Surface Tension

Lewis Carroll on the perils of physics:

Suppose a solid held above the surface of a liquid and partially immersed: a portion of the liquid is displaced, and the level of the liquid rises. But, by this rise of level, a little bit more of the solid is of course immersed, and so there is a new displacement of a second portion of the liquid, and a consequent rise of level. Again, this second rise of level causes a yet further immersion, and by consequence another displacement of liquid and another rise. It is self-evident that this process must continue till the entire solid is immersed, and that the liquid will then begin to immerse whatever holds the solid, which, being connected with it, must for the time be considered a part of it. If you hold a stick, six feet long, with its end in a tumbler of water, and wait long enough, you must eventually be immersed. The question as to the source from which the water is supplied — which belongs to a high branch of mathematics, and is therefore beyond our present scope — does not apply to the sea. Let us therefore take the familiar instance of a man standing at the edge of the sea, at ebb-tide, with a solid in his hand, which he partially immerses: he remains steadfast and unmoved, and we all know that he must be drowned.

“The multitudes who daily perish in this manner to attest a philosophical truth, and whose bodies the unreasoning wave casts sullenly upon our thankless shores, have a truer claim to be called the martyrs of science than a Galileo or a Kepler.”

The Candy Desk

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

In 1965, California senator George Murphy began keeping sweets in his desk on the Senate floor, and he offered them to colleagues who passed by. Because Murphy sat near a busy entrance, the “candy desk” became well known, and when Murphy left the Senate after one term the tradition was maintained. In the ensuing years Slade Gorton, John McCain, George Voinovich, and Rick Santorum have all sat at the candy desk, each stocking it with confections from his home state. (In Santorum’s case, this was a bonanza — Hershey shipped more than 400 pounds of chocolate each year from its Pennsylvania headquarters.) The seat is currently occupied by Illinois senator Mark Kirk, who stocks it with Wrigley’s gum, Garrett’s popcorn, Tootsie Rolls and Jelly Bellys.

Though by tradition the candy desk is always occupied by a Republican senator, the physical desk that’s used may vary. The current desk was once occupied by Barack Obama.

Payback

In October 2009, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended a local Democratic Party fundraiser at the invitation of former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. His speech was heckled by San Francisco assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who took the stage afterward to criticize the governor.

Three weeks later, Schwarzenegger vetoed a measure sponsored by Ammiano. He attached this message:

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.

For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while many
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and health
care are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature just
kicks the can down the alley.

Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Read the first letter of each printed line. “My goodness, what a coincidence,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear when confronted with the acrostic. “I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen.”

See Between the Lines, Poetic License, and In Memoriam.

Misterioso

Expression markings used by Australian composer Percy Grainger:

  • “Louden lots”
  • “Soften bit by bit”
  • “Lower notes of woggle well to the fore”
  • “Glassily”
  • “Sipplingly”
  • “Bumpingly”
  • “Hammeringly”
  • “Bundling”
  • “Clatteringly”
  • “Like a shriek”
  • “Very rhythmic and jimp”
  • “Rollikingly”
  • “Hold until blown”
  • “Jogtrottingly”
  • “Easygoingly but very clingingly”

Musical directions in Erik Satie’s piano works:

  • “Wonder about yourself”
  • “Provide yourself with shrewdness”
  • “Alone, for one moment”
  • “Open the head”
  • “Superstitiously”
  • “In a very particular way”
  • “Light as an egg”
  • “Like a nightingale with a toothache”
  • “Moderately, I insist”
  • “A little bit warm”
  • “Very Turkish”

One of Satie’s directions — “Very lost” — might have been unnecessary.

Round Trip

http://www.google.com/patents/US5678489

Frustrated in trying to describe higher topology abstractly to students, Xian Wang invented a model train that can hug either side of a track:

It is therefore a primary object of the present invention to provide an electrically-operated ornament travelling on a rail which can be used to explain the Mobius Theorem. … In general textbooks, this advanced mathematic rule is usually explained by demonstrating a body circularly moving on a front and a reverse side of a twisted two-ends-connected belt. Most people can not understand and imagine the theorem from such explanation and demonstration.

Of course, once you’ve built one you can put it to other uses:

http://www.google.com/patents/US5678489

Wish You Were Here

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/587608

Australia’s tallest mountain and most populous city were named for people who never visited the country. Mount Kosciuszko was named after Polish military hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko, because of its resemblance to a prehistoric mound in Kraków, and Sydney was named for British politician Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney.