In 1902, a person identified only as "a learned correspondent in West Hackney" brought to the attention of the world a curious fact about Psalm 46 of the King James Version of the Bible. The name "Shakespeare" seems to be coded into it.
As explained in a brief notice that ran in The Publishers' Circular (Jan 11, 1902)
DID SHAKESPEAR WRITE THE BOOK OF PSALMS?
'S.L.H.,' in the column of the Morning Leader headed 'Sub Rosa,' says that the following suggestion reaches him 'from a learned correspondent in West Hackney':—
'In the name Shakespear there are four vowels and six consonants..... If you write down the figure 4 and then follow it by the figure 6, you get 46.
Very well — turn to Psalm 46 and you will find that in it the 46th word from the beginning is "shake," while the 46th word from the end is "spear."
This fact, or rather these facts, may be held to prove, according to my correspondent, that the Psalms were written by Shakespear and that this is really the correct way of spelling his name.
I know that controversialists are a fierce tribe and they stick at each other as well as nothing, and so they will try to make out that the word "spear" is the 47th and not the 46 word from the end of the 46th Psalm; but this can only be done by counting "Selah," and if you think I am going to throw over a valuable literary discovery for the sake of an odd "Selah" you are mistaken.'
In the original 1611 King James Bible
, the word spear was actually spelled "speare," which contradicts the guy's point about the 4 consonants and spelling of Shakespeare's name.
However, his larger point remains true — that in Psalm 46, the word "shake" is 46 words from the beginning, and "speare" is 46 words from the end.
One theory is that this suggests that Shakespeare worked on the King James translation, and devised this way to leave his calling card. Kind of like a "Shakespeare was here" sign. Or maybe one of the translators was a fan of his.
Or perhaps it means absolutely nothing, and is just a weird coincidence. No one knows.
One more weird coincidence: Shakespeare was 46 in 1610, which is about when the translation was being completed.
The Gaffney Ledger - Jan 4, 1980
note: Shakespeare was 46 in 1610, not 1605.
Arizona Republic - May 15, 1976
After the publication of Elephants on Acid
(around 2007), I decided that it would be a good idea to have a website to help promote the book. Something where I would feature some content from the book, as well as post new stuff related to weird science.
Most of the good domain names (including, at the time, ElephantsOnAcid.com) were already taken. So I ended up creating a site at MadScienceMuseum.com
I added some content to the site, and then, after a while, I stopped. The site lay dormant, without updates, and largely without visitors.
Fast forward to the present. It recently occurred to me that it was stupid to keep paying to keep MadScienceMuseum.com online when hardly anyone visits it, and all the content on it would be perfectly appropriate for WU, which does have visitors.
So I'm getting rid of the "Mad Science Museum" and migrating all the content over to WU. It'll be a slow process, but if you notice me doing additional posts about weird science stuff, that's the reason.
The first thing I've migrated is my list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time
was a term coined by anthropologist Edward Hall to describe the study of "man's use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture."
Elevator proxemics, by extension, is the study of the use of space in elevators. Or put another way, how people behave in elevators.
The most widely cited expert on this subject is the psychologist Layne Longfellow. On his website
, he describes how he became the media's go-to guy for questions about elevator behavior:
It's the mid-1970s, and I am in my office, Director of Executive Seminars at The Menninger Foundation. My phone rings, and my friend Ralph Keyes, the writer, says, "I'm doing an article for New York magazine on how to behave in an elevator. I'd like to interview you."
"Ralph, I know nothing about it and have never given it a second thought."
"I know, but you have a prestigious position as a psychologist and you're funny, so make something up."
I leaned back in my swivel chair, tossed my feet up on my desk, gazed unfixedly into the trees outside my window, and said some things that I thought were, in fact, funny - but also true. Ralph published the article, and then my phone REALLY began to ring - I had entered the world's media archives as an expert on elevator behavior.
Below are a few nuggets of wisdom I've been able to glean about the science of elevator behavior, gathered from a handful of articles, mostly referencing Longfellow. Although a few other researchers have also been roped into becoming instant experts on the subject.
- Studies of elevator body placement show a standard pattern. Normally the first person on grabs the corner by the buttons or a corner in the rear. The next passenger takes a catercorner position. Then the remaining corners are seized, and next the mid-rear-wall and the center of the car. Then packing becomes indiscriminate.
- "When the sixth person gets on you can watch the shuffle start," says Longfellow. "People don't quite know what to do with the sixth person. Then another set of rules comes into play governing body contact."
- In an uncrowded elevator, men stand with hands folded in front or women will hold their purses in front. That's called the Fig Leaf Position. Longfellow says, "As it gets more crowded you can see hands unfold and come down to the sides, because if you have your hands folded in front of you in a really crowded elevator, there's no telling where your knuckles might end up. So out of respect for the privacy of other people you unfold them and put them at your side."
- High-status individuals are given more space. For instance, if the president of the company gets on, he gets more space.
- Men leave more space between themselves and other men than women do with other women.
