Gleanings From The Past #28

gleanings

Engineering Project

The city of Buenos Ayres, S. A., has received a singular proposition from two German mechanical engineers. They offer to cover the city with a huge umbrella, the base of which is to be 670 feet in diameter, the height 1500 feet, ribs of cast-iron 31 inches in circumference and 8 feet apart, and lining of wrought-iron one and a half inches thick. The great thingwhen raised will be one mile and a half wide. Around it will be a canal communicating with the Plate River, to carry away the water that might overflow the city. The work is estimated at the modest sum of $5,750,000.

— Albert Plympton Southwick, Handy Helps, No. 1, 1886

Roundabout Argument

Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel — a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not?

— William James, Pragmatism, 1907

Body Clock

J.D. Chevalley, a native of Switzerland, has arrived at an astonishing degree of perfection in reckoning time by an internal movement. In his youth he was accustomed to pay great attention to the ringing of bells and vibrations of pendulums, and by degrees he acquired the power of continuing a succession of intervals exactly equal to those which the vibrations or sounds produced.–Being on board a vessel, on the Lake of Geneva, he engaged to indicate to the crowd about him the lapse of a quarter of an hour, or as many minutes and seconds as any one chose to name, and this during a conversation the most diversified with those standing by; and farther, to indicate by the voice the moment when the hand passed over the quarter minutes, or half minutes, or any other sub-division previously stipulated, during the whole course of the experiment. This he did without mistake, notwithstanding the exertions of those about him to distract his attention, and clapped his hands at the conclusion of the time fixed. His own account of it is thus given:–‘I have acquired, by imitation, labour, and patience, a movement which neither thoughts, nor labour, nor any thing can stop: it is similar to that of a pendulum, which at each motion of going and returning gives me the space of three seconds, so that twenty of them make a minute–and these I add to others continually.’

Circulation of Useful Knowledge, 1825

About Edmark M. Law

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. I blog at learnfunfacts.com. You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkMLaw and Facebook. My email is learnfunfacts@gmail.com
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One Response to Gleanings From The Past #28

  1. With the umbrella, I hope the canals will carry the extra water to another place to be deluged. or Could another engineer design a more efficient water runoff system?.

    Liked by 1 person

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