Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Laws of Life

Creamer's Conclusion
When a man's wife learns to understand him, she usually stops listening to him.

Russ's Chauvinistic Observation
Even if you understood women, you'd never believe it.

The Bicycle Laws
Twenty-pound bicycles need a twenty-pound lock and chain.
Forty-pound bicycles need a ten-pound lock and chain.
Sixty-pound bicycles need no lock and chain.

Sandra Litoff's Husband Rule
The only thing worse than a husband who never notices what you cook or what you wear is a husband who always notices what you cook or what you wear.

Primary Poker Precept
Never do card tricks for the group you play poker with.

The Old Carpenter's Rule
Cut to fit; beat into place.

Traveler's Tragic Lament
Why is it that you arrive in Cedar Falls and your luggage arrives in Honolulu, but never the other way around?

Archimedes G. Bell's Astute Observation
When a body is immersed in water - the telephone will ring.  

Levy's Rumination
Re-marriage after divorce is the triumph of hope over experience.  

Petty's Pointed Philosophy
Many "get rich quick" schemes make millionaires - out of multi-millionaires.

Defalque's Observations
Frequent naps will keep you from getting old - especially when taken while driving.
Speak well of your enemies - remember it's you who made them.
A man must do many good things to prove that he's good, but needs to make only one mistake to prove that he's bad.
Too many foreign countries are living beyond our means.              

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Magic Hexagrams

Readers might return to our archives for the original 'Magic Hexagrams', published 4/5/11 before starting on these.  In this very old hexagram problem, we are to place the numbers 1 through 12 at the vertices of the Star of David as shown below.  Each number must appear in two separate rows when counted, so the sum of all the row sums is twice the sum of numbers 1 through 12, or 78 x 2 = 156.  As there are 6 rows, we divide 156 by 6, to get the hexagram's magic constant of 26.
The great British puzzlist Henry Ernest Dudeney published 37 basic solutions in his 1926 'Modern Puzzles', but he missed 3 basic patterns.  Together with their complements, this leaves a total of 80 different solutions.

I include 3 solutions for your edification, and leave it to you to come up with any of the remaining 77 solutions in this brain exercise.

Ms Popularity


Japan's Devastating Earthquake

 I'm writing this because of a recent discussion with a friend about the tsunami and earthquake in Japan, and its causes.  Although this item is quite brief, I hope it will serve to acquaint more people with the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.

The earth's crust floats upon a sea of molten magma, a super-hot mixture of minerals in a very thick, fluid form.  Every so often, we see this molten magma shoot upward through weak spots in the crust at places we know as volcanoes, and then the molten magma quickly solidifies as lava.  But this is not the only place where this gel-like magma comes to the surface, as we will explain later.

There are a number of cracks in the earth's solid crust, so it exists not as one piece, but a number of huge ones, known as plates.  These plates are then floating atop the liquid magma, and are somewhat able to move, and grind against each other, and sometimes to butt up against neighboring plates and slide over these.  In the diagram below, we see the names and locations of the earth's major tectonic plates, as well as their inexorable slow movements atop the molten magma below the surface.

But to understand plate movements we must examine the few undersea ridges which are the chief agents of plate movements. There is a huge crack in the earth's crust under the Atlantic Ocean, which runs from north of Iceland for over twelve thousand miles to the Antarctic, known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is visible in the tectonic plate illustration above, as the solid line running North-South through the Atlantic Ocean.

This 12000 mile jagged crack, deep under the ocean, is a place where constant magma wells up from deep within the earth's core and forces its way through the crack in the earth's crust, forming mountains as it quickly solidifies. Looking at the diagram below, we can see how the molten magma roils to the surface and literally forces the plates apart at this point.


If we again glance at the first illustration, we can see that the constant upwelling at the Mid Atlantic Ridge forces the North American Plate westward while at the same time forcing the Eurasian Plate eastward; concurrently, the South American Plate forces its way westward while the African Plate moves eastward.  This occurs over millions of years at the rate of some 5 cm/annum, meaning that the Atlantic Ocean is widening at this rate, so that these enormous tectonic plates are forced to collide with the huge Pacific Plate which is trapped between them on the other side of the world. This means that the Atlantic Ocean is becoming ever wider, while the Pacific Ocean narrows, more or less at the same rate.


