Inside the beautiful, brutal world of bonsai

Inside the beautiful, brutal world of bonsai

In the winter of 2002, a young American named Ryan Neil joined an unusual pilgrimage: he and several others flew to Tokyo, to begin a tour of Japan’s finest collections of bonsai trees. The next-youngest adult in the group was fifty-seven. Like many Americans of his generation, Neil had discovered bonsai through the “Karate Kid” films. The karate instructor, Mr. Miyagi, practices the art of bonsai, and in Neil’s young mind it came to represent a romantic ideal: the pursuit of perfection through calm discipline. He decided he wanted to apprentice to a bonsai master in order to learn the secrets of the art – but it turned out to be harder than he could have ever imagined.

Inside the world's most top secret museum

It is the only place a visitor can see the gun found with Osama bin Laden when he was killed, next to Saddam Hussein's leather jacket. Welcome to the CIA's secret in-house museum. Located inside the US intelligence agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the collection has just been renovated to mark the agency's 75th anniversary. Among the 600 artefacts on display are the kinds of cold war spy gadgets you might expect - a 'dead drop rat' in which messages could be hidden, a covert camera inside a cigarette packet, a pigeon with its own spy-camera and even an exploding martini glass. But there are also details on some of the CIA's more famous and even recent operations.

A burial cave more than 3,000 years old has been uncovered in Israel

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered an "exceptional" cave that ancient people sealed 3,300 years ago, hiding grave goods and possibly human burials within it, just yards from a beach south of Tel Aviv. Use of the cave dates to a time when the ancient Egyptians, led by Ramesses II — who reigned from about 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C. — ruled what is now Israel. During the time of Ramesses II, Egypt controlled an empire that stretched from modern-day Sudan to Syria. Construction workers operating a mechanical digger discovered the cave when the machine unexpectedly penetrated the roof of the cave.

All-terrain wheelchairs arrive at US parks

Cory Lee has visited 40 countries on seven continents, and yet the Georgia native has never explored Cloudland Canyon State Park, about 20 minutes from his home. His wheelchair was tough enough for the trip to Antarctica but not for the rugged terrain in his backyard. Lee’s circumstances changed Friday, when Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources and the Aimee Copeland Foundation unveiled a fleet of all-terrain wheelchairs for rent at 11 state parks and outdoorsy destinations, including Cloudland Canyon. The Action Trackchair models are equipped with tank-like tracks capable of traversing rocks, roots, streams and sand, plowing through tall grass, and tackling uphill climbs.

American woman tries to smuggle 166 Mayan objects from Guatemala

Police stopped a car that Stephanie Allison Jolluck was in and found dozens of relics in the vehicle. Her arrest followed a close call with authorities just three days prior, when she was stopped at the Guatemala City airport for trying to smuggle two Mayan artifacts originating from between 600 and 900 CE into the US. She claimed to officials that she had purchased the stone carvings from a market in Antigua, and a judge released her pending trial. Guatemala’s Culture Ministry indicated that the artifacts are likely Mayan “axes” — possibly used for sacred ball games that were central to ancient Maya cultural traditions.

These tiny jewels come from one of Alaska’s most unusual beaches

Just below the Arctic Circle, where Alaska’s Seward Peninsula stretches westward toward Russia, there is a most improbable sliver of land. Point Spencer sits at the northern tip of a miles-long, narrow spit of sand, gravel, and permafrost that’s less than 100 feet wide in places. To the east is Port Clarence Bay, where depths can exceed 40 feet. To the west is the wild and unforgiving Bering Sea. Point Spencer has, at various times, been hundreds of miles inland or completely inundated by the sea. All of this has combined to create a unique kind of sand: Magnified 10 times, it appears to be glittering, semiprecious stones. The jewel-like particles represent a wide range of minerals, including moss-green olivine, blue-green glauconite, and iron-rich, orange-colored quartz.

An animation of bird migration patterns