Seduction

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bust_Of_Bertrand_Russell-Red_Lion_Square-London.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1940 Bertrand Russell was invited to teach logic at the City College of New York.

A Mrs. Kay of Brooklyn opposed the appointment, citing Russell’s agnosticism and his alleged practice of sexual immorality.

In the lawsuit his works were described as “lecherous, libidinous, lustful, venerous, erotomaniac, aphrodisiac, irreverent, narrowminded, untruthful, and bereft of moral fiber.”

“Although he lost the case, the aging Russell was delighted to have been described as ‘aphrodisiac,'” writes Betsy Devine in Absolute Zero Gravity. “‘I cannot think of any predecessors,’ he claimed, ‘except Apuleius and Othello.'”

Podcast Episode 232: The Indomitable Spirit of Douglas Bader

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Squadron_Leader_Douglas_Bader,_CO_of_No._242_Squadron,_seated_on_his_Hawker_Hurricane_at_Duxford,_September_1940._CH1406.jpg

Douglas Bader was beginning a promising career as a British fighter pilot when he lost both legs in a crash. But that didn’t stop him — he learned to use artificial legs and went on to become a top flying ace in World War II. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review Bader’s inspiring story and the personal philosophy underlay it.

We’ll also revisit the year 536 and puzzle over the fate of a suitcase.

Intro:

In 1872 Celia Thaxter published an unsettling poem about an iceberg.

In 193 the Praetorian Guard auctioned off the Roman empire.

Sources for our story on Douglas Bader:

Paul Brickhill, Reach for the Sky, 1954.

S.P. Mackenzie, Bader’s War, 2008.

Andy Saunders, Bader’s Last Fight, 2007.

Joel Ralph, “Their Finest Hour,” Canada’s History 95:6 (December 2015/January 2016), 22-31.

Paul Laib, “Bader, Sir Douglas Robert Steuart,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, May 19, 2011.

A.W.G. English, “Psychology of Limb Loss,” BMJ: British Medical Journal 299:6710 (Nov. 18, 1989), 1287.

“Obituary,” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 130:5315 (October 1982), 750-751.

The Douglas Bader Foundation.

Neil Tweedie, “Tribute to a Very British Hero,” Daily Telegraph, Aug. 10, 2001, 10.

“Reaching for the Sky: Lady Bader Unveils Statue in Honour of Sir Douglas,” Birmingham Post, Aug. 10, 2001, 6.

“Who Really Shot Down Douglas Bader?” Daily Telegraph, Aug. 9, 2001, 23.

Arifa Akbar, “In Memory of a Legendary Hero,” [Darlington, UK] Northern Echo, Aug. 8, 2001, 8.

“Sir Douglas Bader, Legless RAF Ace Who Shot Down 22 German Planes,” Associated Press, Sept. 6, 1982, 1.

“Sir Douglas Bader, World War II Ace,” Associated Press, Sept. 5, 1982.

Herbert Mitgang, “He Fought Sitting Down,” New York Times, Nov. 17, 1957.

“Legless British Pilot to Aid Veterans Here,” New York Times, May 7, 1947.

“Legless Air Hero Enters British Title Golf Event,” New York Times, April 5, 1946.

“Legless RAF Ace Honored,” New York Times, Nov. 28, 1945.

“Bader, Legless RAF Flier, Freed by Yanks in Reich,” New York Times, April 19, 1945.

“Germans Recapture Flier Bader As He Tries Out Those New Legs; Bader Is Caught Trying to Escape,” New York Times, Sept. 29, 1941.

“Bader Gets New Artificial Leg, But Escape Attempt Fails,” [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Sept. 29, 1941 A-4.

“Legless Pilot Honored; Bader, Now War Prisoner, Gets Bar to Flying Cross,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 1941.

“Epic of Bader’s Leg,” New York Times, Aug. 21, 1941.

“R.A.F., on Sweep, Drops Artificial Leg for Bader,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 1941.

“Bader Is Nazi Prisoner; Legless R.A.F. Ace Safe After Parachuting in France,” New York Times, Aug. 15, 1941.

“Bader, Legless R.A.F. Ace, Reported Missing,” New York Times, Aug. 13, 1941.

“Two British Air Force Aces, One Legless, Reported Missing,” [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Aug. 12, 1941, A-18.