Nothing in nature is quite so simple.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is not the only source of plate movement, and if we examine the above illustration, we can see the other great Ridges and Rises, which exist mostly under the oceans of the world, and which all force the huge tectonic plates to move, jostle each other, and force plates to grind against their neighbors, and over-ride adjoining plates, forcing one plate under the other, to be melted back into magma.

So what happened in Japan, and why did it occur?  The Japanese islands sit at the edge of two adjoining plates, which are unfortunately being forced into each other.  Japan is not alone in this disastrous scenario, as it lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are regular events.  But the main Japanese island lies at the border of the Pacific Plate as it meets the Eurasian Plate, and we now know that the tremendous forces which the Ridges exert on the Pacific Plate actually moved the main Japanese island westward a distance of some ten feet!  The actual movement of one plate subducting under another resulted in a Level 9 earthquake, one of the most devastating recorded.

One last point:  Many people pooh-pooh the idea that undersea ridges have much of an influence on plate tectonics, stating that the Atlantic Ocean is vast, and the fact it is widening at such a slow rate (+/-5 cm per year) makes this fact insignificant.  Considering the fact that my mother is 96 years old, we have to realize that in her lifetime the Atlantic has widened by almost 5 metres - and the Pacific has narrowed by almost that much.  Over the centuries then, the actual movement of tectonic plates has been in kilometres, not centimetres, and whole islands, cities and ports have been consumed by the earth herself.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Pix

The Legend of Amen-Ra

An ominous silence prevailed in the ship's dark hold where a packing crate was chained in place, separated from others.  Sometimes an echo of voices or laughter filtered down from far above, but mostly the dark hold remained as quiet as a tomb.

As the huge vessel surged through the waters, her course was marked eagerly by the world.  Her 2,207 passengers were collectively worth 250 million dollars and included names known everywhere.

She was a historic ship, a ship whose construction and launching had received maximum publicity, a ship so fine and luxurious that her passenger list was the most sought-after of her day.

But none of the passengers, nor those envying them on shore, had the slightest knowledge of the thing in the hold.  To all appearances, the thing looked harmless enough - a long dark crate chained to the hull so it would not slide, alongside hundreds of similar crates nearby containing priceless books, china, and other cargo.  But the long, dark crate contained the mummy of the Princess Amen-Ra, who had lived 1,500 years before the Christian Era.  Her life had been a striking contrast between beauty and cruelty: on her orders, more than 100 men had been sold into slavery or impaled.  After her death by stabbing at the hands of a rejected suitor, the princess's evil lived on as a curse to those who followed.

In 1895, four Englishmen excavating along the Nile had discovered the mummy-case containing Princess Amen-Ra's remains.  The men cast lots for the rare find; that evening the winner went for a stroll in the desert and was never seen again.

While the mummy case waited in the hotel, one of the remaining three men got into a fight in the bar and was shot so badly that his arm had to be amputated.  Stunned by their bad luck, his companions returned to England, taking their treasure with them.  More bad luck awaited them there, as one man soon lost all of his fortune while the last lost his health and job, eventually becoming a London street beggar.

At this point, the mummy was sold off to a London merchant who soon regretted his purchase.  First, three of the merchant's family were severely injured in an accident, then his mansion was gutted by fire and totally destroyed.  Wisely, the merchant decided to cut his losses and donated the mummy to the British Museum.  Officials were delighted - for a short while.  The wagon dispatching the mummy in its case to the Museum overturned, crushing a man on the sidewalk.  Then, as two museum workers carried the case up the museum steps, one fell and broke his leg; the other, who lugged the case up the remaining steps alone, died two days later of a respiratory infection.

The unearthly princess was appropriately installed in the Egyptian Room, but she refused to rest.  Carefully placed relics in the room were mysteriously hurled about at night, and many priceless artifacts were broken beyond repair.  Strange sounds - a desperate hammering and an eerie wail - came from the ancient mummy case.  One night a museum guard passed near the mummy case, and in the semi-darkness "something sprang at him."  The terrified man claimed that the "thing" attempted to throw him from the top of the steep 50-foot delivery chute.  A fellow guard, laughing at him, said he must have been drunk.  "I'll show you how afraid I am of her wicked Majesty," he scoffed, flicking his duster over the case.  Within two days his infant son sickened and died.

