A Cloak…of Invisibility?

Earlier this month, BAE Systems announced a revolutionary technology that could change the face of war…forever. Did the company’s scientists really figure out the secret to making an invisibility cloak?

A Real-Life Invisibility Cloak?

On September 5, BAE issued a remarkable press release entitled, BAE Systems Conjures up Invisibility Cloak. It declared that it had developed an “invisibility cloak” which would allow a vehicle to “blend into its surroundings.” In essence, the cloak is a series of sheets placed on the vehicle which have the ability to change temperature at a rapid clip. When used properly, they can literally make a tank or other vehicle invisible in the infra-red spectrum.

“Known as ‘Adaptiv’, the patented technology is based on sheets of hexagonal ‘pixels’ that can change temperature very rapidly. On-board cameras pick up the background scenery and display that infra-red image on the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. Alternatively, it can mimic another vehicle or display identification tags, reducing the risk of fratricide.”

Pretty amazing. At this time, the technology is only useful in the infra-red spectrum. However, this will undoubtedly change over the coming years.

“BAE Systems engineers have combined the pixels with other technologies, which provide camouflage in other parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum at the same time to provide all-round stealth, which will be developed further over the next few years.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Here’s a video of the invisibility cloak in action. If you’re pressed for time, start at 0:49 and wait 3 seconds.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The Silver Shipwreck?

In 1941, the SS Gairsoppa was heading from India to Britain. Suddenly, a Nazi U-Boat appeared on the horizon. It fired on the Gairsoppa, sending the massive cargo ship to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. Now, that ship is on the verge of being recovered. But it’s no ordinary cargo ship. Its holds are believed to contain a treasure…one of the largest treasures in maritime history.

The Sinking of the SS Gairsoppa?

In 1941, the Gairsoppa left India with silver ingots, pig iron, and tea which it intended to bring back to Britain. It was initially part of a convoy. However, with coal running low and winds running high, the vessel split off on its own and headed for Ireland’s Galway Harbor. On February 17, the U-101 spotted the Gairsoppa and subsequently torpedoed her. She sank in less than twenty minutes, leaving only a handful of survivors.

The vessel sank in 15,400 feet of water, taking with it nearly 80 crewmen…and a priceless treasure. It was believed to be carrying ~240 tons of silver, which amounts to a staggering ~$243 million. Earlier this week, the famed treasure hunting / salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration announced that it had discovered the shipwreck.

Odyssey Marine Exploration plans to Salvage the SS Gairsoppa?

Next spring, Odyssey will attempt to recover the treasure in what is already being called the “deepest and largest ever retrieval of a precious cargo.” According to its contract with the United Kingdom, Odyssey will keep 80% of the silver lode. The rest will go to the government, which as you might expect is “desperately looking for new sources of income.” In fact, Odyssey is being encouraged to find more valuable shipwrecks for the UK government.

But first, Odyssey will focus on completing its salvage of the Gairsoppa. It will be a difficult task due to the extreme depth of the wreck. But Odyssey doesn’t seem too worried.

“We were fortunate to find the shipwreck sitting upright, with the holds open and easily accessible. This should enable us to unload cargo through the hatches as would happen with a floating ship alongside a cargo terminal.” ~ Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO

Will the Gairsoppa turn out to be the richest shipwreck of all time? Probably not. The mysterious “Black Swan,” which was also salvaged by Odyssey, is rumored to have been carrying treasure worth ~$500 million in today’s dollars. But the bigger question is what will happen to the Gairsoppa’s treasure once its recovered.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

After secretly salvaging the Black Swan, Spain cried foul and demanded that the wreck be handed over to it. This happened regardless of the fact that the Spanish government’s ownership of the wreck was questionable at best and that Spain had spent none of its own time, money, or effort to recover it. Surprisingly, numerous U.S. courts sided with Spain and ruled that Odyssey must turn the Black Swan over to its government.

But those judgments have come under scrutiny and deservedly so. Documents provided by Wikileaks showed that the U.S. government attempted to conspire with Spain in the matter. More specifically, it offered to help Spain retrieve the Black Swan. In exchange, it requested that a painting by Camille Pissarro, which was stolen by the Nazis and now hangs in Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, be returned to an American citizen named Claude Cassirer.

