“I Am Alone Without You”

A letter written by physicist Richard Feynman to his dead wife, Arline, Oct. 17, 1946:

D’Arline,

I adore you, sweetheart … It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you – almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing. But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and what I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead – but I still want to comfort and take care of you – and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you – I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together – or learn Chinese – or getting a movie projector.

Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures. When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried.

Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true – you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else – but I want to stand there.

I’ll bet that you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I – I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls … and I don’t want to remain alone – but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you. I love my wife. My wife is dead,

Rich.

At the end he wrote, “PS Please excuse my not mailing this – but I don’t know your new address.”

Yed, Bleen, Grue

Suppose I show you an emerald and ask whether it’s green or grue. It’s “grue” if it’s green today but will turn blue next Halloween.

Which is it? That’s the “new problem of induction,” according to philosopher of science Nelson Goodman. It’s a big problem: Scientists basically assume that the universe behaves consistently over time, but there’s no logical reason to expect this.

A more immediate usage: “Yed” is the color of a traffic signal when the last legal driver manages to get through the intersection. “The existence of the color yed is hotly debated in philosophy, and opposing viewpoints are often taken by traffic cops and vehicle operators.”

Maze Help

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cg_pp_maze.png
Image: Wikimedia Commons

There are a number of ways to solve a simple maze like the one above, by following a wall, for instance, or counting turns. But these don’t always work in high-dimensional mazes, and some require a compass or other orienteering knowledge. Suppose you find yourself in the nine-dimensional Arcturan Insanity Labyrinth, haunted by the six-souled Fury Demon of Ragnab Zeta? What then?

Your best hope is Tremaux’s algorithm, which works in all mazes with well-defined passages. Draw a line on the floor. When you reach a junction, turn around if you’ve been there before; otherwise pick any direction. If you revisit a passage that’s already marked, draw a second line (you’ll never need to take a passage more than twice) and at the next junction take an unmarked passage if you can.

That’s it. If there’s an exit, you’ll find it. If there isn’t, you’ll find yourself back at the start. Good luck with that demon.

London From Space

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/0304/london_iss_full.jpg

“London is the epitome of our times,” wrote Emerson, “and the Rome of to-day.” He never saw it from this angle, of course — by night, from the international space station. To the south are the “London Orbital” bypass, the M25, and below that the lights of Gatwick airport. Heathrow is just inside the M25 to the west. The Thames fans out to the east, and Hyde Park and Regents Park are two dark spots just west of the city’s center.

Number Names

The smallest number whose name is spelled with:

  • 3 letters is 1 (one)
  • 4 letters is 4 (four)
  • 5 letters is 3 (three)
  • 6 letters is 11 (eleven)
  • 7 letters is 15 (fifteen)
  • 8 letters is 13 (thirteen)
  • 9 letters is 17 (seventeen)
  • 10 letters is 24 (twenty-four)
  • 15 letters is 103 (one hundred three)
  • 20 letters is 124 (one hundred twenty-four)
  • 25 letters is 1104 (one thousand one hundred four)
  • 30 letters is 1117 (one thousand one hundred seventeen)
  • 40 letters is 13,373 (thirteen thousand three hundred seventy-three)
  • 50 letters is 113,373 (one hundred thirteen thousand three hundred seventy-three)
  • 100 letters is 11,373,373,373 (eleven billion three hundred seventy-three million three hundred seventy-three thousand three hundred seventy-three)

L’Enfant Sauvage

FeralChildren.com has harrowing stories of almost 100 resilient children — kids raised by ostriches, raised in henhouses, running with jackals, or simply living alone in a forest.

Tarzan and Mowgli were hugely romanticized fictions. Real feral kids walk on all fours, their growth is retarded, they have keen senses, and they’re impervious to heat, cold, and rain. What an awful life. Linnaeus even classed them as a separate species.

The Earth Moved

The New Madrid Compendium collects eyewitness descriptions of the worst earthquake in American history. The Richter scale hadn’t been invented in 1811, but this quake would have measured 8.0:

The vibration of the earth shook down trees, thousands of willows were swept off like a pipe stem, about waist high, and the swamps became high ground, and the high land became low ground, and two islands in the river were so shaken, washed away and sunk, as not to be found.

The kicker: This happened in Missouri, rocking the state hard enough to ring bells in Boston. Seismologists say there’s a 90 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 to 7.0 quake in the same area before 2040, affecting as much as 20 times the area of a West Coast quake. I wonder if their insurance rates reflect this?

A Great Big Hand

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polydactyly_01_Lhand_AP.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Once thought to be a sign of witchcraft, extra digits are actually the most common developmental abnormality found at birth. About two children in a thousand have extra fingers or toes.

They’re even more common among the Amish, probably due to the “founder effect” — because the original settlers were few, their genetic legacy is amplified among their descendants, and apparently one of them had an extra finger.

If it’s so common, why does it creep people out? Fictional villains from Hannibal Lecter to Count Rugen have been given extra digits, to make them seem alien and somehow menacing.

They’re actually in quite good company. Marilyn Monroe didn’t have extra digits, urban legends notwithstanding, but Anne Boleyn and Winston Churchill both did. And Atlanta Braves pitcher Antonio “The Octopus” Alfonseca was born with six fingers and six toes. I’d like to hear him play the piano.