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Futility Closet

Futility Closet

Forgotten stories from the pages of history. Join us for surprising and curious tales from the past and challenge yourself with our lateral thinking puzzles.

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361-A Fight Over Nutmeg

In 1616, British officer Nathaniel Courthope was sent to a tiny island in the East Indies to contest a Dutch monopoly on nutmeg. He and his men would spend four years battling sickness, starvation, and enemy attacks to defend the island's bounty. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Courthope's stand and its surprising impact in world history.

We'll also meet a Serbian hermit and puzzle over an unusual business strategy.

Intro:

Should orangutans be regarded as human?

How fast does time fly?

Sources for our feature on Nathaniel Courthope:

Giles Milton, Nathaniel's Nutmeg: or, The True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History, 2015.

John Keay, The Honourable Company, 2010.

Martine van Ittersum, The Dutch and English East India Companies, 2018.

Sanjeev Sanyal, The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History, 2016.

Paul Schellinger and Robert M. Salkin, eds., International Dictionary of Historic Places, 2012.

Daniel George Edward Hall, History of South East Asia, 1981.

H.C. Foxcroft, Some Unpublished Letters of Gilbert Burnet, the Historian, in The Camden Miscellany, Volume XI, 1907.

William Foster, ed., Letters Received by the East India Company From Its Servants in the East, Volume 4, 1900.

Samuel Rawson Gardiner, History of England From the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1895.

W. Noel Sainsbury, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, East Indies, China and Japan, 1617-1621, 1870.

Martine Julia van Ittersum, "Debating Natural Law in the Banda Islands: A Case Study in Anglo?Dutch Imperial Competition in the East Indies, 1609?1621," History of European Ideas 42:4 (2016), 459-501.

Geraldine Barnes, "Curiosity, Wonder, and William Dampier's Painted Prince," Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 6:1 (Spring-Summer 2006), 31-50.

Barbara D. Krasner, "Nutmeg Takes Manhattan," Calliope 16:6 (February 2006), 28-31.

Vincent C. Loth, "Armed Incidents and Unpaid Bills: Anglo-Dutch Rivalry in the Banda Islands in the Seventeenth Century," Modern Asian Studies 29:4 (October 1995), 705-740.

Boies Penrose, "Some Jacobean Links Between America and the Orient (Concluded)," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 49:1 (January 1941), 51-61.

Jennifer Hunter, "Better Than the David Price Deal? Trading Nutmeg for Manhattan," Toronto Star, Aug. 8, 2015.

Janet Malehorn Spencer, "Island Was Bargain for Britain," [Mattoon, Ill.] Journal Gazette, Feb. 22, 2013.

Kate Humble, "The Old Spice Route to the Ends of the Earth," Independent, Feb. 12, 2011.

Sebastien Berger, "The Nutmeg Islanders Are Aiming to Spice Up Their Lives," Daily Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2004.

Clellie Lynch, "Blood and Spice," [Pittsfield, Mass.] Berkshire Eagle, Nov. 11, 1999.

Kevin Baker, "Spice Guys," New York Times, July 11, 1999.

Robert Taylor, "How the Nutmeg Mania Helped Make History," Boston Globe, May 18, 1999.

Giles Milton, "Manhattan Transfer," Sydney Morning Herald, April 10, 1999.

Martin Booth, "All for the Sake of a Little Nutmeg Tree," Sunday Times, Feb. 28, 1999.

Charles Nicholl, "Books: Scary Tales of an Old Spice World," Independent, Feb. 20, 1999.

"Mr Sainsbury's East Indian Calendar," Examiner, March 18, 1871.

"Courthopp, Nathaniel," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 1885.

Listener mail:

"Past Divisional Champs ? Little League Baseball," Little League (accessed Oct. 6, 2021).

"Serbian Cave Hermit Gets Covid-19 Vaccine, Urges Others to Follow," Straits Times, Aug. 13, 2021.

Matthew Taylor, "The Real Story of Body 115," Guardian, Jan. 21, 2004.

Godfrey Holmes, "Kings Cross Fire Anniversary: It's Been 30 Years Since the Deadly Fireball Engulfed the Tube Station," Independent, Nov. 18, 2017.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tom Salinsky.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-10-18
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360-Haggard's Dream

In 1904, adventure novelist H. Rider Haggard awoke from a dream with the conviction that his daughter's dog was dying. He dismissed the impression as a nightmare, but the events that followed seemed to give it a grim significance. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Haggard's strange experience, which briefly made headlines around the world.

We'll also consider Alexa's expectations and puzzle over a college's name change.

Intro:

Marshall Bean got himself drafted by reversing his name.

An air traveler may jump into tomorrow without passing midnight.

"Bob, although he belonged to my daughter, who bought him three years ago, was a great friend of mine, but I cannot say that my soul was bound up in him," Haggard wrote. "He was a very intelligent animal, and generally accompanied me in my walks about the farm, and almost invariably came to say good morning to me."

Sources for our feature on Haggard's nightmare and its sequel:

H. Rider Haggard, The Days of My Life, 1923.

Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, "Phantasms of the Living," Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 86:33 (October 1922), 23-429.

H. Rider Haggard, Delphi Complete Works of H. Rider Haggard, 2013.

Peter Berresford Ellis, H. Rider Haggard: A Voice From the Infinite, 1978.

C.L. Graves and E.V. Lucas, "Telepathy Day by Day," Bill Peschel, et al., The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes, 2014.

Harold Orel, "Hardy, Kipling, and Haggard," English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 25:4 (1982), 232-248.

"Spiritualism Among Animals" Public Opinion 39:18 (Oct. 28, 1905), 566.

"Character Sketch: Commissioner H. Rider Haggard," Review of Reviews 32:187 (July 1905), 20-27.

"Rider Haggard on Telepathy," Muswellbrook [N.S.W.] Chronicle, Oct. 8, 1904.

"Case," Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 11:212 (October 1904), 278-290.

"Mr. Rider Haggard's Dream," [Rockhampton, Qld.] Morning Bulletin, Sept. 24, 1904.

"Has a Dog a Soul?" [Adelaide] Evening Journal, Sept. 21, 1904.

"Spirit of the Dog," The World's News [Sydney], Sept. 10, 1904.

"Thought-Telepathy: H. Rider Haggard's Dog," [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, Aug. 31, 1904.

"Dog's Spirit Talks," The World's News [Sydney], Aug. 27, 1904.

"Telepathy (?) Between a Human Being and a Dog," [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, Aug. 25, 1904.

"Mr. Rider Haggard's Ghost Dog," Kansas City Star, Aug. 22, 1904.

"The Nightmare of a Novelist," Fresno Morning Republican, Aug. 21, 1904.

"Psychological Mystery," Hawaiian Star, Aug. 20, 1904.

H.S., "Superstition and Psychology," Medical Press and Circular 129:7 (Aug. 17, 1904), 183-184.

"Canine Telepathy," [Montreal] Gazette, Aug. 10, 1904.

"Telepathy (?) Between a Human Being and a Dog," Times, Aug. 9, 1904.

"Haggard and His Dog," Washington Post, Aug. 7, 1904.

"Mr. Haggard's Strange Dream," New York Times, July 31, 1904.

"Country Notes," Country Life 16:395 (July 30, 1904), 147-149.

"Mr. Rider Haggard's Dream," Light 24:1229 (July 30, 1904), 364.

"Telepathy Between Human Beings and Dogs," English Mechanic and World of Science 79:2053 (July 29, 1904), 567.

John Senior, Spirituality in the Fiction of Henry Rider Haggard, dissertation, Rhodes University, 2003.

Wallace Bursey, Rider Haggard: A Study in Popular Fiction, dissertation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1972.

Morton N. Cohen, "Haggard, Sir (Henry) Rider," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Listener mail:

"How to pronounce Akira Kurosawa," Forvo (accessed Oct. 1, 2021).

Sarah Sicard, "How the Heck Do You Pronounce 'Norfolk'?" Military Times, July 30, 2020.

William S. Forrest, Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Norfolk and Vicinity, 1853.

"Dubois, Wyoming," Wikipedia (accessed Oct. 1, 2021).

"Our History," Destination Dubois (accessed Oct. 2, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tony Filanowski. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-10-11
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359-Stranded in Shangri-La

In 1945, a U.S. Army transport plane crashed in New Guinea, leaving three survivors marooned in the island's mountainous interior. Injured, starving, and exhausted, the group seemed beyond the hope of rescue. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the plight of the stranded survivors and the remarkable plan to save them.

We'll also reflect on synthetic fingerprints and puzzle over a suspicious notebook.

Intro:

What's the shortest possible game of Monopoly if each player plays optimally?

Omen or crated inkwell.

Sources for our feature on the Gremlin Special:

Mitchell Zuckoff, Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, 2011.

Randy Roughton, "Impossible Rescue," Airman, Jan. 26, 2015.

John Cirafici, "Lost in Shangri-La," Air Power History 58:3 (Fall 2011), 65.

Sara Hov, "Lost in Shangri-La," Army 61:8 (August 2011), 70.

Harrison T. Beardsley, "Harrowing Crash in New Guinea," Aviation History 10:2 (November 1999), 46.

David Grann, "Plane Crash Compounded by Cannibals," Washington Post, May 22, 2011.

Mitchell Zuckoff, "Escape From the Valley of the Lost," Calgary Herald, May 8, 2011.

Mitchell Zuckoff, "In 1945, a U.S. Military Plane Crashed in New Guinea," Vancouver Sun, May 7, 2011.

Brian Schofield, "A Tumble in the Jungle," Sunday Times, May 1, 2011.

Mitchell Zuckoff, "Return to Shangri-La," Boston Globe, April 24, 2011.

"Wartime Plane Crash," Kalgoorlie [W.A.] Miner, Sept. 17, 1947.

"Glider Saved Fliers, WAC in Wild Valley," [Hagerstown, Md.] Daily Mail, Aug. 14, 1945.

Margaret Hastings, "Shangri-La Diary," Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, July 22, 1945.

Bob Myers, "Rescued Wac Is En Route to Washington," [Binghamton, N.Y.] Press and Sun-Bulletin, July 9, 1945.

"3 Crash Survivors Dramatically Rescued From New Guinea Valley by Glider Snatch Pickup," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 30, 1945.

"New Guinea's 'Hidden Valley,'" St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 28, 1945.

"Survivors of Mishap in Shangri-La Valley Reach Their Rescuers," Birmingham [Ala.] News, June 20, 1945.

"Two Airmen, Wac Await Rescue in Fantastic 'Hidden Valley,'" [Richmond, Va.] Times Dispatch, June 8, 1945.

"Plan Rescue of Survivors of Crash in Shangri-La Dutch New Guinea," Del Rio [Texas] News Herald, June 8, 1945.

Lynn Neary, "A WWII Survival Epic Unfolds Deep In 'Shangri-La,'" All Things Considered, National Public Radio, April 26, 2011.

Listener mail:

Sophie Weiner, "These Synthetic Fingerprint Gloves Can Unlock Your Phone," Popular Mechanics, Nov. 12, 2016.

"TAPS - Make Touchscreen Gloves Using a Sticker w/ Touch ID," Kickstarter.com (accessed Sept. 23, 2021).

Nanotips (last accessed Sept. 23, 2021).

Jon Porter, "This Picture of Cheese Helped Send a Man to Prison for 13 Years," The Verge, May 24, 2021.

Alex Mistlin, "Feeling Blue: Drug Dealer's 'Love of Stilton' Leads to His Arrest," Guardian, May 24, 2021.

Rob Picheta, "Drug Dealer Jailed After Sharing a Photo of Cheese That Included His Fingerprints," CNN, May 25, 2021.

Chaim Gartenberg, "WhatsApp Drug Dealer Convicted Using Fingerprints Taken From Photo," The Verge, April 16, 2018.

Chris Wood, "WhatsApp Photo Drug Dealer Caught by 'Groundbreaking' Work," BBC News, April 15, 2018.

CSChawaii, "CSC Presents Japanese Sign Language - Family" (video), Sept. 25, 2017.

Ian Sample, "Copying Keys From Photos Is Child's Play," Guardian, Nov. 14, 2008.

Elinor Mills, "Duplicating Keys From a Photograph," CNET, Nov. 19, 2008.

"KeyMe: Access & Share Saved Keys" (accessed Sept. 25, 2021).

"KeyMe: Access & Share Keys" (accessed Sept. 25, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Bill Spencer. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-10-04
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358-The Radium Girls

In 1917, a New Jersey company began hiring young women to paint luminous marks on the faces of watches and clocks. As time went on, they began to exhibit alarming symptoms, and a struggle ensued to establish the cause. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Radium Girls, a landmark case in labor safety.

We'll also consider some resurrected yeast and puzzle over a posthumous journey.

Intro:

Joseph Underwood was posting phony appeals for money in 1833.

The earliest known written reference to baseball appeared in England.

Sources for our feature on the Radium Girls:

Claudia Clark, Radium Girls : Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935, 1997.

Ross M. Mullner, Deadly Glow: The Radium Dial Worker Tragedy, 1999.

Robert R. Johnson, Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation From the Radium Girls to Fukushima, 2012.

Dolly Setton, "The Radium Girls: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark," Natural History 129:1 (December 2020/January 2021), 47-47.

Robert D. LaMarsh, "The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women," Professional Safety 64:2 (February 2019), 47.

Angela N.H. Creager, "Radiation, Cancer, and Mutation in the Atomic Age," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 45:1 (February 2015), 14-48.

Robert Souhami, "Claudia Clark, Radium Girls," Medical History 42:4 (1998), 529-530.

Ainissa Ramirez, "A Visit With One of the Last 'Radium Girls,'" MRS Bulletin 44:11 (2019), 903-904.

"Medicine: Radium Women," Time, Aug. 11, 1930.

"Poison Paintbrush," Time, June 4, 1928.

"Workers From Factory May Get Federal Honors," Asbury Park Press, June 27, 2021.

John Williams, "Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: Kate Moore's 'The Radium Girls,'" New York Times, April 30, 2017.

Jack Brubaker, "Those 'Radium Girls' of Lancaster," [Lancaster, Pa.] Intelligencer Journal / Lancaster New Era, May 9, 2014.

William Yardley, "Mae Keane, Whose Job Brought Radium to Her Lips, Dies at 107," New York Times, March 13, 2014.

Fred Musante, "Residue From Industrial Past Haunts State," New York Times, June 24, 2001.

Denise Grady, "A Glow in the Dark, and a Lesson in Scientific Peril," New York Times, Oct. 6, 1998.

Martha Irvine, "Dark Secrets Come to Light in New History of 'Radium Girls,'" Los Angeles Times, Oct. 4, 1998.

Marc Mappen, "Jerseyana," New York Times, March 10, 1991.

"Radium Poisoning Finally Claims Inventor of Luminous Paint After Fight to Harness Terrific Force of Atom," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1928.

"Two of Women Radium Victims Offer Selves for Test While Alive," [Danville, Va.] Bee, May 29, 1928.

"Death Agony From Radium," [Brisbane, Qld.] Daily Standard, May 15, 1928.

"To Begin Two Suits Against Radium Co.," New York Times, June 24, 1925.

"U.S. Starts Probe of Radium Poison Deaths in Jersey," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 19, 1925.

Listener mail:

Carolyn Wilke, "How Do We Know What Ancient People Ate? Their Dirty Dishes," Atlantic, July 24, 2021.

Chris Baraniuk, "The Treasure Inside Beer Lost in a Shipwreck 120 Years Ago," BBC, June 22, 2021.

Fiona Stocker, "A Beer Brewed From an Old Tasmanian Shipwreck," BBC, Dec. 7, 2018.

Mary Esch, "Taste of History: Yeast From 1886 Shipwreck Makes New Brew," AP News, March 15, 2019.

National Collection of Yeast Cultures.

"National Collection of Yeast Cultures," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 29, 2021).

"History of Missing Linck," Missing Linck Festival (accessed Sep. 3, 2021).

"Missing Linck Festival Arrives ? Finally!" The Gnarly Gnome, June 4, 2021.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tim Ellis, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-09-13
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357-Scenes From an Earthquake

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is remembered for its destructive intensity and terrible death toll. But the scale of the disaster can mask some remarkable personal stories. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the experiences of some of the survivors, which ranged from the horrific to the surreal.

We'll also consider a multilingual pun and puzzle over a deadly reptile.

Intro:

In the 1600s, a specialized verb described the carving of each dish.

The Earls of Leicester kept quiet in Parliament.

An iconic image: The quake toppled a marble statue of Louis Agassiz from its perch on the second floor of Stanford's zoology building. Sources for our feature:

Malcolm E. Barker, Three Fearful Days, 1998.

Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, The San Francisco Earthquake: A Minute-by-Minute Account of the 1906 Disaster, 2014.

Louise Chipley Slavicek, The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, 2008.

Richard Schwartz, Earthquake Exodus, 1906: Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees, 2005.

Gordon Thomas, The San Francisco Earthquake, 1971.

Edward F. Dolan, Disaster 1906: The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1967.

William Bronson, The Earth Shook, the Sky Burned, 1959.

Charles Morris, The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire: As Told by Eyewitnesses, 1906.

Alexander Olson, "Writing on Rubble: Dispatches from San Francisco, 1906," KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge 3:1 (Spring 2019), 93-121.

Susanne Leikam, "The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire," Journal of Transnational American Studies 7:1 (2016).

Penny Allan and Martin Bryant, "The Critical Role of Open Space in Earthquake Recovery: A Case Study," EN: Proceedings of the 2010 NZSEE Conference, 2010.

Brad T. Aagaard and Gregory C. Beroza, "The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake a Century Later: Introduction to the Special Section," Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 98:2 (2008), 817-822.

Jeffrey L. Arnold, "The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: A Centennial Contemplation," Prehospital and Disaster Medicine 21:3 (2006), 133-134.

"... and Then the Fire Was Worse Than the Earthquake ...," American History 41:1 (April 2006), 34-35.

Andrea Henderson, "The Human Geography of Catastrophe: Family Bonds, Community Ties, and Disaster Relief After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire," Southern California Quarterly 88:1 (Spring 2006), 37-70.

Kristin Schmachtenberg, "1906 Letter to the San Francisco Health Department," Social Education 70:3 (2006).

Laverne Mau Dicker, "The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire: Photographs and Manuscripts From the California Historical Society Library," California History 59:1 (Spring 1980), 34-65.

James J. Hudson, "The California National Guard: In the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906," California Historical Quarterly 55:2 (Summer 1976), 137-149.

Michael Castleman and Katherine Ellison, "Grace Under Fire," Smithsonian 37:1 (April 2006), 56-60, 64-66.

Jack London, "Story of an Eyewitness: The San Francisco Earthquake," Collier's Weekly (May 5, 1906), 107-13.

"San Francisco and Its Catastrophe," Scientific American 94:17 (April 28, 1906), 347.

Bob Norberg, "A City in Flames," [Santa Rosa, Calif.] Press Democrat, April 13, 2006.

"The Ground Shook, a City Fell, and the Lessons Still Resound," New York Times, April 11, 2006.

"Eyewitness to History," San Francisco Examiner, April 18, 1996.

"The San Francisco Earthquake," [Beechworth, Victoria] Ovens and Murray Advertiser, June 23, 1906.

"The Call-Chronicle-Examiner," [Hobart, Tasmania] Mercury, May 30, 1906.

"Earthquake at San Francisco," Fitzroy City Press, May 25, 1906.

"The San Francisco Earthquake," Singleton [N.S.W.] Argus, April 24, 1906.

"Flames Unchecked; Whole City Doomed," Richmond [Ind.] Palladium, April 20, 1906.

"Beautiful Buildings That Lie in Ruins," New York Times, April 20, 1906.

"The Relief of San Francisco," New York Times, April 20, 1906.

"Over 500 Dead," New York Times, April 19, 1906.

"Disasters Suffered by San Francisco," New York Times, April 19, 1906.

"City of San Francisco Destroyed by Earthquake," Spokane Press, April 18, 1906.

"Loss of Life Is Now Estimated at Thousands," Deseret Evening News, April 18, 1906.

San Francisco 1906 Earthquake Marriage Project.

Listener mail:

"Virginia philology ...," New Orleans Daily Democrat, June 12, 1878.

"Many old English names ...," [Raleigh, N.C.] News and Observer, Sept. 20, 1890

"'Darby' -- Enroughty," Richmond [Va.] Dispatch, Nov. 26, 1902.

"A Virginian of the Old School," Weekly Chillicothe [Mo.] Crisis, Feb. 9, 1882.

Leonhard Dingwerth, Grosse und mittlere Hersteller, 2008

Rachael Krishna, "Tumblr Users Have Discovered a Pun Which Works in So Many Languages," BuzzFeed, Feb. 2, 2016.

"The pun that transcends language barriers," r/tumblr (accessed Aug. 28, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Michelle Carter. Here are two corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-09-06
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356-A Strawberry's Journey

The modern strawberry has a surprisingly dramatic story, involving a French spy in Chile, a perilous ocean voyage, and the unlikely meeting of two botanical expatriates. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the improbable origin of one of the world's most popular fruits.

We'll also discuss the answers to some of our queries and puzzle over a radioactive engineer.

Intro:

Williston Fish bequeathed everything.

Philip Cohen invented an English contraction with seven apostrophes.

Sources for our feature on Amédée-François Frézier:

Amédée-François Frézier, A Voyage to the South-sea, and Along the Coasts of Chili and Peru, in the Years 1712, 1713, and 1714, 1717.

George McMillan Darrow, The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology, 1966.

James F. Hancock, Strawberries, 2020.

R.M. Sharma, Rakesh Yamdagni, A.K. Dubey, and Vikramaditya Pandey, Strawberries: Production, Postharvest Management and Protection, 2019.

Amjad M. Husaini and Davide Neri, Strawberry: Growth, Development and Diseases, 2016.

Joel S. Denker, The Carrot Purple and Other Curious Stories of the Food We Eat, 2015.

Adam Leith Gollner, The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession, 2013.

Mary Ellen Snodgrass, World Food: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and Social Influence From Hunter Gatherers to the Age of Globalization, 2012.

Noel Kingsbury, Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding, 2011.

Christopher Stocks, Forgotten Fruits: The Stories Behind Britain's Traditional Fruit and Vegetables, 2009.

Stevenson Whitcomb Fletcher, The Strawberry in North America: History, Origin, Botany, and Breeding, 1917.

Dominique D.A. Pincot et al., "Social Network Analysis of the Genealogy of Strawberry: Retracing the Wild Roots of Heirloom and Modern Cultivars," G3 11:3 (2021), jkab015.

Marina Gambardella, S. Sanchez, and J. Grez, "Morphological Analysis of Fragaria chiloensis Accessions and Their Relationship as Parents of F.× ananassa Hybrid," Acta Horticulturae 1156, VIII International Strawberry Symposium, April 2017.

Chad E. Finn et al., "The Chilean Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis): Over 1000 Years of Domestication," HortScience 48.4 (2013), 418-421.

Jorge B. Retamales et al., "Current Status of the Chilean Native Strawberry and the Research Needs to Convert the Species Into a Commercial Crop," HortScience 40:6 (2005), 1633-1634.

J.F. Hancock, A. Lavín, and J.B. Retamales, "Our Southern Strawberry Heritage: Fragaria chiloensis of Chile," HortScience 34:5 (1999), 814-816.

James F. Hancock and James J. Luby, "Genetic Resources at Our Doorstep: The Wild Strawberries," BioScience 43:3 (March 1993), 141-147.

Wilson Popenoe, "The Frutilla, or Chilean Strawberry," Journal of Heredity 12:10 (1921), 457-466.

Liberty Hyde Bailey, "Whence Came the Cultivated Strawberry," American Naturalist 28:328 (1894), 293-306.

Emily Tepe, "A Spy, a Botanist, and a Strawberry," Minnesota Fruit Research, University of Minnesota, June 11, 2019.

"How Strawberries Grew Bigger: Plant History," Financial Times, Aug. 30, 2008.

Steve Zalusky, "From 'Hayberry' to 'Strawberry': A Look at the History of the Delicious Fruit," [Arlington Heights, Ill.] Daily Herald, June 26, 2005.

"The Modern Strawberry Owes Its Discovery to Ironic Incidents," Charleston [W.V] Daily Mail, March 30, 2005.

Peter Eisenhauer, "The Berry With a Past," Milwaukee Journal, June 20, 1990.

Eve Johnson, "Sweet Quest for Perfection: Juicy Story With Sexy Angle," Vancouver Sun, June 16, 1990.

Listener mail:

Thanks to listener Patrick McNeal for sending this 1888 proof of the Pythagorean theorem by Emma Coolidge ("Department of Mathematics," Journal of Education 28:1 [June 28, 1888], 17). The proof is explicated in Robert and Ellen Kaplan's 2011 book Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem (pages 103-107).

Tony O'Neill, "Glenade Lake and the Legend of the Dobhar-chú," Underexposed, Dec. 4, 2017.

Patrick Tohall, "The Dobhar-Chú Tombstones of Glenade, Co. Leitrim," Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 78:2 (December 1948), 127-129.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Brent Ulbert, who sent these corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-08-30
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355-The Auckland Islands Castaways

In 1864, two ships' crews were cast away at the same time on the same remote island in the Southern Ocean. But the two groups would undergo strikingly different experiences. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Auckland Islands castaways and reflect on its implications for the wider world.

We'll also consider some fateful illnesses and puzzle over a street fighter's clothing.

Intro:

Lewis Carroll proposed fanciful logic problems.

In 1946, a kangaroo made off with William Thompson's money.

Sources for our feature on the Aucklands Islands castaways:

Joan Druett, Island of the Lost: An Extraordinary Story of Survival at the Edge of the World, 2007.

Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, 2019.

Elizabeth McMahon, Islands, Identity and the Literary Imagination, 2016.

A.W. Eden, Islands of Despair, 1955.

William Pember Reeves, New Zealand, 1908.

F.E. Raynal, Wrecked on a Reef, or Twenty Months on the Auckland Islands, 1880.

T. Musgrave, Castaway on the Auckland Isles: Narrative of the Wreck of the "Grafton," 1865.

Don Rowe, "A Tale of Two Shipwrecks," New Zealand Geographic 167 (January-February 2021).

"The Kindness of Strangers," Economist 431:9141 (May 4, 2019), 81.

Peter Petchey, Rachael Egerton, and William Boyd, "A Spanish Man-o-War in New Zealand? The 1864 Wreck of Grafton and Its Lessons for Pre-Cook Shipwreck Claims," International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 44:2 (2015), 362-370.

Bernadette Hince, "The Auckland Islands and Joan Druett's Island of the Lost," Shima: The International Journal of Research Into Island Cultures 2:1 (2008), 110.

"Mystery of the Shipwreck Shelter," [Wellington, New Zealand] Sunday Star-Times, Feb. 21, 2021.

Charles Montgomery, "The Audacity of Altruism: Opinion," Globe and Mail, March 28, 2020.

"Was New Zealand Pre-Cooked?" [Wellington, New Zealand] Sunday Star-Times, April 26, 2015.

Herbert Cullen, "Wreck of the Grafton Musgrave -- An Epic of the Sea," New Zealand Railways Magazine 9:2 (May 1, 1934).

"Twenty Months on an Uninhabited Island," Glasgow Herald, Dec. 27, 1865.

"Wreck of the Grafton: Journal of Captain Musgrave," Australian News for Home Readers, Oct. 25, 1865.

"New Zealand," Illustrated Sydney News, Oct. 16, 1865.

"The Wreck of the Grafton," Sydney Mail, Oct. 7, 1865.

"The Wreck of the Schooner Grafton," Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 2, 1865.

"Wreck of the Schooner Grafton," The Age, Oct. 2, 1865.

