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Futility Closet

May 24, 2015

In 1764 a French engineer on a tiny African island claimed that he could see ships beyond the horizon. In today's show we'll review the strange story of √Čtienne Bottineau and consider the evidence for his claims to have invented a new art.

We'll also ponder a 400-year-old levitation trick and puzzle over why throwing...


May 18, 2015

In 1855 Pedro Carolino decided to write a Portuguese-English phrasebook despite the fact that he didn't actually speak English. The result is one of the all-time masterpieces of unintentional comedy, a language guide full of phrases like "The ears are too length" and "He has spit in my coat." In this episode of...


May 11, 2015

Eight decades after Jules Verne's death, his great-grandson opened a family safe and discovered an unpublished manuscript. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review some of Verne's remarkable predictions for the 20th century and consider why he never published the novel.

We'll also discuss listeners'...


May 4, 2015

Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles to test your wits! Solve along with us as we explore some strange scenarios using only yes-or-no questions. Many were submitted by listeners, and most are based on real events.

A few associated links -- these spoil the puzzles, so don't click until you've listened to the...