“It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.” — H.L. Mencken



In August 2005, an Airbus A340 airliner overshot the runway at Toronto, plunged into a ravine, and burst into flames.

Of the 309 people on board, all survived.

It’s known as the Toronto Miracle.

“Light From Potatoes”

The emission of light from the common potato, when in a state of decomposition, is sometimes very striking. Dr. Phipson, in his work on ‘Phosphorescence,’ mentions a case in which the light thus emitted from a cellarful of these vegetables was so strong as to lead an officer on guard at Strasbourg to believe that the barracks were on fire.

— Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882

“Ambiguous Lines”

First published in 1671, this anonymous verse came with a simple instruction that would render it into sense. Can you discover it?

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy circled round
I saw a sturdy oak creep on the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up a whale
I saw a raging sea brim full of ale
I saw a venice glass sixteen foot deep
I saw a well full of men’s tears that weep
I saw their eyes all in a flame of fire
I saw a house as big as the moon and higher
I saw the sun even in the midst of night
I saw the man that saw this wondrous sight.
I saw a pack of cards gnawing a bone
I saw a dog seated on Britain’s throne
I saw King George shut up within a box
I saw an orange driving a fat ox
I saw a butcher not a twelvemonth old
I saw a great-coat all of solid gold
I saw two buttons telling of their dreams
I saw my friends who wished I’d quite these themes.

Click for Answer

An Early Escher


“False Perspective,” a 1754 engraving by William Hogarth.

“Whoever makes a DESIGN without the Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE,” he wrote, “will be liable to such Absurdities as are shewn in this Frontispiece.”


In 2004 a mysterious billboard appeared in Silicon Valley; Cambridge, Mass.; Seattle; and Austin, Texas. It read:

{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com

Most people know that e (2.718281828 …) is the base of natural logarithms, but searching it for a 10-digit prime string is a considerable task — the first such string, 7427466391, starts at the 101st digit.

Solvers who went to http://7427466391.com found an even more difficult problem to solve. But solving that led them to a page at Google Labs … inviting them to submit a resume.

Sheltered Indeed


Honolulu is the world’s most remote major city.

It’s 2,300 miles from any settlement of more than 50,000 people.

In a Word

adj. resembling a mackerel

King Size

January 11, 1613, some masons digging near the ruins of a castle in Dauphiné, in a field which (by tradition) had long been called the giant’s field, at the depth of eighteen feet discovered a brick tomb thirty feet long, twelve feet wide, and eight feet high, on which was a gray stone, with the words Theutobochus Rex cut thereon; when the tomb was opened, they found a human skeleton entire, twenty-five feet and a half long, ten feet wide across the shoulders, and five feet deep from the breast-bone to the back, his teeth were each about the size of an ox’s foot, and his shin bone measured four feet.

Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum, 1803



An optical illusion. Nothing’s actually moving.