One June morning in 2017, an Albanian American real-estate broker named Viktor Gjonaj parked outside a strip mall in Sterling Heights, a small suburb on the outskirts of Detroit. He hurried into the claim office of the Michigan Lottery. Gjonaj, who is 6 foot 5, loomed over the front desk and announced that he had won the Daily 4 lottery draw, worth $5,000. But Gjonaj did not have one winning ticket. He had 500. Skeptical lottery officials checked his tickets carefully. Each was genuine and contained the four winning numbers, but it was extremely unusual for someone to play the same numbers 500 times in one day. There were other red flags. Most people who present themselves at lottery claim centers are ecstatic, yet this winner waited for his prizes with the impatience of someone picking up dry cleaning.
The man who wants to make a do-it-yourself euthanasia machine
In a workshop in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Philip Nitschke—“Dr. Death” or “the Elon Musk of assisted suicide” to some—is overseeing the last few rounds of testing on his new Sarco machine before shipping it to Switzerland, where he says its first user is waiting. This is the third prototype that Nitschke’s nonprofit, Exit International, has 3D-printed and wired up. Number one has been exhibited in Germany and Poland. “Number two was a disaster,” he says. Now he’s ironed out the manufacturing errors and is ready to launch: “This is the one that will be used.” A coffin-size pod with Star Trek stylings, the Sarco is the culmination of Nitschke’s 25-year campaign to “demedicalize death” through technology. Sealed inside the machine, a person who has chosen to die must answer three questions: Who are you? Where are you? And do you know what will happen when you press that button? Here’s what will happen: The Sarco will fill with nitrogen gas. Its occupant will pass out in less than a minute and die by asphyxiation in around five.
We may soon know the answer to a 500-year-old royal mystery
The infamous 539-year-old mystery of ‘The Princes in the Tower’ could soon be solved, with King Charles said to be ‘supportive’ of plans for a DNA investigation of bones believed to be those of Princes Edward and Richard. The Queen refused permission for testing of the remains but the new monarch, who is a fan of archaeology having studied it at Cambridge, is said to back an analysis of the bones believed to belong to the boys. The tale goes that Edward, who was set to become king following his father’s death, and his younger brother, were locked in the Tower of London in 1483 by their uncle who would instead claim the crown – as Richard III – for himself. The two brothers – aged 12 and nine – were declared illegitimate heirs by Richard, then the Duke of Gloucester, and were never seen again. Legend has it that the pair were murdered at his request.
The modern diamond industry is a massive marketing scam
The diamond invention—the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem—is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds. The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value—and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity. The financiers feared that when new mines were developed in South Africa, diamonds would become at best only semiprecious gems.
What happens when you donate your body to science
Rebecca George doesn’t mind the vultures. They remind her of toddlers as they rustle their feathers in annoyance when she opens the gate of the Western Carolina University body farm early one July morning. Her arrival has interrupted their breakfast. George studies human decomposition, and part of decomposing is becoming food. Scavengers are welcome. The birds complain from the trees that surround the body farm as George, a forensic anthropologist, begins her main task of the day: placing the body of a donor, whom we’ll call Donor X, in the Forensic Osteology Research Station—known as the FOREST. The enclosure sits on a steep incline in North Carolina’s temperate rainforest, surrounded by two layers of protective fencing. This is Enclosure One, where donors decompose naturally above ground. Just on the other side of the clearing is Enclosure Two, where researchers study bodies that have been buried in soil. She is the facility’s curator, a member of a small team of forensic anthropologists and university students who monitor the donors—sometimes for years—as they become nothing but bones.
The man who loved rattlesnakes
Rattlesnakes give most people the creeps. But there is a subset of people who find them inviting. Eugene DeLeon was frequently photographed cozying up with, and even smooching, rattlesnakes; he had no fear of them at all. His interest started early. His father, a security guard in the Texas oil fields, used to while away his shift catching snakes that wriggled by his post, and would bring them home for his children to admire before releasing them. The passion for snakes stuck with DeLeon. “He was crazy for them,” his daughter Blanca Treviño told me recently. “Very crazy.” After studying at Coastal Bend College, DeLeon, who worked in the oil fields like his father, founded Snakebusters Snake Handlers, an all-purpose snake enterprise. Snakes in your basement? No problem: call Snakebusters. Need snake blood for a folk remedy for cancer? Snakebusters can accommodate.