Archive for March, 2010


I’ll prove the word that I have made my theme
Is that that may be doubled without blame,
And that that that thus trebled I may use
And that that that that critics may abuse
May be correct. Yet more–the dons to bother–
Five thats may closely follow one another:
For well ’tis known that we may safely write
That that that that that man writ was right.
Nay, e’en that that that that that that followed
Through six repeats the grammar’s rule has hallowed,
And that that that (that that that that began)
Repeated seven times is right! Deny’t who can.

— Anonymous

Math Notes

49 + 79 + 29 + 39 + 39 + 59 + 99 + 79 + 59 = 472335975

Trouble Along the Way

In September 1955, James Dean met Alec Guinness outside an Italian restaurant in Hollywood. He introduced himself and showed Guinness his brand-new Porsche 550 Spyder. “The sports car looked sinister to me,” Guinness wrote in his autobiography:

Exhausted, hungry, feeling a little ill-tempered in spite of Dean’s kindness, I heard myself saying in a voice I could hardly recognize as my own, ‘Please, never get in it.’ I looked at my watch. ‘It is now ten o’clock, Friday the 23rd of September, 1955. If you get in that car you will be found dead in it by this time next week.’

Dean laughed. One week later he collided head-on with a Ford coupe outside Cholame, Calif. He was pronounced dead 6 days and 20 hours after Guinness’ prediction.

“A Curious Dilemma”

A leading paper decides that the plural of titmouse is titmouses, not titmice. ‘On the same principle,’ says another paper, ‘the plural of a tailor’s goose is gooses, as, indeed, we hold that it is.’ This reminds us of an anecdote with regard to a country merchant, who wanted two of these tailor’s irons, several years ago, and ordered them of Messrs. Dunn and Spencer, hardware merchants. He first wrote the order: ‘Please send me two tailor’s gooses.’ Thinking that this was bad grammar he destroyed it, and wrote as follows: ‘Please send me two tailor’s geese.’ Upon reflection he destroyed this one also, for fear he should receive live geese. He thought over the matter till he was very much worried, and at last, in a moment of desperation, he seized his pen and wrote the following, which was duly posted: ‘Messrs. Dunn and Spencer,–Please send me one tailor’s goose, and–hang it! send me another.’

Tit-Bits From All the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers in the World, Oct. 22, 1881

No Vacancy

“What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?” — Bertolt Brecht

Feature Set

Short film titles, from Patrick Robertson’s Film Facts (2001):

  • A (Japanese, 1999)
  • E (British, 1993)
  • F (Japanese, 1998)
  • G (British/German, 1974)
  • H (Spanish, 1997)
  • I (Swedish, 1966)
  • K (Hungarian, 1989)
  • M (German, 1931)
  • Q (French/Italian/Belgian, 1974)
  • W (Filipino, 1985)
  • X (Korean, 1982)
  • Y (Colombian, 1992)
  • Z (French/Italian, 1968)
  • $ (U.S., 1972)

Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 film π concerns a mathematician who seeks patterns in strings of numbers.

Its running time is 1:23:45.

An Even Match

Max Weiss and Jacques Schwarz led oddly symbolic chess careers: Their names mean “white” and “black,” and they tended to reach draws together. Here’s their encounter from the Nuremberg tournament of 1883:

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 Bd6 6.O-O O-O 7.Bg5 Bg4 8.c3 c6 9.Nbd2 Nbd7 10.Qc2 Qc7 11.Rfe1 Rfe8 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Nxf3 h6 14.Bxf6 Nxf6 15.Nh4 Rxe1+ 16.Rxe1 Re8 17.Rxe8+ Nxe8 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Qe2 Nd6 20.Nxd6 Qxd6 21.Qe8 Qe7 22.Qxe7 Bxe7 23.Bf5 Bg5 24.Bc8 Bc1 25.Bxb7 Bxb2 26.Bxc6 Bxc3 27.Bxd5 Bxd4 1/2-1/2

The final position is perfectly symmetrical.

Irving Chernev calls this “the perfect game” — proof, perhaps, that chess is a theoretical draw.

In a Word

n. a reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed

That’s from Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, which is more colorful than one might suppose. It also defines cough as “a convulsion of the lungs, vellicated by some sharp serosity” and lexicographer as “a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words.”

The Unrepentant Liar

ushenko russell liar paradox

“According to [Bertrand] Russell’s treatment the sentence within the rectangle of Fig. 1 is meaningless, and may be called a pseudo-statement, because it is a version of the liar-paradox. But Russell’s treatment is unsatisfactory because it resolves the original paradox at the price of a new one. For, if the sentence of Fig. 1 is meaningless we must admit, since we observe that there are no other sentences within the rectangle, that it is false that there is a genuine or meaningful statement within the rectangle of Fig. 1. And, if there is no statement within the rectangle of Fig. 1 then it is false that there is a true statement within the rectangle of Fig. 1. The italicized part of the preceding sentence will be recognized as identical with (even if a different token of) the sentence within the rectangle of Fig. 1. And since the italicized sentence is true, and therefore a meaningful statement, the sentence within the rectangle is not a pseudo-statement either. Thus, if the sentence in question is meaningless, then it is meaningful and vice versa.”

— A.P. Ushenko, “A Note on the Liar Paradox,” Mind, October 1955

Erin Go

Count these leprechauns:

vanishing leprechaun 1

Now swap the two upper panels and count again:

vanishing leprechaun 2

Where has the extra one been hiding?