“The possibility that someone in the U.S. government came up with this perfidious offer to sacrifice Odyssey, its thousands of shareholders, and the many jobs created by the company in exchange for the return of one painting to one individual is hard to believe.” ~ Odyssey Marine Exploration

Will the cash-starved British government, despite its agreement with Odyssey, attempt to seize the bulk of the treasure for itself? Let’s hope not. But until then, we can only wait and wonder.

U.S. Invasion Plans for…Canada?

In 1930, the United States formally approved “War Plan Red.” Although never put into action, the plan caused a major international rift when it was declassified in 1974. Did the United States really plan to go to war…with Great Britain?

War Plan Red: The Most Sensitive Document on Earth?

My how times have changed. Today Great Britain is viewed by American political leaders as its greatest ally. But back in 1930, opinions were decidedly different. Americans harbored suspicious feelings toward its former ruler. In addition, Great Britain was indebted to America to the tune of £9 billion thanks to the so-called “Great War.”

But those things paled in comparison to the brutal, long-term economic and political oil war that was being waged between wealthy interests from both countries. On one side stood the Rockerfellers and Standard Oil, which had previously held dual monopolies in international crude and export oil markets. On the other side, the Morgans and the Rothschilds stood alongside the newly-formed British Royal Dutch-Shell company. In many ways, the tensions between the two nations can be directly traced to this expanding “oil war.”

As such, the American military prepared War Plan Red – a document once considered the “most sensitive on earth.” Military officers thought that in the event of war, Great Britain would most likely stage attacks from the north. So, America proposed an invasion of British-controlled Canada.

How did War Plan Red Work?

According to the initial plan, one force would swarm the port city of Halifax, effectively cutting off British support. A second force would seize power plants near Niagara Falls. Then troops would invade Canada in a three-pronged approach while the Navy annexed the Great Lakes and blockaded Canadian ports. Massive bombing raids and chemical weapon deployment would accompany the attacks.

In February 1935, the plan was updated and “the U.S. Congress authorised $57 million to be allocated for the building of three secret airfields on the U.S. side of the Canadian border, with grassed-over landing strips to hide their real purpose.” Also, “America staged its largest-ever military maneuvers, moving troops to and installing munitions dumps at Fort Drum, half an hour away from the eastern Canadian border.”

It’s impossible to know what exactly would’ve happened in the event of war. But the world as we know it would probably look very different today.

“Using available blueprints for this war, modern-day military and naval experts now believe the most likely outcome of such a conflict would have been a massive naval battle in the North Atlantic with very few actual deaths, but ending with Britain handing Canada over to the U.S. in order to preserve our vital trade routes.” ~ David Gerrie, Daily Mail

Defense Scheme No. 1: Canada’s Version of War Plan Red?

By the way, don’t feel too bad for Canada here. It turns out Canada had its own version of War Plan Red, which it called “Defense Scheme No. 1.” Created in 1921, it detailed a preemptive invasion of America in the event of a possible war. The idea was to send “flying columns” to Seattle, Great Falls, Minneapolis, and Albany. The Canadian military hoped this would distract and delay the more powerful American military, thus providing ample time for British forces to arrive. This plan was ultimately discarded in 1928.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Interestingly enough, War Plan Red was just one of numerous contingency plans that are now known as the Rainbow Plans. For instance, War Plan Black was created before World War I to deal with a possible conflict with Germany. War Plan Orange considered how best to attack Japan. And most frightening, War Plan White was designed to suppress a domestic revolt.

As for War Plan Red, it became moot when World War II broke out and America threw its weight behind the Allies. But for a few short years, the economic ambitions and political power of the world’s largest oil industrialists nearly led to war. Such a war would’ve altered relations between the two countries…impacted the global balance of power…and changed the world forever.

Shipwreck Located with…Psychology?

In November 1941, Australia’s HMAS Sydney engaged Germany’s HSK Kormoran. The ensuing battle sent both ships plummeting to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. After decades of fruitless searching, two unlikely scholars stepped into the picture. How did cognitive psychologists unravel one of the great unsolved mysteries of World War II?

Where did the HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran Sink?

None of the 645 Australians serving aboard the HMAS Sydney survived the battle. In contrast, 317 Germans managed to stay afloat until they were picked up by other Australian ships. The Australian military, eager to locate the wrecks, began questioning the captives about the HMAS Sydney. But the Germans seemed confused as to exactly where the two ships had sank.

