Time Traveler

Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals hit his first major league home run five days before he played his first major league game.

On June 18, 2018, he hit a two-run homer that was logged as occurring on May 15. That’s because the June 18 game was a continuation of a May 15 game that had been suspended due to rain. When such a game is resumed, all the statistics are recorded with the date of the original game.

So Soto is credited with his first major league hit and his first major league home run on May 15, five days before he made his major league debut.

(Thanks, Larry.)

500 Entertaining Words

The 12th edition of The Chambers Dictionary, published in 2011, highlighted about 500 words that the editors considered especially entertaining. For the 13th edition, in 2014, they chose to remove the highlighting but inadvertently removed the entries entirely.

The missing entries have since been reinstated, but in the interval the publishers supplied a list of the missing words. Here it is.

(Thanks, Chris.)

Nobody Home

Image: Wikimedia Commons

For centuries, the town of Plymouth was the only port of entry to the island of Montserrat, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the Lesser Antilles.

The town was evacuated in 1995 when the nearby Soufrière Hills volcano began erupting, and the burned and buried remainder was abandoned permanently in 1997.

But the town is still the de jure capital city of Montserrat … which makes Plymouth the only ghost town in the world that serves as the capital of a political territory.

Keeping Distance

For which values of n can n points be placed on a sphere so that all of them are equidistant from each other?

Click for Answer

The Copenhagen Faustparodie


In The Roots of Coincidence, Arthur Koestler mentions that the participants at a 1932 conference on nuclear physics put on a parody of Goethe’s Faust in which Wolfgang Pauli played Mephistopheles. “His Gretchen was the neutrino, whose existence Pauli had predicted, but which had not yet been discovered.”


Beware, beware, of Reason and of Science
Man’s highest powers, unholy in alliance.
You’ll let yourself, through dazzling witchcraft yield
To weird temptations of the quantum field.

Enter Gretchen; she sings to Faust. Melody: ‘Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel’ by Schubert.


My rest-mass is zero
My charge is the same
You are my hero
Neutrino’s my name.

There’s more here, including a link to the original script (in German).

Lightning Rod Fashion


In 1778, shortly after Benjamin Franklin introduced the lightning rod, Paris saw a fad for umbrellas and hats that made use of the new technology. A chain ran from the accessory down to the ground and would (in principle) carry the electricity from a lightning strike harmlessly into the ground.

I can’t find any record that such a strike ever happened. Lightning rods didn’t become popular in the United States, even to protect structures, until the 19th century.

(Thanks, Jon.)

Near Miss


I just bumbled into this: In 1978 Isaac Asimov judged a limerick contest run by Mohegan Community College in Norwich, Conn. He chose this as the best of 12,000 entries:

The bustard’s an exquisite fowl,
With minimal reason to growl:
He escapes what would be
By grace of a fortunate vowel.

It was written by retired Yale official George D. Vaill. Asimov said, “The idea is very clever and made me laugh, and the one-word fourth line is delightful.”