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Futility Closet

Nov 30, 2020

George Parker Bidder was born with a surprising gift: He could do complex arithmetic in his head. His feats of calculation would earn for him a university education, a distinguished career in engineering, and fame throughout 19th-century England. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe...


Nov 23, 2020

John Hornby left a privileged background in England to roam the vast subarctic tundra of northern Canada. There he became known as "the hermit of the north," famous for staying alive in a land with very few resources. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll spend a winter with Hornby, who's been...


Nov 16, 2020

In the 1930s, German civil servant Friedrich Kellner was outraged by the increasing brutality of the Nazi party and the complicity of his fellow citizens. He began to keep a secret diary to record the crimes of the Third Reich and his condemnations of his countrymen. In this week's episode of the Futility...


Nov 2, 2020

In 1953 Mildred Norman renounced "an empty life of money and things" and dedicated herself to promoting peace. She spent the next three decades walking through the United States to spread a message of simplicity and harmony. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe her unusual life as a...


Oct 26, 2020

Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

Intro:

Stonewall Jackson recorded 14 precepts for good conversation.

Ben Franklin offered four "rules for making oneself a disagreeable companion."

Sources for this episode's...