“…About 70 Germans did come up with a location. But those locations, taken together, didn’t make much sense – the positions were spread out, smeared over hundreds of miles. One survivor even placed the sinking almost halfway to Antarctica.” ~ Alix Spiegel, How Psychology Solved a WWII Shipwreck Mystery, NPR

The Australian military assumed that the captives were lying. Thus, most of the testimony was ignored. Decades of searching would follow, with nothing to show for it.

Using Psychology to find a Shipwreck?

In the 1990s, cognitive psychologists Kim Kirsner and John Dunn decided to throw their collective hat into the ring. After reviewing the testimony, they realized that the German accounts contained more truth than most realized.

“We wanted to make the case – show that the characteristics of these reports were the right kind of characteristics. That is, that the inconsistencies in the reports were precisely the kind of inconsistencies that occur naturally from failures of memory and the vagaries of transmitting information from person to person.” ~ John Dunn

Experiments performed during the 1930s by psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett showed that people have a tendency to make consistent, predictable mistakes when recalling the past or passing on stories. For example, they will recall a confusing story differently so that it makes more sense to them.

Kirsner and Dunn subjected the German accounts to pattern analysis and found that they looked quite similar to Bartlett’s experimental data. This discovery indicated that the Germans were telling the truth. Most likely, only a few surviving officers knew the ship’s exact location at the time of the sinking. That information “probably spread to the other surviving crew members during and after their rescue,” leading to the confusing data set.

Next, Kirsner and Dunn used the various accounts to suggest a probable location for the two shipwrecks. By 2004, they handed over their findings – along with their guess at the location – to the “Finding Sydney Foundation. So, how close did they come to pinpointing the shipwrecks?

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

In 2008, David Mearns used his own methodology to locate the shipwreck of the HSK Kormoran. Amazingly enough, it was just 2.7 nautical miles from Kirsner’s and Dunn’s predicted location. The HMAS Sydney was discovered a short distance away.

Now, of course, Kirsner and Dunn didn’t actually find the ship nor was their expertise used to locate it. Mearns and his team deserve all the credit in that respect. However, he did benefit from a similar methodology in which a study of primary sources led him to the conclusion that the Germans had been telling the truth.

Regardless, this example shows that cognitive psychology can be a powerful tool to weed through disparate memories and conflicting stories. Maybe, someday soon, it can be used to answer other unsolved mysteries of history.

The Birth of Frankenstein’s Monster?

On March 11, 1818, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. It was one of the first science fiction novels and remains one of the most influential pieces of literature of all time. For many years, scholars have doubted Mary’s account of how she wrote the book. Now, thanks to modern science, we may finally know the truth about her famous “waking dream.”

Mary Shelley’s Waking Dream of Frankenstein?

According to the third edition of Mary’s Frankenstein book, Lord Byron challenged her, her husband Percy Shelley, and a physician named Polidori to each write a ghost story in mid-June 1816 during the so-called Year without a Summer. Byron and Percy, to the best of my knowledge, never followed through on the challenge. Polidori launched the romantic vampire genre with his short story, The Vampyre. Meanwhile, Shelley tossed and turned until she finally found her inspiration for Frankenstein on June 16 “during a sleepless night in her dark room, behind closed shutters ‘with the moonlight struggling to get through.'”

“I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life …” ~ Mary Shelley

Mary claimed that she saw a “bright and shining moon” over Lake Geneva and that she proceeded to write the novel about Frankenstein while in a “waking dream.” However, scholars have long doubted her account, considering it a tall tale designed to sell more books. And indeed, certain entries in Polidori’s diary have cast doubt upon Mary’s version of the events. Did she really see moonlight on June 16 and begin writing her novel shortly afterward? Or was the moon impossible to see that early morning?

Does Mary Shelley’s Story fit the Facts?

Enter Professor Donald Olson, an astronomer from Texas State University. Olson specializes in using astronomical tables and geographic reference points to solve some of the world’s most famous historical mysteries such as “the time, date and location of paintings by Edvard Munch and Vincent van Goghthe Battle of Marathon in 490BC and Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 55BC; and even…a freak Breton tide mentioned in Chaucer’s The Franklin’s Tale.”

