Petals Around the Rose is a simple brain teaser with an impressive pedigree — here’s how Bill Gates responded to the puzzle when he first encountered it.
Newcomers are told that the name of the game is important. Someone rolls five dice and announces the “answer,” which is always zero or an even number.
That’s it. On each roll, the initiate has to give the correct answer before he’s told. When he can do this consistently, he becomes a Potentate of the Rose, pledged “to be a cruel and heartless wretch who will never divulge the secret of the game to anyone else.”
I’m told that the puzzle is a good index of intelligence — smart people take longer to figure it out.
One downside of open-source software is the amount of profanity in the programmers’ comments. Vidar Holen tracks the number of swear words in the Linux kernel: At last count there were 139 craps, 101 shits, 61 fucks, 16 bastards … and 110 penguins.
The Depravity Scale is an attempt to reach a scientific definition of evil. What makes a crime “heinous”? If “horrible” or “atrocious” crimes get longer sentences, what counts? The Supreme Court says that sentences must reflect societal attitudes, but right now there’s no legal definition of a “heinous, atrocious, or cruel” act; jurors have to rely on their emotions.
New York forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner put together a list of 26 things that might characterize an act as depraved. Does the criminal maximize the victim’s fear or pain? Does he boast about his act? So far, Welner has found more than 90 percent consensus that 16 of the items indicate depravity. Interestingly, the results seem consistent across states, but not between countries.
“We need consistency, and in particular consistency that reflects the best that forensics has to offer,” Welner says. “From my own vantage point of working within the cases, juries and judges don’t see near as much as they should be seeing when it comes to forensic evidence about what a person’s intent was, what a person actually did, and what a person’s attitude was about what he did. Even from a mental health standpoint, there’s far more effort devoted to the question of who a person is or why that person did something rather than just look at what the person did.”
And Welner has no problem with the concept of evil. “I have no problem with the word being used,” he says. “If you look in the literature, there’s a startling lack of effort to try to flesh out what evil is, and I think it’s our responsibility as behavioral scientists to try to understand it. This issue gets neglected because therapeutic professions like psychiatry inherently must focus on the good in order to be therapeutic. Another reason for this neglect is because to wade in and wrestle with it means to confront it in ourselves, and that’s a painful prospect even for the most stable of us. When I first began exploring this, I never enjoyed it, and I appreciated walking away from it. The more I studied it, the more it affected even my dreams. It’s an unpalatable exercise.”
Sacred to posterity,
In a vault, near this place, lies the body of
ANNE, the only daughter of
EDWARD CHAMBERLAYNE, LL.D.
Born in London, January 20, 1667,
For a considerable time, declined the matrimonial state,
And scheming many things
Superior to her sex and age,
On the 30th of June, 1690,
And under the command of her brother,
With arms and in the dress of a man,
She approv’d herself a true Virago,
By fighting undaunted in a fire ship against the French,
Upwards of six hours,
She might have given us a race of heroes,
Had not premature fate interposed.
She returned safe fromthe naval engagement,
And was married, in some months after, to
JOHN SPRAGGE, Esq.
With whom she lived half a year extremely happy,
But being delivered of a daughter, she died
A few days after,
October 30, 1692.
This monument, to his most dear and affectionate
wife, was erected by her most disconsolate
The winner, Joel Schumacher’s 2000 infantry-training drama Tigerland, packs 527 fucks into 100 minutes, for a fuck-per-minute ratio of 5.27, or one fuck every 12 seconds. (“Damn it, Cantwell! Shit, man. Shit! Fuck, I don’t even know you, man! You sittin’ there telling your fucking stories. You make me want to fuckin’ cry! What’s that about?”) Schumacher got a lump of coal that Christmas.
Recognize this hotel room? Then you should call the Toronto police: A 9-year-old girl was sexually abused here two or three years ago.
Even though she’s been airbrushed out of the photo, the room still has a haunted quality. The same girl was apparently photographed in an elevator, near a fountain, even in an arcade.
Stranger still are the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, dollhouse recreations of actual crime scenes. They were created in the 1930s by Frances Glessner Lee, a millionaire heiress who wanted to improve police skills in forensic pathology. Four puzzles are presented here, and the Baltimore medical examiner won’t reveal the solutions — he’s still using them in training seminars.