This is floating on the web — I don’t know who came up with it:
The geographical center of Boston is in Roxbury. Due north of the center is the South End. This is not to be confused with South Boston, which lies directly east from the South End. North of the South End is East Boston, and southwest of East Boston is the North End.
“We say the cows laid out Boston,” wrote Emerson. “Well, there are worse surveyors.”
Hawaiian artist Sean Yoro paints murals positioned near or in large bodies of water. He paints on the sides of shipwrecks, abandoned docks, and submerged walls, often on themes of climate change and rising sea levels, balancing on a paddleboard and using environmentally friendly materials.
“Combining both my art and environmental passions happened almost by accident at first, when I started creating murals along ocean walls,” he told the Met. “I always had underlying messages of sustainability and awareness, but this was the first concept I could literally combine these two aspects of my life influences into one. Every project since then has seamlessly integrated both values into their own unique stories naturally.”
In 2006 Martin Gardner asked: Can you arrange the 16 non-pawn pieces in a standard chess set on a 5 × 5 board so that no piece attacks a piece of the opposite color? As in a conventional game, the two bishops of each color must stand on squares of opposite colors.
A puzzle from the 1997 Ukrainian Mathematical Olympiad:
Cells of some rectangular board are coloured as chessboard cells. In each cell an integer is written. It is known that the sum of the numbers in each row is even and the sum of numbers in each column is even. Prove that the sum of all numbers in the black cells is even.
To begin with, notice that the sum of the numbers in the white cells in any given row or column must have the same parity (odd or even) as the sum of the numbers in the black cells. That’s necessary because we know that the sum of the whole row (or column) is even: If the white total is even, then the black total must be even, and if the white total is odd then the black total must be odd.
Since that’s so, and since we’re interested only in parity, then in evaluating the black squares over the board as a whole we can make that substitution — in a given row or column, we can substitute the parity of the white sum for the parity of the black sum.
Then let’s calculate the sum of the board’s black cells by considering each column in turn, and we’ll choose to sum the black cells in the odd-numbered columns and the white cells in the even-numbered columns. But that’s just the same as summing every second row on the board, and we already know that each of those totals is even. So the final sum must be even.
I just noticed this last night in Joseph Wood Krutch’s Treasury of Bird Lore — in 1832 ornithologist Alexander Wilson encountered a flock of passenger pigeons near Frankfort, Kentucky, that he estimated at 2,230,270,000 birds. If each bird ate only a pint of beech nuts in the course of a day, the flock would consume nearly 35 million bushels a day. A century and a half earlier, in 1687, Louis Armand, Baron de Lahontan, reported that pigeons had “so swarmed and ravaged the colonists’ crop near Montreal that a bishop was constrained to exorcise them with holy-water, as if they had been demons.”
Yet by 1914 human rapacity had reduced the species to a single bird, Martha, who died that year at the Cincinnati Zoo.
In 1947 actress Gay Gibson disappeared from her cabin on an ocean liner off the coast of West Africa. The deck steward, James Camb, admitted to pushing her body out a porthole, but insisted she had died of natural causes and not in a sexual assault. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the curious case of the porthole murder, which is still raising doubts today.
We’ll also explore another fraudulent utopia and puzzle over a pedestrian’s victory.
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
In The Two-Move Chess Problem (1890), Benjamin Glover Laws calls the first move here “ideal” and “splendid.” “[I]t is not always a composer’s good fortune to strike a vein which is susceptible of such an excellent opening move as is illustrated in this problem.” What is it?
Reader David Kastelan just let me know about this — in 2015 someone scammed €80 million from wealthy victims by donning a silicone mask to impersonate French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Ostensibly he was asking for financial help in raising ransoms for journalists held hostage by Islamists.
“Everything about the story is exceptional,” Le Drian’s lawyer told the BBC. “They dared to take on the identity of a serving French minister. Then they called up CEOs and heads of government round the world and asked for vast amounts of money. The nerve of it!”
Early contacts were made by phone, but eventually “Le Drian” appeared on Skype in a brief call from a poorly lit ministerial office. Many of the targets refused, but the Aga Khan lost €18 million, and an unnamed Turkish businessman lost at least €40 million.
No one knows who’s responsible, but one suspect is French-Israeli con man Gilbert Chikli. He’s currently in jail in Paris, and the calls have stopped, but it’s possible that other gang members are still at large.
In 2012 computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky set a plasmodium of the slime mold Physarum polycephalum into a maze with an oat flake at its center. By following a gradient of chemo-attractants given off by the flake, the plasmodium was able to solve the maze in one pass, extending a protoplasmic tube to the target.
The original recording was made at one frame per five minutes; this playback is 25-30 frames per second.
“I once spent all day thinking without taking food and all night thinking without going to bed, but I found that I gained nothing from it. It would have been better for me to have spent the time in learning.” — Confucius