In August 2010, a team led by Professor Olson visited the Switzerland villa where Mary had her vision. They made “extensive topographic measurements of the terrain” and analyzed “weather records for June of 1816.”After a thorough investigation, Olson “determined that a bright, gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside to shine right into Shelley’s bedroom window just before 2 a.m. on June 16.” However, by June 22, it was a “waning crescent, masked by a hillside.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Thus, it appears that Mary’s version of events is supported by the evidence. Olson believes that Byron made his challenge between June 10-13. A few days later, Mary woke up in the early morning of June 16, between 2am and 3am, and started to write about Frankenstein.

“Mary Shelley wrote about moonlight shining through her window, and for 15 years I wondered if we could recreate that night. We did recreate it. We see no reason to doubt her account.” ~ Professor Olson

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Medical Secrets of the Ancients?

Modern antibiotics work by attacking specific parts of pathogens. While this works in most cases, some pathogens merely develop resistance to the antibiotics. Recently, biologists developed an innovative and promising way to combat these terrifying “superbugs.” Can ancient secrets of the medical world save lives today?

Evolutionary Arms Race: Superbugs versus Antibiotics

Superbugs present a steep challenge to modern medicine. Through a process of evolution, they learn how to defend themselves. This leads to a sort of “evolutionary arms race” with the superbugs on one side and antibiotics and adaptive immune systems on the other.

Now, a team of biologists from the Victoria Department of Primary Industries have proposed a new method for battling superbugs. They want to utilize ancient secrets. In other words, they wants to make use of molecules from the strongest “innate immune systems” found in nature. Innate immune systems, which are considered “an evolutionarily older defense strategy,” defend against infection in a more generic way than antibiotics or the adaptive immune system.

“The molecules of the innate immune system use simple chemistry to target the lipids in cell membranes. They can either disrupt and weaken bacterial membranes, or subtly alter the properties of the host’s healthy cells so that pathogens can no longer attack them.” ~ Wendy Zukerman, New Scientist

Unfortunately, the animals that tend to possess the strongest innate immune systems are only distantly related to humans. Thus, their molecules would most likely prove toxic if introduced into people.

Ancient Secrets of…Wallabies?

So, a team of researchers led by Professor Ben Cocks have focused their efforts solely on mammals. One promising candidate is the wallaby. A baby wallaby lacks an adaptive immune system. Worse, it lives in its mother’s pouch, which is filled with “bacteria closely related to the superbugs affecting humans in hospitals.” But thanks to their innate immune systems, they manage to survive and thrive nonetheless.

The wallaby innate immune system contains numerous cathelicidin peptides that appear effective in battling superbugs without causing toxicity to humans. The research team discovered that five of these peptides may have evolved from a single ancestral peptide. Working backwards, they managed to reproduce an ancient secret…the original peptide. This “resurrected” peptide has not been seen since the djarthia, a distant wallaby ancestor, roamed the Earth some 59 million years ago.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

59 million years? That’s definitely an ancient secret. In fact, it’s just a couple of million years younger than the dinosaurs! And since this extinct peptide has been out of commission for so long, any resistance built up by bacteria has probably been long forgotten. So, it’s no surprise that the ancient peptide appears amazingly effective and broad-based.

“Lab tests showed it destroyed six of seven multidrug-resistant bacteria, and was 10 to 30 times more potent than modern antibiotics such as tetracycline.” ~ Wendy Zukerman, New Scientist

Going forward, Cocks hopes to use computers and synthetic biology to recreate even more therapeutics from ancient mammals. For the time being, this new peptide will most likely be used to battle mastitis, a serious problem in the dairy industry. But someday soon, this ancient secret may enable humanity to overcome a wide variety of superbugs.

Was Einstein Wrong?

In 1905, Albert Einstein proposed his Special Theory of Relativity, upon which much of modern physics is based. It depends on the assumption that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. But recent experiments are calling that assumption into question, threatening to change everything we know about how the universe works. Was Einstein’s theory wrong?

Albert Einstein & the Special Theory of Relativity?

Light travels at 186,282 miles per second. According to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, this is the maximum speed limit in the universe…until now. Recently, scientists working at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, announced that it had measured subatomic particles known as neutrinos outpacing the speed of light.

Obviously, 60 nanoseconds isn’t much time. But the results appear consistent over time and thus, impossible to ignore.

