In the Kinkerbuurt, Amsterdam, the streets are named after Dutch poets and writers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Correspondingly, Yugoslavian artist Sanja Medic transformed the façade of a local building into a case holding 250 ceramic “books” by these authors.
It’s a substantial library — each volume weighs more than 25 kg, so the frontage had to be reinforced to support them.
Norbert Wiener of MIT was well known as an extreme example of someone who could get lost in thought. Once while walking on campus, Wiener met an acquaintance, and after a while he asked his companion: ‘Which way was I walking when we met?’ The man pointed, and Wiener said, ‘Good. Then I’ve had my lunch.’
— Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner, Loving and Hating Mathematics: Challenging the Myths of Mathematical Life, 2010
Japanese publisher Nikoli produces this geometric logic puzzle. Can you divide this grid into rectangular and square pieces such that each piece contains exactly one number and each number reflects its piece’s area?
English philanthropist Lady Jane Stanley financed footpaths through her native Knutsford with an odd proviso:
For some unknown reason Lady Jane disliked to see men and women linked together, i.e. walking arm in arm; and in her donations for the pavement of the town, provided that a single flag in breadth should be the limit of her generosity,– but she did not specify how broad the single flag was to be, and I fear her wishes are evaded, and the disapproved linking together often indulged in: the chief security for her order being observed is the disagreeable fact that in many places the streets and consequently the raised pavements are too narrow to allow of more than a very slender foot-path, so that if the lasses occupy the flags, the swains must either walk behind, or pick their way in the channel.
Never married, she composed her own epitaph:
A maid I lived,– a maid I died,–
I never was asked,– and never denied.
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John Hornby left a privileged background in England to roam the vast subarctic tundra of northern Canada. There he became known as “the hermit of the north,” famous for staying alive in a land with very few resources. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll spend a winter with Hornby, who’s been called “one of the most colorful adventurers in modern history.”
We’ll also consider an anthropologist’s reputation and puzzle over an unreachable safe.
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
In 2014, after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology, scientists David Mazières and Eddie Kohler submitted a paper titled “Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.”
The acceptance bolsters the authors’ contention that IJACT is a predatory journal, an indiscriminate but superficially scholarly publication that subsists on editorial fees. Mazières said, “They told me to add some more recent references and do a bit of reformatting. But otherwise they said its suitability for the journal was excellent.”
He didn’t pursue it. And, at least as of 2014, “They still haven’t taken me off their mailing list.”
Every farmer who owns a donkey beats it. The pronoun it in this sentence seems to have a clear meaning. But does it? Normally the phrase a donkey refers to some particular donkey; the indefinite article a refers to something that exists. But here its meaning is more abstract — a donkey seems to refer to a whole class of unfortunate donkeys. And in that case the pronoun it seems to have nothing to point to.
Yet most readers have no trouble understanding the sentence. How?