On its 35th anniversary, THX, the sound quality assurance company founded by George Lucas, released the original score of “Deep Note,” its audio trademark, which debuted at the premiere of Return of the Jedi in 1983 and is now familiar from countless films. Essentially it’s a stupendous D chord; the U.S. trademark registration reads:
The THX logo theme consists of 30 voices over seven measures, starting in a narrow range, 200 to 400 Hz, and slowly diverting to preselected pitches encompassing three octaves. The 30 voices begin at pitches between 200 Hz and 400 Hz and arrive at pre-selected pitches spanning three octaves by the fourth measure. The highest pitch is slightly detuned while there are double the number of voices of the lowest two pitches.
“I like to say that the THX sound is the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world,” says James A. Moorer, who wrote it. “This may or may not be true, but it sounds cool.” And now that we have the score you can do this:
286 = 77371252455336267181195264
That’s the largest known power of 2 with no zeros in its decimal representation.
Are there higher such powers? No one knows.
n. the fact or phenomenon of not holding any fixed or established beliefs
Created by Franz Armbruster in 1967, “Instant Insanity” was the Rubik’s Cube of its day, a simple configuration task with a dismaying number of combinations. You’re given four cubes whose faces are colored red, blue, green, and yellow:
The task is to arrange them into a stack so that each of the four colors appears on each side of the stack. This is difficult to achieve by trial and error, as the cubes can be arranged in 41,472 ways, and only 8 of these give a valid solution.
One approach is to use graph theory — draw points of the four face colors and connect them to show which pairs of colors fall on opposite faces of each cube:
Then, using certain criteria (explained here), we can derive two directed subgraphs that describe the solution:
The first graph shows which colors appear on the front and back of each cube, the second which colors appear on the left and right. Each arrow represents one of the four cubes and the position of each of the two colors it indicates. So, for example, the black arrow at the top of the first graph indicates that the first cube will have yellow on the front face and blue on the rear.
This solution isn’t unique, of course — once you’ve compiled a winning stack you can rotate it or rearrange the order of the cubes without affecting its validity. B.L. Schwartz gives an alternative method, through inspection of a table, as well as tips for solving by trial and error using physical cubes, in “An Improved Solution to ‘Instant Insanity,'” Mathematics Magazine 43:1 (January 1970), 20-23.
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, each of us will have two ideas.” — George Bernard Shaw
“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point.” — Thomas Jefferson
The end of the Civil War opened a new era of fossil hunting in the American West — and a bitter feud between two rival paleontologists, who spent 20 years sabotaging one another in a constant struggle for supremacy. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Bone Wars, the greatest scientific feud of the 19th century.
We’ll also sympathize with Scunthorpe and puzzle over why a driver can’t drive.
Nepal’s constitution contains instructions for drawing its flag.
The tombstone of Constanze Mozart’s second husband calls him “the husband of Mozart’s widow.”
Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope.
Sources for our feature on the Bone Wars:
David Rains Wallace, The Bonehunters’ Revenge, 1999.
Mark Jaffe, The Gilded Dinosaur, 2000.
Elizabeth Noble Shor, The Fossil Feud, 1974.
Hal Hellman, Great Feuds in Science, 1998.
Tom Huntington, “The Great Feud,” American History 33:3 (August 1998), 14.
Richard A. Kissel, “The Sauropod Chronicles,” Natural History 116:3 (April 2007), 34-38.
Keith Stewart Thomson, “Marginalia: Dinosaurs as a Cultural Phenomenon,” American Scientist 93:3 (May-June 2005), 212-214.
Genevieve Rajewski, “Where Dinosaurs Roamed,” Smithsonian 39:2 (May 2008), 20-24.
James Penick Jr., “Professor Cope vs. Professor Marsh,” American Heritage 22:5 (August 1971).
Alfred S. Romer, “Cope versus Marsh,” Systematic Zoology 13:4 (December 1964), 201-207.
Renee Clary, James Wandersee, and Amy Carpinelli, “The Great Dinosaur Feud: Science Against All Odds,” Science Scope 32:2 (October 2008), 34-40.
Susan West, “Dinosaur Head Hunt,” Science News 116:18 (Nov. 3, 1979), 314-315.
P.D. Brinkman, “Edward Drinker Cope’s Final Feud,” Archives of Natural History 43:2 (October 2016), 305-320.
Eric J. Hilton, Joseph C. Mitchell and David G. Smith, “Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897): Naturalist, Namesake, Icon,” Copeia 2014:4 (December 2014), 747-761.
John Koster, “Good to the Old Bones: Dreaming of Dinosaurs, Digging for Dollars,” Wild West 25:2 (August 2012), 26-27.
Daniel Engber, “Bone Thugs-N-Disharmony,” Slate, Aug. 7, 2013.
Walter H. Wheeler, “The Uintatheres and the Cope-Marsh War,” Science, New Series 131:3408 (April 22, 1960), 1171-1176.
Lukas Rieppel, “Prospecting for Dinosaurs on the Mining Frontier: The Value of Information in America’s Gilded Age,” Social Studies of Science 45:2 (2015), 161-186.
Michael J. Benton, “Naming Dinosaur Species: The Performance of Prolific Authors,” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30:5 (2010), 1478-1485.
Cary Woodruff and John R. Foster, “The Fragile Legacy of Amphicoelias fragillimus (Dinosauria: Sauropoda; Morrison Formation-Latest Jurassic),” PeerJ PrePrints 3 (2014), e838v1.
