The “Toxic Lady”

On Feb. 19, 1994, Gloria Ramirez was admitted to California’s Riverside General Hospital complaining of chest and stomach pains. She was in cardiac arrest about 15 minutes after arriving at the emergency room.

A doctor and two nurses drew blood for testing, which the nurses later said contained small white crystals and smelled of ammonia. Almost immediately after smelling the fumes, all three passed out. The emergency room was evacuated, patients were moved to the parking lot, and a hazardous materials crew had to seal Ramirez’s body in an airtight coffin.

What happened? No one knows. The fumes hospitalized six workers, but an autopsy on Ramirez’s body suggested only kidney failure related to cervical cancer. After conducting 34 interviews, the California Department of Health Services chalked up the outbreak to “mass sociogenic illness.” But more investigations may be forthcoming — the lawsuits are just starting up.

“A Monsieur Chaban”

A Monsieur Chaban, in Paris, exhibited his astonishing powers of resisting heat, in so wonderful a manner, that the National Institute, and other learned societies, appointed delegates to view and inspect the performances, and to report thereon. Among other singular feats exhibited by this man, and reported to the National Institute, was his going into a common baker’s oven, with a leg of mutton in his hands, and remaining, in the usual manner, closed in until the mutton was completely dressed; another, that standing in the midst of a tar barrel, he remained therein till the whole was consumed to ashes around him. In 1818, he arrived in London, and publicly exhibited himself in Piccadilly, where he offered to repeat these last two exhibitions, before any number of persons, on being properly remunerated for the same; at the same time; he generously offered himself to the fire-offices and the public, in cases of calamitous fires, whenever they should be pleased to call on him, without fee or reward.

Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum, 1820

Bad Advice

In 1887, president Grover Cleveland welcomed an old friend to the White House. Weary of the office, he said to the man’s 5-year-old son, “My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be president of the United States.”

The boy was Franklin Roosevelt.

“A Dog Lost in a Coal-Pit Eight Weeks”

Eight weeks ago, a terrier dog, in pursuit, so it is supposed, of a hare, was seen to fall into the shaft of an unwrought coal-pit, in Elswick-fields, near this town. Its howling was frequently heard, and many persons threw stones down, with the view of putting it out of its misery, but without effect. On Wednesday last, a mason of this town, prompted by humanity, sent down his boy, who brought up the poor sufferer, a mere skeleton; but by care it is recovering. When first brought up, it could not eat, but lapped water; which during the whole of the dismal period of its confinement (except the hare which probably fell in with it) must have been its only sustenance.

Tyne Mercury, July 17, 1806

Surf and Turf

Leghorn, August 9, 1817. On the 24th of July, about mid-day, after a very loud detonation, the Lake of Canterno, also called Porciano, totally disappeared. A large opening was discovered in the bottom, through which the waters have probably escaped into sinuosities of the neighbouring mountains.

— London Morning Post, August 30, 1817

The Tarim Mummies

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SteinMummy.jpg

Who is this? His angular features and recessed eyes suggest that he’s Caucasian, and genetic tests support this, but he was found in the Tarim Basin of western China in 1910. Many such mummies have been found there, desiccated by the desert and sometimes still bearing blond or red hair. Who were they, and where did they come from?

It had been commonly believed that civilizations developed independently in East and West, but these finds suggest that Western nomads may have reached China by 1,000 B.C. or earlier, traveling from Europe, the Mediterranean, or even Iran.

Ancient Chinese books describe tall figures with deep-set blue or green eyes, long noses, full beards, and red or blond hair. Apparently they weren’t legends.

Good Boy

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/489777

A terrier, known to Professor Owen, was taught to play at hide and seek with his master, who summoned him, by saying ‘Let us have a game;’ upon which the dog immediately hid his eyes between his paws, in the honourable manner, and when the gentleman had placed a sixpence, or a piece of cake in a most improbable place, he started up and invariably found it. His powers were equalled by what was called a fox-terrier, named Fop, who would hide his eyes, and suffer those at play with him to conceal themselves before he looked up. If his play-fellow hid himself behind a window-curtain, Fop would, for a certain time, carefully pass that curtain, and look behind all the others, behind doors, etc., and when he thought he had looked long enough, seize the concealing curtain and drag it aside in triumph.

— Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860

Loopy

You can measure a circle’s circumference by “unrolling” it along a line, like this:

circumference fallacy

But note that the smaller circle unrolls at the same time … and it gives the same length. Clearly we could do the same thing with circles of any size. Do all circles have the same circumference?