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About Futility Closet

Futility Closet is a collection of entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics, designed to help you waste time as enjoyably as possible.

The database now totals 7,932 items, and more are added each day. You can read them chronologically, by topic, or randomly, using the Random Article button in the sidebar. If you’re looking for a particular item, there’s also a search box in the sidebar.

You can read Futility Closet on the web, subscribe by RSS, or sign up to receive a daily email (see Subscribe by Email in the sidebar).

Who writes this?

My name is Greg Ross. I spent 25 years as an editorial manager in science, engineering, and education publishing, most recently at IEEE, UNext.com, the National Educational Service, and American Scientist magazine. I started Futility Closet as an excuse to learn new things, and it’s grown into a full-time job. Last year it served 15 million pageviews.

Where do you find this stuff?

Endless prospecting. I live in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and I mine the libraries of Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. And readers send me tips. All this goes into a big database that I comb daily for story ideas, striving for maximum interest and variety.

How can I learn more about a particular item?

I keep notes on my sources for each post — if you’d like to know more, you can always write to me. For artwork, wherever possible I provide a link to each source in the alt field of the image metadata. The most common exceptions are math and chess diagrams, which I produce myself.

Can I contribute material?

I welcome submissions from readers, though I can’t promise to run everything I receive. If you can include some sort of supporting documentation, that’s greatly appreciated.

How can I support the site?

There’s a Donate button in the sidebar through which you can make financial contributions, and you can recommend the site to others. Also, I’m working on Futility Closet books and perhaps merchandise, so if you have expertise in these areas I’d love to hear from you — details are on the blog (see below).

How can I reach you?

You can write to me at gregblog@gmail.com. I also maintain a blog (linked in the sidebar, under Info) on which I consult readers about future developments — you’re welcome to participate there. Thanks for reading.