"The Wreck of the Schooner Grafton," Bendigo Advertiser, Sept. 30, 1865.

Grafton collection, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (retrieved Aug. 8, 2021).

"Grafton Wreck and Epigwaitt Hut," Department of Conservation, Te Papa Atawhai (retrieved Aug. 8, 2021).

Listener mail:

"Suez Crisis," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 11, 2021).

Christopher Klein, "What Was the Suez Crisis?" History, Nov. 13, 2020.

"Suez Crisis," Encyclopaedia Britannica, July 19, 2021.

"History: Past Prime Ministers," gov.uk (accessed Aug. 13, 2021).

"Anthony Eden," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 12, 2021).

David Owen, "The Effect of Prime Minister Anthony Eden's Illness on His Decision-Making During the Suez Crisis," QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 98:6 (June 2005), 387?402.

David Owen, "Diseased, Demented, Depressed: Serious Illness in Heads of State," QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 96:5 (May 2003), 325?336.

Meilan Solly, "What Happened When Woodrow Wilson Came Down With the 1918 Flu?" Smithsonian Magazine, Oct. 2, 2020.

Dave Roos, "Woodrow Wilson Got the Flu in a Pandemic During the World War I Peace Talks," History, Oct. 6, 2020.

Steve Coll, "Woodrow Wilson?s Case of the Flu, and How Pandemics Change History," New Yorker, April 16, 2020.

"History of 1918 Flu Pandemic," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 21, 2018.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Neil de Carteret and his cat Nala, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-08-23
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354-Falling Through a Thunderstorm

In 1959, Marine pilot William Rankin parachuted from a malfunctioning jet into a violent thunderstorm. The ordeal that followed is almost unique in human experience. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Rankin's harrowing adventure, which has been called "the most prolonged and fantastic parachute descent in history."

We'll also hear your thoughts on pronunciation and puzzle over mice and rice.

Intro:

How do mirrors "know" to reverse writing?

Artist Alex Queral carves portraits from telephone books.

Sources for our feature on William Rankin:

William H. Rankin, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, 1960.

Andras Sóbester, Stratospheric Flight: Aeronautics at the Limit, 2011.

Stefan Bechtel and Tim Samaras, Tornado Hunter: Getting Inside the Most Violent Storms on Earth, 2009.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds, 2007.

Christopher C. Burt, Extreme Weather: A Guide & Record Book, 2007.

Robert Jackson, Baling Out: Amazing Dramas of Military Flying, 2006.

David Fisher and William Garvey, eds., Wild Blue: Stories of Survival From Air and Space, 2000.

Missy Allen and Michel Peissel, Dangerous Natural Phenomena, 1993.

Sally Lee, Predicting Violent Storms, 1989.

James Clark, "The Incredible Story of the Marine Who Rode Lightning," Task & Purpose, June 17, 2016.

Burkhard Bilger, "Falling: Our Far-Flung Correspondents," New Yorker 83:23 (Aug. 13, 2007), 58.

"The Nightmare Fall," Time, Aug. 17, 1959.

Paul Simons, "Weather Eye," Times, Aug. 8, 2016.

Paul Simons, "US Airman Survived a Thunder Tumble," Times, April 22, 2006.

Paul Simons, "Weatherwatch," Guardian, Aug. 30, 2001.

Brendan McWillams, "Jumping Into the Eye of a Thunderstorm," Irish Times, June 22, 2001.

Harry Kursh, "Thunderstorm!" South Bend [Ind.] Tribune, May 26, 1963.

"Marine Flier Bails Out, But It Takes Him 40 Minutes to Land," Indianapolis Star, Aug. 8, 1959.

"Tossed by Elements Half-Hour," [Davenport, Iowa] Quad-City Times, Aug. 8, 1959.

"Bails Out 9 Miles Up ... Into a Storm," Des Moines [Iowa] Tribune, Aug. 7, 1959.

Listener mail:

"Rhoticity in English," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 7, 2021).

"Mechelen," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 7, 2021).

Marieke Martin, "Where Did You Say You Were? The Perils of Place Name Pronunciation," BBC Blogs, Sept. 4, 2013.

"History of Melbourne," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 8, 2021).

"Melbourne," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 8, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jon-Richard.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-08-16
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353-Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

Intro:

Lili McGrath's 1915 "floor polisher" is a pair of slippers connected by a cord.

Eighteenth-century English landowners commissioned custom ruins.

The sources for this week's puzzles are below. In some cases we've included links to further information -- these contain spoilers, so don't click until you've listened to the episode:

Puzzle #1 is from listener Moxie LaBouche.

Puzzle #2 is from listener Cheryl Jensen, who sent this link.

Puzzle #3 is from listener Theodore Warner. Here's a link.

Puzzle #4 is from listener David Morgan.

Puzzle #5 is from listener Bryan Ford, who sent these links.

Puzzle #6 is from listener John Rusk, who sent this link.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-08-09
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352-A Victorian Hippopotamus

In 1850, England received a distinguished guest: A baby hippopotamus arrived at the London Zoo. Obaysch was an instant celebrity, attracting throngs of visitors while confounding his inexperienced keepers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe his long tenure at the zoo, more than 4,000 miles from his Egyptian home.

We'll also remark on a disappearing signature and puzzle over a hazardous hand sign.

Intro:

In 1969 Rolling Stone invented a fake album with a real fanbase.

In 1990 Terence King invented hand-holding gloves.

Sources for our feature on Obaysch:

John Simons, Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London, 2019.

Edgar Williams, Hippopotamus, 2017.

Takashi Ito, London Zoo and the Victorians, 1828-1859, 2014.

Helen Cowie, Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Empathy, Education, Entertainment, 2014.

Hannah Velten, Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City, 2013.

John Toman, Kilvert's World of Wonders: Growing up in Mid-Victorian England, 2013.

Peter Loriol, Famous and Infamous Londoners, 2004.

Wilfrid Blunt, The Ark in the Park, 1976.

Abraham Dee Bartlett, Wild Animals in Captivity: Being an Account of the Habits, Food, Management and Treatment of the Beasts and Birds at the 'Zoo,' with Reminiscences and Anecdotes, 1898.

George C. Bompas, Life of Frank Buckland, 1885.

Clara L. Matéaux, Rambles Round London Town, 1884.

Charles Knight, ed., The English Cyclopaedia, 1867.

Zoological Society of London, The Zoological Gardens: A Description of the Gardens and Menageries of the Royal Zoological Society, 1853.

David William Mitchell, A Popular Guide to the Gardens of the Zoological Society of London, 1852.

Wendy Woodward, "John Simons. Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London [review]," Animal Studies Journal 9:1 (2020), 221-223.

Ronald D. Morrison, "Dickens, London Zoo, and 'Household Words,'" Nineteenth-Century Prose 46:1 (Spring 2019), 75-96.

Andrew J. P. Flack, "'The Illustrious Stranger': Hippomania and the Nature of the Exotic," Anthrozoös, 26:1 (2013), 43-59.

S. Mary P. Benbow, "Death and Dying at the Zoo," Journal of Popular Culture 37:3 (February 2004), 379-398.

David M. Schwartz, "Snatching Scientific Secrets From the Hippo's Gaping Jaws," Smithsonian 26:12 (March 1996), 90-102.

Nina J. Root, "Victorian England's Hippomania," Natural History 102:2 (February 1993), 34.

"Madam Hippo's Way," Youth's Companion 73:31 (Aug. 3, 1890).

James Bradley, "The Lessons to Learn Today From a Hippopotamus in the 19th Century," Sydney Morning Herald, June 7, 2019.

"What Are the World's Deadliest Animals?" BBC News, June 15, 2016.

"Rhino Escapes and Bonnets-Stealing Elephants: The Amateurish Early Days of London Zoo Revealed," Telegraph, Jan. 13, 2017.

"At the Zoo," Australian Star, Nov. 28, 1903.

"Wild Animals Captivity," [London] Morning Post, March 14, 1899.

"An Eminent Naturalist," [London] Standard, Feb. 11, 1899.

"A Life in the Zoo," [London] Daily News, May 10, 1897.

"The Hippo and His Habits," Westminster Budget, June 21, 1895.

"Hippo's Farewell," Punch 74 (March 23, 1878), 132.

"Public Amusements," Lloyd's Illustrated Newspaper, March 17, 1878.

"The Old Hippopotamus at the Zoological Society's Gardens Died on Monday Night," Illustrated London News 72:2020, March 16, 1878.

"Death of a Hippopotamus at the Zoological Gardens," Yorkshire Herald, March 14, 1878.

Listener mail:

Livia Gershon, "Maori May Have Reached Antarctica 1,000 Years Before Europeans," Smithsonian, June 14, 2021.

Priscilla M. Wehi et al., "A Short Scan of Maori Journeys to Antarctica," Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, June 6, 2021.

Tess McClure, "New Zealand Maori May Have Been First to Discover Antarctica, Study Suggests," Guardian, June 11, 2021.

"Polynesian History & Origin," Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey, PBS (accessed July 15, 2021).

Faye Fiore, "Getting Treated Like Royalty: Fans of Former Prime Minister Thatcher Flock to Her Book Signing," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 13, 1993.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Marie Nearing. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-07-26
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351-Notes and Queries

In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll explore some curiosities and unanswered questions from Greg's research, including a novelist's ashes, some bathing fairies, the mists of Dartmoor, and a ballooning leopard.

We'll also revisit the Somerton man and puzzle over an armed traveler.

Intro:

Amanda McKittrick Ros is widely considered the worst novelist of all time.

John Cummings swallowed 30 knives.

Sources for our notes and queries:

The Pony Express ad is quoted in Christopher Corbett's 2004 history Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express. It appeared first in Missouri amateur historian Mabel Loving's posthumous 1961 history The Pony Express Rides On!, but she cites no source, and no one's been able to find the ad.

The anecdote about John Gawsworth keeping M.P. Shiel's ashes in a biscuit tin appears in John Sutherland's 2011 book Lives of the Novelists. "The comedian and scholar of nineteenth-century decadent literature, Barry Humphries, was (unwillingly) one such diner -- 'out of mere politeness.'" Sutherland gives only this source, which says nothing about the ashes. (Thanks, Jaideep.)

Henry Irving's observation about amateur actors and personal pronouns is mentioned in Robertson Davies' 1951 novel Tempest-Tost.

Joseph Addison's definition of a pun appeared in the Spectator, May 10, 1711. Theodore Hook's best pun is given in William Shepard Walsh's Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities, 1892.

Richard Sugg's anecdote of the Ilkley fairies appears in this 2018 Yorkshire Post article.

The proof of the Pythagorean theorem by "Miss E. A. Coolidge, a blind girl" appears in Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan's 2011 book Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem. They found it in Elisha Scott Loomis' 1940 book The Pythagorean Proposition, which cites the Journal of Education (Volume 28, 1888, page 17), which I haven't been able to get my hands on -- the Kaplans couldn't either, until they discovered it had been mis-shelved in the stacks of Harvard's Gutman Library. Neither Loomis nor the Kaplans gives the proof as it originally appeared, and neither gives Coolidge's age at the proof.

The anecdote of the Dartmoor fog appears in William Crossing's 1888 book Amid Devonia's Alps.

The Paris fogs of the 1780s are described in Louis-Sébastien Mercier's Tableau de Paris (Chapter CCCLXIV, 1:1014), a 12-volume topographic description of the city that appeared between 1782 and 1788, as quoted in Jeremy Popkin, ed., Panorama of Paris: Selections From Tableau de Paris, 2010. "I have known fogs so thick that you could not see the flame in their lamps," Mercier wrote, "so thick that coachmen have had to get down from their boxes and feel their way along the walls. Passers-by, unwilling and unwitting, collided in the tenebrous streets; and you marched in at your neighbour's door under the impression that it was your own."

The anecdote about Charles Green and his ballooning companions appears in John Lucas' 1973 book The Big Umbrella.

The best image I've been able to find of the Dobhar-chú, the "king otter" of Irish folklore, accompanies this 2018 article from the Leitrim Observer. Does a photo exist of Grace Connolly's entire headstone?

According to WorldCat, G.V. Damiano's 1922 book Hadhuch-Anti Hell-War is held only by the New York Public Library System; by Trinity College Library in Hartford, Ct.; and by the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago. If it's available online, I haven't been able to find it.

The incident of the dividing typewriters is mentioned in this article from the Vancouver Sun, and there's a bit more on this Australian typewriter blog.

The anecdote about Enroughty being pronounced "Darby" appears in the designer's notes for the wargame The Seven Days, Volume III: Malvern Hill. This 1912 letter to the New York Times affirms the pronunciation, and this 1956 letter to American Heritage gives another explanation of its origin -- one of many. A few more confirming sources:

Robert M. Rennick, "I Didn't Catch Your Name," Verbatim 29:2 (Summer 2004).

Parke Rouse, "The South's Cloudy Vowels Yield to Bland Consonance," [Newport News, Va.] Daily Press, Feb. 23, 1989, A11.

Earl B. McElfresh, "Make Straight His Path: Mapmaking in the Civil War," Civil War Times 46:4 (June 2007), 36-43, 5.

But even if it's true, there's no consistent explanation as to how this state of affairs came about.

Listener mail:

Daniel Keane and Rhett Burnie, "The Somerton Man's Remains Have Been Exhumed ? So What Happens Next?" ABC News, May 19, 2021.

Hilary Whiteman, "The Somerton Man Died Alone on a Beach in 1948. Now Australian Scientists Are Close to Solving the Mystery," CNN, May 31, 2021.

"Operation Persist Enters New Phase," Crime Stoppers South Australia, Jan. 30, 2019.

"Most-Wanted Iraqi Playing Cards," Wikipedia (accessed Jul. 9, 2021).

Leon Neyfakh, "An Ingenious New Way of Solving Cold Cases," Slate, Feb. 1, 2016.

Jean Huets, "Killing Time," New York Times Opinionater, Sept. 7, 2012.

"1863 Complete Set of Confederate Generals Playing Cards (52)," Robert Edward Auctions (accessed July 10, 2021).

James Elphick, "Four Ways Americans Have Used Playing Cards in War," History Net (accessed July 10, 2021).

"WWII Airplane Spotter Cards," The Museum of Flight Store (accessed July 11, 2021).

"Vesna Vulovic," Wikipedia (accessed July 4, 2021).

Richard Sandomir, "Vesna Vulovic, Flight Attendant Who Survived Jetliner Blast, Dies at 66," New York Times, Dec. 28, 2016.

"Yeast Hunting," myBeviale, June 1, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Sarah Gilbert, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-07-19
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350-Symmes' Hole

In 1818, Army veteran John Cleves Symmes Jr. declared that the earth was hollow and proposed to lead an expedition to its interior. He promoted the theory in lectures and even won support on Capitol Hill. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Symmes' strange project and its surprising consequences.

We'll also revisit age fraud in sports and puzzle over a curious customer.

Intro:

Grazing cattle align their bodies with magnetic north.

The Conrad Cantzen Shoe Fund buys footwear for actors.

Sources for our feature on John Cleves Symmes Jr.:

David Standish, Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface, 2007.

Peter Fitting, ed., Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology, 2004.

Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, 1986.

Paul Collins, Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck, 2015.

Americus Symmes, The Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating That the Earth Is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open About the Poles, 1878.

James McBride and John Cleves Symmes, Symmes's Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating That the Earth Is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open About the Poles, 1826.

Adam Seaborn, Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery, 1820.

Donald Prothero, "The Hollow Earth," Skeptic 25:3 (2020), 18-23, 64.

Elizabeth Hope Chang, "Hollow Earth Fiction and Environmental Form in the Late Nineteenth Century," Nineteenth-Century Contexts 38:5 (2016), 387-397.

Marissa Fessenden, "John Quincy Adams Once Approved an Expedition to the Center of the Earth," smithsonianmag.com, May 7, 2015.

Daniel Loxton, "Journey Inside the Fantastical Hollow Earth: Part One," Skeptic 20:1 (2015), 65-73.

"Journey Inside the Fantastical Hollow Earth: Part Two," Skeptic 20:2 (2015), 65-73.

Matt Simon, "Fantastically Wrong: The Real-Life Journey to the Center of the Earth That Almost Was," Wired, Oct. 29, 2014.

Kirsten Møllegaard and Robin K. Belcher, "Death, Madness, and the Hero's Journey: Edgar Allan Poe's Antarctic Adventures," International Journal of Arts & Sciences 6:1 (2013) 413-427.

Michael E. Bakich, "10 Crazy Ideas From Astronomy's Past," Astronomy 38:8 (August 2010), 32-35.

Darryl Jones, "Ultima Thule: Arthur Gordon Pym, the Polar Imaginary, and the Hollow Earth," Edgar Allan Poe Review 11:1 (Spring 2010), 51-69.

Johan Wijkmark, "Poe's Pym and the Discourse of Antarctic Exploration," Edgar Allan Poe Review 10:3 (Winter 2009), 84-116.

Donald Simanek, "The Shape of the Earth -- Flat or Hollow?" Skeptic 13:4 (2008), 68-71, 80.

Duane A. Griffin, "Hollow and Habitable Within: Symmes's Theory of Earth's Internal Structure and Polar Geography," Physical Geography 25:5 (2004), 382-397.

Tim Harris, "Where All the Geese and Salmon Go," The Age, July 22, 2002.

Victoria Nelson, "Symmes Hole, or the South Polar Romance," Raritan 17:2 (Fall 1997), 136-166.

Hans-Joachim Lang and Benjamin Lease, "The Authorship of Symzonia: The Case for Nathaniel Ames," New England Quarterly 48:2 (June 1975), 241-252.

Conway Zirkle, "The Theory of Concentric Spheres: Edmund Halley, Cotton Mather, & John Cleves Symmes," Isis 37:3/4 (July 1947), 155-159.

William Marion Miller, "The Theory of Concentric Spheres," Isis 33:4 (December 1941), 507-514.

"John Cleves Symmes, the Theorist: Second Paper," Southern Bivouac 2:10 (March 1887), 621-631.

Will Storr, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth," Sunday Telegraph, July 13, 2014.

Richard Foot, "Believers Look for Fog-Shrouded Gate to Inner Earth," Vancouver Sun, May 30, 2007.

Umberto Eco, "Outlandish Theories: Kings of the (Hollow) World," New York Times, July 21, 2006.

Mark Pilkington, "Far Out: Going Underground," Guardian, June 16, 2005.

Leigh Allan, "Theory Had Holes In It, Layers, Too," Dayton Daily News, Dec. 11, 2001.

Tom Tiede, "John Symmes: Earth Is Hollow," [Bowling Green, Ky.] Park City Daily News, July 9, 1978.

Louis B. Wright, "Eccentrics, Originals, and Still Others Ahead of Their Times," New York Times, July 21, 1957.

"Sailing Through the Earth!" Shepparton [Victoria] Advertiser, March 24, 1936.

"People Inside the Earth Excited America in 1822," The Science News-Letter 27:728 (March 23, 1935), 180-181.

"Monument to a Dead Theory," Port Gibson [Miss.] Reveille, Jan. 20, 1910.

"Story of John Symmes: His Plan to Lead an Expedition to the Interior of the Earth," New York Times, Sept. 18, 1909.

"The Delusion of Symmes," New York Times, Sept. 10, 1909.

"Symmes' Hole," Horsham [Victoria] Times, May 18, 1897.

"An Arctic Theory Gone Mad," New York Times, May 12, 1884.

"Symmes's Theory: His Son Expounds It -- The Earth Hollow and Inhabited," New York Times, Dec. 2, 1883.

"Planetary Holes," New York Times, June 14, 1878.

"Symmes and Howgate: What the Believer in the Polar Opening Thinks of the Latter's Plan of Reaching the Open Polar Sea," New York Times, Feb. 24, 1877.

"In the Bowels of the Earth," Ballarat Courier, March 14, 1876.

"Symmes' Hole," New York Times, Dec. 24, 1875.

Lester Ian Chaplow, "Tales of a Hollow Earth: Tracing the Legacy of John Cleves Symmes in Antarctic Exploration and Fiction," thesis, University of Canterbury, 2011.

Listener mail:

"Danny Almonte," Wikipedia (accessed June 27, 2021).

Tom Kludt, "Age-Old Problem: How Easy Is It for Athletes to Fake Their Birthdates?" Guardian, March 16, 2021.

"Age Fraud in Association Football," Wikipedia (accessed July 3, 2021).

Muthoni Muchiri, "Age Fraud in Football: How Can It Be Tackled?" BBC News, April 26, 2019.

Dina Fine Maron, "Dear FIFA: There Is No Scientific Test to Prevent Age Fraud," Scientific American, Aug. 11, 2016.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle is taken from Agnes Rogers' 1953 book How Come? A Book of Riddles, sent to us by listener Jon Jerome.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-07-12
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349-The National Hotel Disease

In 1857 guests at Washington D.C.'s National Hotel began to come down with a mysterious illness. One of them was James Buchanan, who was preparing to assume the presidency of the United States. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the deadly outbreak and the many theories that were offered to explain it.

We'll also contemplate timpani and puzzle over an Old West astronaut.

Intro:

The words overnervousnesses and overnumerousnesses are vertically compact.

Harvard mathematician George Birkhoff reduced the principle underlying beauty to a formula.

Sources for our feature on the National Hotel Disease:

Kerry Walters, Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease, 2014.

George Alfred Townsend, Washington, Outside and Inside, 1874.

Ruth D. Reichard, "A 'National Distemper': The National Hotel Sickness of 1857, Public Health and Sanitation, and the Limits of Rationality," Journal of Planning History 15:3 (August 2016), 175-190.

Brian D. Crane, "Filth, Garbage, and Rubbish: Refuse Disposal, Sanitary Reform, and Nineteenth-Century Yard Deposits in Washington, D. C.," Historical Archaeology 34:1 (2000), 20-38.

Homer T. Rosenberger, "Inauguration of President Buchanan a Century Ago," Records of the Columbia Historical Society 57/59 (1957/1959), 96-122.

H.J. Forrest, "The National Hotel Epidemic of 1857," Medical Annals of the District of Columbia 16:3 (1947), 132-134.

Isaac O. Barnes, "The National Hotel Disease ? Letter to Dr. D.H. Storer," New Hampshire Journal of Medicine 7:8 (August 1857), 238-243.

"The National Hotel Disease," Scientific American 12:46 (July 25, 1857), 365.

"The 'Hotel Endemic' at Washington," Peninsular Journal of Medicine 5:1 (July 1857), 31-34.

"National Hotel Disease," New York Journal of Medicine 3:1 (July 1857), 90-92.

"Chemical Opinions of the National Hotel Disease," Scientific American 12:37 (May 23, 1857), 296.

"National Hotel Disease," Scientific American 12:36 (May 16, 1857), 286.

Philip Bump, "Concerns About Members of Congress Being Poisoned Date to 1857 -- and D.C.'s National Hotel," Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2015.

Clinton Yates, "Book on National Hotel Disease Shows Not Much Has Changed in D.C. Since 1850s," Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2014.

Scott McCabe, "Congressman Dies From D.C. Hotel Affliction," Washington Examiner, July 17, 2012.

"National Hotel Disease," [New York] Sun, Nov. 14, 1916.

"The National Hotel Disease," Shepherdstown [W.Va.] Register, April 10, 1858

"National Hotel Disease," [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star, June 16, 1857.

"Another Victim of the National Hotel Disease," New York Times, May 16, 1857.

"The National Hotel Disease," New York Times, May 15, 1857.

"The 'National Hotel' Poison," Holmes County [Ohio] Republican, May 14, 1857.

"The National Hotel Disease," New York Times, May 8, 1857.

"The National Hotel Disease -- Fatal Cases," National Era, May 7, 1857.

"The Health of President Buchanan," [Ebensburg, Pa.] Democrat and Sentinel, May 6, 1857.

"The Washington Mystery," New York Times, May 5, 1857.

"The National Hotel Mystery," New York Times, May 2, 1857.

"Death of Hon. John G. Montgomery," [Bloomsburg, Pa.] Star of the North, April 29, 1857.

"The Washington Epidemic," Times, April 11, 1857.

"Effects of the National Hotel Disease," New York Times, April 4, 1857.

"Sickness at the National Hotel," [Wilmington, N.C.] Tri-Weekly Commercial, March 31, 1857.

"The Washington Epidemic -- Report of the Committee of the Board of Health," New York Times, March 25, 1857.

Ludwig Deppisch, "The National Hotel Disease," The Grog Ration 4:1 (January-February 2009), 1-5.

"Historical Highlights: The Mysterious National Hotel Disease," United States House of Representatives (accessed June 23, 2021).

Andrew Glass, "National Hotel Disease Claims Many Victims, June 24, 1859," Politico, June 24, 2010.

Listener mail:

"Feyenoord Keeper Treijtel Shoots Seagull Out of the Sky," De Dag van Toen (accessed June 14, 2021).

"Eddy Treijtel over doodgeschoten meeuw: 'Iedereen heeft het gezien, behalve ik,'" [Dutch], Rijnmond, Nov. 15, 2020.

"Span's Mother Struck by Line Drive," Associated Press, March 31, 2010.

Judge Morton Krase, "Take Me Out to the Courtroom: The Legal Battle for Ownership of Barry Bonds' Historic 73rd Home Run Baseball," Philadelphia Lawyer 67:1 (Spring 2004).

"Popov v. Hayashi," Wikipedia (accessed June 25, 2021).

"Timpani," Wikipedia (accessed June 14, 2021).

"Timpani," Merriam-Webster (accessed June 14, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Peter Le Pard.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-07-05
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348-Who Killed the Red Baron?

In 1918, German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen chased an inexperienced Canadian pilot out of a dogfight and up the Somme valley. It would be the last chase of his life. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the last moments of the Red Baron and the enduring controversy over who ended his career.

We'll also consider some unwanted name changes and puzzle over an embarrassing Oscar speech.

Intro:

In the early 1970s, AI researcher James Meehan tried to teach a computer to retell Aesop's fables.

In 1983, Jacob Henderson appealed a burglary conviction on the ground that the indictment was illiterate.

Sources for our feature on the death of Manfred von Richthofen:

Norman Franks and Alan Bennett, The Red Baron's Last Flight: A Mystery Investigated, 1998.

Dale M. Titler, The Day the Red Baron Died, 1990.

P.J. Carisella and James W. Ryan, Who Killed the Red Baron?, 1969.

Dan Hampton, Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, From the Red Baron to the F-16, 2014.

Nicolas Wright, The Red Baron, 1977.

Floyd Phillips Gibbons, The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of Baron von Richthofen, Germany's Great War Bird, 1959.

Bob Gordon, "The Fearless Canadian Flier Who Led the Red Baron to His Death," Aviation History 31:2 (November 2020).

O'Brien Browne, "Deadly Duo," Aviation History 24:1 (September 2013), 44-49.

O'Brien Browne, "Shooting Down a Legend," MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 23:2 (Winter 2011), 66.

James S. Corum, "The Other Richthofen," World War II 23:3 (August/September 2008) 28-37.

Jonathan M. Young, "Against DNIF: Examining von Richthofen's Fate," Air Power History 53:4 (Winter 2006), 20-27.

A.D. Harvey, "Why Was the Red Baron's Fokker Painted Red? Decoding the Way Aeroplanes Were Painted in the First World War," War in History 8:3 (July 2001), 323-340.

Henning Allmers, "Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen's Medical Record -- Was the 'Red Baron' Fit to Fly?" Lancet 354:9177 (Aug. 7, 1999), 502-504.

M. Geoffrey Miller, "The Death of Manfred von Richthofen: Who Fired the Fatal Shot?" Sabretache: The Journal and Proceedings of the Military History Society of Australia 39:2 (June 1998), 16-29.

