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This is the world’s first successful permanent photograph, “View From the Window at Le Gras,” created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826.

The exposure required eight hours, so the buildings are illuminated from both right and left.

“Halfway to Hell”

One “smoot” is five feet seven inches, or about 1.7 meters.

It’s named for Oliver R. Smoot, an ill-starred MIT pledge whose fraternity brothers rolled him head over heels to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge in October 1958.

The bridge measured “364.4 smoots plus one ear.” The markings are repainted each year by the incoming pledge class of Lambda Chi Alpha.

Ironically, Smoot later became chairman of the American National Standards Institute.

Great Wall From Space

The Great Wall of China, as seen from the space shuttle. Contrary to popular belief, an unaided viewer cannot see it from the moon. One shuttle astronaut said, “We can see things as small as airport runways, [but] the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up.” An Apollo astronaut said no human structures were visible at a distance of a few thousand miles. And — most tellingly — Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei couldn’t see it at all.

“Because He Left a Residue at Every Pole”

Incomprehensible math jokes:

Q: What is lavender and commutes?
A: An Abelian semigrape.

Q: What’s yellow, linear, normed, and complete?
A: A Bananach space.

Q: What’s the value of a contour integral around Western Europe?
A: Zero, because all the Poles are in Eastern Europe.

Q: What do you get when you cross a mountain climber with a mosquito?
A. Nothing: you can’t cross a scaler with a vector.

Q: What’s hot, chunky, and acts on a polygon?
A: Dihedral soup.

Q: What sound does a drowning analytic number theorist make?
A: “Log log log log …”

Q: What’s sour, yellow, and equivalent to the axiom of choice?
A: Zorn’s lemon.

“Mathematicians are like Frenchmen,” wrote Goethe. “Whatever you say to them they translate into their own language, and forthwith it is something entirely different.”