Anecdote: Dr Johnson


Dr Johnson once boasted that he could recite from memory whole chapters from Horrebow’s Natural History of Iceland, for example Chapter LXXII. The title and text of the chapter simply reads:

Concerning Snakes.

There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.

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During mating season, the testicles of some fruit bats become so swollen that flight becomes impossible.

In Spanish, the verb trasnochar means ‘to stay awake all night’.

The Atlantic Ocean is slightly saltier than the Pacific Ocean.

In the Arabic broadcast of The Simpsons episodes, Homer drinks soda instead of beer and eats Egyptian beef sausages instead of hot dogs.

In 2006, a Gallup poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans believe the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago – interestingly, the Sumerians had invented glue one thousand earlier.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

On the Power of Humour


“It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humour, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humour process is involved in changing them.”

- Edward de Bono

Grinder


Positional, Aggressive, Intuitive, Calm

Grinders are players with an unassuming style that can hide just how intent they are on winning. They don’t need to know opening theory to beat you. They don’t need to have an advantage to beat you. They don’t even need to have an equal position to beat you. Grinders have good positional skills, and are usually most at home in endgames. They are attuned to their opponents’ weaknesses which they use against them. On the other hand, they often know their own strengths and limitations pretty objectively, and will make good practical decisions. It’s hard to take advantage of a Grinder’s weaknesses, and you won’t have much luck getting errors out of them by applying pressure.

“The boy doesn’t have a clue about chess, and there’s no future at all for him in this profession.” – Mikhail Botvinnik, on Anatoly Karpov

Anatoly Karpov (born 1951), the twelfth World Champion and superb positional player, is one of the most successful Grinders of all time. Not only did he hold the world title for 10 years, but in order to prove himself after Fischer disappeared, he played in as many tournaments as he could and amassed the most impressive win total and tournament resume of any player in history. During his prime, Karpov was famous for declining draws in worse positions, confident that he would play well enough to never lose them – all while giving his opponents ample opportunity to blow the game as they got ground down by the long game and his intense will to win.

See other: Chess Personalities

Christians Considering Islam


‘Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling. The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible’s account of itself. There is a vast literature describing the life of Muhammad that, from the point of view of Islam, proves that he was the most recent Prophet of God. Muhammad also assured his followers that Jesus was not divine (Koran 5:71-75; 19:30-38) and that anyone who believes otherwise will spend eternity in hell. Muslims are certain that Muhammad’s opinion on this subject, as on all others, is infallible.

Why don’t you lose any sleep over whether to convert to Islam? Can you prove that Allah is not the one, true God? Can you prove that the archangel Gabriel did not visit Muhammad in his cave? Of course not. But you need not prove any of these things to reject the beliefs of Muslims as absurd. The burden is upon them to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid. They have not done this. They cannot do this. Muslims are simply not making claims about reality that can be corroborated. This is perfectly apparent to anyone who has not anesthetized himself with the dogma of Islam.

The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims. Isn’t it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves? Isn’t it obvious that anyone who thinks that the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe has not read the book critically? Isn’t it obvious that the doctrine of Islam represents a near perfect barrier to honest inquiry? Yes, these things are obvious. Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions.’

- Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 4-5

Why did the Chicken Cross the Road?


‘To get to the other side’ is a bit too simplistic. So, to remedy that, here are a number of interesting and more original replies to this famous – and surprisingly old – anti-humour riddle joke:

‘There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this: ‘Why does a chicken cross the street?’ – The Knickerbocker, or The New York Monthly, March 1847, p. 283

Douglas Adams: 42.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential. It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.

Julius Caesar: To come, to see, to conquer.

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an Herculean achievement formerly relegated to Homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurrence.

Salvador Dali: A melting fish.

Charles Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees. After all, chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross roads.

Jacques Derrida: What is the difference? The chicken was merely deferring from one side of the road to other. And how do we get the idea of the chicken in the first place? Does it exist outside of language? Also, any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is dead.

Rene Descartes: It had sufficient reason to believe it was dreaming anyway.

Bob Dylan: How many roads must one chicken cross?

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.

Epicurus: For pleasure.

Michel Foucault: It did so because the discourse of crossing the road left it no choice – the police state was oppressing it.