Carl Dienstbach, "Fighting in a Three-Decker Airplane," Popular Science Monthly 93:3 (September 1918), 386-387.

Laurence La Tourette Driggs, "Aces Among Aces," National Geographic 33:6 (June 1918), 568-580.

Tom Gilling, "Who Shot Down Manfred von Richthofen, Germany's Fearsome 'Red Baron'?" The Australian, March 30, 2021.

Catherine and Michael Greenham, "How the Red Baron Met His Fate," [Durban] Mercury, April 30, 2018.

"Lord Ashcroft: Why We Should Salute the Red Baron, the German Flying Ace Who Killed 73 British Servicemen," Telegraph, April 22, 2018.

Todd Leopold, "Who Really Killed the Red Baron? Account Offers New Wrinkle," CNN, Oct. 19, 2015.

Chris Must, "Who Killed the Red Baron?" Smiths Falls [Ont.] EMC, April 9, 2009.

Brian Bergman, "Wings of a Hero," Maclean's 118:7 (Feb. 14, 2005), 37.

Randy Boswell, "Red Baron Was a 'Sitting Duck,'" Vancouver Sun, Sept. 21, 2004.

Evan Hadingham, "Who Killed the Red Baron?" NOVA, September 2003.

"Red Baron Kill Questioned," [Sarnia, Ont.] Observer, Feb. 5, 2003.

"Capt. Richthofen Killed: On This Day, 23 April 1918," Times, April 23, 1996.

Donald Jones, "Did He or Didn't He Kill the Red Baron," Toronto Star, Dec. 1, 1990.

Kathryn Watterson, "War Ace Still Bears Witness to History," New York Times, Oct. 9, 1988.

William E. Burrows, "Here He Is in His Fokker Triplane -- The Red Baron," New York Times, April 7, 1968.

"Capt. Brown, Flyer, Killed Richthofen," New York Times, March 10, 1944.

"Who Killed Richthofen?" [Brisbane, Qld.] Courier-Mail, Dec. 8, 1937

T.A. Trevethan, "The Killing of Richthofen," Brisbane Courier, Feb. 20, 1930.

A. Roy Brown, "My Fight With Richthofen," Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 3, 1928.

Floyd Gibbons, "The Red Knight of Germany," [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, June 13, 1927.

"Says Canadians Shot Richthofen in Lines," New York Times, Nov. 29, 1925.

Harold Callender, "Knightly Foemen Honored in War," New York Times, Nov. 29, 1925.

"Richthofen's Fate," [Adelaide] Register, March 4, 1925.

"Slayer of Von Richthofen," New York Times, June 10, 1918.

"Who Killed Richthofen?" [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, April 26, 1918.

"Honor Richthofen," New York Times, April 25, 1918.

"Richthofen Died With Bullet in Heart Fighting in the Air," New York Tribune, April 24, 1918.

"Who Killed the Red Baron?" NOVA, June 2, 2013.

Amanda Rebbeck, "Who Killed the Red Baron?" Australian War Memorial, Feb. 6, 2008.

Listener mail:

"Icelandic Name," Wikipedia (accessed June 18, 2021).

"Patronymic," Wikipedia (accessed June 18, 2021).

Andie Sophia Fontaine, "Two Icelandic Sisters Fight to Determine Their Own Surnames," Reykjavik Grapevine, Oct. 14, 2019.

Jon Henley, "Icelandic Girls Can't Be Called Harriet, Government Tells Family," Guardian, June 26, 2014.

"Harriet Finally Gets Her Passport," Iceland Monitor, Aug. 28, 2015.

"Dweezil Zappa," Wikipedia (accessed June 18, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Kelly Schoettlin, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-06-28
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347-The Cottingley Fairies

In 1917, two young cousins carried a camera into an English dell and returned with a photo of fairies. When Arthur Conan Doyle took up the story it became a worldwide sensation. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Cottingley Fairies, a curiosity that would remain unexplained for most of the 20th century.

We'll also remember a ferocious fire and puzzle over a troublesome gnome.

Intro:

Poet Harry Graham found "a simple plan / Which makes the lamest lyric scan."

In the 1920s, Otto Funk fiddled across the United States.

Sources for our feature on the Cottingley fairies:

Jason Loxton et al., "The Cottingley Fairies," Skeptic 15:3 (2010), 72B,73-81.

Russell Miller, The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography, 2008.

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Coming of the Fairies, 1922.

Timothy R. Levine, Encyclopedia of Deception, 2014.

Jerome Clark, Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Physical Phenomena, 1993.

Joe Cooper, "Cottingley: At Last the Truth," The Unexplained 117 (1982), 2338-2340.

A. Conan Doyle, "The Cottingley Fairies: An Epilogue," Strand 65:2 (February 1923), 105.

Kaori Inuma, "Fairies to Be Photographed!: Press Reactions in 'Scrapbooks' to the Cottingley Fairies," Correspondence: Hitotsubashi Journal of Arts and Literature 4 (2019), 53-84.

Douglas A. Anderson, "Fairy Elements in British Literary Writings in the Decade Following the Cottingley Fairy Photographs Episode," Mythlore 32:1 (Fall/Winter 2013), 5-18.

Bruce Heydt, "The Adventure of the Cottingley Fairies," British Heritage 25:2 (May 2004), 20-25.

Helen Nicholson, "Postmodern Fairies," History Workshop Journal 46 (Autumn 1998), 205-212.

Michael W. Homer and Massimo Introvigne, "The Recoming of the Fairies," Theosophical History 6 (1996), 59-76.

Alex Owen, "'Borderland Forms': Arthur Conan Doyle, Albion's Daughters, and the Politics of the Cottingley Fairies," History Workshop 38 (1994), 48-85.

"The First, and Best Known, of the Cottingley Fairy Photographs," Nature 346:6281 (July 19, 1990), 232.

"Away With the Fairies," Country Life, Nov. 11, 2020, 128-129.

Leslie Gardner, "Notes on Mr S. F. Sanderson's Presidential Address, 21 March 1973, on 'The Cottingley Fairy Photographs,'" Folklore 86:3/4 (Autumn-Winter 1975), 190-194.

S.F. Sanderson, "The Cottingley Fairy Photographs: A Re-Appraisal of the Evidence," Folklore 84:2 (Summer 1973), 89-103.

David Barnett, "Fairy Tales," Independent, March 28, 2021.

"Cottingley Fairies: How Sherlock Holmes's Creator Was Fooled by Hoax," BBC News, Dec. 5, 2020.

"Cottingley Fairies Fake Photos to Go Under the Hammer," Guardian, March 31, 2019.

Edward Sorel, "The Spiritual Life of Arthur Conan Doyle," New York Times, Dec. 28, 2018.

Phil Penfold, "One Hundred Years on From the Famous Cottingley Hoax, Why People Still Believe in Fairies," Yorkshire Post, Feb. 13, 2018.

Emily Hourican, "A Country Devastated by War, a Famous Author Desperate to Believe in the Spiritual World and Two Little Girls Who Borrowed a Camera ... the Fascinating Story of the Cottingley Fairies," Belfast Telegraph, Sept. 2, 2017.

Hazel Gaynor, "Inside the Elaborate Hoax That Made British Society Believe in Fairies," Time, Aug. 1, 2017.

David Barnett, "Why Do So Many People Still Believe in the Cottingley Fairies?" Telegraph, July 17, 2017.

Mark Branagan, "Academic's Daughter: Curse of Cottingley Fairies Destroyed My Poor Father's Life," Express, Jan. 15, 2017.

Sarah Freeman, "How the Cottingley Fairies Cost My Parents Their Marriage," Yorkshire Post, Dec. 28, 2016.

Martin Wainwright, "Obituary: Joe Cooper: He Got the Cottingley Fairy Fakers to Confess," Guardian, Aug. 25, 2011.

Chris Cheesman, "Obituary: Geoffrey Crawley: Photographic Scientist Who Played a Key Role in Debunking the Cottingley Fairies," Guardian, Nov. 16, 2010.

Rick Whelan, "The Enchanting and Phony Cottingley Fairies," [Stratford] Beacon Herald, Nov. 11, 2010.

"Geoffrey Crawley: Photographic Expert and Journalist Who Exposed the Myth of the Cottingley Fairies That Had Been Championed by Arthur Conan Doyle," Times, Nov. 10, 2010.

Margalit Fox, "Geoffrey Crawley, 83, Dies; Gently Deflated a Fairy Hoax," New York Times, Nov. 6, 2010.

James Johnston, "Memorabilia of 'Fairies' Hoax for Auction," Scotsman, March 12, 2001.

Mel Hunter, "Fairy Tales," Birmingham Post, March 6, 2001.

Vicki Goldberg, "Photography View; Of Fairies, Free Spirits and Outright Frauds," New York Times, Feb. 1, 1998.

"Famous Fairy Photos 'Fakes,'" Canberra Times, March 21, 1983.

"Shows Photo of Elves: English Theosophist Here to Lecture on 'Coming of the Fairies,'" New York Times, Feb. 3, 1927.

"Has Conan Doyle Gone Mad?" [Perth] Mirror, Jan. 13, 1923.

"'The Coming of the Fairies' Made Real by Conan Doyle," New York Tribune, Oct. 15, 1922.

"Hoax or Revelation?" Illustrated London News 161:4352 (Sept. 16, 1922), 444.

Frank Conroy, "Fairies Photographed," New York Times, Jan. 2, 1921.

Naomi Rea, "Faked 'Fairy' Photographs From a Famous 20th-Century Hoax Could Fetch $90,000 at Auction," artnet, April 2, 2019.

Karen Sayers, "The Cottingley Fairies: A Study in Deception," Leeds University Library, Oct. 28, 2020.

Colin Harding, "Griffiths, Frances, (1907?1986)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 1, 2017.

Listener mail:

"The King's Cross Fire," London Fire Brigade (accessed June 9, 2021).

"Medical Detectives (Forensic Files) - Season 8, Episode 42 - Flashover," YouTube, March 24, 2016 (video).

"King's Cross Fire," Wikipedia (accessed Jun. 9, 2021).

"Trench Effect," Wikipedia (accessed June 9, 2021).

"Flashover," Wikipedia (accessed June 9, 2021).

Ryan Meeks, "Gail Halvorsen, aka the 'Candy Bomber,' Has Recovered From COVID-19," KSL News Radio, Jan. 24, 2021.

"Rhoticity in English," Wikipedia (accessed June 12, 2021).

"Rhotic," Merriam-Webster (accessed June 12, 2021).

"Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City," Wikipedia (accessed June 12, 2021).

"Wroclaw, Breslau, Vratislav ... One City, Many Names," In Your Pocket, July 23, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Rohan Bassett. It's based on an item in Steven Levy's 2011 book In the Plex.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-06-21
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346-A Desperate Winter in Antarctica

In 1898 a Belgian ship on a scientific expedition was frozen into the sea off the coast of Antarctica. During the long polar night, its 18 men would confront fear, death, illness, and despair. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe life aboard the Belgica during its long, dark southern winter.

We'll also consider a devaluing signature and puzzle over some missing music.

Intro:

George S. Kaufman was uninterested in Eddie Fisher's dating problems.

The Hatter and the March Hare impugn one another's honesty.

Sources for our feature on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897?1899:

Julian Sancton, Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica's Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night, 2021.

Roland Huntford, The Last Place on Earth, 1985.

T.H. Baughman, Before the Heroes Came: Antarctica in the 1890s, 1994.

Marilyn Landis, Antarctica: Exploring the Extreme, 2001.

Frederick Albert Cook, Through the First Antarctic Night, 1898-1899: A Narrative of the Voyage of the "Belgica" Among Newly Discovered Lands and Over an Unknown Sea About the South Pole, 1900.

Henryk Arçtowski, The Antarctic Voyage of the Belgica During the Years 1897, 1898, and 1899, 1902.

Patrick De Deckker, "On the Long-Ignored Scientific Achievements of the Belgica Expedition 1897-1899," Polar Research 37:1 (2018), 1474695.

Alexandru Marinescu, "An Original Document About the History of the Antarctic Expedition 'Belgica,'" in Charles W. Finkl and Christopher Makowski, eds., Diversity in Coastal Marine Sciences: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Research of Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Remote Sensing, 2017.

Jacek Machowski, "Contribution of H. Arçtowski and AB Dobrowolski to the Antarctic Expedition of Belgica (1897-1899)," Polish Polar Research 19:1-2 (1998), 15-30.

Kjell-G. Kjær, "Belgica in the Arctic," Polar Record 41:3 (2005), 205-214.

Roger H. Charlier, "Philatelic Panorama of Some Belgian Antarctic Marine Contributions, 19th-21st Centuries: From Belgica to Princess Elisabeth," Journal of Coastal Research 26:2 (2010), 359-376.

Hugo Decleir and Gaston R. Demarée, "The Belgica Antarctic Expedition, 1897-1899: A View, 120 Years Later," Okhotsk Sea and Polar Oceans Research 5 (2021), 7-14.

Claude de Broyer and Thierry Kuyken, "The Celebration of the Centennial of the Belgica Antarctic Expedition: A Tribute to the Pioneers," Polish Polar Research 22:1 (2001), 71-76.

Ian N. Higginson, "Roald Amundsen's Belgica Diary: The First Scientific Expedition to the Antarctic, Edited by Hugo Decleir," Arctic 54:1 (2001), 86-87.

Henryk Gurgul, "Henryk Arçtowski and Antoni Dobrowolski in the Hundredth Anniversary of 'Belgica' Expedition to Antarctica," Oceanologia 39:2 (1997), 197-199.

Evert Lataire et al., "The Contradictions Between the Original Three Master Belgica and Present Regulations," in Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Historic Ships 2009, 2009.

Roger H. Charlier et al., "Belgica's Antarctic Toponymic Legacy," Journal of Coastal Research 26:6 (November 2010), 1168-1171.

Peder Roberts, "Belgium's Day in the Midnight Sun," Metascience 12:3 (November 2003), 345-348.

Pat Millar, "The Tension Between Emotive/Aesthetic and Analytic/Scientific Motifs in the Work of Amateur Visual Documenters of Antarctica's Heroic Era," Polar Record 53:3 (May 2017), 245-256.

Pat Millar, "Frederick A. Cook: The Role of Photography in the Making of His Polar Explorer-Hero Image," Polar Record 51:4 (July 2015), 432-443.

H.R. Guly, "'Polar Anaemia': Cardiac Failure During the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration," Polar Record 48:2 (April 2012), 157-164.

Shane McCorristine and Jane S.P. Mocellin, "Christmas at the Poles: Emotions, Food, and Festivities on Polar Expeditions, 1818-1912," Polar Record 52:5 (September 2016), 562-577.

Lawrence A. Palinkas and Peter Suedfeld, "Psychological Effects of Polar Expeditions," Lancet 371:9607 (Jan. 12-18, 2008), 153-63.

Arnoldus Schytte Blix, "On Roald Amundsen's Scientific Achievements," Polar Research 35:1 (2016), 1-7.

Paul Pelseneer and Henryk Arçtowski, "The Belgian Antarctic Expedition," Geographical Journal 19:3 (March 1902), 387-389.

Henryk Arçtowski, "The Antarctic Voyage of the 'Belgica' During the Years 1897, 1898, and 1899," Geographical Journal 18:4 (October 1901), 353-390.

W.T. Blanford, et al., "The Antarctic Voyage of the 'Belgica' During the Years 1897, 1898, and 1899: Discussion," Geographical Journal 18:4 (October 1901), 390-394.

Peter J. Anderson, "How the South Was Won," Wilson Quarterly 5:4 (Autumn 1981), 52-68.

David H. Stam and Deirdre C. Stam, "Bending Time: The Function of Periodicals in Nineteenth-Century Polar Naval Expeditions," Victorian Periodicals Review 41:4 (Winter 2008), 301-322.

Julian Sancton, "The Antarctic Expedition That Changed Modern Medicine," Time, May 12, 2021.

Tom Kizzia, "Moving to Mars," New Yorker, April 13, 2015.

Julian Sancton, "A Brief History of People Losing Their Minds in Antarctica," GQ, May 3, 2021.

Julian Sancton, "The Explorer Who Charted the Course to Peace in Antarctica," Boston Globe, May 16, 2021.

Sara Wheeler, "Freezing for Belgium," Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2021.

Nicole Cliffe, "The Tale of a Chaotic and Failed Attempt to Explore Antarctica in 1897," New York Times, May 6, 2021.

"Baron de Gerlache, Explorer, Dies, 69; Led Expeditions to Arctic and Antarctic -- Head of Belgian Marine Bureau," New York Times, Dec. 5, 1934.

"Cook's Antarctic Trip; Joined the Belgica Expedition at the Last Moment," New York Times, Sept. 3, 1909.

"A Visit to the Antarctic Region," San Francisco Call, June 24, 1899.

"Return of Dr. Cook," [Meriden, Conn.] Journal, June 23, 1899.

Frederick A. Cook, "A Trip to the Antarctic," New York Times, Jan. 2, 1898.

"Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897-1899)," Frederick A. Cook Digital Exhibition, Ohio State University (accessed May 30, 2021).

Listener mail:

vlogbrothers, "John's World Record," YouTube, April 2, 2021 (video).

Jane Wakefield, "App Used by Emergency Services Under Scrutiny," BBC News, April 29, 2021.

Jane Wakefield, "Rescuers Question What3Words' Use in Emergencies," BBC News, June 1, 2021.

Zack Whittaker, "What3Words Sent a Legal Threat to a Security Researcher for Sharing an Open-Source Alternative," TechCrunch, April 30, 2021.

Aaron Toponce's Twitter profile.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Izzy Cope.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-06-14
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345-Climbing Mont Blanc

In 1838, Frenchwoman Henriette d'Angeville set out to climb Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, against the advice of nearly everyone she knew. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow d'Angeville up the mountain to fulfill what she called "a monomania of the heart."

We'll also escape Australia in a box and puzzle over a fixed game.

Intro:

In 1986, Florida bankruptcy judge A. Jay Cristol issued an order inspired by "a little old ebony bird."

Puzzling poet S.R. Ford fits 10 guests into nine rooms.

Sources for our feature on Henriette d'Angeville:

Rebecca A. Brown, Women on High: Pioneers of Mountaineering, 2002.

David Mazel, Mountaineering Women: Stories by Early Climbers, 1994.

Peter H. Hansen, The Summits of Modern Man, 2013.

Nathan Haskell Dole, The Spell of Switzerland, 1913.

Francis Henry Gribble, The Early Mountaineers, 1899.

Charles Edward Mathews, The Annals of Mont Blanc: A Monograph, 1898.

Albert Richard Smith, Mont Blanc, 1871.

Delphine Moraldo, "Gender Relations in French and British Mountaineering: The Lens of Autobiographies of Female Mountaineers, From d'Angeville (1794-1871) to Destivelle (1960-)," Journal of Alpine Research 101:1 (2013).

Diana L. Di Stefano, "The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering After the Enlightenment," Canadian Journal of History 50:1 (Spring/Summer 2015), 213-215.

Gerry Kearns, Mary Kingsley, and Halford Mackinder, "The Imperial Subject: Geography and Travel in the Work of Mary Kingsley and Halford Mackinder," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 22:4 (1997), 450-472.

Bénédicte Monicat, "Autobiography and Women's Travel Writings in Nineteenth-Century France: Journeys Through Self-Representation," Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 1:1 (1994), 61-70.

Walther Kirchner, "Mind, Mountain, and History," Journal of the History of Ideas 11:4 (October 1950), 412-447.

J.M. Thorington, "Henriette d'Angeville au Mont-Blanc," American Alpine Journal, 1949.

Sherilyne J. King, "Crags & Crinolines," Tenth Annual Hypoxia Symposium, McMaster University, October 1997.

Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros, "Women in Trousers: Henriette d'Angeville, a French Pioneer?" Journal of Design, Creative Process & the Fashion Industry 9:2 (2017), 200-213.

Karen Stockham, "'Home Is Just Another Range of Mountains': Constructions of 'Home' in Women's Mountaineering Auto/biographies," Auto/Biography Yearbook 2014, 2015, 90-104.

Claire Evans, "'But What Do I Wear?': A Study of Women's Climbing Attire," in Maria Vaccarella and Jacque Lynn Foltyn, eds., Fashion-Wise, 2013.

Anne Ruderman, "Boots, a Tent and a Chic Chapeau: Women Hike in Footsteps of Pioneers," Concord [N.H.] Monitor, April 18, 2004.

Susan Spano, "Intrepid Women Inspire New Heights," Calgary Herald, Feb. 22, 2003.

Alice Thomson, "Day of the Spiderwoman: Women Climbers," Times, May 18, 1993.

Hjalmar Josephi, "On Montblanc 1838," Sydney Mail, June 26, 1935.

"Mont Blanc's Bride," Saint Paul Globe, Sept. 27, 1897.

Karen Stockham, "It Went Down Into the Very Form and Fabric of Myself": Women's Mountaineering Life-Writing 1808-1960, dissertation, University of Exeter, 2012.

Listener mail:

Nuala McCann, "Crate Escape: Search for Irishmen Who Airmailed Brian Robson Home," BBC News NI, April 7, 2021.

Jason Caffrey, "The Copycat Who Nearly Died Air-Mailing Himself Home," BBC News, April 7, 2015.

Alison Healy, "'The Crate Escape': Two Irishmen Who Helped Mail Friend Home From Australia Sought," Irish Times, April 6, 2021.

Alison Healy, "Man to Meet Irish Friend Who Helped Airmail Him From Australia," Irish Times, April 17, 2021.

Heather Murphy, "A Man Who Shipped Himself in a Crate Wants to Find the Men Who Helped," New York Times, April 14, 2021.

"From the Archives, 1965: Stowaway's Box Seat in Airliner," Sydney Morning Herald, April 9, 2021.

"New Year's Day," Wikipedia (accessed May 23, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Steven Jones, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-06-07
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344-Martin Couney's Incubator Babies

For more than 40 years in the early 20th century, Martin Couney ran a sideshow in which premature babies were displayed in incubators. With this odd practice he offered a valuable service in an era when many hospitals couldn't. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Couney's unusual enterprise, which earned both criticism and praise.

We'll also marvel over an Amazonian survival and puzzle over a pleasing refusal.

Intro:

The inventor of the Dewey Decimal System suggested that GHEAUGHTEIGHPTOUGH might spell potato.

John VI of Portugal listened to visitors through his throne.

Sources for our feature on Martin Couney:

Dawn Raffel, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, 2018.

Janet Golden, Babies Made Us Modern: How Infants Brought America Into the Twentieth Century, 2018.

Elizabeth A. Reedy, American Babies: Their Life and Times in the 20th Century, 2007.

Mhairi G. MacDonald, Mary M. K. Seshia, and Martha D. Mullett, Avery's Neonatology: Pathophysiology & Management of the Newborn, 2005.

Jeffrey P. Baker, The Machine in the Nursery: Incubator Technology and the Origins of Newborn Intensive Care, 1996.

David M. Allen and Elizabeth A. Reedy, "Seven Cases: Examples of How Important Ideas Were Initially Attacked or Ridiculed by the Professions," in David M. Allen and James W. Howell, eds., Groupthink in Science: Greed, Pathological Altruism, Ideology, Competition, and Culture, 2020.

Nils J. Bergman, "Birth Practices: Maternal-Neonate Separation as a Source of Toxic Stress," Birth Defects Research 111:15 (Sept. 1, 2019), 1087-1109.

Betty R. Vohr, "The Importance of Parent Presence and Involvement in the Single-Family Room and Open-Bay NICU," Acta Paediatrica 108:6 (June 2019), 986-988.

Claire Prentice, "The Man Who Ran a Carnival Attraction That Saved Thousands of Premature Babies Wasn?t a Doctor at All," Smithsonian, Aug. 19, 2016.

"When Preemies Were a Carnival Sideshow," Modern Healthcare 45:32 (Aug. 10, 2015), 36.

Judith S. Gooding et al., "Family Support and Family-Centered Care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Origins, Advances, Impact," Seminars in Perinatology 35:1 (February 2011), 20-28.

Magdalena Mazurak and Ma?gorzata Czy?ewska, "Incubator Doctor and the Dionne Quintuplets: On the Phenomenon of Exhibiting Premature Infants," Dental and Medical Problems 43:2 (2006), 313-316.

Elizabeth A. Reedy, "Historical Perspectives: Infant Incubators Turned 'Weaklings' Into 'Fighters,'" American Journal of Nursing 103:9 (September 2003), 64AA.

Hannah Lieberman, "Incubator Baby Shows: A Medical and Social Frontier," History Teacher 35:1 (November 2001), 81-88.

Jeffrey P. Baker, "The Incubator and the Medical Discovery of the Premature Infant," Journal of Perinatology 20:5 (2000), 321-328.

Gerald M. Oppenheimer, "Prematurity as a Public Health Problem: US Policy From the 1920s to the 1960s," American Journal of Public Health 86:6 (1996), 870-878.

Lou Ann Bunker-Hellmich, "A Case Study of Space Use and Visiting Policy in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit," Children's Environments Quarterly 4:3 (Fall 1987), 25-32.

Richard F. Snow, "American Characters: Martin Couney," American Heritage 32:4 (June/July 1981).

Leo Stern, "Thermoregulation in the Newborn Infant: Historical, Physiological and Clinical Considerations," in George Franklin Smith, D. Vidyasagar, and Patricia N. Smith, eds., Historical Review and Recent Advances in Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine, 1980.

Rutledge Rutherford, "Infant Incubators," Technical World Magazine 4:1 (September 1905), 68-73.

Joanne Palmer, "'The Strange Case of Dr. Couney,'" Jewish Standard, Nov. 1, 2018.

Heidi Stevens, "Saved by Science, Twins Displayed in Incubators at Chicago's 2nd World's Fair Are Now 84 and Nestled Happily in the Suburbs," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 30, 2018.

Rick Kogan, "Mysterious 'Doctor' Couney Saved Thousands of Premature Babies -- and Put Them on Display at the Fair," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 25, 2018.

Will Pavia, "Fairground 'Doctor' Who Saved Babies," Times, July 28, 2018.

"How One Man Saved a Generation of Premature Babies," BBC News, May 23, 2016.

Frank Eltman, "'Incubator Babies' Want Their Story Told," [Montreal] Gazette, Aug. 1, 2015.

William Brangham, "How a Coney Island Sideshow Advanced Medicine for Premature Babies," PBS NewsHour, July 21, 2015.

Michael Pollak, "The Incubated Babies of the Coney Island Boardwalk," New York Times, July 31, 2015.

Michael Brick, "And Next to the Bearded Lady, Premature Babies," New York Times, June 12, 2005.

Daniel B. Schneider, "F.Y.I.," New York Times, Dec. 13, 1998.

"Martin A. Couney, 'Incubator Doctor,'" New York Times, March 2, 1950.

"Incubator's Class of '39 Lifts Cups to Old Times," New York Times, June 15, 1940.

Paul Harrison, "New York Letter," Brownsville [Texas] Herald, Aug. 8, 1933.

"5,000 Babies Owe Their Lives to Gas Heat," Newark [Ohio] Leader, April 16, 1926.

"Storks Are to Be Taken at the World's Fair Despite the Big War in Europe," [Clarksburg, W.Va.] Daily Telegram, Sept. 3, 1914.

"Inventor Is Pleased," Minneapolis Journal, Aug. 4, 1905.

Listener mail:

Manuela Andreoni, "His Plane Crashed in the Amazon. Then Came the Hard Part," New York Times, March 28, 2021.

Stephen Gibbs, "Crash Pilot Lives to Tell Tale of 38 Days Lost in the Amazon," Times, March 30, 2021.

