Math Notes

55 + 45 + 75 + 45 + 85 = 54748

“The Day the Clowns Cried”

On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Brothers big top caught fire during a performance in Hartford, Conn., and more than 160 people were killed in the ensuing blaze.

Among the victims was a young blond girl in a brown dress, whose body was assigned number 1565 by the morgue. A photograph was circulated locally and then throughout the United States, but no one came forward to claim her.

To this day no one knows who “Little Miss 1565” was or how she came to be at the circus that day.

05/23/2013 UPDATE: Connecticut investigator Rick Davey has identified the girl as 8-year-old Eleanor Cook, who had attended the circus with her mother, Mildred. Eleanor received only minor burns in the fire but was trampled by the crowd, and efforts to identify her were unsuccessful. Mildred confirmed her identity to Davey.

(Thanks, Patricia.)

The Ties That Bind

The Spanish word esposa means both “wife” and “handcuff.”

The Barber’s Dictum

Let’s say that the densest human head of hair contains 200,000 strands, and that the human population is 6 billion. That means there’s a group of at least 30,000 people today who have precisely the same number of hairs on their heads.

Do you see why?

“A Sigh for a Cipher”

U 0 a 0 but I 0 U,
O 0 no 0 but O 0 me;
O let not my 0 a 0 go,
But give 0 0 I 0 U so.

You sigh for a cipher but I sigh for you,
O sigh for no cipher, but O sigh for me;
O let not my sigh for a cipher go,
But give sigh for sigh, for I sigh for you so.

Bizarre Notes and Queries, 1891

The “Cat Raphael”

Born in Bern in 1768, the autistic Gottfried Mind could barely write his name, but on seeing a cat in a painting by his drawing-master, he immediately said, “That is no cat!” The master asked whether he thought he could do better, and Mind produced a drawing so good that the master copied it.

Thereafter Mind worked surrounded by cats, painting them with a remarkable eye for their individual character and occasionally carving them from chestnuts for sport. In the work of other artists it’s said that he liked nothing but the lions of Rubens, Rembrandt, and Paulus Potter, and he looked down even on celebrated cats by Cornelius Vischer and Wenzel Hollar.

“First and last,” said Goethe, “what is demanded of genius is love of truth.”

In a Word

n. difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

Where’s the Fallacy?


Lex Talionis,M1

In 1386, the tribunal of Falaise sentenced a sow to be mangled and maimed in the head and forelegs, and then to be hanged, for having torn the face and arms of a child and thus caused its death. … As if to make the travesty of justice complete, the sow was dressed in man’s clothes and executed on the public square near the city-hall at an expense to the state of ten sous and ten deniers, besides a pair of gloves to the hangman.

— E.P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, 1906

A Polyhedral Mystery

What is this? Well, it’s a dodecahedron, but what was its purpose? More than 100 of these objects have been found between England and Hungary; this one was discovered among Roman ruins near Frankfurt. Typically they’re made of bronze or stone, with a hollow center and a round hole in the middle of each face, and they range in size from 4 to 11 centimeters.

The Romans likely made them in the second or third century, but strangely they appear in no pictures from that period and they’re not mentioned in Roman literature.

Best guesses so far: survey instruments, candlesticks, or dice.