The experiment was conducted by the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus, or OPERA. Due to the shocking nature of the findings, OPERA is urging caution. And with good reason. In 2007, researchers at Fermilab announced similar findings with neutrinos. But the difficulties in measuring distance, time, and angles led to an unacceptable margin of error. So, while the OPERA team believes its margin of error is just ten nanoseconds, they could be incorrect.

Caution is in order so at the moment, the team is merely asking other scientists to test its results. Unfortunately, that sort of analysis can only be conducted at two other labs in the world. And to make matters worse, neither lab is well-equipped to duplicate the experiments. One lab, located in Japan, has been “slowed by the tsunami and earthquake.” The other lab, Fermilab, needs to be upgraded.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

If the findings hold up under further scrutiny, the discovery has enormous implications for science. Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is the basis for much of modern physics and a particle traveling faster than the speed of light would require scientists to rethink their views on the way the universe operates.

As for real-world applications, there’s at least one intriguing possibility that I can’t help but mention…time travel.

“Light speed is a cosmic speed limit and it exists in order to protect the law of cause and effect. If something travels faster than the cosmic speed limit, then it becomes possible to send information into the past – in other words, time travel into the past would become possible. That does not mean we’ll be building time-machines anytime soon though – there is quite a gulf between a time-travelling neutrino to a time-travelling human.” ~ Professor Jeff Forshaw

A Machine that can Read Minds?

Oneirology is the scientific study of dreams. It’s widely considered a protoscience, or a promising field of study that has yet to be firmly established. New research could change all that though. In fact, it could change a lot of things. What if technology existed that could read dreams? What if these “natural movies” could read entire minds?

What are Natural Movies?

Scientists at UC Berkeley recently created a computer program that can “translate brain wave patterns into a moving image.” They call these images “Natural Movies.”

In order to get these Natural Movies, subjects watched hours of Youtube videos inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. In the process, the MRI recorded the ways in which the subjects’ brains processed the visual imagery. The research team used this information to develop a computer program “that matched features of the videos – like colors, shapes, and movements – with patterns of brain activity.”

Afterward, the program was tested in reverse. The team “fed the computer 18 million one-second YouTube clips that the participants had never seen.” The program then attempted to reconstruct the clips using other YouTube scenes as well as the information provided by the subjects’ brain activity. This video shows some of these results. The movie on the left is a series of Youtube clips. The movie on the right is the reconstructed Natural Movie. The Natural Movie is blurry because it layers “all the YouTube clips that matched the subject’s brain activity pattern.”

“This is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.” ~ Jack Gallant, Professor of Psychology

The Future of Natural Movies?

Of course, this research is in its infancy. The UC Berkeley study only measured a small amount of total brain activity. More models will be needed to encompass the entire visual system and more computers will be required to analyze the data. And ultimately, our ability to record and watch inner imagery like dreams, memories, or thoughts will depend on “how close those abstract visual experiences are to the real thing.” Still, it looks promising.

“If you can decode movies people saw, you might be able to decode things in the brain that are movie-like but have no real-world analog, like dreams.” ~ Jack Gallant

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

This research is straight out of a science fiction novel and could end up having enormous ramifications on life as we know it. Natural movies could enable paralyzed individuals to communicate movements through visual thoughts, allowing machines to make those movements a reality. The Pensieve from the Harry Potter series, which enabled one to store and recall memories, could become a reality.

Unfortunately, natural movies could also become a nightmare. It might be used in harmful ways we can’t even begin to imagine. Even the researchers themselves seem a bit nervous about the whole thing.

“It is possible that decoding brain activity could have serious ethical and privacy implications downstream in, say, the 30-year time frame. As an analogy, consider the current debates regarding availability of genetic information. Genetic sequencing is becoming cheaper by the year, and it will soon be possible for everyone to have their own genome sequenced. This raises many issues regarding privacy and the accessibility of individual genetic information. The authors believe strongly that no one should be subjected to any form of brain-reading process involuntarily, covertly, or without complete informed consent. ~ Shinji Nishimoto, An T. Vu, Thomas Naselaris, Yuval Benjamini, Bin Yu & Jack L. Gallant: Reconstructing Visual Experiences from Brain Activity Evoked by Natural Movies

Will this research benefit mankind? Or will it lead to a future straight out of Minority Report? Only time will tell.