At this point, museum authorities decided they must remove the relic if they hoped to retain their staff, but their own employees all refused to carry the box and its contents to the museum basement storage vaults.  Outside staff were hired to do the task, at double pay.  One of these workers became seriously ill, while the official who supervised the move was found dead, slumped over his desk, a few days later.

As the grim legend grew, Princess Amen-Ra remained exiled in the shadows of the museum basement.  "Let me down there to photograph the coffin," a young photographer requested.  He was given permission.  Upon developing the film, he made a horrifying discovery.  Instead of the painted death mask on the coffin, there appeared on film a face, "incredibly awful" yet human.  The photographer returned to his room and shot himself.

Hearing about the unwanted treasure, a private collector became interested and discounted the history of tragedy.  He owned dozens of ancient Egyptian relics in his fine collection, and none had given him trouble.

"The curses written in inscriptions on the sides of the mummy case were meant to frighten away tomb thieves," he insisted.  "Royalty in ancient Egypt believed they would enjoy no life in the hereafter if their bodies, tombs and coffins were desecrated."

But soon after obtaining the mummy, his troubles began.  A succession of illnesses, financial reversals and strange losses plagued him.  At the urging of his family, he stored the coffin in his attic, and it was there when the famed Russian medium, Madame Helena Blavatsky, visited his home one evening.  As she entered the front door, she paled.

"There is a horrible evil spirit here!" she exclaimed.  Describing his collection, her host led her to the attic where she saw the mummy case.  "Exorcize this evil spirit for me," he demanded, but she shook her head.  "Evil such as this is evil forever.  It can not be done.  I implore you to get rid of this evil thing as soon as possible."

Not completely convinced, the collector held on to his treasure for some weeks until one day his wife, taking articles to the attic, was frightened out of her wits.  "It was horrible," she recollected.  "A figure rose from that case and glided over the floor."  Apparently she had seen what the museum workers had seen - an emanation of the spirit of the dead princess.  Her husband now offered the treasure as a gift to the British Government but found to his amazement that its evil reputation had preceded it: no one would have it.

"It's no secret that over twenty people who owned or handled this casket either died or came to serious misfortune within a short time," an official said.

And the curse was far from over.  One day a visiting American archeologist heard of the infamous artifact and decided to acquire it for a museum in the United States.  Reminded of the 'Mummy's Curse', he shrugged it off.  "Purely  coincidence and circumstance!"

He obtained the mummy case, and arrangements were finalized to transport it by steamship to New York, in the United States.  So it was that on April 14, 1912, the Princess Amen-Ra was quietly placed in the hold of a great luxury ship, her name freshly inscribed on her hull:  TITANIC.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Best Ad of the Decade

Every once in a while, some ad agency whiz comes up with a truly inspirational TV ad which is sheer genius.  Verizon has hit a home run with this one, as dad leaves a Verizon smartphone with his daughter Susie with the comment that she can use it because it has a calculator.

When he comes home that afternoon, he's puzzled to find a kid waiting at her lemonade stand and asks "Where's Susie?", only to be asked, "Is she expecting you?"  The dumfounded dad looks at Susie's secretary and the kid just raises his eyebrows.  Meanwhile, Susie is standing in front of Suzie's Headquarters downtown in a business suit...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Airline Humor IV

The following exchange apparently occurred in 2006 at Dallas International Airport when the air traffic controllers felt the incoming flights of two jets from the middle east had both insisted on landing right away instead of maintaining a holding pattern.  The exchanges went something like this:

Dallas ATC:  "Tower to Saudi Air 911 - You are cleared to land eastbound on runway 9R."

Saudi Air: "Thank you Dallas ATC.  Acknowledge cleared to land on infidel's runway 9R.  May Allah be praised!"

Dallas ATC:  "Tower to Iran Air 711 - You are cleared to land westbound on runway 9R."

Iran Air:  "Thank you Dallas ATC.  We are cleared to land on infidel's runway 9R.  Allahu Akbar!"

