Gleanings from the Past #68



Newton was probably responsible for the concept that there are seven primary colours in the spectrum—he had a strong interest in musical harmonies and, since there are seven distinct notes in the musical scale, he divided up the spectrum into spectral bands with widths corresponding to the ratios of the small whole numbers found in the just scale.

— Malcolm Longair, “Light and Colour”, in Trevor Lamb and Janine Bourriau, Colour: Art & Science, 1995

The Punster’s Foe

Who’s he, that from our board is running?
He, Sir’s an enemy to punning,
A bashful foe, who loves not wit —
Ergo, because he’s none of it
Within his cranium; and at table
Sits like the fox in Æsop’s fable,
Watching the grapes he’d fain devour,
And disappointed, calls them sour.
A laugh would decompose his metal,
And like a dog, with a tin kettle
Dangling at his tail, he runs
From witty wags who deal in puns.

— Benjamin Bashful, in Bernard Blackmantle, The Punster’s Pocket-Book, 1826


A dull mind, once arriving at an inference that flatters a desire, is rarely able to retain the impression that the notion from which the inference started was purely Problematic.

— George Elliot, Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, 1861


In an Irish provincial paper is the following notice: Whereas Patrick O’Connor lately left his lodgings, this is to give notice that if he does not return immediately and pay for the same, he will be advertised.

American Magazine of Wit, 1808

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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. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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