Friday Four

Friday, November 04, 2016

1. Courtesy of an injury over three decades ago, I had to have a root canal. On overhearing me tell Mrs. Van Horn that I couldn't eat chewy things until I got permanent patch installed on the tooth, my five-year-old daughter became very concerned, and gave me a couple of chewy candies from her Halloween bag to have for later.

2. Reader C. Andrew has relayed to me the story of the Curta, a once-popular, hand-held, mechanical calculator:

Then in 1937, [Curt] Hertzstark had a breakthrough. Instead of making a machine that could add and subtract, make one that did nothing but add, but in such a way that it also subtracted.

"I can remember. I sat in a compartment alone and looked out and thought at that moment, 'Good Grief! One can get the result of a subtraction figuratively by adding the complementary number to it.' This has long been seen with the Burroughs machine which only added. When someone entered in something and it was wrong, one could correct it by adding a number, which when added to the wrong number yielded zeros and hence the unwanted number was out again. Then I thought that works exactly the same way as subtraction registers. So if I enlarge the second step register, the result can be achieved through pure addition ... that was that ... "
This enabled Hertzstark to reach his goal of greatly reducing the size of his calculator. And -- in a death camp during World War II -- the idea saved his life.

3. And speaking of math, here's an interesting story about "How One Man's Bad Math Helped Ruin Decades of English Soccer." Charles Reep, it turns out, wasn't just the father of soccer analytics. He was responsible for "long ball," admonishing no more than three passes before taking a shot on goal. Fortunately, times have changed, as a recent 22-pass goal by Arsenal shows.

4. I am no aficionado of Italian cuisine: Pasta is pasta to me. But I am a sucker for bizarre foodways, so I was absorbed by a story about a kind of pasta that only three people in the world know how to make. There is no one willing to learn this once closely-guarded family recipe, in part because it takes so long to make. So the three women who know how to make it have offered to teach others how, and have allowed themselves to be filmed while making it. The pasta has also, so far, defied efforts by engineers to produce it by machine.

-- CAV

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