A Royal Tour

king's tour

A problem by Kagen Schaefer:

Suppose a king tours a chessboard, visiting each square once, never crossing his own path, and finishing where he starts. Inevitably he’ll have to make some horizontal and vertical moves; for example, in the tour above he makes 14 horizontal and 16 vertical moves.

Show that in any such tour of an 8 × 8 chessboard the sum of the horizontal and vertical moves must be at least 28.

Click for Answer

Good Boy

The esoteric programming language DOGO “heralds a new era of computer-literate pets.” Commands include:

SIT — If the value of the current memory cell is 0, jump to STAY.
STAY — If the value of the current memory cell is not 0, jump to SIT.
ROLL-OVER — Select the next operation in the operation list.
HEEL — Execute the currently selected operation.

This program prints the words HELLO WORLD:

roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel 
heel heel heel heel heel heel sit roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over 
roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel sit roll-over roll-over roll-over 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over  
roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel heel roll-over heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel 
sit roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel 
heel heel roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over 
roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over 
heel heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel 
heel heel heel heel heel sit roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over 
roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel 
heel roll-over roll-over heel roll-over heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over heel heel 
heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel

Here’s a similar program in Blub, which is designed to be readable by fish:

blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub?
blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub!
blub? blub! blub? blub. blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub! blub? blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub! blub? blub! blub? blub. blub. blub.
blub! blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub. blub! blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub? blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub!
blub? blub! blub? blub. blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub? blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub! blub? blub! blub? blub. blub! blub! blub! blub!
blub! blub! blub! blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub! blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub.
blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub. blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub!
blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub. blub! blub.

See User Friendly.

Unquote

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Disputation.jpg

“Many a long dispute among divines may be thus abridged: It is so; it is not so; it is so; it is not so.” — Ben Franklin

Feed Me, Seymour!

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dionaea_muscipula_Brest.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Venus flytraps can “count.” When an insect contacts one of the triggering hairs between its hinged leaves, the trap prepares to close, but it won’t do so unless a second contact occurs within about 20 seconds. This spares the plant from wasting energy shutting on raindrops and other nonliving stimuli.

The plant will release a cocktail of prey-decomposing acidic enzymes after five stimuli, enough to “convince” it that it’s caught a creature worth consuming.

(Jennifer Böhm et al., “The Venus Flytrap Dionaea muscipula Counts Prey-Induced Action Potentials to Induce Sodium Uptake,” Current Biology 26:3 [Feb. 8, 2016], 286–295.)

Old Man River

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whanganui-River-01.jpg

Because of its importance to the region’s Māori people, New Zealand’s Whanganui River is legally a person, with rights, duties, and liabilities, including the right to be represented in court proceedings.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the river will be recognized as a person “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests.”

Gerrard Albert, lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi (tribe), said, “We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as an indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.”

In 2011, residents of Ecuador sued the provincial government of Loja on behalf of the Vilcabama River to stop a road-widening project that was forcing rocks and debris into the watershed. A “rights of nature” provision in Ecuador’s constitution permits people to sue on behalf of an ecosystem. A judge decided in favor of the river, and the municipality had to cancel the project and rehabilitate the area.

Podcast Episode 197: Alone Across the Outback

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gibson_Desert_and_moon_from_Alfred_%26_Marie_Range.jpg

In 1977, a young woman named Robyn Davidson set out to pursue what she called a “lunatic idea” — to lead a group of camels 1,700 miles across western Australia, from the center of the continent to the Indian Ocean. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Davidson’s remarkable journey alone through the Outback and learn what it taught her.

We’ll also dive into the La Brea Tar Pits and puzzle over some striking workers.

Intro:

O.E. Young of Petersburg, Va., assembled a two-story house from the marble headstones of 2,000 Union soldiers.

In 1946 Stan Bult began recording the faces of London clowns on eggshells.

Sources for our feature on Robyn Davidson:

Robyn Davidson, Tracks, 1980.

Paul Smethurst, Travel Writing and the Natural World, 1768-1840, 2012.

Robert Clarke, Travel Writing From Black Australia: Utopia, Melancholia, and Aboriginality, 2016.

Amanda Hooton, “Travels of the Heart,” Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 8, 2014.

Robyn Davidson, “Walk My Country,” Mānoa 18:2 (Winter 2006), 7-17.

“The Inspiration: Robyn Davidson,” Australian Geographic 90 (April-June 2008), 112-112.

Dea Birkett, “The Books Interview: Robyn Davidson — Landmarks of an Accursed Art,” Independent, Aug. 4, 2001, 9.

Luke Slattery, “10 Questions: Robyn Davidson, Writer, Traveller, 59,” Australian Magazine, Oct. 13, 2012, 10.

Michele Field, “Robyn Davidson: A Literary Nomad,” Publishers Weekly 243:46 (Nov. 11, 1996), 52-53.

Cathy Pryor, Tracks Author Robyn Davidson Reflects on a Changing Australia, 40 Years After Her Desert Trek,” ABC News, Dec. 8, 2017.

