Party Planning

An Englishman buys a horse and hires porters to take the horse up to his apartment on the fourth floor. The porters exert themselves and sweat. Finally they succeed in getting the horse to his apartment.

He asks them to put the horse in the bathtub.

After they finish the job, one of the porters asks him, “Why do you need a horse in the bathtub?”

The Englishman says, “Well, tomorrow evening I’m having a party at home. One of the guests will go into the bathroom, see the horse, come to me and say, ‘You know you have a horse in your bathtub.’ And I’ll tell him, ‘So what?'”

— Sion Rubi, Intelligent Jokes, 2004

The Defenestrations of Prague

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Defenestration-prague-1618.jpg

On July 30, 1419, Czech priest Jan Želivský was leading his congregation through the streets of Prague to protest corruption in the Catholic church when someone threw a stone at him from the window of the town hall. His followers stormed the hall and threw 13 members of the town council from a high window, killing them.

Remarkably, the same thing happened again in 1618, when King Ferdinand dissolved the Protestant estates in Bohemia. Aggrieved Protestants confronted Catholic officials in the chancellory and threw several of them from a third-floor window. All three survived — Catholics contended that they had been saved by angels, Protestants that they had landed on a dunghill. (Or, a reader suggests, “the Czechs bounced.”)

Black and White

meredith chess problem

By William Meredith. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

Flip Sum

A problem from the 1999 St. Petersburg City Mathematical Olympiad:

Fifty cards are arranged on a table so that only the uppermost side of each card is visible. Each card bears two numbers, one on each side. The numbers range from 1 to 100, and each number appears exactly once. Vasya must choose any number of cards and flip them over, and then add up the 50 numbers now on top. What’s the highest sum he can be sure to reach?

Click for Answer

Out of This World

Tunisia has an unique tourist draw — its southern desert contains the abandoned sets of five Star Wars movies, in which the Sahara stood in for the planet Tatooine.

A list, complete with photos and geographical coordinates, is here.

They’re popular with European tourists, but they won’t last — the 20-building set of Mos Espa, Anakin Skywalker’s hometown, is being engulfed by sand dunes.

In a Word

aurigation
v. the act or art of driving a chariot or coach

“When I Loved You”

When I loved you
And you loved me,
You were the sea,
The sky, the tree.

Now skies are skies,
And seas are seas,
And trees are brown
And they are trees.

— Charles A. Wagner

Busy

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mars_symbol.svg

Male bees come from unfertilized eggs, so they have mothers but no fathers. Females come from fertilized eggs, so they have parents of both sexes. This produces an interesting pattern: The number of males in a given generation equals the number of females in the succeeding generation. And the number of females in a given generation equals the number of females in the succeeding two generations:

bee population

So the total number of bees, male and female, in generation n is the Fibonacci number Fn.

W. Hope-Jones discovered the relationship in 1921; this example is from Thomas Koshy’s Fibonacci and Lucas Numbers With Applications, 2001.

Self-Service

https://www.google.com/patents/US55677

William Lance invented this “improved serving table” in 1866. It bears a set of food-laden shelves that revolve continuously past the diners, driven by steam. The shelves are “so loaded with viands, to move at the rate of fifteen or twenty feet per minute, or to pass before each guest at such speed as to exhibit before each guest the entire bill of fare once per minute, giving each one ample opportunity to help him or herself to such viands as may suit their tastes.”

“All persons at this table are put upon an equality and free to act for themselves, and these shelves so arranged as not only to contain the full bill of fare, and that kept hot by lamp or otherwise, but also to contain all the necessary dishes, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, &c.”

The attendant in the hidden “pantry” at the bottom replenishes the offerings and discreetly removes dirty dishes from the bottom shelf, where they’re left by departing diners. Lance estimates that such a table might serve 150 diners with only two attendants, “except those required in the pantry to put away the last dishes of each guest and brush off the crumbs and adjust the chair.”

From the Heart

Banker James M. Fail repeatedly donated money to his alma mater, the University of Alabama, which he credited for his success in the business world. But he declined opportunities to give his name to an Alabama facility. “After all,” he said, “who would want anything with the name ‘Fail’ on it?”

In 2008 he found a way to support the school and accept credit — he put his name on the visitors’ locker room.