Notable authors on the Vatican’s list of prohibited books:

  • Francis Bacon
  • Honoré de Balzac
  • Giordano Bruno
  • Nicolaus Copernicus
  • Daniel Defoe
  • René Descartes
  • Denis Diderot
  • Desiderius Erasmus
  • Gustave Flaubert
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Edward Gibbon
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Victor Hugo
  • David Hume
  • Immanuel Kant
  • John Locke
  • John Stuart Mill
  • John Milton
  • Blaise Pascal
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Jonathan Swift
  • Voltaire
  • Émile Zola

George Bernard Shaw said, “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”



This double-entendre was originally published in a Philadelphia newspaper a hundred years ago. It may be read three different ways: First, let the whole be read in the order in which it is written; second, read the lines downward on the left of each comma in every line; third, in the same manner on the right of each comma. In the first reading the Revolutionary cause is condemned, and by the others it is encouraged and lauded —

Hark! Hark! the trumpet sounds, the din of war’s alarms,
O’er seas and solid grounds, doth call us all to arms;
Who for King George doth stand, their honors soon shall shine;
Their ruin is at hand, who with the Congress join.
The acts of Parliament, in them I much delight,
I hate their cursed intent, who for the Congress fight;
The Tories of the day, they are my daily toast,
They soon will sneak away, who independence boast;
Who non-resistance hold, they have my hand and heart,
May they for slaves be sold, who act a Whiggish part;
On Mansfied, North and Bute, may daily blessings pour,
Confusion and dispute, on Congress evermore;
To North and British lord, may honors still be done,
I wish a block or cord, to General Washington.

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


The longest English word in which no letter is repeated is uncopyrightable.

Do you see why that’s true?

The Vela Incident

On Sept. 22, 1979, a U.S. satellite spotted a flash of light in the Indian Ocean. The satellite was designed to detect nuclear explosions, but unfortunately it was failing, so we can’t be sure what it saw.

What caused the flash? Possibilities include a nuclear test by South Africa or Israel; a meteor entering the atmosphere; a French neutron bomb; or even a meteor striking the satellite itself. For now, no one knows.

String Not Included


“The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography,” said Fellini.

In this case it’s an epic: The Pearl of Lao Tzu weighs 31,893 carats, or more than 14 pounds.

It was extracted from a giant clam in the Philippines in 1934.

Math Notes

35 – 32 – 52 = 75 – 72 – 52

“Swallowed by an Earthquake and Thrown Out Again”

A tombstone in the island of Jamaica has the following inscription: ‘Here lieth the body of Lewis Galdy, Esq., who died on the 22d of September, 1737, aged 80. He was born at Montpellier, in France, which place he left for his religion, and settled on this island, where, in the great earthquake, 1672, he was swallowed up, and by the wonderful providence of God, by a second shock was thrown out into the sea, where he continued swimming until he was taken up by a boat, and thus miraculously preserved. He afterwards lived in great reputation, and died universally lamented.’

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

Party of One


This is not Photoshopped — it’s an actual photograph of the world’s largest chair, in the piazza of Manzano, Italy, where it was dedicated. (Manzano is a city of chair makers.)

Photographer Rob Krause says, “They’re still working on the table.”

In a Word

adj. clumsy with both hands; having “two left hands”

The “Ghost Yacht”

Two months ago an unmanned catamaran appeared near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Kaz II had set out safely from nearby Airlie Beach four days earlier. Her engine was running, and her radio and navigation system were working. The sails were up, though one was badly shredded. Survival equipment, including three life jackets and an emergency beacon, were found on board. Investigators even found a laptop running and the table laid for dinner. But the three-man crew were nowhere to be found.

A search was called off after two days. That’s all anyone knows.