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.”

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
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

No Go

If two chessplayers cooperate, how quickly can they reach a stalemate without any captures? Working independently, Sam Loyd, E.N. Frankenstein, W.H. Thompson, and Henry Dudeney all produced the same position, which can be reached in 12 moves:

1. d4 e5 2. Qd3 Qh4 3. Qg3 Bb4+ 4. Nd2 a5 5. a4 d6 6. h3 Be6 7. Ra3 f5 8. Qh2 c5 9. Rg3 Bb3 10. c4 f4 11. f3 e4 12. d5 e3

“Walking Blindfolded”

Dennis Hendrick, a stone mason, sometime ago, for a wager of ten guineas, walked from the Exchange in Liverpool, along Deal-street to the corner of Byrom-street; being a distance of three quarters of a mile, blindfolded, and rolling a coach wheel. On starting, there were two plasters of Burgundy pitch put on his eyes, and a handkerchief tied over them to prevent all possibility of his seeing. He started precisely at half past seven in the morning, and completed his undertaking at twenty minutes past eight, being in fifty minutes.

Curiosities for the Ingenious, 1825