By Bertha Fleischmann. White to mate in two moves.
In December 1930, 26-year-old British meteorologist Augustine Courtauld volunteered to man an observation station alone in the interior of Greenland. He passed the winter well enough, but his relief party was thrice delayed, and by late March Courtauld’s station was entirely buried in snow. He would spend the next six weeks immured in his hut, above which only the Union Jack projected, and husbanding his dwindling supplies. Most of the time he simply lay in the dark, but occasionally he would light a candle to write in his journal or to read his sweetheart Mollie’s last letter. At one point he listed the pleasures he would “like to have granted if wishing were any good”:
By May 1 he was out of food and was burning ski wax for light. Five days later, the stove that he used to melt drinking water had just died when “suddenly there was an appalling noise like a bus going by, followed by a confused yelling noise. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Was it the house falling in at last? A second later I realised the truth. It was somebody, some real human voice, calling down the ventilator.”
They pulled him out through the roof and he rode back to the coast on a sledge, reading The Count of Monte Cristo in the sun. He went on to fulfill all of the New Year’s resolutions he had made on the ice cap: to marry Mollie, to buy a house and a boat, to collect a library, and to give up exploring.
A youth, the son of Mr. Richard Bolton, of Great Horton, Yorkshire, was playing a few days since with a juvenile companion, who was pretending to place a pea in his ear and to make it come out of his mouth. Bolton, believing the feat to have been really performed, was induced to make the attempt himself, and thrust the pea so far into his ear that it could not be got out. In a vain endeavour to extract it made by a medical man, it was sent further in, and the poor boy died four days afterwards from the effects.
– Times, Nov. 27, 1850
In the burying-ground at Newburyport, may be seen a stone inscribed:
Omnem Crede Dicum Tibi Diluxesse Supremum.
Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Mary M’Hard, the virtuous and amiable consort of Capt. Wm. M’Hard of Newburyport, who amidst the laudable exertions of a very useful and desirable life, in which her Christian Profession was well adorned and a fair copy of every social virtue displayed, was in a state of health suddenly summoned to the Skies and snatched from ye eager embraces of her friends, (and the throbbing breasts of her disconsolate family confessed their fairest prospects of sublinary bliss were in one moment dashed) by swallowing a Pea at her own table, whence in a few hours, she sweetly breathed her soul away unto her SAVIOUR’S arms on the 8th day of March, A. D. 1780.
– John Robert Kippax, Churchyard Literature, 1877
n. a visible manifestation of Satan
Potassium chlorate brings out the worst in gummy bears.
In their 1996 manual Chemical Curiosities, H.W. Roesky and K. Möckel introduce this demonstration with an invocation from the Talmud: “He who ponders long over four things were better never to have been born: that which is above, that which is below, that which came before, and that which comes hereafter.”
(Please don’t try this yourself.)
Testimony of Alexander Falconbridge before a select committee of the House of Commons, March 8, 1790:
What is your present situation?
How many voyages have you been to the Coast of Africa?
I have been four voyages to the Coast of Africa.
Do you examine the Slaves previous to purchasing them?
They are always examined by some officers on board; it is generally understood to be the surgeon’s business.
Do they appear dejected when brought on board?
All that I have seen in my voyages did appear so.
Did this dejection continue, or did it soon wear off?
With some it continued the whole voyage, and with others till death put a period to their misery.
Have you known instances of Slaves refusing sustenance?
I have known several instances.
With what design?
With a design to starve themselves, I am persuaded. …
What was the mode used in stowing the Slaves in their night apartments?
They had not so much room as a man has in his coffin, neither in length or breadth, and it was impossible for them to turn or shift with any degree of ease. I have had occasion very often to go from one side of their rooms to the other; before I attempted it I have always taken off my shoes, and notwithstanding I have trod with as much care as I possibly could to prevent pinching them, it has unavoidably happened that I did so; I have often had my feet bit and scratched by them, the marks of which I have now. …
Are the consequences ever extremely noxious and nauseous of great number being ill at once of this latter disorder [dysentery]?
