In a Word

n. a man who is covered in feces

Torn Up

Imagine a large sheet of rice paper one-thousandth of an inch thick. Tear it in half and stack the pieces, then tear the stack in half and stack those, and so on. If you could do this 50 times in succession, how tall would the final stack be?

A. 0.6 inches
B. 22.84 feet
C. 17 million miles

Surprisingly, the answer is 17 million miles:

250 ply × 0.001 inches/ply
= 1.12589991 × 1012 inches
= 17,769,884.9 miles

“The Barrel Puzzle”

From Amusements in Mathematics by Henry Ernest Dudeney (1917):

The men in the illustration are disputing over the liquid contents of a barrel. What the particular liquid is it is impossible to say, for we are unable to look into the barrel; so we will call it water. One man says that the barrel is more than half full, while the other insists that it is not half full. What is their easiest way of settling the point? It is not necessary to use stick, string, or implement of any kind for measuring. I give this merely as one of the simplest possible examples of the value of ordinary sagacity in the solving of puzzles. What are apparently very difficult problems may frequently be solved in a similarly easy manner if we only use a little common sense.

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Southern Pride

The water tower in Florence, Ky., originally advertised the Florence Mall.

That violated regulations, though, and they had to change it to something


Some years ago there was a cat-concert held in Paris. It was called ‘Concert Miaulant,’ from the mewing of the animals. They were trained by having their tails pulled every time a certain note was struck, and the unpleasant remembrance caused them to mew each time they heard the sound again.

— Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882

The Hopeh Incident

Japanese student Masujiro Kiru found this photo in a scrapbook left by his father. Apparently the scene is Tsientsien Street in Hopeh, China, around 1942. UFO enthusiasts note that two people appear to be pointing to an object in the sky. It could be a bird, it could be a hat, it could be man-lizards from Aldebaran. You decide.


“See what will happen if you don’t stop biting your fingernails?” — Will Rogers, to his niece on seeing the Venus de Milo

A Modest Proposal

Okay, I’ll ask three questions, and if you miss one I get your house. Fair enough? Here we go:

  1. A clock strikes six in 5 seconds. How long does it take to strike twelve?
  2. A bottle and its cork together cost $1.10. The bottle costs a dollar more than the cork. How much does the bottle cost?
  3. A train leaves New York for Chicago at 90 mph. At the same time, a bus leaves Chicago for New York at 50 mph. Which is farther from New York when they meet?

Don’t be hasty — your house is on the line.

Click for Answer


Maine is the only state with a one-syllable name.


There was a young lady named Psyche
Who was heard to ejaculate, “Pcryche!”
For, riding her pbych,
She ran over a ptych,
And fell on some rails that were pspyche.