Math Notes

Hate exponents? Just cancel them:

canceling exponents 2

canceling exponents 1

See also Reductio Ad Absurdum.

“The Jellyfish”

Who wants my jellyfish?
I’m not sellyfish!

— Ogden Nash

News Cycle

The Spectator once ran a competition asking its readers “What would you most like to read on opening the morning paper?” One reader submitted this entry:

Our Second Competition

The First Prize in the second of this year’s competitions goes to Mr. Arthur Robinson, whose witty entry was easily the best of those we received. His choice of what he would like to read on opening his paper was headed, ‘Our Second Competition,’ and was as follows: ‘The First Prize in the second of this year’s competitions goes to Mr. Arthur Robinson, whose witty entry was easily the best of those we received. His choice of what he would like to read on opening his paper was headed “Our Second Competition,” but owing to paper restrictions we cannot print all of it.’

In a Word

n. one who is overly eager to hold public office

Finding Religion

Here are the first three verses of Genesis:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Pick any word in the first verse, count its letters, and move ahead by the corresponding number of words. For example, if you start at beginning, you’d count 9 letters and move ahead 9 words, landing on the in the second verse. Count that word’s letters and continue in this manner until you’ve entered the third verse.

You’ll always arrive at God.

(Discovered by Martin Gardner.)

“An Extraordinary Cat!”

In 1821, a shoemaker in the south side of Edinburgh, while engaged in cleaning a cage in which he kept a lark, left the door of the cage open, of which the bird took advantage, and flew away by a window at which its owner was then standing. The lark being a favourite, its loss was much lamented. But it may be imagined what was the surprise of the house, when about an hour after, a cat, belonging to the same person, made its appearance with the lark in its mouth, which it held by the wings over the back, in such a manner that the bird had not received the least injury. The cat, after dropping it on the floor, looked up to those who were observing her, and mewed, as if to attract attention to the capture. The lark now occupies its wiry prison, with the same noisy cheerfulness as before its singular adventure.

The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824

Trompe L’Oeil

Designers wanted to put a dome on Rome’s Sant’Ignazio church, but neighbors complained of the shadow. So, instead, artist Andrea Pozzo painted this design on the flat ceiling.

When it’s viewed from the side (below), the church gets its dome after all.


It’s not quite true that Custer’s entire detachment was killed at Little Bighorn. Two days after the battle, this horse appeared, badly wounded but still alive. It had been the personal mount of one of Custer’s captains.

Nursed back to health, Comanche was named a “second commanding officer” in the 7th Cavalry. He was buried in 1890 with full military honors.

Fun With Logs

Google’s 2004 IPO announced it intended to raise $2,718,281,828.

That’s e to 9 decimal places.

“Curious Wager”

In August, 1823, a man undertook to carry thirteen sieve-baskets, piled one upon another on his head, from Dean-street, Westminster, to Perry’s potato-warehouse in Covent Garden. The wager was for a sovereign; and the conditions were, that he was to walk through the public streets, and to arrive at the place named with eleven on his head, without resting. He walked with great caution, sometimes in the carriage road, and sometimes on the pavement, followed by numbers of people, who, however, at once encircled and cleared the way for him. His greatest difficulty seemed to be to avoid the lamp irons when upon the pavement, as the upper sieve, which poised the whole, had a continual inclination to the right side. He succeeded in gaining the middle of Southampton-street without losing one sieve, having passed coaches and carts of all descriptions; when here, the upper sieve fell to the ground. He halted for a moment, and poised the remaining sieves, with which he proceeded full into the market, where he cast the whole down, amid the cheers of the populace. Though the weight must have been considerable, the poising the sieves was the greatest difficulty he had to encounter, as they reached the second floor windows. He won his wager; and many gentlemen, who were highly delighted with the novelty of the scene, subscribed to reward his ingenuity and perseverance.

The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824