A dodo bone and other scientific oddities hit the auction block


This fragment of a dodo’s femur may fetch $22,000 at auction this month, Christie's estimates. (MATT DUNHAM/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
April 15, 2013
SCIENCE SALE
Bone of extinct dodo and other oddities will go
to highest bidders
Travel, Science and Natural History auction, April 24

Relics of two extinct, flightless birds are among the scientific oddities and historic curiosities up for sale at a London auction house this month.

Christie’s estimates that the bone of a dodo and the fossilized egg of an elephant bird will fetch up to $22,000 and $45,000, respectively, when they hit the auction block as part of its biannual Travel, Science and Natural History sale.

The dodo bone is a four-inch fragment of a left femur. The dodo, popularized by its role in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the expression “dead as a dodo,” was driven to extinction in the late 17th century, less than a century after it was discovered by European sailors on Mauritius, a remote island off the east coast of Africa. The bone is believed to have been excavated in 1865.

The pre-17th-century fossilized egg was was the product of an elephant bird on the island of Madagascar. The bird, which is said to have resembled a giant ostrich, went extinct sometime between the 14th and 17th centuries. According to Christie’s, the elephant bird was thought to be the “giant flying beast known as the Roc (or Ruhk) in the tales of Sinbad and accounts of Marco Polo’s voyages.” In these stories, the bird was said to have been able to devour an elephant, hence the name. While that is probably an exaggeration, the auction house says, the animal was truly enormous, growing to about 11 feet tall and weighing 1,100 pounds. The egg, likewise, is elephantine — a foot long and nearly nine inches in diameter.

These are two of the auction’s 265 lots, which also include slices of a meteorite, a neolithic flint core, a tooth from an extinct species of shark, globes, scientific instruments, rare books and maps, and paintings. Items will open to public viewing on April 20, and can be seen online. The auction, which is open to online bidders, will be held April 24.

DATA
In new TV series, a data scientist uses numbers to solve mysteries of life
“The Numbers Game,” April 22 on National Geographic

Will you make a million dollars? Are you going crazy? When will you die?

These are some of life’s most enticing questions — and in a new National Geographic Channel series, data scientist Jake Porway aims to answer them. “The Numbers Game” combines man-on-the-street experiments, interactive games and, of course, numbers to illuminate life’s greatest mysteries.

The series debuts April 22 with an episode on mortality. Specifically, it asks, “Can you choose how long you’re going to live? The answer is mostly ‘Yes.’ ”

The hour-long show reiterates dire facts about commonly acknowledged killers, such as sitting too much and smoking, and explores how people can make decisions that are likely to extend their life spans. The host tests his grip strength, goes shopping for raw meat, grills strangers about their sex lives and tries out software that shows people what they’ll look like at age 72.

Upcoming episodes will look at the “million-dollar formula,” which uses statistical knowledge as a tool to boost your bank account, and the science behind the work and life stresses that drive us crazy (and how to tell if we’re really going insane).

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