P.S.M. Chandran, "Why Age Fraud in Indian Sports Is So Prevalent," The Wire, May 6, 2020.

Nagraj Gollapudi, "Age Fraud - BCCI Offers Amnesty Scheme to Players, Promises 'Stern Actions' to Curb Menace," ESPNcricinfo, Aug. 3, 2020.

Shashank Kishore, "Indian Cricket's Age-Fraud Problem," ESPNcricinfo, June 28, 2019.

"Afridi Reveals His Real Age ? Sort Of," Cricket Network, May 3, 2019.

"Shahid Afridi Reveals His Real Age in Autobiography," ESPNcricinfo, May 2, 2019.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jack McLachlan. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-05-24
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343-Operation Cowboy

In April 1945, a group of American soldiers learned that hundreds of Lipizzaner horses were being held on a farm in western Czechoslovakia -- and set out to rescue them before the Red Army could reach them. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Operation Cowboy, one of the strangest episodes of World War II.

We'll also learn about an NBA brawl and puzzle over a technology's link to cancer deaths.

Intro:

What's wrong with these Martian census numbers?

Japanese puzzle maven Nob Yoshigahara offered this perplexing model.

Sources for our feature on Operation Cowboy:

Mark Felton, Ghost Riders: When U.S. and German Soldiers Fought Together to Save the World's Most Beautiful Horses in the Last Days of World War II, 2018.

Stephan Talty, Operation Cowboy: The Secret American Mission to Save the World?s Most Beautiful Horses in the Last Days of World War II, 2014.

David R. Dorondo, "Enemies Unite to Rescue Equestrian Captives," Army 69:8 (August 2019), 70-71.

Mark Felton, "Operation Cowboy -- How American GIs & German Soldiers Joined Forces to Save the Legendary Lipizzaner Horses in the Final Hours of WW2," Military History Now, Nov. 25, 2018.

Karen Jensen, "'Something Beautiful,'" World War II 24:4 (November 2009), 52-59,5.

Boris Brglez, "The 3rd Army Rescue of the Lipizzaners," United States Army Medical Department Journal, January-March 2009, 59-63.

Renita Foster, "Saving the Lippizaners: American Cowboys Ride to the Rescue," Armor 107:3 (May-June 1998), 22-23.

Susan Davis, "Operation Cowboy in 1945 a Group of U.S. Soldiers Liberated 375 Lipizzans From Nazi Captivity," Sports Illustrated, Oct. 16, 1995.

Marea Donnelly, "Hoof Dares Wins," [Surry Hills, N.S.W.] Daily Telegraph, Sept. 8, 2018.

Matt Thompson, "WWII Soldier's Heroism Finally Coming to Light in His Hometown," [Toledo] Blade, May 29, 2016.

Jennifer Bunn, "2CR, Czech Republic Remember Operation Cowboy," army.mil, May 2, 2016.

Molly Bompane, "Army Europe, Czech Republic Celebrates 70th Anniversary of Operation Cowboy," army.mil, May 27, 2015.

Jane Shilling, "History: The Beautiful Lipizzaner Breed Has Endured a Brutal 20th Century, Discovers Jane Shilling," Sunday Telegraph, Aug. 5, 2012.

Dan Craft, "Lipizzaners Saved in War," McClatchy-Tribune Business News, Sept. 28, 2006.

Listener mail:

Charlie Miller, "What's the Record for Most Foul Balls Hit in a Single At-Bat?" Athlon Sports, Jan. 23, 2013.

Harker Davies, "Randy Johnson Kills Dove," YouTube (video).

"Randy Johnson Kills Dove With Pitch," ABC News, March 26, 2001.

"Valencian Trinquet," Wikipedia (accessed May 6, 2021).

"Valencian Pilota," Wikipedia (accessed May 6, 2021).

TheNBAFreak, "Malice at the Palace," YouTube (video).

"Pacers?Pistons Brawl," Wikipedia (accessed May 5, 2021).

"Top 10 List of Worst NBA Fights, Cheap Shots," NBA News, April 23, 2012.

Scott Gleeson, "Metta Sandiford-Artest and Stephen Jackson Reflect on 'Malice at the Palace': Fans 'Started It'," USA Today, Nov. 10, 2020.

"Suspensions Without Pay, Won't Be Staggered," ESPN, Nov. 21, 2004.

Michael McCarthy, "Fan Who Ignited Brawl Forever Banned From Pistons' Home Games," USA Today, Nov. 17, 2006.

Zach Buckley, "The 5 Fights That Changed the NBA," Bleacher Report, May 23, 2020.

"Carlisle: 'I Was Fighting for My Life Out There,'" ESPN, Nov. 20, 2004.

"Recurring Jokes in Private Eye," Wikipedia (accessed May 8, 2021).

"Arkell v. Pressdram," Letters of Note, Aug. 7, 2013.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Elliot Kendall, based on an item in James Hallenbeck's 2003 book Palliative Care Perspectives.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]loset.com. Thanks for listening!

2021-05-17
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342-A Slave Sues for Freedom

In 1844 New Orleans was riveted by a dramatic trial: A slave claimed that she was really a free immigrant who had been pressed into bondage as a young girl. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Sally Miller's fight for freedom, which challenged notions of race and social hierarchy in antebellum Louisiana.

We'll also try to pronounce some drug names and puzzle over some cheated tram drivers.

Intro:

In 1992, a Florida bankruptcy judge held a computer in contempt of court.

The 1908 grave of Vermont atheist George P. Spencer is inscribed with his credo.

Sources for our feature on Sally Miller:

Carol Wilson, The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans, 2007.

Paul Finkelman, Free Blacks, Slaves, and Slaveowners in Civil and Criminal Courts: The Pamphlet Literature, 2007.

Gwendoline Alphonso, "Public & Private Order: Law, Race, Morality, and the Antebellum Courts of Louisiana, 1830-1860," Journal of Southern Legal History 23 (2015), 117-160.

Emily West, "The Two Lives of Sally Miller," Slavery & Abolition 30:1 (March 2009), 151-152.

Carol Lazzaro-Weis, "The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans," Journal of Southern History 74:4 (November 2008), 970-971.

Frank Towers, "The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Identity in Antebellum New Orleans," American Historical Review 113:1 (February 2008), 181-182.

Scott Hancock, "The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans," Journal of American History 94:3 (December 2007), 931-932.

Daneen Wardrop, "Ellen Craft and the Case of Salomé Muller in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom," Women's Studies 33:7 (2004), 961-984.

Patricia Herminghouse, "The German Secrets of New Orleans," German Studies Review 27:1 (February 2004), 1-16.

Marouf Hasian Jr., "Performative Law and the Maintenance of Interracial Social Boundaries: Assuaging Antebellum Fears of 'White Slavery' and the Case of Sally Miller/Salome Müller," Text & Performance Quarterly 23:1 (January 2003), 55-86.

Ariela Gross, "Beyond Black and White: Cultural Approaches to Race and Slavery," Columbia Law Review 101:3 (April 2001), 640-690.

Stephan Talty, "Spooked: The White Slave Narratives," Transition 85 (2000), 48-75.

Carol Wilson, "Sally Muller, the White Slave," Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 40:2 (Spring 1999), 133-153.

Ariela J. Gross, "Litigating Whiteness: Trials of Racial Determination in the Nineteenth-Century South," Yale Law Journal 108:1 (October 1998), 109-188.

Carol Wilson and Calvin D. Wilson, "White Slavery: An American Paradox," Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 19:1 (1998).

Wilbert E. Moore, "Slave Law and the Social Structure," Journal of Negro History 26:2 (April 1941), 171-202.

"Case of Salome Müller," Law Reporter 8:7 (November 1845), 332-333.

Nina C. Ayoub, "'The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans,'" Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 19, 2007.

Carol Edwards, "Story of German Slave Girl 'Extraordinary,' But Is It True?", [Charleston, S.C.] Post and Courier, March 20, 2005.

Mary-Liz Shaw, "'The Lost German Slave Girl' Unravels a Mystery of Old South," Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, Jan. 26, 2005.

Gregory M. Lamb, "The Peculiar Color of Racial Justice," Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 25, 2005.

Linda Wolfe, "Sally Miller's Struggle to Escape Slavery Ended in Celebrated Case," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 23, 2005.

Debra J. Dickerson, "Making a Case for Freedom: Was a White German Girl Forced Into Slavery?" Boston Globe, Jan. 23, 2005.

Jonathan Yardley, "The Case of Sally Miller," Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2005.

"Strange Case in New Orleans," Alexandria Gazette, July 3, 1845.

"City Affairs," New-York Daily Tribune, July 11, 1844.

Madison Cloud, Improvising Structures of Power and Race: The Sally Miller Story and New Orleans, dissertation, Baylor University, 2015.

Carol Wilson, "Miller, Sally," American National Biography, April 2008.

Listener mail:

David Lazarus, "Wonder Where Generic Drug Names Come From? Two Women in Chicago, That's Where," Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2019.

"Naming Law in Sweden," Wikipedia (accessed April 30, 2021).

"Baby Named Metallica Rocks Sweden," BBC News, April 4, 2007.

Meredith MacLeod, "Sweden Rejects 'Ford' as Name for Canadian-Swedish Couple's Son," CTVNews, Nov. 9, 2018.

"Naming Law," Wikipedia (accessed April 30, 2021).

"Naming in the United States," Wikipedia (accessed April 30, 2021).

Tovin Lapan, "California Birth Certificates and Accents: O'Connor Alright, Ramón and José Is Not," Guardian, April 11, 2015.

"AB-82 Vital records: diacritical marks" (as amended), California Legislative Information, Sept. 15, 2017.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Charlotte Greener. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-05-10
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341-An Overlooked Bacteriologist

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.

Intro:

The Galveston hurricane of 1915 carried 21,000-pound buoy 10 miles.

Lillian Russell designed a portable dresser for touring actresses.

Sources for our feature on Waldemar Haffkine:

Selman A. Waksman, The Brilliant and Tragic Life of W.M.W. Haffkine, Bacteriologist, 1964.

Waldemar Mordecai Wolffe Haffkine, Anti-Cholera Inoculation, 1895.

Tilli Tansey, "Rats and Racism: A Tale of US Plague," Nature 568:7753 (April 25, 2019), 454-455.

Yusra Husain, "Lucknow: Bubonic Plague Vaccine and a 123-Year-Old Family Tale," Times of India, July 29, 2020.

Stanley B. Barns, "Waldemar Haffkine and the 1911 Chinese Pneumonic Plague Epidemic," Pulmonary Reviews 13:3 (March 2008), 9.

Jake Scobey-Thal, "The Plague," Foreign Policy 210 (January/February 2015), 24-25.

Marina Sorokina, "Between Faith and Reason: Waldemar Haffkine (1860-1930) in India," in Kenneth X. Robbins and Marvin Tokayer, eds., Western Jews in India: From the Fifteenth Century to the Present, 2013, 161-178.

Pratik Chakrabarti, "'Living versus Dead': The Pasteurian Paradigm and Imperial Vaccine Research," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 84:3 (Fall 2010), 387-423.

Barbara J. Hawgood, "Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine, CIE (1860?1930): Prophylactic Vaccination Against Cholera and Bubonic Plague in British India," Journal of Medical Biography 15:1 (2007), 9-19.

Myron Echenberg, "Pestis Redux: The Initial Years of the Third Bubonic Plague Pandemic, 1894-1901," Journal of World History 13:2 (Fall 2002), 429-449.

Natasha Sarkar, "Plague in Bombay: Response of Britain's Indian Subjects to Colonial Intervention," Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 62 (2001), 442-449.

Ilana Löwy, "From Guinea Pigs to Man: The Development of Haffkine's Anticholera Vaccine," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 47:3 (July 1992), 270-309.

Eli Chernin, "Ross Defends Haffkine: The Aftermath of the Vaccine-Associated Mulkowal Disaster of 1902," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 46:2 (April 1991), 201-218.

Edythe Lutzker and Carol Jochnowitz, "The Curious History of Waldemar Haffkine," Commentary 69:006 (June 1980), 61.

W.J. Simpson, "Waldemar Haffkine, CIE," British Medical Journal 2:3644 (1930), 801.

Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine, "A Lecture on Vaccination Against Cholera: Delivered in the Examination Hall of the Conjoint Board of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Surgeons of England, December 18th, 1895," British Medical Journal 2:1825 (1895), 1541.

Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine, "On Preventive Inoculation," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 65:413-422 (1900), 252-271.

Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine and W.J. Simpson, "A Contribution to the Etiology of Cholera," Indian Medical Gazette 30:3 (1895), 89.

Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine, E.H. Hankin, and Ch. H. Owen, "Technique of Haffkine's Anti-Choleraic Inoculations," Indian Medical Gazette 29:6 (1894), 201.

Andrew Scottie, "The Vaccine Passport Debate Isn't New: It Started in 1897 During a Plague Pandemic," CNN Wire Service, April 14, 2021.

"How the World's Race for Vaccination Was Won," [Surry Hills, N.S.W.] Daily Telegraph, Feb. 23, 2021.

Joel Gunter and Vikas Pandey, "Waldemar Haffkine: The Vaccine Pioneer the World Forgot," BBC News, Dec. 11, 2020.

Vikram Doctor, "The Risks and Rewards of Human Trials," [New Delhi] Economic Times, May 9, 2020.

Donald G. McNeil, Jr., "Can the Government Require Vaccinations? Yes," New York Times, April 11, 2019.

Henry Marsh, "The Sniping Scientists Whose Work Saved Millions of Lives," New York Times, Sept. 3, 2018.

William F. Bynum, "Review --- Books: Anxieties Immune to Reason," Wall Street Journal, Aug. 18, 2018.

Faye Flam, "Please Don't Try This Biohacking at Home," Chicago Tribune, June 8, 2018.

Ashlin Mathew, "Falling Into the Rattrap," [Noida] Mail Today, April 5, 2015.

Nicholas Bakalar, "Milestones in Combating Cholera," New York Times, Oct. 1, 2012.

"Death of Dr. Haffkine," [Perth] Westralian Judean, Feb. 1, 1931.

"Neglect of Genius," [Brisbane] Telegraph, May 12, 1923.

"A Scientist From India," [Victoria] Jewish Herald, Nov. 5, 1915.

"Dinner to Dr. Haffkine," Hebrew Standard of Australasia, July 28, 1899.

Ernest Hart, "Fighting Cholera on the Ganges," Salt Lake Herald, Nov. 2, 1896.

Listener mail:

Quite Interesting, "Last week, the Union of Museum Cats was established ...," Twitter, March 3, 2021.

Lana Svetlova, "The First Trade Union of Museum Cats in Russia Was Decided to Be Created in St. Petersburg," MKRU St. Petersburg, April 26, 2021.

"Hermitage Cats," Wikipedia (accessed April 21, 2021).

"Frenchman Leaves Inheritance to St. Petersburg's Hermitage Cats," Moscow Times, Dec. 3, 2020.

Alexander Marquardt, "St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum Home to Masters ... and Cats," ABC News, July 21, 2010.

Teresa Levonian Cole, "St Petersburg: The Cats of the Hermitage," Telegraph, May 23, 2013.

Mary Ilyushina and Amy Woodyatt, "A French Man Has Left Money to 50 Cats Who Live in Russia's Hermitage Museum," CNN, Dec. 7, 2020.

"Hermitage Museum," Wikipedia (accessed April 24, 2021).

Mikey Smith, "No10 Staff Told to Cut Down on Treats for Larry the Cat as He Piles on Lockdown Pounds," Mirror, March 9, 2021.

Justin Ng, "Just seen @Number10cat see off a fox ...," Twitter, April 20, 2021.

Sam Baker, "The Fur Flies at Number Ten: Larry the Downing Street Cat Sees Off Rival FOX in Scrap Behind Prime Minister's Home," Daily Mail, April 20, 2021.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Sam Tilley, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-05-03
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340-A Vanished Physicist

In 1938, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana vanished after taking a sudden sea journey. At first it was feared that he'd ended his life, but the perplexing circumstances left the truth uncertain. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review the facts of Majorana's disappearance, its meaning for physics, and a surprising modern postscript.

We'll also dither over pronunciation and puzzle over why it will take three days to catch a murderer.

Intro:

By design, no building in Washington, D.C., is taller than the Washington Monument.

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra plays instruments made of fresh vegetables.

Sources for our feature on Ettore Majorana:

Erasmo Recami, The Majorana Case: Letters, Documents, Testimonies, 2019.

Salvatore Esposito, Ettore Majorana: Unveiled Genius and Endless Mysteries, 2017.

Salvatore Esposito, The Physics of Ettore Majorana, 2015.

Salvatore Esposito et al., eds., Ettore Majorana: Notes on Theoretical Physics, 2013.

Salvatore Esposito, Erasmo Recami, and Alwyn Van der Merwe, eds., Ettore Majorana: Unpublished Research Notes on Theoretical Physics, 2008.

Francesco Guerra and Nadia Robotti, "Biographical Notes on Ettore Majorana," in Luisa Cifarelli, ed., Scientific Papers of Ettore Majorana, 2020.

Mark Buchanan, "In Search of Majorana," Nature Physics 11:3 (March 2015), 206.

Michael Brooks, "The Vanishing Particle Physicist," New Statesman 143:5233 (Oct. 24, 2014), 18-19.

Francesco Guerra and Nadia Robotti, "The Disappearance and Death of Ettore Majorana," Physics in Perspective 15:2 (June 2013), 160-177.

Salvatore Esposito, "The Disappearance of Ettore Majorana: An Analytic Examination," Contemporary Physics 51:3 (2010), 193-209.

Ennio Arimondo, Charles W. Clark, and William C. Martin, "Colloquium: Ettore Majorana and the Birth of Autoionization," Reviews of Modern Physics 82:3 (2010), 1947.

Graham Farmelo, "A Brilliant Darkness: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana, the Troubled Genius of the Nuclear Age," Times Higher Education, Feb. 18, 2010.

Frank Close, "Physics Mystery Peppered With Profanity," Nature 463:7277 (Jan. 7, 2010), 33.

Joseph Francese, "Leonardo Sciascia and The Disappearance of Majorana," Journal of Modern Italian Studies 15:5 (2010), 715-733.

Frank Wilczek, "Majorana Returns," Nature Physics 5:9 (2009), 614-618.

Barry R. Holstein, "The Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana," Journal of Physics: Conference Series 173, Carolina International Symposium on Neutrino Physics, May 15?17, 2008.

Joseph Farrell, "The Ethics of Science: Leonardo Sciascia and the Majorana Case," Modern Language Review 102:4 (October 2007), 1021-1034.

Zeeya Merali, "The Man Who Was Both Alive and Dead," New Scientist 191:2563 (Aug. 5, 2006), 15.

Erasmo Recami, "The Scientific Work of Ettore Majorana: An Introduction," Electronic Journal of Theoretical Physics 3:10 (April 2006), 1-10.

Ettore Majorana and Luciano Maiani, "A Symmetric Theory of Electrons and Positrons," Ettore Majorana Scientific Papers, 2006.

R. Mignani, E. Recami, and M. Baldo, "About a Dirac-Like Equation for the Photon According to Ettore Majorana," Lettere al Nuovo Cimento 11:12 (April 1974), 568-572.

Angelo Paratico, "Science Focus: Italy Closes Case on Physician's Mysterious Disappearance," South China Morning Post, Feb. 15, 2015.

Antonino Zichichi, "Ettore Majorana: Genius and Mystery," CERN Courier 46 (2006), N6.

Peter Hebblethwaite, "Saints for Our Time," Guardian, April 17, 1987.

Walter Sullivan, "Finding on Radioactivity May Upset Physics Law," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1987.

Nino Lo Bello, "Is Missing Atomic Scientist Working for the Russians?" [Cedar Rapids, Iowa] Gazette, May 3, 1959.

Listener mail:

"Farmers Project Is Right on Time," New Zealand Herald, Feb. 6, 2012.

"Farmers Opens New Napier Store," Scoop, June 6, 2013.

Megan Garber, "The State of Wyoming Has 2 Escalators," Atlantic, July 17, 2013.

Brandon Specktor, "Believe It or Not, This State Only Has Two Escalators -- Here's Why," Reader's Digest, Sept. 8, 2017.

Audie Cornish and Melissa Block, "Where Are All of Wyomings Escalators?" NPR, July 18, 2013.

Natasha Frost, "Spiral Escalators Look Cool, But Do They Make Sense?" Atlas Obscura, July 5, 2017.

"Spiral Escalator," Elevatorpedia (accesssed April 17, 2021).

"Aussie," Wikipedia (accessed April 16, 2021).

"Sir George Cockburn, 10th Baronet," Wikipedia (accessed April 14, 2021).

"Naming Cockburn," City of Cockburn (accessed April 14, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle is taken from Anges Rogers' 1953 book How Come?: A Book of Riddles, sent to us by listener Jon Jerome.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-04-26
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339-The Baron of Arizona

In 1883, Missouri real estate broker James Reavis announced that he held title to a huge tract of land in the Arizona Territory. If certified, the claim would threaten the livelihoods of thousands of residents. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Baron of Arizona, one of the most audacious frauds in American history.

We'll also scrutinize British statues and puzzle over some curious floor numbers.

Intro:

In 1891, Charles Dodgson wrote a curiously unforthcoming letter to Nellie Bowman.

Reputedly the English geologist William Buckland could distinguish a region by the smell of its soil.

Sources for our feature on James Reavis:

Donald M. Powell, The Peralta Grant: James Addison Reavis and the Barony of Arizona, 1960.

E.H. Cookridge, The Baron of Arizona, 1967.

Jay J. Wagoner, Arizona Territory, 1863-1912: A Political History, 1970.

Donald M. Powell, "The Peralta Grant: A Lost Arizona Story," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 50:1 (First Quarter, 1956), 40-52.

Walter Barlow Stevens, Missouri the Center State: 1821-1915, Volume 2, 1915.

Joseph Stocker, "The Baron of Arizona," American History 36:1 (April 2001), 20.

J.D. Kitchens, "Forging Arizona: A History of the Peralta Land Grant and Racial Identity in the West," Choice 56:12 (August 2019), 1515.

Donald M. Powell, "The Baron of Arizona by E. H. Cookridge (review)," Western American Literature 4:1 (Spring 1969), 73-74.

Tim Bowman, "Forging Arizona: A History of the Peralta Land Grant and Racial Identity in the West (review)," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 123:3 (January 2020), 386-387.

Ira G. Clark, "The Peralta Grant: James Addison Reavis and the Barony of Arizona by Donald M. Powell (review)," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 47:3 (December 1960), 522-523.

McIntyre Faries, "The Peralta Grant ? James Addison Reavis and the Barony of Arizona by Donald M. Powell (review)," Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly 42:3 (September 1960), 315.

Donald M. Powell, "The 'Baron of Arizona' Self-Revealed: A Letter to His Lawyer in 1894," Arizona and the West 1:2 (Summer 1959), 161-173.

Clarence Budington Kelland, "The Red Baron of Arizona," Saturday Evening Post 220:15 (Oct. 11, 1947), 22.

Marshall Trimble, "The Baron of Arizona," True West Magazine, April 2, 2015.

Oren Arnold, "Skulduggery in the Southwest," Saturday Evening Post 216:34 (Feb. 19, 1944), 68.

Jeff Jackson, "Reavis Put Arizola on Map Ignominiously," [Casa Grande, Ariz.] Tri-Valley Dispatch, June 2, 2020.

"Arizona's Long, Rich History of Land Fraud," Arizona Republic, Dec. 29, 2019.

Ron Dungan, "The 'Baron of Arizona,' a Most Royal Fraud," Arizona Republic, March 6, 2016.

Jaimee Rose, "Forger Claimed 12 Mil Acres," Arizona Republic, Oct. 14, 2012.

Richard Ruelas, "'Baron of Arizona' Reigns Again," Arizona Republic, Jan. 28, 2008.

Clay Thompson, "'Baron' Reavis Behind State's Biggest Scam," Arizona Republic, March 12, 2006.

"The 12-Million-Acre Swindle That Failed," Arizona Republic, Jan. 12, 2002.

Bill Hume, "Sly Headstone Maker Nearly Carved Off Hunk of Southwest," Albuquerque Journal, July 9, 2000.

Mitchell Smyth, "Baron of Arizona Really 'Prince of Imposters,'" Toronto Star, Feb. 12, 2000.

Marshall Sprague, "A Crook by Choice," New York Times, July 9, 1967.

"Skulduggery in Arizona Land Office," New York Times, June 23, 1950.

"Peralta Reavis Turns Up Again," Socorro [N.M.] Chieftain, July 2, 1904.

Will M. Tipton, "The Prince of Impostors: Part I," Land of Sunshine 8:3 (February 1898), 106?118.

Will M. Tipton, "The Prince of Impostors: Part II," Land of Sunshine 8:4 (March 1898), 161?170.

"Indicted on Two Score Counts: Land Claimant Reavis to Be Prosecuted by the Government," New York Times, Jan. 20, 1896.

"Reavis Conspirators," Arizona Republican, Jan. 3, 1896.

"The 'Baron of the Colorados': He Claims a Great Tract of Land in Arizona," New York Times, July 7, 1891.

Listener mail:

Mark Brown, "Royal Mint to Commemorate Fossil Hunter Mary Anning," Guardian, Feb. 24, 2021.

"Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter Celebrated With Jurassic 50p Coins," BBC News, Feb. 25, 2021.

"Mary Anning Rocks" (accessed April 7, 2021).

Caroline Criado-Perez, "I Sorted the UK's Statues by Gender -- a Mere 2.7 Per Cent Are of Historical, Non-Royal Women," New Statesman, March 26, 2016.

"Reality Check: How Many UK Statues Are of Women?" BBC News, April 24, 2018.

Megan O'Grady, "Why Are There So Few Monuments That Successfully Depict Women?" New York Times, Feb. 18, 2021.

Shachar Peled, "Where Are the Women? New Effort to Give Them Just Due on Monuments, Street Names," CNN, March 8, 2017.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Colin White.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-04-19
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338-A Point of Law

One dark night in 1804, a London excise officer mistook a bricklayer for a ghost and shot him. This raised a difficult question: Was he guilty of murder? In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll consider the case of the Hammersmith ghost, which has been called "one of the greatest curiosities in English criminal law."

We'll also worry about British spiders and puzzle over some duplicative dog names.

Intro:

In 1850, an English doctor claimed to have given first aid to a pike.

In 1970, Air Force pilot Gary Foust ejected from his F-106 and watched it land itself.

Sources for our feature on the Hammersmith ghost:

W.M. Medland and Charles Weobly, A Collection of Remarkable and Interesting Criminal Trials, Actions at Law, &c., 1804.

Thomas Faulkner, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Hammersmith, 1839.

James Paterson, Curiosities of Law and Lawyers, 1899.

Thomas Faulkner, An Historical and Topographical Account of Fulham: Including the Hamlet of Hammersmith, 1813.

R.S. Kirby, Kirby's Wonderful and Scientific Museum: Or, Magazine of Remarkable Characters, Volume 2, 1804.

Jacob Middleton, "An Aristocratic Spectre," History Today 61:2 (February 2011), 44-45.

Alfred Whitman, "A Hundred Years Ago -- 1804," Strand 28:168 (December 1904), 632-638.

Augustus K. Stephenson, "Ghost Stories of 100 Years Ago," Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 208:11 (April 1904), 214-220.

John Ezard, "Ghostly Murder Haunts Lawyers 200 Years On," Guardian, Jan. 2, 2004.

"The Case of the Murdered Ghost," BBC News, Jan. 3, 2004.

"Killing of a 'Ghost' That Haunted Courts for 180 Years," [Glasgow] Herald, Jan. 3, 2004.

