Club Med

My doctor wants to establish a dosage for a new drug, so he gives me a bottle of 48 pills and tells me to take them throughout the month of June. I can take as many or as few as I like on any given day, so long as I take at least 1 pill each day. Show that there’s a sequence of consecutive days during which I take exactly 11 pills.

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Payment in Kind

When I was about seven years old I witnessed, for the first time, the sale of a human being. We were living at Prince Edward, in Virginia, and master had just purchased his hogs for the winter, for which he was unable to pay in full. To escape from his embarrassment it was necessary to sell one of the slaves. Little Joe, the son of the cook, was selected as the victim. His mother was ordered to dress him up in his Sunday clothes, and send him to the house. He came in with a bright face, was placed in the scales, and was sold, like the hogs, at so much per pound. His mother was kept in ignorance of the transaction, but her suspicions were aroused. When her son started for Petersburgh in the wagon, the truth began to dawn upon her mind, and she pleaded piteously that her boy should not be taken from her; but master quieted her by telling her that he was simply going to town with the wagon, and would be back in the morning. Morning came, but little Joe did not return to his mother. Morning after morning passed, and the mother went down to the grave without ever seeing her child again. One day she was whipped for grieving for her lost boy. Colonel Burwell never liked to see one of his slaves wear a sorrowful face, and those who offended in this particular way were always punished. Alas! the sunny face of the slave is not always an indication of sunshine in the heart.

— Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, 1868


Assume that these statements are true:

  1. Not all Futility Closet readers are U.S. residents.
  2. All walrus veterinarians who are not U.S. residents are not Futility Closet readers.
  3. Do 1 and 2 imply that

  4. Not all Futility Closet readers are walrus veterinarians?
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A Balanced Diet

In studying metabolism in the early 1600s, Santorio Santorio undertook a unique study: He conducted his daily activities on a platform attached to a steelyard scale. After years of readings, he learned that his food always weighed more than his excretions, and concluded that the rest was lost through “invisible perspiration,” the loss of matter through the pores and breath.

Santorio’s conclusions remained the state of the art for more than a century. When Ben Franklin wrote in 1742, “If thou art dull and heavy after Meat it is a sign that thou hast exceeded due measure,” he was essentially repeating Santorio’s aphorism of 150 years earlier, “Meats which promote Perspiration bring Joy, but those which obstruct it Sorrow.”

Second Thoughts

Behold the mighty Dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his weight and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains —
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason a priori
As well as a posteriori.
No problem bothered him a bit:
He made both head and tail of it.
So wise he was, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled just a spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong
It passed a few ideas along;
If something slipped his forward mind
‘Twas rescued by the one behind;
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgments to revoke;
For he could think, without congestion,
Upon both sides of every question.

Oh, gaze upon this model beast,
Defunct ten million years at least.

— Bert Leston Taylor, A Line-O’-Verse or Two, 1911

The Thought That Counts

In 1988 Martine Tischer proposed a novel way to add interest to a gift: wrap it in sheets of uncut U.S. currency:

First of all, currency, particularly U.S. paper currency having the color green, is very attractive and suggests power and wealth … If desired, the package can be framed. Also if desired, the recipient of the package can deposit the whole sheet in a bank or exchange it at a bank for cut bills. The wrapping itself can be used as a medium of exchange, since it is money.

See Gotcha.

Ones in a Million

Of the integers from 1 to 1,000,000, which are more numerous: the numbers that contain a 1 or those that don’t?

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How to clean a 40-foot spectrograph, from R.W. Wood’s Researches in Physical Optics, 1913:

The long tube was made by nailing eight-inch boards together, and was painted black on the inside. Some trouble was given by spiders, which built their webs at intervals along the tube, a difficulty which I surmounted by sending our pussy-cat through it, subsequently destroying the spiders with poisonous fumes.

This was the least of Wood’s exploits. Walter Bruno Gratzer, in Eurekas and Euphorias, writes that the physicist “would alarm the citizens of Baltimore by spitting into puddles on wet days, while surreptitiously dropping in a lump of metallic sodium, which would explode in a jet of yellow flame.”