The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mysteries'
The Oxford English Dictionary is appealing to the public for help with tracing down a mysterious (and possibly pornographic) 19th-century book, from which a number of quotations used in the dictionary derive. The book, Meanderings of Memory, attributed to one “Nightlark”, is dated to 1851 and cited in 51 dictionary entries for words including “couchward” and “revirginize” (“Where that cosmetic … Shall e'er revirginize that brow's abuse”), though no copies nor any evidence of it having existed have been found:
Hurst was contacted; she expected to track the book down within 10 minutes. "That turned into half an hour, and I was no further along the line to solving it – I looked on Google Books, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in short I looked everywhere I could think of and couldn't come up with anything," said Hurst. "We're not usually completely floored, but this time we're stumped."
The only evidence for the book's existence the OED could find was an entry in a bookseller's catalogue, which includes the description: "Written and published by a well-known connoisseur with the epigraph 'Cur potius lacrimae tibi mi Philomela placebant?'" "We naturally thought the Latin quotation would be a huge clue [but] it's not a quote from anything," said Hurst. "It means, roughly, 'why did my tears please you more, my Philomel?', and Philomela is another name for a nightingale." The book's author, meanwhile, is "Nightlark", she pointed out.
Orchestras across Europe are being contacted to help identify a man found on a beach in Kent, dressed in a soaking-wet tuxedo. The man had no identification and did not speak. Staff at the Medway Maritime Hospital gave him a pen and paper, on which he drew detailed pictures of a grand piano; when shown the piano in the hospital's chapel, he regaled staff with a 2-hour virtuoso performance:
Interestingly, the BBC article claims that the hospital believes he may be from Eastern Europe, whereas The Times asserts that police believe that he is English, and also that he drew a Swedish flag along with the piano.
He is being held in a secure mental-health unit, presumably in case it turns out that someone had tried to kill him and they decide to finish the job.
Why is the Mona Lisa's smile so famously enigmatic? Because it disappears when looked at directly, showing up in full only in peripheral vision.
"The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa's smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision," Prof Livingstone said.
You can now download MP3s of the Conet Project (that's the 4CD set of recordings of "numbers stations" from the Cold War). The original set was quite expensive ($150 or so at Synæsthesia, I think) and apparently is now out of print (there are rumours that the FBI/MI5/ASIO/whoever went and bought up all outstanding copies shortly after 9/11); but you can now find what looks like all of it in glorious MP3. Enjoy. (via The Fix)
A European skeptic investigates the strange case of Rudolph Fentz, a man attired in 19th-century clothing who mysteriously appeared in Times Square in 1950 and was killed by a car; when his body was examined, police found a letter addressed to Fentz, who had disappeared in 1876. Or had he? (via rotten.com)
Russia's answer to the Cave Clan call themselves Diggers of the Underground Planet, and explore the vast labyrinth of tunnels beneath Moscow, finding everything from secret subway lines and disused facilities of various sorts to Neverwhere-like societies of fringe dwellers and sinister groups of uniformed men doing god only knows what:
According to the Diggers, the underground is also a refuge for former prisoners. It is against the law for ex-convicts to reside in the Russian capital, so those who do move to the city must find inconspicuous lodgings. Some settle in basements with good air-conditioning systems and two or three exits. Sometimes they gather in groups, living by "prison laws."
In a tunnel under the Centrobank building, the Diggers observed uniformed people in masks equipped with powerful halogen lamps. The Diggers were afraid to follow them lest they should come under fire. So far, security services have not taken the Diggers' reports of these sightings seriously.
Under the Skliffasovsky clinic the Diggers encountered people dressed in monk's robes, carrying torches around a strange-looking altar made of stone. They were performing some sort of service and singing. When they saw the Diggers, they hurriedly disappeared.
(via bOING bOING)
An archæological dig is underway in the CBD of Melbourne, on the site of a notorious 19th-century brothel. Some believe that the dig may finally solve the mystery of the lost parliamentary mace, believed to have been lost in a brothel during an orgy/mock parliament attended by the state's politicians. (via Reenhead)
Who was Jack the Ripper? Crime novelist Patricia Cornwell believes it was renowned English painter Walter Sickert, and even bought and cut up one of his paintings in an attempt to prove it. Meanwhile this chap thinks that Lewis Carroll was the infamous killer.
An excerpt from a book about the strange case of Michael Rockefeller, scion of the famous banking dynasty who, seeking adventure, went to New Guinea and disappeared. Most people presumed him dead; though some are not so sure. (via bOING bOING)