In the 1890s, Waldemar Haffkine worked valiantly to develop vaccines against both cholera and bubonic plague. Then an unjust accusation derailed his career. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Haffkine’s momentous work in India, which has been largely overlooked by history.
We’ll also consider some museum cats and puzzle over an endlessly energetic vehicle.
The Massachusetts Archives holds a 1775 bill from Paul Revere for “self and horse.”
It covers the period April 21-May 7, starting three days after the midnight ride. The provisional state government paid it.
“It seems at first blush incongruous, but then again, it’s not,” Massachusetts secretary of state William F. Galvin told the Bangor Daily News. “Even a revolutionary horse needs to be fed, not to mention Paul Revere himself.”
The Fall 1978 issue of Pi Mu Epsilon Journal included this problem, submitted by Pier Square. Four men are playing bridge. Their names are Banker, Waiter, Baker, and Farmer, and, as it happens, each man’s name is another man’s job. Mr. Baker’s partner is the baker, Mr. Banker’s partner is the farmer, and the waiter sits at Mr. Farmer’s right. Who is sitting at the banker’s left?
In his 1994 book Mathematics: A Human Endeavor, Harold R. Jacobs gives a similar problem, by French puzzlist Pierre Berloquin. Around a table sit the four members of the street storekeepers’ committee: a grocer, a baker, a tobacconist, and a butcher, whose name is Andre. If Andre sits on Charmeil’s left, Berton sits at the grocer’s right, and Duclos, who faces Charmeil, is not the baker, then what are the professions of the other members?
That’s simple enough that it doesn’t require a solution, I think. But here’s a much harder one, composed by J.B. Parker for the January 1941 issue of Eureka:
Seven men, Messrs. Black, Blue, Brown, Gray, Green, Purple and White sat down at a circular table laid for eight. Each man was wearing a tie and a pair of socks — and also had a car, their colours being three of the names of the other six men. There was a tie, a pair of socks and a car of each of the seven colours.
Mr. Blue sat next to the man with the green tie; between Mr. Gray and the man with white socks there sat a man wearing a white tie, and opposite him sat Mr. Green.
Mr. Brown’s socks were of the same colour as the tie of the man who occupied the chair on his right, and Mr. Green wore a brown tie. The empty chair lay between Mr. Black and the man who wore a green tie. The man with black socks had a gray car, and the man with gray socks had a black car.
Mr. Purple’s car was the same colour as Mr. Gray’s tie, and this was of the same colour as Mr. White’s socks. The man with the name of the colour of Mr. White’s car wore socks of the colour of Mr. Black’s car, i.e. blue. Mr. Purple’s tie was of the colour of the car of the man who occupied the chair on his right, and Mr. Brown sat opposite the man with the white car. The colour of the socks of the man whose tie was the colour of Mr. Gray’s car was the same as that of the tie of the man whose socks were the colour of Mr. Black’s car, and this colour was not black.
Find the colours of the socks, tie, and car of each man.
University of Waterloo mathematician Ross Honsberger chose this problem for his 2004 collection Mathematical Delights; it’s a generalization of a problem that Robert Gebhardt had offered in the Fall 1999 issue of Pi Mu Epsilon Journal. Paint the outside of an n × n × n cube red, then chop it into n3 unit cubes. Put the unit cubes in a box, mix them up thoroughly, withdraw one at random, and throw it across a table. What’s the probability that it comes to rest with a red face on top?
In September 2008, Mike Nolan, head of web services at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England, noticed something strange on Google Maps. “I grew up in the area and spotted on the map one day that it said ‘Argleton’,” he told the Guardian. “But it’s just a farmer’s field close to the village hall and playing fields. I think a footpath goes across the field, but that’s all.”
Bloggers began to discuss the nonexistent town, which found its way into other services that used Google’s data: Employment agencies, weather services, and letting agents began to cite Argleton in their listings, reassigning real people and businesses to the phantom settlement because of its claimed location.
Was it a joke? A placeholder? A misspelling? Whatever it was, it had disappeared again by May 2010. Google would say only that it experiences “occasional errors” and that it gets its mapping information from a Dutch company called Tele Atlas (whose spokesperson would add only, “I really can’t explain why these anomalies get into our database”).
Danny Dorling, president of the Society of Cartographers, said, “I would bet that this is an innocent mistake. In other words, it was not intentionally inserted to catch out anyone infringing the map’s copyright, as some are saying. But the bottom line is that we don’t know what mapping companies do to protect their maps or to hide secret locations, as some are obligated to do.”
Hence it is that the moral character of a man eminent in letters or in the fine arts is treated, often by contemporaries, almost always by posterity, with extraordinary tenderness. … These friendships are exposed to no danger from the occurrences by which other attachments are weakened or dissolved. … Plato is never sullen. Cervantes is never petulant. Demosthenes never comes unseasonably. Dante never stays too long. No difference of political opinion can alienate Cicero. No heresy can excite the horror of Bossuet. Nothing, then, can be more natural than that a person endowed with sensibility and imagination should entertain a respectful and affectionate feeling towards those great men with whose minds he holds daily communion.
— Thomas Macaulay, An Essay on Francis Bacon, 1837
It is a traditional axiom of medicine that health is the absence of disease. What is a disease? Anything that is inconsistent with health. If the axiom has any content, a better answer can be given. The most fundamental problem in the philosophy of medicine is, I think, to break the circle with a substantive analysis of either health or disease.
There is an eternal antagonism of interest between the individual and the world at large. The individual will not so much care how much he may suffer in this world provided he can live in men’s good thoughts long after he has left it. The world at large does not so much care how much suffering the individual may either endure or cause in this life, provided he will take himself clean away out of men’s thoughts, whether for good or ill, when he has left it.