"Experts to Remember Spectral Shooting," Birmingham Post, Jan. 3, 2004.

Arifa Akbar, "Club Hosts Gathering in Honour of Famous Ghost Case," Independent, Jan. 3, 2004.

Martin Baggoley, "The Hammersmith Ghost and the Strange Death of Thomas Millwood," Crime Magazine, April 9, 2015.

"'Laying' a Ghost," [Brisbane] Telegraph, March 8, 1924.

"A Ghost Story of 100 Years Ago," Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Oct. 29, 1910.

"From the Courts," Brisbane Courier, Dec. 22, 1906.

"Strange Stories of London Ghosts," [Melbourne] Leader, Oct. 6, 1900.

"Dream Evidence," [Adelaide] Express and Telegraph, Feb. 21, 1891.

"Ghosts, Witches, and Hangmen," Moreton [Qld.] Mail, Nov. 22, 1889.

"Glimpses of the Past," Bury and Norwich Post, Sept. 7, 1886.

"Resuscitation of the Hammersmith Ghost," [London] Examiner, Dec. 15, 1833.

"The Hammersmith Ghost," [London] Morning Post, Dec. 6, 1824.

"A New Hammersmith Ghost," [London] Morning Chronicle, Dec. 4, 1824.

"Old Bailey," Aberdeen Journal, Jan. 25, 1804.

"Murder -- Hammersmith Ghost," Bury and Norwich Post, Jan. 18, 1804.

"From the London Gazette," Hampshire Telegraph and Naval Chronicle, Jan. 16, 1804.

"The Hammersmith Ghost," Caledonian Mercury, Jan. 14, 1804.

"The Real Hammersmith Ghost," Staffordshire Advertiser, Jan. 14, 1804.

Trial proceedings from the Old Bailey.

Jane Alexander, "The Time Someone Shot a Ghost Dead in Hammersmith," Londonist, Oct. 25, 2019.

Ross Macfarlane, "The Hammersmith Ghost," Wellcome Library blog, Oct. 31, 2009.

Kelly Buchanan, "The Case of a Ghost Haunted England for Over Two Hundred Years," In Custodia Legis, Library of Congress, Oct. 30, 2015.

Gabrielle Keane, Locating Literature in the Ghost Hoax: An Exploration of 19th-Century Print News Media, dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 2019.

Jen Cadwallader, Spirits of the Age: Ghost Stories and the Victorian Psyche, dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009.

Listener mail:

"Bing (TV series)," Wikipedia (accessed March 24, 2021).

"List of Bing episodes," Wikipedia (accessed March 24, 2021).

Amber Tully, "Should You Put Ice on a Burn (or Not)?" Cleveland Clinic, June 12, 2018.

"Minor Burns - Aftercare," MedLine Plus, Aug. 13, 2020.

Anahad O'Connor, "The Claim: Ice Is Good for a Skin Burn," New York Times, June 10, 2008.

Luis Villazon, "How Many UK Spiders Are Actually Dangerous?" BBC Science Focus (accessed March 24, 2021).

"Spider," Wikipedia (accessed March 30, 2021).

"Not So False After All: Venom of the Noble False Widow Spider Very Similar to the Venom of 'True' Black Widows," NUI Galway, June 18, 2020.

John P. Dunbar et al., "Venomics Approach Reveals a High Proportion of Lactrodectus-Like Toxins in the Venom of the Noble False Widow Spider Steatoda nobilis," Toxins, 12:6 (June 18, 2020), 402.

"Study Finds Noble False Widow Spiders Bite Can Transmit Harmful Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria to Humans," NUI Galway, Dec. 1, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Stephen Harvey, who sent these corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-04-05
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337-Lost in a Daydream

In 1901, two English academics met a succession of strange characters during a visit to Versailles. They came to believe that they had strayed somehow into the mind of Marie Antoinette in the year before her execution. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the Moberly-Jourdain affair, a historical puzzle wrapped in a dream.

We'll also revisit Christmas birthdays and puzzle over a presidential term.

Intro:

In 1936, Evelyn Waugh asked Laura Herbert whether "you could bear the idea of marrying me."

In 1832, Mrs. T.T. Boddington was struck by lightning.

Charlotte Anne Moberly (left) and Eleanor Jourdain. Sources for our feature on the incident at Versailles:

Charlotte Anne Elizabeth Moberly and Eleanor Frances Jourdain, An Adventure, 1913.

Roger Clarke, A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof, 2012.

Terry Castle, "'An Adventure' and Its Skeptics," Critical Inquiry 17:4 (Summer 1991), 741-772.

Laura Schwartz, "Enchanted Modernity, Anglicanism and the Occult in Early Twentieth-Century Oxford: Annie Moberly, Eleanor Jourdain and Their 'Adventure,'" Cultural and Social History 14:3 (2017), 301-319.

Keith Reader, "The Unheimliche Hameau: Nationality and Culture in The Moberly/Jourdain Affair," Australian Journal of French Studies 57:1, 93-102.

Fabio Camilletti, "Present Perfect: Time and the Uncanny in American Science and Horror Fiction of the 1970s (Finney, Matheson, King)," Image & Narrative 11:3 (2010), 25-41.

Rosemary Auchmuty, "Whatever Happened to Miss Bebb? Bebb v The Law Society and Women's Legal History," Legal Studies 31:2 (June 2011), 199-230.

Roger J. Morgan, "Correspondence," Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 76:909 (Oct. 1, 2012), 239-240.

Terry Castle, "Marie Antoinette Obsession," Representations 38 (Spring 1992), 1-38.

Richard Mawrey, "Phantom of the Trianon," Historic Gardens Review 25 (July 2011), 12-17.

Roger Betteridge, "How a Spooky Adventure Came Back to Haunt Reputation of Vicar's Daughter," Derby Evening Telegraph, Dec. 31, 2012.

Tim Richardson, "Hunted Ground," Daily Telegraph, Dec. 22, 2012.

Brian Dunning, "Unsolved Mystery of the Ghosts of Versailles," Kansas City [Mo.] Star, Nov. 1, 1965.

Tess Van Sommers, "Laying the Ghosts of Trianon," Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 23, 1965.

"Ghost Story Probed," Cairns [Qld.] Post, Oct. 10, 1938.

"Stepped Back Into Another Century," [Rockhampton, Qld.] Morning Bulletin, Jan. 5, 1938.

"Phantom Lady of Versailles," [Murwillumbah, N.S.W.] Tweed Daily, July 12, 1937.

"Miss Anne Moberly, Educator at Oxford," New York Times, May 7, 1937.

Kristen Brooks, High Static, Dead Lines: Sonic Spectres & the Object Hereafter, dissertation, University of California, San Diego, 2017.

Janet Howarth, "Moberly, Charlotte Anne Elizabeth (1846?1937)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Janet Howarth, "Jourdain, Eleanor Frances (1863?1924)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Listener mail:

Albert A. Harrison, Nancy J. Struthers, and Michael Moore, "On the Conjunction of National Holidays and Reported Birthdates: One More Path to Reflected Glory?" Social Psychology Quarterly 51:4 (December 1988), 365-370.

Richard Wiseman, Quirkology, 2007.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Mike Berman.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-03-29
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336-A Gruesome Cure for Consumption

In the 19th century, some New England communities grew so desperate to help victims of tuberculosis that they resorted to a macabre practice: digging up dead relatives and ritually burning their organs. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll examine the causes of this bizarre belief and review some unsettling examples.

We'll also consider some fighting cyclists and puzzle over Freddie Mercury's stamp.

Intro:

Residents of Sydney and London could take a train to the local necropolis.

In the 19th century, a dog named Tschingel climbed 30 peaks.

Sources for our feature on the New England vampire panic:

Michael E. Bell, Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England?s Vampires, 2014.

Sarah Richardson, "When Americans Saw Vampires," American History 54:5 (December 2019), 7.

Michael E. Bell, "Vampires and Death in New England, 1784 to 1892," Anthropology and Humanism 31:2 (2006), 124-140.

George R. Stetson, "The Animistic Vampire in New England," American Anthropologist 9:1 (January 1896), 1-13.

John Buhler, "Disease and the Undead: Digging Up the Truth About Vampires," Canadian Journal of Medical Laboratory Science 81:3 (Fall 2019), 14-16.

Jennifer Daniels-Higginbotham et al., "DNA Testing Reveals the Putative Identity of JB55, a 19th Century Vampire Buried in Griswold, Connecticut," Genes 10:9 (2019), 636.

G. David Keyworth, "Was the Vampire of the Eighteenth Century a Unique Type of Undead-corpse?" Folklore 117:3 (December 2006), 241-260.

Patricia D. Lock, "America's Last Vampire," Calliope 22:2 (October 2011), 20.

Josepha Sherman, "Spirited Defense," Archaeology 57:3 (May/June 2004), 8.

Abigail Tucker, "The Great New England Vampire Panic," Smithsonian 43:6 (October 2012), 58-66.

Joe Bills, "New England's Vampire History," Yankee New England, Oct. 28, 2019.

"Letters to the Editor - New England Vampire Beliefs," Skeptical Inquirer 17:3 (Spring 1993), 339.

Morgan Hines, "DNA Evidence: This New England 'Vampire' Was Named John Barber in Life," USA Today, Aug. 10, 2019.

Michael E. Ruane, "Vampire Bones?; A 'Vampire's' Remains Were Found About 30 Years Ago and Now DNA Is Giving Him New Life," [Brantford, Ont.] Expositor, Aug. 1, 2019.

Craig S. Semon, "Uncovering 'Vampirism' in New England," [Worcester, Mass.] Telegram & Gazette, Sept. 30, 2015.

Valerie Franchi, "Author Shares Vivid Tales of Vampires: Bell Addresses Meeting of Historical Society," [Worcester, Mass.] Telegram & Gazette, Oct. 24, 2008.

Jascha Hoffman, "A New England Vampire Tale," Boston Globe, July 20, 2003.

Cate McQuaid, "The Secrets of the Grave When the Living Were Ill, They Sought Out the Dead," Boston Globe, Oct. 27, 2002.

"Tales of the Vampire Make Way Into Colonial Press, Finding Captive Audience," Hartford Courant, Oct. 24, 1999.

David Brown, "Uncovering a Therapy From the Grave," Washington Post, Oct. 25, 1993.

Sam Libby, "Cemetery Holds Tales of Vampires," New York Times, Feb. 16, 1992.

"Did Mercy Brown Become a Vampire?" [New London, Ct.] Day, Oct. 25, 1981.

"Romance in Origin of Superstitions," Omaha Daily Bee, Jan. 11, 1921.

Andrew Lange, "The Common Vampire," Washington Post, Aug. 21, 1904.

"Lang on the Vampire," Saint Paul Globe, Aug. 7, 1904.

"Believe in Vampires," Boston Globe, Jan. 27, 1896.

"Is Consumption Catching?" Quebec Saturday Budget, June 1, 1895.

"Did Vampires Really Stalk New England Farm Families?" New England Historical Society (accessed March 7, 2021).

Edgar B. Herwick III, "It's Not Just Witches. New England Has a History With Vampires, Too," The World, PRI, Oct. 31, 2018.

Listener mail:

David Mikkelson, "Letter Exchange Between Law Firm and Cleveland Browns," Snopes, Jan. 19, 2011.

Casey C. Sullivan, "Is This the Best Legal Response Letter Ever?" FindLaw, Aug. 2, 2016.

David Seideman, "Lady Struck Twice by Foul Balls Hit by Phillies' Richie Ashburn in the Same at Bat," Forbes, Sept. 21, 2017.

David Donovan, "Litigant Cries Foul Over Court's Baseball Rule," North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, Jan. 8, 2021.

"1955 Le Mans Disaster," Wikipedia (accessed March 11, 2021).

"Race Car at Le Mans Crashes Into Spectators, Killing 82," History.com, June 9, 2020.

"When Riders Attack: Memorable Scuffles From Recent Cycling History," Cyclingnews, March 20, 2020.

"Froome's Spectator Punch: How Does It Stack Up?" VeloNews (accessed March 13, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Saphia Fleury. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-03-22
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335-Transporting Obelisks

In the 19th century, France, England, and the United States each set out to bring home an Egyptian obelisk. But each obelisk weighed hundreds of tons, and the techniques of moving them had long been forgotten. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow the struggles of each nation to transport these massive monoliths using the technology of the 1800s.

We'll also go on an Australian quest and puzzle over a cooling fire.

Intro:

Science fiction writer Albert Robida proposed a president made of wood.

Norway's flag incorporates those of six other nations.

Sources for our feature on the Egyptian obelisks:

Bob Brier, Cleopatra's Needles: The Lost Obelisks of Egypt, 2016.

Martina D'Alton, The New York Obelisk, or, How Cleopatra's Needle Came to New York and What Happened When It Got Here, 1993.

Charles Edward Moldenke, The New York Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle: With a Preliminary Sketch of the History, Erection, Uses, and Signification of Obelisks, 1891.

Henry Honeychurch Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks, 1885.

Erasmus Wilson, Cleopatra's Needle: With Brief Notes on Egypt and Egyptian Obelisks, 1877.

Bob Brier, "The Secret Life of the Paris Obelisk," Aegyptiaca: Journal of the History of Reception of Ancient Egypt 2 (2018), 75-91.

Henry Petroski, "Engineering: Moving Obelisks," American Scientist 99:6 (November?December 2011), 448-452.

Bob Brier, "Saga of Cleopatra's Needles," Archaeology 55:6 (November/December 2002), 48-54.

P.W. Copeman, "Cleopatra's Needle: Dermatology's Weightiest Achievement," British Medical Journal 1:6106 (1978), 154-155.

"Machinery for Moving Cleopatra's Needle," Scientific American 41:21 (Nov. 22, 1879), 322.

"Landing of Cleopatra's Needle," Scientific American 39:4 (July 27, 1878), 55.

"Cleopatra's Needle," Scientific American 36:14 (April 7, 1877), 215-216.

Paul Brown, "Weatherwatch: The Perilous Sea Journey of Cleopatra's Needle," Guardian, April 8, 2020.

Marguerite Oliver, "Cleopatra's Needle: Egypt's Gift to England," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 1987.

Cyrus W. Bell, "How They Took Cleopatra's Needle Down the Nile and by Sea to London," Toronto Star, Nov. 9, 1985.

"Now It Can Be Told; After 60 Years, Cleopatra's Needle Identifies Itself," New York Times, March 7, 1941.

"Cleopatra's Needle in London," New York Times, April 17, 1932.

"Obelisk Located in Central Park," New Britain [Conn.] Herald, Dec. 5, 1928.

Eli Benedict, "Cleopatra's Needle: Central Park Obelisk Is More Than 3,000 Years Old," New York Times, May 14, 1914.

"Cleopatra's Needle: How Well It Stands the English Climate," New York Times, June 6, 1890.

"Laying the Corner-Stone; Masons Preparing the Obelisk's Foundation," New York Times, Oct. 10, 1880.

"Hieroglyphics Deciphered," New York Times, Aug. 19, 1878.

"The Inscriptions on Cleopatra's Needle," New York Times, July 25, 1878.

"Raising the Cleopatra's Needle," New York Times, June 30, 1878.

"Cleopatra's Needle," Times, Feb. 16, 1878.

"Cleopatra's Needle," Graphic, Feb. 2, 1878.

"Cleopatra's Needle," Liverpool Mercury, Oct. 22, 1877.

"The Derelict Obelisk," New York Times, Oct. 19, 1877.

"Cleopatra's Needle," [London] Standard, Oct. 19, 1877.

"Cleopatra's Needle: Loss of the Obelisk Off Cape Finistere a Heavy Gale in Which the Steamer Lost Six Men in Rescuing the Crew From the Craft," New York Times, Oct. 18, 1877.

"Cleopatra's Needle in London," New York Times, Sept. 16, 1877.

"Cleopatra's Needle," Birmingham Daily Post, April 22, 1876.

"How Cleopatra's Needle Is to Be Moved," New York Times, Aug. 1, 1875.

"Cleopatra's Needle," New York Times, June 6, 1875.

"Cleopatra's Needle," Illustrated London News, June 21, 1851.

Listener mail:

invaluable.disclaimer.biographer on What3words.

"France Passes 'Sensory Heritage' Law After Plight of Maurice the Noisy Rooster," Guardian, Jan. 21, 2021.

Kristof Van Rompaey, "Buur stapt naar vrederechter voor haan die dagelijks 'meer dan 3.000 keer' kraait: 'Ben wegdoen zou een klap zijn voor onze kinderen'," Gazet van Antwerpen, June 30, 2020.

"The Gregorian Reform of the Calendar," Encyclopedia.com (accessed Mar. 6, 2021).

"Gregorian Calendar," Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed March 6, 2021).

"Gregorian Calendar," Wikipedia (accessed Mar. 6, 2021).

"Adoption of the Gregorian Calendar," Wikipedia (accessed Mar. 6, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tristan Shephard.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-03-15
Länk till avsnitt

334-Eugene Bullard

Eugene Bullard ran away from home in 1907 to seek his fortune in a more racially accepting Europe. There he led a life of staggering accomplishment, becoming by turns a prizefighter, a combat pilot, a nightclub impresario, and a spy. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell Bullard's impressive story, which won him resounding praise in his adopted France.

We'll also accidentally go to Canada and puzzle over a deadly omission.

Intro:

The melody of Peter Cornelius' "Ein Ton" is a single repeated note.

Thomas Edison proposed the word hello to begin telephone conversations.

Sources for our feature on Eugene Bullard:

Tom Clavin and Phil Keith, All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard -- Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy, 2019.

Gail Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military From the Revolution to Desert Storm, 2001.

Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia, 2004.

Alexander M. Bielakowski, Ethnic and Racial Minorities in the U.S. Military, 2013.

Edmund L. Gros, "The Members of Lafayette Flying Corps," Flying 6:9 (October 1917), 776-778.

James Norman Hall and Charles Bernhard Nordhoff, The Lafayette Flying Corps, 1920.

John H. Wilson, "'All Blood Runs Red,'" Aviation History 17:4 (March 2007), 13-15.

Brendan Manley, "France Commemorates WWI Lafayette Escadrille," Military History 33:3 (Sept. 2016), 8.

Rachel Gillett, "Jazz and the Evolution of Black American Cosmopolitanism in Interwar Paris," Journal of World History 21:3 (September 2010), 471-495.

Thabiti Asukile, "J.A. Rogers' 'Jazz at Home': Afro-American Jazz in Paris During the Jazz Age," The Black Scholar 40:3 (Fall 2010), 22-35.

Tyler Stovall, "Strangers on the Seine: Immigration in Modern Paris," Journal of Urban History 39:4 (June 14, 2013), 807-813.

Nicholas Hewitt, "Black Montmartre: American Jazz and Music Hall in Paris in the Interwar Years," Journal of Romance Studies 5:3 (Winter 2005), 25-31.

Frederic J. Svoboda, "Who Was That Black Man?: A Note on Eugene Bullard and The Sun Also Rises," Hemingway Review 17:2 (Spring 1998), 105-110.

"Air Force Honors Pioneering Pilot," Military History 36:6 (March 2020), 10.

Ann Fotheringham, "Eugene Bullard," [Glasgow] Evening Times, June 8, 2020.

Jeremy Redmon, "AJC Local In-Depth Georgia Hero," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 10, 2019.

Jeremy Redmon, "Only in the AJC: Georgia Hero," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 7, 2019.

Herb Boyd, "First Black Fighter Pilot, Eugene Bullard," New York Amsterdam News, Aug. 29, 2019.

Janine Di Giovanni, "The Yanks Who Chose to Stay," [London] Evening Standard, March 23, 2009.

Fred L. Borch and Robert F. Dorr, "Expatriate Boxer Was First Black American Combat Pilot," Air Force Times, Feb. 23, 2009.

Brad Barnes, "'Flyboys' Uses Eugene Bullard as Model for Character," McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Sept. 22, 2006.

Sherri M. Owens, "1st Black Combat Pilot: He Flew for Freedom," Orlando Sentinel, July 29, 2001.

Michael Kilian, "Smithsonian to Honor First Black Combat Pilot," Chicago Tribune, Oct. 11, 1992, 6.

"Exhibition Traces Role of Blacks in Aviation," New York Times, Sept. 26, 1982.

"Eugene Bullard, Ex-Pilot, Dead; American Flew for French in '18," New York Times, Oct. 14, 1961.

Dominick Pisano, "Eugene J. Bullard," Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Oct. 12, 2010.

Robert Vanderpool, "African-American History Month: Eugene Bullard -- The First African-American Military Pilot," Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Feb. 29, 2016.

Cori Brosnahan, "The Two Lives of Eugene Bullard," American Experience, PBS, April 3, 2017.

Caroline M. Fannin, "Bullard, Eugène Jacques," American National Biography, October 2002.

Listener mail:

"A Tale of Two Sydneys: Dutch Teen Tries to Visit Australia, but Ends Up in Nova Scotia," CBC, March 30, 2017.

Ashifa Kassam, "Land Down Blunder: Teen Heading to Australia Lands in Sydney, Nova Scotia," Guardian, March 31, 2017.

"Italian Tourists End Up in Wrong Sydney," CBC, July 7, 2010.

"Oops. British Couple Flies to Canada by Mistake," CBC News, Aug. 6, 2002.

"No Kangaroos. But Can We Interest You in a Fiddle?" CBC News, Sept. 19, 2008.

"What Is the Most Common City/Town Name in the United States?" U.S. Geological Survey (accessed Feb. 27, 2021).

Robert C. Adams, On Board the "Rocket," 1879.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle is taken from Anges Rogers' 1953 book How Come?: A Book of Riddles, sent to us by listener Jon Jerome.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-03-08
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333-Stranded in the Kimberley

Crossing the world in 1932, two German airmen ran out of fuel in a remote region of northwestern Australia. With no food and little water, they struggled to find their way to safety while rescuers fought to locate them. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the airmen's ordeal, a dramatic story of perseverance and chance.

We'll also survey some escalators and puzzle over a consequential crash.

Intro:

Winston Churchill had a confusing namesake in the United States.

Shelley's friend Horace Smith wrote a competing version of "Ozymandias."

Sources for our feature on the 1932 Kimberley rescue:

Barbara Winter, Atlantis Is Missing: A Gripping True Story of Survival in the Australian Wilderness, 1979.

Brian H. Hernan, Forgotten Flyer, 2007.

Anthony Redmond, "Tracks and Shadows: Some Social Effects of the 1938 Frobenius Expedition to the North-West Kimberley," in Nicolas Peterson and Anna Kenny, eds., German Ethnography in Australia, 2017, 413-434.

Frank Koehler, "Descriptions of New Species of the Diverse and Endemic Land Snail Amplirhagada Iredale, 1933 From Rainforest Patches Across the Kimberley, Western Australia (Pulmonata, Camaenidae)," Records of the Australian Museum 63:2 (2011), 163-202.

Bridget Judd, "The Unexpected Rescue Mission That Inspired ABC Mini-Series Flight Into Hell -- And Other Survivalists," Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Jan. 16, 2021.

Peter de Kruijff, "Survivalist Retraces Lost Aviators' Trek," Kimberley Echo, Jan. 29, 2018.

Michael Atkinson, "Surviving the Kimberley," Australian Geographic, June 28, 2018.

Erin Parke, "No Food, No Water, No Wi-Fi: Adventurer Tests Skills in One of Australia's Most Remote Places," ABC Premium News, Jan. 29, 2018.

"Forgotten Territory," [Darwin, N.T.] Northern Territory News, Feb. 28, 2016.

Graeme Westlake, "They Accepted Their Saviour's Fish and Ate It Raw," Canberra Times, May 15, 1982.

"German Fliers Got Lost in Our Nor-West," [Perth] Mirror, June 2, 1956.

"37 Days in a Torture Chamber," [Adelaide] News, April 21, 1954.

"Air Passenger," [Grafton, N.S.W.] Examiner, July 18, 1938.

"Hans Bertram," Sydney Morning Herald, July 16, 1938.

"Aviation: Pilot Bertram," [Charters Towers, Qld.] Northern Miner, April 20, 1933.

"Bertram Lands at Crawley," [Perth] Daily News, Sept. 24, 1932.

"Bertram's Marooned 'Plane," Singleton [N.S.W.] Argus, Sept. 21, 1932.

"Captain Bertram," Sydney Morning Herald, Sept. 20, 1932.

"Fully Recovered," Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 6, 1932.

"The Search for the German Airmen," [Perth] Western Mail, July 21, 1932.

"The German Airmen," Albany [W.A.] Advertiser, July 7, 1932.

"Death Cheated," Cincinnati Enquirer, July 5, 1932.

"Lost German Fliers," [Adelaide] Chronicle, June 30, 1932.

"Search for Hans Bertram," [Carnarvon, W.A.] Northern Times, June 16, 1932.

"Strangers on the Shore: Shipwreck Survivors and Their Contact With Aboriginal Groups in Western Australia 1628-1956," Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Maritime Museum, 1998.

Listener mail:

"Escalator Etiquette," Wikipedia (accessed Feb. 8, 2021).

Brian Ashcraft, "It's Hard For Japan to Change Its Escalator Manners," Kotaku, June 20, 2019.

Jack Malvern, "Mystery Over Tube Escalator Etiquette Cleared Up by Restored Film," Times, Oct. 21, 2009.

Laura Reynolds, "11 Secrets of Harrods," Londonist (accessed Feb. 14, 2021).

Adam Taylor, "A Japanese Campaign Wants to Rewrite the Global Rules of Escalator Etiquette," Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2015.

Linda Poon, "Tokyo Wants People to Stand on Both Sides of the Escalator," Bloomberg City Lab, Dec. 20, 2018.

Johan Gaume and Alexander M. Puzrin, "Mechanisms of Slab Avalanche Release and Impact in the Dyatlov Pass Incident in 1959," Communications Earth & Environment 2:10 (Jan. 28, 2021), 1-11.

Robin George Andrews, "Has Science Solved One of History's Greatest Adventure Mysteries?", National Geographic, Jan. 28, 2021.

Nature Video, "Explaining the Icy Mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Deaths" (video), Jan. 28, 2021.

New Scientist, "The Dyatlov Pass incident, which saw nine Russian mountaineers die in mysterious circumstances in 1959, has been the subject of many conspiracy theories. Now researchers say an unusual avalanche was to blame," Twitter, Jan. 28, 2021.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Alex Baumans. Here are two corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-02-22
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332-Princess Caraboo

In 1817 a young woman appeared in the English village of Almondsbury, speaking a strange language and seeking food and shelter. She revealed herself to be an Eastern princess, kidnapped by pirates from an exotic island. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Princess Caraboo, who was both more and less than she seemed.

We'll also discover a June Christmas and puzzle over some monster soup.

Intro:

In 1988, Martine Tischer proposed wrapping gifts in uncut U.S. currency.

In 1948, Ralph Alpher, Hans Bethe, and George Gamow seized the chance of an immortal byline.

Sources for our feature on Princess Caraboo:

John Matthew Gutch, Caraboo: A Narrative of a Singular Imposition, 1817.

Sabine Baring-Gould, Devonshire Characters and Strange Events, 1908.

Anonymous, Carraboo, Carraboo: The Singular Adventures of Mary Baker, Alias Princess of Javasu, 1817.

John Timbs, English Eccentrics and Eccentricities, 1877.

C.L. McCluer Stevens, Famous Crimes and Criminals, 1924.

J.P. Jewett, Remarkable Women of Different Nations and Ages, 1858.

The Lives and Portraits of Curious and Odd Characters, 1852.

Mrs. John Farrar, Recollections of Seventy Years, 1869.

