The day engineers ceased to be boring (in Britain)

In August 1996, British civil engineers ceased to be officially boring. Glenda Browne, prompted by the appearance of the special Boring Machines issue the Annals of Improbable Research, alerts us to a report about that historic occasion. The AP wire service reported, in 1996: CIVIL ENGINEERS NO LONGER BORING — YELLOW PAGES SAYS SO DIRK BEVERIDGE , Associated Press […]

Simanek’s Perpetual Futility

Donald E. Simanek‘s “Perpetual Futility—A short history of the search for perpetual motion” is an introduction to the perhaps perpetual search for perpetual motion. It begins: Popular histories too often present perpetual motion machines as “freaks and curiosities” of engineering without telling us just how they were understood at the time. They also fail to inform […]

Worm-generated wormholes record history in space and time

Wormholes — what are they good for? This study suggests one possible answer: “Wormholes record species history in space and time,” S. Blair Hedges, Biology Letters, vol. 9, no. 1. February 2013. The author, at Penn State University, reports: “I show that printed wormholes in rare books and artwork are trace fossils of wood-boring species […]

Marginal image: Man with his rear to a chess game

Here is another of the peculiar drawings that enliven the margins of a manuscript, made in or around the year 1350, of Jacques de Longuyon‘s poem ” Les Voeux du Paon” (English translation: “Vows of the Peacock”).The Morgan Library owns a copy (Morgan Library MS G 24) and has put some of these images online. Here are a […]

The growths and declines of facial hair on Londoners

Not being a barber, and not having had an adulthood that spanned 130 years, Dwight E Robinson was in no position to report firsthand the frequency of changes in relative prevalence of sideburns, moustaches and beards in London during the years 1842-1972. He used an indirect source: issues of the Illustrated London News published during that time. […]