Sigmund Freud: The chicken was obviously female and obviously interpreted the pole on which the crosswalk sign was mounted as a phallic symbol of which she was envious, selbstverständlich. However, the fact that you are at all concerned about why the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Stephen Jay Gould: It is possible that there is a sociobiological explanation for it, but we have been deluged in recent years with sociobiological stories despite the fact that we have little direct evidence about the genetics of behaviour, and we do not know how to obtain it for the specific behaviours that figure most prominently in sociobiological speculation.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Heraclitus: A chicken cannot cross the same road twice.

Adolf Hitler: It needed Lebensraum.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Doug Hofstadter: To seek explication of the correspondence between appearance and essence through the mapping of the external road-object onto the internal road-concept.

James Joyce: To forge in the smithy of its soul the uncreated conscience of its race.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Immanuel Kant: Because it would have this be a universal law.

Martin Luther King: It had a dream.

Gottfried von Leibniz: In this best possible world, the road was made for it to cross.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained. In any case, the end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

Karl Marx: To escape the bourgeois middle-class struggle. It was a historical inevitability.

Sir Isaac Newton: Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest. Chickens in motion tend to cross the road.

Moses: And the LORD spake unto the chicken, “Thou shalt cross the road.” And the chicken crossed the road.

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The chicken, sunlight coruscating off its radiant yellow- white coat of feathers, approached the dark, sullen asphalt road and scrutinized it intently with its obsidian-black eyes. Every detail of the thoroughfare leapt into blinding focus: the rough texture of the surface, over which countless tires had worked their relentless tread through the ages; the innumerable fragments of stone embedded within the lugubrious mass, perhaps quarried from the great pits where the Sons of Man laboured not far from here; the dull black asphalt itself, exuding those waves of heat which distort the sight and bring weakness to the body; the other attributes of the great highway too numerous to give name. And then it crossed it.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Kurt Vonnegut: There is no “why”, there only “is”. So it goes.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of “crossing” was encoded into the objects “chicken” and “road”, and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Abelard and Heloise


Perhaps the most famous couple of the Middle Ages – Peter Abelard was one of the leading scholars of 12th century, and Heloise d’Argenteuil was his gifted student. They began a secret and intense sexual relationship that led to Heloise becoming pregnant – they would have a son named Astrolabe.

“Would that thy love, beloved, had less trust in me, that it might be more anxious!”
― Héloïse d’Argenteuil, The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse

Peter convinced her that they should marry, but she only agreed to a secret one in order that his career would not be damaged. However, in a sad turn of events, Heloise’s uncle got a group of men to attack Abelard, where they castrated him. Peter would then go on to become a monk, and Heloise a nun, but would continue to write to each other. It is likely that they are buried together at the Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Juliet: “You kiss by the book.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

There are still societies whose policies result in rigid attitudes of intellectual, theological and sexual repression. The love story of Abelard and Heloise, the courage and passion of its protagonists, has much to teach humanity about our own understanding of religious tolerance, sexual equality and intellectual freedom.

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Horseshoe crabs have blue blood, marine worms have green blood and cockroaches’ blood is colourless.

The James Bond movie Goldfinger was once banned in Israel.

Typically less than a half of one percent of Romans were eligible to vote in Rome’s ‘democratic’ elections.

The reverse side of the flag of Oregon features a gold beaver.

Before becoming Queen of England, Mary Tudor would spend one third of her income gambling.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Genius


Positional, Solid, Intuitive, Emotional

Geniuses seem to decide their moves by pure divination. With little or no calculation, they decide where to put their pieces and then simply put them there. The Genius just feels the pulse of the position. His combinations are usually short, simple, but transform the game in a deadly way. The Genius does not seek complications and thus draws quite a few games, but rarely loses. Sometimes he seems to get bored of chess, but this is actually an illusion – he cares about it more than anything.

“I have known many chess players, but among them there has been only one genius…” – Emanuel Lasker

Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942) of Cuba, the third world champion, was a prototypical Genius. Preferring solid, positional play and excelling in endgames, Capablanca had a simple, clear style and chose his moves largely by intuition. Capablanca was so hard to beat that he only lost 34 serious games as an adult and was undefeated from 1916 until 1924.

See other: Chess Personalities