Foursquare

foursquare puzzle

Print out two copies of this pattern, cut them out, and fold each along the dotted lines, making two identical solids. Then fit these two pieces together to make a regular tetrahedron.

This sounds dead simple, but it stumped me for a while. See if you can do it. (There’s no trick — the task is just what it seems.)

Presto

A card trick by Mark Wilson:

wilson card trick

Put your finger on any red card. Move it left or right to the nearest black card. Move it up or down to the nearest red card. Move it diagonally to the nearest black card. Now move it down or to the right to the nearest red card.

You’ll always land on the ace of diamonds.

(From Harold R. Jacobs, Mathematics: A Human Endeavor, 1970.)

Words and Music

The German comedian known as Loriot (Vicco von Bülow) used to perform a narrative version of Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals with members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, using words to convey music. “His style enters the fairy-tale world the composer has portrayed musically,” writes Siglind Bruhn in Musical Ekphrasis (2000). “He sees and hears the orchestra’s depictions from the inside. Here, the verbal medium happily supplements the little details that might otherwise escape the music listener.” Here’s part of Bruhn’s translation:

A wood-ant, no longer in her prime, taps the giant ant-eater in front of her on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me, I cannot see anything if you keep your hat on,’ Grumpily the ant-eater takes off her headdress, an unwieldy contraption braided from wild asparagus and chicken feathers. ‘Thank you!’ says the ant. Then she lets her eyes wander across the jungle clearing. On the arena seats alone she counts 4791 strangely costumed animals, not to mention the innumerable monkeys and birds that are crowding the overburdened treetops.

Just now there is a stir of anticipation, for the moon is ascending from behind the branches of a mango tree to signal the beginning of the festivity. ‘I think I hear something,’ says a pigeon and she isn’t altogether wrong, for over there near the entrance, in the twigs of a bare oak, sixty-four horned owls take up their instruments. And now the marabou raises his baton, the two squirrels at the pianos lower their paws into the keyboards … and then he enters, with all the members of the royal family: His Majesty, the Lion.

Accompanied by moderate applause the lion has ambled twice around the arena, looking rather bored as he waved to the crowd. Together with his spouse, his three sons, one daughter, five cousins, and an imperfectly colored aunt, he has then taken the seats of honor and closed his eyes. …

Black and White

Pardee-Rubinstein chess problem

In S.S. Van Dine’s The Bishop Murder Case (1929), someone is killing chessplayers and leaving a black bishop at each crime scene. The prime suspect is John Pardee, promoter of a chess opening called the Pardee Gambit, which he hopes to establish in master play. But Pardee kills himself, despondent after losing to Akiba Rubinstein at the Manhattan Chess Club. It turns out that the real killer was only using the chess angle to throw suspicion onto others.

Van Dine based Pardee on a real person, Isaac Leopold Rice, who sponsored numerous tournaments in which his Rice Gambit was the required opening. But practice showed that the best White could hope for was a draw, and the line was abandoned after World War I. In 1979 Larry Evans wrote, “One of the most heavily analyzed openings in history is now never played, interred in a footnote of the latest opening manual.”

In the book, investigators determine that Pardee had faced the position above against Rubinstein shortly before his suicide. White has just realized that Black has a forced win in four moves. How does Black play?

Click for Answer

A Geometric Paradox

a geometric paradox

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Life_of_a_Fireman_-_Currier_and_Ives.png

opitulate
v. to help or aid

subvene
v. to come to the aid of

adjutorious
adj. helpful

deoppilate
v. to remove obstructions

adjuvant
n. a person who helps or provides aid

Barnstorming

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

“This invention relates to new and useful improvements in an aeroplane of rooster shape.” Well, all right, then. Angel Mateo’s 1930 patent application is remarkably thorough — the wings even flap — but nowhere does the inventor explain why he thinks the world needs such a thing. “The propeller is depended upon to accomplish most of the flying of the device and the wings to assist in the flying and also to simulate a flying rooster.” Perhaps, like a poem, it provides its own reason.

