This Earth of Majesty

Letter to the Times, May 2, 1940:

Sir,

In view of the publicity you have accorded to Mrs Barrow’s letter, I hope that you will spare me space to say, as an advocate for the consumption of grass-mowings, that I have eaten them regularly for over three years, and off many lawns. The sample I am eating at present comes off a golf green on Mitcham Common. I have never suffered from urticaria or any of the symptoms Mrs Barrow mentions. Nor did any of the many of my horses to which I have fed grass-mowings, freshly cut and cleaned from stones, &c. For my own consumption I also wash them well.

Yours faithfully,

J.R.B. Branson

The Earthquake Rose

http://www.earthquakerose.com/

When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia, Wash., in 2001, shopowner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above.

Seismologists say that the “flower” at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later.

“You never think about an earthquake as being artistic — it’s violent and destructive,” Norman MacLeod, president of Gaelic Wolf Consulting in Port Townsend, told ABC News. “But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created.”

Good Company

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Heinrich_Orth_Drei_Freunde_1835.jpg

“Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but ‘A’s part in C,’ while C loses not only A but ‘A’s part in B.’ In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.” — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 1960

Black and White

http://books.google.com/books?id=ByYVAAAAYAAJ

By George E. Carpenter. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

Pirouette

Is this woman spinning clockwise or counterclockwise?

In a Word

drogulus
n. an entity whose presence is unverifiable because it has no physical effects

A.J. Ayer coined this word spontaneously while describing his “principle of verification” during a 1949 broadcast:

Suppose I say, ‘There’s a drogulus over there’ and you say … ‘What’s a drogulus?’ ‘Well,’ I say, ‘I can’t describe what a drogulus is, because it is not the sort of thing you can see or touch. It has no physical effects of any kind, but it’s a disembodied being.’ And you say, ‘Well, how am I to tell if it’s there or not?’ and I say, ‘There’s no way of telling. Everything’s just the same if it’s there or it’s not there. But the fact is it’s there. There’s a drogulus there standing just behind you.’ Does that make sense?

“Talk about obscure words!” writes lexicographer Norman Schur. “Have we finally met the man who wasn’t there?”

As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish, I wish he’d stay away.

– Hughes Mearns

Curiously, Ayer himself seems to have confirmed at least one sighting. In 1959, Lionel Penrose wrote in New Biology, “I had difficulty in finding a suitable name for the activated complexes produced in [certain] experiments. On showing one of them to Professor A. J. Ayer, I inquired whether it perhaps might be a ‘drogulus’ … He replied that it was undoubtedly a ‘drogulus’.”

Charity

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Image_of_Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire_on_March_25_-_1911.jpg

Letter to the New York Times, March 26, 1911:

Dear Mr. Editer

i Went down town with my daddy yesterday to see that terrible fire where all the littel girls jumped out of high windows My littel cousin Beatrice and i are sending you five dollars a piece from our savings bank to help them out of trubble please give it to the right one to use it for sombody whose littel girl jumped out of a window i wouldent like to jump out of a high window myself.

Yours Truly,

Morris Butler

Headlights

http://www.google.com/patents/US214422

Wisconsin’s Lorenzo Macauley patented this “improvement in road-lanterns” in 1879, presumably after testing it himself.

A lantern thus attached to a horse’s head enables both horse and driver to see the condition of the track and the objects in it much more plainly and at greater distance than when a lantern is placed on the carriage.

Fair enough.

Departed

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paradiso_Canto_31.jpg

F.W.H. Myers, whom spiritualism had converted to belief in a future life, questioned a woman who had lately lost her daughter as to what she supposed had become of her soul. The mother replied: ‘Oh, well, I suppose she is enjoying eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn’t talk about such unpleasant subjects.’

– Bertrand Russell, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” 1943

Set Theory

A puzzle by Polish mathematician Paul Vaderlind:

Andre Agassi and Boris Becker are playing tennis. Agassi wins the first set 6-3. If there were 5 service breaks in the set, did Becker serve the first game?

(Service changes with each new game in the 9-game set. A service break is a game won by the non-server.)

Click for Answer