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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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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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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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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Quotable #75: Communication

“O! what a thing it is, in a time of danger, and in the presence of death, the shining of a face upon a face! I have heard it broached that orders should be given in great new ships by electric telegraph. I admire machinery as much as any man, and am as thankful to […]

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When James Joyce Tried to Work in a Bank

During his youth, Irish author James Joyce was not doing well financially and he had to do several odd jobs. One time, he tried to apply in a bank. He was interviewed by the bank manager and the interview went something like this: Manager: “Do you smoke?” James: “No,” Manager: “Do you drink?” James: “No.” […]

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A Mathematical Proposal

There is a quaint story in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! 15th Series (1969) about a man who used mathematical terms to propose. Robert Greer, a mathematics teacher at the Mount School in York, England, made the following proposal to a girl named Anne in 1880: If R = 1/2 and A = 1/2, Then R + […]

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A Letter Sequence Puzzle

Aside from letter E, is there another which letter could follow this sequence? Solution (Click to Show) F. Write it on top of the line to form the letter E. This question was asked by our third-grade English teacher. Three of us, including me, figured out the answer almost at the same time after half […]

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