Koko’s Morality

Koko the gorilla is famous for mastering more than 1,000 signs based on American Sign Language, which she uses to communicate with Stanford researchers.

That’s not all she’s learned from humans. One day her attendants discovered that a steel sink in her enclosure had been torn from its moorings. When they confronted her, she pointed to her pet kitten.

“Cat did it,” she signed.

Varying Reports

Which statements on this list are true?

  1. Exactly one statement on this list is false.
  2. Exactly two statements on this list are false.
  3. Exactly three statements on this list are false.
  4. Exactly four statements on this list are false.
  5. Exactly five statements on this list are false.
  6. Exactly six statements on this list are false.
  7. Exactly seven statements on this list are false.
  8. Exactly eight statements on this list are false.
  9. Exactly nine statements on this list are false.
  10. Exactly ten statements on this list are false.
Click for Answer

“Calamities of Genius”

Homer was a beggar; Plautus turned a mill; Terence was a slave; Boethius died in gaol; Paul Borghese had fourteen trades, and yet starved with them all; Tasso was often distressed for five shillings; Bentivoglio was refused admittance into an hospital he had himself erected; Cervantes died of hunger; Camoens, the celebrated writer of the Lusiad, ended his days in an alms house; and Vaugelas left his body to the surgeons, to pay his debts as far as it would go. In our own country, Bacon lived a life of meanness and distress; Sir Walter Raleigh died on a scaffold. Spencer, the charming Spencer, died forsaken, and in want; and the death of Collins came through neglect, first causing mental derangement. Milton sold his copy-right of Paradise Lost for fifteen pounds, at three payments, and finished his life in obscurity; Dryden lived in poverty and distress; Otway died prematurely, and through hunger; Lee died in the streets; Steele lived a life of perfect warfare with bailiffs. Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield was sold for a trifle to save him from the gripe of the law; Fielding lies in the burying-ground of the English factory at Lisbon, without a stone to mark the spot; Savage died in prison at Bristol, where he was confined for a debt of eight pounds; Butler lived in penury, and died poor; Chatterton, the child of genius and misfortune, destroyed himself.

The Terrific Register, 1825

Start Again


Well, wait, there are only two. So there was a mistake of fact. Which means that the sentence really did contain three mistakes. But that means it was true all along … in which case it’s not false … in which case it really contains only two mistakes …


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


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