Who Kidnapped Lindbergh’s Baby?

In 1932, famed pilot Charles Lindbergh’s 18-month old son was abducted and subsequently killed. After an exhaustive investigation and trial, Bruno Hauptmann was found guilty and executed for the crime. But despite everything, he maintained his innocence until the end. Did the police and courts get it wrong? If so, who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby?

The Missing Lindbergh Baby?

On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow were preparing to spend the night at their newly-finished home near Hopewell, New Jersey. Around 8:00 pm, Anne and her nursemaid Betty Gow put Charles Jr. to bed. Two hours later, Gow went to check on the Lindbergh baby and discovered that he was missing.

Lindbergh proceeded to search the room and discovered an envelope. The oddly-misspelled note inside left little doubt as to what had happened:

Have 50.000$ redy 25.000$ in 20$ bills 15.000$ in 10$ bills and 10.000$ in 5$ bills After 2–4 days we will inform you were to deliver the mony. We warn you for making anyding public or for notify the Police The child is in gut care. Indication for all letters are singnature and three holes.

Two intersecting blue circles were at the bottom of the note. The overlapping area was colored red and a hole had been punched in its middle. Two additional holes were punched on the left and right sides of the design. It quickly became clear to all involved that the purpose of this “singnature” was to allow the Lindbergh’s to recognize communications from the kidnappers.

After the police arrived, they searched the area and found a muddy footprint as well as part of a makeshift ladder. A fingerprint expert was able to gather plenty of prints from the rungs. Unfortunately, many of them had been tainted by the growing crowd of observers.

Who Kidnapped the Lindbergh Baby?

Lindbergh thought the kidnapping had been conducted by mobsters and decided to take matters into his own hands. He got in contact with numerous crooked figures who promised to act as intermediaries between him and the kidnappers. Former FBI agent Gaston Means claimed he knew where to find the Lindbergh baby and managed to convince socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, who owned the Hope Diamond at the time, to provide him with $100,000 in ransom money. He promptly absconded with the money (he was later caught and convicted of Grand Larceny). Even jailed gangster Al Capone tossed his hat in the ring, offering his assistance in finding the Lindbergh baby in exchange for his freedom (an offer that was quickly denied).

Eventually, Lindbergh sought help from Mickey Rosner, who was reputed to have underworld contacts. However, unbeknownst to him, Rosner was secretly working with the New York Daily News. This backfired horribly when Rosner got his hands on a second ransom letter for the Lindbergh baby. He sent it to the Daily News where it was leaked to the public. From that point on, it became difficult to determine if communications were from the kidnappers or hoaxers.

A Tragic End to the Lindbergh Baby?

Soon after, Lindbergh came into contact with a retired school teacher named Dr. John Condon. Condon had seemingly been in contact with the kidnappers and offered to help. Condon met with a kidnapper named “John” who claimed that the Lindbergh baby was healthy and being held on a boat. As proof, “John” provided the baby’s sleeping suit, which Lindbergh identified.

On April 2, Condon met again with “John” and gave him $50,000 in a wooden box. The carefully-selected ransom money consisted of gold certificates, which were increasingly rare due to President Roosevelt’s new currency regulations. Also, the police had recorded the serial numbers of each bill. Condon made the drop while Lindbergh watched from a distance and in return, received a note telling him where to find the Lindbergh baby. Unfortunately, the note gave false instructions.

On May 12, 1932, Charles Jr.’s body was discovered in a tree grove just a few miles from the Lindbergh’s home. The child had been killed by a blow to the head.

Did Bruno Hauptmann Kidnap and Murder the Lindbergh Baby?

With no other alternative, the police focused their efforts on tracking the ransom money. A year later, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 which, in effect, forced American citizens to turn in “all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates” to the Federal Reserve.

On September 18, 1934 a gas station attendant received a $10 gold certificate as payment. Since Roosevelt’s Executive Order made such certificates illegal to possess, the attendant wrote down the customer’s license plate number. After the bank identified the certificate as one from the ransom drop, the police tracked down the license to a German immigrant named Bruno Hauptmann.

