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Greg

Wooden Words

https://www.katieholten.com/public-realm/#/new-york-city-tree-alphabet/

Artist Katie Holten has created a New York City Tree Alphabet, a Latin alphabet in which each letter is assigned a drawing of an existing city tree or one that will be planted as a result of the changing climate. There’s a free font that you can play with here and download here.

Holten had planned to plant messages around the city using real trees last spring, and invited people to make suggestions, though I don’t know which were ultimately chosen. “Right now, we’re leaving it completely wide open, so we’ve no idea what messages we’ll be planting,” she told Fast Company in March. “I’m excited to see what people send us. People have been suggesting words like ‘Dream,’ ‘Hope,’ and ‘Peace.’ But we’re also receiving longer messages, love letters, poems, and short stories. We’re curious to see how we could translate a long text into a grove of planted trees. It’s an exciting challenge and we can make up the rules as we go along, so anything could happen.”

(Via MetaFilter.)

Building Tangents

ellipse tangents

Here’s a way to find tangents to an ellipse from a point outside it, say E. Use E to draw any two chords CD and FG. Now lines CF and DG will meet at H, and CG and DF will meet at J. The line HJ intersects the ellipse at A and B, and EA and EB are the tangents we sought.

In 2001 David Bloom of Brooklyn College wrote, “I owe the above to a course I took in 1958, taught by O. Zariski. The result seemed so beautiful that I’ve never forgotten it.”

(“Miscellanea,” College Mathematics Journal 32:4 [September 2001], 317-318.)

A Movable Lake

https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/f4gx39/map_of_hamburg_germany_during_wwii_camouflaged_to/

In order to confuse enemy aircraft during World War II, the residents of Hamburg disguised the Binnenalster, a lake in the main business district, as terrain and built a dummy viaduct parallel to the real viaduct, in effect “moving” an attractive target to a less vulnerable location.

Unfortunately the work was done in daylight and the change was too dramatic to be convincing. “Even so, the protection must have been of real value at least in Hamburg, where the addition of a dummy viaduct, displaced from, but parallel to, the real (Lombard’s) viaduct may have contributed to saving the latter very vital rail and transportation link.”

(U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Civilian Defense Division Final Report: Dates of Survey: 15 Jan.-15 Aug. 1945, 1947.)

A New Word

In 1940 H.L. Mencken received a letter from a woman who called herself Georgia Southern. She said her profession was known as strip teasing, and she wondered whether Mencken could provide “a new and more palatable word to describe this art.” He wrote back:

It might be a good idea to relate strip teasing in some way or other to the associated zoological phenomenon of molting. Thus the word moltician comes to mind, but it must be rejected because of its likeness to mortician.

A resort to the scientific name for molting, which is ecdysis, produces both ecdysist and ecdysiast. Then there are suggestions in the names of some of the creatures which practice molting. The scientific name for the common crab is Callinectes hastatus, which produces callinectian. Again there is a family of lizards called the Geckonidae, and their name produces gecko.

She went with ecdysiast. Mencken notes that the popular press consulted scholars S.I. Hayakawa, who “seemingly demurred on the incredible ground that he had never seen a strip teaser in action,” and Stuart Chase, who made no reply, “so I won by a sort of forfeit.” The British correspondent for United Press cabled the new word to England, where it was briefly hoped that it might open the way to lifting a ban on strip teasing; that went nowhere, but “the inevitable Association of Ecdysiasts soon appeared in the United States.”

(“Euphemisms,” from Mencken’s The American Language, 1947.)

Podcast Episode 284: The Red Barn

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RedBarn.jpg

When Maria Marten disappeared from the English village of Polstead in 1827, her lover said that they had married and were living on the Isle of Wight. But Maria’s stepmother began having disturbing dreams that hinted at a much grimmer fate. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Red Barn, which transfixed Britain in the early 19th century.

We’ll also encounter an unfortunate copycat and puzzle over some curious births.

See full show notes …