Gleanings from the Past #89



The credit department of the Hudson’s Bay Co. received this letter from a Canadian farmer: “I got your letter about what I owe. Now be pachant. I ain’t forgot you. When I have the money I will pay you. If this was the Judgment Day and you was no more prepared to meet your maker than I am to meet your account you sure would go to hell. Trusting you will do this.”

— Tom Mahoney, The Great Merchants, 1955


The rugged metal of the mine
Must burn before its surface shine;
But plunged within the furnace flame,
It bends and melts — though still the same.

— George Gordon Byron, The Giaour, 1813

The world is quickly bored by the recital of misfortune and willingly avoids the sight of distress.

— W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919

An Unusual Verdict

A Wheeling, W. Va., lawyer says he has heard many queer verdicts In his time, but that the quaintest of these was that brought in not long ago by a jury of mountaineers in a sparsely settled part of that State.

This was the first case for the majority of the jury, and they sat for hours arguing and disputing over it in the bare little room at the rear of the courtroom. At last they straggled back to their places and the foreman, a lean, gaunt fellow, with a superlatively solemn expression, voiced the general opinion:

“The jury don’t think that he done it, for we allow he wasn’t there; but we think he would have done it if he’d had the chanst!”

Central Law Journal, January 3, 1913

A Short Reply

A few years after I gave some lectures for the freshmen at Caltech (which were published as the Feynman Lectures on Physics), I received a long letter from a feminist group. I was accused of being anti-women because of two stories: the first was a discussion of the subtleties of velocity, and involved a woman driver being stopped by a cop. There’s a discussion about how fast she was going, and I had her raise valid objections to the cop’s definitions of velocity. The letter said I was making the women look stupid.

The other story they objected to was told by the great astronomer Arthur Eddington, who had just figured out that the stars get their power from burning hydrogen in a nuclear reaction producing helium. He recounted how, on the night after his discovery, he was sitting on a bench with his girlfriend. She said, “Look how pretty the stars shine!” To which he replied, “Yes, and right now, I’m the only man in the world who knows how they shine.” He was describing a kind of wonderful loneliness you have when you make a discovery.

The letter claimed that I was saying a woman is incapable of understanding nuclear reactions.

I figured there was no point in trying to answer their accusations in detail, so I wrote a short letter back to them: “Don’t bug me, Man!”

— Rchard Feynman, “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”: Further Adventures of a Curious Character, 1988

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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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