Viewpoint

http://digitalcollections.pacific.edu/cdm/ref/collection/muirjournals/id/115/show/3

In his first field journal, John Muir listed his home address as “Earth, planet, Universe.”

Unquote

“I am inclined to believe that few attacks either of ridicule or invective make much noise, but by the help of those they provoke.” — Samuel Johnson

About Face

It was British wordplay expert Leigh Mercer who coined the classic palindrome “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama” in Note & Queries on Nov. 13, 1948. He later said that he’d had the middle portion, PLAN A CANAL P, for a year before he saw that PANAMA fit.

Mercer published 100 palindromes in N&Q between 1946 and 1953 — a selection:

See, slave, I demonstrate yet arts no medieval sees
Now Ned I am a maiden won
Here so long? No loser, eh?
Trade ye no mere moneyed art
Ban campus motto, “Bottoms up, MacNab”
No dot nor Ottawa “legal age” law at Toronto, Don
Now ere we nine were held idle here, we nine were won
Egad, a base life defiles a bad age
“Reviled did I live,” said I, “as evil I did deliver”
I saw desserts, I’d no lemons, alas, no melon, distressed was I
Sue, dice, do, to decide us
Sir, I demand — I am a maid named Iris
No, set a maple here, help a mate, son
Poor Dan is in a droop
Yawn a more Roman way
Won’t lovers revolt now?
Pull a bat, I hit a ball up
Nurse, I spy gypsies, run!
Stephen, my hat — ah, what a hymn, eh, pets?
Pull up if I pull up

… and the remarkably natural “Evil is a name of a foeman, as I live.”

Mercer didn’t confine himself to palindromes — he also devised this mathematical limerick:

mercer limerick

A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more.

Cold Whirled

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=WlYWAAAAEBAJ

Richard Hartman’s “motorized ice cream cone,” patented in 1999, saves both time and trouble:

Because the act of eating an ice cream cone has traditionally been performed by holding a scoop of ice cream largely stationary in one’s hand relative to the continuous licking movements of one’s tongue, the appeal of a device that basically reverses this procedure — that is, continuously moves the ice cream portion while one’s tongue is held in a relatively stationary position — has been largely overlooked. However, it can be seen that such a device is enormously entertaining, extends the natural enjoyment and creative play possibilities of eating ice cream and similarly malleable foods, and enhances the overall experience of eating such foods for young children and adults alike.

Perhaps we can apply the same principle to corn on the cob.

Field Trip

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

In the early 1600s, Johannes Kepler wrote a fantasy in which he imagined a journey to the moon:

We congregate in force and seize a man of this sort; all together lifting him from beneath, we carry him aloft. The first getting into motion is very hard on him, for he is twisted and turned just as if, shot from a cannon, we were sailing across mountains and seas. Therefore, he must be put to sleep beforehand, with narcotics and opiates, and he must be arranged, limb by limb, so that the shock will be distributed over the individual members, lest the upper part of his body be carried away from the fundament, or his head be torn from his shoulders. Then comes a new difficulty: terrific cold and difficulty in breathing. The former we counter with our innate power, the latter by means of moistened sponges applied to the nostrils.

Somnium is largely a treatise on lunar astronomy, describing the motions of the planets as observed from the moon. But Kepler also considers the appearance of the moon’s inhabitants, who “wander in hordes over the whole globe in the space of one of their days, some on foot, whereby they far outstrip our camels, some by means of wings, some in boats pursue the fleeing waters, or if a pause of a good many days is necessary, then they creep into caves.” Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov called it the first work of science fiction.

Coverup

coverup puzzle diagram

Two squares have been removed from this 8×7 rectangle. Can the remaining 54 squares be tiled orthogonally with 18 3×1 tiles?

Click for Answer

Report

Full text of “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of ‘Writer’s Block’,” by Dennis Upper, from the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Fall 1974:

Black and White

mccombe chess problem

By Alexander George McCombe. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

In a Word

marabou
n. a person who is five-eighths black and three-eighths white by descent

griff
n. a person who is three-fourths black and one-fourth white

mulatto
n. a person having one white and one black parent

The ultimate in racist lunacy was reached in Haiti in the eighteenth century, where Saint-Mery developed a classification of physical types based on the notion that each individual was divisible into no less than 128 separate parts (rather like genes):

‘Thus a blanc (white) had 128 parts white, a nègre (Negro) 128 parts black, and the offspring a mulâtre (mulatto) 64 parts white and 64 parts black. In addition, he also listed sacatra (8 to 23 parts white), griffe (24 to 39 parts white), marabou (40 to 48); quateron (71 to 100); metif (101 to 112); mamelouc (113 to 120); quateronné (121 to 124) and finally a sang-mêlé (125 to 127).’

Given the additional presence of Indians as well as Negroes, Mexican castas were even more complex.

— Peter Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development, 1984

Nose Knowledge

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/698003

Seeing a rose seems to give me information about a flower out there in the world. But smelling it, blindfold, is a curiously internal experience: I can suppose, even confidently, that it’s a rose I’m smelling, but this feels like a surmise, and one based only on an impression in my mind. The visual world seems to be made up of independent objects with observable properties, but the world of smell seems to exist only in our consciousness.

If there were no creatures here to observe them, roses would still be red. But would they still smell sweet?