The Bavinger House

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bavinger_Exterior.JPG

Norman, Okla., got an architectural landmark in 1955 when architect Bruce Goff completed an “organic house” for artists Nancy and Eugene Bavinger. Surmounted by a logarithmic spiral upheld by a recycled oil field drill stem, the Bavinger House had no interior walls — each “room” was a saucer suspended from the ceiling, reached by a stairway from the ground floor, which was mostly water and plants. The residents hung their clothes on rotating rods in hanging copper closets, and the entire house was air-cooled.

The Bavingers began to charge visitors $1 to view the house, eventually raising $50,000 in this way. One tourist told them, “I couldn’t live in it, but I wish I could.” The house fell into an extended vacancy, though, and by the time the “home for a lover of plants” was demolished in 2016, it had “become as choked with vegetation as a lost temple in the jungle.”

https://books.google.com/books?id=t1YEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA155#v=onepage&q&f=false

Exercise

In his later years Lewis Carroll would while away sleepless hours by solving mathematical problems in his head. Eventually he published 72 of these as Pillow Problems (1893). “All of these problems I thought up in bed, solving them completely in my head, and I never wrote anything down until the next morning.” Can you solve this one?

Prove that 3 times the sum of 3 squares is also the sum of 4 squares.

Click for Answer

Many-Sided Story

From Ed Southall’s Twitter feed, a polygon name builder:

https://twitter.com/solvemymaths/status/1118049237273649152

A 55-sided figure is a pentacontapentagon; one with 79 sides is a heptacontaenneagon. A system exists to go even higher: A figure with 9,000 sides is an enakischiliagon, and one with a million is a megagon.

René Descartes suggested the 1,000-sided chiliagon as an example of a thing that can be considered without being explicitly imagined; one “does not imagine the thousand sides or see them as if they were present.” So the intellect is not dependent on imagination.

Shibboleths

In a 1954 essay, “The English Aristocracy,” Nancy Mitford observed that English class consciousness had permeated the language itself, so that using the wrong term betrayed a lack of breeding. She had been inspired by linguist Alan S.C. Ross, who distinguished upper-class (“U”) terms from those used by the middle class:

U Non-U
Bike or Bicycle Cycle
Dinner jacket Dress suit
Knave (cards) Jack
Vegetables Greens
Ice Ice cream
Scent Perfume
They’ve a very nice house They have (got) a lovely home
Ill (in bed) Sick (in bed)
Looking-glass Mirror
Chimneypiece Mantelpiece
Graveyard Cemetery
Spectacles Glasses
False teeth Dentures
Die Pass on
Mad Mental
Jam Preserve
Napkin Serviette
Sofa Settee or couch
Lavatory or loo Toilet
Rich Wealthy
Good health Cheers
Lunch Dinner (for midday meal)
Pudding Sweet
Drawing-room Lounge
Writing-paper Note-paper
What? Pardon?
How d’you do? Pleased to meet you
Wireless Radio
(School)master, mistress Teacher

Ross added, “It is solely by their language that the upper classes nowadays are distinguished since they are neither cleaner, richer, nor better-educated than anybody else.” Mitford said she’d written the essay “In order to demonstrate the upper middle class does not merge imperceptibly into the middle class.”

The essay touched off a vigorous national debate about English snobbery; Mitford’s essay was published in a 1956 book, Noblesse Oblige, to which John Betjeman contributed a mordant poem, “How to Get On in Society”:

Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

Are the requisites all in the toilet?
The frills round the cutlets can wait
Till the girl has replenished the cruets
And switched on the logs in the grate.

It’s ever so close in the lounge dear,
But the vestibule’s comfy for tea
And Howard is riding on horseback
So do come and take some with me

Now here is a fork for your pastries
And do use the couch for your feet;
I know that I wanted to ask you-
Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

Milk and then just as it comes dear?
I’m afraid the preserve’s full of stones;
Beg pardon, I’m soiling the doileys
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.

(Alan S.C. Ross, “Linguistic Class-Indicators in Present-Day English.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 55:1 [1954], 20-56.)

A Rapid Sum

From Lewis Carroll’s diary, Feb. 5, 1856:

Varied the lesson at the school with a story, introducing a number of sums to be worked out. I also worked for them the puzzle of writing the answer to an addition sum, when only one of the five rows have been written: this … astonished them not a little.

He had started by writing an arbitrary number:

21879

Then he asked the students to call out a second five-digit number. Carroll added a third, the students shouted a fourth, and Carroll added a fifth and immediately wrote the sum:

  21879
  62593
  37406
  82527
+ 17472

 221877

How did he do this?

Click for Answer

Makes Sense

THREE = 03

Advance each character in that expression four steps in the alphabet or the number line and you get:

XLVII = 47

(Discovered by Dave Morice and Daniel McGrath. From “Kickshaws,” Word Ways 32:4 [November 1999], 283-293.)

Podcast Episode 249: The Robbers Cave Experiment

robbers cave

In 1954 a social psychologist started a war between two teams of fifth graders at an Oklahoma summer camp. He wanted to investigate the sources of human conflict and how people might overcome them. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the Robbers Cave Experiment and examine its evolving reputation.

We’ll also dredge up a Dalek and puzzle over a hazardous job.

See full show notes …

Audition

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11151478/Could-you-have-been-a-codebreaker-at-Bletchley-Park.html

In January 1942, a series of letters to the Daily Telegraph complained that the newspaper’s crossword was too easy — anyone might solve it in a matter of minutes, they said. Accordingly the chairman of a London club offered to donate £100 to charity if anyone could solve a given crossword in 12 minutes. Editor Arthur Watson arranged a competition in the paper’s Fleet Street newsroom, and five people won the competition (though the fastest was later disqualified for misspelling a word). Several were later hired to work at Bletchley Park breaking German military codes.

The Telegraph published the “time test” puzzle later that month, and presented it again in 2014, inviting readers to try to solve it in 12 minutes. “Could you have been a codebreaker at Bletchley Park?”

Miniatures

Last August, researchers at Rome University produced tiny portraits of Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin by modifying E. coli cells to respond to light patterns. Bacteria that received more light would swim faster, so over time they tended to concentrate in the darker parts of a negative image.

Lead author Giacomo Frangipane said in a statement, “Much like pedestrians who slow down their walking speed when they encounter a crowd, or cars that are stuck in traffic, swimming bacteria will spend more time in slower regions than in faster ones.”

Using the same technique, they created a (tiny) version of the Mona Lisa.