Airmail Before Airplanes

The world’s first airmail stamps were issued for the Great Barrier Pigeon-Gram Service, which carried messages from New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island to the mainland between 1898 and 1908.

It was pretty good: The fastest pigeon, aptly named Velocity, made the trip to Auckland in only 50 minutes, averaging an astounding 125 kph. That’s only 40 per cent slower than modern aircraft.

Just So You Know

Snuffleupagus’ grandmother lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Meet the Neighbors

Cities with the most billionaires:

  1. New York: 35
  2. Los Angeles: 24
  3. Moscow: 20
  4. San Francisco: 20
  5. London: 19
  6. Hong Kong: 18
  7. Chicago: 12
  8. Paris: 12
  9. Dallas: 11
  10. Tokyo: 11

Equidistant Letter Sequences

If you take the text of Genesis 26:5-10 and break it into lines of 33 characters each, the words Bible and code appear, word-search-style, in the resulting grid.

That looks pretty nifty, but in fact you can find almost anything in a long text if you look hard enough. Using the same technique in 1997, Australian mathematician Brendan McKay found that Moby Dick had predicted the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, including the assassin’s first and last names, the university he attended, and even the motive (“Oslo,” referring to the Oslo accords). That Melville — what a genius.

A Mathematical Coincidence

2646798 = 21 + 62 + 43 + 64 + 75 + 96 + 87

“This Is Absurd!”

Uninspired last words:

  • “Wait a minute …” — Pope Alexander VI
  • “Am I dying, or is this my birthday?” — Nancy, Lady Astor, on seeing her family at her bedside
  • “I live!” — Caligula, as he was being murdered by his own soldiers
  • “Lady, you shot me!” — Sam Cooke, after being shot in a hotel room
  • “That guy’s got to stop. … He’ll see us.” — James Dean, before a car accident
  • “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.” — Richard Feynman
  • “I think I’m going to make it!” — murderer Richard Loeb, after being slashed 90 times with a razor
  • “Die, my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do!” — Groucho Marx
  • “I’m all right.” — H.G. Wells

On his deathbed Stan Laurel said, “I wish I were skiing.” His nurse said, “Oh, Mr. Laurel, do you ski?” Laurel replied, “No, but I’d rather be skiing than doing what I’m doing.”

More here.

Scrabble Heaven"

The most frequently used letters of the English alphabet, in order, are ETAOIN SHRDLU.

They can be rearranged to spell SOUTH IRELAND.

In a Word

sudden seizure with the claws


“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.” — Calvin Coolidge, known as “Silent Cal”

I Think That I Shall Never See …

In 1964, grad student Donald Currey cut down a bristlecone pine in eastern Nevada to see how old it was.

It was 4,844 years old. He had killed the oldest thing in the world.

Bonus sad noble tree story here.