“Fidelity of a Dog”

An affecting anecdote was recently recorded in the French papers. A young man took a dog into a boat, rowed to the centre of the Seine, and threw the animal over, with intent to drown him; the poor dog often tried to climb up the side of the boat, but his master as often pushed him back, till, overbalancing himself, he fell overboard. As soon as the faithful dog saw his master in the stream he left the boat, and held him above water till help arrived from the shore, and his life was saved.

— T. Wallis, The Nic-Nac; or, Oracle of Knowledge, 1823

In a Word

n. youthful appearance in an old person


n. the quality of looking younger than one’s age



When 17-year-old polymath James Crichton arrived in Paris in 1578 to complete his education, he immediately challenged the faculty of the College of Navarre to a disputation. And he was pretty cocky about it:

He proposed that it should be carried on in any one of twelve specified languages, and have relation to any science or art, whether practical or theoretical. The challenge was accepted; and, as if to show in how little need he stood of preparation, or how lightly he held his adversaries, he spent the six weeks that elapsed between the challenge and the contest, in a continual round of tilting, hunting, and dancing.

“On the appointed day, however, and in the contest, he is said to have encountered all the gravest philosophers and divines, and to have acquitted himself to the astonishment of all who heard him. He received the public praises of the president and four of the most eminent professors. The very next day he appeared at a tilting match in the Louvre, and carried off the ring from all his accomplished and experienced competitors.”

(From Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Curiosities of Human Nature, 1852)

There Goes the Neighborhood

A Martian sand lizard can reproduce itself in a single day. Start with a single sand lizard and on succeeding days you’ll have 2, then 4, and so on. In 30 days you’ll have 536,870,912 lizards.

How long would it take to reach that number if you started with two lizards?

Click for Answer

“Remarkable Coincidence”


On the night of May 11, 1812, John Williams of Redruth in Cornwall awakened his wife and told her he’d dreamed that he was in the lobby of the House of Commons and saw a man shoot the chancellor. Twice he went back to sleep, and twice he had the same dream.

Williams repeated the experience to friends in the following days, one of whom told him, “Your description is not at all that of the Chancellor, but is certainly very exactly that of Mr. Perceval, the chancellor of the exchequer.” Williams was explaining that he had never met or corresponded with this man when a messenger arrived from Truro with word that Perceval had been shot by an assassin in the lobby of the House of Commons on May 11 — the night of Williams’ dream.

According to a contemporary news account, Williams visited the spot six weeks later: “Immediately that he came to the steps at the entrance of the lobby, he said, ‘This place is as distinctly within my recollection, in my dream, as any room in my house,’ and he made the same observation when he entered the lobby. He then pointed out the exact spot where Bellingham stood when he fired, and which Mr. Perceval had reached when he was struck by the ball, where, and how he fell. The dress both of Mr. Perceval and Bellingham agreed with the description given by Mr. Williams, even to the most minute particular.”

“After You …”

Mamihlapinatapais, from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, is considered the world’s most succinct word — and the hardest to translate.

It means “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but that neither one wants to start.”

Poetic Justice

Sir Fletcher Norton was noted for his want of courtesy. When pleading before Lord Mansfield on some question of manorial right, he chanced unfortunately to say, ‘My lord, I can illustrate the point in an instance in my own person; I myself have two little manors.’ The judge immediately interposed with one of his blandest smiles, ‘We all know it, Sir Fletcher.’

— John Timbs, A Century of Anecdote, 1873

Hold the Milk


The Arecibo Observatory is the largest single-aperture telescope ever built.

Astronomer Frank Drake calculated the dish would hold 357 million boxes of corn flakes.

Ghost Music

In 1923, 7-year-old Rosemary Brown said she’d had a vision of a white-haired man in a black gown. “He told me that when I grow up, he would give me music,” she said.

Ten years later she recognized a picture of Franz Liszt. And in 1964, she said he returned, acting “like sort of a reception desk” to put her in touch with dead composers from Grieg to Chopin, who dictated new works to her from beyond the grave.

The classical music establishment gave these mixed marks. Leonard Bernstein and André Previn were skeptical, but Richard Rodney Bennett said, “If she is a fake, she is a brilliant one, and must have had years of training.” (She claimed to have had only three years of piano instruction.) “Some of the music is awful, but some is marvelous. I couldn’t have faked the Beethoven.”

Whatever the truth, the experiment is over now. Brown died in 2001, presumably joining her illustrious friends — and depriving them of an audience here below.


“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.” — Edith Wharton