SLAM DUNK PROOF THEY FOUND FRIKKIN RICHARD III.”

The awesome just keeps coming too –
on Monday scientists unveiled a 3-D reconstruction of Richard’s face, which was
never painted in his own lifetime, based on the skeletal remains. He looks like
a cross between Laurence Olivier and Anonymous. Caroline Wilkinson, professor of
craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, told the BBC Monday, “The facial reconstruction was produced on the assumption
that the remains were unknown and portraits of Richard III were not used as
reference.”
We live in an era of craniofacial identification. Oh my
God, this is fantastic. And, as just the latest, University of Leicester Dr.
Philip Shaw has examined letters from the king to reveal what Richard might
have sounded like when he spoke. Hint: Those big-budget costume dramas
really should come with subtitles.

But the Brits don’t have a lock on
all the butt-kicking, in-your-face scientific mind-blowing going on. Closer to
home, a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics revealed new evidence
that Mary Ingalls, the elder sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, may not have, as
was previously assumed, gone blind from scarlet fever but instead from a brain
disease known as viral meningoencephalitis. Dr. Beth Tarini and her study
co-authors based their conclusion on “epidemiological data on blindness and
infectious disease around the time of Mary’s illness, plus analyzing local
newspapers and Laura’s unpublished memoir, ‘Pioneer Girl.'” Using her pediatric
knowledge of how scarlet fever typically behaves and together with creative
sleuthing, she concluded that it was the virus that led to “optic neuritis, or inflammation of her optic nerves”
– and Mary’s legendary blindness. Does the news change the narrative of the
“Little House” books? No. But as Tarini points out, it gives nervous parents
some reassurance that childhood scarlet fever isn’t the terror they may have
only known from the famous books.

And in Los Angeles, Steve Hodel,
author of “Black Dahlia Avenger,” announced that a cadaver dog sent into the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed
Sowden House
“picked up the scent of human decomposition” — lending
further credence to his theory that his father, George, murdered aspiring
actress Elizabeth Short there in 1947.

Short’s unsolved murder has
intrigued and perplexed investigators for decades – and routinely provided
inspiration for popular crime drama. It was the basis for a 2006 Brian DePalma
movie and a plotline for the first season of “American Horror Story.”
Though the finding isn’t conclusive, it’s another clue to an enigmatic crime,
thanks to an unlikely investigator. Cadaver dogs are able to detect “soft
tissue decomposition, human blood, human bone, cremation ashes and human bone
decomposition if there’s bone present and decomposing.” What’s cooler than
scientists? Canine scientists.

What’s fantastic about all of these
stories is how they all, in their own ways, demonstrate the unstoppable,
magnificently human need to seek answers. We want to know what really happened
to Richard and Mary and Elizabeth. We want to know what they sounded like and
how they met their fates. And when we figure it out – or at least get
tantalizingly closer – it’s thrilling. It’s satisfying. The past is
never truly behind us. It lives in the questions we never stop asking, and it
connects us, in real and lively ways, to the epic, amazing narrative of
history. Science, you rule.

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a
staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years
Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub. More Mary Elizabeth Williams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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