Tjiliwirri: A Language of Opposites

The Warlpiri people, a group of Indigenous Australian, teach a strange language called Tjiliwirri to their boys who go through an initiation rite. Tjiliwirri literally means “funny’ or “clown”. The peculiar thing about this language is that it expresses every idea as its opposite. For instance, if you want to say “It’s hot”, you have […]

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“The Hangman”

The following poem titled “The Hangman” was written by Maurice Ogden (pseudonym Jack Denoya) in 1951 and it was first published in Masses and Mainstream magazine in 1954. Its chilling premise is similar to the one in “First They Came…”:, a verse based on the speech of Martin Niemöller on January 6, 1946. Into our town the […]

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Benjamin Franklin’s Epitaph and Its Potential Inspiration

Benjamin Franklin The following is the epitaph of Benjamin Franklin. It was written by himself several years before his death on April 17, 1790: THE BODY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, PRINTER, (LIKE THE COVER OF AN OLD BOOK, ITS CONTENTS TORN OUT, AND STRIPT OF ITS LETTERING AND GILDING,) LIES HERE, FOOD FOR WORMS; YET THE […]

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Dissection Puzzle: From “E” To Square

Can you cut the E into seven pieces with just four straight cuts and reassemble the pieces into a square? Solution When I wrote that you need to cut it into seven pieces, it’s actually a hint. Did you figure it out? The letter “E” figure above is constructed using the seven tangram pieces. So, if you were able to figure […]

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Communicating a Proof

Saunders Mac Lane (1909 – 2005) was an American mathematician who became known for being one of the proponents of category theory. During an interview with The Mathematical Review in 1976, he reminisced about the time when he was learning about geometry in high school: I recall one occasion involving a theorem about a triangle: I knew […]

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Random Joke #16: Horse in the Bathtub

Image: HabitatofHorses.org An Englishman buys a horse and hires porters to take the horse up to his apartment on the fourth floor. The porters exert themselves and sweat. Finally they succeed in getting the horse to his apartment. He asks them to put the horse in the bathtub. After they finish the job, one of […]

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Gleanings from the Past #75

Coining New Words Carl Sagan Physicists had to invent words and phrases for concepts far removed from everyday experience. It was their fashion to avoid pure neologisms and instead to evoke, even if feebly, some analogous commonplace. The alternative was to name discoveries and equations after one another. This they did also. But if you […]

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Getting His Money’s Worth

In 1930, a man from Boston wrote the following amusing letter to The Christian Science Monitor, a weekly periodical: Dear Sir, When I subscribed a year ago you stated that if I was not satisfied at the end of the year I could have my money back. Well, I would like to have it back. On second thought, […]

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An Old Chain of Riddles and Its Apparent Uses

During third grade, my English teacher challenged us to answer some riddles. Here’s the first question: How do you put an elephant inside a refrigerator? There are three steps. I realized that this was part of a series of old riddles which are connected to each other. To not spoil my classmates’ fun, I refrained […]

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