" In vain do science and philosophy pose as the arbiters of the human mind, of which they are in fact only the servants. "
Leo Tolstoy

Back in the day


Louisiana Purchase Completed

American settlers in the western territories depended on the Mississippi River's port of New Orleans for commerce. When Spain retroceded New Orleans to France in 1800, Americans feared their access to the river would be blocked, so President Thomas Jefferson sent negotiators to broker a deal for the port city. Ultimately, Napoleon sold the entire Louisiana territory, including New Orleans, to the US for approximately 3 cents per acre. Why did Napoleon part with the territory for such a small sum?



Mechanical Puzzles

These puzzles are comprised of mechanically interlinked pieces that must be manipulated in a certain way in order for them to be assembled, disassembled, and otherwise solved. The oldest known example, from the 3rd century BCE, consists of a square divided into 14 parts that fit together to form other shapes. Mechanical puzzles have since taken on myriad forms, including dexterity and disentanglement puzzles, trick vessels, and impossible objects. What is the most well-known impossible object?

Born on a day like today


Samuel Mudd

Mudd, a physician and Confederate sympathizer, set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln's assassin, just hours after Booth fled the crime scene at Ford's Theater. In 1865, Mudd was charged with conspiracy to murder the President, stood trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was pardoned by President Johnson in 1869 and returned to his home in Maryland. Of the eight people charged with conspiring to assassinate Lincoln, how many were hanged?

Last updated on Saturday, 20th December 2008

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