Right and Wrong

finger pointing

In a series of experiments in 2009, Stanford psychologist Daniel Casasanto investigated whether right- and left-handed people differ in how they associate abstract concepts such as good and bad with horizontal space.

He found that right-handed people associate the space to their right with good things like intelligence, attractiveness, honesty, and happiness more readily than the space to their left. With left-handed people, the opposite applies.

“This means for example that the same portrait photo, when placed on a table to the right of a right-hander, will be seen in a more positive light than when it happens to be placed on the other side,” writes Rik Smits in The Puzzle of Left-Handedness. “It’s as if the preference for one hand over the other radiates out into the vicinity of that hand. It may even mean that when an employer looks at a list of brief descriptions of job applications that has been laid out in two columns, those in the column of the same same side as his or her preferred hand will be judged more favourably. If this turns out to be true, then perhaps elections, selection procedures and recruitment are even less rational processes than we already feared. It seems there isn’t an awful lot we can do about that.”

(Daniel Casasanto, “Embodiment of Abstract Concepts: Good and Bad in Right- and Left-Handers,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 138:3 [August 2009], 351–367.)

Hmm

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Amateis_Doors_(10349299513).jpg

Maybe this is symbolic — the U.S. Capitol contains a pair of “doors to nowhere” that serve no purpose.

In 1901 sculptor Louis Amateis designed a set of bronze doors to grace the reconstructed façade of the building’s West Front. But when the doors were cast in 1910, legislation for the improvement still had not been authorized, so they couldn’t be installed.

The “Amateis Doors” were displayed in various museums until 1967 and then placed in storage. They were finally hung in the Capitol in 1972, just downstairs from the Rotunda … where they seem to promise great things but ultimately lead nowhere.

The Inner World

In 1948 the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi entered a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, where he began to pass the time by repeatedly striking a single piano key and listening intently to its sound. He said later:

Reiterating a note for a long time, it grows large, so large that you even hear harmony growing inside it. … When you enter into a sound, the sound envelops you and you become part of the sound. Gradually, you are consumed by it and you need no other sound. … All possible sounds are contained in it.

The result, eventually, was his 1959 composition Quattro pezzi (ciascuno su una nota sola) (“Four Pieces, Each on a Single Note”) for chamber orchestra, in which each movement concentrates on a single pitch, with varying timbre and dynamics.

He wrote, “I will say only that in general, western classical music has devoted practically all of its attention to the musical framework, which it calls the musical form. It has neglected to study the laws of sonorous energy, to think of music in terms of energy, which is life. … The inner space is empty.”

While we’re at it: Here’s how Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” would sound if all the notes were C:

(Gregory N. Reish, “Una Nota Sola: Giacinto Scelsi and the Genesis of Music on a Single Note,” Journal of Musicological Research 25 [2006] 149–189.)

Mnemonic

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Archimede_-_Langetti.jpg

This French alexandrine encodes π to 126 decimal places:

Que j’aime à faire apprendre un nombre utile aux sages!
Immortel Archimède, artiste ingénieur,
Qui de ton jugement peut priser la valeur?
Pour moi, ton problème eut de pareils avantages.
Jadis, mystérieux, un problème bloquait
Tout l’admirable procédé, l’œuvre grandiose
Que Pythagore découvrit aux anciens Grecs.
Ô quadrature! vieux tourment du philosophe!
Insoluble rondeur, trop longtemps vous avez
Défié Pythagore et ses imitateurs.
Comment intégrer l’espace plan circulaire?
Former un triangle auquel il équivaudra?
Nouvelle invention: Archimède inscrira
Dedans un hexagone; appréciera son aire,
Fonction du rayon. Pas trop ne s’y tiendra:
Dédoublera chaque élément antérieur;
Toujours de l’orbe calculée approchera;
Définira limite; enfin, l’arc, le limiteur
De cet inquiétant cercle, ennemi trop rebelle!
Professeur, enseignez son problème avec zèle!

Translation:

How I like to teach this number useful to the wise.
Immortal Archimedes, artist, engineer,
In your opinion who could estimate its value?
For me, your problem had equal advantages.
Long ago, mysterious, a problem blocked
All the honorable process, the great work
That Pythagoras revealed to the Ancient Greeks.
Oh quadrature! Old philosopher’s torment
Unsolvable roundness, for too long you have
Defied Pythagoras and his imitators.
How to integrate the plain circular space?
Form a triangle to which it is equivalent?
New invention: Archimedes will inscribe
Inside a hexagon; will appreciate its area
Function of a ray. Not too much to hold onto there:
Will split each previous element;
Always the calculated orb will approach
Will define the limit; finally, the arc, the limiter
Of this disturbing circle, an enemy too rebellious
Teacher, teach its problem with zeal.

I don’t know who came up with it — Alfred Posamentier traces it as far back as the Nouvelle Correspondence Mathematique of Brussels, 1879.

Unfinished

A puzzle by David L. Silverman:

On the back of an envelope you find an interrupted game of tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses). You know that each player was an expert, which means that she never puts herself into a potentially losing position and that she always wins if her opponent gives her the opportunity. There are two Xs and two Os in the diagram, and it is impossible to tell whose move it is. Neglecting symmetry, what is the position?

Click for Answer

In a Word

bibliopolist
n. a bookseller

cunctative
adj. slow; tardy; dilatory; causing delay

numquid
n. an inquisitive person

aliunde
adv. from elsewhere; from another source

[Edmund Law] had a book printed at Carlisle; they were a long time about it: he sent several times to hasten them; at last he called himself to know the reason of the delay. ‘Why does not my book make its appearance?’ said he to the printer. ‘My Lord, I am extremely sorry; but we have been obliged to send to Glasgow for a pound of parentheses.’

— Henry Colburn, Personal and Literary Memorials, 1829

Rewrites

king kong

Edgar Wallace died after completing a rough draft of King Kong, and James Ashmore Creelman’s script was slow and dialogue-heavy. So Merian C. Cooper gave the job to Ruth Rose, the wife of his co-producer. Rose had never composed a script before, but she knew how to write tightly — the opening line of dialogue, “Hey! Is this the moving picture ship?”, replaces several pages of exposition with seven words. After Kong is subdued on Skull Island, she accomplishes his transfer to New York with a simple speech by filmmaker Carl Denham:

Send to the ship for anchor chains and tools. Build a raft and float him to the ship. We’ll give him more than chains. He’s always been king of his world, but we’ll teach him fear. Why, the whole world will pay to see this! We’re millionaires, boys — I’ll share it with all of you! In a few months it’ll be up in lights: ‘Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!’

Ernest B. Schoedsack said his wife’s script was easy to shoot because “the characters are believable — I didn’t have to ask them to do anything impossible or ridiculous.” And Cooper added, “Ruth used just the kind of romantic dialogue I wanted. It was perfect.”

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