It was the case in the Alexander, as I have said before when I was taken ill — I cannot conceive any situation so dreadful and disgusting, the deck was covered with blood and mucus, and approached nearer to the resemblance of a slaughter-house than anything I can compare it to, the stench and foul air were likewise intolerable. …
To what cause do you describe [instances of insanity among slaves on board ship]?
To their being torn from their nearest connections, and carried away from their country.
On the occasion of the 1893 World’s Fair, the American Press Association asked 74 prominent Americans to imagine the United States of 1993. Some responses:
“Perhaps I am wrong in some of these prophecies,” reflected drama critic John Habberton, who had predicted that all marriages would be happy. “But if that is so, I shall not be here to be twitted with it — now will I?”
Early inventions to catch car thieves were positively quaint: Thomas Burghart’s 1921 “thief trap” would simply clutch the intruder’s leg and sound an alarm to alert the owner. “The person is thereby held to the seat and cannot get away.”
Yair Tanami’s solution, patented 68 years later, is less forgiving: It mounts a high-voltage discharge electrode under the seat. “In the arrangement illustrated in Figs. 2-5, bursts of high voltages of up to 60,000 volts peak have been produced which were found sufficient to temporarily immobilize the threatening person without permanently injuring him.”
Unfortunate newspaper headlines collected by readers of the Columbia Journalism Review:
READER IS UPSET OVER DOG EATING FILIPINOS (The Wayne County Outlook, Monticello, Ky., Feb. 25, 1982)
MORE OF US WILL LIVE TO BE CENTURIONS (The Times Reporter, Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio, Feb. 11, 1987)
POLICE BRUTALITY POSTPONED (The Mishawaka, Ind., Enterprise, Oct. 1, 1981)
DESPITE OUR BEST EFFORTS, BLACK EMPLOYMENT IS STILL RISING (The Evening Times, West Palm Beach, Fla., Oct. 3, 1980)
BRITISH LEFT WAFFLES ON FALKLANDS (Guardian, April 28, 1982)
FRIED CHICKEN COOKED IN MICROWAVE WINS TRIP (The Oregonian, July 8, 1981)
CROWDS RUSHING TO SEE POPE TRAMPLE 6 TO DEATH (Journal Star, Peoria, Ill., July 9, 1980)
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN LICK DOBERMAN’S LEG SORES (Reading Eagle, May 23, 1982)
EYE DROPS OFF SHELVES (Tri-City Herald, Pasco, Wash., Aug. 5, 1982)
PESTICIDE CONCERNS BLOSSOM (Williamsport, Pa., Sun-Gazette, May 21, 1985)
PRINCE ANDREW TAKES KOO PEASANT HUNTING IN SCOTLAND (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Nov. 28, 1982)
In February 1986 the Durham, N.C., Sun reported that contributions to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business had increased by 120 percent in the previous year. It chose the headline FUQUA SCHOOL GIVING UP.
J.B.S. Haldane’s father was a physiologist who would sometimes take his son along while investigating mines in order to teach him the rudiments of science. At one point they were lowered by a bucket into a pit in North Staffordshire, where a tunnel’s low roof forced their party to crawl:
“After a while, we got to a place where the roof was about eight feet high and a man could stand up. One of the party lifted his safety lamp. It filled with blue flame and went out with a pop. If it had been a candle this would have started an explosion, and we should probably have been killed. But of course the flame of the explosion inside the safety lamp was kept in by the wire gauze. The air near the roof was full of methane, or firedamp, which is a gas lighter than air, so the air on the floor was not dangerous.
“To demonstrate the effects of breathing firedamp, my father told me to stand up and recite Mark Anthony’s speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, beginning ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen.’ I soon began to pant, and somewhere about ‘the noble Brutus’ my legs gave way and I collapsed on to the floor, where, of course, the air was all right. In this way I learnt that firedamp is lighter than air and not dangerous to breathe.”
Fifty-five chameleons live on a tropical island. Thirteen are green, 19 are brown, and 23 are gray. Whenever two chameleons of different colors meet, both change to the third color. Is it possible that all 55 chameleons might eventually be the same color?