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Adm. Byrd's Heirs Turn Frozen Assets Into Cold Cash

October 24, 1988|ANN CONNORS | ANN CONNORS,

--Heirs of polar explorer Adm. Richard Byrd turned the items he gathered during his exploits into an inheritance 31 years after his death, in a Lynnfield, Mass., auction that grossed more than $200,000. The highest price--$9,500--was paid for a naval officer's dress saber given to Byrd in 1930 by the state of Virginia. Stuffed penguins, including one he had given to his children, sold for $1,000 each. Other items snatched up by buyers from as far away as California, Canada and England included rare Japanese guns, ship logs and fur clothing, auctioneer Carl Stinson said. The money was to be divided among Byrd's heirs and used to pay legal debts of his estate. Byrd made the first flight over the North Pole in 1926 and the first over the South Pole in 1929. His Antarctic expeditions continued through 1955.

--It's enough to get Copernicus revolving in his grave. Asked in a nationwide survey whether the Earth revolves around the sun, or the sun around the Earth, a whopping 21% of American adults incorrectly answered the latter, and 7% said they didn't know. "It's a fairly dire situation," said Jon Miller of Northern Illinois University of the results in a survey of 2,401 adults conducted for the National Science Foundation. And in an election year in which "Star Wars" has been cited repeatedly, it appears that Americans have little knowledge of what is being discussed. Asked whether lasers--an essential component of "Star Wars"--work by focusing sound waves, only 36% correctly said the statement was false. Lasers work by focusing light waves.

--Irate over litter on the nation's highways, 38-year-old artist Stan Herd took over an Ottawa, Kan., soybean field, mowed the shapes of giant crumpled Pepsi and Coca-Cola cans in the vegetation and used 700 people in red and blue shirts to shade the cans in their familiar colors while airplanes and helicopters zoomed overhead taking pictures. Before "The Ottawa Beanfield Cola War," Herd's work "in the field" included an Indian chief sculpted on a field near Dodge City and a vase of sunflowers plowed on a field near Lawrence.

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