“10 Leading R.A.F. Aces Listed for Exploits,” New York Times, Jan. 10, 1941.

https://lv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Att%C4%93ls:Squadron_Leader_Douglas_Bader_(centre)_and_fellow_pilots_of_No._242_Squadron,_Flight_Lieutenant_Eric_Ball_and_Pilot_Officer_Willie_McKnight,_admire_the_nose_art_on_Bader%27s_Hawker_Hurricane_at_Duxford,_October_1940._CH1412.jpg

Bader with Flight Lieutenant Eric Ball and Pilot Officer Willie McKnight of No. 242 Squadron, Duxford, October 1940. Bader himself designed the squadron’s emblem, a boot kicking Hitler in the breeches.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “Settlement of Iceland” (accessed Jan. 4, 2019).

Wikipedia, “History of Iceland” (accessed Jan. 4, 2019).

Wikipedia, “Papar” (accessed Jan. 4, 2019).

Encyclopedia.com, “The Discovery and Settlement of Iceland” (accessed Jan. 4, 2019).

Neil Schlager, Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery, 2001.

Wikipedia, “Thule” (accessed Jan. 4, 2019).

Wikipedia, “(486958) 2014 MU69” (accessed Jan. 4, 2019).

NASA, “New Horizons Chooses Nickname for ‘Ultimate’ Flyby Target,” March 13, 2018.

“Is This the Reason Ireland Converted to Christianity?,” Smithsonian Channel, June 26, 2014.

Mike Wall, “How Halley’s Comet Is Linked to a Famine 1,500 Years Ago,” NBC News, Dec. 19 2013.

Colin Barras, “The Year of Darkness,” New Scientist 221:2952 (2014), 34-38.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jeff King.

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!

Servant Trouble

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

In What the Butler Saw, E.S. Turner reviews the bizarre case of Hannah More, whose servants formed a conspiracy to rob and defraud her. “The most shameless peculation prevailed in the kitchen,” noted the Rev. Henry Thompson. “Orders were issued to the tradesmen in her name of which the servants reaped the benefit. Monies given for charity were appropriated by the servants.”

Worse, the servants held silent parties below stairs after More had retired for the night. At midnight, the servants from neighboring houses would converge on her home in Somerset, “some creeping through hedges, others descending down laurel walks or emerging from thickets” to enjoy “hot suppers laid out with parlour-like elegance.”

Eventually, tired of keeping quiet, they began to organize balls at a hall a mile away. A suspicious guest of More’s, spying from a window, saw the servants depart the house, dressed up and led by the housekeeper and coachman arm in arm. A scullery maid was left behind to admit the returning servants in time for morning prayers.

Told of this, More asked in a faltering voice, “What, Susan unfaithful, who has lived with me so many years?” “Yes.” “And Timothy, whose relations I have fed and clothed?” “Yes.” “And Teddy and Rebecca and Jane?” “Yes, all.” “What? Not one faithful?” “The whole are faithless!”

More resolved to leave them all and find a new home where she could spend her last days “in calmness, prayer, and praise.” She summoned the villains to the drawing room and told them, “You are no longer my servants. By deserting me and my house at midnight to pursue your revels, you all proved yourselves to be unworthy of my confidence. Your unprincipled conduct has driven me from my home, forced me to seek a refuge among strangers.”

She left a quarter’s wages for each of them and departed in a friend’s coach. “I am driven like Eve from Paradise,” she said, “but not by angels.”

Team Players

In human societies, if some individuals fail to cooperate in joint enterprises, there’s often an institution that imposes sanctions on them. If there isn’t, people seem to be willing to punish them directly, even at a cost to themselves. How does that behavior get started? How does a cooperative society “get off the ground”?

In 2007, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Vienna created a model in which individuals can choose either to receive a secure income or to play a risky game. Those who choose to play the game can either pay a fee or choose not to. The fee supports an investment, the proceeds of which are distributed among all the players. If enough of the players pay the fee, then everyone benefits. But if too many players opt out of paying the fee, then the remaining donors suffer.

In order to avoid that situation, the donors are allowed to impose a penalty on the freeloaders, but this incurs a cost for them, so not every donor will choose to enforce it. So overall there are four strategies: nonparticipants don’t play the game at all; freeloaders play but choose not to pay the fee; contributors pay the fee but choose not to impose penalties on the freeloaders; and enforcers play the game and punish the freeloaders.

After many rounds of computer simulation, the researchers were surprised to find that when participation in the game was mandatory, most of the players became freeloaders, and the game fell apart because no one was willing to pay the fees. Adding enforcers at this point couldn’t save the game — they could make no headway against the freeloaders.

