I was sorting through some email (searching for some old tidbit) and ran across a few chuckle-inducing transmissions I had saved. Someone who used to sort the mail ages ago was a few quarks short of the standard model, and these are some email inquiries we got as the person attempted to track down an unknown recipient.

I am in receipt of mail for a Verenigde Staten and xxx xxx. If anyone knows these people please let me know

“Verenigde Staten” is Dutch for “United States”

I am in receipt of mail for Provost Marshal. Does anyone know this person? Thank you.

Ah, my good buddy Provost. Hey, Pro, how’s it going? Or was that supposed to be Provost, Marshal?

Does anyone know a Beale Cypher Crew? Thank you.

The Beale cyphers/ciphers are a famous set of encoded documents of questionable authenticity, purporting to tell the location of buried treasure. I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of a decoding effort operating at work.

(I was tempted to ask a friend to send mail to Hugh Jass, or some Moe’s-prank equivalent, in order to induce more of these emails, but I never did)

Rug Physics

The Physics Of A Bump In A Rug

The way a bump in a rug travels across a floor has been compared with the way tectonic plates move, cell membranes slide and inchworms crawl. Friction makes it difficult to drag a big piece of carpet, but when there’s a wrinkle in the material, the wrinkle can easily roll down the length of the carpet, moving the carpet along in the process.

Beauty is in the Vision-Response of the Beholder

Skulls in the Stars: Lord Rayleigh on Darwin

Darwin set out to show that insects play a crucial role in cross-pollinating plants, carrying pollen from one flower to another, and he published his results on orchids in a book in 1862, Fertilisation of Orchids. Among those results is the insightful observation that the colors and scents of flowers had evolved to attract insects and optimize the cross-pollination process.

This observation is what Rayleigh seems to be commenting on, and mildly criticizing. Rayleigh suggests that Darwin’s argument leads to the conclusion that insects must have vision similar to human vision — otherwise, why would a flower which is pretty to us be pretty to an insect? Rayleigh argues that this is a rather large assumption to make based on the limited evidence available in that era.

It’s well-known now that many insects are sensitive to UV, and plants look quite different to us in that spectrum. I have no idea what they look like to the bugs.

Trick or Trout

What the crappy treats you give out on Halloween say about you

Part of the harm is that they’re not the victim, really–you are. You, your house, your cars, your trees, your pets. But mostly, your reputation. What you dole out speaks for you, for better or worse, so here’s what some legendarily crappy Halloween treats are screaming for you, at the top of their lame-ass lungs.

These are pretty much the bottom tier of the candy kingdom. Just don’t go there. Man up and give out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Jackpot.