Upon Hauptmann’s arrest, police discovered a $20 certificate on his person. A subsequent search of his home led to the recovery of $13,760 of the ransom money. The police also found a notebook containing a sketch of a ladder similar to the one found outside the Lindbergh home, a closet wall upon which Hauptmann had written down Condon’s telephone number and address, and a piece of wood that matched the wood used in the construction of the ladder.

And the evidence didn’t end there. Eight separate handwriting experts declared that Hauptmann’s handwriting fit that of the initial ransom note. And the letter itself, with misspellings like “gut” instead of “good” indicated that it had been written by a native German speaker. In addition, Hauptmann had fled Germany in order to escape punishment for a crime that involved entering a second-floor bedroom window via ladder. Finally, Condon and Lindbergh claimed that Hauptmann’s voice matched the one they’d heard at the ransom drop.

A jury voted to convict Hauptmann. And a short while later, on April 3, 1936, he was electrocuted.

But did Bruno Hauptmann really do it?

The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby caused a national uproar. Journalists reported every new discovery. Citizens flocked the crime scene and surrounding area. Thousands of letters poured into the Lindbergh estate. With intense pressure to close the case, is is possible that the police got the wrong man?

The evidence against Hauptmann was damning. And yet, to the end he proclaimed his innocence. Even when New Jersey’s governor offered to commute his sentence in return for a confession, Hauptmann refused to change his story. He claimed that the money had been left to him by a friend named Isidor Fisch, who’d died back in 1934.

During the 1970s, historians began to question the official version of events. They pointed out that handwriting analysis is highly subjective. Also, Hauptmann’s fingerprints weren’t on the ladder, a fact that the police covered up. In addition, the crime scenes were heavily contaminated, Condon’s and Lindbergh’s voice identification was highly questionable, and Hauptmann’s defense attorneys did a rather poor job.

Still, modern technology indicates that the ladder did match the wood found in Hauptmann’s attic. And modern forensic experts have stated that the handwriting found on the ransom notes matches that of Hauptmann.

But if Hauptmann did commit the crime, how did he know the Lindbergh’s would be spending that Tuesday at their house rather than with Anne’s parents, as was their normal custom? And how did he know where to find the baby?

The possibility of an “inside job” was considered almost from the beginning. The police suspected a servant named Violet Sharp. Violet later committed suicide after several rounds of questioning. Since her alibi checked out, it’s generally assumed that police pressure tactics, rather than guilt, caused her to kill herself.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Today, most historians believe that Hauptmann kidnapped and murdered the Lindbergh baby, possibly with help from an unidentified insider. One intriguing theory is that this mysterious insider was none other than Charles Lindbergh himself. It is well-known that he deliberately impeded the investigation and in many respects, took it over completely. He was also apparently a practical joker of some cruelty as recorded by Gregory Ahlgren and Stephen Monier in their book, Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax.

“Just two months earlier [Lindbergh] had hidden the baby in a closet and then dramatically announced that the child had been kidnapped.The whole household had been thrown into an uproar while a panic stricken Anne feared the worst. Lindbergh had allowed the ruse to continue for some 20 minutes before roaring heartily and admitting it was all a hoax.”

Did Lindbergh accidentally kill his own child while attempting an elaborate “practical joke?” Did he then stage a kidnapping to cover it up while using his influence to guide the investigation? It seems possible, if pretty unlikely. Regardless, let’s hope scholars continue to revisit this case and dig up facts. Because while Hauptmann was most likely guilty in some respect, it seems a near certainty that he didn’t work alone. And that means one thing…

Someone else got away with murder.

Around the World in…One Minute?

In Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout attempt to circle the Earth in eighty days in order to win a £20,000 wager. Now, thanks to modern technology, you can accomplish the same trip…in the span of just one minute.

Around the World in 80 Days…or just One Minute?

Check it out…just one minute to circle the world. Breathtaking huh? This is actually a motion interpolated version of the original movie. That original video is a “time lapse video taken from the front of the International Space Station as it orbits our planet at night.” Here are the details of what you’re seeing.

“This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica. Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, El Salvador, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon. Also visible is the earths ionosphere (thin yellow line), a satellite (55sec) and the stars of our galaxy.”

Jules Verne is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction.” For example, his books, From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, detail a rather ingenious method for launching a vehicle into space via space cannon. But for all his vision, I doubt even Verne ever imagined the day when mankind could travel around the earth in a minute’s time and all from the comfort of one’s living room.