Margaret Russett, "The 'Caraboo' Hoax: Romantic Woman as Mirror and Mirage," Discourse 17:2 (Winter 1994-1995), 26-47.

Michael Keevak, "A World of Impostures," Eighteenth Century 53:2 (Summer 2012), 233-235.

Shompa Lahiri, "Performing Identity: Colonial Migrants, Passing and Mimicry Between the Wars," Cultural Geographies 10:4 (October 2003), 408-423.

"Top 10 Imposters," Time, May 26, 2009.

"Local Legends: Bristol's Princess Caraboo," BBC (accessed Jan. 31, 2021).

Corrie Bond-French, "The Tale of a Mysterious Princess," Gloucestershire Echo, June 7, 2018.

"Story of Exotic Beauty Still Fascinates Us Today," Mid-Devon Gazette, May 3, 2016, 21.

Nazar Iene Daan Kannibelle, "Servant Girl Hoaxed All Great Britain by Pose as Princess," Washington Times, November 6, 1921.

"A Singular Imposture," Strand 9:52 (April 1895), 451-456.

"The Pretended Princess Caraboo," Gloucestershire Notes and Queries 35 (July 1887), 627-629.

"The Princess Caraboo," Curiosities of Bristol and Its Neighbourhood 7 (March 1884), 48.

"Caraboo," Notes and Queries, June 3, 1865, 447.

F.W. Fairholt, "The Curiosities of Eccentric Biography," Bentley's Miscellany 69 (Jan. 1, 1851), 180-193.

"Princess Caraboo," Museum of Hoaxes (accessed Jan. 31, 2021).

John Wells, "Baker [née Willcocks], Mary [alias Princess Caraboo]," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 1, 2017.

Listener mail:

Wills Robinson, "For Once, a Good Excuse for Bad Handwriting: One of Admiral Nelson's First Letters Written Left-Handed After He Lost His Right Arm in Battle Is Unearthed," Daily Mail, Feb. 16, 2014.

"Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson," Wikipedia (accessed Feb. 5, 2021).

Maev Kennedy, "Nelson's Right and Left Hand: Wellcome Exhibit Reveals How Past Leaves Its Mark," Guardian, Nov. 24, 2010.

"Peter Butterworth," Wikipedia (accessed Feb. 6, 2021).

Lucy Thornton and Mark Branagan, "Carry On's Peter Butterworth Rejected to Play Himself in Role Because He Was 'Too Fat'," Mirror, Aug. 16, 2020.

"Stray Cat With Shocking Facial Growth Rescued," Catcuddles, Aug. 10, 2020.

Rae Gellel, "Catcuddles Cat Hodge to Follow in Doorkins Magnificat's Paw Prints," Catcuddles, Dec. 6, 2020.

Andrew Nunn, "Welcome to Hodge by the Dean of Southwark," Southwark Cathedral (accessed Feb. 6, 2021).

Jane Steen, "Southwark and Hodge and Dr Johnson," Southwark Cathedral (accessed Feb. 6, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Lucie. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-02-15
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331-The Starvation Doctor

In 1911 English sisters Claire and Dora Williamson began consulting a Seattle "fasting specialist" named Linda Burfield Hazzard. As they underwent her brutal treatments, the sisters found themselves caught in a web of manipulation and deceit. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Williamsons' ordeal and the scheme it brought to light.

We'll also catch a criminal by the ear and puzzle over a prohibited pig.

Intro:

During World War II, the United States circulated specially printed currency in Hawaii.

Reversing an artwork in a mirror alters its aesthetic effect.

Sources for our feature on Linda Burfield Hazzard:

Gregg Olsen, Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest, 1997.

Linda Burfield Hazzard, Fasting for the Cure of Disease, 1908.

Linda Burfield Hazzard, Scientific Fasting: The Ancient and Modern Key to Health, 1927.

Steven Chermak and Frankie Y. Bailey, Crimes of the Centuries: Notorious Crimes, Criminals, and Criminal Trials in American History, 2016.

Teresa Nordheim, Murder & Mayhem in Seattle, 2016.

Bess Lovejoy, "The Doctor Who Starved Her Patients to Death," smithsonianmag.com, Oct. 28, 2014.

Terence Hines, "A Gripping Story of Quackery and Death," Skeptical Inquirer 21:6 (November-December 1997), 55.

Dorothy Grant, "Look Back Doctor," Medical Post 40:16 (April 20, 2004), 28.

"The Hazzard Murder Trial," Northwest Medicine 4:3 (March 1912), 92.

"Dr. Linda Hazzard Is Given Pardon," Oregon Daily Journal, June 4, 1916.

"Woman Fast Doctor Released on Parole," Oakland [Calif.] Tribune, Dec. 21, 1915.

"Glad She Is Going Says Mrs. Linda Hazzard," Tacoma [Wash.] Times, Jan. 6, 1914.

"Starved to Death," [Sydney] Globe Pictorial, Feb. 14, 1914.

"Dr. Linda Hazzard Must Serve Term in the Penitentiary," Seattle Star, Dec. 24, 1913.

"Mrs. Linda Hazzard Must Go to Prison According to Supreme Court Ruling," Tacoma [Wash.] Times, Aug. 13, 1913.

"Sister Describes Treatment," Washburn [N.D.] Leader, Jan. 26, 1912.

"'Starvation Cure' Victim on the Stand," Wichita [Kan.] Daily Eagle, Jan. 21, 1912.

"Tells How Mrs. Hazzard Treated Them at Ollala," Tacoma [Wash.] Times, Jan. 20, 1912.

"Blames Doctors' Jealousy," New York Times, Aug. 7, 1911.

"Starvation Cure Fatal," New York Times, Aug. 6, 1911.

"Investigate Woman Doctor," New York Times, July 31, 1911.

"The State of Washington, Respondent, v. Linda Burfield Hazzard, Appellant," Washington Reports, Volume 75: Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Washington, August 12, 1913 - October 9, 1913, 1914.

"Linda Burfield Hazzard: Healer or Murderess?", Washington State Archives, Digital Archives (accessed Jan. 24, 2021).

Listener mail:

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, "United States of Climate Change: Missouri Under Water," Weather Channel, Nov. 9, 2017.

"German Police Identify Burglar by His Earprints," Spiegel International, April 30, 2012.

"Ear Print Analysis," Wikipedia, accessed Jan. 28, 2021.

"Ear Print Analysis," Encyclopedia.com (accessed Jan. 28, 2021).

Ayman Abaza et al., "A Survey on Ear Biometrics," ACM Computing Surveys, March 2013.

Mit Katwala, "The Bonkers Plan to Foil Password Thieves Using Your Mouth," Wired, Dec. 13, 2020.

Boxcar Willie, "Luther" (video), Jan. 30, 2012.

"Luther," International Lyrics Playground (accessed Jan. 31, 2021).

"Boxcar Willie," Wikipedia (accessed Jan. 31, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listeners Paul Schoeps and Stuart Baker. Stuart sent this corroborating link, and Sharon found this related, gratuitously horrifying incident.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-02-08
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330-The Abernathy Boys

In 1909, Oklahoma brothers Bud and Temple Abernathy rode alone to New Mexico and back, though they were just 9 and 5 years old. In the years that followed they would become famous for cross-country trips totaling 10,000 miles. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll trace the journeys of the Abernathy brothers across a rapidly evolving nation.

We'll also try to figure out whether we're in Belgium or the Netherlands and puzzle over an outstretched hand.

Intro:

Lytton Strachey's uncle William observed Calcutta time in England.

John Dryden displayed a discerning discrimination in an impromptu poetry competition.

Sources for our feature on Louis and Temple Abernathy:

Alta Abernathy, Bud & Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys, 1998.

Miles Abernathy, The Ride of the Abernathy Boys, 1911.

John R. Abernathy, "Catch 'em Alive Jack": The Life and Adventures of an American Pioneer, 2006.

Brian Spangle, Hidden History of Vincennes & Knox County, 2020.

M.J. Alexander, "The Astounding Adventures of the Abernathy Boys," 405 Magazine, Aug. 25, 2015.

"Abernathy Kids on Tour," Motorcycle Illustrated (May 29, 1930), 53.

"Enterprising Boys," Advance 62:2392 (Sept. 7, 1911), 25.

"Champion Company Films Abernathy Boys," Nickelodeon 4:2 (July 15, 1910), 42.

Eliza McGraw, "Ultimate Free-Range Kids: Two Boys, 6 and 10, Rode Horses to New York ? From Oklahoma," Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2019.

John Governale, "What I've Learned/The Abernathy Boys," [Lewiston, Me.] Sun Journal, Aug. 15, 2019.

Becky Orr, "Teachers Retrace Young Boys' Trek Across America," Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Aug. 19, 2008.

"Boy Rough Riders," [Parkes, N.S.W.] Western Champion, Sept. 18, 1913.

"Abernathy Boys Tell Taft Their Troubles," Washington Times, Nov. 13, 1911.

"Boy Rides 2300 Miles," Gundagai [N.S.W.] Times, Sept. 2, 1910.

"Abernathy Boys Nearing Home," New York Times, July 26, 1910.

"Abernathy Lads See Mayor," New York Times, June 14, 1910.

"Abernathys Reach Goal," Lebanon [Pa.] Courier and Semi-Weekly Report, June 14, 1910.

"Rockefeller Pew for Abernathy Boys," New York Times, June 13, 1910.

"Abernathy Boys Put Ban on Kissing," New York Times, June 12, 1910.

"Boys Complete 2,000 Mile Trip," Pensacola [Fla.] Journal, June 12, 1910.

"Boy Riders in Delaware," New York Times, June 10, 1910.

"'Hello, Dad!' Call Abernathy's Boys," New York Times, June 9, 1910.

"Boy Horsemen on Way Here," New York Times, June 7, 1910.

"Boy Riders Arrived at National Capitol," Bismarck [N.D.] Daily Tribune, May 28, 1910.

"Boys to Meet Roosevelt," [Mont.] Daily Missoulian, May 22, 1910.

"Abernathy Boys' Long Trip," New York Times, July 11, 1909.

Listener mail:

Two-side letter from John Hornby to Matt Murphy of Peace River, Alberta, 1925. "John Hornby: Letters & Articles," NWT Exhibits (accessed Jan. 23, 2021).

Robin Weber, "Staff Pick: John Hornby, Introduction," NWT Exhibits (accessed Jan. 23, 2021).

"Baarle-Nassau," Wikipedia (accessed Jan. 23, 2020).

Graphic of Baarle and its enclaves in the Netherlands.

Tesa Arcilla, "Dutch? Belgian? How Lockdown Works in a Town With One of the World's Most Complex Borders," NBC News, May 24, 2020.

Andrew Eames, "Europe's Strange Border Anomaly," BBC, Dec. 11, 2017.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Åke Malmgren. Last year it was nominated for puzzle of the year on lateralpuzzles.com.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-02-01
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329-The Cock Lane Ghost

In 1759, ghostly rappings started up in the house of a parish clerk in London. In the months that followed they would incite a scandal against one man, an accusation from beyond the grave. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Cock Lane ghost, an enduring portrait of superstition and justice.

We'll also see what you can get hit with at a sporting event and puzzle over some portentous soccer fields.

Intro:

In 1967 British artists Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin offered a map that charts its own area.

In 1904 Henry Hayes suggested adding fake horses to real cars to avoid frightening real horses.

Sources for our feature on the Cock Lane ghost:

Douglas Grant, The Cock Lane Ghost, 1965.

Oliver Goldsmith, "The Mystery Revealed," in The Works of Oliver Goldsmith, Volume 4, 1854.

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., Volume 1, 1791.

Charles MacKay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 1852.

Andrew Lang, Cock Lane and Common-Sense, 1894.

Roger Clarke, A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof, 2012.

Henry Addington Bruce, Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters, 1908.

Jennifer Bann, "Ghostly Hands and Ghostly Agency: The Changing Figure of the Nineteenth-Century Specter," Victorian Studies 51:4 (Summer 2009), 663-685, 775.

Gillian Bennett, "'Alas, Poor Ghost!': Case Studies in the History of Ghosts and Visitations," in Alas Poor Ghost, 1999, 139-172.

Richard Whittington-Egan, "The Accusant Ghost of Cock Lane," New Law Journal 141:6487 (Jan. 18 1991), 74.

Howard Pyle, "The Cock Lane Ghost," Harper's New Monthly Magazine 87:519 (August 1893), 327-338.

María Losada Friend, "Ghosts or Frauds? Oliver Goldsmith and 'The Mystery Revealed,'" Eighteenth-Century Ireland / Iris an dá chultúr 13 (1998), 159-165.

H. Addington Bruce, "The Cock Lane Ghost," New York Tribune, July 14, 1907.

"The Cock Lane Ghost," Warwick [Queensland] Argus, Dec. 22, 1900.

"The Ghosts of London," New York Times, Sept. 10, 1900.

"The Cock-Lane Ghost," [Sydney] Evening News, Aug. 25, 1894.

"The Cock Lane Ghost," Maitland [N.S.W.] Weekly Mercury, March 10, 1894.

"The Rochester Ghost," Alexandria [Va.] Gazette, April 27, 1850.

Thomas Seccombe, "Parsons, Elizabeth [called the Cock Lane Ghost], (1749?1807)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Listener mail:

"Death of Brittanie Cecil," Wikipedia (accessed Jan. 13, 2021).

L. Jon Wertheim, "How She Died," Sports Illustrated, April 1, 2002.

J. Winslow and A. Goldstein, "Spectator Risks at Sporting Events," Internet Journal of Law, Healthcare and Ethics 4:2 (2006).

Steve Rosenbloom, "Hit by Puck, Girl Dies," Chicago Tribune, March 20, 2002.

Tarik El-Bashir, "Girl Struck Puck Dies," Washington Post, March 20, 2002.

Connor Read et al., "Spectator Injuries in Sports," Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 59:3 (March 2019), 520-523.

Bob Shepard, "Heads Up: UAB Does First-Ever Study of Spectator Injuries at Sporting Events," University Wire, Nov. 29, 2018.

"Father of Girl Killed by His Errant Golf Ball Says: 'How It Happened, I Cannot Explain'," Associated Press, Sept. 21, 2019.

Pat Ralph, "What Happens After 'Fore'? Injured Fans Face Legal Hurdles in Golf-Ball Lawsuits," Golf.com, Oct. 9, 2018.

Marjorie Hunter, "Ford, Teeing Off Like Agnew, Hits Spectator in Head With Golf Ball," New York Times, June 25, 1974.

"'First Off the Tee': White House Golf Tales," NPR, May 1, 2003.

Todd S. Purdum, "Caution: Presidents at Play. Three of Them," New York Times, Feb. 16, 1995.

"Ford, Bush Tee Off on Golf Spectators," Los Angeles Daily News, Feb. 16, 1995.

Kevin Underhill, "Missouri Supreme Court Hears Hot-Dog-Flinging Case," Lowering the Bar, Nov. 13, 2013.

Kevin Underhill, "Bad News for Dog-Flinging Mascots," Lowering the Bar, Jan. 16, 2013.

Kevin Underhill, "Jury Clears Mascot in Hot-Dog-Flinging Case," Lowering the Bar, June 24, 2015.

Listener Tim Ellis, his daughter, and an errant puck.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jesse Onland. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-01-25
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328-A Canine Prisoner of War

In 1944, British captives of the Japanese in Sumatra drew morale from an unlikely source: a purebred English pointer who cheered the men, challenged the guards, and served as a model of patient fortitude. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Judy, the canine POW of World War II.

We'll also consider the frequency of different birthdays and puzzle over a little sun.

Intro:

Sherlock Holmes wrote 20 monographs.

In 1863, Charles Dickens' hall clock stopped sounding.

Sources for our feature on Judy:

Robert Weintraub, No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Incredible Story of Courage and Survival in World War II, 2016.

S.L. Hoffman, "Judy: The Unforgettable Story of the Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero," Military History 32:1 (May 2015), 72-72.

Rebecca Frankel, "Dogs at War: Judy, Canine Prisoner of War," National Geographic, May 18, 2014.

Robert Weintraub, "The True Story of Judy, the Dog Who Inspired Her Fellow Prisoners of War to Survive," Irish Times, June 2, 2015.

Jane Dalton, "Judy, the Life-Saving PoW Who Beat the Japanese," Sunday Telegraph, May 31, 2015.

"Heroine Dog's Medal Goes on Display," [Cardiff] Western Mail, Aug. 26, 2006.

"Medal Awarded to Dog Prisoner of War Goes on Public Display," Yorkshire Post, Aug. 23, 2006.

Amber Turnau, "The Incredible Tale of Frank Williams," Burnaby [B.C.] Now, March 19, 2003.

Nicholas Read, "Prison Camp Heroine Judy Was History's Only Bow-Wow PoW," Vancouver Sun, March 12, 2003.

"London Salutes Animal Veterans," Charlotte Observer, May 28, 1983.

Frank G. Williams, "The Dog That Went to War," Vancouver Sun, April 6, 1974.

"Judy, Dog VC, Dies," [Montreal] Gazette, March 23, 1950.

"Judy, British War Dog, Dies; to Get Memorial," [Wilmington, Del.] Morning News, March 21, 1950.

"The Tale of a V.C. Dog," [Adelaide] Chronicle, Jan. 30, 1947.

"Judy to Receive Dogs' V.C.," The Age, May 2, 1946.

"Judy: The Dog Who Became a Prisoner of War," gov.uk, July 24, 2015.

"Prisoner of War Dog Judy -- PDSA Dickin Medal and Collar to Be Presented to the Imperial War Museum," People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, Aug. 21, 2006.

"PDSA Dickin Medal Stories: Judy," PDSA Schools (accessed Jan. 3, 2021).

Listener mail:

Andrew Gelman et al., "Bayesian Data Analysis (Third Edition)," 1995-2020.

"Keynote: Andrew Gelman - Data Science Workflow" (video), Dec. 21, 2017.

Becca R. Levy, Pil H. Chung, and Martin D. Slade, "Influence of Valentine's Day and Halloween on Birth Timing," Social Science & Medicine 73:8 (2011), 1246-1248.

"Tony Meléndez," Wikipedia (accessed Dec. 24, 2020).

"Thalidomide," Wikipedia (accessed Jan. 9, 2020).

Neil Vargesson, "Thalidomide-Induced Teratogenesis: History and Mechanisms," Birth Defects Research Part C: Embryo Today: Reviews 105:2 (2015), 140-156.

"Biography," tonymelendez.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2021).

"Tony Melendez Sings for Pope John Paul II - 1987" (video), Heart of the Nation, Sept. 27, 2016.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Lucie. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-01-18
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327-The Misplaced Tourist

In 1977, West German tourist Erwin Kreuz spent three days enjoying the sights, sounds, and hospitality of Bangor, Maine. Unfortunately, he thought he was in San Francisco, on the other side of the continent. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Kreuz's unlikely adventure, which made him a local hero in his adopted city.

We'll also consider an invisible killer and puzzle over a momentous measurement.

Intro:

In 1712, Sweden observed a February 30.

In 1898, J.W. Dunne dreamed correctly that his watch had stopped.

Sources for our feature on Erwin Kreuz:

Geoffrey Wolff, The Edge of Maine, 2011.

William Langewiesche, "Reporting Points," Flying Magazine 102:1 (January 1978), 29-32.

Joseph Owen, "On This Date in Maine History: Oct. 20," Portland [Me.] Press Herald, Oct. 20, 2020.

Emily Burnham, "The Story of How a German Tourist Ended Up Mistaking Bangor for San Francisco," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 17, 2020.

Kent Ward, "A Feel-Good Story From the Archives," Bangor Daily News, Dec. 4, 2009.

Sara Kehaulani Goo, "Bangor Is Used to Surprise Landings," Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2004.

Joshua Weinstein, "Bangor International Familiar With Hosting Unexpected Guests," Portland [Me.] Press Herald, Sept. 23, 2004.

Tom Weber, "Mall Man," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 18, 1997.

John S. Day, "City of Bangor Urged to Hold Fire on I-Man," Bangor Daily News, July 26, 1997.

Kim Strosnider, "An Accidental Tourist Put Bangor on Map," Portland [Me.] Press Herald, July 7, 1996.

Richard Haitch, "Follow-Up on the News: California in Maine," New York Times, July 15, 1984.

Ed Lion, "A Look Back at the Saga of Erwin Kreuz," United Press International, July 8, 1984.

"New England News Briefs; Payments Never Late From W. Germany," Boston Globe, July 4, 1984.

"Wrong-Way German Tourist Still Paying Maine Taxes," United Press International, July 3, 1984.

Maureen Williams, "Future in Bangor Pales, Erwin Kreuz Returns to Germany," Bangor Daily News, March 16, 1979.

"Superstar Attractions to Highlight Bangor Mall's Supergrand Opening," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 4, 1978.

"Instant Celebrity to Revisit Bangor," Associated Press, Sept. 18, 1978.

"German Tourist Misses Maine," United Press International, Sept. 15, 1978.

"Bangor, Me., Family in Temporary Limelight," New York Times, Feb. 18, 1978.

Jeanne Bolstridge, "Not Political," Bangor Daily News, Nov. 15, 1977.

"So riesig," Der Spiegel, Nov. 7, 1977.

"Lives It Up Wild West Frisco Style," The [Fairfield County, Conn.] Hour, Nov. 1, 1977.

"It's Wong for Kreuz in Frisco," Miami Herald, Nov. 1, 1977.

"Ja, Erwin Kreuz ist ein 'Bangor,'" Minneapolis Star, Nov. 1, 1977.

"People," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 1, 1977.

"Wrong-Way Tourist's Weekend Fit for King," United Press International, Oct. 31, 1977.

"In San Francisco: Lost German Partial to Maine," Quad-City [Iowa] Times, Oct. 30, 1977.

Ted Sylvester, "Andre Tries to Kiss Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

"Famed Figures," [Pittsfield, Mass.] Berkshire Eagle, Oct. 28, 1977.

"San Francisco Paper Lays Red Carpet for Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

"Erwin Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

David Platt, "Column One," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

"Land for Erwin Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 27, 1977.

"That'd Be a Long Taxi Ride," Kingsport [Tenn.] Daily News, Oct. 26, 1977.

"German Tourist Ready to Stay in Maine," Associated Press, Oct. 26, 1977.

"3,000-Mile Error Ends With a Pleasant Visit," United Press International, Oct. 25, 1977.

"Airline Puts Out Call for Errant Passenger," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 21, 1977.

"A Big Mac Blitz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 21, 1977.

Nancy Remsen, "Golden Gate-Bound German Visits Bangor by Mistake," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 20, 1977.

(Five unheadlined Associated Press wire reports, dated Oct. 29, 1977; Oct. 31, 1977; Sept. 25, 1978; Oct. 4, 1978; and March 19, 1979.)

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, "Lake Nyos Disaster" (accessed Dec. 29, 2020).

Wikipedia, "Limnic Eruption" (accessed Dec. 29, 2020).

Kevin Krajick, "Defusing Africa's Killer Lakes," smithsonianmag.com, September 2003.

"Falklands Cleared of Landmines Following 1982 Conflict," Forces.net, Nov. 10, 2020.

Matthew Teller, "The Falklands Penguins That Would Not Explode," BBC News, May 6, 2017.

"Japanese Town Deploys Monster Wolf Robots to Deter Bears," Reuters, Nov. 11, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Nick Claus. Here are three corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-01-11
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326-The Recluse of Herald Square

In 1931, a 93-year-old widow was discovered to be hoarding great wealth in New York's Herald Square Hotel. Her death touched off an inquiry that revealed a glittering past -- and a great secret. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll tell the story of Ida Wood, which has been called "one of the most sensational inheritance cases in American history."

We'll also revisit the Candy Bomber and puzzle over some excessive travel.

Intro:

Lyndon Johnson's family shared initials.

In 1915, Arthur Guiterman sparred with Arthur Conan Doyle over Sherlock Holmes' antecedents.

Sources for our feature on Ida Wood:

Joseph A. Cox, The Recluse of Herald Square: The Mystery of Ida E. Wood, 1964.

Robert H. Sitkoff and Jesse Dukeminier, Wills, Trusts, and Estates, 10th edition, 2017.

Renee M. Winters, The Hoarding Impulse: Suffocation of the Soul, 2015.

John V. Orth, "'The Laughing Heir': What's So Funny?", Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal 48:2 (Fall 2013), 321-326.

St. Clair McKelway, "Annals of Law: The Rich Recluse of Herald Square," New Yorker, Oct. 24, 1953.

Karen Abbott, "Everything Was Fake but Her Wealth," smithsonianmag.com, Jan. 23, 2013.

Phil Gustafson, "Who'll Pick up the Pieces?", Nation's Business 38:3 (March 1950), 56.

LJ Charleston, "The Story of the Rich New York Socialite Who Hid in a Hotel Room for 24 Years," news.com.au, July 29, 2019.

Frank McNally, "Fascinating Ida," Irish Times, Oct. 17, 2019.

"Hibernian Chronicle: The Mayfield Mystery Solved," Irish Echo, Feb. 17, 2011.

Joseph A. Cox, "She Hid Her Wealth -- And a Strange Past," Australian Women's Weekly, July 6, 1966, 28.

Peter Lyon, "Mrs. Wood's Rubbish Pile," New York Times, Oct. 4, 1964.

"Finds Heirs, Gets $30,000," New York Times, July 2, 1941.

"Meets Ida Wood 'Heirs'," New York Times, March 6, 1938.

"Ida Wood Estate Hearing Dec. 20," New York Times, Nov. 18, 1937.

"Fortune Fight Bares Name Hoax," Associated Press, Sept. 16, 1937.

"406 Claimants Out as Ida Wood Heirs," New York Times, Sept. 1, 1937.

"She Carried a Fortune Around Her Waist," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 5, 1936, 59.

"$92,293 Estate Left by Mrs. F.E. Whistler," New York Times, Dec. 14, 1932.

"Reports Locating Ida Wood's Heirs," Associated Press, Dec. 7, 1932.

"Mrs. Ida Wood Dies at 93 of Pneumonia," New York Times, March 13, 1932.

"Recluse to Seek 'Rest of Money,'" [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Oct. 14, 1931.

"Old Lady's Kin Vie at Law for Her Fortune," Associated Press, Oct. 13, 1931.

"Benjamin Wood Dead," New-York Tribune, Feb. 22, 1900.

Listener mail:

Cathy Free, "World War II-Era 'Candy Bomber' Turns 100. Those Who Caught His Candy -- Now in Their 80s -- Say Thanks," Washington Post, Oct. 13, 2020.

Lee Benson, "As Utah's Candy Bomber Turns 100, His Sweet Story Remains Timeless," Deseret News, Oct 4, 2020.

"Gov. Gary Herbert Declares October 10th as Gail S. Halvorsen Recognition Day," Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, Oct. 10, 2020.

Safe-T-Pull.

"Safe-T-Pull? Pro -- Muddy Sugar Beet Harvest," (video), Safe-T-Pull, Jan. 21, 2014.

"Will cold temperatures damage my refrigerator," Garage Journal, March 2, 2012.

"What to Wear in the Winter Conditions," Hôtel de Glace (accessed Dec. 25, 2020).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Greg. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2021-01-04
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325-Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Here are eight new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

Intro:

In 1940, the Venezuelan post office was said to deliver love letters at half price.

In 1890 Mark Twain composed a holiday message for the New York World.

The sources for this week's puzzles are below. In a few places we've included links to further information -- these contain spoilers, so don't click until you've listened to the episode:

Puzzle #1 is from Agnes Rogers' 1953 book How Come? A Book of Riddles, sent to us by listener Jon Jerome.

Puzzle #2 is from listener Cheryl Jensen, who sent this link.

Puzzle #3 is from listener Neil de Carteret and his cat Nala.

