Podcast Episode 358: The Radium Girls

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In 1917, a New Jersey company began hiring young women to paint luminous marks on the faces of watches and clocks. As time went on, they began to exhibit alarming symptoms, and a struggle ensued to establish the cause. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Radium Girls, a landmark case in labor safety.

We’ll also consider some resurrected yeast and puzzle over a posthumous journey.

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Podcast Episode 357: Scenes From an Earthquake

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The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is remembered for its destructive intensity and terrible death toll. But the scale of the disaster can mask some remarkable personal stories. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the experiences of some of the survivors, which ranged from the horrific to the surreal.

We’ll also consider a multilingual pun and puzzle over a deadly reptile.

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Podcast Episode 356: A Strawberry’s Journey

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The modern strawberry has a surprisingly dramatic story, involving a French spy in Chile, a perilous ocean voyage, and the unlikely meeting of two botanical expatriates. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the improbable origin of one of the world’s most popular fruits.

We’ll also discuss the answers to some of our queries and puzzle over a radioactive engineer.

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Podcast Episode 355: The Auckland Islands Castaways

https://books.google.com/books?id=SP8BAAAAQAAJ

In 1864, two ships’ crews were cast away at the same time on the same remote island in the Southern Ocean. But the two groups would undergo strikingly different experiences. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Auckland Islands castaways and reflect on its implications for the wider world.

We’ll also consider some fateful illnesses and puzzle over a street fighter’s clothing.

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Podcast Episode 354: Falling Through a Thunderstorm

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In 1959, Marine pilot William Rankin parachuted from a malfunctioning jet into a violent thunderstorm. The ordeal that followed is almost unique in human experience. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Rankin’s harrowing adventure, which has been called “the most prolonged and fantastic parachute descent in history.”

We’ll also hear your thoughts on pronunciation and puzzle over mice and rice.

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Podcast Episode 353: Lateral Thinking Puzzles

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Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles — play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

Intro:

Lili McGrath’s 1915 “floor polisher” is a pair of slippers connected by a cord.

Eighteenth-century English landowners commissioned custom ruins.

The sources for this week’s puzzles are below. In some cases we’ve included links to further information — these contain spoilers, so don’t click until you’ve listened to the episode:

Puzzle #1 is from listener Moxie LaBouche.

Puzzle #2 is from listener Cheryl Jensen, who sent this link.

Puzzle #3 is from listener Theodore Warner. Here’s a link.

Puzzle #4 is from listener David Morgan.

Puzzle #5 is from listener Bryan Ford, who sent these links.

Puzzle #6 is from listener John Rusk, who sent this link.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode 352: A Victorian Hippopotamus

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In 1850, England received a distinguished guest: A baby hippopotamus arrived at the London Zoo. Obaysch was an instant celebrity, attracting throngs of visitors while confounding his inexperienced keepers. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe his long tenure at the zoo, more than 4,000 miles from his Egyptian home.

We’ll also remark on a disappearing signature and puzzle over a hazardous hand sign.

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Podcast Episode 350: Symmes’ Hole

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In 1818, Army veteran John Cleves Symmes Jr. declared that the earth was hollow and proposed to lead an expedition to its interior. He promoted the theory in lectures and even won support on Capitol Hill. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Symmes’ strange project and its surprising consequences.

We’ll also revisit age fraud in sports and puzzle over a curious customer.

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Podcast Episode 349: The National Hotel Disease

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In 1857 guests at Washington D.C.’s National Hotel began to come down with a mysterious illness. One of them was James Buchanan, who was preparing to assume the presidency of the United States. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the deadly outbreak and the many theories that were offered to explain it.

We’ll also contemplate timpani and puzzle over an Old West astronaut.

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