Hour of Babel

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1254520

A problem from the second Balkan Mathematical Olympiad, 1985:

Of the 1985 people attending an international meeting, no one speaks more than five languages, and in any subset of three attendees, at least two speak a common language. Prove that some language is spoken by at least 200 of the attendees.

Click for Answer

Black and White

loyd chess problem

By Sam Loyd. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

Podcast Episode 64: Murder at the Priory

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hackstonr/3124552891/in/photolist-5L79Hz-7GLYPP-7GQVtm-7GLYQz-7GLYTx-7GLYSD-7GLYRz-mmJQL-697uHh-7B32gG-4mguAj-dx3n1h-dvS11W-m7xdc-m4xRt-m4vgZ-5LeaQA-6N6qA6-3RFcxJ

In 1876 London was riveted by the dramatic poisoning of a young barrister and the sordid revelations that emerged about his household. In today’s show we’ll review the baffling case of Charles Bravo’s murder, which Agatha Christie called “one of the most mysterious poisoning cases ever recorded.”

We’ll also get an update on career possibilities for garden hermits and puzzle over how the police know that a shooting death is not a homicide.

Many thanks to Ronald Hackston for his evocative photo of The Priory, Balham, the site of Charles Bravo’s unsolved 1876 poisoning.

Sources for that feature:

James Ruddick, Death at the Priory: Sex, Love, and Murder in Victorian England, 2001.

Chirag Trivedi, “Victorian Whodunnit Solved,” BBC, Jan. 13, 2003 (accessed June 28, 2015).

“The Bravo Inquiry” and “The Theory of Suicide in the Bravo Case,” Medical Times and Gazette, Aug. 19, 1876.

Joyce Emmerson Muddock, Pages From an Adventurous Life, 1907.

Listener mail:

Amanda Williams, “Wanted: ‘Outgoing’ Hermit,” Daily Mail, May 5, 2014 (retrieved July 3, 2015).

Greater Manchester News, “Hermit Wanted for Historic Gardens,” July 3, 2009 (retrieved July 3, 2015).

“Hermit Wanted for ‘Ivory Tower’,” BBC, July 1, 2009 (retrieved July 3, 2015).

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Sam B., who sent this corroborating link (warning: this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Enter coupon code CLOSET to get $5 off your first purchase at Harry’s.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. You can change or cancel your pledge at any time, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support.

You can also make a one-time donation via the Donate button in the sidebar of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for listening!

Unquote

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gerome_-_Diogenes.jpg

“Happiness, whether consisting in pleasure or virtue, or both, is more often found with those who are highly cultivated in their minds and in their character, and have only a moderate share of external goods, than among those who possess external goods to a useless extent but are deficient in higher qualities.” — Aristotle

“Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?” — Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, 1949

Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails,
And honour sinks where commerce long prevails.

— Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller, 1764

“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.” – Epictetus

“The most necessary disposition to relish pleasures is to know how to be without them.” — Marquise de Lambert, A Mother’s Advice to Her Son, 1726

“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” — Bertrand Russell

“Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.” — Benjamin Franklin

Truth and Fiction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lillian_Hellman.gif

In Lillian Hellman’s 1973 memoir Pentimento, she describes a childhood friend whom she calls “Julia” who became active in the Austrian underground during World War II. The book was made into the Oscar-winning 1977 film Julia, starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.

But after the book appeared, readers noticed something peculiar. Julia strongly resembled a real person, Muriel Gardiner, a psychoanalyst. Both women were millionaires’ daughters who had attended Wellesley and Oxford, moved to Vienna to study with Freud, bore daughters, became socialists, and participated in anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi activities before the war. But where Gardiner sailed for the United States in 1939, Hellman’s Julia was tortured to death by Nazis. Hellman claimed that she flew the body home but had it cremated when she was unable to find Julia’s mother.

Despite all these similarities, Hellman insisted that Julia was a different person and said she had never heard of Gardiner. “She may have been the model for somebody else’s Julia,” she told the New York Times, “but she was certainly not the model for my Julia.” She said she refused to reveal her own Julia’s name for personal and legal reasons.

Gardiner wrote to Hellman in 1976, inquiring about all this, but never received a reply. She had kept silent about her activities for 40 years — but it’s notable that lawyer Wolf Schwabacher had socialized with Hellman in Europe while Gardiner was opposing Fascism in Vienna, and also shared a house with Gardiner after the war.

Thanks for Your Help!

Thanks so much to the 148 readers who have contributed to my Patreon campaign to help save this website. Every contribution is invested directly in the site, helping me to post more frequently, to keep up with our ongoing costs, and to invest in some badly needed improvements.

If you value Futility Closet and want to help support it, please consider donating to the campaign. You can contribute as much or as little as you like, and I’ve set up some rewards to help thank you, including bonus posts and descriptions of some of the more curious books I come across in my research. Thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.

In a Word

doctiloquent
adj. speaking learnedly

Unquote

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heinz_Haber_Wernher_von_Braun_Willy_Ley_(1954).jpg

“Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing.” — Wernher von Braun

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” — Niels Bohr

“An expert is one who knows so much about so little that he neither can be contradicted, nor is worth contradicting.” — Henry Ward

Podcast Episode 63: The Rainmaker

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1200003

In 1915 San Diego hired “rainmaker” Charles Hatfield to relieve a four-year drought. After he set to work with his 23 secret chemicals, the skies opened and torrential rains caused some of the most extreme flooding in the city’s history. In this week’s podcast we’ll discuss the effects of “Hatfield’s flood” and ponder how to assign the credit or blame.

We’ll also puzzle over why a flagrant housebreaker doesn’t get prosecuted.

Sources for our feature on “moisture accelerator” Charles Hatfield:

Garry Jenkins, The Wizard of Sun City, 2005.

Cynthia Barnett, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, 2015.

“Hatfield Made the Sky Fall (and Fall),” Kingman [Ariz.] Daily Miner, Nov. 14, 1978.

“Hatfield Again Gambling Upon Making of Rain,” Berkeley [Calif.] Daily Gazette, Jan. 29, 1926.

“Rainmaker Wins Bet With Farmers,” Ellensburg [Wash.] Daily Record, July 28, 1921.

“With the Rainmaker,” Dawson [Yukon] Daily News, July 4, 1905.

“Rainstorms at $50 Each,” St. John [New Brunswick] Daily Sun, March 8, 1904.

This week’s first lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Hanno Zulla, who sent these corroborating links (warning: these spoil the puzzle).

The second puzzle is from Edward J. Harshman’s 1996 book Fantastic Lateral Thinking Puzzles.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. You can change or cancel your pledge at any time, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support.

You can also make a one-time donation via the Donate button in the sidebar of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for listening!

Made to Order

Divide the number 999,999,999,999,999,999,999,998,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 into 1 and express the result as a decimal expansion, and you’ll find the Fibonacci sequence presented in tidy 24-digit strings:

fibonacci expansion

(Thanks, David.)

Page 4 of 869« First...23456...10203040...Last »