Pause... Static.  The two incoming aircraft talk to each other in Arabic.

Saudi Air:  "DALLAS ATC!!  DALLAS ATC!!"

Dallas ATC:  "Go ahead, Saudi Air 911?"


Dallas ATC:  "Well bless your hearts.  Y'all be careful now, and tell Allah 'Howdy' for us -  ya hear?" 



The Laws of Life

Few people can doubt that human life is ruled by inexorable forces and immutable laws, over most of which we mere mortals have little or no control.  As an example, let's consider the following rules, laws and axioms:

Forfar's Factoid
When you are right, no one remembers.  When you are wrong, no one forgets.

Down's Deduction
Family reunions are all relative.

Samuel's Segacity
A cosigner is the man in the next cell.

Gerken's First Observation
Mirrors are twice as good as windows - you only have to clean one side to see clearly.

Gerken's Second Observation
How can you tell if somebody's trying if they never succeed?

Housewife's Lament
Keeping a house clean is like stringing beads when there is no knot at the end of the thread.

Anthony's Law of Force
Don't force it; get a larger hammer.

Pickett's Postulate
The person who snores loudest will fall asleep first.

Terman's Law of Innovation
If you want the track team to win the high jump, find one person who can jump seven feet, not seven people who can jump one foot.

The Borgia Family's Bylaw
It is better to be hated than to be ignored.

Bill's Pill for all Ills
Although living to a ripe old age may not guarantee health, wealth and happiness, it certainly beats the alternative.

Weinberg's Corollary
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping to the grand fallacy.


Friday, April 15, 2011

More From Sam Loyd

Here are three more excellent puzzles, taken from Martin Gardner's "More Mathematical Puzzles of Sam Loyd", showing the genius of America's greatest puzzlist of all time.
Beppo, the court jester, is explaining to King Ptolemy how he can mark off the trapezium into 5 parts that can be used for 6 wonderful puzzles.  Trace the trapezium onto a sheet of cardboard or heavy paper, cut out the five pieces, then see if you can put them together to form:
   1. A square
   2. A Greek Cross
   3. A diamond shape
   4. A rectangle
   5. A right-angled triangle
   6. The original trapezium
The five other figures to be formed are shown in small silhouettes so that you can see how they are shaped.  All five pieces must be utilized in producing each of the 6 patterns.

 How many triangles are there on King Solomon's Seal?
Little Tommy Riddles announces that King Puzzlepate and Princess Enigma are investigating the secrets of the famous seal of King Solomon, which is engraved on the royal tomb.  The King is trying to figure out just how many different equilateral triangles can be found on the design.  What is your guess?

How far does the courier travel?
An ancient problem, to be found in many old puzzle books, concerns an army fifty miles long.  As the army marches forward at a constant rate, a courier starts at the rear of the column, rides forward to deliver a message to the front, then returns to his position at the rear.  He arrives back exactly at the time that the army completed an advance of fifty miles.  How far altogether did the courier travel?

If the army were stationary, he would clearly have to travel 50 miles forward and the same distance back.  But because the army is on the march, he must go more than 50 miles to the front, and on his return trip he will go less than 50 miles because the rear of the army column is advancing toward him.  It is assumed, of course, that the courier always rides at a constant speed.

A more difficult puzzle is created by the following extension of the theme.  An army in a square column, fifty miles long by fifty miles wide, advances fifty miles at a constant rate while a courier on horseback makes a complete circuit around the entire column from a position in the middle at the rear, and back to his starting point.  The courier's speed is constant, and he completes his circuit just as the army completes its advance.  How far does the courier travel? 

 Readers who wish to post their solutions to any/all of these excellent puzzles are invited to do so in the comment section below.

Friday Pix

Move Yer Hand!

Better Luck Next Time

Dollar FAIL

Feeding Time at Home

Russki Oligarch

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Royal Wedding Happy Meal


UP With English!

There is a common, two-letter word that probably has more meanings than any other English two-letter word: UP.