Puzzle #4 is from listener Ananth Viswanathan.

Puzzle #5 is from Dan Lewis' Now I Know e-newsletter. Here are two links.

Puzzle #6 is from Greg. Here's a link.

Puzzle #7 is from Sharon. Here are two links.

Puzzle #8 is from Greg. Here's a link.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-12-28
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324-The Bizarre Death of Alfred Loewenstein

In 1928, Belgian financier Alfred Loewenstein fell to his death from a private plane over the English Channel. How it happened has never been explained. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe the bizarre incident, which has been called "one of the strangest fatalities in the history of commercial aviation."

We'll also consider whether people can be eaten by pythons and puzzle over an enigmatic horseman.

Intro:

Philosopher Robin Le Poidevin offers a time-travel puzzle concerning an indefinite diary.

In 1946, a quirk of Ohio law seemed to yield contrary outcomes.

Sources for our feature on Alfred Loewenstein:

William Norris, The Man Who Fell From the Sky, 1987.

E. Phillips Oppenheim, Who Travels Alone: The Life and Death of Alfred Loewenstein, 1929.

Judy Ferring, "Before the Skies Were Friendly," American Banker 153:169 (Aug. 30, 1988), 38.

Phoebe-Lou Adams, "The Man Who Fell From the Sky," Atlantic 259:5 (May 1987), 94.

Amy Friedman, "The Chasing of Ghosts," [Kingston, Ont.] Whig-Standard, May 23, 1987.

James Idema, "Solving the Strange Death of the World's Third-Richest Man," Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1987.

William French, "Real Life Mystery Is Finally Solved," Globe and Mail, April 25, 1987.

Daryl Frazell, "A Mystery With No Solution," St. Petersburg Times, May 17, 1987.

"Latest of the Strange Winged Tragedies of the Loewensteins," Detroit Evening Times, June 8, 1941.

"Wealthy Airman Killed," [Melbourne] Argus, April 1, 1941.

"387 Civilians Own Airplanes in State," New York Times, Aug. 17, 1928.

"Result of Autopsy," Canberra Times, July 23, 1928.

"Disappearance Is Still a Mystery," New Britain [Conn.] Herald, July 6, 1928.

"Say He Could Not Open the Door," New Britain [Conn.] Herald, July 6, 1928.

"Loewenstein's Death Shocks All of Europe," [Belvidere, Ill.] Republican-Northwestern, July 6, 1928.

"Third Richest Man Walks Off Plane in Night; Dies in Sea," United Press, July 5, 1928.

"Capt. A. Lowenstein Falls From Plane," Associated Press, July 5, 1928.

"Noted International Financier Disappeared From Plane When on London to Brussels Flight," Ottawa Citizen, July 5, 1928.

"Noted Belgian Magnate Falls Into North Sea," Calgary Herald, July 5, 1928.

"Suicide Hinted in Strange Death of Europe's Croesus," Associated Press, July 5, 1928.

"Loewenstein a Suicide," Windsor Star, July 5, 1928.

"Gem Thieves Who Robbed Alfred Loewenstein, Belgian Croesus, Hunted Here by Paris Police," New York Times, Dec. 19, 1926.

"The Mysterious Death of Flying Millionaire Alfred Loewenstein," Punt PI, BBC Radio 4, July 12, 2014.

"ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 59899," Aviation Safety Network, May 8, 2009.

Listener mail:

Sarah Gibbens, "How This 23-Foot Python Swallowed a Man Whole," National Geographic, March 29, 2017.

"How a Giant Python Swallowed an Indonesian Woman," BBC News, June 18, 2018.

Wikipedia, "Reticulated Python" (accessed Dec. 10, 2020).

Victoria Gillman, "Photo in the News: Python Bursts After Eating Gator (Update)," National Geographic, Sept. 5, 2006.

"Indonesian Man Found Dead in Belly of 7m-Long Python" (video), Jakarta Post, March 29, 2017.

"Missing Man Found Swallowed Whole Inside Snake in Indonesia" (video), On Demand News, Mar 30, 2017.

Mary Beth Griggs, "A Cute Stuffed Dinosaur Hitched a Ride on SpaceX's Historic Launch," The Verge, May 30, 2020.

Loren Grush, "SpaceX Crew-1 Team Harnesses the Force by Bringing Baby Yoda With Them to Space," The Verge, Nov 16, 2020.

Wikipedia, "Sandmännchen" (accessed Dec. 10, 2020).

Wikipedia, "Sigmund Jähn" (accessed Dec. 10, 2020).

Olaf Stampf, "'Capitalism Now Reigns in Space': East German Cosmonaut Sigmund Jähn," Spiegel International, April 12, 2011.

Uwe Seidenfaden, "Als DDR-Pilot Sigmund Jähn ins Weltall flog," volksstimme.de, Aug. 23, 2018.

Tremor, zero-G indicator of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule (from listener Victoria Sluka).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Greg, based on Ambrose Bierce's 1888 short story "A Son of the Gods."

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-12-21
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323-The Blind Traveler

When a mysterious illness blinded him at age 25, British naval officer James Holman took up a new pursuit: travel. For the next 40 years he roamed the world alone, describing his adventures in a series of popular books. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Holman's remarkable career and his unique perspective on his experiences.

We'll also remember some separating trains and puzzle over an oddly drawn battle plan.

Intro:

David Tennant's 2008 turn as Hamlet enlisted the skull of composer André Tchaikowsky.

For J.B.S. Haldane's 60th birthday, biologist John Maynard Smith composed an ode to Struthiomimus.

Sources for our feature on James Holman:

Jason Roberts, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler, 2009.

James Holman, The Narrative of a Journey Through France, etc., 1822.

James Holman, Travels Through Russia, Siberia, etc., 1825.

James Holman, A Voyage Round the World, 1834.

Sarah Bell, "Sensing Nature: Unravelling Metanarratives of Nature and Blindness," in Sarah Atkinson and Rachel Hunt, eds., GeoHumanities and Health, 2020.

Eitan Bar-Yosef, "The 'Deaf Traveller,' the 'Blind Traveller,' and Constructions of Disability in Nineteenth-Century Travel Writing," Victorian Review 35:2 (Fall 2009), 133-154.

Pieter François, "If It's 1815, This Must Be Belgium: The Origins of the Modern Travel Guide," Book History 15 (2012), 71-92.

Joseph Godlewski, "Zones of Entanglement: Nigeria's Real and Imagined Compounds," Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 28:2 (Spring 2017), 21-33.

Rebe Taylor, "The Polemics of Eating Fish in Tasmania: The Historical Evidence Revisited," Aboriginal History 31 (2007), 1-26.

Mark Paterson, "'Looking on Darkness, Which the Blind Do See': Blindness, Empathy, and Feeling Seeing," Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 46:3 (September 2013), 159-177.

Keith Nicklin, "A Calabar Chief," Journal of Museum Ethnography 1 (March 1989), 79-84.

Robert S. Fogarty, "Rank the Authors," Antioch Review 65:2 (Spring 2007), 213.

Daniel Kish, "Human Echolocation: How to 'See' Like a Bat," New Scientist 202:2703 (April 11, 2009), 31-33.

Robert Walch, "As He Alone 'Sees' It," America 195:17 (Nov. 27, 2006), 25-26.

Anne McIlroy, "James Holman," CanWest News, Dec. 16, 1992, 1.

Chris Barsanti, "The Blind Traveler," Publishers Weekly 243:18 (May 1, 2006), 46.

Elizabeth Baigent, "Holman, James (1786?1857), traveller," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

My Futility Closet post on echolocator Ben Underwood.

Listener mail:

"The History of the Slip Coach," Ruairidh MacVeigh, June 27, 2020.

"By Slip Coach to Bicester," video of the last slip coach in operation.

Wikipedia, "Slip Coach" (accessed Nov. 25, 2020).

"Slip Coaches," Railway Wonders of the World, June 21, 1935.

"2 Bedroom Restored Slip Coach in Saltash, St Germans, Cornwall, England," One Off Places (accessed Dec. 3, 2020).

From listener Aleksandar ?irkovi?: The 19:38 train departing the main station at Nuremberg each day splits in four.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Marie Nearing, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-12-14
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322-Joseph Medicine Crow

Joseph Medicine Crow was raised on a Montana reservation in the warrior tradition of his Crow forefathers. But during World War II he found himself applying those lessons in very different circumstances. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Joseph's exploits in the war and how they helped to shape his future.

We'll also consider how to distinguish identical twins and puzzle over a physicist's beer.

Intro:

Two opposing bullets struck one another during the siege of Petersburg.

Which full house is likeliest to win?

Sources for our feature on Joseph Medicine Crow:

Joseph Medicine Crow and Herman J. Viola, Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, 2006.

Charles A. Eastman, Living in Two Worlds: The American Indian Experience Illustrated, 2010.

Rick Graetz and Susie Graetz, Crow Country: Montana's Crow Tribe of Indians, 2000.

Joseph Medicine Crow, From the Heart of the Crow Country: The Crow Indians' Own Stories, 2000.

Phillip Thomas Tucker, Death at the Little Bighorn: A New Look at Custer, His Tactics, and the Tragic Decisions Made at the Last Stand, 2017.

Cindy Ott, "Crossing Cultural Fences: The Intersecting Material World of American Indians and Euro-Americans," Western Historical Quarterly 39:4 (Winter 2008), 491-499.

James Welch, "Killing Custer: An Excerpt," Montana: The Magazine of Western History 44:4 (Autumn 1994), 16-27.

"See You Later, Joe Medicine Crow," Wild West 29:2 (August 2016), 13.

"War Songs of the Plains: Joseph Medicine Crow," Economist 419:8985 (April 16, 2016), 82.

Nina Sanders, "Remembering Dr. Joe Medicine Crow," Smithsonian, April 6, 2016.

Mardi Mileham, "Honoring a Cultural Treasure," Linfield Magazine 6:2 (Fall 2009), 6-11.

"Roundup," Wild West 21:2 (August 2008), 9.

Bradley Shreve, "Serving Those Who Served," Tribal College Journal 29:2 (Winter 2017) 10-11.

Brenda J. Child and Karissa E. White, "'I've Done My Share': Ojibwe People and World War II," Minnesota History 61:5 (Spring 2009), 196-207.

Emily Langer, "Native American Icon Was 'Warrior and Living Legend,'" Montreal Gazette, April 13, 2016, B.14.

"Joe Medicine Crow: Indian War Chief Decorated for Bravery Who Regaled Custer's 'Last Stand,'" Sunday Independent, April 10, 2016, 29.

"Joe Medicine Crow: War Chief Decorated for Bravery Who Told of Custer's 'Last Stand' From the Perspective of the Natives," Daily Telegraph, April 6, 2016, 27.

Mike McPhate, "Joseph Medicine Crow, Tribal War Chief and Historian, Dies at 102," New York Times, April 4, 2016.

Sarah Kaplan, "Joe Medicine Crow, a War Chief, Historian and the Last Link to the Battle of Little Big Horn, Dies at 102," Washington Post, April 4, 2016.

Alex Johnson, "Revered Indian Leader Joe Medicine Crow, Last Crow War Chief, Dies at 102," NBC News, April 4, 2016.

"Native American Chief Joe Medicine Crow Dies Aged 102," BBC News, April 3, 2016.

Matthew Brown, "Crow Tribe Elder, Historian Joe Medicine Crow Dead at 102," Associated Press, April 3, 2016.

Mike Ferguson and Jordon Niedermeier, "Joe Medicine Crow Dies in Billings on Sunday Morning," Billings [Mont.] Gazette, April 3, 2016.

Jack McNeel, "Joe Medicine Crow, War Chief," Indian Country Today, Sept. 24, 2008, 21.

"Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow to Receive the French Legion of Honor Award and the Bronze Star," Custer Battlefield Museum, May 21, 2008.

Robin A. Ladue, "The Last War Chief," Tribal Business Journal (accessed Nov. 22, 2020).

"Smithsonian Curator Remembers Plains Indian War Chief Joe Medicine Crow," All Things Considered, National Public Radio, April 4, 2016.

Jurek Martin, "Joe Medicine Crow, Warrior and Historian, 1913-2016," FT.com, April 8, 2016.

"President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients," White House, July 30, 2009.

Herman Viola, "High Bird: Eulogy for Joe Medicine Crow (Crow), 1914-2016," National Museum of the American Indian, April 21, 2016.

Tim Ellis' daughter and the world's largest rubber chicken.

Listener mail:

Kevin W. Bowyer and Patrick J. Flynn, "Biometric Identification of Identical Twins: A Survey," IEEE Eighth International Conference on Biometrics Theory, Applications and Systems, 2016.

Sandee LaMotte, "The Other 'Fingerprints' You Don't Know About," CNN, Dec. 4, 2015.

Cailin O'Connor, "Life Is Random," Slate, Sept. 12, 2014.

Thomas G. Kaye and Mark Meltzer, "Diatoms Constrain Forensic Burial Timelines: Case Study With DB Cooper Money," Scientific Reports 10:1 (Aug. 3, 2020), 1-9.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Carsten Hamann, who sent these corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-12-07
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321-The Calculating Boy

George Parker Bidder was born with a surprising gift: He could do complex arithmetic in his head. His feats of calculation would earn for him a university education, a distinguished career in engineering, and fame throughout 19th-century England. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe his remarkable ability and the stunning displays he made with it.

We'll also try to dodge some foul balls and puzzle over a leaky ship.

Intro:

John Clem joined the Union Army at age 10.

Actress Tippi Hedren kept an African lion as a house pet in the 1970s.

Sources for our feature on George Bidder:

E.F. Clark, George Parker Bidder: The Calculating Boy, 1983.

Steven Bradley Smith, The Great Mental Calculators: The Psychology, Methods, and Lives of Calculating Prodigies, Past and Present, 1983.

Frank D. Mitchell, Mathematical Prodigies, 1907.

Henry Budd Howell, A Foundational Study in the Pedagogy of Arithmetic, 1914.

A.W. Skempton and Mike Chrimes, A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: 1500-1830, 2002.

George Eyre Evans, Midland Churches: A History of the Congregations on the Roll of the Midland Christian Union, 1899.

David Singmaster, "George Parker Bidder: The Calculating Boy by E.F. Clark," Mathematical Gazette 71:457 (October 1987), 252-254.

Antony Anderson, "Fairgrounds to Railways With Numbers," New Scientist 100:1385 (Nov. 24, 1983), 581.

Frank D. Mitchell, "Mathematical Prodigies," American Journal of Psychology 18:1 (January 1907), 61-143.

Richard A. Proctor, "Calculating Boys," Belgravia Magazine 38:152 (June 1879), 450-470.

Martin Gardner, "Mathematical Games," Scientific American 216:4 (April 1967), 116-123.

"A Short Account of George Bidder, the Celebrated Mental Calculator: With a Variety of the Most Difficult Questions, Proposed to Him at the Principal Towns in the Kingdom, and His Surprising Rapid Answers, Etc.," pamphlet, 1821.

Louis McCreery, "Mathematical Prodigies," Mathematics News Letter 7:7/8 (April-May 1933), 4-12.

"Memoirs of Deceased Members," Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 57 (1878-1879), Part III, 294.

"George Parker Bidder," Devon Notes and Queries, Vol. 2, 1903.

"Calculating Boys," Strand 10 (1895), 277-280.

"Bidder, George Parker," Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.

H.T. Wood, "Bidder, George Parker," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Listener mail:

Todd S. Purdum, "His Best Years Past, Veteran in Debt Sells Oscar He Won," New York Times, Aug. 7, 1992.

"In Financial Straits, Actor Sells '46 Oscar," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 7, 1992.

"Harold Russell Selling 'Best Years of Our Lives' Oscar," Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1992.

Heathcliff Rothman, "I'd Really Like to Thank My Pal at the Auction House," New York Times, Feb. 12, 2006.

Stephen Ceasar, "You Can't Put a Price on Oscar: Even Heirs of Winners Are Bound by Rules Against Selling the Statue," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 25, 2016.

"Orson Welles' Citizen Kane Oscar Auctioned in US," BBC News, Dec. 21, 2011.

Allen St. John, "Does Japanese Baseball Have the Answer for MLB's Dangerous Foul Ball Problem?", Forbes, Sept. 30, 2017.

"Foul Balls in Japanese Baseball," Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, HBO, April 20, 2016.

"A Look at Some Extended Protective Nettings in the KBO and NPB," Fan Interference, Feb, 2, 2016.

Andrew W. Lehren and Michelle Tak, "Every Major League Baseball Team Will Expand Netting to Protect Fans From Foul Balls," NBC News, Dec. 11, 2019.

Bill Shaikin, "A Lawsuit Could Make Baseball Teams Liable for Foul Balls That Injure Fans," Los Angeles Times, Feb 20, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jon Jerome.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-11-30
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320-John Hornby and the Barren Lands

John Hornby left a privileged background in England to roam the vast subarctic tundra of northern Canada. There he became known as "the hermit of the north," famous for staying alive in a land with very few resources. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll spend a winter with Hornby, who's been called "one of the most colorful adventurers in modern history."

We'll also consider an anthropologist's reputation and puzzle over an unreachable safe.

Intro:

In 1902, Ambrose Bierce proposed that we learn to sever our social ties.

Can it make sense to pray for a change in the past?

Sources for our feature on John Hornby:

Malcolm Waldron, Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands, 1931.

Pierre Berton, Prisoners of the North, 2011.

David F. Pelly, Thelon: A River Sanctuary, 1996.

Morten Asfeldt and Bob Henderson, eds., Pike's Portage: Stories of a Distinguished Place, 2010.

Misao Dean, Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: The Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalism, 2013.

Michael D. Pitt, Beyond the End of the Road: A Winter of Contentment North of the Arctic Circle, 2009.

Mckay Jenkins, Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness and Murder in the Arctic Barren Lands, 2007.

Clive Powell-Williams, Cold Burial: A True Story of Endurance and Disaster, 2003.

Brook Sutton, "Long Before McCandless, John Hornby Tested Himself in Northern Canada -- and Failed," Adventure Journal, Oct. 27, 2016.

C.B. Sikstrom, "Hjalmar Nelson Hamar (1894?1967)," Arctic 67:3 (2014), 407-409.

Alex M. Hall, "Pike's Portage: Stories of a Distinguised Place, Edited by Morten Asfeldt and Bob Henderson," Arctic 63:3 (2010), 364-365.

David F. Pelly, "Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands," Arctic 53:1 (March 2000), 81-82.

Hugh Stewart, "Arctic Profiles: John Hornby," Arctic 37:2 (June 1984), 184-185.

M.T. Kelly, "Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands," Books in Canada 27:7 (October 1998), 29.

Thomas H. Hill, "John Hornby: Legend or Fool," Torch Magazine 89:2 (Winter 2016), 6-9.

Martin Zeilig, "Touring Canada's Untouched North a Treat," [Regina, Sask.] Leader Post, Oct. 27, 2006, F2.

"Privation and Death in 'the Barrens,'" Toronto Star, Aug. 9, 1987, A8.

Anne Ross, "John Hornby," Globe and Mail, March 21, 1978, P.6.

George J. Lustre, "Hornby's Adventures," Globe and Mail, March 10, 1978, P.7.

Allan Irving, "John Hornby," Globe and Mail, March 9, 1978, P.6.

"Last Hours of John Hornby Are Pictured by Christian," [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Dec. 31, 1929, 2.

"Bodies of Three Explorers Found," [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, Sept. 6, 1928, 29.

"Identity of Bodies Not Entirely Clear," New Britain [Conn.] Herald, Aug. 15, 1928, 10.

"Musk-Ox Sanctuary," Montreal Gazette, Aug. 26, 1927.

James Charles Critchell Bullock Archive, Sherborne School, June 1, 2015.

John Ferns, "Hornby, John," Dictionary of Canadian Biography (accessed Nov. 8, 2020).

Listener mail:

"Building Name Review: Kroeber Hall," Berkeley: Office of the Chancellor (accessed Nov. 7, 2020).

"Proposal to Un-Name Kroeber Hall," UC Berkeley Building Name Review Committee, July 1, 2020.

Karl Kroeber and Clifton B. Kroeber, Ishi in Three Centuries, 2003.

Vicky Baker, "Last Survivor: The Story of the 'World's Loneliest Man,'" BBC News, July 20, 2018.

Dom Phillips, "Footage of Sole Survivor of Amazon Tribe Emerges," Guardian, July 19, 2018.

Monte Reel, "The Most Isolated Man on the Planet," Slate, Aug. 20, 2010.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Greg. Here are two corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-11-23
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319-Friedrich Kellner's Opposition

In the 1930s, German civil servant Friedrich Kellner was outraged by the increasing brutality of the Nazi party and the complicity of his fellow citizens. He began to keep a secret diary to record the crimes of the Third Reich and his condemnations of his countrymen. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll tell the story of Friedrich's diary and his outspoken warnings to future generations.

We'll also ponder the problem with tardigrades and puzzle over a seemingly foolish choice.

Intro:

In 1983, Kenneth Gardner patented a way to cremate corpses using solar energy.

How can Anna Karenina's fate move us when we know she?s not a real person?

Sources for our feature on Friedrich Kellner:

Robert Scott Kellner, ed., My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner -- A German Against the Third Reich, 2018.

Hermann Beck, "My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner -- A German Against the Third Reich," Holocaust and Genocide Studies 33:2 (Fall 2019), 271-273.

Peter Fritzsche, "Vernebelt, verdunkelt sind alle Hirne." Tagebücher 1939-1, Central European History 45:4 (December 2012), 780-782.

David Clay Large, "My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner; A German Against the Third Reich," Journal of Modern History 91:2 (June 2019), 480-481.

Robert Scott Kellner, "Nebraskan, Other U.S. Soldiers Brought Justice to WWII German Town," Omaha World-Herald, May 8, 2020.

Robert Scott Kellner, "Commentary: He Documented Nazi Crimes, Secretly, for the Future to Know," Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2020.

Robert Scott Kellner, "'The American Army Makes an Impression,'" Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2020.

Robert Scott Kellner, "Waiting for D-Day in Germany," Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2019, A.11.

Robert Scott Kellner, "The Curse of an Evil Deed," [Washington, D.C.] Examiner, May 8, 2019.

Matt Lebovic, "New Memoir Compilation by Hitler's Personal Staff Airs Historical Dirty Laundry," Times of Israel, Oct. 13, 2018.

Jane Warren, "Exposed: Myth That Civilians Knew Nothing of Nazi Atrocities," Daily Express, March 10, 2018, 31.

Laurence Rees, "Meet Friedrich Kellner: The Unlikely Face of Nazi Resistance," Telegraph, Jan. 22, 2018.

Richard J. Evans, "My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner Review ? A German Against the Nazis," Guardian, Jan. 12, 2018, 6.

Matt Lebovic, "What Did Germans Know? Secret Anti-Nazi Diary Gives Voice to Man on the Street," Times of Israel, Jan. 8, 2018.

Benjamin Weinthal, "A Diary for the Future," Jerusalem Post, Jan. 27, 2012, 12.

"Germany Weaves Web of Its Modern History," [Abu Dhabi] National, Nov. 1, 2011.

"A Reminder of the Need to Preserve the Truth," [Montreal] Gazette, Oct. 17, 2011, A.23.

Madeline Chambers, "'Ordinary' German's Diary Decried Nazi Atrocities," [Montreal] Gazette, Oct. 13, 2011, A.18.

Graeme Morton, "Diaries Chronicle Fall Into Hitlerian Hell," [Victoria, B.C.] Times Colonist, Nov. 17, 2007, C4.

Sam Ser, "Anti-Nazi's Revealing Wartime Diaries Become 'Weapon to Combat Evil,'" Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2005, 6.

Phil Magers, "Feature: German's War Diary Goes Public," UPI Perspectives, March 25, 2005.

Robert Scott Kellner, "Opposing the Nazis: The Secret Diary of a German Against the Third Reich," History Extra, Aug. 22, 2018.

Robert Scott Kellner, "Where Will the Culture of Internet Attacks Lead? Nazi Opponent Friedrich Kellner's Diaries Offer Warnings," History News Network, Aug. 23, 2020.

Listener mail:

Poppy Noor, "Overzealous Profanity Filter Bans Paleontologists From Talking About Bones," Guardian, Oct. 16, 2020.

Maria Cramer, "Paleontologists See Stars as Software Bleeps Scientific Terms," New York Times, Oct. 18, 2020.

Becky Ferreira, "A Profanity Filter Banned the Word 'Bone' at a Paleontology Conference," Vice, Oct. 15, 2020.

Thomas R. Holtz Jr., "SVPers: I have put together a sheet of the 'banned' words on the Q&A function at #2020SVP so far," Twitter, Oct. 13, 2020.

Samantha Cole, "PayPal Is Stalling Cute Tardigrade Merch -- and a Notorious Weapons Dealer Is to Blame," Vice, Sept. 11, 2020.

Tim Ellis, "Weird Seattle Retailer Archie Mcphee Hit With Even Weirder Paypal Problem, Foiling Tardigrade Sales," GeekWire, Sept. 11, 2020.

"Rubber Chicken Museum," Atlas Obscura, accessed Nov. 1, 2020.

"Archie McPhee's Rubber Chicken Museum," Archie McPhee, accessed Nov. 1, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Scarlett Casey.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-11-16
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318-Peace Pilgrim

In 1953 Mildred Norman renounced "an empty life of money and things" and dedicated herself to promoting peace. She spent the next three decades walking through the United States to spread a message of simplicity and harmony. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe her unusual life as a peace pilgrim.

We'll also admire Wellington's Mittens and puzzle over a barren Christmas.

Intro:

In 1956, Navy pilot Tom Attridge overtook his own rounds in a supersonic jet.

Flemish artist Cornelius Gijsbrechts painted a rendering of the back of a painting.

Sources for our feature on Peace Pilgrim:

Peace Pilgrim, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, 1992.

Peace Pilgrim, Steps Toward Inner Peace, 1964.

Kathlyn Gay, American Dissidents: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Subversives, and Prisoners of Conscience, 2012.

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, 2001.

Peace Pilgrim's website.

Michael M. Piechowski, "Giftedness for All Seasons: Inner Peace in a Time of War," Henry B. and Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on Talent Development, University of Iowa, 1991.

Michael M. Piechowski, "Is Inner Transformation a Creative Process?", Creativity Research Journal 6:1-2 (1993), 89-98.

Michael M. Piechowski, "Peace Pilgrim, Exemplar of Level V," Roeper Review 31:2 (2009), 103-112.

Amanda Kautz, "Peace Pilgrim: An American Parallel to a Buddhist Path," Buddhist-Christian Studies 10 (1990), 165-172.

Roy Tamashiro, "Planetary Consciousness, Witnessing the Inhuman, and Transformative Learning: Insights From Peace Pilgrimage Oral Histories and Autoethnographies," Religions 9:5 (2018), 148.

"Introducing Peace Pilgrim," Equality 15 (May 1969), 3.

"Peace Pilgrim's Progress," Equality 1 (May 1965), 3.

Ann Rush with John Rush, "Peace Pilgrim: An Extraordinary Life," 1992.

Peace Pilgrim, "On Foot and on Faith," The Sun Magazine, February 2020.

Katharine Q. Seelye, "Overlooked No More: Emma Gatewood, First Woman to Conquer the Appalachian Trail Alone," New York Times, June 27, 2018.

Steve Taylor, "Peace Pilgrim: A Way to Wakefulness," Psychology Today, June 8, 2016.

Paul Venesz, "7th Peace Pilgrim Celebration," [Vineland, N.J.] Daily Journal, Sept. 24, 2014, 9.

"Peace Pilgrim Nominated to Hall of Fame," [Vineland, N.J.] Daily Journal, May 28, 2014, 1.

