Unquote

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NosferatuShadow.jpg

“Where there is no imagination there is no horror.” — Arthur Conan Doyle

One Solution

When Johnny Depp began dating Winona Ryder, he got a tattoo reading “Winona Forever.”

When they broke up, he changed it to “Wino Forever.”

A Clever Landlord

At an humble inn where there were only six rooms, seven travellers applied for lodging, each insisting on having a room to himself. The landlord put the first man in room No. 1 and asked one of the other men to stay there also for a few minutes. He then put the third man in room number two, the fourth man in room No. 3, the fifth man in room No. 4, and the sixth man in room No. 5. Then returning to room No. 1 he took the seventh man and put him in room No. 6. Thus each man had his own room!

— H.E. Licks, Recreations in Mathematics, 1917

La Fornarina

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fornarina.jpg

When Raphael died in 1520, a portrait was found in his studio of a local baker’s daughter named Margherita. She is thought to have been his lover — on his deathbead he had bid her farewell and arranged for her care.

The portrait might reveal something else as well. Writing in The Lancet in 2002, Georgetown University medical professor Carlos Hugo Espinel suggests that “La Fornarina” might have had breast cancer:

There is a bulge in the [left] breast that, beginning inward from the axilla and curving horizontally to the right, slopes gently toward the nipple. This bulge seems to be a mass, oval in shape, puckering just above the tip of La Fornarina’s index finger.

After studying other artworks, Espinel has also concluded that Michelangelo had gout, that Rembrandt died of temporal arteritis, and that the Mona Lisa’s smile may have resulted from the partial paralysis of a facial muscle. Independent research has supported some of these diagnoses.

The Steps Experiment

In 1977, Los Angeles freelance writer Chuck Ross submitted a typed manuscript to 14 publishers and 13 literary agents. Ross claimed it was an original work, but in fact it was a freshly typed copy of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel Steps, which had won the National Book Award in 1969.

All 27 recipients failed to recognize Kosinski’s work, and all 27 rejected the manuscript.

Sadly, this is nothing new. From Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, September 1888:

A disappointed literary aspirant, weary of having his articles declined with thanks, and doubtful of his critics’ infallibility, copied out ‘Samson Agonistes,’ which he rechristened ‘Like a Giant Refreshed,’ and the manuscript, as an original work of his own, went the rounds of publishers and editors. It was declined on various pleas, and the letters he received afforded him so much amusement that he published them in the St. James’s Gazette. None of the critics discovered that the work was Milton’s. One, who had evidently not even looked at it, deemed it a sensational novel; another recognized a certain amount of merit, but thought it was disfigured by ‘Scotticisms;’ a third was sufficiently pleased to offer to publish it, provided the author contributed forty pounds towards expenses.’

Mushroom Rocks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mushroom_rocks.jpg

Put a rock in the desert and wait a jillion years, and the blowing sand will make one of these for you. They’re also known as rock pedestals.

The Balloon-Hoax

On April 13, 1844, a curious headline appeared in the New York Sun:

ASTOUNDING NEWS!
BY EXPRESS VIA NORFOLK:
* * * * * * *
THE ATLANTIC CROSSED
IN THREE DAYS!
* * * * * * *
SIGNAL TRIUMPH OF
MR. MONCK MASON’S
FLYING MACHINE!!!

The story told of an amazing 75-hour crossing of the Atlantic by European balloonist Monck Mason, giving extensive details and including a diagram of the craft.

Two days later the Sun printed a retraction, saying that “we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous” but “we by no means think such a project impossible.”

That compliment would have pleased the hoax writer. His name was Edgar Allan Poe.

Loopy

You can measure a circle’s circumference by “unrolling” it along a line, like this:

circumference fallacy

But note that the smaller circle unrolls at the same time … and it gives the same length. Clearly we could do the same thing with circles of any size. Do all circles have the same circumference?

In a Word

groak
v. to stare at a person longingly while he is eating

“Did you ever hear of a dog before who did not persecute one with beseeching eyes at mealtimes?” wrote Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning in 1846 of her celebrated dog Flush. “And remember, this is not the effect of discipline. Also if another than myself happens to take coffee or break bread in the room here, he teazes straightway with eyes & paws, … teazes like a common dog & is put out of the door before he can be quieted by scolding.”

Fathomless Genius

On Aug. 11, 1966, a fishing boat came upon a badly bruised man floating in the water off Brest, France, clutching an inflatable life raft. He identified himself as Josef Papp, a Hungarian-Canadian engineer, and claimed he had just bailed out of a jet-powered submarine that had crossed the Atlantic in 13 hours.

The media laughed at this, but Papp insisted he had built a cone-shaped sub in his garage that could reach 300 mph using the same principle as a supercavitating torpedo. He even wrote a book, The Fastest Submarine, to answer his critics … but somehow this failed to explain how the sub worked, or why plane tickets to France had been found in his pocket, or why a man matching his description had been seen boarding a plane to France hours earlier.

For what it’s worth, Papp did patent a number of other inventions, including a fuel mixture composed from inert noble gases. So maybe he was telling the truth.