Public Spirit

The Guinness record for the most fraudulent election ever reported belongs to the Liberian general election of 1927, in which President Charles D.B. King was re-elected over challenger Thomas J. Faulkner:

Candidate Votes %
Charles D.B. King 243,000 96.43
Thomas J. Faulkner 9,000 3.57
Total 252,000 100.00

As there were fewer than 15,000 registered voters, this represents a turnout of 1,680 percent — robust indeed.

The Friendship Medals

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nishida-Oe_medal.jpg

At the 1936 Olympics, Japanese pole vaulters Sueo Oe and Shuhei Nishida tied for second place, and the Japanese team were told to decide who should claim second place and who third.

After a long discussion, the team chose to favor Nishida, who had cleared 4.25 meters at his first attempt.

When they returned to Japan, Nishida and Oe had a jeweler cut each medal in half and then join the disparate halves, so that each man had a new medal, half silver and half bronze.

Podcast Episode 345: Climbing Mont Blanc

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henriette_d%27Angeville_and_her_party_ascending_Mont_Blanc,_18_Wellcome_V0025176EL.jpg

In 1838, Frenchwoman Henriette d’Angeville set out to climb Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, against the advice of nearly everyone she knew. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow d’Angeville up the mountain to fulfill what she called “a monomania of the heart.”

We’ll also escape Australia in a box and puzzle over a fixed game.

See full show notes …

Streets and Order

https://appliednetsci.springeropen.com/articles/10.1007/s41109-019-0189-1

This is interesting: USC urban planning professor Geoff Boeing examined the street networks of 100 world cities as a measure of their spatial logic and order.

The cities with the most ordered streets are Chicago, Miami, and Minneapolis; most disordered are Charlotte, São Paulo, and Rome.

“On average, US/Canadian study sites are far more grid-like than those elsewhere, exhibiting less entropy and circuity.”

(Geoff Boeing, “Urban Spatial Order: Street Network Orientation, Configuration, and Entropy,” Applied Network Science 4:1 [2019], 1-19.) (Via Ethan Mollick.)

Neighbors

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2fca2kvsvpkak41/AADSqcRVBEm7c3K68uDWPfUha?dl=0

In the spirit of amity, Vilnius, Lithuania, has installed a “portal” that allows residents to make contact in real time with the inhabitants of Lublin, Poland. Each city hosts a large circular screen and cameras by which residents can interact in real time via the Internet.

“Humanity is facing many potentially deadly challenges; be it social polarisation, climate change or economic issues,” said organizer Benediktas Gylys. “However, if we look closely, it’s not a lack of brilliant scientists, activists, leaders, knowledge or technology causing these challenges. It’s tribalism, a lack of empathy and a narrow perception of the world, which is often limited to our national borders. That’s why we’ve decided to bring the PORTAL idea to life — it’s a bridge that unifies and an invitation to rise above prejudices and disagreements that belong to the past. It’s an invitation to rise above the us and them illusion.”

The planners hope to install dozens of similar portals around the world. “Meaningful projects like this one are born when diverse people succeed in working together and achieving synchronicity,” said Adas Meskenas, director of LinkMenu fabrikas, which built the portal. “And this is just another example of what people who are united can do.”

Moving Up

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:One_red_paperclip.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 2006, Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald traded this red paper clip for a fish-shaped pen. Then, in successive transactions, he bartered his way up to a hand-sculpted doorknob; a Coleman camp stove; a Honda generator; an empty keg with an IOU for beer; a snowmobile; a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia; a box truck; a recording contract; a year’s rent in Phoenix, Arizona; an afternoon with Alice Cooper; a motorized KISS snow globe; a role in the film Donna on Demand; and a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

“A lot of people have been asking how I’ve stirred up so much publicity around the project,” he told the BBC, “and my simple answer is: ‘I have no idea.'”

Podcast Episode 344: Martin Couney’s Incubator Babies

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baby_incubator_exhibit,_A-Y-P,_1909.jpg

For more than 40 years in the early 20th century, Martin Couney ran a sideshow in which premature babies were displayed in incubators. With this odd practice he offered a valuable service in an era when many hospitals couldn’t. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Couney’s unusual enterprise, which earned both criticism and praise.

We’ll also marvel over an Amazonian survival and puzzle over a pleasing refusal.

See full show notes …

Blanche Monnier

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

In May 1901, the attorney general of Paris received an anonymous letter. It read, “I have the honor to inform you of an exceptionally serious occurrence. I speak of a spinster who is locked up in Madame Monnier’s house, half-starved and living on a putrid litter for the past twenty-five years — in a word, in her own filth.”

When police investigated, they found in Monnier’s attic a 52-year-old woman who weighed barely 25 kilograms. One policeman described the scene: “The unfortunate woman was lying completely naked on a rotten straw mattress. All around her was formed a sort of crust made from excrement, fragments of meat, vegetables, fish, and rotten bread. … We also saw oyster shells, and bugs running across Mademoiselle Monnier’s bed. The air was so unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.”

In 1874, when Blanche was 25, her mother Louise had locked her away to prevent her marrying a “penniless lawyer,” and for 25 years she and Blanche’s brother had pretended that she had disappeared. Louise was arrested but died shortly afterward; the brother was convicted but acquitted on appeal. Blanche was admitted to a psychiatric hospital but died in 1913. The identity of the letter writer who revealed all this was never discovered.

Relative

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albert_Einstein_photo_1920.jpg

During an eclipse in 1919, Sir Arthur Eddington confirmed Albert Einstein’s prediction of the gravitational bending of light rays, upholding the general theory of relativity. That Christmas, Einstein wrote to his friend Heinrich Zangger in Zurich:

“With fame I become more and more stupid, which, of course, is a very common phenomenon. There is far too great a disproportion between what one is and what others think one is, or at least what they say they think one is. But one has to take it all with good humor.”

(From Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, eds., Albert Einstein, the Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives, 1979.)

Consequences

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dirk.willems.rescue.ncs.jpg

Dutch Anabaptist Dirk Willems had made good his escape from prison in 1569 when a pursuing guard fell through the ice of a frozen pond and called for help.

When Willems turned back to rescue him, he was recaptured, tortured, and executed.