Richard Feloni, “16 Striking Photos of One Woman’s 2,835km Trek Across the Australian Outback,” Business Insider Australia, Feb. 15, 2015.

Robyn Davidson, Tracks: The True Story Behind the Film,” Telegraph, April 19, 2014.

Duncan Campbell, “Making Tracks: Robyn Davidson’s Australian Camel Trip on the Big Screen,” Guardian, April 21, 2014.

“Indomitable Spirit,” Canberra Times, Sept. 29, 2012, 8.

Coburn Dukehart, “Rick Smolan’s Trek With Tracks, From Australian Outback to Silver Screen,” National Geographic, Sept. 19, 2014.

Brad Wetzler, “Australian Camel Odyssey: A Voyage of Self Discovery,” Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Jan. 2, 1993, E1.

Eleanor Massey, “Women Who Discovered the World,” Eureka Street 21:2 (Feb. 11, 2011), 1-2.

Mary Warner Marien, “Desert Journeys With Women Are Anything But Dry,” Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 1997.

Jennifer H. Laing and Geoffrey I. Crouch, “Lone Wolves? Isolation and Solitude Within the Frontier Travel Experience,” Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Human Geography 91:4 (December 2009), 325-342.

Gary Krist, “Ironic Journeys: Travel Writing in the Age of Tourism,” Hudson Review 45:4 (Winter 1993), 593-601.

Robert Clarke, “Travel and Celebrity Culture: An Introduction,” Postcolonial Studies 12:2 (June 2009), 145-152.

Richard Snailham, “Tracks by Robyn Davidson,” Geographical Journal 148:1 (March 1982), 116-117.

Ihab Hassan, “Australian Journeys: A Personal Essay on Spirit,” Religion & Literature 34:3 (Autumn, 2002), 75-90.

Rachael Weaver, “Adaptation and Authorial Celebrity: Robyn Davidson and the Context of John Curran’s Tracks (2013),” Adaptation 9:1 (March 2016), 12-21.

Listener mail:

Helen Lawson, “‘My Job Stinks’: The Diver Who Has to Swim Through Sewers to Unblock the Drains of Mexico City,” Daily Mail, March 23, 2013.

Michael Walsh, “It’s A Dirty Job: Meet Mexico City’S Official Sewer Diver,” New York Daily News, March 23, 2013.

Eric Hodge, Phoebe Judge, and Rebecca Martinez, “Criminal: La Brea Dave’s Deep Dive,” WUNC, Dec. 18, 2015.

Wikipedia, “La Brea Tar Pits” (accessed April 19, 2018).

“FAQs,” La Brea Tar Pits & Museum (accessed April 19, 2018).

Andrew Blankstein, “Police Find Evidence Linked to Homicide in La Brea Tar Pits,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2013.

Wikipedia, “Grapheme-Color Synesthesia” (accessed April 19, 2018).

Maggie Koerth-Baker, “Magnetic Letters Taught Us More Than How to Spell,” National Geographic, March 9, 2016.

“Synesthesia,” Psychology Today (accessed April 19, 2018).

Nathan Witthoft, Jonathan Winawer, and David M. Eagleman, “Prevalence of Learned Grapheme-Color Pairings in a Large Online Sample of Synesthetes,” PLOS One 10:3 (March 4, 2015), e0118996.

A.N. Rich, J.L. Bradshaw, and J.B. Mattingley, “A Systematic, Large-Scale Study of Synaesthesia: Implications for the Role of Early Experience in Lexical-Colour Associations,” Cognition 98:1 (November 2005), 53-84.

Wikipedia, “Synesthesia” (accessed April 19, 2018).

Patricia Lynne Duffy, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds, 2011.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle is from Paul Sloane and Des MacHale’s 2014 book Remarkable Lateral Thinking Puzzles.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Exercise

In 1927, Ukrainian conductor Nikolai Malko played Vincent Youmans’ song “Tea for Two” for Dmitri Shostakovich and bet 100 roubles that the composer couldn’t reorchestrate it from memory in less than an hour.

Shostakovich did it in 45 minutes.

He later incorporated the arrangement into Tahiti Trot and used it as an entr’acte in his 1930 ballet The Golden Age.

(Thanks, Allen.)

An Oldie

In the 1950s, archaeologists unearthed a cuneiform tablet from an ancient palace in northern Syria. Dating to 1400 BC, it contained lyrics for a hymn to Nikkal, a Semitic goddess of orchards, as well as instructions for a singer accompanied by a nine-stringed lyre.

That makes the “Hurrian hymn” the oldest surviving example of a written song.

Expedition

When Colonel Abraham Holmes, a supporter of Monmouth, was executed with some of his companions at Lyme Regis in 1685, the horses could not pull the sled carrying the condemned men to the scaffold. The attendants began to whip them furiously, whereupon Colonel Holmes, with one of those superb gestures of which the men of the seventeenth century were so frequently capable, got out to walk, saying, ‘Come, gentlemen, don’t let the poor creatures suffer on our account. I have often led you in the field. Let me lead you on in our way to Heaven.’

— Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 1983