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Trompe l’oeil master John Haberle’s 1895 work The Slate induced more than one viewer to reach for the chalk. But the whole image — slate, frame, pencil, string, and erasure — was painted in oils. Haberle intended it to be hung without a separate frame in order to complete the illusion.

Haberle specialized in such playful trickery. “The spectator is very apt to doubt the assertion that the work has been accomplished with brush and oil colors alone until he has been permitted to gaze at the production through a magnifying glass which brings out in bold relief the fact that the statement is indisputable,” wrote the Boston Post of a Haberle exhibition the following year. “[O]ne man who is known beyond the limits of Boston as an art critic was heard to say ‘If I had not seen it through a very powerful microscope, I should have refused to believe it to be a genuine painting without witnessing the artist actually at work on the subject.”

DIY

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On a voyage to England in 1757, Ben Franklin narrowly escaped shipwreck.

Afterward, he wrote to his wife, “The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received.

“Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.”

Body Politic

When British politician Michael Foot was put in charge of a nuclear disarmament committee in 1986, London Times subeditor Martyn Cornell came up with the headline FOOT HEADS ARMS BODY.

“I certainly wasn’t going to get ‘nuclear’ or ‘disarmament’ or ‘committee’ to fit,” he said. “To my astonishment, the headline was printed.”

Andrew Kyle later pointed out that if Foot had become prime minister and discovered that his defense secretary had approved the strongarm tactics of the National Front, the headline might have read FOOT KNOWS ARMS BODY HEAD BACKS FRONT MUSCLE.

Detente

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In 1958 Winston Churchill broke his spine in a fall and was required to sleep with a bedrest, which he hated. He and nurse Roy Howells got into a heated argument in which the two swore at one another.

In making up afterward, Churchill said, “You were very rude to me, you know.”

Howells said, “Yes, but you were rude too.”

Churchill said, “Yes, but I am a great man.”

“There was no answer to that,” Howells remembered later. “He knew, as I and the rest of the world knew, that he was right.”

(From John Perry, Winston Churchill, 2010.)

Wallflower

In 1989 a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected an unusually high-pitched whale call in the Pacific. Where most whales sing in the range 15–20 hertz, this one sang at 52 hertz, just above the lowest note of a tuba. The song has recurred most years since then, ranging between Alaska and California but not following the migration pattern of any known filter feeder. The whale seems to be healthy and maturing, but it remains the only one of its kind.

Because it sings and travels alone, the animal has been called “the loneliest whale in the world.” Whale biologists suspect that it may be malformed, or possibly a hybrid of two different species.

“He’s saying, ‘Hey, I’m out here,’” Kate Stafford of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory told the New York Times in 2004. “Well, nobody is phoning home.”

(Thanks, Kendal.)

Black and White

andrews chess problem

By Henry John Clinton Andrews. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

Head or Tail

http://www.otuzoyun.com/rotator/

Cihan Altay’s Rotator typeface presents the digits 0-9 whether it’s right side up or upside down.

So this equation:

http://www.otuzoyun.com/rotator/

… can be inverted to make this one:

http://www.otuzoyun.com/rotator/

Both are valid.

(Thanks, Lorenzo.)

Bestial Passion

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In 1993 Jacques Jouet wrote a love poem in the language of the great apes in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs:

Zor hoden tanda
Kagoda bolgani
Rak gom tand-panda
Yato kalan mangani
Kreegh-ah yel greeh-ah
Kreegh-ah zu-vo bolgani
Greeh-ah tand-popo
Ubor zee kalan mangani.

Where are you going, gorilla,
In the dark forest?
You run without a sound
Seeking the female ape.
Beware of love
Watch out, gorilla
A lover dies of hunger
Of thirst, of hoping for the leg of the female great ape.

“The great-ape language has the peculiarity of being composed of a lexicon of less than 300 words,” Jouet notes. “In the absence of any information, it must be deemed that the syntax is according to the user’s preference, as are the pronunciation and prosody.”

In a Word

nudiustertian
adj. of the day before yesterday

ereyesterday
adv. on the day before yesterday

yestreen
n. yesterday evening

yester-afternoon
adv. yesterday afternoon

yesternoon
n. yesterday at noon

pridian
adj. of or relating to the previous day

yestern
adj. of yesterday

hesternal
adj. of yesterday

yesternight
adv. last night

hodiernal
adj. of or belonging to the present day

overmorrow
adv. on the day after tomorrow

Round Numbers

Every now and again one comes across an astounding result that closely relates two foreign objects which seem to have nothing in common. Who would suspect, for example, that on the average, the number of ways of expressing a positive integer n as a sum of two integral squares, x2 + y2 = n, is π?

– Ross Honsberger, Mathematical Gems III, 1977