Clout

But for the next [Maryland] assembly in 1638 the records show that some free men attended in person while others delegated representatives, each of whom was entitled to his own vote and also to all the votes of those who had selected him as their representative. …

The result was a politically bizarre situation: within the assembly some men had only their own vote, while others had the votes of all their proxies in addition to their own. One one occasion an aspiring politician named Giles Brent had enough proxies (seventy-three) to constitute a majority of the assembly all by himself.

— Edmund S. Morgan, Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America, 1988

(Thanks, Keith.)

Podcast Episode 323: The Blind Traveler

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Holman_by_John_Richardson_Jackson.jpg

When a mysterious illness blinded him at age 25, British naval officer James Holman took up a new pursuit: travel. For the next 40 years he roamed the world alone, describing his adventures in a series of popular books. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe Holman’s remarkable career and his unique perspective on his experiences.

We’ll also remember some separating trains and puzzle over an oddly drawn battle plan.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 322: Joseph Medicine Crow

http://www.futilitycloset.com/support-us/

Joseph Medicine Crow was raised on a Montana reservation in the warrior tradition of his Crow forefathers. But during World War II he found himself applying those lessons in very different circumstances. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe Joseph’s exploits in the war and how they helped to shape his future.

We’ll also consider how to distinguish identical twins and puzzle over a physicist’s beer.

See full show notes …

Misc

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pete_Conrad_on_LM_ladder,_Apollo_12.jpg

  • Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor in Doctor Who, is the father-in-law of David Tennant, who played the 10th.
  • Sharks are older than trees.
  • ABHORS, ALMOST, BEGINS, BIOPSY, and CHINTZ are alphabetical.
  • \displaystyle \sqrt{7! + 1} = 71
  • “The punishment can be remitted; the crime is everlasting.” — Ovid

“Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!” — Pete Conrad, after becoming the third human to set foot on the moon

Podcast Episode 321: The Calculating Boy

https://books.google.com/books?id=7bcVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

George Parker Bidder was born with a surprising gift: He could do complex arithmetic in his head. His feats of calculation would earn for him a university education, a distinguished career in engineering, and fame throughout 19th-century England. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe his remarkable ability and the stunning displays he made with it.

We’ll also try to dodge some foul balls and puzzle over a leaky ship.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 320: John Hornby and the Barren Lands

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hornby_1924.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 319: Friedrich Kellner’s Opposition

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Friedrich_and_Pauline_Kellner_in_1914.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the 1930s, German civil servant Friedrich Kellner was outraged by the increasing brutality of the Nazi party and the complicity of his fellow citizens. He began to keep a secret diary to record the crimes of the Third Reich and his condemnations of his countrymen. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll tell the story of Friedrich’s diary and his outspoken warnings to future generations.

We’ll also ponder the problem with tardigrades and puzzle over a seemingly foolish choice.

See full show notes …

A Captivating Entertainment

https://books.google.com/books?id=TlcH33FzY3cC

Visitors to La Granja, Philip V’s retreat overlooking Madrid, may have found this unusual labyrinth a bit too involving. It’s a “vortex maze”: It “leads you directly to the centre, but its spiralling options for exit are your undoing,” explain Angus Hyland and Kendra Wilson in The Maze: A Labyrinthine Compendium (2018). “On paper, it is a beautiful design, and in reality it is almost twice as large as the ‘record-breaking’ maze at Longleat, made 250 years later.”

Philip’s French landscapers drew it from La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, the best-selling gardening manual published by Antoine Joseph Dezallier d’Argenville in 1709.

Remembrance

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shrine_of_Remembrance,_Melbourne_2017-10-28_01.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, built to honor the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I, contains a marble stone engraved with the words Greater love hath no man (from John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”).

The shrine is constructed so that once a year, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, a ray of sunlight will shine through an aperture in the roof to illuminate the word love.

Arizona’s Anthem Veterans Memorial has a related design.

11/14/2020 UPDATE: An interesting addendum: The introduction of daylight saving in 1971 led designers to introduce a system of mirrors to ensure the right timing. Thanks to everyone who wrote in about this.

The Church Cipher

In 1775, an enciphered message was intercepted en route from colonial physician Benjamin Church to a British officer in Boston. Part of the message appears below. What does it say?

https://www.nps.gov/articles/decoding-benjamin-church.htm

Click for Answer