- People tend to put more space between themselves and others wearing bright colors because, says psychologist Robert Sommer, "it's too much stimulation."
- According to Ralph Keyes, "The self-confident, it turns out, never get on first. Instead, they wait affably with underlings for the cab, then wave everyone ahead into the car like a hen mothering chicks."
- Passengers avoid eye contact because, explains Longfellow, "eye contact, especially in American culture, is the root to intimacy."
- "The ultimate egregious faux pas a person can commit in an elevator is to face the back," says Longfellow. "Everybody allocates as much space as possible to the lunatic who's facing the wrong way. If you'll do something so outrageous as to stand backwards and look at them, God knows what else you would do."
- Everyone looks at the numbers. The most common explanation for this is that it allows everyone to avoid eye contact, and it gives people "the appearance of having something to do." But anthropologist Harvey Sarles argues that the real reason to watch the numbers "is to enhance peripheral vision and allow you to keep an eye out for any quick, dangerous movements around you. Then if someone is going to jump you, you can make an adjustment."
Longfellow eventually distilled his knowledge into a handy 7-point guide to How To Behave In An Elevator
- Face forward.
- Fold hands in front.
- Do not make eye contact.
- Watch the numbers.
- Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know.
- Stop talking with anyone you do know when anyone enters the elevator.
- Avoid brushing bodies.
Sources: LA Times - Aug 20, 1982
; New York magazine - Nov 21, 1977
. Image source: intro to soc
In an old American medical journal, The Philadelphia Medical Museum
(1811 - Vol 1, No.4), Dr. Richard Hazeltine of Berwick, Maine shared a traditional yankee recipe for "buttered flip" cough medicine:
Often in the imbecile age of childhood, after I had gone to bed have I sip'd, and with no great reluctance, the steeming, salutiferous "buttered flip;" administered by the careful hand of an affectionate mother, to several, perhaps, of her tender offspring, who were affected with various catarrhal complaints, brought on by wet feet, and exposure to sudden vicissitudes of the weather.
The "buttered flip" was composed of recent urine, obtained from some one of the children, hot water, honey, and a little butter: and it generally removed the complaints for which it was given. Exhibited in this manner, it never puked; but it promoted expectoration and sweat.
image source: gracious rain
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M490, August 28, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
The phenomenal Japanese singer Hatsune Miku (100 million YouTube hits) is coming off of a sold-out, 10-city North American concert tour with high-energy audiences (blocks-long lines to get in; raucous crowd participation; hefty souvenir sales)--except that "she" isn't real
. Hatsune Miku is a projected hologram on stage singing and dancing (but her band is human), and her May show in Dallas (according to a Dallas Observer
review) typically ignited frenzied fans who know the show's "every beat, outfit . . . and glow stick color-change." Her voice, a synthesized "vocaloid," is crafted in pitch, timbre, and timing to sound human. (The latest PlayStation brings Hatsune Miku into the home by Virtual Reality.) [Dallas Observer, 5-16-2016
The Finer Points of Law
Make Up Your Mind, Feds: On August 11th, the federal government's Drug Enforcement Agency famously refused to soften the regulation of marijuana, leaving it (with heroin) as a harsh "Schedule I" drug because (citing Food and Drug Administration findings) it has "no medical use." However, as the Daily Caller pointed out, another federal agency--Department of Health and Human Services--obtained a U.S. patent
in 2003 for marijuana-derived cannabinoids, which HHS pointed out have several medical uses
(as an antioxidant and for limiting neurological damage following strokes). [Daily Caller, 8-17-2016
Priorities: (1) "[P]ets are better protected than young kids
under Oregon abuse laws," lamented a prosecutor in May because, unlike the pet law, the "child abuse" law requires proof the victim experienced "substantial" pain--which a young child often lacks vocabulary to describe. (Simply showing welts and bruises is insufficient, the Court of Appeals has ruled.) (2) That same Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in June that Thomas Wade, 44, was not guilty of a crime when in 2013 he unzipped his pants, reached inside, and at that point cursed the woman he had confronted in a public park. "Distasteful," wrote the Court, but it was an exercise of Wade's free speech right. [The Oregonian, 5-21-2016
] [The Oregonian, 6-10-2016
Texas! In August, Houston defense lawyer Jerry Guerinot announced his retirement from death-penalty cases, leaving him with a perfect record (for that area of his practice): He lost every single time
. Twenty-one clients received the death penalty, and 10 have been executed (so far). He made no excuses, pointing out that "gang members, serial killers, and sociopaths" were entitled to representation, too, and that he has taken more than 500 non-capital cases to trial (with, presumably, more success). [Associated Press via Fox News, 8-13-2016
Tourists Gone Wild