The Good Parts

Library patrons are always asking for books with “romantic” episodes, so in 1964 librarian Robert George Reisner finally gave them what they wanted. Show Me the Good Parts: The Reader’s Guide to Sex in Literature catalogs the racy parts of hundreds of books, giving precise page numbers and summarizing each scene:

RICE, ELMER. Imperial City.
New York, Coward-McCann, 1937. 554 pp.
pp. 71-75:
Holding hands in the movies, a few drinks in his apartment, some small talk about books, and then down to business.

He gets as far upscale as For Whom the Bell Tolls (“History has proved that the good guys do not always win, but we still have the sweet memory of Loyalist fighters, Maria and the American Robert Jordan, making love in a sleeping bag”) and as far down as John B. Thompson’s 1953 novel Sandy (“Sandy finds her true love as they are lashed by bolts of ecstasy, fires that consume them, surges of blinding passion, and other hack literary physiological descriptions”). The entries are arranged in categories ranging from “Normal Heterosexual Intercourse” to “Mixoscopic Zoophilia,” and Reisner includes a section on “Unwarranted Reputations” — he just can’t find anything scandalous in The Decameron, Moll Flanders, The Art of Love, or The Satyricon.

Unfortunately he focuses mostly on popular novels of the 1950s, and no one seems to have carried on the work. But perhaps it’s not too late. “I have examined 2,000 books and kept a list of the tomes that produced nothing,” he writes. “This list I have given to my publisher so that anyone who wishes to go on with this research may not have to go over the same ground.”

(Thanks, Keith.)

“A Positive Reminder”

A carpenter named Charlie Bratticks,
Who had a taste for mathematics,
One summer Tuesday, just for fun,
Made a wooden cube side minus one.

Though this to you may well seem wrong,
He made it minus one foot long,
Which meant (I hope your brains aren’t frothing)
Its length was one foot less than nothing,

Its width the same (you’re not asleep?)
And likewise minus one foot deep;
Giving, when multiplied (be solemn!),
Minus one cubic foot of volume.

With sweating brow this cube he sawed
Through areas of solid board;
For though each cut had minus length,
Minus times minus sapped his strength.

A second cube he made, but thus:
This time each one-foot length was plus:
Meaning of course that here one put
For volume, plus one cubic foot.

So now he had, just for his sins,
Two cubes as like as deviant twins:
And feeling one should know the worst,
He placed the second in the first.

One plus, one minus — there’s no doubt
The edges simply canceled out;
So did the volume, nothing gained;
Only the surfaces remained.

Well may you open wide your eyes,
For those were now of double size,
On something which, thanks to his skill,
Took up no room and measured nil.

From solid ebony he’d cut
These bulky cubic objects, but
All that remained was now a thin
Black sharply-angled sort of skin

Of twelve square feet — which though not small,
Weighed nothing, filled no space at all.
It stands there yet on Charlie’s floor;
He can’t think what to use it for!

— J.A. Lindon

The Tombstone House

This unassuming house in Petersburg, Va., has an odd history — it was constructed from the tombstones of Union soldiers who had besieged the city in 1864. The curator of the city’s museum told author Gwyn Headley that, apparently to save on maintenance, nearly 2,000 marble headstones were removed from Poplar Grove Cemetery and sold to a Mr. O.E. Young, who assembled them into a two-story house.

“The tombstones face inward, so as the owner lay in bed the names of the dead stood about his head,” Headley writes in Architectural Follies in America (1996). “Later they were plastered over so that their descendants leave none the wiser.”

“The last word must be left to the lady living next door to the Tombstone House, who confessed with massive political incorrectness, ‘Ah don’t rightly see what all the fuss was about. They was jist Union boys.'”

Page 30 of 825« First...1020...2829303132...40506070...Last »