“Leapers”

People born on Leap Day, February 29:

  • Pope Paul III (1468)
  • Gioacchino Rossini (1792)
  • Jimmy Dorsey (1904)
  • Dinah Shore (1916)
  • Howard Nemerov (1920)
  • Dennis Farina (1944)
  • Richard Ramirez (1960)
  • Tony Robbins (1960)
  • Eugene Volokh (1968)
  • Ja Rule (1976)

Sir James Wilson (1812-1880), premier of Tasmania, both entered and left the world on Leap Day. He died on his 68th birthday — or, arguably, on his 17th.

Allied Reptiles

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SaltwaterCrocodile(%27Maximo%27).jpg

In February 1945, the British 14th Army had surrounded a mass of fleeing Japanese in a mangrove swamp in southern Burma. In the swamp were thousands of saltwater crocodiles, averaging 15 feet long, but the Japanese refused to surrender. The crisis came on the night of Feb. 19:

That night was the most horrible that any member of the [marine launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left. … Of about 1,000 Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about 20 were found alive.

That’s the account of naturalist Bruce Wright. If it’s accurate, this would be the worst crocodile attack — and indeed one of the deadliest animal attacks — in recorded history.

Arguing in Circles

Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel — a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not?

— William James, Pragmatism, 1907

Concise

Here’s an achievement — in 1936 Buckminster Fuller explained Einstein’s theory of relativity in a telegram:

EINSTEIN’S FORMULA DETERMINATION INDIVIDUAL SPECIFICS RELATIVITY READS QUOTE ENERGY EQUALS MASS TIMES THE SPEED OF LIGHT SQUARED UNQUOTE SPEED OF LIGHT IDENTICAL SPEED ALL RADIATION COSMIC GAMMA X ULTRA VIOLET INFRA RED RAYS ETCETERA ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX THOUSAND MILES PER SECOND WHICH SQUARED IS TOP OR PERFECT SPEED GIVING SCIENCE A FINITE VALUE FOR BASIC FACTOR IN MOTION UNIVERSE STOP SPEED OF RADIANT ENERGY BEING DIRECTIONAL OUTWARD ALL DIRECTIONS EXPANDING WAVE SURFACE DIAMETRIC POLAR SPEED AWAY FROM SELF IS TWICE SPEED IN ONE DIRECTION AND SPEED OF VOLUME INCREASE IS SQUARE OF SPEED IN ONE DIRECTION APPROXIMATELY THIRTY FIVE BILLION VOLUMETRIC MILES PER SECOND STOP FORMULA IS WRITTEN QUOTE LETTER E FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY EQUATION MARK FOLLOWED BY LETTER M FOLLOWED BY LETTER C FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY ELEVATED SMALL FIGURE TWO SYMBOL OF SQUARING UNQUOTE ONLY VARIABLE IN FORMULA IS SPECIFIC MASS SPEED IS A UNIT OF RATE WHICH IS AN INTEGRATED RATIO OF BOTH TIME AND SPACE AND NO GREATER RATE OF SPEED THAN THAT PROVIDED BY ITS CAUSE WHICH IS PURE ENERGY LATENT OR RADIANT IS ATTAINABLE STOP THE FORMULA THEREFORE PROVIDES A UNIT AND A RATE OF PERFECTION TO WHICH THE RELATIVE IMPERFECTION OF INEFFICIENCY OF ENERGY RELEASE IN RADIANT OR CONFINED DIRECTION OF ALL TEMPORAL SPACE PHENOMENA MAY BE COMPARED BY ACTUAL CALCULATION STOP SIGNIFICANCE STOP SPECIFIC QUALITY OF ANIMATES IS CONTROL WILLFUL OR OTHERWISE OF RATE AND DIRECTION ENERGY RELEASE AND APPLICATION NOT ONLY OF SELF MECHANISM BUT OF FROM SELF MACHINE DIVIDED MECHANISMS AND RELATIVITY OF ALL ANIMATES AND INANIMATES IS POTENTIAL OF ESTABLISHMENT THROUGH EINSTEIN FORMULA

The artist Isamu Noguchi was working on a commemorative sculpture in Mexico and had forgotten the precise formula E=mc2. Fuller not only described the formula but explained it — in 264 words.

Strange Math

Two problems that will make you want to throw a chair at someone, from John Jackson, Rational Amusements for Winter Evenings, 1821:

I.

If from six ye take nine, and from nine ye take ten
(Ye youths, now the mystery explain;)
And if fifty from forty be taken, there then,
Shall just half a dozen remain.

II.

One third of twelve, if you divide,
By just one fifth of seven,
The true result (it has been tried,)
Exactly is eleven.

How? Why?

Click for Answer