“It is one of the misfortunes of life that one must read thousands of books only to discover that one need not have read them.” — Thomas De Quincey

# Pastiche

The *Journal International de Médecine* carried a startling article in 1987: *“Mise en Évidence Expérimentale d’une Organisation Tomatotopique chez la Soprano,”* or “Experimental Demonstration of the Tomatotopic Organization in the Soprano (*Cantatrix sopranica L.*).” In it, author Georges Perec notes that throwing tomatoes at sopranos seems to induce a “yelling reaction” and sets out to understand why:

Tomatoes (

Tomato rungisia vulgaris) were thrown by an automatic tomatothrower (Wait & See, 1972) monitored by an all-purpose laboratory computer (DID/92/85/P/331) operated on-line. Repetitive throwing allowed up to 9 projections per sec, thus mimicking the physiological conditions encountered by Sopranoes and other Singers on stage (Tebaldi, 1953). … Control experiments were made with other projectiles, as apple cores, cabbage runts, hats, roses, pumpkins, bullets, and ketchup (Heinz, 1952).

The paper concludes:

It has been shown above that tomato throwing provokes, along with a few other motor, visual, vegetative and behavioral reactions, neuronal responses in 3 distinctive brain areas: the nucleus anterior reticular thalami, pars lateralis (NARTpl), the anterior portion of the tractus leguminosus (apTL) and the dorsal part of the so-called musical sulcus (scMS).

It ends with an incomprehensible diagram modeling the anatomical organization of the yelling reaction. No practical advice is offered the sopranos.

10/18/2024 UPDATE: It appears that Perec wrote the piece originally in 1974 while working as a scientific archivist in the laboratory of neuroscientist André Hugelin. It was Perec’s contribution to a special volume presented to neurophysiologist Marthe Bonvallet on her retirement. (Thanks, Frederic and Bruce.)

# Black and White

A logic problem in the shape of a chess puzzle, by Éric Angelini. White has just moved. What was his move?

# Rule of Thumb

Peter Nicholson’s *Carpenter’s New Guide* of 1803 contains an interesting technique:

To find a right line equal to any given Arch of a Circle. Divide the chord

abinto four equal parts, set one partbcon the arch fromatod, and drawdcwhich will be nearly equal to half the arch.

Apparently this was an item of carpentry lore in 1803. In the figure above, if arc *ad* = *bc*, then *cd* is approximately half of arc length *ab*.

Nicholson warns that this works best for relatively short arcs: “This method should not be used above a quarter of a circle, so that if you would find the circumference of a whole circle by this method, the fourth part must only be used, which will give one eighth part of the whole exceedingly near.”

But with that proviso it works pretty well — in 1981 University of Essex mathematician Ian Cook found that for arcs up to a quadrant of a circle, the results show a maximum percentage error of 0.6 percent, “which I suppose can be said to be ‘exceedingly near.'” He adds, “[I]t would be of interest to know who discovered this construction.”

(Ian Cook, “Geometry for a Carpenter in 1800,” *Mathematical Gazette* 65:433 [October 1981], 193-195.)

# “The Only Will Ever Written in Shorthand”

An 1897 article on curious wills in the *Strand* describes this 1813 will by the Rev. Hugh Worthington of Highbury Place, Islington. One side reads:

Northampton Square, June 16th, 1813. I, Hugh Worthington, give and bequeath to my dear Eliza Price, who is my adopted child, all I do or may possess, real and personal, to be at her sole and entire disposal; and I do appoint William Kent, Esq., of London Wall, my respected friend, with the said Eliza Price to execute this my last will and testament. — HUGH WORTHINGTON.

The other reads:

Most dearly beloved, my Eliza. Very small as this letter is, it contains the copy of my very last will. I have put it with your letters, that it may be sure to fall into your hands. Should accident or any other cause destroy the original, I have taken pains to write this very clearly, that you may read it easily. I do know you will perfect yourself in shorthand for my sake. Tomorrow we go for Worthing, I most likely never to return. I hope to write a few lines to express the best wishes, and prayers, and hopes of thy true, HUGH WORTHINGTON.

# In the Fold

Just found this on Wikimedia Commons — “Where Is the Fifth Pig?”, an anonymous puzzle created in occupied Holland in 1940:

# A Little Clue

A circle is inscribed in a square, with a rectangle drawn from a corner of the square to a point on the circle, as shown. If this rectangle measures 6 inches by 12 inches, what’s the radius of the circle?

# Also-Rans

“The dogs are, by placing two lines upon them, to be suddenly aroused to life and made to run. Query, How and where should these lines be placed, and what should be the forms of them?”

# Backward and Forward

John Grant McLoughlin offered this problem in *Crux Mathematicorum* in April 2008:

Every four-digit numerical palindrome (e.g., 2772) is a multiple of 11. Why is this?

# A Beautiful Relic

The River Welland used to split into two channels in the heart of Crowland, Lincolnshire, and in 1360 the townspeople arranged to bridge it with this unique triple arch, which elegantly spanned the streams at the point of their divergence, allowing pedestrians to reach any of the three shores by a single structure. The alternative would have been to build three separate bridges.

The rivers were re-routed in the 1600s, so now the bridge stands in the center of town as a monument to the ingenuity of its inhabitants. It’s known as Trinity Bridge.

From the ArtefactPorn subreddit.