Paul Semonin, “Empire and Extinction: The Dinosaur as a Metaphor for Dominance in Prehistoric Nature,” Leonardo 30:3 (1997), 171-182.
Jennie Erin Smith, “When Fossil-Finding Was a Contact Sport,” Wall Street Journal Asia, June 10, 2016, A.11.
Adam Lusher, “The Brontosaurus Is Back After 150 Million Years… At Least in Name,” Independent, April 8, 2015, 10.
Will Bagley, “Rivals Fought Tooth and Nail Over Dinosaurs,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 25, 2001, B1.
Clive Coy, “Skeletons in the Closet,” Ontario National Post, Jan. 22, 2000, 10.
Rose DeWolf, “Philly Is Facile With Fossils,” Philadelphia Daily News, March 27, 1998, D.6.
Mark Jaffe, “Phila. and Fossils Go Way Back,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 22, 1998, 2.
Malcolm W. Browne, “Dinosaurs Still Star in Many Human Dramas and Dreams,” New York Times, Oct. 14, 1997.
John Noble Wilford, “Horses, Mollusks and the Evolution of Bigness,” New York Times, Jan. 21, 1997.
Jerry E. Bishop, “Bones of Contention: Should Dr. Cope’s Be The Human Model?” Wall Street Journal, Nov. 1, 1994, A1.
“Dinosaur Book Has Museum Aide Losing His Head,” Baltimore Sun, Oct. 17, 1994, 6A.
“The Bricks of Scholarship,” New York Times, Jan. 21, 1988.
Dick Pothier, “Fossil Factions: Dinosaur Exhibit Points Out a Battle in Science,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 9, 1986, B.14.
Rose DeWolf, “Dinosaurs: Bone in the USA,” Philadelphia Daily News, Jan. 24, 1986, 52.
William Harper Davis, “Cope, a Master Pioneer of American Paleontology,” New York Times, July 5, 1931.
George Gaylord Simpson, “Mammals Were Humble When Dinosaurs Roved,” New York Times, Oct. 18, 1925.
“A Prehistoric Monster,” Hartford Republican, Sept. 1, 1905.
“The Scientists’ New President,” Topeka State Journal, Oct. 9, 1895.
David Mack, “This Woman With a ‘Rude’ Last Name Started the Best Thread on Twitter,” BuzzFeed News, Aug. 29, 2018.
Natalie Weiner, Twitter, Sept. 6, 2018.
Wikipedia, “Scunthorpe Problem” (accessed Sept. 6, 2018).
Declan McCullagh, “Google’s Chastity Belt Too Tight,” CNET, April 23, 2004.
Daniel Oberhaus, “Life on the Internet Is Hard When Your Last Name is ‘Butts,'” Motherboard, Aug. 29, 2018.
Matthew Moore, “The Clbuttic Mistake: When Obscenity Filters Go Wrong,” Telegraph, Sept. 2, 2008.
This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener David Malki.
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at email@example.com. Thanks for listening!
I just ran across this, offered by Morton C. Schwartz in an old issue of Pi Mu Episilon Journal:
Take any number of zeros and any number of ones and place them in a circle, in any order. Reproduce the circle a second time, concentrically with the first. Rotate either circle, and any number of places. The number of zeros opposite ones will always be even.
(Morton C. Schwartz, “An Amazing Parity Theorem,” Pi Mu Episilon Journal 5:7 [Fall 1972], 338.)
Cape Town artist Philip Barlow depicts “out-of-focus” cityscapes and beach scenes in oil paints. In photography this effect is known as bokeh, the blurring of elements that lie outside the depth of field. Others have said that Barlow renders the world as it might appear to a near-sighted person.
In this sense the subjects of his paintings are not the objects they depict but rather light itself. “The figures in the landscape serve as carriers and reflectors of the light that falls upon them. Bathed in the luminosity, it is my hope that they would become more beautiful. To me, light is the ultimate subject because it embodies the pinnacle of all reality.”
In James Joyce’s Ulysses, as Bloom attends Dignam’s funeral, an odd thought passes through his mind: “Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I’d like to know? Now, I’d give a trifle to know who he is. Always someone turns up you never dreamt of.” The interloper’s presence seems significant: “Mr Bloom stood far back, his hat in his hand, counting the bared heads. Twelve. I’m thirteen. No. The chap in the macintosh is thirteen. Death’s number. Where the deuce did he pop out of? He wasn’t in the chapel, that I’ll swear. Silly superstition that about thirteen.”
He turns up again later: “In Lower Mount street a pedestrian in a brown macintosh, eating dry bread, passed swiftly and unscathed across the viceroy’s path.”
And still later: “A man in a brown macintosh springs up through a trapdoor.”
Altogether the mysterious man is mentioned 11 times in the novel. In the Cyclops episode we’re told, “The man in the brown macintosh loves a lady who is dead,” and in Ithaca, a catechism of questions and answers, we’re asked, “What selfinvolved enigma did Bloom risen, going, gathering multicoloured multiform multitudinous garments, voluntarily apprehending, not comprehend? Who was M’Intosh?”
The question has never been answered definitively. But in his Cornell University lectures on Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov suggested that the “chap in the macintosh” is none other than James Joyce himself. In the library episode, “Scylla and Charybdis,” Stephen Dedalus explains that Shakespeare “has hidden his own name, a fair name, William, in the plays, a super here, a clown there, as a painter of old Italy set his face in a dark corner of his canvas.” This “is exactly what Joyce has done — setting his face in a dark corner of his canvas. The Man in the Brown Macintosh who passes through the dream of the book is no other than the author himself. Bloom glimpses his maker!”