But when opting out of the game was permitted — when players could choose to receive a secure income instead of playing the game — many of the freeloaders simply withdrew, leaving behind contributors, enforcers, and a few freeloaders. And now the resulting game was stablest if the enforcers dominated the group, since they ensured that everyone cooperated. If contributors began to outnumber enforcers — that is, if the group became unwilling to punish freeloaders — then the freeloaders took over and everything fell apart again.

“The paradoxical result is that cooperation can be enforced by penalizing freeloaders, but only if participation in the community is voluntary,” writes George Szpiro in A Mathematical Medley. “This reminds us that discipline in the dreaded foreign legion, which legionnaires join of their own free will, is legendary. In the compulsory army, on the other hand, it is often in rather short supply.”

(Christoph Hauert et al., “Via Freedom to Coercion: The Emergence of Costly Punishment,” Science 316:5833 [2007], 1905-1907, via George Szpiro, A Mathematical Medley, 2010.)

Podcast Episode 228: The Children’s Champion

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:251012_Janusz_Korczak_monument_at_Jewish_Cemetery_in_Warsaw_-_05.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Polish educator Janusz Korczak set out to remake the world just as it was falling apart. In the 1930s his Warsaw orphanage was an enlightened society run by the children themselves, but he struggled to keep that ideal alive as Europe descended into darkness. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the children’s champion and his sacrifices for the orphans he loved.

We’ll also visit an incoherent space station and puzzle over why one woman needs two cars.

See full show notes …

“Map of the Road to Hell!!”

https://www.loc.gov/item/2013585074/

This is literally the first thing you find if you search the Library of Congress for “map of the road”. I.N. Barrillon drew it in 1858. “Reader! how far have you travelled on this dreadful road? Examine thyself! Turn ye turn ye for why will you die!!”

You can’t make out all the details here (the library has some beautiful larger scans), but it’s amazing what will land you in trouble. The major rivers in Hell are Gambling River, Drunkenness River, and Perdition River, but the tributaries include Chess Creek, Backgammon Branch, Lottery Creek, Egg Nog Creek, Cider Branch, and Lemonade Branch.

In his 1973 Atlas of Fantasy, J.B. Post writes, “The quickest way to the Great Lake of Fire and Brimstone is by the Suicide Rail Road and the Duelist’s Rail Road. One can meander along the road but shortcuts are provided for liars, drunkards, gamblers, and perjurors. All, however, finally go ‘blip’ into the Great Lake.”

“Not shown is the road to Heaven called ‘the Path of Ennui.'”

Reflection

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“All comfort must be based on discomfort. Man chooses when he wishes to be most joyful the very moment when the whole material universe is most sad.” — G.K. Chesterton, introduction to Dickens’ Christmas Books, 1907

The Camden Bench

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

The London borough of Camden enshrined disapproval in 2012 with a concrete bench designed to deter sleeping, skateboarding, drug dealing, graffiti, and theft. Its surface discourages any activity but sitting, it contains no crevices or hiding places, its surface repels paint, and it weighs two tons.

The result has been called a “masterpiece of unpleasant design,” a “perfect anti-object” “defined far more by what it is not than what it is,” and an example of “hostile architecture” oppressive to the homeless. The designers, Factory Furniture, responded by saying, “Homelessness should never be tolerated in any society and if we start designing in to accommodate homeless then we have totally failed as a society. Close proximity to homelessness unfortunately makes us uncomfortable so perhaps it is good that we feel that and recognise homelessness as a problem rather than design to accommodate it.”

Whether it discourages skateboarders is debatable.

Kindred Spirits

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Image: geograph

Cork, Ireland, displays a sculpture dedicated to the Choctaw Indian Nation. Moved by reports of the Great Hunger of 1845-1851, and recalling their own deprivation as they were removed from their ancestral lands, a group of Oklahoma Choctaw raised $170 in 1847 and forwarded it toward relief of the famine.

In 1995, Irish president Mary Robinson visited the Choctaw to thank them for supporting the Irish people, to whom they had no link but “a common humanity, a common sense of another people suffering.” In 1992 22 Irish men and women walked the 600-mile Trail of Tears, raising $1,000 for every dollar that the Choctaw had given in 1847, and passed the money on to relieve suffering in Somalia.

The Choctaw have donated to New York’s Firefighters Fund after the 2001 terrorist attacks; to Save the Children and the Red Cross in 2004 for tsunami relief; to Hurricane Katrina relief in 2005; to victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2018; and to people affected by hurricanes in Houston, Puerto Rico, and Florida. In 2008 the Choctaw Nation received the United States National Freedom Award for its efforts supporting the National Guard and Reserve and their families.