“Light From Potatoes”

The emission of light from the common potato, when in a state of decomposition, is sometimes very striking. Dr. Phipson, in his work on ‘Phosphorescence,’ mentions a case in which the light thus emitted from a cellarful of these vegetables was so strong as to lead an officer on guard at Strasbourg to believe that the barracks were on fire.

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

“Ambiguous Lines”

First published in 1671, this anonymous verse came with a simple instruction that would render it into sense. Can you discover it?

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy circled round
I saw a sturdy oak creep on the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up a whale
I saw a raging sea brim full of ale
I saw a venice glass sixteen foot deep
I saw a well full of men’s tears that weep
I saw their eyes all in a flame of fire
I saw a house as big as the moon and higher
I saw the sun even in the midst of night
I saw the man that saw this wondrous sight.
I saw a pack of cards gnawing a bone
I saw a dog seated on Britain’s throne
I saw King George shut up within a box
I saw an orange driving a fat ox
I saw a butcher not a twelvemonth old
I saw a great-coat all of solid gold
I saw two buttons telling of their dreams
I saw my friends who wished I’d quite these themes.

Click for Answer


In 2004 a mysterious billboard appeared in Silicon Valley; Cambridge, Mass.; Seattle; and Austin, Texas. It read:

{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com

Most people know that e (2.718281828 …) is the base of natural logarithms, but searching it for a 10-digit prime string is a considerable task — the first such string, 7427466391, starts at the 101st digit.

Solvers who went to http://7427466391.com found an even more difficult problem to solve. But solving that led them to a page at Google Labs … inviting them to submit a resume.

King Size

January 11, 1613, some masons digging near the ruins of a castle in Dauphiné, in a field which (by tradition) had long been called the giant’s field, at the depth of eighteen feet discovered a brick tomb thirty feet long, twelve feet wide, and eight feet high, on which was a gray stone, with the words Theutobochus Rex cut thereon; when the tomb was opened, they found a human skeleton entire, twenty-five feet and a half long, ten feet wide across the shoulders, and five feet deep from the breast-bone to the back, his teeth were each about the size of an ox’s foot, and his shin bone measured four feet.

Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum, 1803