Category Archives: off-topic

Sir Roger Penrose’s Toilet Paper

Twenty years ago, Kimberly-Clark, the Kleenex company, introduced a line of toilet paper embossed with the kite-and-dart aperiodic tiling discovered by Roger Penrose. When I first heard about this, I thought: How clever. Because the pattern never repeats, the creases … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, off-topic, uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sudden Deaf

My erstwhile employer, mentor, and dearest friend was Dennis Flanagan, who edited Scientific American for 37 years. He is the larger of the two aquatic specimens in the photograph below. One of the quirks of life with Dennis was that … Continue reading

Posted in biology, off-topic | 4 Comments

The Polite Apocalypse

I’ve been rereading On the Beach, Nevil Shute’s novel about humanity’s last gasp in the aftermath of a nuclear war. The book was published 60 years ago, in 1957. I first read it in 1963, which is roughly when the … Continue reading

Posted in off-topic | 2 Comments

Truth, Trump, and Trisectors

What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and did not stay for an answer. —Francis Bacon Lately there’s been a lot of news about fake news (some of it, for all I know, fake). Critics are urging Facebook, Google, and Twitter … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, modern life, off-topic | 6 Comments

Bertrand Russell, Donald Trump, and Archimedes

A habit of finding pleasure in thought rather than in action is a safeguard against unwisdom and excessive love of power, a means of preserving serenity in misfortune and peace of mind among worries. A life confined to what is … Continue reading

Posted in off-topic | 2 Comments