January 13th, 2012

krazy koati

This morning through the phone she said her name was Bess

One of the things a newspaper's supposed to be good for is showing you stuff you weren't interested in. That's not much of a trick, since there are twelve things you weren't interested in before and maybe fourteen things you're not interested in by now, given the average rate of making new things out there. I'm in about the same position, except I'm on the other side of this essay, so all the letters come in backwards.

For example, I'm not at all interested in the daily bridge columns. I don't even know anybody who likes playing bridge, except for my niece, and she really only likes the part when a tug boat steams underneath and goes ``toot toot''. I think she'd take up blackjack or faro if she could work the drawbridge. But despite all this non-interest there's a bridge column every day, always starting with quotes from some great military mind like Sun Tzu, Serpentor, Ulysses S Grant, or Napoleon, reading along the lines of, ``Reducing the enemy's will is greater than reducing his shoe sizes'' or ``I feel like something chicken-y for lunch'' (said by the Duke of Wellington just before Waterloo, at about 10:30). And then it goes into incomprehensible symbols setting up a ``bridge problem''. It's probably coded messages to enemy agents and I don't want to think about it.

But that's a different not-interested than I mean. I mean newspapers are supposed to be good about showing you stuff you didn't know you'd find interesting. For example, did you know researchers have just found the smallest frogs in the world in Papua New Guinea, and vice-versa? The frogs didn't even know researchers could get to Papua New Guinea while that size. They're still working on why you have to specify Papua New Guinea, forgetting the need to distinguish it from the parent country of Grandpapua New Guinea.

It's difficult to express just how tiny the frogs are, except by using measurements and words and pictures. With each less than a quarter of an inch long, if you were to place twelve of them end to end and they didn't hop away you'd still not be able to reach from one end of Rhode Island to the other, unless you went across Teensy Frog Notch on the northern border. And despite being small they're quite light: twenty of them, together, would still not outweigh a Volkswagen Beetle. Admittedly, twenty regular-size frogs would also not outweigh a Beetle, but these tiny frogs would fail to outweigh the Beetle by a lot more. The amount by which regular frogs are outweighed is not nearly so dramatic. A captivating image? Certainly it is, and no less dramatic is a photograph showing how you could put three of them on a dime, where they have to stop.

On top of that they found the second-smallest frog species. I'm curious whether they found the second-smallest first and asked the frogs about any tinier neighbors, or whether they found the first-smallest first and then asked about bigger ones. I'd bet it was the latter. Once you found the smallest frogs there's plenty of room to find bigger ones, but finding frogs smaller than the smallest frogs is obviously doomed to failure, and you don't get to be a top-notch Papua New Guinean teensy frog discoverer if you go after projects you know will fail.

If this wasn't interesting enough another team of researchers has found the world's largest dime, one big enough to fit several frogs across. At least I hope it's another team of researchers. If they're the same teams then they better have kept careful records or somebody's going to be in for either a really big or teensy little disappointment.

The trouble is I didn't learn about any of this in the newspaper, since it runs stuff like the daily bridge column keeping Dear Abby from getting too close to the crossword puzzle, lest they squabble. I got this from some news web site. Haven't looked at the paper in ages, except to see how close the crossword puzzle has snuck up on Dear Abby.

Trivia: The Otis elevator company produced cars, the Sultan sedan, with a design imported from France, with production begun in Springfield, Massachusetts, and bodywork fitted to the chassis in New York City or Newark, New Jersey. Source: Otis: Giving Rise To The Modern City, Jason Goodwin.

Currently Reading: America's Weather Warriors, 1814 - 1985, Charles C Bates, John F Fuller. It's about military weather forecasters and forecasting, although there's a lot of text which amounts to, ``the weather forecasters made a prediction, and General $_NAME acted on that, and it turned out well''. It's a lot of events without enough narrative.

PS: Off By A Factor Of 720 (Or More), in figuring out part of what's needed for that problem about Contestants Row on The Price Is Right, which I resume at last.