# Fact and Fiction

In 2012, the admissions department at the University of Chicago received a package addressed to Indiana Jones — or to Henry Walton Jones Jr., Indiana’s full name. “The package contained an incredibly detailed replica of ‘University of Chicago Professor’ Abner Ravenwood’s journal from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the university posted on its Tumblr page. It included photos, maps, and even handwritten text (“I was able to speak through an interpreter with the Guardian of Ark who told me that no other man beside himself could lay eyes on the Ark, that it was an absolutely holy object, and that the world would not pollute it by looking at it,” Ravenwood warns. “He added that he and the villagers would protect the Ark with their lives if necessary.”)

“This package was a little perplexing because we couldn’t find the staff member or the professor [it was intended for] in the directory,” undergraduate outreach Garrett Brinker told Wired.

The university set up an email tip line and inquired with Lucasfilm, which only responded, “We were just as surprised to see this package as you were!”

It turned out that the the replica was one of several that had been shipped from Guam to Italy; it had somehow fallen out of the package in Honolulu, and the post office had delivered it faithfully to the address it bore. “We believe that the post office wrote on our Zip code on the outside of the package and, believing the Egyptian postage was real, sent it our way. From Guam to Hawaii en route to Italy with a stopover in Chicago: truly an adventure befitting Indiana Jones.”

In exchange for some University of Chicago merchandise, the original “prop replicator” in Guam agreed to let the school keep the journal — it’s now on display in the main lobby of the Oriental Institute there.

See Afoot.

# A Perfect Bore

If we assume the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent being, one that knows and can do absolutely everything, then to my own very limited self, it would seem that existence for it would be unbearable. Nothing to wonder about? Nothing to ponder over? Nothing to discover? Eternity in such a heaven would surely be indistinguishable from hell.

— Isaac Asimov, “X” Stands for Unknown, 1984

# An Unexpected Party

At long last, after the three volumes were successfully launched, he became what [C.S.] Lewis called ‘cock-a-hoop’ and talked with great enthusiasm of the fate of the pirated paperback version and the astonishing growth of the Tolkien cult. He enjoyed receiving letters in Elvish from boys at Winchester and from knowing that they were using it as a secret language. He was overwhelmed by his fan mail and would-be visitors. It was wonderful to have at long last plenty of money, more than he knew what to do with. He once began a meeting with me by saying: ‘I’ve been a poor man all my life, but now for the first time I’ve a lot of money. Would you like some?’

— George Sayer, “Recollections of J.R.R. Tolkien,” in Joseph Pearce, ed., Tolkien: A Celebration, 1999

# Forward and Back

In 1996, Will Shortz invited the listeners of National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday to submit word-level palindromes — sentences that remain unchanged when their words are read in reverse order, such as “King, are you glad you are king?” Runners-up:

• Fall leaves after leaves fall.
• Will my love love my will?
• Herb the sage eats sage the herb.
• “Rock of Ages” preceded ages of “rock.”
• Escher, drawing hands, drew hands drawing Escher.
• In order to stop hunger, stop to order in.
• Blessed are they that believe that they are blessed.
• Parents love to have children; children have to love parents.
• Says Mom, “What do you do?” You do what Mom says.
• Family first sees Holy Father secretly father holy see’s first family.
• You know, I did little for you, for little did I know you.
• Did I say you never say “Never say never”? You say I did.
• Good little student does plan future, but future plan does student little good.
• Better doctors like people treated well because well-treated people like doctors better.
• Celebrate! Why not? If happy birthday’s your hope, I hope your birthday’s happy! If not, why celebrate?
• Pain increase to aching back strikes, and sufferer finds no doctor. Doctor No finds sufferer and strikes back, aching to increase pain.

The grand prize winner, by Peter L. Stein of San Francisco, was “First Ladies rule the state, and state the rule — ‘Ladies first!'”

(Will Shortz, “New Word Palindromes,” Word Ways 30:1 [February 1997], 11-12.)

# An Even Dozen

The surface of a standard soccer ball is covered with 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons. Interestingly, while we might vary the number of hexagons, the number of pentagons must always be 12.

That’s because the Euler characteristic of a sphere is 2, so VE + F = 2, where V is the number of vertices, or corners, E is the number of edges, and F is the number of faces. If P is the number of pentagons and H is the number of hexagons, then the total number of faces is F = P + H; the total number of vertices is V = (5P + 6H) / 3 (we divide by 3 because three faces meet at each vertex); and the total number of edges is E = (5P + 6H) / 2 (dividing by 2 because two faces meet at each edge). Putting those together gives

$\displaystyle V-E+F={\frac {5P+6H}{3}}-{\frac {5P+6H}{2}}+P+H={\frac {P}{6}},$

and since the Euler characteristic is 2, this means P must always be 12.

# Specimen

In the 1960s, the Great Apes house at the Bronx Zoo featured an exhibit titled “The Most Dangerous Animal in the World.”

The enclosure contained a mirror.

# For the Record

The 1983 Guinness Book of World Records found the “Longest Sentence in Literature” in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, of all places. It’s in Chapter 6:

It’s 1,288 words altogether and, strictly speaking, not a complete sentence.

# Noted

Marvelously, the Bolognese have a dedicated word to describe retired men who pass their time watching construction sites: umarells. (Wikipedia says they stand “stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice.”)

The word was first offered with this meaning by writer Danilo Masotti in 2005, but increasingly it’s being used in other parts of Italy. Within Bologna, it was honored in 2017 with a public square dubbed Piazzetta degli Umarells — which, ironically, was under construction at the time.

Related: A gongoozler is someone who enjoys watching activity on the canals of the United Kingdom. Presumably these two groups intersect.

# Thinking Big

In 1796 English architect Willey Reveley proposed to straighten the Thames between Wapping and Woolwich Reach, arguing that the measure would reduce the river’s length, simplify navigation, and improve its flow, reducing pollution.

Parliament considered the plan but never implemented it. “Revely had rather an awkward way of letting loose his real opinions; and he habituated himself to a sarcastic mode of delivering them,” read his obituary. “It need not be added, that such qualities were not calculated to render him popular.”

# Math Notes

If you arrange the first 12 primes into exponentiated summands, you get a prime number:

23 + 57 + 1113 + 1719 + 2329 + 3137 = 15148954872646850196557152427604893685308877022260348791 is prime.

(From Fermat’s Library.)