Now, it's easy to understand UP, meaning towards the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are officers UP for election, and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends and we use paint to brighten UP a room; we polish UP the silver. We warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and sometimes fix UP an old car. At other times, this little word has real special meaning: people stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite. To think UP reasons to dress is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

This form of UP is a little confusing: a drain must be opened UP whenever it becomes clogged UP, and a store must be opened UP in the morning, only to be closed UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, you should start by looking the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost a quarter of the page, and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP, but when the sun emerges we say it is clearing UP. When it actually rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP, yet when it doesn't rain for a long time, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP before you get totally fed UP and tell me to shut UP. But let's be honest: what is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing at night? U P.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Technology For Country Folk

Click on each pane to enlarge...

Our English Language - Part I

It is indisputable that the English language reigns supreme amongst the great languages on Earth. Yet, it has so many foibles and inconsistencies that one may wonder how this came to be.

Let's take a look at some of these peculiarities, using specific examples:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The municipal dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We had to polish all the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he only got the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his squad in the desert.

7) Since he believed that there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the carefully-wrapped present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the big bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the thicket.

10) I do not object to the object before me.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row amongst the oarsmen on the racing scull about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things whenever does are nearby.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into the sewer line during the earthquake.

16) To help with planting, the farmer trained his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the jib on the sailboat.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a battery of tests.

20) How will I be able to intimate this to even my most intimate friend?

Let's face it, English is a crazy language, as the above examples amply show. There is no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, neither apple nor pine in a pineapple, English muffins weren't invented in England (neither were French fries in France), sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which are neither sweet nor breads, are meat.

We simply take English for granted, instead of exploring its many paradoxes, such as the fact that quicksand works very slowly, boxing rings are square, not round, and Guinea Pigs are neither pigs nor from Guinea.

Also, why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce, and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, two geese, so one moose, two meese? I think not. One index, two indices? Doesn't it seem odd that one can make amends, but not just one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all except one of them, what can you call it?

If teachers taught, why haven't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think that all English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite their lines in a play, but play at a recital? Ship by truck yet send cargo by ship? Have noses that run but feet that smell?

How can a slim chance be the same as a fat chance, while a wise man is the opposite to a wise guy? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, after which you have to fill in a form by filling it out, all this after a fire alarm went off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which of course is not a race at all. That is perhaps why, when stars are out, they are visible, but when lights are out, they are invisible.

P.S. Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with quick?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Magic Hexagrams

Much like our Magic Squares (5/23/10 in our archives), other geometric constructs are possible and present intriguing challenges. Today, let's consider the Magic Hexagram, which essentially is the Star of David with its inner hexagon subdivided into 6 equilateral triangles.

The challenge is to place the numbers 1 through 12 in each of the twelve equilateral triangles which constitute the Magic Hexagram such that each of the six rows (marked here by the red arrows) add up to an identical sum.

Naturally you wish to know what this sum, or "magic constant" is to be? For a more detailed explanation, I urge you to read Martin Gardner's excellent "Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?" which describes the possible magic constants to be any of: 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 or 35.

Remember, every number from 1 through 12 is to be used just once so that the completed hexagram adds up to the same "magic constant" if the five numbers in any of the rows shown by the arrows are added together.

Just to show you that it can be done, here are the magic hexagrams for magic constants 32 & 33 - the middle ones requested above - it remains your task to solve for the other magic constants, if you are so inclined...


That's My Boy!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Airline Humor III

In light of the recent grounding of several of Southwest Airlines' fleet of short-hop passenger jets due to parts of the fuselage ripping off at high altitude, may we offer the following notes from one of the safest carriers, Quantas, and their maintenance crews' diligence.

Bear in mind, please, that while it takes a college degree to fly a plane, only a high school diploma is needed to become a maintenance tech.

After every flight,Quantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet", which inform mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problem, document their repairs on the form and the pilots review the gripe sheets right before the next flight. Never let it be said that aircraft mechanics lack for a sense of humor..

Here are some of the actual maintenance complaints submitted by Quantas' pilots (as marked by a P) and the solutions recorded (as marked by an S) by the maintenance engineers.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in the cockpit.
S: Something tightened in the cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs back-ordered.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200'/minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of a leak on the right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume reset to more tolerable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in the windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: The number 3 engine is missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after a brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under the instrument panel. Sound like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from the midget.