"Peace Pilgrim Is Eyed for Hall," [Vineland, N.J.] Daily Journal, Oct. 23, 2013, 1.

Braden Campbell, "Author of New Book on Peace Pilgrim to Take Part in Egg Harbor City Celebration," Press of Atlantic City, Sept. 11, 2013.

Kate Murphy, "Walking the Country as a Spiritual Quest," New York Times, March 2, 2013.

Zak Rosen, "Peace Pilgrim's 28-Year Walk for 'A Meaningful Way of Life,'" All Things Considered, National Public Radio, Jan. 1, 2013.

Jason Nark, "Peace Pilgrim's Message Carried On," Philadelphia Daily News, July 19, 2008, 7.

Sandra Malasky, "Peace Pilgrim Walked the Walk," Peterborough [Ont.] Examiner, July 2, 2005, B4.

Bernard Bauer, "A 25-Year Hike," Berkeley [Calif.] Barb 28:2 (Oct. 26-Nov. 8, 1978), 3.

Chet Briggs, "Peace Pilgrim Comes to Town," [Austin, Texas] Rag 1:15 (Feb. 20, 1967), 7.

"Peace Pilgrim," Ottawa County [Ohio] News, Sept. 25, 1953, 2.

"Heard in Lawrence," Lawrence [Kan.] Journal-World, June 29, 1953.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, "Mittens (cat)" (accessed Oct. 10, 2020).

Eleanor Ainge Roy, "'The Best Thing About Wellington': Mittens the Cat Has Paws All Over New Zealand Capital," Guardian, March 3, 2020.

"The Wondrous Adventures of Mittens," Facebook.

"Celebrity Cat Mittens 'His Floofiness' Awarded Key to the City by Wellington's Mayor," 1 News, May 22, 2020.

"Feline Groovy: Mittens Unlocks More Hearts With Key to the City," Wellington City Council, May 22, 2020.

Katarina Williams, "Wellington Feline Celebrity Mittens Awarded Key to the City," stuff, May 22, 2020.

Eleanor Ainge Roy, "Celebrity Cat Called Mittens in the Running to Be New Zealander of the Year," Guardian, Aug 19, 2020.

"Jock VII Takes the Helm," International Churchill Society (accessed Oct. 10, 2020).

"Jock VII of Chartwell," National Trust (accessed Oct. 10, 2020).

Laura Silverman, "Meet the Long Line of Ginger Cats Who've Taken Up Residence in Winston Churchill's Home," Telegraph, July 20, 2020.

"A Perpetual Pussycat," Futility Closet, Oct. 21, 2013.

Peter Black, "RIP Doorkins Magnificat," Blogspot, Oct. 5, 2020

"The Story of Doorkins Magnificat," Southwark Cathedral, accessed Oct. 10, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Sharon. Here are two corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-11-02
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317-Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

Intro:

Stonewall Jackson recorded 14 precepts for good conversation.

Ben Franklin offered four "rules for making oneself a disagreeable companion."

Sources for this episode's puzzles:

Puzzle #1 is from listener Allen Houser.

Puzzle #2 is from listener Michael Cavanagh.

Puzzle #3 is from listener Jessica Aves.

Puzzle #4 is from listener Laura Merz.

Puzzle #5 is from listener ospalh.

Puzzle #6 is from Agnes Rogers' 1953 book How Come? A Book of Riddles, sent in by listener Jon Jerome.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-10-26
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316-A Malaysian Mystery

In 1967, Jim Thompson left his silk business in Thailand for a Malaysian holiday with three friends. On the last day, he disappeared from the cottage in which they were staying. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review the many theories behind Thompson's disappearance, which has never been explained.

We'll also borrow John Barrymore's corpse and puzzle over a teddy bear's significance.

Intro:

A 1969 contributor to NPL News suggested that orchestras were wasting effort.

Robert Wood cleaned a 40-foot spectrograph by sending his cat through it.

Sources for our feature on Jim Thompson:

William Warren, Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery, 2014.

Joshua Kurlantzick, The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War, 2011.

Matthew Phillips, Thailand in the Cold War, 2015.

Taveepong Limapornvanich and William Warren, Thailand Sketchbook: Portrait of a Kingdom, 2003.

Jeffery Sng, "The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War by Joshua Kurlantzick," Journal of the Siam Society 102 (2014), 296-299.

Tim McKeough, "Jim Thompson," Architectural Digest 71:4 (April 2014).

Alessandro Pezzati, "Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King," Expedition Magazine 53:1 (Spring 2011), 4-6.

Daisy Alioto, "The Architect Who Changed the Thai Silk Industry and Then Disappeared," Time, May 9, 2016.

Anis Ramli, "Jim Thompson Found, 40 Years On," Malaysian Business, May 1, 2009, 58.

"Thailand: Jim Thompson's Legacy Lives On," Asia News Monitor, Feb. 8, 2010.

Peter A. Jackson, "An American Death in Bangkok: The Murder of Darrell Berrigan and the Hybrid Origins of Gay Identity in 1960s Thailand," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 5:3 (1999), 361-411.

Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa, "Documentary Claims CPM Responsible for Jim Thompson's Disappearance in Cameron Highland," Malaysian National News Agency, Dec. 10, 2017.

Barry Broman, "Jim Thompson Was Killed by Malay Communists, Sources Say," The Nation [Bangkok], Dec. 4, 2017.

Grant Peck, "New Film Sheds Light on Jim Thompson Mystery," Associated Press, Oct. 21, 2017.

"A 50-Year Mystery: The Curious Case of Silk Tycoon Jim Thompson," dpa International, March 22, 2017.

George Fetherling, "The Man Who Vanished," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 29, 2013, B.7.

"Trends: The Mystery of Jim Thompson," [Hamilton, New Zealand] Waikato Times, May 8, 2013, T.13.

"Bangkok: Remembering Jim Thompson," The Nation [Bangkok], Oct. 3, 2012.

Bernd Kubisch, "The Riddle of Jim Thompson Continues to Fascinate Bangkok Visitors," McClatchy-Tribune Business News, Feb. 21, 2012.

Joshua Kurlantzick, "Into the Jungle," [Don Mills, Ont.] National Post, Dec. 7, 2011, A.16.

Joshua Kurlantzick, "Our Man in Bangkok," [Don Mills, Ont.] National Post, Dec. 6, 2011, A.14.

Yap Yok Foo, "Mystery of Jim Thompson's Disappearance," [Kuala Lumpur] New Straits Times, Feb. 1, 2004, 30.

Robert Frank, "Recipe for a Fashion Brand?", Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2001, B.1.

Jonathan Napack, "Will Jim Thompson's House Disappear, Too?", International Herald Tribune, Aug. 30, 2000.

Michael Richardson, "The Disappearance of Jim Thompson," International Herald Tribune, March 26, 1997, 2.

Hisham Harun, "Jim Thompson's Legacy," [Kuala Lumpur] New Straits Times, Aug. 12, 1996, 09.

Philp Shenon, "What's Doing In: Bangkok," New York Times, Jan. 31, 1993.

William Warren, "Is Jim Thompson Alive and Well in Asia?", New York Times, April 21, 1968.

"Jim Thompson," Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed Oct. 4, 2020).

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, "John Barrymore" (accessed Oct. 8, 2020).

"Drew Barrymore Has a Hard Time Processing While Eating Hot Wings," Hot Ones, Aug. 20, 2020.

Marina Watts, "Drew Barrymore Reveals the Unique Experience Grandfather John Barrymore Had After Death," Newsweek, Aug. 21, 2020.

Adam White, "Drew Barrymore Says Her Grandfather's Corpse Was Stolen From the Morgue for 'One Last Party,'" Independent, Aug. 20, 2020.

Wikipedia, "Hot Ones" (accessed Oct. 8, 2020).

"Earth Does Not Move for Science," BBC News, Sept. 7, 2001.

Tim Radford, "Children's Giant Jump Makes Waves for Science," Guardian, Sept. 7, 2001.

Reuters, "Jump Kids, Jump! Shake That Earth," Wired, Sept 7, 2001.

"Schoolkids Jump-Start a Quake in Britain," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 8, 2001.

"Newspaper Clipping of the Day," Strange Company, Aug. 26, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Hanno Zulla, who sent these corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-10-19
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315-Beryl Markham's Unconventional Life

Beryl Markham managed to fit three extraordinary careers into one lifetime: She was a champion racehorse trainer, a pioneering bush pilot, and a best-selling author. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review her eventful life, including her historic solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936.

We'll also portray some Canadian snakes and puzzle over a deadly car.

Intro:

In 1974, Stewart Coffin devised a topological puzzle without a solution.

In August 1972, Applied Optics determined that Heaven is hotter than Hell.

Sources for our feature on Beryl Markham:

Mary S. Lovell, Straight on Till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham, 2011.

Beryl Markham, West With the Night, 1942.

Derek O'Connor, "The Remarkable Mrs. Markham," Aviation History 28:2 (November 2017), 54-59.

Paula McLain, "An Insanely Glamorous Love Triangle," Town & Country, Sept. 2, 2015.

Nate Pederson, "West With the Night," Aviation History 20:1 (September 2009), 62-62.

Diana Ketcham, "Bad Girl," Nation 245:17 (Nov. 21, 1987), 600-602.

Beryl Markham, "The Splendid Outcast," Saturday Evening Post 217:10 (Sept. 2, 1944), 12.

"Aviator Beryl Markham Went With the Wind," [Durban] Sunday Tribune, June 4, 2017, 13.

Erin Pottie, "Piece of History?", [Halifax, N.S.] Chronicle-Herald, Aug. 25, 2015, A1.

"Beryl Markham: An Obituary," Times, Aug. 5, 1999, 25.

Jane O'Reilly, "Never Down to Earth," New York Times, Oct. 3, 1993.

Christopher Reed, "Inside Story: Beryl's Crash Landing," Guardian, Sept. 29, 1993.

Frances Padorr Brent, "Beryl Markham: Truly Adventurous But Perhaps Less Than Honest," Chicago Tribune, Sept. 12, 1993, 6.

Sylvia O'Brien, "For Whom Beryl Toiled," International Herald Tribune, Sept. 9, 1993.

"Ghost Story," New York Times, Aug. 29, 1993.

Robert Savage, "Rediscovering Beryl Markham," New York Times, Oct. 4, 1987, A.50.

Nancy Lemann, "Stories Under a Shadow," St. Petersburg Times, Sept. 27, 1987, 6D.

"Africa Bush Pilot Beryl Markham, 83," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 6, 1986, 7.

Burr Van Atta, "Beryl Markham, 83, First Pilot to Cross the Atlantic East to West," Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 5, 1986, B.6.

"Beryl Markham, Aviation Pioneer, 83," Newsday, Aug. 5, 1986, 27.

"Beryl Markham," Globe and Mail, Aug. 5, 1986, C.12.

"Beryl Markham Is Dead at 83; Flew Across Atlantic in 1936," Associated Press, Aug. 5, 1986.

"Mrs. Beryl Markham Wed," New York Times, Oct. 18, 1942.

"Beryl Markham Seeks Divorce," New York Times, Oct. 6, 1942.

Talbot Lake, "Beryl Markham Writes of Her Hectic Life," [Mount Clemens, Mich.] Daily Monitor Leader, July 24, 1942.

Jane Spence Southron, "Personal Record Out of Africa; Beryl Markham's Autobiography Is Vivid, Evocative Writing," New York Times, June 21, 1942.

"Conquers Atlantic in Daring Flight," [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star, Sept. 13, 1936.

"Mrs. Markham, English Society Matron, Has Only Headache to Remind Her of Lone Ocean Flight," United Press, Sept. 7, 1936.

"Woman Takes Off on Lone Hop to Try East-West Crossing," [Elizabeth City, N.C.] Daily Independent, Sept. 5, 1936.

"Woman Flyer Conquers Atlantic, But Low Gas May Cut Flight Short," Associated Press, Sept. 5, 1936.

"English Woman Flier Is Grounded in Nova Scotia After Crossing Atlantic," Henderson [N.C.] Daily Dispatch, Sept. 5, 1936.

"English Woman Begins Solo Hop Across Atlantic," Associated Press, Sept. 4, 1936.

"Lone Woman Flier Starts West Swing," Henderson [N.C.] Daily Dispatch, Sept. 4, 1936.

"Beryl Markham," Encyclopaedia Britannica, July 30, 2020.

C.S. Nicholls, "Markham [née Clutterbuck], Beryl," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Listener mail:

"Sir Nicholas Winton 1909-2015," England Fencing.

"Bobby Winton 1914-2009," British Veterans Fencing.

"Nicholas Winton Honoured by the Czechs for Saving Children From the Nazis," British Fencing.

CRIBS International website.

"Statue for 'British Schindler' Sir Nicholas Winton," BBC News, Sept. 18, 2010.

"Sir Nicholas Winton," Maidenhead Heritage Centre, accessed September 25, 2020.

"U-Haul SuperGraphics - Manitoba," accessed September 30, 2020 (for the specific graphic that Rebecca saw).

"About U-Haul SuperGraphics," accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

"Manitoba: Female Impersonators," accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

"Venture Across America and Canada," accessed Sept. 30, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Marie Nearing, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-10-12
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314-The Taliesin Murders

By 1914 Frank Lloyd Wright had become one of America's most influential architects. But that August a violent tragedy unfolded at his Midwestern residence and studio. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the shocking attack of Julian Carlton, which has been called "the most horrific single act of mass murder in Wisconsin history."

We'll also admire some helpful dogs and puzzle over some freezing heat.

Intro:

In 1992 by Celess Antoine patented an umbrella for dogs.

Ignaz Moscheles' piano piece "The Way of the World" reads the same upside down.

Sources for our feature on the Taliesin killings:

William R. Drennan, Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders, 2007.

Ron McCrea, Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright's Home of Love and Loss, 2013.

Paul Hendrickson, Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, 2019.

Meryle Secrest, Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography, 1998.

Anthony Alofsin, "Loving Frank; Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 69:3 (September 2010), 450-451.

Christopher Benfey, "Burning Down the House," Harper's Magazine 339:2035 (December 2019), 88-94.

Naomi Uechi, "Evolving Transcendentalism: Thoreauvian Simplicity in Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin and Contemporary Ecological Architecture," Concord Saunterer 17 (2009), 73-98.

Jonathan Morrison, "Frank Lloyd Wright: The Giant Talent With Shaky Foundations," Times, Jan. 4, 2020, 16.

Michael Prodger, "Plagued By Fire by Paul Hendrickson -- Frank Lloyd Wright, a Life of Disaster and Disarray," Guardian, Nov. 22, 2019, 14.

Philip Kennicott, "He Burned Frank Lloyd Wright's House and Killed His Mistress -- But Why?", Washington Post, Nov. 22, 2019.

"Monumental Achievements: Frank Lloyd Wright, an American Great Whose Life Was as Colourful as His Buildings Were Breathtaking," Sunday Times, Oct. 20, 2019, 32.

John Glassie, "What Kept Wright From Running Dry?", Washington Post, Oct. 6, 2019, E.12.

Ron Hogan, "The Tragic Story of Guggenheim Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Secret Love Nest," New York Post, Oct. 5, 2019.

Leanne Shapton and Niklas Maak, "The House That Love Built -- Before It Was Gone," New York Times, July 4, 2016.

Ron McCrea, "August, 1914: Small-Town Wisconsin Rises to the Occasion of the Taliesin Mass Murder," [Madison, Wis.] Capital Times, Aug. 14, 2014.

Mara Bovsun, "Cook Massacres Seven at Wisconsin Home Frank Lloyd Wright Built for His Mistress," New York Daily News, Jan. 25, 2014.

Patricia Wolff, "Tranquil Taliesin Harbors Tragic Tale," Oshkosh [Wis.] Northwestern, June 26, 2011, A.1.

Ron McCrea, "Taliesin's Postcard Memories Rare Photos Reveal Scenes From Frank Lloyd Wright's Pre-Fire Dwellings," Madison [Wis.] Capital Times, March 23, 2011, 9.

Marcus Field, "Architect of Desire," Independent on Sunday, March 8, 2009, 14.

Robert Campbell, "House Proud: Paying Homage to Frank Lloyd Wright's Home, Taliesin East," Boston Globe, Dec. 13, 1992, 17.

Image: The Taliesin courtyard after the attack and fire. Frank Lloyd Wright is at left.

Listener mail:

"Just Nuisance," Simonstown.com (accessed Sept. 25, 2020).

Kirsten Jacobs, "The Legendary Tale of Just Nuisance," Cape Town Etc, Jan. 28, 2020.

The Kitchen Sisters, "Turnspit Dogs: The Rise and Fall of the Vernepator Cur," NPR, May 13, 2014.

Natalie Zarrelli, "The Best Kitchen Gadget of the 1600s Was a Small, Short-Legged Dog," Atlas Obscura, Jan. 11, 2017.

"Sewing Machine Worked by a Dog," Futility Closet, Oct. 16, 2011.

"Turnspit Dogs," Futility Closet, Nov. 10, 2006.

Wikipedia, "Newfoundland (dog)," accessed Sept. 24, 2020.

Stanley Coren, "The Dogs of Napoleon Bonaparte," Psychology Today, March 8, 2018.

"Beach Rescue Dog Alerts Swimmer," BBC News, 23 August 2007.

Adam Rivera, David Miller, Phoebe Natanson, and Andrea Miller, "Dogs Train Year-Round to Save Lives in the Italian Waters," ABC News, April 2, 2018.

Tom Kington, "Italy's Lifesaving Dogs Swim Towards Foreign Shores," Times, March 10, 2020, 31.

"Italy's Canine Lifeguards," NDTV, Aug. 23, 2010 (contains several photos).

Anna Gragert, "Newfoundland Dogs Help the Italian Coast Guard Save Lives," My Modern Met, Aug. 5, 2015 (contains several photos).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Garth Payne, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-10-05
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313-The Santa Claus Association

In 1913, New York publicist John Duval Gluck founded an association to answer Santa's mail. For 15 years its volunteers fulfilled children's Christmas wishes, until Gluck's motivation began to shift. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the rise and fall of "Santa's Secretary" in New York City.

We'll also survey some splitting trains and puzzle over a difference between twins.

Intro:

Edward Lear once had to prove his own existence.

Paul Dirac proposed that a math problem could be solved with -2 fish.

Sources for our feature on John Duval Gluck and the Santa Claus Association:

Alex Palmer, The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York, 2015.

Harry Pelle Hartkemeier, John Duvall Gluck, and Emma Croft Germond, "Social Science and Belief," Social Science 9:2 (April 1934), 202-208.

Eve M. Kahn, "'Mama Says That Santa Claus Does Not Come to Poor People,'" New York Times, Nov. 26, 2015.

Alex Palmer, "Meet the Con Artist Who Popularized Writing to Santa Claus," New York Post, Sept. 20, 2015.

Kathleen Read, "What Becomes of Santa Claus Letters?", [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star, Dec. 21, 1930, 3.

"'Santa Claus' Gluck Ignores His Critics," New York Times, Dec. 11, 1928.

"Submits Accounting on Santa Claus Fund," New York Times, Jan. 11, 1928.

"Santa Claus Group Again Balks Inquiry," New York Times, Dec. 31, 1927.

"Santa Claus, Inc., Now Offers Books," New York Times, Dec. 25, 1927.

"Santa Claus Group in Postal Inquiry," New York Times, Dec. 24, 1927.

"Santa Claus Group Under Coler's Fire," New York Times, Dec. 23, 1927.

"Now the Santa Claus Letters Are Falling Into the Mail," New York Times, Dec. 4, 1927.

"Santa Claus Association Will Send Gifts To 12,000 Poor Children Who Wrote Letters," New York Times, Dec. 20, 1925.

"Thousands Write Santa," Richmond [Va.] Times-Dispatch, Dec. 21, 1919, 4.

"Probe Upholds Contentions of the Boy Scout Leaders," Harrisburg [Pa.] Telegraph, Aug. 24, 1917.

John Duval Gluck, "Boy Scouts: Suggestion That the Rival Bodies End Their Quarrel and Get to Work," New York Times, Aug. 19, 1917.

Max Abelman and John Duval Gluck, "Methods Proposed to Control Charity; Plans for a Charity Service League," New York Times, Aug. 5, 1917.

"Making Santa Real to Poor Children," New York Times, Nov. 22, 1914.

"Santa Claus Association Incorporated," New York Times, March 26, 1914.

"Played Santa Claus and Solved an Economic Problem," New York Times, Jan. 18, 1914.

"Letters to Santa Really Answered," New York Times, Dec. 25, 1913.

"Plays Santa Claus to Poor," New York Times, Dec. 12, 1913.

"Santa Claus Will Answer His Mail," New York Times, Dec. 7, 1913.

"Form Santa Claus Body," New York Times, Dec. 6, 1913.

USPS Operation Santa.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, "S1 (Munich)" (accessed Aug. 22, 2020).

S1 (Munich) schedule.

Wikipedia, "Dividing Train" (accessed Sept. 17, 2020).

"France in Detail: Getting Around," Lonely Planet, accessed Aug. 22, 2020.

"'Where the Train Will Divide...' - Portion Working," Southern Electric Group (accessed Aug. 22, 2020).

Wikitravel, "Wakayama" (accessed Aug. 22, 2020).

Amtrak Empire Builder schedule, March 16, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Sharon. Here are two corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-09-28
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312-The Last of the Yahi

In 1911 an exhausted man emerged from the wilderness north of Oroville, California. He was discovered to be the last of the Yahi, a people who had once flourished in the area but had been decimated by white settlers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Ishi's sad history and his new life in San Francisco.

We'll also consider the surprising dangers of baseball and puzzle over a forceful blackout.

Intro:

Director Chuck Jones laid out nine rules to govern Road Runner cartoons.

James Cook's third expedition to the Pacific discovered a surprising amusement in Hawaii.

Sources for our feature on Ishi:

Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America, 1961.

Robert F. Heizer and Theodora Kroeber, Ishi the Last Yahi: A Documentary History, 1981.

Orin Starn, Ishi's Brain: In Search of Americas Last 'Wild' Indian, 2005.

Karl Kroeber and Clifton B. Kroeber, Ishi in Three Centuries, 2003.

Saxton T. Pope, Hunting With the Bow & Arrow, 1923.

Saxton T. Pope, The Medical History of Ishi, Volume 13, 1920.

Nels C. Nelson, Flint Working by Ishi, 1916.

Ronald H. Bayor, The Columbia Documentary History of Race and Ethnicity in America, 2004.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, "Ishi's Brain, Ishi's Ashes," Anthropology Today 17:1 (Feb. 1, 2001), 12.

Alexandra K. Kenny, Thomas Killion, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, "'Ishi's Brain, Ishi's Ashes': The Complex Issues of Repatriation: A Response to N. Scheper-Hughes," Anthropology Today 18:2 (April 2002), 25-27.

Kathleen L. Hull, "Ishi, Kroeber, and Modernity," Current Anthropology 51:6 (December 2010), 887-888.

Isaiah Wilner, "Wild Men: Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America," Ethnohistory 58:1 (Winter 2011), 158-159.

Dennis Torres, "Ishi," Central States Archaeological Journal 31:4 (October 1984), 175-179.

Richard Pascal, "Naturalizing 'Ishi': Narrative Appropriations of America's 'Last Wild Indian,'" Australasian Journal of American Studies 16:2 (December 1997), 29-44.

Saxton T. Pope, "Hunting With Ishi -- The Last Yana Indian," Journal of California Anthropology 1:2 (1974), 152-173.

M. Steven Shackley, "The Stone Tool Technology of Ishi and the Yana of North Central California: Inferences for Hunter-Gatherer Cultural Identity in Historic California," American Anthropologist 102:4 (2000), 693-712.

Duane H. King, "Exhibiting Culture: American Indians and Museums," Tulsa Law Review 45:1 (2009), 25.

Bruce Bower, "Ishi's Long Road Home," Science News 157:2 (Jan. 8, 2000), 24-25.

M.R. James, "Ishi Finally Comes to Rest," Bowhunter 30:2 (December 2000/January 2001), 25.

Randy White, "Grandfather Ishi," News From Native California 29:3 (Spring 2016), 34-37.

Andrew Curry, "The Last of the Yahi," U.S. News & World Report 129:7 (Aug, 21, 2000), 56.

Ann Japenga, "Revisiting Ishi: Questions About Discovery of the 'Last Wild Indian' Haunt Anthropologist's Descendants," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 29, 2003.

James May, "Spirit of Ishi Finally Free to Join Ancestors," Indian Country Today, Aug. 23, 2000.

Kevin Fagan, "Ishi's Kin To Give Him Proper Burial," San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 10, 2000.

Diana Walsh, "Ishi Finally Coming Home: 83 Years After His Death, Smithsonian Turns Over Brain of Famed Indian for Burial in California," San Francisco Examiner, Aug. 9, 2000, A-4.

Jan Cienski, "Remains of Last Member of California Tribe Go Home at Last: Ishi's Brain Returned," [Don Mills, Ont.] National Post, Aug. 9, 2000.

"Last of Yahi Will Finally Be Coming Home," Associated Press, Aug. 8, 2000.

Michelle Locke, "Mind and Body," Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 8, 2000, A1.

Brenda Norrell, "Alliance: Eighty-Three Years Is Long Enough," Indian Country Today, May 31, 1999, A2.

Stanley McGarr, "Repatriation Restores Strength to the People," Indian Country Today, May 10, 1999, A5.

Jacqueline Trescott, "Relatives to Get Brain of Fabled Aboriginal," Calgary Herald, May 8, 1999, A18.

Avis Little Eagle, "Respect the Dead, Don't Study Them," Indian Country Today, March 15, 1999, A4.

Charles Hillinger, "Lost Tribe's Spirit Lives in Wilderness Area," Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1986, 3.

"Archery of Ishi Stone Age Man Will Be Shown," Berkeley Daily Gazette, Nov. 29, 1916.

"Tribe Now Dead," [Saint Paul, Minn.] Appeal, May 13, 1916.

"Redskin Presents Lane With Arrows, Makes Secretary Tribe's 'Big Chief,'" San Francisco Call, Sept. 6, 1913.

"The Only Man in America Who Knows No Christmas -- Ishi," San Francisco Call, Dec. 17, 1911.

"Ishi Loses Heart to 'Blond Squaw,'" San Francisco Call, Oct. 16, 1911.

"Ishi, the Last Aboriginal Savage in America," San Francisco Call, Oct. 8, 1911.

"Find a Rare Aborigine: Scientists Obtain Valuable Tribal Lore From Southern Yahi Indian," New York Times, Sept. 7, 1911.

Nancy Rockafellar, "The Story of Ishi: A Chronology," University of California, San Francisco (accessed Sept. 6, 2020).

Richard H. Dillon, "Ishi," American National Biography, February 2000.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, "Harold Russell" (accessed Sept. 8, 2020).

Wikipedia, "The Best Years of Our Lives" (accessed Sept. 11, 2020).

Richard Severo, "Harold Russell Dies at 88; Veteran and Oscar Winner," New York Times, Feb. 1, 2002.

Mark Montgomery, "Remembering Harold Russell, the Soldier-Actor Who Won Two Oscars for 'Best Years of Our Lives,'" Los Angeles Times, Dec. 10, 2016.

Jon Mooallem, "You're Out: The National Pastime's Shocking Death Toll," Slate, May 26, 2009.

Aaron W. Miller, "Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities, 1862?2007 (review)," NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 18:2 (Spring 2010), 198-199.

Mark R. Zonfrillo et al., "Death or Severe Injury at the Ball Game," Current Sports Medicine Reports 15:3 (May-June 2016), 132-133.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Emmett B.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!

2020-09-21
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