Futility Closet book ad

The Cottingley Fairies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Cottingley_Fairies_1.jpg

In 1920 two English cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, produced a series of photos that seemed to show them cavorting with fairies and gnomes.

The images were published in The Strand and convinced Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. In The Coming of the Fairies (1922), he wrote: “It is hard for the mind to grasp what the ultimate results may be if we have actually proved the existence upon the surface of this planet of a population which may be as numerous as the human race, which pursues its own strange life in its own strange way, and which is only separated from ourselves by some difference of vibrations.”

But see Fairies Unmasked.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d1/Cottingley_Fairies_2.jpg

Unquote

“All generalizations are dangerous — even this one.” — Alexandre Dumas

I Say, 007!

Blue Peacock was the sexy code name of a secret British plan to salt the Rhine with nuclear mines in the 1950s, in case of war.

Less sexily, they planned to put a live chicken in each one, to keep the electronics from getting cold.

When the file was declassified on April 1, 2004, this was taken to be an April Fool’s joke, but it’s true. Fortunately, the project was canceled.

Fore!

http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=315437

No time to relax? Try speed golf. Sprint through 18 holes without a caddy and you can finish a round in 45 minutes.

Gerald Ford said, “I know I am getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.”

Landmarks in Medicine, #2

Cures, from John Aubrey, Miscellanies Upon Various Subjects, 1696:

  • To cure a Thrush: Take a living frog, and hold it in a cloth, that it does not go down into the child’s mouth; and put the head into the child’s mouth ’till it is dead; and then take another frog, and do the same.
  • To cure the Tooth-Ach: Take a new nail, and make the gum bleed with it, and then drive it into an oak. This did cure William Neal’s son, a very stout gentleman, when he was almost mad with the pain, and had a mind to have pistolled himself.
  • For the Jaundice: The jaundice is cured, by putting the urine after the first sleep, to the ashes of the ash-tree, bark of barberries.
  • To cure a beast that is sprung, (that is) poisoned: It lights mostly upon Sheep. Take the little red spider, called a tentbob, (not so big as a great pins-head) the first you light upon in the spring of the year, and rub it in the palm of your hand all to pieces: and having so done, piss on it, and rub it in, and let it dry; then come to the beast and make water in your hand, and throw it in his mouth. It cures in a matter of an hour’s time. This rubbing serves for a whole year, and it is no danger to the hand. The chiefest skill is to know whether the beast be poisoned or no. From Mr. Pacy.

Unicorn Hoax?

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

Gottfried von Leibniz was convinced of the existence of unicorns by this skeleton, found in Germany’s Harz Mountains in 1663.

Why does it have only two legs? Well, supporters said, that’s because souvenir hunters plundered it.

Then why did they take the legs but leave the horn? Um …

R.I.P.

“Finally I am becoming stupider no more.” — Mathematician Paul Erdös, suggested epitaph for himself

A Penny Saved

http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=342254

Suppose you put a coin into an empty bottle and then insert a cork in the bottle’s opening. How could you retrieve the coin without breaking the bottle or pulling out the cork?

Click for Answer

Strange Bedfellows

At a 1987 party, Oxford philosopher A.J. Ayer confronted Mike Tyson and demanded he stop harassing Naomi Campbell.

Tyson said, “Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.”

Ayer replied, “And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic! We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.”

No word on whom Campbell left with.

Miles v. City Council of Augusta, Georgia

If you’re going to exhibit a talking cat in Georgia, you need a business license, according to a court ruling in 1981. Carl and Elaine Miles had been presenting Blackie the Talking Cat to passersby in Augusta; Blackie would meow “I love you” or “I want my mama,” and the onlookers would give small change to the Mileses.

They objected to the license requirement, saying that the law violated their right to free speech and that it didn’t mention talking animals. But they lost the case in district court in 1982, and an appeals court upheld the decision:

This Court will not hear a claim that Blackie’s right to free speech has been infringed. First, although Blackie arguably possesses a very unusual ability, he cannot be considered a “person” and is therefore not protected by the Bill of Rights. Second, even if Blackie had such a right, we see no need for appellants to assert his right jus tertii.

The court added, “Blackie can clearly speak for himself.”