Outreach

https://www.needpix.com/photo/970336/moon-sky-night-dark-full

During a 1968 visit with the Pope, William D. Borders, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Florida, observed that arguably he was now bishop of the moon.

According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in force at the time, any newly discovered territory fell under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the discovering expedition had left — and Borders’ diocese included Brevard County, home of Cape Canaveral.

Arguably, then, Borders’ diocese encompassed 14.5 million square miles. The pontiff’s reaction is not recorded.

(Thanks, Jon.)

Podcast Episode 259: The Astor Place Riot

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Astor_Place_Opera-House_riots_crop.jpg

The second-bloodiest riot in the history of New York was touched off by a dispute between two Shakespearean actors. Their supporters started a brawl that killed as many as 30 people and changed the institution of theater in American society. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Astor Place riot, “one of the strangest episodes in dramatic history.”

We’ll also fertilize a forest and puzzle over some left-handed light bulbs.

See full show notes …

Also-Rans

Japanese racehorse Haru Urara became “the shining star of losers everywhere” when she racked up a record of 0 wins and 113 losses in the early 2000s. In the face of a national recession, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, “The horse is a good example of not giving up in the face of defeat.” For the horse’s 106th race, Japan’s premier jockey, Yutaka Take, was brought in to ride her. She placed 10th out of 11.

British Thoroughbred Quixall Crossett ran to 103 consecutive defeats in the 1990s. Assistant trainer Geoff Sanderson said, “He got the most tremendous cheer you’ve ever heard on a race course. … The horse doesn’t know he gets beat because he gets a bigger cheer than the winner.”

American Thoroughbred Zippy Chippy retired in 2010 with a lifetime record of 0 wins in 100 starts, though he did once outrun a minor league baseball player. Racing historian Tom Gilcoyne said the horse “hasn’t done anything to harm the sport. But it’s a little bit like looking at the recorded performances of all horse races through the wrong end of the telescope.”

Special Measures

Rhymes for unrhymable words, by Willard R. Espy:

Month

It is unth-
inkable to find
A rhyme for month
Except this special kind.

Orange

The four eng-
ineers
Wore orange
Brassieres.

Oblige

Love’s lost its glow?
No need to lie; j-
ust tell me “Go!”
And I’ll oblige.

Home Again

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Knights_tour_solution_Warnsdorff.png
Image: Wikimedia Commons

On a regular 8 × 8 chessboard, a wandering knight can visit each square once and then return to his starting square. Show that he can’t do this on an m × n board if m and n are both odd.

Click for Answer

Latin Proverbs

Nullus agenti dies longus est.
No day is long for the person who is active. (Seneca)

Omnibus in rebus gravis est inceptio prima.
In all things the first undertaking is hard. (Anonymous)

Formosos saepe inveni pessimos, et turpi facie multos cognovi optimos.
I have often discovered beautiful people to be the worst, and I have discovered many fine people with unpleasant appearance. (Phaedrus)

Mendaci homini, ne verum quidem dicenti, credere solemus.
We do not usually believe an untruthful man, even when he is telling the truth. (Cicero)

In bibliothecis loquuntur defunctorum immortales animae.
Immortal spirits of the dead speak in libraries. (Pliny the Elder)

Plures amicos mensa quam mens concipit.
A person’s table attracts more friends than his mind. (Publilius Syrus)

Propositum mutat sapiens, at stultus inhaeret.
A wise man changes his proposal, but a stupid man clings to it. (Petrarch)

Nihil recte sine exemplo docetur aut discitur.
Nothing is rightly taught or learned without examples. (Columella)

Tranquillas etiam naufragus horret aquas.
The shipwrecked man is afraid even of quiet waters. (Ovid)

Homicidium, cum admittunt singuli, crimen est; virtus vocatur cum publice geritur.
When individuals commit it, murder is a crime; it is called a virtue when it is done publicly. (Cyprian)

Omne ignotum pro magnifico est.
Everything unknown is considered to be magnificent. (Tacitus)

Turnabout

During the second assault on Beaumont-Hamel in November 1916, British Second Lieutenant George Edwards was ordered to capture a German battalion headquarters. The fog was so thick that Edwards managed to surround the Germans, and their commanding officer and 300 men surrendered when they were told that strong reinforcements were on the way. When the reinforcements didn’t materialize, though, it became clear that Edwards’ platoon was in fact badly outnumbered.

The German Commanding Officer told him [Edwards] quite nicely and politely that the position was reversed and that he and his men were now the prisoners. There was nothing for it but to submit and Edwards accompanied the C.O. down into the dugout. Here he was given a drink, treated with every consideration and even invited to look through the periscope — a huge affair which gave its owners a commanding view of the surrounding country.

It was then, the fog having lifted somewhat, that Edwards spotted the arrival of the long expected reinforcements. Not to be outdone in courtesy by his German hosts he begged them to consider themselves once more as his prisoners and, as such, to accompany him to the surface. This they did, only to find on arrival that they were called upon to surrender for a third time — on this occasion by a chaplain and a party of Dublin Fusiliers.

“Edwards went up to the Chaplain to explain the situation; the Chaplain promptly knocked him down and disappeared into the fog with his captives.”

(From Richard van Emden, Meeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great War, 2013.)

Fire and Water

I find this hard to believe. In Creature From the Black Lagoon, there’s a scene in which the creature attacks Whit Bissell and he hits it with a lantern. Wreathed in flames, it dives into the water. Ben Chapman, who played the creature, says that he was never set afire for the scene: “It was just going through the motions where he hits me and I start patting myself like I’m on fire and dive off. Then they bring a stunt double in. He would watch the film and the way I’m moving. When he did it he had an asbestos suit on. When it was time, they lit [the suit] and he went through the motions putting out the flames and dive off. They took that and superimposed it over me.”

John Johnson confirms this in Cheap Tricks and Class Acts, his history of the special effects of 1950s monster movies: “Chapman was never actually set on fire … either onboard the ship or as he jumped into the water. What the effects team did was to superimpose footage of Al Wyatt, a specialist in fire stunts, directly over Chapman. Wyatt, wearing an asbestos suit, roughly imitated the movements of Chapman. Only the fire on Wyatt’s suit was superimposed over the Chapman footage.”

Chapman says, “Next time you watch the movie, when you get to that scene, hit the remote button to make it slow, you can see that the flames are superimposed on top of me. The burning comes from inside out. When it is superimposed they lay it on top of you and if you look very closely you can see I’m not on fire and that it’s superimposed. Rock Hudson’s double did that because Rock and I were good friends. As a matter of fact, Rock and I were the same identical size.”

Johnson calls this “[p]erhaps the most undetectable example of superimposure seen during the fifties monster craze.”

In Common

In his 1991 book Human Universals, American anthropologist Donald Brown listed “features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception”:

  • fear of death
  • tickling
  • baby talk
  • territoriality
  • rites of passage
  • hairstyles
  • belief in supernatural
  • dance
  • containers
  • jokes
  • shame
  • turn-taking
  • weapons
  • myths
  • musical variation

The whole list is here. “We can look forward to the time when a great many cultural features are traced beyond the time and place of their invention to the specific features of human nature that gave rise to them,” he wrote. “The study of human universals will be an important component of that task.”

(Donald E. Brown, “Human Universals, Human Nature & Human Culture,” Daedalus 133:4 [Fall 2004], 47-54.)