(1) Tourism officials in Iceland recently posted "hundreds" of signs at visitor attractions showing a squatting person in silhouette, with a small pile on the ground underneath--and the familiar diagonal line (indicating "don't"). (Critics of the signs reluctantly admit Iceland's chronic shortage of public restrooms.). (2) In a July-released YouTube clip, a Disney fan posted shot after shot of "rude" Chinese tourists at Shanghai Disneyland, coaxing their small children to urinate in public rather than in restrooms. (3) The Tourism Bureau of Japan's Hokkaido island recently rewrote its etiquette guide for visitors to underscore the inappropriateness of "belching or flatulence" in public. [Daily Mail (London), 7-20-2016
] [Daily Mail (London), 7-19-2016
] [Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News, 4-28-2016
Leading Economic Indicators
Suspicions Confirmed: (1) A New York Times
reporter, describing in June the rising prices of prescription pharmaceuticals, noted that a popular pain reliever (probably describing oxycodone) was available on the Paterson, N.J., black market for $25 a pill, while heroin was going for $2 a baggie
. (2) The economic growth rate in Ireland for 2015 was revised--upward--in July. Its gross domestic product was originally estimated as 7.8 percent, but subsequently--adding the paper value of several "inversions" (U.S. companies "moving" to Ireland to reduce U.S. taxes)--Ireland found that it was actually growing at 26.7 percent. [New York Times, 6-14-2016
] [New York Times, 7-13-2016
(1) Investigators revealed in July that an off-duty Aurora, Colo., sheriff's deputy had justifiably fired his gun to resist a parking lot mugging--and that, furthermore, one of the bullets from Deputy Jose Marquez's gun had gone straight into the barrel
of one of the handguns pointed at him. (The investigators called the shot "one in a billion.") (2) Matthew Lavin, 39, drew Internet acclaim in July after he was gored through his left thigh while "running with the bulls" in the annual spectacle in Pamplona, Spain. Interviewed in his hospital bed by Madrid's The Local, he called it "the best time ever" and said he looked forward to another run next year. [Denver Post, 7-13-2016
] [The Local (Madrid), 7-13-2016
Gary Durham, 40, was shot to death during a heated road-rage incident in Plant City, Fla., on August 10th. Durham had served 10 years in prison after an aggressive road-rage episode in 2001 in which he pursued another driver and knocked him to the ground, causing the man to hit his head, fatally, on the pavement. (Included in Durham's 2002 sentence was an order to take anger management classes.) [Tampa Bay Times, 8-11-2016
The Borough Council of Pompton Lakes, N.J., was surprised to learn in June that, because of an existing local ordinance, dogs were not permitted in its brand-new Pompton Lakes dog park
(created with great fanfare in an area of Hershfield Park). The Council vowed to fix the problem. (2) In June, a police watchdog agency in Dublin, Ireland, asked officers ("gardai") across the country to try to carry out house raids at "reasonable hours" so that they do not disturb the occupants. (In one complaint, gardai staged a 3:15 a.m. raid to search for evidence of stolen vehicle accessories.) [The Record (Hackensack), 6-13-2016
] [Irish Independent, 6-12-2016
A 9-year-old girl named Irina won a contest in Berezniki, Russia, in August for letting mosquitos bite her more often that they bit other contestants. It is the signature event of the annual Russian Mosquito Festival, and her 43 hits were enough to earn her the title of "tastiest girl."
The annual Great Texas Mosquito Festival in Clute, Tex. (south of Houston), apparently has nothing comparable. [Washington Post, 8-15-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) The Elanora Heights Public School (a primary school in Sydney, Australia) recently banned clapping during student assemblies
in an effort to help pupils with noise anxieties. To show audience approval, students are asked to "punch the air," "pull [on their] faces," or "wriggle about." (2) In July, The Nairobian
newspaper reported the remarkable career of "Rosemary," reputed to be the Kenyan capital's oldest prostitute--still going strong at 64 after more than 5,000 clients. She said she could make it through 40 on a good day, but never missed church on Sunday. [Sky News (London), 7-20-2016
] [The Nairobian, 7-16-2016
Least Competent Criminals
Didn't Think Ahead: (1) In July, Joshua Jacobs, 30, accidentally knocked down a traffic sign at 12:45 a.m. in Vero Beach, Fla., and, spotting a sheriff's deputy, sped away. The deputy gave chase--especially, he said, given the fully-grown marijuana plant
resting in the bed of the pickup. Jacobs was arrested. (2) Jeremy Watts, 30, and Jessica Heady, 24, were charged with aggravated burglary (a PlayStation and other electronics from a man's home) in Clarksville, Tenn., in August. The pair later offered the haul to a Cash America Pawnshop but did not realize that the home they had burglarized was the pawnshop manager's. [TCPalm.com (Stuart, Fla.), 8-2-2016
] [Leaf Chronicle (Clarksville), 8-3-2016
A News of the Weird Classic (October 2012)
Researchers writing in the journal Animal Behaviour
in July  hypothesized why male pandas have sometimes been seen performing handstands near trees. They are urinating, the scientists observed, and doing handstands streams the urine higher
on the tree, presumably signaling their mating superiority. A San Diego Zoo researcher involved in the study added that an accompanying gland secretion gives off even more “personal” information to other pandas than the urine alone. [Live Science, 8-28-2012]
Thanks This Week to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Bob McCabe, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Sandy Pearlman, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Peter Smagorinsky, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).