In January 1946, the night before he was to scheduled fly to Tokyo, British air marshal Victor Goddard attended a cocktail party in Shanghai where another officer described a dream in which Goddard had been killed in a plane crash. He said the plane had been carrying three English civilian passengers, two men and a woman, and had experienced icing troubles during the flight and crashed on a shingled beach near mountains.

Goddard’s flight had had no scheduled passengers, but that night he was asked successively to take two men and a woman with him to Tokyo, all English civilians. During the flight the plane’s wings iced over and he was forced to make a crash landing on the Japanese island of Sado, on a shingled beach near mountains. Everyone survived, and they were rescued after a search.

“For my next crash I want no prior information,” Goddard wrote in the Saturday Evening Post. “Makes one too ‘nervy,’ as we say. Quite spoils the enjoyment of flying.”

An Early IMAX

In 1827, visitors to London could get a titan’s view of the city by visiting Regent’s Park. There surveyor Thomas Hornor had built a colosseum housing the largest painting in the world, a panorama seven stories tall and 130 feet in diameter. A spiral staircase rose to a large gallery from which visitors could view London as seen from the ball atop St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Estimates of the painting’s size vary from 24,000 to 44,000 square feet; flyers called it “nearly an acre of canvas.” Half a million people visited the Colosseum in 1829, but Hornor’s backer left for Paris and he was quickly broke. New owners reopened the attraction in 1845, though, and it stood as a fixture for 30 years, renowned for the clarity of its vista. “The ascent is easy, the sky is fine and bright, the atmosphere is clear,” wrote one visitor. “We can command constant sunshine.”

More Silent Music

The “In futurum” section of Erwin Schulhoff’s 1919 Fünf Pittoresken (starting here at 8:08) consists entirely of rests.

The direction tutto il canzone con espressione e sentimento ad libitum, sempre, sin al fine means “the whole piece with free expression and feeling, always, until the end.”

Sheet music is here.

A Hidden Treasure
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1954, workers in Bangkok were moving a plaster Buddha to a new temple when the ropes broke and it fell to the ground. Some of the surface broke away, revealing gold beneath.

They had accidentally rediscovered the Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, a 5.5-tonne gold statue that had remained hidden for nearly 200 years. It had been made in the 13th or 14th century and then covered with stucco sometime in the late 18th century to preserve it from thieves.

The rediscovery occurred near the 2500-year anniversary of Gautama Buddha’s passing and was widely regarded as a miracle. The statue was moved to a new large building in 2010.

(Thanks, David.)

Another One

Humans aren’t the only species that tend to move to a musical beat: Animals that mimic vocally (such as parrots and, here, a sulphur-crested cockatoo) bob their heads and move their feet. Animals that don’t mimic vocally don’t do this. So possibly our urge to move to music is a by-product of our tendency to mimic vocally — it’s a motor response to something we hear.

(Aniruddh D. Patel, et al., “Experimental Evidence for Synchronization to a Musical Beat in a Nonhuman Animal,” Current Biology 19:10 [2009], 827-830; Adena Schachner, et al., “Spontaneous Motor Entrainment to Music in Multiple Vocal Mimicking Species,” Current Biology 19:10 [2009], 831-836.)

A Near Thing

Of the loss of the Titanic there is one perfectly attested premonition.

‘On the 23d of March the Hon. J. Cannon Middleton booked a passage on the ill-fated ship, which was announced to sail on April 10. About the end of March he dreamed that he saw her floating keel upward, her passengers and crew swimming round her. The same dream was repeated the following night. Though feeling very uneasy, he told no one and took no action. But on April 4 he received a cable suggesting, for business reasons, that he postpone his journey. He consequently canceled his ticket, and then related his dream to his wife and three friends, all of whom testify to his having done so. He also produces as evidence his canceled ticket and the cable delaying his journey.’

Here the facts seem to be beyond dispute; but it is, of course, impossible to rule out the theory of coincidence. It should be noted, however, that Mr. Middleton had crossed the Atlantic a dozen times, and had never before had any such premonition or felt any nervousness. The coincidence that, just on this occasion, he should twice have a warning dream is certainly very strange.

— William Archer, “Can We Foretell the Future?”, McClure’s Magazine, December 1915

Equal Opportunity

Antebellum social theorist George Fitzhugh argued that slavery should be extended to whites. “It is a libel on white men to say they are unfit for slavery,” he wrote. “Catch them young, train, domesticate, and civilize them, and they would make as faithful and valuable servants as those indentured servants which our colonial ancestors bought in such large numbers from England.”

He thought that capitalism inevitably creates social inequality, and that those whom it oppresses can best be helped by subjugating them. “The whole war against slavery, has grown out of the hatred of the white to the black,” he wrote. “Nobody ever proposed to abolish white slavery, or the white slave trade. … Nobody ever proposed to abolish any other than negro slavery, and if we could buy Yankees for house-servants, and confine the negroes to field work, all this abolition strife would cease.”