Weird Universe Blog — February 22, 2020

Get Off The Earth

Created by Samuel Loyd in the 1890s, 'Get off the Earth' became a bestselling puzzle, selling over 10 million copies.

There are initially 13 characters, but when the disc moves one of them disappears. How is this possible?

Source: murderous maths

William Poundstone, in Believer magazine, writes:

Thousands of explanations for “Get Off the Earth” were submitted to Loyd’s puzzle column. Some writers carefully numbered the figures and singled out a specific man as the one who vanishes. A few offered implausibly precise destinations for the missing man. (St. Petersburg, Russia, according to one contestant who looked very closely at the printed globe.) One entry was in verse, several took swipes at Chinese immigration, and one writer felt that the puzzle had something to do with his conviction that all Chinese men look alike. The winning entries were published in Loyd’s January 3, 1897, Brooklyn Daily Eagle column. They were accompanied by Loyd’s own explanation, a peevish, long-winded rant that withholds as much as it reveals.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Feb 22, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Games | Nineteenth Century

February 21, 2020

The Nothing Box

A gag gift from the early 1960s, created by inventor Jack Hurlbut: "When a button is pressed the lights flash, the dials spin, the switches turn—and nothing happens."

It briefly made headlines in 1964 when a man took one with him on a flight, and was promptly detained on the suspicion that he was carrying a bomb.

The Nothing Box is another one of those vintage curiosities that seem to have completely disappeared. I can't find any evidence that one of them still exists.

Wisconsin State Journal - May 18, 1964

Detroit Free Press - Dec 28, 1965

Detroit Free Press - Dec 28, 1965

Posted By: Alex - Fri Feb 21, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Inventions | 1960s

February 20, 2020

Dryer Lint Sculptures

Artist Cheryl Capezzuti creates sculptures out of dryer lint. Her latest show will, appropriately, be at a coin-op laundromat, in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.

More info:

Posted By: Alex - Thu Feb 20, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Art

Unauthorized Dwellings 12

Once Manhattan was home to squatters. Go to article link for readable text.

Article source.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Feb 20, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Eccentrics | Urban Life | Unauthorized Dwellings | 1920s | Nostalgia

February 19, 2020

Insect Butter

The latest effort to convince everyone to eat insects comes from Ghent University in Belgium where researchers tested whether people could tell the difference between waffles, cookies, and cake made with butter, versus butter combined with fat from black soldier fly larvae.

They claimed that a mixture of 75% butter and 25% insect fat was undetectable to people. And, in some cases, even a 50/50 mix of butter/insect fat couldn’t be detected.

So they’re hopeful that bakery products made with insect butter may soon be on shelves. They note:

Products with insects such as insect burgers have not yet proved to be a great success. Bakery products with insect fat are more likely to be appreciated, because the insects are merely a form of fat substitute.

More info: Ghent University

Posted By: Alex - Wed Feb 19, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Food | Insects

February 18, 2020

from the wu archive

Elm Farm Ollie Day

Feb. 18 is Elm Farm Ollie Day, commemorating the first flight in a plane by a cow. An article posted over at tells us that Elm Farm Ollie (aka Sunnymede Ollie, Nellie Jay, or Sky Queen) is remembered each year at the dairy festival in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin:

Celebrated as a pasteurized legend of the pasture, Ollie has for 60 years remained the star attraction at the Feb. 18 dairy festival held each year at Mount Horeb, Wisc. In addition to having her praises sung in such works as "The Bovine Cantata in B-Flat Major" (from Madame Butterfat) and the stirring "Owed to Ollie," she has been the subject of stories, cartoons and poems. E. D. Thalinger even painted her portrait for posterity.

A 1930 news-wire story provided details about the historic flight:

Will Milk Cow in Air
Claude M. Sterling, of Parks Air college, will pilot Sunnymede Ollie, Guernsey from Bismarck, Missouri, over the city in a tri-motored Ford.
The cow will be fed and milked and the milk parachuted down in paper containers. A quart of milk will be presented to Colonel Lindbergh when he arrives.
Weighing more than 1000 pounds, the cow will be flown to demonstrate the ability of aircraft. Scientific data will be collected on her behavior.
-The Evening Tribune (Albert Lea, Minn.) - Feb. 18, 1930.

More info at wikipedia and

First Posted: Feb 18, 2014
Reposted By: Alex - Tue Feb 18, 2020 - Comments (7)
Category: Animals | Farming | Air Travel and Airlines | 1930s

Advertising Chairs

Back in 2018, Paul posted about an "advertising chair" patented in 1910. As a person rocked in it, advertisements scrolled in the armrests.

Patent No. 958,793 (1910)

I recently discovered that this invention wasn't a one-off. In the early twentieth century, inventors were actively competing to perfect advertising chairs and inflict them on the public. I was able to find four other advertising chair patents (and there's probably even more than this). To my untrained eye, they all look very similar, but evidently they were different enough to each get their own patent.

Patent No. 934,856 (1909)

Patent No. 993,397 (1911)

Patent No. 1,094,154 (1914)

Patent No. 1,441,911 (1923)

A newspaper search brought up an 1895 article that described advertising chairs as the "latest in advertising." It also explained that the concept was to put these chairs in various places where there were captive audiences, such as "hotel lobbies, public libraries, depots and in fact in all places where tired humanity is used to taking a quiet little rest during the day."

Minneapolis Star Tribune (Dec 8, 1895)

But although entrepreneurs may have been keen to build advertising chairs, the public was evidently far less enthusiastic about them. An editorial in the Kansas City Journal (reprinted in Printer's Ink magazine - Jan 2, 1901) described an advertising chair as "comfortable enough physically, but mentally it is a torture... Just who invented the advertising chair is not known. He has no reason to be proud."

There must have been a number of these advertising chairs in existence, but I'm unable to find any surviving examples of them. Searching eBay, for instance, only pulls up chairs with advertisements printed on them.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Feb 18, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Furniture | Inventions | Advertising

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