By J. Dobrusky. White to mate in two moves.
By J. Dobrusky. White to mate in two moves.
In 2014, Australian TV presenter Karl Stefanovic wore the same blue suit every morning for a year on Channel Nine’s Today program. Not a single viewer asked about it.
In the same period viewers sent regular criticisms of co-host Lisa Wilkinson’s wardrobe. “Who the heck is Lisa’s stylist?” one wrote. “Today’s outfit is particularly jarring and awful. Get some style.”
“I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour — on how I do my job, basically,” Stefanovic told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is. … Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.”
Around 1220, Oxford University proposed this form letter for young scholars seeking money from their patrons:
To his venerable master A., greeting. This is to inform you that I am studying at Oxford with great diligence, but the matter of money stands greatly in the way of my promotion, as it is now two months since I spent the last of what you sent me. The city is expensive and makes many demands. I have to rent lodgings, buy necessaries, and provide for many other things which I cannot now specify. Wherefore I respectfully beg your paternity that by the promptings of divine pity you may assist me, so that I may be able to complete what I have well begun.
One father wrote, “A student’s first song is a demand for money, and there will never be a letter which does not ask for cash.”
(From Charles H. Haskins, The Life of Medieval Students as Illustrated by Their Letters, 1898.) (Thanks, Paul.)
New Zealand woodworker Henk Verhoeff makes whimsically broken furniture.
“It’s hard to say how long each piece takes me,” he says. “It’s unset times during the week, and it could easily be 80 to 100 hours.”
“I started creating them for the pure love of it, without the intention of selling them. But when I run out of space, there will be an eBay auction or two. Everything is for sale … except for my wife.”
His daughter posts photos on Facebook.
In 1986 the Los Angeles Times received a peculiar 167-page novel from Lawrence Levine of St. Augustine, Fla. Titled Dr. Awkward & Olson in Oslo, it began “Tacit, I hate gas (aroma of evil), masonry …” It ended “No, Sam — live foam or a sage Tahiti CAT!” And the very middle read “I deplore media, rats, gals, a tar bag and a maniac Dr. Awkward ‘Cain,’ a mad nag, a brat, a slag star. Ai! Demerol, pedicular addenda, Edgar!”
Working four hours a day for five months, Levine had composed a novel that was one long palindrome, 31,594 words.
“There were lessons in trial and error, in logic, in vocabulary, in syntactics, and a wide-ranging lexical development that I never thought possible,” Levine revealed elsewhere. “I wrote the novel because to my knowledge no other person had ever composed an equal nonesuch. I decided, as it were, to be the first.”
The Times responded, “The world needs more Levines — playful eccentrics determined to scale the heights where no one has gone before, even if getting there isn’t much of an accomplishment. Or, as the metaphysicians say, ‘No lemons, no melon.'”
“The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.” — Dian Fossey
I find myself more than half convinced by the oddly repellent hypothesis that the peculiarity of the time dimension is not … primitive but is wholly a resultant of those differences in the mere de facto run and order of the world’s filling. It is then conceivable, though doubtless physically impossible, that one four-dimensional area of the time part of the manifold be slewed around at right angles to the rest, so that the time order of that area, as composed by its interior lines of strain and structure, run parallel with a spatial order in its environment. It is conceivable, indeed, that a single whole human life should lie thwartwise of the manifold, with its belly plump in time, its birth at the east and its death in the west, and its conscious stream running alongside somebody’s garden path.
— Donald C. Williams, “The Myth of Passage,” Journal of Philosophy 48:15 (1951), 457-472
The Waiter, by Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, circa 1574.
Is it a still life or a portrait?
This mechanism, recently restored by Michael Start of the House of Automata, was probably fashioned by Blaise Bontems in Paris around 1890.
It’s an example of a lost art, the “singing bird box,” an early variety of automaton introduced by Pierre Jaquet-Droz in Geneva in 1784. The song is produced by a bellows, a whistle, and a system of cams; many of these devices added a mechanical bird that would flap its wings and open and shut its beak while the sound was produced.
Jaquet-Droz also created a stunning mechanical boy who writes custom texts with a quill pen; that unit, which still works, is made up of some 6,000 pieces.
For a moment in the 1998 Simpsons episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” it appears that Homer has found a solution to Fermat’s last theorem:
398712 + 436512 = 447212
If you check this on a calculator with a 10-digit display, it seems to work: Raise 3987 and 4365 each to the 12th power, take the 12th root of the sum, and you get 4472.
But that’s the fault of the display. The actual value for the third term is closer to 4472.000000007057617187512.
Simpsons writer David S. Cohen, who had studied physics at Harvard and contrived the ruse, told Simon Singh he was pleased at the consternation it caused online. “I feel great about it. It’s very easy working in television to not feel good about what you do on the grounds that you’re causing the collapse of society. So, when we get the opportunity to raise the level of discussion — particularly to glorify mathematics — it cancels out those days when I’ve been writing those bodily function jokes.”
(From Simon Singh, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, 2013.)