Recalled to Life

In August 1857, 13-year-old Narcisse Pelletier left Marseilles as a cabin boy aboard the Saint-Paul, a three-masted ship bound for Sydney. The ship struck a reef in Papua New Guinea, and Pelletier was feared dead. His parents mourned him for 17 years, until July 21, 1875, when they received this letter:

papa mama i am not dead i am living narcisse I was on board the saint paul of bordeaux I had been shipwrecked in the rock of the savage of the island the chinese in the island stayed and died killed I came in a little boat to an island of savages I had looked for water to drink the captain left in the little boat I looked for water in the woods I stayed in the woods I then see the savages who live on its coast come who had found me the savage gave food and drink he did not kill I give my hand he did not hurt me I stayed in the wood for a very long time I was almost dead I had o great hunger and great drink I was in a lot of pain

Pelletier explained that after the sinking he, the captain, and the surviving crew had crossed the Coral Sea in an open boat to Cape York in northern Australia, where Pelletier was somehow left behind and discovered by a community of aborigines, with whom he lived until he was discovered that year by a landing party from pearling boat. He returned to France, where his thanksgiving mass was celebrated by the same priest who had baptized him 32 years earlier. He married and lived quietly as a lighthouse-keeper until his death in 1894.

Always Home

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Wikimedia Commons

The largest privately owned residential yacht on earth is The World, a private floating community conceived in 1997 by Norwegian shipping magnate Knut Kloster. The ship is owned jointly by its residents, 130 families from 19 countries, who spend an average of four months on board each year, and it circumnavigates the globe continuously on an itinerary that they choose.

Since its launch in 2002, the ship has visited 800 ports in 140 countries. It has 165 bespoke apartments, including a six-bedroom penthouse suite, a 7,000-square-foot spa, four major restaurants, three cafes, six bars, two swimming pools, a full-size tennis court, a driving range, an art gallery, a night club, a 12,000-bottle wine cellar, and a theater. The average resident is 64, and 35 percent are under 50.

The original inventory of units sold out in 2006, but “there are a select number of Residences available for resale.”

Difficult Music

faerie's aire and death waltz

Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz, by composer John Stump, includes the directions “Add bicycle,” “Duck,” and “Cool timpani with small fan.” The piece fills a single page.

To perform Stockhausen’s Helikopter-Streichquartett you’ll need four helicopters and a string quartet. A moderator introduces the musicians, each of whom boards a helicopter, and the four perform the piece while circling the auditorium at a distance of 6 kilometers. The audience watches and listens via audio and video monitors. At the end, the helicopters land and the musicians re-enter the hall to the sound of slowing rotor blades.

Marc-André Hamelin composed Circus Galop for player piano — it’s impossible for a human to play, as up to 21 notes are struck simultaneously.

Foul Play

On Aug. 17, 1957, in a game against the New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Richie Ashburn hit a foul ball into the stands and hit Alice Roth, the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth.

The game was stopped, and Roth received emergency medical treatment for a broken nose.

As she was being carried out on a stretcher, Ashburn hit a second foul — and hit her again.

Extended Tour

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In 1938, 18-year-old Korean soldier Yang Kyoungjong was conscripted into the Japanese army to fight against the Soviet Union.

He was captured by the Red Army, which pressed him into fighting the Nazis on the eastern front.

In 1943 he was captured by the Germans, who forced him to fight the invading Allies at Normandy.

There he was captured by American paratroopers in June 1944.

This means he fought for three different armies during World War II, and was captured each time. He died in Illinois in 1992.

The Indiana Pi Bill

In 1894, Indiana physician Edwin J. Goodwin published a one-page article in the American Mathematical Monthly claiming to have found a method of squaring the circle — that is, of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle using only a compass and straightedge, a task known to be impossible. He proposed a bill to state representative Taylor I. Record, laying out the “new mathematical truth” and offering it “as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the legislature of 1897.”

Apparently flummoxed, the House referred the bill to its Committee on Swamp Lands, which transferred it to the Committee on Education … which approved it. Whereupon the whole house passed it unanimously.

The bill, which the Indianapolis Journal was already calling “the strangest bill that has ever passed an Indiana Assembly,” moved on to the senate, which referred it the Committee on Temperance. (Chronicler Will E. Edington writes, “One wonders whether this was done intentionally, for certainly the bill could have been referred to no committee more appropriately named.”) Equally flummoxed, the committee recommended that it pass.

The bill might have achieved full passage had not Purdue mathematics professor C.A. Waldo happened to be visiting the House that day. “A member … showed the writer a copy of the bill just passed and asked him if he would like an introduction to the learned doctor,” Waldo later recalled in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science. “He declined the courtesy with thanks, remarking that he was acquainted with as many crazy people as he cared to know.”

That did it. “Representative Record’s mathematical bill legalizing a formula for squaring the circle was brought up and made fun of,” reported by Indianapolis News on Feb. 13. “The Senators made bad puns about it, ridiculed it and laughed over it. The fun lasted half an hour. Senator Hubbell said that it was not meet for the Senate, which was costing the State $250 a day, to waste its time in such frivolity.”

“Senator Hubbell characterized the bill as utter folly,” added the Indianapolis Journal. “The Senate might as well try to legislate water to run up hill as to establish mathematical truth by law.”

Trinity

In 1959, psychologist Milton Rokeach assembled three mentally ill patients each of whom believed he was Jesus Christ:

Leon: “People can use the same Bible but some of them will worship Jesus Christ instead of worshiping God through Jesus Christ.”

Clyde: “We worship both.”

Leon: “I don’t worship you. I worship God Almighty through you, and through him, and him.”

Clyde: “You oughta worship me, I’ll tell you that!”

Leon: “I will not worship you! You’re a creature! You better live your own life and wake up to the facts.”

Clyde: “I’m living my life. You don’t wake up! You can’t wake up!”

Joseph: “No two men are Jesus Christs.”

Leon: “You hear mechanical voices.”

Clyde: “You don’t get it right. I don’t care what you call it. I hear natural voices. I hear to heaven. I hear all over.”

Joseph: “I’m going back to England.”

Leon: “Sir, if the good Lord wills only.”

Joseph: “Good Lord! I’m the good Lord!”

Leon: “That’s your belief, sir.”

Rokeach intended the study as an inquiry into the nature of identity: If there is only one son of God, how would these men react on encountering one another? He found that they explained the disagreement by calling one another crazy, duped, or disingenuous, but that the conflict was less damaging psychologically than might have been supposed. In his 1964 account of the experiment, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, Rokeach writes, “We have learned that even when a summit of three is composed of paranoid men, deadlocked over the ultimate in human contradiction, they prefer to seek ways to live with one another in peace rather than destroy one another.”

Cameo

http://books.google.com/books?id=KawvAAAAMAAJ

I beg to send you the enclosed photo, as a contribution to your ‘Curiosity’ pages. A brother of mine tried to step through a long window, thinking it was open. He found it was closed, but succeeded in opening part of it, leaving the profile of Sir Wm. Harcourt in the gap. This is just as the glass remained when the noise subsided. — Mr. Arthur R. Mills, 38, Billing Road, Northampton

Strand, February 1902

Reflected Glory

The town of Viganella in the Italian Alps receives no direct sun for 83 days each year. So in 2006 mayor Pierfranco Midali commissioned a 26-by-16-foot mirror to be placed on a nearby mountainside at 3,600 feet. Tracking the sun with computer-controlled motors, the mirror throws light into the town square for six hours each day.

The illuminated area measures 300 square yards. “I can already see my little old ladies coming out of the church after mass and just standing there, enjoying a bit of sun,” Midali said.